There’s a lot to like about this little portable BBQ, it doesn’t need a lot of coal, heats up in under five minutes and cools down fast too. Plus the clever fan design gives impressive temperature control. But it’s not cheap and the grill is much hotter in the centre than at the edges.
Available in three sizes and various colours
Comes with a carry case
Heats up in under 5 minutes
Only needs a small amount of coal
Virtually smoke free
Expensive for its size
Uneven temperature on grill surface
Why you can trust Ideal Home
Barbecuing in places other than your own back garden is an expedition fraught with challenges. We all know that disposable barbecues are not the best solution. So finding the best BBQ barbecue with a portable design to take to your favourite picnic spot, that’s easy to use, and packs away neatly, is worth getting right.
The LotusGrill is one of the more expensive portable barbecues. But it offers several design upgrades and features that you won’t see on the cheaper models. Don’t underestimate the brilliance of the integrated, battery powered fan. It heats up the coals quickly as well as allowing a surprising degree of temperature control. Plus, the stay-cool sides limit the time you’ll have to wait before packing it up.
It comes in three sizes and I was sent the standard size, which is the middle of the three. I enjoyed using this barbecue, it’s very thoughtfully designed and is a winning choice on many levels. I stopped short of giving it five stars as the heat on the grill isn’t as even as I’d like - which makes cooking some foods a bit of a challenge, but otherwise, it’s pretty faultless.
Lotus Grill BBQ product specs:
- Fuel type: charcoal
- Materials: Steel and shock-resistant plastics. Stainless steel grid, inner bowl, charcoal container and latches
- Dimensions: top diameter: 35cm, bottom diameter: 26cm, height: 23.4cm
- Cooking area dimensions: 35cm diameter
- Weight: 3.7kg
- Colours: anthracite, green, purple, red, blue (colour options vary if you choose a different size)
Who tested the LotusGrill 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 reviewed this BBQ in June as the summer sun was starting to make an appearance. She fired it up three times to cook sweet and savoury foods for herself and her husband. The timing couldn’t have been better, she reviewed it while her patio was being ripped up and re-laid, so enjoyed having a portable BBQ that could be used in other parts of the garden and moved around as needed.
Unboxing, setting up and first impressions
Inside the outer brown cardboard box, there was the box containing the LotusGrill but also some LotusGrill charcoal and lighter gel. Depending on where you buy the LotusGrill, you often get some fuel bundled in for free to get you started.
I was delighted that when I opened the box, there was no other packaging to contend with. The fully assembled barbecue is packed in its carry case and that’s all it needs. I did however immediately disassemble it so I could get to grips with how it works and what goes where.
The top grill grid is held in place with two sturdy side clips, once this is removed you can access the small central charcoal container. It’s lidded and has a little tray underneath for lighter gel. It sits inside a full size stainless steel inner bowl that’s removable for cleaning.
The combination of the lidded charcoal container and the grill grid being clipped safely in place, means that everything is firmly contained. So when it’s in the bag and you’re transporting it, there are no concerns about things moving around - especially useful if you haven’t yet emptied out the (cold) ash.
The bag is a robust canvas style with two handles and zipped top, it does the job perfectly. And while it’s bulkier than some portable barbecues, it’s no bigger than carrying a medium size cool bag to a picnic. And I think if you’re taking it to the park you could definitely prefill the charcoal container so you just need to take the small lighter gel with you.
One of the unique design features incorporated into this barbecue is the fan system. It serves several purposes, it supplies the charcoal with air for speedy ignition. It also acts as a temperature regulator and it helps to keep the outside cool.
The fan is controlled via a knob on the front of the barbecue. Lowering the fan speed is like turning down the grill temperature and vice versa. It’s powered either by batteries in the base or via a USB cable and power bank. Mine arrived with four AA batteries pre-installed and I’d say this is the easiest option, but it’s great to have the choice between batteries or the USB cable.
The charcoal supplied is LotusGrill branded beech wood charcoal and it’s been specifically designed to burn cleanly. So if you use other charcoal, it might not be smoke-free. It costs £14.50 for a 2.5kg bag which is probably enough for around 15 barbecues, so it’s not too expensive.
What’s it like to use:
I followed the instructions in the manual and added a small ring of the lighter gel to the ignition plate. I turned the fan onto max, lit the lighter gel and placed the filled charcoal container on top, then clipped the grill grid into place. And hey presto, four minutes later it was ready to cook on. It’s like magic, I’ve never known a charcoal BBQ heat up so fast.
Because this barbecue only uses a small amount of coal I didn’t know how long it would stay hot for, so I played it safe with my food choice and cooked sausages. At first I wasn’t sure if I should cook on the central solid metal part of the grill, so I placed the sausages around the edge. Side note - you can cook on that part but it’s much hotter so great for speedy charring.
Even on the wire grill I noticed it was hotter towards the centre than the outside, but as soon as I realised this, I simply rotated the sausages accordingly so that they cooked evenly. They took about 12 minutes and when I removed them there was still plenty of heat left in the BBQ.
To make the most of the remaining heat I improvised, grabbed a couple of bananas, cut them down the middle and filled them with peanut butter and dark chocolate chunks. I wrapped them in foil and placed on the barbecue with the fan turned to low. I left them for 25 minutes. This was the perfect amount of time to soften the banana, melt the chocolate and make a delicious dessert. By this point the coals were almost all burnt, although there was still heat coming up.
It’s advertised as a smokeless BBQ and aside from the unavoidable smoke created as the fat from the sausages burnt, there was no other smoke, certainly no clouds of charcoal smoke blowing over the fence into nextdoor's garden. What’s more, the sides stay cool enough to touch, although it was slightly warmer near the top when the fan was on max. But happily, the grass beneath it was unaffected - no unsightly scorch marks to worry about.
The next time I lit it was to cook some vegetable and halloumi kebabs as well as some lamb kofta kebabs. Knowing that the outsides stay completely cool, I was happy to pop it on a wooden table this time. Once again, it was quick to set up and light and I put the food on four minutes after lighting it. There was only just enough space for everything on the grill, because my vegetable kebab skewers were really long.
I turned the fan down to about ¾ so that the heat wasn’t quite so intense. But I really noticed the temperature difference across the grill and my vegetable kebabs cooked much faster in the middle with the pieces on both ends struggling to cook. This meant I had to do a lot of juggling everything around to make sure all parts of the kebab had a turn near the middle of the barbecue.
I let the meat kebabs cook gently around the edge, occasionally switching the ones at the outer edge closer to the middle when they needed more browning. Everything was ready in about 20 minutes. But I’d say this BBQ isn’t that well suited to larger foods, the hotter temperature in the centre makes it tricky to manage and you’re better off with smaller foods.
Next up I barbecued chicken thighs alongside some courgette strips. This time I avoided the hotter central area, and I also turned the fan to about halfway. Initially it was on high and the chicken started charring fast, but when I dropped the fan speed, the change in temperature was immediately obvious.
I really enjoyed the ability to drop the temperature, especially for something like chicken which can be a challenge on a charcoal BBQ. It was great to be able to get it thoroughly cooked through without burning the outside.
Cleaning and storage:
The LotusGrill took around 1 - 1.5 hours to cool down enough for me to handle the charcoal container. And once it’s cool you can pack it straight into the bag since all the mess will stay contained until you get home. The coal is contained in the small container, which means emptying out the ash is virtually mess free, simply upend the container into a bin.
The grill grid and the inner bowl are dishwasher safe, so cleaning is a joy if you’re at home. If you’re camping or caravanning you’ll have to give them a scrub by hand. Fat collects at the base of the inner bowl, so that has to be scraped out before washing, but the grill is no trickier to clean than other BBQ grills.
Storage is simple because it comes with the carry/ storage bag included and it’s not too big, so it really can be stored anywhere.
How does it compare to other BBQs?
If you want a similar size portable barbecue, but your budget can’t stretch to the LotusGrill, consider the BergHOFF BBQ. At £125 it’s a bit cheaper, but you still get a great quality portable barbecue. The difference is that without the integrated fan, it takes longer to heat up, requires more coal and the outside gets hot. Plus it takes a while to cool down, so it’s less ideal for picnics when you might not want to hang around waiting for it to be cold enough to pack away. But for camping, caravanning and using at home, it’s a cracking small BBQ.
The Everdure Cube BBQ is another small portable barbecue that’s made it onto our list of best BBQ’s. It’s a great looking cube BBQ with a lid that doubles as a handy chopping board. This charcoal BBQ is compact, but it’s arguably less portable since it doesn’t come with a bag or carry strap, but instead has two side handles. Like the BergHOFF it also stays hot long after use so the LotusGrill trumps it on that front.
Should you buy the LotusGrill BBQ?
All tabletop BBQ’s are portable and easy to move around, but not all of them are as well suited to taking on adventures as the LotusGrill. Its stay-cool sides mean you don’t need to sit in the park for hours waiting for it to cool down. It won’t scorch the grass and what’s more, the fully zipped carry case will keep all the mess contained until you get home.
The smokeless design means you won’t bother anyone around you and impatient, or very hungry picnickers will be delighted by how fast it heats up. The catch is that it’s an expensive choice, but if you’ve got the budget it’s a great BBQ. Once you get used to the central hot spot and rotate foods, it’ll cook evenly and it’s a dream to have the fan to control the heat level. But I’d recommend smaller foods, like sausages, burgers and chicken portions. The difference in the heat across the grill becomes really apparent when you try to cook long kebabs or bigger pieces of meat.
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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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