Lodge Sportsman’s Charcoal Grill
A stalwart on the set of Project Smoke is the rugged Lodge Sportsman’s charcoal grill. Constructed entirely of cast iron, this hibachi-style grill is a workhorse, deserving of a place in any serious barbecuer’s stable of equipment. (Lodge, headquartered in South Pittsburgh, Tennessee, has been making high-quality cast iron cookware since 1896. You’re likely familiar with its skillets and Dutch ovens.)
Here are a few of the Sportsman’s design features:
- Its footed cast iron grill grate is perfect for searing and large enough (17.5 by 9 inches) to cook for 2 to 4 people. The feet elevate the grill grate over the hot coals, or the grill grate can be flipped over, positioning the cooking surface closer to the fire. Talk about killer grill marks!
- A sliding draft door provides additional heat control by regulating the amount of oxygen that reaches the fire. (Remember, the more air that reaches it, the hotter the fire burns.)
- A second flip-down door provides easy access to the charcoal grate, enabling you to add fuel during a cook. (This is seldom necessary as the grill retains heat like a champion.)
- A built-in bale makes the 27-pound Sportsman relatively portable.
- The grill is pre-seasoned at the factory, although cast iron always requires special care (see below).
Although some people insist they can indirect grill on the Sportsman by limiting coals on one side of the grill to one layer, this hibachi is best for direct grilling foods that cook in 30 minutes or less. It works very well for burgers, chicken breasts or thighs, chicken wings, hot dogs, brats, thinner chops or steaks, foil packet meals, Korean short ribs (kalbi), fish steaks or fillets, shellfish or prawns, tofu, satés or kebabs, and quick-cooking vegetables.
The Sportsman is an excellent choice for small households, tailgaters, campers, fishermen, apartment or condo dwellers, or even students who have access to an outdoor patio. Its MSRP is $155, but it can be purchased at a discount through my online store.
Its biggest drawback is that like all cast iron, it is prone to rust. But take care of it (see my tips below) and this hibachi has the potential to become a family heirloom and the common denominator of many great food memories.
Tips for using this grill:
- Always set up the Sportsman on a heat-proof surface—concrete, fire bricks, or an inverted commercial-grade rimmed baking sheet.
- A half chimney of coals should be sufficient to fuel a cook.
- Let the grill cool completely before emptying any ash into an ash can.
- The outside of the grill, including the bale and handles, gets very hot and stays hot for a long time. Always use grill gloves when handling the Sportsman.
- Keep your Sportsman in good condition by cleaning and oiling it when cool with vegetable oil after each use. (Never spray water on hot cast iron or it could crack.) If any part of the grill needs to be re-seasoned, scrub any rusty areas with a nylon scrubber or brush, rinse, and dry thoroughly before re-oiling. (Stubborn rust can usually be removed with coarse salt.) Place the grill or grill parts in a 350°F oven for 1 hour, then let cool completely. Always store in a dry place.
- Set up a kebab or saté bar where your guests can grill their own skewers to order, or use your Sportsman to grill appetizers while you prepare the main course and side dishes on a larger charcoal or gas grill.
- Feel free to burn hardwoods in your Sportsman. Sticks about 1 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter work best. Or you can use wood chunks started in a chimney starter.
- Use the hibachi to grill s’mores at the end of a meal.