Primus Kuchoma Review
Cons: Limited surface space, not the most powerful
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Our Analysis and Test Results
With limited surface area and relatively low max output, the Kuchoma can't compete with the literal big dogs. However, it is its small size that sets it apart. This is easily the most portable grill we have tested. It is small, light, and stows and deploys easily.
Primus claims that the Kuchoma puts out 8500 BTUs. Our anecdotal experience backs this up. It isn't the most powerful burner in the test, but it only has to heat up 152 square inches. In good to average conditions, the Kuchoma creates enough heat to quickly sear good red meat. That amount of heat, captured in a relatively thin-walled and small grill box, can dissipate quite quickly. In windy and cold conditions the burner couldn't keep up and actually sear that steak how we like.
The big grills are definitely hotter than the Kuchoma. However, bigger does not always mean better — in this case, better meaning more output power. Our anecdotal experience in comparing grills has proven that claimed BTUs don't always lineup with a grill's real-life performance. Consider this cautionary note on manufacturers' specifications: in windy conditions, we found that some grills with lower BTU-ratings stayed hotter than the Primus Kuchoma. But without a doubt, the big guns drive out much more heat. All our other award winners, for instance, are hotter and keep it that way better than the Kuchoma.
For a one-burner grill, the Primus has excellent control. The knob clearly and effectively dials the gas flow from barely a whisper to the max. The grills with the most control definitely have two burners. In these grills, you can move food around and adjust the burners independently to achieve a whole variety of temperatures. The single, long burner of the Kuchoma runs down the center of a rectangular grill grate. This means that the edges and corners are a little cooler than the center. Optimize this and experiment with food positioning and you get a sort of informal temperature control on this Top Pick winner.
If you need uniform grill surface for a lot of food, the Primus Kuchoma suffers. The grate is small to begin with, and the aforementioned temperature zones further hamstring your cooking consistency. The Editors' Choice is the king of the control charts. The best grill in our review has two u-shaped burners, each of which that can be cranked from little more than a candle flame to blow-torch status. For slow cooking certain types of meats, you can turn one burner off entirely and do what's called "indirect grilling". The same can be done with any two burner, independently controlled grills. Only two-burner grills allow this, but two-burner grills are inherently larger and heavier.The linear burner and rectangular grate of the Kuchoma allows for only a little bit of variation in temperatures across the grill surface. But we don't mind the control trade-offs for the diminutive stature of the Kuchoma.
Primus' Kuchoma weighs just 10 pounds and is smaller than some stuffed sleeping bags. It is far and away the most portable grill we have assessed. This is what earns it our Top Pick Award. What would a portable grill review be if we didn't honor the most portable choice? Not everyone needs their grill to be this small and light, but those that do will have nothing to complain about in the Kuchoma.
The only drawback is in grease management. The Kuchoma does have a removable grease trap that can be accessed when the grill is cool. Lift the grill surface to get to the pan. If you don't empty out the grease trap before transport, the drippings accumulated inside the bottom of the case during cooking can drip to and out the sides during transport. For cleanliness, your best bet is to transport the Kuchoma in some sort of bag (not included). Primus does sell a carrying case separately, or you can make do with a heavy duty trash bag. Alternatively, clean out the grease pan ahead of putting this model in your car trunk to avoid any highway spills.
The Kuchoma is easily the most portable grill in our review. While other grills may come close in terms of compact size, they are all heavier — no other grill offers the same combination of lightweight and tiny packed-size like the Kuchoma.
152 square inches of surface area is enough for a small to medium meal for two, or the meat course for 3-4. Because of the rectangular grill surface and the linear grill burner, the edges and corners of the Kuchoma surface are cooler than the middle. When you are cooking different things, this variety in temperatures is a good thing. If you are cooking all the same thing, it becomes a liability, effectively shrinking the usable space.
As compared to the close competitors, by the numbers, the Kuchoma has slightly more space. In absolute surface area, the Primus is larger than the close competitors. In terms of usable space, though, the comparison isn't as easy. As noted above, rectangular grill surfaces have both pros (in terms of temperature control) and cons (in terms of usable space). One other grill is round, with a round burner. In cooking with round burner/round grill top products, we found that all of its surface was uniform in temperature, for better and for worse. All the other grills are much larger than the Kuchoma.
The lid seals tight on the Primus and the burner stays lit in all but the heaviest of gales. Because the whole thing is so small and the burner output is proportional, wind cools down the Kuchoma more than a similarly sealed larger grill. In cold and windy conditions stick to cooking slower foods like chicken or other slow-cooked bbq.
Grills get better and better in the wind. Most of our tested grills now are pretty good. In heavy and weird winds they will blow out. For instance, in our objective test, the Editors Choice did better than most. That didn't keep us from having a bear of a time keeping it lit on one early summer picnic in Grand Teton National Park. We have not yet had such trouble with the Top Pick Kuchoma. Nonetheless, we will keep testing.
The tiny functionality of the Kuchoma comes at a price. It is nearly twice the cost of our Best Buy winners. Both Best Best winners have more cooking surface and cook better. What you pay for with the Primus is portability. Like most ultralight gear, you pay for the reduction in ounces and pounds.
The slick, carefully constructed and ultimately portable Primus Kuchoma runs away with the Top Pick award for maximum portability. This award has revolved a little in recent years, but we find it hard to envision it moving on anytime soon. With the Kuchoma, Primus takes a leap ahead in grill portability with few compromises in function.
— Jediah Porter