A CAR CAMPING MARVEL
Just got back from a car camping trip to Yosemite, and all I can say about this dutch oven is….WOW. I thought it would be just used for making chili with the dutch oven, but this dutch oven table turned out to be so much more versatile than that. And the slightly lower height turned out to be an advantage as we needed to do some BBQ’ing under a tarp when it rained. the lower height gave the smoke more vertical to spread and move out of the tarp ceiling. Awesome.
Everything held up really well, and the 12″ high wind screen turned out to be a better benefit than I expected.
Not only did it keep the worst of the winds away allowing more heat to get to food, but the high wind screen wall allowed me to stretch aluminum foil over the top and from to create an oven-like effect when used with a Steve Raichlen Tuscan grill (I imagine a Texsport campfire grill would work just as well). That proved to be an incredible versatile combination and was used almost every day of the 5 day trip.
Hands down, this beat a regular weber grill for cooking versatility and flexibility. I would definitely recommend this for car camping or picnic camping where you have a way to get rid of the ash safely. One of the best luxury car camping purchases ever.
There are two dutch oven tables on Amazon right now, this one and a wider one.
The wider one has rock solid reviews across the board, and even better, fits three dutch ovens next to each other since it’s wider, rather than just two side by side like this one. According to reviews, the wider one seems to be much better quality, with good workmanship and care in assembly and parts. It’s also less expensive.
And yet, knowing all that…I still decided to buy this one.
The reviews about the poor workmanship on this unit are true. The welds are spotty and likely won’t hold up to too many sessions. The placeholder pieces for when the wind screen is folded up is not straight but bent, as if the welder didn’t place the holder pieces correctly, and had to bend it and reweld it to make it work. the legs are slightly crooked, and the table is ever so slightly warped from the get go. the screws aren’t in straight and the treads are already damaged. All in all, things just aren’t well aligned on this unit.
Even worse, this unit is almost double the price of the other one.
All of these don’t inspire a lot of confidence long term, and I know it’ll require some repair.
But this unit has one advantage over the wider, better quality, and less expensive 38″ dutch oven. It has a 12″ high wind screen.
Some of you will say: well, that’s a no brainer. Just get the cheaper, wider, higher quality one, and make your own wind screen.
I thought about that long and hard, and my issue is this. light repairs or purchasing spare bolts is something I can do. Making a rock solid wind screen that will fit and stay on is not something I can spare the time to research and have done.
If the other manufacturer had a 12″ tall wind screen, I would have purchased that one. In fact, if they come out with a 12″ wind screen option to purchase separately, I may still buy the other one.
But everywhere I go for outdoor grilling, be it a park picnic, car camping trip, or just back yard grilling, wind is my biggest enemy. I battle with heat stealing wind so much that sometimes, a 10 minute grilling session turns into 30 minutes. and when you’re grilling a lot and in batches, that could turn into hours and hungry people. Sure, this is a dutch oven table and not a tuscan grill table. But it can be both, so why not use it as such.
Either way, wind protection is absolutely critical when I grill.
Having said all that, this table isn’t bad. Because it’s not as wide as the other, it fits into my jeep side ways, even between the wheel wells, which is nice. And it’s wide enough to put a dutch oven and a tuscan grill side by side (see photo). Or two Asian style gas stoves (see photo). Or even a hibachi grill, where the wind screen take on an even more critical role. The 12″ wind screen is a godsend for all these scenarios.
I’ve already tested this grill by cooking with the gas stoves, a dutch oven, and a tuscan grill. And with the wind screen, cooking times are as they should be. If I’m looking for even more heat retention, I use heavy duty aluminum foil along the top, so only the front is open. Since I wrap around the top of the wind screen with the heat reflector side of the aluminum foil facing down, I can still get in there with a pair of tongs and work the grill from the front opening and lots of heat.
If the other unit comes out with a 12″ wind screen add-on purchase, or replaces their existing wind screen with a 12″ version, I will definitely buy it. But all in all, even knowing that I’ll be doing repairs on this unit, and despite the high relative price, I’m satisfied with this purchase, because…you know….I’m just too lazy to build my own setup.
PS. There is one other advantage with this unit. the legs are welded onto the table, making them part of the table when folded in, and while not welded well, there are the brackets that allow you to keep the wind screen together with this unit. The 38″ unit (this one is 32″) has all the parts separated out, requiring a bag to keep everything together. So…if you don’t want a dedicated bag for it, than this does have an advantage there as well. How important is that? Well, it might be important to someone, but didn’t factor into my decision (but is a nice to have)