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Primus Kuchoma Review

This is the grill you can take to all kinds of obscure places. Small and light, with relatively little compromise in cooking quality.
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $190 List | $170.96 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Tiny, light, good cooking
Cons:  Limited surface space, unsophisticated grease management
Manufacturer:   Primus
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 18, 2019
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62
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 12
  • Output Power - 25% 5
  • Control - 25% 6
  • Portability - 20% 8
  • Cooking Area - 20% 5
  • Wind Resistance - 10% 8

Our Verdict

The Primus Kuchoma is simple, clean, and small. For its cooking area, its portable size is really small. The clever legs and regulator further shrink the portable size. At 10 pounds and just a little bigger than an old-school briefcase, the Kuchoma is our most portable grill and takes a Top Pick Award for that distinction. In small cars, small rvs, tiny airplanes, and even in certain kinds of human-powered trips (canoe? towing a sled?) you will easily find a spot for the diminutive Kuchoma. When it is time to cook, you will find adequate performance. It isn't the hottest grill in our test. Try and grill in cold conditions or in a stiff breeze and max-heat performance will suffer. In good conditions, we had no problems cooking a medium-rare steak with good charring and a fast sear. Slow-cooking is no problem; the burner control on the Primus is great. This is the grill for ultimate portability. For your compact car camping kit, tiny house living, or wilderness canoe trips, you need a good reason to not have the Kuchoma.


Compare to Similar Products

 
This Product
Primus Kuchoma
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award   Best Buy Award 
Price $170.96 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$249.00 at Amazon$250 List$209.00 at Amazon$113.34 at Amazon
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Pros Tiny, light, good cookingExcellent cooking performance, smaller and lighter than mostDependable, two burners, thermometer, large grilling area, high BTU outputSuper non-stick grill surface, easy to clean, snazzy side tables, excellent temperature control, wind resistant, always starts first tryGreat value, secure lid, good size and heat output, stainless throughout
Cons Limited surface space, unsophisticated grease managementMoody wind performanceHeavy, difficult to clean, rattlyHeavy, no lid latch, disposable aluminum grease trap inserts fly away in the wind, can be challenging to attach disposable propane canister at firstBurner easily disengaged, imprecise burner control
Bottom Line This is the grill you can take to all kinds of obscure places. Small and light, with relatively little compromise in cooking quality.Napoleon makes “no holds barred” grills for your backyard and for professional applications. Their travel version brings high end performance to a quite portable format.A good, sturdy and reliable grill with tons of cooking space; it'll roll easily to your picnic or tailgate area.Great grill with good temperature control and awesome porcelain-enamel coated cast iron cooking grates that clean up in a snap.This is the best value in a portable grill we've seen.
Rating Categories Primus Kuchoma Napoleon TravelQ 285 Coleman RoadTrip LXE Weber Q 1200 Smoke Hollow 205
Output Power (25%)
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Control (25%)
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Portability (20%)
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Specs Primus Kuchoma Napoleon TravelQ 285 Coleman RoadTrip LXE Weber Q 1200 Smoke Hollow 205
Total BTU 8,500 12,000 20,000 8,500 10,000
Weight (pounds) 10 pounds 26 pounds 43 pounds 31 pounds 17 pounds
Cooking surface area (inches) 152 sq in 285 sq in 285 sq in 189 sq in 205 sq in
# of burners 1 2, u-shaped 2 1 1
Grill material Stainless Steel Porcelainized cast iron Aluminum Porcelain-Enameled Cast Iron Stainless Steel
Packed Size (inches) 17.6" x 12" x 6.5" 24" x 20" x 10" 37" x 19" x 11.5" 15" x 26" x 14" 27" x 17" x 12"
Piezo Ignitor Yes Yes Yes Electric Yes

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.

Performance Comparison


The Kuchoma is tiny  with spare design and clean deployment of the parts that need to be external (regulator  legs).
The Kuchoma is tiny, with spare design and clean deployment of the parts that need to be external (regulator, legs).

Output Power


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. Interestingly, the former Top Pick for portability, Cuisinart Petite Gourmet, claims even lower btu output. Our anecdotal experience in comparing these two certainly does not back up the difference they claim. In theory, the Kuchoma should be much more powerful than the Cuisinart. In practice, they are roughly similar. Consider this a cautionary note on manufacturers' specifications. For instance, in windy conditions, we found that the Cuisinart stayed hotter than the Primus Kuchoma. 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 cooking good steaks  the Kuchoma does the job.
For cooking good steaks, the Kuchoma does the job.

Control


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. We don't mind the control trade-offs for the diminutive stature of the Kuchoma. When compared to the close competitor Eureka Gonzo, the Kuchoma offers more control. The Gonzo is round, with a round burner. There is little variation in the heat distribution. The linear burner and rectangular grate of the Kuchoma allows for a little bit of variation in temperatures across the grill surface.

The toast test shows that the surface of the Top Pick Kuchoma is pretty consistent in heat. Especially as compared to the others. There is just enough hotter and cooler variation to cook things with different requirements at the same time.
The toast test shows that the surface of the Top Pick Kuchoma is pretty consistent in heat. Especially as compared to the others. There is just enough hotter and cooler variation to cook things with different requirements at the same time.

Portability


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 has no removable grease trap. Drippings accumulate inside the bottom of the case during cooking and then can drip to and out the sides during transport. For cleanliness, you have to transport the Kuchoma in some sort of bag (not included).

The "grease trap" of the Top Pick is really just the bottom of the case. Drippings can and do work their way out of here during transport. Pack accordingly.
The "grease trap" of the Top Pick is really just the bottom of the case. Drippings can and do work their way out of here during transport. Pack accordingly.

No other grill we tested is as portable as the Kuchoma. Close competitors include two grills that formerly held this Top Pick award. The Eureka Gonzo Grill is compact, but weighs more and has moodier performance. The Cuisinart Petite Gourmet cooks as well as the Kuchoma but is also bigger and heavier.

Evidence of the drippings escaping the Primus. All portable grills require grease management  but the Primus is a little more annoying than most.
Evidence of the drippings escaping the Primus. All portable grills require grease management, but the Primus is a little more annoying than most.

Cooking Area


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.

Grilled chicken is one of the trickier meals to do well. "Low and slow" is the key  and the Primus does this.
Grilled chicken is one of the trickier meals to do well. "Low and slow" is the key, and the Primus does this.

Wind Resistance


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.

Value


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.

Conclusion


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