Recently, a friend asked for my opinion of the Broil King 4000. Since I'm a H.U.G.E fan of the kamado style bbq pit I get a request like this every few months when one of the big box stores trots out the latest Big Green Egg Killer. But my initial reaction to this particular cooker was, "Man, this thing just won't die".
You see, the original incarnation of this grill was called the Bubba Keg. These folks started with insulated beer/coffee mugs and coolers and added the Bubba Keg Grill to their product line. When it was introduced, I was asked to evaluate and review it. I did a couple of head-to-head comparisons with the Big Green Egg. And there some things to really like about this unit, but it also had a few issues. One of the biggest issues was the solvency of the company. They subsequently spun off the grill and it became the Big Steel Keg.
You can see my early attempts at their user forum at http://forum.bigsteelkeg.com/ I'm Braddog over there too.
Now apparently Broil King has acquired the product and rebranded it the Broil King Keg to compliment their line of gassers. I applaud the move, because as I said, I like the unit. In fact, I still cook on my Bubba Keg regularly. I leave it setup for grilling and my Big Green Egg setup for smoking and use them accordingly.
So here's what I like about the Bubba Keg/Big Steel Keg/Broil King Keg:
- It's portable. The wheels on the back of the unit allow me to tip it back and move it around like a hand tuck. My Bubba Keg also came with a mount for a receiver hitch, so I can put the grill on my hitch and haul it. Waaaay more portable and duable that a ceramic Big Green Egg.
- It's lighter than the BGE (adding to the portability).
- It's insulated and can be used in all sorts of weather, as opposed to a thin-walled, non-insulated cooker like a Weber (hey, I like Webers so no hate maile please).
- It has all the cooking characteristics of a kamado style bbq pit, and that's a good thing.
Here's what I didn't like about the Keg but maybe they have solved some of these with this new incarnation.
- Try as I might, I never was able to get the Bubba Keg to hold a low temperature. My unit was drafty and leaked air into the cooking chamber, making temperature control nearly impossible. That's fine if you want to cook hot and fast, but not so much if you want to cook low & slow. There were lots of folks re-sealing and modifying their pits to address these issues with some measure of success.
- Given the frequency of ownership changes, there's been uncertainty and lack of availability for replacements parts. Again, the advantage here goes to the incumbent. The support, stability of ownership, active user community, and availability of 3rd party accessories are all significant advantages for the Big Green Egg.
- At this price point, I'd buy a Big Green Egg. This cooker should be ~$500 and I believe that they'd sell like hot cakes. At nearly $900, that's too close to ceramic territory.
I hope that Broil King has a lot of success with the Keg. It's got some real advantages that make it a good choice for a lot of folks. I wish them well.