I was surprised that despite its compact size, this BBQ has enough grilling space to feed up to four people. It holds heat really well - a little too well if you’re in a hurry to pack it away. The plus side is you can cook quite a lot before the coals go out. And its contemporary shape will look as good on the beach as it will in your garden.
Rubber carry handles
Plenty of grilling space
All-in-one design for neat storage
No lid for cooking
Exterior and handles get hot
Tricky to twist hot BBQ to regulate air flow
Why you can trust Ideal Home
Whether you’re brilliant at barbecuing or you’re a master of burnt bangers, there’s nothing that signifies summer more than the smoky aroma of charcoal barbecues wafting up and down the streets of the UK. But, let’s face it, barbecuing can also be a bit of a faff, even with one of the best BBQ models. Big, bulky barbecues need loads of coal and the alternative is wrestling a pathetic disposable BBQ that only has heat for approximately 3 minutes.
Enter the BergHOFF tabletop BBQ, the middle ground between a huge family-size barbecue and the rubbish single-use tin foil option. It’s portable, compact, and looks good too. But at £125 it’s not the cheap and cheerful choice, especially given its size.
I tried this little barbecue expecting it to be good, I mean you can’t go too far wrong with a charcoal barbecue. But I was surprised by how much I enjoyed using a smaller tabletop barbecue and it didn’t actually feel like the cooking grid was too small. There are plenty of positives, but it does have a few drawbacks, so read on to discover the good and the bad.
BergHOFF Leo Carbon Steel Outdoor Tabletop BBQ product specs
- Fuel type: charcoal
- Materials: heat resistant carbon steel, enamelled charcoal basket
- Dimensions: 22 x 35 x 35cm
- Cooking area dimensions: 32cm diameter
- Weight: 5.5kg
Who tested this BBQ?
After completing a Home Economics degree, Helen went on to work for the Good Housekeeping Institute and has been reviewing home appliances ever since. She lives in a small village in Buckinghamshire in the UK, where she reviews all sorts of home and garden appliances using her wealth of experience.
Helen tried out the BergHOFF BBQ at her home during some unseasonably warm May weather. She used it on several occasions to feed herself and her husband and even had leftovers for the freezer. She tried it in various locations around her garden, on the grass as well as on tables, making the most of how portable it is. She was gifted the BBQ for the review and will certainly be using it more this summer.
Unboxing, setting up and first impressions
At the risk of getting a reputation for how much I bang on about polystyrene, I must say I was disappointed that this little BBQ came sandwiched between two huge chunks of the stuff. I’m sure the packaging could be reworked to incorporate protective cardboard inserts instead.
But on a positive note, having recently spent a lot of time assembling complicated barbecues, I was thankful that this one doesn’t need any assembly. Simply slot all the component parts into position and it’s ready to use. The two side handles have a nice rubbery grip and the carry strap has plastic hooks that attach easily onto the handles..
Once tightened, the carry strap holds the thick cork lid firmly in place so nothing falls out when you’re on the go. Plus, it’s made of seatbelt material, so it’s super robust - and being black means it’s never going to look grubby. It’s relatively comfortable to carry over your shoulder as long as you’re not walking miles. And despite everything I saw online saying it weighs 8kg, I stuck it on my scales and it weighed in at 5.5kg, which is easy enough to carry on a walk.
Inside, there’s a metal charcoal basket and a small rack that the charcoal sits on. The main cooking rack sits at the very top and it comes with a useful grill-pan-style handle in case you need to lift it off to tend to the coals. I was sent the white BBQ for this review (it also comes in black) and it has a lovely sleek matte finish, although I’m intrigued to see whether it’ll mark easily.
When barbecuing, the thick dual purpose cork lid flips upside down and acts as the base of the barbecue. It’s been cleverly designed as an airflow regulator, so by twisting the BBQ on the base, you can open or close vents to control the airflow and therefore how much the coals burn.
The instruction manual does say not to place it on wooden surfaces which surprises me as I would assume the thick cork base would provide plenty of heat insulation. But this might be something they have to say for health and safety reasons.
Overall first impressions are good. I love the contemporary appearance and while it definitely feels portable, it’s also a good size if you want a smaller barbecue for a couple of people at home. It packs away really neatly so is perfect if you have limited storage.
What’s it like to use
For convenience, I used an instant light bag of charcoal. I’ve been avoiding them recently as they just don't seem to cut it for the bigger barbecues I’ve been reviewing. But, one bag is the perfect amount for this compact barbecue, which is great, because these bags provide a really easy and convenient option if you’re taking it to a picnic spot.
After lighting the bag, I waited about 30 minutes before adding food, and even then, I was probably being a bit eager as it was pretty hot. Surprisingly though, I managed to fit eight meat sausages and six veggie sausages. I hadn’t planned on cooking halloumi but there was room left on the grill so towards the end of cooking I sliced up and added a whole block of halloumi too.
The sausages started charring fast, so I tried to spin the barbecue on the cork base to restrict the airflow to the coals, but this is easier said than done. Not only does the whole exterior of the BBQ get hot, but even the rubber handles do too. So moving it is tricky unless you have oven gloves. Plus, it doesn’t turn smoothly on the cork base, but kind of slides around a bit. So again, unless you’ve got oven or heat-proof gloves, it’s not easy or safe to do.
All of the sausages and the halloumi were cooked within 15 minutes and there was still plenty of heat in the coals, so I could easily have added more food. Interestingly, a few hours later, when it was ready to pack away, I checked the grass beneath where it had been sitting and it wasn’t marked or scorched at all. Making it perfect to use in a park or campsite where they don’t want the ground scorched.
I’m someone who likes sitting on the ground, you’ll always find me cross-legged on the floor, so I loved barbecuing on the grass where I could happily sit and tend to it. I found it much more relaxing than standing at a barbecue. The next time I used it though, I popped it on our glass patio table, confident that the toughened glass could take any heat radiating off it.
I opted to use another instant light bag because this worked so well last time. I let it burn for 40 minutes before adding two beef and two veggie burgers. They cooked nicely without getting charred too early. The great part was that when they were almost cooked, there was enough space to fit two burger buns onto the grill to be lightly toasted. This shows just how roomy the grill area is.
Lastly I fired it up to cook piri-piri chicken thighs and legs, corn on the cob, and halloumi. There was easily enough room for all the food and again I was surprised by how much I could fit on the grill. This time I went against the advice in the manual and put it on an old wooden table to see what happened. The table wasn’t scorched at all, but you do have to keep a keen eye on it, in case any hot coals spit out onto the wood.
Cleaning and storage
The time it takes to cool down will vary depending on the amount and type of charcoal you use. After my barbecues, it took as long as 3 - 5 hours for all the coals to burn away and for it all to cool enough to empty, pack away, and move into the house.
Because the lid doesn’t form a tight seal over the top grill, you’ll want to tip out the cold ash before walking home or putting it in your car. Otherwise, it’ll only take one gust of wind and you’ll be covered in dusty ash residues.
The cooking grid can’t go in the dishwasher, but it’s small enough to fit in your sink if you do want to clean it. I had several barbecues on it over the course of a week and didn’t bother cleaning it between uses. I simply emptied out the ash and popped the lid on. Any residue left on the grid after the last barbecue simply burnt away when I lit it for the next barbecue.
I did give it all a thorough clean at the end of the week before storing it inside a cupboard. I soaked the grill and gave it a good scrub which removed most of the caked on food. Then I used a hose to wash out the charcoal basket. It all cleaned up pretty well and although there were a few small marks, the white exterior came up reasonably clean.
How does it compare to similar BBQs?
If you’ve decided you want something a bit bigger and you don’t need it to be portable, I’d highly recommend the Weber Original Kettle that I reviewed last month. It’s a reliable charcoal BBQ that offers more cooking space and it’s only about £90 more expensive than the BergHOFF. The addition of a lid gives you more scope to cook things like a whole chicken that require slower, lower, lid-on cooking.
Another compact, good looking BBQ worth checking out is the Everdure Cube BBQ. Unlike the BergHOFF it has a lid that clips securely on to the top so that if you don’t have anywhere to empty out your ash, you can clip the lid on and do it later - so long as it’s cold. It’s a decent little barbecue and the lid doubles as a nifty chopping board. But, at around £150 it’s a tad pricey for its size.
Should you buy the BergHOFF Leo Carbon Steel Outdoor Tabletop BBQ?
At around £125, the price does at first seem a bit steep for a small portable BBQ. I’ve seen it available for less though, and actually I do think it offers plenty of value for money. Yes it’s portable and easily transported to your favourite picnic spot. But the biggest drawback is waiting for it to cool down enough to pack away and take home. On that basis, I’d recommend it more for at home, or camping and caravanning trips, where you can allow it enough time to cool before packing away.
I really enjoyed using it at home when there were just two of us, it somehow seemed like less hassle than lighting our bigger freestanding gas BBQ for just a small amount of food. I think it’s a great buy for compact gardens as well as cooking for two, it looks sleek, is easy to store and I loved how much I was able to cook on just one instant light bag of charcoal. And although the airflow regulator design is tricky to use, the cork base works well to insulate it so that it doesn’t scorch the grass.
About this review, and the reviewer
In line with our policy on how we test products we recommend at Ideal Home, Helen tested this BBQ out at home before coming to this conclusions in this review. She was gifted the product as part of the process, and allowed to keep it after testing.
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After completing a Home Economics degree, Helen went on to work for the Good Housekeeping Institute and has been reviewing home appliances ever since. She lives in a small village in Buckinghamshire in the UK.
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