Sunday, March 18, 2007

Braai on the Cobb

The last two days have been glorious—it was around 74F (that’s 23C) with clouds (unusual in New Mexico) and mild breezes.

We put the screens on the windows today so that we could have them open (otherwise the dreaded stinkbugs totally take over my house), we turned on the sprinkler for the first time (water restrictions which have prohibited watering anything for the last four summers have not yet gone into action), and we grilled/barbecued/braaied.

“Braai” is the South African term for cooking outside over a heat source. I use the term because my grill is a South African product, and it is fairly amazing.

It was developed for use in rural African villages where fuel is scarce—and so it is designed for maximum efficiency and limited fuel. It is called the Cobb because it was initially designed to cook an entire meal using a few corn cobs.

Tonight I cooked two huge steaks and four potatoes using only seven pieces of charcoal—and the Cobb is still hot enough to cook more. To compare, my last charcoal grill—a Weber Hibachi—generally used 20-30 briquettes for the same menu.

The Cobb is designed with a fuel holding area surrounded by a moat; the moat is a space where I can bake potatoes, roast vegetables, etc.,while I grill meat or other veg above the fire (see picture below—I didn’t have any nice potatoes for good jacket potatoes, but I had some oldish, shriveled ones that I peeled, brushed with olive oil and sea salt and wrapped in foil; I know: cooking in foil weirds me out too, but it works well here).

Instead of using the uniform, pre-formed briquettes that I grew up with, I have switched to natural hardwood charcoal. This means that my fuel is real hardwood as opposed to…what ARE briquettes, anyway? They’re not really wood. Some kind of processed wood product?

I first used natural charcoal when in South Africa at the Kruger National Park (which is, I think, my favorite place on Planet Earth). There was a local economic development scheme in the park where people were combining forest management with the local production of natural charcoal—and the charcoal worked beautifully. Ever since then, I’ve been sold on “real” charcoal.

But back to the Cobb: the Cobb is great because it is very portable and easy. I first bought one for my Dad to use on his wooden boat—it is self-contained, so you can grill ANYWHERE, even on a lake in a wooden boat.

I then bought myself one, not only for use at home but for use while camping--see the carrying case? It just goes in the car with the tent and the cooler!

As noted above, it takes very little fuel and is relatively safe in my dry climate because of its efficient, self-contained design.

If you are interested in getting one (after this stupendous, pro-bono product endorsement), I got both of mine from but have also just discovered The Cobb Store.


Ann said...

Such a very cool thing! I am going to have to look into getting one of these. Thanks!

Mom said...

This is a wonderful gadget, and my praise comes from an anti-gadget bent. We use ours regularly. It cooks quickly, cleanly, efficiently, and tastily.

I don't know anything about "real" charcoal. We use the match-light charcoal (doesn't need exta chemicals) to light. Using only a few (5-8) briquets, in 10 minutes it is hot enough to to grill.

Thank you, Elizabeth.

ruth said...

What a very cool contraption! We just use our big braai here, even though it's an African product I haven't seen it for sale locally. Sad really because I'd love one.

Femminista said...


Cobb International / South Africa

Address :
PO Box 70393
2021 South Africa

Contact :
Phone: +27 11 786 0450
Fax: +27 11 786 0413

Mom: Doesn't match-light charcoal not need extra chemicals to light becuase it is already permeated with chemicals???