Summer Food

Smokey Joe and Me

The little grill that could.

By Adam Ried
June 12, 2011

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Being a good cook runs in my family, and for some of us, a kitchen is strictly optional. Years ago, on a camping trip along the Oregon coast, my brother set the bar for outdoor cooking when he made an impressive cioppino on a small portable grill on the beach. Move over, burgers and dogs!

The little Weber Smokey Joe I bought after that trip has been my beach and camping companion ever since. It’s a miniature kettle grill with many of the same strengths as other, bigger versions – the 14-inch grill grate easily accommodates six or seven burgers, a dozen cherrystones, or two small lobsters. Better yet, the lid is domed, there are adjustable air vents, and the kettle is deep enough to build a two-level fire: Banking coals on one side to create a hot and a cool zone allows you to grill-roast or hot-smoke butterflied small chickens, thick pork chops, or, my favorite, chunks of bluefish and salmon.

Smokey Joe is plenty tough, too. I’ve dropped mine down rocky ravines and off sea walls, and while it did suffer some dents and scratches (as did I retrieving it), it still works perfectly (wish I could say the same about me).

Adam Ried writes the Globe Magazine’s Cooking column. Send comments to