If you don't mind a few ashes, here's a smart alternative to propane on your afterdeck.
Last year, some South Africans invaded Naples, FL, and established a beachhead they called Earthfire USA. Earthfire—a small marketing company—then proceeded to promote its first product, something called a "Cobb Cooker," which was invented for cooking with corn cobs in remote areas of South Africa. Corn cobs?—"Cobb" cooker—right.
You may have heard of spherical cookers like this via their exaggerated claims, like they'll do a 10-pound salmon over a fire made with three sheets of toilet paper. Despite that hyperbole, they are supposed to be extremely efficient, safe, healthy, easy to clean up (dump in some soapy water while you're eating), and "eco-friendly," because the smoke and ashes don’t blow all over the harbor.
The Cobb, which last year was tagged one of Time magazine's international inventions of the year, will bake, grill, smoke and barbecue. With the cover on, temperatures inside reach 400°, making this a grill or an oven.
Because the stable, compact cooker would work well on the stern deck of a sailboat (the bottom doesn't get hot), PS decided to try it.
Using a couple of the recommended fire starters (don't use a liquid starter) and 10 charcoal briquettes, we left the Cobb to burn until the charcoal was gray, which took about 20 minutes and made only a moderate amount of smoke. The perforated cooking plate—loaded with chicken breasts that had been marinated in olive oil, soy sauce, and sugar—was placed in the cooker and the top was put in place.
We cooked the chicken breasts for 20 minutes, turned them over, and cooked for another 20 minutes. The meat was delicious; lightly browned, moist and flavorful; and better than if it had been prepared in a modern oven or over an open charcoal barbecue.
The lid and innards of the Cobb get hot, but the outside of the bowl gets only slightly warm, which makes it okay to place the cooker on the stern deck (with something underneath in case there are a few drips).
And what about cleaning up? Well, soapy water placed immediately in the bowl and left until the charcoal burned out made the job easier, but it must be said that cleaning any barbecue isn't a favorite task. To the Cobb’s credit, what goes overboard is reduced to some dirty water and a few fine ashes.
The cooker comes in a well-made, double-zipper cylindrical bag with handles that make it an easy 14- x 12-inch diameter stowage item weighing just 8.5 lbs. The Cobb costs $99.95. Separate replacement parts and other accoutrements, like a wok and a flat frying pan, are available, as well.
Contact - Earthfire, 800/591-3473, www.cobbgrill.com.