Medina River Outdoor 65 Patio Small Smoker/Grill Combo

Small Smoker/Grill Combo

Everyone remembers their first real bite of barbecue. Much like riding a bike for the very first time, or learning how to drive a car, once that taste hits your tongue, there’s no turning back. The world opens up in a way it never has before.

(Here is an overview to charcoal grilling if you are looking for more information.)

Ribs. Brisket. Pork shoulder. Boston butt. Without a doubt, there’s something special about barbecuing that other forms of food preparation can hardly contend with. Maybe it’s the delectable aromas that come billowing out of the flavored wood chips, fueled by your favorite brand of charcoal.

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Or maybe it’s the moisture that takes hold inside the meat, adding a dose of succulence to an already appetizing experience. Or, quite possibly, it could be the fact that, when done right, meat tends to fall right off the bone, inviting you to take another bite, something special about barbecuing.

Everyone has their reasons for loving good barbecue. But not everyone has the ability to duplicate that mouthwatering, yum-inducing experience. Owners of the Medina River Outdoor however, have what every barbecuer needs to accomplish this culinary feat; opportunity. They have the chance, once they master all aspects of form and process, to create that one unforgettable meal that sticks with us — like sauce on a pork rib — for days, months and years to come.

Here’s what you need to know…

The Review

Design

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Design is inescapable. You see it the second you glance at a product. And, if you know what you’re looking for, it can tell you almost everything you need to know.

Without even knowing the name — or knowing that the Medina River Outdoor is a smoker/grill combo — you can see, at first glance, that this grill is different from other models. Why? Because there’s a little something extra on the side. That cylindrical box, affixed to the left side of the main grilling unit, is called a firebox.

It’s what transforms this everyday device into a full-fledged barbecuing unit. You toss a couple of pounds of your favorite charcoal brand into its belly, throw on some lighter fluid, light it up and let it go. Smoke accumulates, enters the grill and imbues your meats, cheeses and vegetables with that truly scrumptious flavor profile not found in foods cooked any other way.

This offset design also allows for that low-and-slow style of smoke that turns ribs, butts and backs into tasty, mouthwatering treats. The Medina River Outdoor also comes with a resting rack, positioned right in front of the main unit, which allows for effortless preparation and an easier transition between grill, platter and plate.

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NOTE: If you like to multitask, both the grill and the firebox come with their very own cooking grates. You can smoke, grill, talk on the phone, drink a beverage and do whatever else you think you can do, all at the same time.

Size

Whoever said size matters must’ve bought a grill that was too big for his backyard. So many people let their appetites do the buying while their brains are out on a walk. Grills and smokers need space. Just like humans, if they aren’t given ample enough room to operate, bad things can and will happen. Dinners have been ruined. Houses have been blackened. Furniture has been burned. All because someone didn’t take the time to measure out a plot of patio space or a slice of backyard for their new favorite grilling tool.

Take note. The Medina River Outdoor stands at 76-pounds of solid steel. You’re pretty unlikely to drop it on a toe as the Medina River Outdoor comes with wheels and a sturdy side-handle which makes for easy moving.

Durability

Durable means dependable. Tough. Rugged. And when it comes to smokers it means being able to work under pressure, at high temperatures, inside and out. It means withstanding the elements — especially rain — and cooking with accuracy until the coals turn to ash and the food goes gone. It also means doing it all over again, day after day, week after week, year after year.

The And it’s been finished off with an 800 degree dry powder coating that’ll keep it running strong for years to come. In addition to all that, it also comes affixed with heavy duty cooking grates and 6-inch steel wagon wheels, ideal for simple-yet-sturdy maneuverability.

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Heating Element

In a tug-of-war for taste, everyone knows that charcoal wins out every time. Owners of electric barbecues will try and convince you that convenience is enough to make you forget about the smoky aromas and the true-blue fire-infused taste that comes along with using a more natural fuel source, but we know you won’t be swayed.

Sure, you might have to stoke the coals, even them out, reload them, even experiment from time to time, but anything worth doing is worth doing right, especially when it comes to barbecue, isn’t it? And with the offset design of the Medina River Outdoor, you can load and reload the firebox without compromising the heat inside of the grilling unit, a necessary feature for anyone looking to cook with better consistency and more control. As for the charcoal itself, the Outdoor uses charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal. (Wood can also be used, though it doesn’t fit as well in higher quantities as the more compacted charcoal does.)

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Capacity

Capacity is key when cooking for a crowd, as you’ll often have to do when you own the neighborhood’s only smoker/grill combo. Ask anyone who owns one and they’ll likely tell you that, once your friends and family come over to try a few of your deliciously smoked and seared pork chops, or devour one of your crispy, well-cooked chickens, that they’ll inevitably start filling up your yard and booking extended stays in your guest room whether you’ve invited them over or not. (Trust us. It happens.)

The 13-inch wide by 17-inch deep grilling area in the main chamber — enough to house a whole brisket — and a rather respectable 13 by 13-inch firebox — more than enough space for five-plus pounds of charcoal — which is great for those longer, slow-worthy smokes. The Outdoor also boasts a rather sturdy storage shelf, below the grilling chamber, for charcoal, wood chips or whatever else you think you might need to accommodate all those extra neighbors.

NOTE: A lot of people purchase smokers with the hopes of smoking a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. Unfortunately, the Medina River Outdoor, with its shorter interior — around 6.5 inches tall — might not the best for smoking or grilling anything with that kind of circumference. Ribs? Rump roast? A couple of whole chickens? Almost anything else will do. Just keep that in mind.

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Cook-Ability

Charcoal can be tricky. It’s so often an uncontrollable beast when it comes to consistency, temperature management and quality control. It can run really hot, too hot for slow smoking things like ribs and brisket. And, if not restocked when running low, can cook too cool for anything but thin veggies and flimsy cheese.

So how do you combat the chaos that comes with using a charcoal-fueled smoker/grill combo like the Medina River Outdoor? By relying on its fortified chamber, its adjustable smokestack and its rather reliable temperature gauge. Its thick, 14-gauge steel construct means that this grill heats up quickly and is able to maintain its temperature in even the most adverse of weather conditions. (The inner temperatures of other smokers often drop as colder weather rolls in. The Outdoor however, does not. In fact, it has been known to operate just as efficiently in temperatures as low as 40 degrees.)

Too hot to handle? There’s a rather simple ventilation system installed on the side of the firebox and, if you need more airflow, you can always release the damper on the smokestack. Not hot enough? Do the opposite. Close all of the doors, shut the smoke stack and watch the temperature rise.

See the best probe thermometers for smoking meat!

NOTE:

As is often the case with horizontal offset smokers, there’s a definite sweet spot in the main grilling chamber of the Medina River Outdoor. The left side of the chamber, being closer to the firebox, often runs hotter than the right. You can modify this on your own by installing a heat deflector but, if you’re not so good with tools or craftsmanship, it might be best to find that sweet spot and rotate your meats and veggies accordingly.

NOTE #2:

If you’re finding it a little difficult to cook some of your favorite foods, or you’re running out of ideas on how to properly prepare them, Medina River offers some notable accessories to their products. There’s the Medina River Jalapeño Roaster, the Medina River Beer Can Chicken Roaster and the Medina River Dove & Quail roaster. So if you’re looking to get drunk with your poultry, cook up some quail or spice up your life, you might want to take a look at their catalogue.

See my recipes section for tips on how to smoke salmon, prime rib, and more!

Clean-Ability

Grit. Grime. And grease. The three G’s. A trio of unpleasant headaches that often accumulate after every cooked meal.

Luckily, for the owners of the Medina River Outdoor, cleanup is rather simple. If your grill grates build up with gunk, you can take a warm rag and a sturdy brush to their steel bars and scrub it down. And once the ash begins to accumulate in the hollow, you can open up the larger-than-average door on the side of the firebox, tilt the grill and sweep the ash out into whatever receptacle you choose — as long as you’ve given it time to properly cool.

Also, its wide, open-mouthed design allows for easy access inside both the main grilling chamber and the firebox. That way you don’t have to worry about wriggling your arm around just to get to that last little bit of leftover pork hanging around at the back of the grilling grate.

Assembly

The Medina River Outdoor comes disassembled, in various parts. But as long as you’re fairly handy with a wrench and a screwdriver, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t be able to assemble it in a little over an hour’s time.

In Conclusion

If you’re looking for a small-yet-formidable grill that’s as durable as a high-priced appliance, at a quarter of the cost, then the Medina River Outdoor might be just the smoker/grill combo you need to recreate that mouthwatering, irresistible experience that so often arrives with one’s first bite of really good barbecue.

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