Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Product Review: Char-Broil Gas2Coal Hybrid Grill

It is Spring time and across the country, hordes of people are in the market to replace that old rusted out grill that barely made it through last summer.  The first decision that most of them wrestle with is whether to buy a gas or coal fired grill.

This year, Char-Broil makes that decision a bit easier by introducing their new Gas2Coal Hybrid Grill that lets you cook with gas or coal in the same unit, a great combination.  I got to see a prototype of this gas and charcoal combo last year while touring the Char-Broil headquarters and now they have sent me this combination grill to review.

Char-broil gas to coal combination grill

Design, Features, and Claims

According to the HPBA, 61% of homes own a gas grill and 41% own a charcoal grill (visit www.hpba.org for more information).  Twenty six percent of homes have two grills.  So it’s clear that the general grill consumer likes the convenience of gas but also the flavor of charcoal.  The Gas2Coal gives you the combination of gas and coal in a single, normal sized grill.  

Honestly, I just don’t think it’s a big deal to light up a chimney  of coal but I am in the grilling minority.  The most important feature to shoppers after budget and space considerations is an easy ignition system (49% according to HPBA in 2014). And that is where the Gas2Coal combination grill shines with its most striking feature.  You can use gas to quickly and easily light your coals and be ready to cook in 10-15 minutes over the glowing coals – gas convenience, charcoal flavor.  

Here are some of the other features of this gas and charcoal hybrid.
·         Dual fuel – can cook using gas OR coal
·         Converts from gas to coal in seconds with no tools required
·         Sleek, stylish design with straight forward controls
·         Sturdy tubular metal construction
·         Side burner for warming sauces or creating side dishes
·         Professional grade cooking temperature thermometer
·         Cast iron cooking grates for great sear marks and even heat
·         Easy storage for the charcoal pan
·         550 square inches of grilling space
·         Five year warranty on the burners

Cast iron grates on Char-Broil combination grill leave great grill marks and are sturdy
The cast iron grates give better sear marks and will stay in good shape with frequent use.  They will rust if you leave them out in the weather or neglected but you can re-season them if this happens.  But as with every grill, using them often is the best way to keep them in good condition.

Thermometer on the Char-Broil Gas to Coal combination grill is durable and sturdy.
I have this same thermometer on 5 of my grills, some of them going on 3 years old, and none have failed or needed recalibrating yet.

Char-Broil’s Gas to Coal combination grill with sturdy tubular construction guarantees grill will last and grill design ensures room for storage under grill shelf.
The tubular construction feels sturdy.  I hate a wobbly grill.  You have just over 35 inches of clearance under this shelf which conveniently fits my deck trash can when the grill isn’t in use.

Char-Broil Gas to Coal hybrid grill with charcoal conversion tray showing charcoal channels
Shown with the charcoal conversion tray in and the grates not back on yet.  The coals line up along the 3 channels sticking up in the middle.

Burners on the Char-Broil gas to coal combination grill are standard burners.
The burners “under the hood” are your standard burners that you find on the Performance series.  When doing gas only, the drop off compared to my Char-Broil Commercial (now called Professional) with the TRU-Infrared grate systems is noticeable.  You can buy the TRU-Infrared grates but it’s not exactly the same as having them on a grill designed for them.  The performance is comparable to other grills in the same price point.

Char-Broil gas to coal combination grill contains space for storing of grilling tools
Storage area for the tray or other tools.

Char-Broil gas to coal hybrid grill with side burner
This is my first charcoal grill that comes standard with a side burner.

Performance and Testing

Assembly - I received my Gas2Coal combination grill this  month and couldn’t wait to put it together.  I’d rank the assembly process as “Moderate – basic tools required and an hour or less of time”.  The main cooking chamber is pre-assembled knocking out most of the work.  The hardware (nuts/bolts) is divided into clearly labeled blister packs, the instructions are straight forward, and the bolts are often pre-installed.  

Char-Broil gas to coal combination grill design ensures that blots and assembly parts are not visible
The only difficulty is there are a few places with tight clearance that make using power tools cumbersome.  Not a big deal and that is only because it is designed to hide unsightly bolts and such. 

Char-Broil gas to charcoal hybrid grill assembled in less than one hour
It took me less than an hour and I wasn't rushing at all.  I might have even had a beer while doing this.

I couldn’t wait to see about this gas assist charcoal deal so I loaded it up with a single layer of standard charcoal briquettes, hit the burners on, closed the lid and waited for 15 minutes per the manual.  Holy smokes, the temp gauge was pegged over 650°f – this thing can crank out the heat.  After several uses, I have found it’s better to go 10-12 minutes, kill the gas and then wait 5 minutes like the video suggests. 

Char-Broil gas and charcoal combination grill with lid open
Rocket hot! Be careful opening the lid after the gas lighting period because it’s really hot in there.

If I light a chimney of coal, it’s ready in about the same time, BUT then I have to wait for the grill grates to heat up too.  This gas and charcoal combination  is  truly ready for food at 15 minutes.

Char-Broil gas to coal hybrid great for spring grilling
Flowers are blooming and smoke in the air - I love Spring - it's one of my 4 favorite grilling seasons.

Marinated portabello mushrooms and Manhattan filets grilling on Char-Broil gas to charcoal combination grill
Manhattan filets and marinated portobello mushrooms.

Burgers grilling on Char-Broil charcoal to gas combination grill using the charcoal grilling feature
Hard to beat burgers over hot coals.

Boneless pork chops with rub and butter  on Char-Broil gas to coal grill
Boneless pork chops with my NMT Basic BBQ Rub and then spritzed with butter.

Burgers and buns grilled on Char-Broil gas to charcoal combination grill
Juicy burgers and toasted buns - a match made in heaven.

Burger grilled on Char-Broil gas to coal combination grill
Burgers and buns grilled on Char-Broil gas to charcoal combination grill

Cleaning on the Char-Broil gas to coal combination grill with cool coals which are best for cleaning
For clean up, I wait until the next day to make sure the coals are dead and then sweep the tray off into the trash.  Always be 100% sure the coals are out.  Trash fires aren’t fun.  The best ash disposal tool is a metal bin with an air tight lid.

How do you control the cooking temperature once the coals are lit and the gas is off?  There are no vents like on the Kettleman  and 780 Charcoal Grill .  There isn’t an adjustable coal tray like on the 780 Charcoal Grill and CB500X .  Temperature is going to be controlled by the quantity of coals that you use.  A full load is going to get you searing temperatures.  That’s part of the simplicity designed into this combination  grill.  

With the grates fixed so close to the coals, it makes this gas and charcoal combination grill  perfect for your everyday grilling of things like steaks, chops, and burgers – what most people do.  I haven’t timed it repeatedly, but it seems like a single tray of coal will get you about 35-45 minutes of heat.  If you have things that are going to take longer or require indirect grilling, I’d use the upper rack or gas only option.   For example, I cook bone in chicken pieces on the upper rack for about 25 minutes and then finish them on the lower rack for 1-2 minutes just to get that nice color.  

One design issue for me is access to the gas tank.  I like to shut mine off at the tank when not in use and to do that with the Gas2Coal , you have to reach around the back as there is no front access to the tank storage area.  

What are the best briquettes to use?  I used the basic “blue bag” and got plenty of heat.  You could use the all-natural briquettes but keep in mind they will burn hotter.  Another way to take full advantage of this grill is to use the wood flavored briquettes that are available. 

Final Thoughts

The Char-Broil Gas to charcoal combination grill  is ideal for those who want the ease of gas but don’t want to sacrifice the flavor of coal. When set up for coal, it is best suited for the most popular cuts – hot dogs, steaks, chops, and burgers.  It gives you a gas and coal combo grill in the footprint of a normal grill, instead of the 5-6 feet of those duo-fuel side by side units.  It is a quick and easy combination  grill that is excellent for the needs of most grillers. 


Product:   Char-Broil Gas2Coal Hybrid Grill
Price Point:  $299
Where Sold:  Lowe’s, online
Design:  3.5/5
Performance:  3.5/5
Value:  4/5
Overall:  3.6/5
Alt tag: alt=”Char-Broil gas to coal combination grill with side burner and side shelf”

Monday, April 25, 2016

Free Kamado Grilling Class In Knoxville

Team Nibble Me This will be conducting a free kamado grilling class this Saturday at The Great Backyard Place in Knoxville, TN.  The class is free but requires registration so call the number on the image to get on the list.

The class will be brief (about 1 hour) and will cover all of the basics you need to know to get started grilling on your kamado grill.  We will be teaching on the Grill Dome but the techniques are the same for other kamado grills like the Big Green Egg, Primo, Kamado Joe, and Grilla Kong.

Big Green Egg class, big green egg training, grill dome training, grill dome class, kamado jr class

Afterwards, we will be doing grilling demos on the Grill Dome and Saber Grills so stick around for some recipes and free samples.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Book Review: Diva Q's Barbecue

Diva Q’s Barbecue – 
195 Recipes for Cooking with Family, Friends, and Fire
Danielle “DivaQ” Bennett
Appetite by Random House

I pre-ordered Diva Q’s Barbecue as soon as it became available online last Thanksgiving because I knew it was going to be a great grilling/BBQ book.  After months of waiting, I finally got my grubby little hands on it and it is every bit as good as I anticipated.

great BBQ book, top 5 bbq book, best grilling book, top grilling book

You might know Danielle “DivaQ” Bennett from her show, BBQ Crawl, which has run for the past three years.  Or you might know her from her multiple other televised appearances, from local news shows to BBQ Pitmasters.  Or you might know her from her many competition BBQ victories including a World Championship at the Jack Daniels World Championship Barbecue a few years ago.  I have had the pleasure of knowing her through the BBQ Brethren many years ago and then getting to work with her on a mutual client for the past few years.  Danielle is one of the most talented, passionate, and competitive pitmasters that I know and all of that energy is reflected in her book.

Physical Description

The book is softcover and is medium sized (8x10).  It “weighs in” at 288 pages of photos, recipes, tips, and other great information.  The format is nicely laid out making it easy to read and use.  I like that she uses “call out boxes” to bring attention to important tips throughout the book.  The organization of the book is the typical BBQ book breakouts of BBQ basics, main meats by category, sides, desserts, and a few other chapters.  It’s the content of those sections that sets the book apart.


Diva Q’s Barbecue is loaded with 195 recipes.  The difficulty level is varied, from beginner to advanced, so that everyone can take something away from using the book.  Danielle cooks on a variety of grills and smoker so these recipes aren't central to one type of cooker.

·         Six Recipes You Need To Know – DivaQ gives you a few recipes to get you going right out of the gate.  I’m glad to see the reverse sear in there.
·         Rubs, Sauces, Slathers, and Spices – This chapter alone is worth the price of this book.  Twenty six of DivaQ’s favorite go to sauces and seasonings are shared.  It has basics like Memphis Rib Rub and Kansas City Rub to more exotic rubs like Spicy Thai Rub or Moroccan Spice Rub.  The sauce recipes are top notch as well. 
·         Fired Up Appetizers and Shareables – The chapter is the social butterfly of the book, with it’s fun “here have some of this” type of recipes.  Chipotle Devilled Eggs with Pig Candy and Cold-Smoked Cheddar-Pimento Cheese?  Yes please! She has pizzas, kale chips, salsa, and tons of one bite apps that are sure to please.
·         Praise the Pig – All about pork, this chapter shares DivaQ’s World Championship Winning Pulled Pork recipe and 21 other killer recipes for chops, cheeks, steaks, and belly.  I’m proud to have one of my recipes featured in this chapter – Pork Tenderloin with Thai Peanut Sauce.  If you really want to kick it up, use her Thai rub on that one.
·         Bacon Bonanza – Bacon delights here, DivaQ hits on classics like Pig Candy and ABT’s while delving in to sheer bacon madness with things like Grilled Poutine and Bacon, Bacon wrapped Cadbury eggs (you read that right), and Smoked Brisket Bombs.
·         Beef It Up – Diva dishes her secrets on a perfect scoring 180 Brisket.  She also gives recipes for herb crusted Prime rib, herbed beef tenderloin, shiitake chuck roast and more.
·         Fowl Play – From Smoked Crispy Duck to Brie and Spinach Stuffed Chicken, DivaQ covers it all.  Her jerk chicken sounds right up my alley and I thought the Roadside chicken was very tasty.
·         Gone Fishin’ – I’m not a big fish person, but this section still looks impressive with selections like Blackened Cajun Salmon, Mahi Mahi Sliders, and Grilled Tuna Steak Tacos.
·         Sizzling Sides – Danielle grills up some out of the ordinary sides like Smookin’ Good Sweet Potatoes with Bourbon Butter. The Grilled Artichokes with Smoked Aioli are on my list for this summer as are the Candied Smoked Carrots.
·         Salads, Slaws, and Breads – Kind of an eclectic collection but loaded with drool worthy recipes, such as; Grilled Panzanella Salad, Creamy Carrot Slaw, and the Best-Ever Buttermilk Biscuits. 
·         Sweet Smoke – Danielle excels at dessert, she is well known for killing that category in contests.  There are lots of recipes in this chapter but there’s only one that I need to know and that is the famed Death by Diva.  It has scored a perfect 180 at multiple contests.  It’s a little fruit, cheese cake, brownie and more.

Grill Dome chicken, kamado roadside chicken, raised direct grilling, raised grate, DivaQ
DivaQ's Roadside Chicken - I did mine raised direct on a kamado grill while she did hers indirect.  Both ways work, I just like my roadside chicken over the fire because that's the way they did it at my dad's company picnics when I was a kid.  

Grilled chicken, BBQ chicken, bbq chicken recipe, chicken baste recipe,
Excellent flavor and I didn't have to wait for marinating like I do on my other favorite roadside chicken recipe.  Of course, now I want to try them together - the marinade and Danielle's baste.  That will be intense!
steak, how to grill a steak, steak seasoning, Montreal seasoning, Diva Q
I tried Danielle's Montreal seasoning recipe on a very nice ribeye steak for lunch one afternoon.

steak sauce recipe, spicy steak sauce,
I finally got to try Diva Q's Diablo Sauce.  The only thing I did different was I used roasted garlic in mine, just because I had it on hand.
Gas2Grill gas coal hybrid, steak sauce
Making the sauce outdoors on the sideburner.

sauce on back of spoon, diablo sauce
Simmer until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon like this.  We liked it smooth so I had used an immersion blender before this picture.

Char-broil, dual fuel grill, convertible grill
I did this one on my Char-Broil Gas2Coal grill and a set of GrillGrates.  It's a dual fuel grill but in this case, I used the gas assist to light the coals.

how to grill steak, how to plate steak, how to make steak sauce
This was some lunch!  The Diablo Sauce doesn't knock you over with heat, it's more on the back end, but it's definitely there.  

bbq sauce
The recipe for Kansas City style BBQ sauce is an easy and fantastic base recipe for a sweet BBQ sauce like most people enjoy.  We liked it so much that we used it on a small catering gig we did.


The photography in Danielle’s book does a good job of telling the story of her passion for BBQ.  The book is loaded with high quality, color photographs.  Ken Goodman was the main photographer but there were also contributions from Robert Jacob Lerma, Doug Barlow, and Alena Dudaeva.  The pictures of finished and plated foods gives the reader an excellent understanding of what they are shooting for.  I would have liked to see more “how to” or “step by step” pictures but considering this book is already at 195 recipes and almost 300 pages, I understand that space was an issue.


This is easily my favorite grilling/BBQ book so far this year.  Who is it for?  Just about anyone that grills. It gives newbies an arsenal of information to get them up and firing on all cylinders quickly.  When someone asks me what 1 or 2 BBQ books they should buy because they are just starting out, Diva Q’s Barbecue will be on the short list that I give them.  But even seasoned grillers will gain a lot from this book – I bought a copy for my sister who is a hard core Egger.

Then there’s the price.  I don’t know if it’s some kind of Canadian to US currency exchange issue (kidding) but $14.01 for a book of this quality and usefulness is an absolute steal!  I’d gladly pay $25 or more for this book. 

Brass tax is this:  This book needs to be a part of your grilling and BBQ arsenal. 


5 stars – an absolute resource, will refer to frequently
4 stars – good cookbook with value added tips, photos, guides, and other content
3 stars – Good, average cookbook, glad to have it on my shelf
2 stars – a recipe collection
1 star – would give it away to someone else to get rid of it, but only if I didn't like them very much

[Standard FTC Disclaimer]  Danielle did give me a copy of the book but I also paid full price for a few copies and I did not receive any other compensation. I received the Char-Broil Grill2Coal as part of a sponsorship from Char-Broil. The opinions I have given are absolutely my own.  

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Pig Shots and The Smoking Bacon and Hog Cookbook

We are cooking for a friend's card game this coming week and one of the appetizers that we are cooking are "pig shots".

Big Green Egg appetizer recipe, grilling appetizer recipe, tailgating recipe
The Pig Shot appetizer.

Apologies to Billy Joel but I kept singing this as I was making them.

Because you had to be a pig shot, din' ya? You had to open up your mouth.
You had to be a pig shot, din' ya, all your friends were so knocked out

And these flavor bombs will knock your friends out.  Pig shots have been around for a little while and show up from time to time in online BBQ forums. They seem a little involved but they are actually pretty easy.

Big Green Egg appetizer recipe, grilling appetizer recipe, tailgating recipe
Slices of hot Italian sausage wrapped with thick bacon form the "shot glass".  These are then stuffed with BBQ rub, cream cheese, and brown sugar then smoked.

easy grill appetizers, stunning grill appetizers, ideas for tailgating
All rolled up, filled, and ready to go onto the smoker. 

I cooked these indirect on my Large Big Green Egg at 275°F for right at 90 minutes.  It was set up indirect using a cast iron plate setter.  The fuel was Parker lump mixed with about a cup of cherry wood chips.

kamado appetizer recipe, tailgate recipe, appetizer idea pork
I crowned each with a dollop of homemade BBQ sauce.

These didn't last long at all and I'm going to have to triple the recipe for the card game, I think.

These are delicious as written but the beauty of the Pig Shot is that you can fill the "shot glass" with just about anything - it's a "flexible flavor delivery platform". This version that I made is from Bill Gillespie's new book.

new cookbook, grilling book

The Smoking Bacon and Hog Cookbook
Bill Gillespie with Tim O’Keefe
Page Street Publishing

As the title proclaims, The Smoking Bacon and Hog Cookbook is all about smoking “the whole pig and nothing but the pig”.  It is Bill Gillespie’s follow up to his first book, Secrets to Smoking.  Bill is a long time fixture on the BBQ circuit and has won on BBQ’s biggest stages, including World Championships at The American Royal Invitational and Jack Daniels Invitational.  In this new book, Bill shares his BBQ wisdom and a horde of creative pork recipes.

Physical Description

The book is a medium sized paperback at 8 x 9”, which makes it useful when you need to book open on a counter top.  Speaking of that, this book has premium binding so it opens up flat and pages won’t flip themselves while you’re trying to cook – that’s a small detail with big benefits making it easier to use.  It seems like a small book in your hands but it’s full of a lot of solid information.

The premium binding keeps the book from trying to close itself or flip pages.  I wish that ALL cookbooks had this feature because pages always seem to flip themselves just when your hands are covered in gunk, right?


The recipes are mostly pretty involved but are easy enough for a beginner to follow.  The books says it’s geared towards cookers like Weber Smokey Mountain, Humphrey’s (GREAT insulated cooker!), and barrel smokers but I had no problem cooking the recipes on my Green Egg and Grill Dome kamado grills.

The book is organized into 7 sections.  

1.       The pig, the whole pig, and nothing but the pig – A brief but efficient introduction with information on types of hogs, smokers, wood, charcoal, and time versus temperature. 
2.       Belly of the beast - Most books might have 1, maybe 2 bacon recipes.  This chapter boasts 7 bacon recipes, many more other cured meats like pancetta or Canadian bacon, and plenty of ideas for using them, such as; balsamic onion jam, bacon wrapped onion rings, or maple bacon butter.
3.       Sausage, sausage, and more sausage – They say never watch sausage or politics being made but homemade sausage is crazy good so Bill spills the goods on making your own sausages like Italian, andouille, breakfast sausage and more.  He also gives some fun recipes for using the sausage like the Philly cheese stuffed fatty.
4.       Ribs, chops, and loins – Bill shares his competition ribs recipe which would be worth the price of the book alone.  In addition, he created recipes for Apple Smoked Baby Back Ribs, Chinese Five-Spice Marinated ribs and Country style ribs with Jerk Seasoning.  The Honey Glazed Smoked Pork Chops and Bacon Wrapped Tenderloin also sound delicious.
5.       Butts, shoulders, and hams – Bill reveals his recipe and techniques for his award winning pork butt as well as pork picnic and hams.  In a smart move, he gives recipes that use leftovers from the three big meats to create new and exciting dishes like pork burnt ends, pork eggrolls, tacos 2 ways, and a three meat Cubano sandwich.
6.       Going whole hog – Bill gives you everything you need to go whole hog.  In this chapter, he gives tips on buying a hog and shares his recipe.  He breaks down how to trim, inject and coat your hog.  He then gives cooking temps and times depending on a few factors.  He provides 18 color step by step pictures to help develop the concept he uses.
7.       Sauces and rubs – He covers all of the bases with the classic sauces, such as; KC style, Bourbon, Honey, Eastern Carolina (my fav), Alabama white sauce, and Carolina gold, another of my favorites.

In addition to the Pig Shots, we also made some other things from this book, such as the bacon wrapped onion rings and bacon wrapped chicken wings. 

smoking wood for kamado grills
I didn't have any sugar maple wood but I did have these Maple mini-cubes from Mojobricks so I used them.

kamado wings, how to smoke wings, bacon wrapped wings
The Grill Dome fired up and the wings just going on. I cooked them a little hotter (290f) than the book called for.

kamado bacon wrapped wings
Bacon wrapped wings getting their tan on. 
kamado wings
Time to sauce the wings! 

Bacon wrapped onion rings on the Grill Dome.

kamado appetizer, tailgating recipes
Onion rings done and served with the Sriracha mayo.

Just a heads up.  I'm pretty sure Bill is using his home cured bacon for these recipes.  The bacon I make at home has slices that are considerably longer than what you might buy at the store.  So when he says a recipe takes one piece of bacon per item, it will be more like 1 1/2 pieces of store bought bacon.


The Smoking Bacon and Hog Cookbook is packed with eye catching photography, which I think is important to a cookbook for inspiration, direction, and visual cues.  The book has mostly finished and plated pictures but it also includes a few “how to’s”.  The publisher did a good job of blending pictures in throughout, some in text, some full page photos, and step by steps.  The photographer is Ken Goodman who just happened to shoot another book that I am currently reviewing.  Ken is well regarded as not only an exceptional photographer but he has 20 years experience as a chef.


The Smoking Bacon and Hog Cookbook surprised me.  I thought it was going to be a lame attempt to jump on the bacon trend but Bill Gillespie did a fantastic job with putting together a solid book that ignores the “johnny come lately’s” and relies on Bill’s 20+ years of experience with the art of smoking pork. 

I think that anyone with an interest in grilling will benefit from this book but I think the person that will get the most out of it is the serious BBQ enthusiast – the Eggheads, Weber fans, and people that like to make their own rubs and sauces. 


5 stars – an absolute resource, will refer to frequently
4 stars – good cookbook with value added tips, photos, guides, and other content
3 stars – Good, average cookbook, glad to have it on my shelf
2 stars – a recipe collection
1 star – would give it away to someone else to get rid of it, but only if I didn't like them very much

[FTC Standard Disclaimer] I received a copy of The Smoking Bacon and Hog Cookbook at no costs. I received Mojobricks free of charge because the owner is on our Memphis in May team and we are using them in our cookers at the World Championship cook-off.