The Mini Grill That Could
Campfire Guy Here. It’s well documented that I like playing with fire. It’s also well documented that I like to eat (see any picture of Campfire Guy in his ill-fitting clothes). Spring weather in North Texas provides a great opportunity to get outdoors, make like a caveman and cook over an open flame. No loincloths were set on fire in this post.
Among a wide array of headlamps, lanterns and fire starters, UCO Gear also makes portable grills. One of these is the Mini Flatpack Portable Grill & Firepit. UCO Gear recently sent us one to try out. As with the other products from UCO Gear I’ve used, it has a unique look and great functionality.
When I dug into the box like a kid on Christmas morning, I noticed right away how flat it was. The grill packs up to about an 1” thick. Also, it’s small. The useable grilling area is only 8.75” x 6.75”.
By my kitchen scale, the grill and grill grate weigh 1 lbs. 10.7 oz and comes with a handy canvas case to store the grill and the grate lifter in.
You Just Need to be 10% Smarter Than the Grill
My second impression was not good, though it was due entirely to user error. There are only two ways to set up the the Mini Flatpack. The right way, and the way I did it. The grill box unfolds easily along the side and bottom hinges. The next step is to unfold the black support legs. Done correctly, the entire assembly sits upright on its own. Done incorrectly, the grill tips over, like it’s taking a bow after a well-choreographed tap number.
I Am the Firestarter
Once I got over my initial embarrassment of not being smarter than the grill, I got my charcoal chimney starter ready to go. I used a lighter, two sheets of rolled up newspaper and some Kingsford Charcoal to use with my Weber chimney starter.
In the spirit of “Leave No Trace” and “Don’t Set Your Backyard On Fire” the Mini Flatpack actually makes a good base to set your chimney starter on.
Next time, I’ll use some tin foil to keep the newspaper ashes from sticking to the grates of the grill.
The Mini Flatpack will comfortably hold about 20 briquettes. You could pile more in there if you weren’t using the grill grate.
After the coals burned for about 20 minutes, I got down to business.
Campfire Wife marinated (see below for the recipe) some venison back strap for our gear test. After placing a ½ pound of steaks there wasn’t much room left.
3-5 minutes on each side, and meat was ready to pull. Unlike most of my jokes, the steaks turned out great!
Like any grill, there’s going to be a mess afterwards. After it cooled for a bit, I soaked the grill and grate in hot soapy water.
Other than the hinges, everything cleaned up fairly easy with some steel wool. My steel wool kept getting snagged in the hinges, but ultimately, everything came clean. After the first use, the grill had a nice copper patina to it. It’s only going to be shiny clean when it’s brand new, out of the box.
When Would You Use the Mini Flatpack?
My biggest question before I spent some time with the Mini Flatpack was, “sure, it’s convenient, but in what situations would I actually use it?” With a 9.5” x 8” cooking surface, cooking a meal for more than four adults would be a little time-consuming. At 2 lbs, this certainly isn’t what you’d call an ultralight cooking system.
Here are a few scenarios where I could see the grill coming in handy:
- Tailgating – For a small group, it doesn’t get much more convenient than this.
- Car camping – When there is no established fire ring or the built-in grill is so infested with spiders that you’d rather try your luck with raw food.
- “Base Camp” Backpacking – Emphasis of your trip is setting up a lavish camp once, not trying to make miles on the trail. Your priorities are comfort and convenience. Weight or pack space isn’t too big a concern. In this scenario, I’d recommend storing the grill in a one gallon zip lock as well, just to mask the smells until you can give it a proper cleaning at home.
- Boy Scout Patrol Boxes – Boy Scout patrols usually have a “patrol box” that holds all the gear necessary for cooking and feeding about 8-10 Scouts. The often heavy boxes are transported to camp on the troop’s trailer. Our troop does a lot of dutch oven cooking, so we always have charcoal and chimney starters on hand. The Flatpack Mini would be an excellent addition to any patrol box.
Though my test involved cooking with charcoal, I could also see building your fire in the Mini Flatpack with a Sweetfire Strikable Fire Starter, using small sticks and twigs as your fuel source. If you are looking for a small, portable grill for your next outdoor shenanigans, the UCO Gear Mini Flatpack Grill & Firepit is a great choice!
- Easy to set up once you figure it out
- Doesn’t require assembly
- Very portable
- Would be nice to see cleaning instructions included
- Including a recommended charcoal quantity would be helpful
- Hinges are hard to clean
- Product: Flatpack Mini Portable Grill
- Manufacturer: UCO Gear
- Cooking Surface Area: 8.75″ x 6.75″
- Kitchen Scale Weight (including grill, grate, grate lifter and canvas bag): 1 lb, 13.1 oz.
- Height: 7.5”
- Olive Oil – 1/4 cup
- Apple Cider Vinegar – 1/8 cup
- Worcestershire Sauce – 1 Tbsp.
- Minced Garlic – 1 Tsp.
- Brown Sugar – 1 Tsp.
- Salt – To taste
- Pepper – To taste
- Paprika – To taste
- Chili Powder – To taste
UCO Gear provided a Mini Flatpack Grill for the purpose of this review. Campfire Guy’s opinions are his own.
This article contains affiliate links, which help offset operation costs and fund future hunting trips for tasty venison.