Camp Chef Explorer 2-Burner Review
Cons: No auto ignition system, does not operate on 16oz propane canisters, wind puts out burner easily
Manufacturer: Camp Chef
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Camp Chef Explorer 2-Burner is a durable, freestanding stove with excellent flame power and simmering capabilities. It is best for medium-to-large sized groups and offers the flexibility to also be used on a table or tailgate. Retailing for a very approachable price (and often available for substantially less), this is a fantastic option for all manner of rugged foodies and our Top Pick for Group Cooking.
Time to Boil
With 30,000 BTUs of power per burner, it's no wonder this stove boils efficiently. A quart of cold tap water took just 3.75 minutes to boil, an admirable time indeed.
With so much power per burner, the real testing issue for large freestanding models isn't if they can rage, but whether or not they can block the wind effectively. Because of the open, airy design of stoves like this one, compact models are often able to boil just as well, if not better. If you're cooking for large groups, it's never a bad idea to have a quick-boiler like a Jetboil on hand as well.
All of our big freestanding models struggled with wind resistance to some degree. The way these kinds of stoves are designed, the burner sits much farther away from your cookware than on a smaller, more compact model. There are a lot of nooks and crannies where wind can sneak in and wreak havoc, high BTUs notwithstanding.
The Explorer performed OK with our box fan test where we set up a fan 24 inches to the side of the stove while boiling a kettle of water. It clocked in at 5 minutes, just 75 seconds longer than without the fan. However, when we were cooking in a natural breeze (i.e., variable and unpredictable), the story changed. While this stove does have a windscreen, it only protects the top of the stove, not the area below where the burner is housed. Therefore, when wind starts creeping in, low flames are prone to being snuffed out. Because the Explorer does not have an auto-ignition system, you will have to move your cookware out of the way each time this happens to relight the burner.
The Explorer simmers almost like a professional gas range — at least on calm, windless days. It is on par with the best stoves in our review.
From delicately fried eggs and veggies to perfectly cooked pancakes and bacon, we have no complaints when simmering on this model except for the fact that, when turned down low, the flame is more prone to blowing out on breezy days. Get your fine cooking hat on when cheffing with the Explorer.
Ease of Set Up
Setting this stove up is a snap, aside from the fact that it weighs almost 31 pounds (19 pounds without the legs).
Once you've transported and carried the Explorer to where you want, attach the legs (if you're using them), slot the windscreen around the edges, and connect your propane tank. It's more involved than a compact two-burner, but it's not a huge pain. Note that putting the legs on does require flipping the stove upside down or having someone hold it up for you.
Ease of Care
In most respects, this is an extremely simple stove to care for. It's painted black, and its design is open and airy with no drip tray, so you don't have to worry about pesky spaces accumulating food bits. The windscreen can be awkward to carry around and store, but the legs come with a storage bag, which is a nice perk.
Despite the coating of thick paint on this model, however, rust started to appear after just a couple of weeks living on an outdoor patio in sunny and dry Colorado. Some people choose these kinds of stoves as additional burners for their decks or yards for canning, homebrewing, deep-frying, and plenty more. If you plan to have your Explorer live outside, we strongly recommended getting a cover for it or storing it in a shed or garage.
While this certainly isn't a compact stove, it's still quite manageable, and you can leave the legs behind if you will be setting up on a table or tailgate.
The Explorer is large and heavy at just under 30.6 pounds. However, if you ditch the legs, you'll also shed 11.5 pounds. Just make sure the back of your vehicle can handle the 32.75 x 14 x 7.75-inch dimensions, plus a large propane tank.
The value is high on this stove — especially considering that it is often found considerably under its list price at major retailers. Our other freestanding models are considerably more expensive but scored lower overall. While the Explorer lacks some features and struggles with the wind a bit, it also simmers like a pro, boils quickly, and can be used with or without its legs. All in all, we think this is a great bargain and worth the price for the right individual.
The Camp Chef Explorer is a great fit for anyone cooking for larger groups on a regular basis, be it car camping, tailgating, or messy cooking situations that you want out of your house (frying, canning, etc.). It has a sturdy build and is easy to clean — just make sure you store it under a cover or shelter, as we did have some minor rust issues after leaving it outside. It is one of the most powerful stoves we tested boasting two 30,000 BTU burners and accommodates pots and pans of almost any size, from 4 to 14 inches. Its freestanding construction is ideal for events or groups where table space is limited — and if prep space isn't an issue, you have the option of setting up directly on a table. Unfortunately, there is no auto-ignition option, and a long lighter is strongly recommended to keep from sacrificing some arm hair — particularly because the one issue we had was the flame getting blown out on windy days. Bottom line, this stove is meant for heavy-duty use and large hungry groups, so it's no wonder it grabs a Top Pick award.
— Penney Garrett