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Smoke Hollow 205 Review

This is the best value in a portable grill we've seen.
Smoke Hollow 205
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $150 List
Pros:  Great value, secure lid, good size and heat output, stainless throughout
Cons:  Burner easily disengaged, imprecise burner control
Manufacturer:   Outdoor Leisure Products
By Chris McNamara and Jediah Porter  ⋅  Apr 18, 2019
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75
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 11
  • Output Power - 25% 7
  • Control - 25% 7
  • Portability - 20% 8
  • Cooking Area - 20% 8
  • Wind Resistance - 10% 8

Our Verdict

When it comes to the Smoke Hollow 205, the price is right. It's comparatively lightweight, yet still packs impressive power and significant cooking surface area. We love the stainless look, and most of the grill is solid and durable. The lid comes with secure latches. Its main competition is the Camp Chef Portable. If you're tight on money, get the Smoke Hollow. If the price difference is not as big an issue, it is a tougher call.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Smoke Hollow 205
This Product
Smoke Hollow 205
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award    
Price $150 List$249.00 at Amazon$250 List$209.00 at Amazon$176 List
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Pros Great value, secure lid, good size and heat output, stainless throughoutExcellent 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 tryU-shaped burner puts out a ton of heat, evenly
Cons Burner easily disengaged, imprecise burner controlMoody 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 firstRattly construction, large packed format
Bottom Line This is the best value in a portable grill we've seen.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.A price-point grill with some of the amenities of top-of-the-line models.
Rating Categories Smoke Hollow 205 Napoleon TravelQ 285 Coleman RoadTrip LXE Weber Q 1200 Camp Chef Portable BBQ
Output Power (25%)
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Specs Smoke Hollow 205 Napoleon TravelQ 285 Coleman RoadTrip LXE Weber Q 1200 Camp Chef Portable...
Total BTU 10,000 12,000 20,000 8,500 12,000
Weight (pounds) 17 26 43 31 20
Cooking surface area (inches) 205 sq in 285 sq in 285 sq in 189 sq in 200 sq in
# of burners 1,u-shaped 2 2 1 1
Grill material Stainless Steel Porcelainized cast iron Aluminum Porcelain-Enameled Cast Iron Nickel plated stainless steel
Packed Size (inches) 27" x 17" x 12" 24" x 20" x 10" 37" x 19" x 11.5" 15" x 26" x 14" 22" x 14" x 15"
Piezo Ignitor Yes Yes Yes Electric Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

Good performance at a good price is a hallmark of our Best Buy winners, across all categories. The Smoke Hollow handily fits that description. For the cost, this is a highly functional product. Even as compared to some of the more expensive products we assessed, the Smoke Hollow performs very well. The only issues you will face, in routine grilling, are minor usability and construction shortcomings. It rattles in transit, the control knob can be sticky, and you have limited control with the one burner. There are many single burner grills on the market that don't do much better than the Smoke Hollow yet cost a hundred dollars more. You have to upgrade to the Editors Choice Napoleon TravelQ 285 to get real and appreciable performance gains over the Smoke Hollow.

Performance Comparison


The only grills that score higher than the Smoke Hollow are way more expensive. The Weber Q1200, for instance, is only a few points better than the Smoke Hollow but is more than twice the cost. The Editors' Choice Napoleon TravelQ 285 is considerably better than all of these, but is nearly three times the cost of the Smoke Hollow.

This image shows the main grill grate and the upper deck 'warming' rack. Not much fits on the rack  but it is a nice attribute that few others have.
This image shows the main grill grate and the upper deck 'warming' rack. Not much fits on the rack, but it is a nice attribute that few others have.

Output Power


While 10,000 BTUs is half the BTUs of the Coleman RoadTrip LXE (but close to that of the Editors' Choice Napoleon TravelQ 285), we still felt this grill had plenty of output power. We got it up to temperature in less than five minutes and had no problem keeping the grill hot, even when cooking burgers and dogs for a bunch of people.


That said, when we first used the grill the burner was ajar and putting out very little heat. We thought it was defective. But after a bit of tinkering, we pushed the burner closer to the edge, and it started working just fine. Keep this in mind: the burner may move, and you will have to adjust it (better to do this when the grill is cold).

The Piezo igniter of the Smoke Hollow works pretty well. Its no more or less moody than similar features on other grills and stoves.
The Piezo igniter of the Smoke Hollow works pretty well. Its no more or less moody than similar features on other grills and stoves.

Control


We gave above average scores for control. We were able to keep the temperature in the range we needed, but it took some effort and time. This is where the other top scoring stoves outperform the Smoke Hollow. They give much more precise control and have burlier dials. The dial on the Smoke Hollow feels flimsy and delicate. It's not that precise. Further, on the second Smoke Hollow grill we tested, the control knob became literally frozen in place a couple of times. Propane discharge cools the tank which in turns cools the regulator. The knob of the Smoke Hollow froze in place during one test session and one grilling meal. Both of these events were during temperatures in the 30s, Fahrenheit. In milder temperatures, we did not have this problem. In similar temperatures with other grills, we have not had this problem.


When using the green 16-oz canisters, we had some issues attaching them and knowing the dial was turned entirely off. These issues went away with more practice. As with most portable grills, we eventually switched to just using the Worthington 1-Gallon Propane Tank and had better results. The biggest advantage of a more expensive product like the Editors' Choice Napoleon TravelQ is in control. The dual tubular burners of the Napoleon offer much greater control than that of the Smoke Hollow.

We examined the grills closely for even heat output. Here it seemed as though the Smoke Hollow had a cold spot. Professional BBQ caterer Liz Bazzano tries to sort it out. It turns out there wasn't such a problem.
We examined the grills closely for even heat output. Here it seemed as though the Smoke Hollow had a cold spot. Professional BBQ caterer Liz Bazzano tries to sort it out. It turns out there wasn't such a problem.

Portability


At 17 pounds, this is one of the lighter grills we tested. Only the Cuisinart, Eureka Gonzo Grill and Top Pick Primus Kuchoma are lighter. For those extra pounds, you get 30% more cooking area than on the Kuchoma, a tradeoff that most people will gladly take. The Kuchoma also folds up much more compactly. Not only is the main body on the Kuchoma smaller, but it also doesn't have anything sticking out the sides when stowed. The Smoke Hollow has both an electric igniter and a propane valve that stick out a few inches. This means you need to give the Smoke Hollow around 30-50% more space when packing than the Kuchoma and you have to be careful not to damage the Smoke Hollow propane connector which feels a little delicate.


While this grill is among the lightest, it's not nearly as portable as the Cuisinart, Primus or Eureka Gonzo Grill. Unlike these, it has some delicate parts that stick out the side, so you need to give it extra room to account for this. The legs fold away, but oddly don't provide much more room. Don't get us wrong; it is still a small and light grill, it's just not as easy to move around as a grill on wheels or the much more compact options.

You are looking at frost on the Smoke Hollow regulator. In two cold-weather tests this frost essentially glued together  temporarily but tenaciously  the knob and regulator. We couldn't turn it off. We unscrewed the fuel bottle to turn off the fuel.
You are looking at frost on the Smoke Hollow regulator. In two cold-weather tests this frost essentially glued together, temporarily but tenaciously, the knob and regulator. We couldn't turn it off. We unscrewed the fuel bottle to turn off the fuel.

Cooking Area


With 205 sq inches of cooking area, the Smoke Hollow is just around average in this metric. However, when you compare the weight per cooking area, the Smoke Hollow comes out on top. The Weber Q 1200 is almost double the weight and has less cooking area. Also, the 205-sq inches of cooking area does not include the 105 sq inch warming rack, which every higher-scoring grill in our review lacks.


A fresh Smoke Hollow seeing its first grillables. For the money  this is an excellent grill.
A fresh Smoke Hollow seeing its first grillables. For the money, this is an excellent grill.

Wind Resistance


We gave this above average scores. It's relatively enclosed, but breezes do get in there. At 10,000 BTUs, the wind can take a bit of the power out of this grill and you'll notice it.


For comparison, the Coleman RoadTrip LXE (20,000 BTUs) has a lot of extra power left over for windy conditions.

Best Applications


Bargain hunters tune in; this is the best balance of performance to price in our review. We wouldn't grant our Best Buy award to anything else. If you seek greater portability, check out the Top Pick Primus Kuchoma. For top-notch cooking performance, our Editors Choice Napoleon TravelQ 285 is unmatched. The un-awarded Camp Chef Portable BBQ Grill splits the difference between the Napoleon and the Smoke Hollow. It compromises between these two both in terms of performance and price. We can recommend any of them, but do not hesitate to call the Smoke Hollow our Best Buy.

How many people does it take to test 6 portable grills at once? At least as many as is required to eat a couple dozen pounds of grilled foods.
How many people does it take to test 6 portable grills at once? At least as many as is required to eat a couple dozen pounds of grilled foods.

Value


You choose this grill for its value. The function and price ratio is optimized. Other grills will perform better, but they are much more expensive.

Conclusion


We've seen this grill sold for much lower than its retail price. At that price and for its quality and features, it's easily our Best Buy Award winner. There are quirks, and other grills offer more sophisticated cooking function, but the Smoke Hollow is a rare Best Buy winner that does most things as well as the top of the line products. Some construction issues and a little additional bulk are easy to overlook, given the low purchase price.


Chris McNamara and Jediah Porter