Item: The Element Gas Grill by Fuego
Price: $449-$649, depending on the model
Overall Impression: It performs reliably and admirably! We love the design of the inner and outer burners, and the small footprint of the whole thing. It's a fine-looking yet fully functional accessory for summer parties. Highly recommended!
The Element Grill by Fuego is quite possibly the prettiest grill we've ever seen. Its sleek styling and tiny footprint made us wonder if it was the ultimate grill for city-dwellers. Well, we've had a chance to poke, prod, and play with this grill and now it's time for the verdict:
Characteristics and Specs: A 21-inch gas grill with 24,000-BTU dual-zone burner for standard grilling and indirect heat. Features an electronic ignition with a single control knob, stainless-steel burner tubes, a cast-iron grate with adjustable vents, a lid with temperature gauge, a swing-out wood prep tray, side handles for hanging tools, hidden propane storage, and rolling casters. Measures approximately 21 by 21 by 36 inches.
Favorite details: The look, its small footprint, yet still so much room to cook!
Potential problems: The lid is hard to maneuver when cooking; the lack of hinges on the panel.
Splurge-worthy? We think so!
What we loved: First of all, the look. You knew this had to be top of the list, right? The Element Grill is just really, really pretty. It's just as pretty in person as online, with a sleek profile and lovely powder coated sheen. (We are reviewing the Element 02, by the way; it's in the middle of the Element line. It has a swing-out wood prep tray, and a powder coated finish. There is also the Element 03, which comes in red or white and does not have a prep tray; and the Element 01, which has the prep tray and a stainless steel finish.)
First of all, this grill has a really small footprint. It sits in a little spot on our deck, and it barely takes up any room at all. We love this! It has wheels so it can easily be wheeled around, but the wheels have locks so it will stay safely in place, too.
And yet this grill has so much room to cook; the bottom gently flares up into a cast iron-topped grate that has 346 square inches of cooking area. We've done some big grilling jobs on this grill and always had room for everything. We have really liked the round shape; it seemed easier to make room for everything on it — especially pizza! In fact, there is an optional pizza stone accessory for this grill that we'd love to try.
Here's how the grill is built. It has the usual spot for a gas canister below the top, nicely covered up by a sleek panel (although we did have some issues with this part of the grill; see the caveats below). There is a drip cup for grease and other undesirables that fits on a shelf above the gas canister, with a hole under the cooking surface that lets grease run into the cup.
The main cooking surface is a nice heavy cast iron grate, which is removable and can be cleaned and seasoned like any other cast iron product. Underneath that is a heat diffuser, and two gas cooking rings. There is also a swing-out wood prep tray, which is helpful for balancing platters of food.
The Element has a system where you can turn on just one ring, or both. If just the outer ring is on, then the center of the grill becomes a spot for indirect cooking. If both are on, the whole grill can put out up to 15,000 btu/hour. During indirect cooking, it puts out about 9,000 btu/hour. This thing heats up fast; we love the power of the two gas rings.
Overall, cooking on this has been easy, straightforward, and fun. Fuego also gets extra props for having a very well-designed user manual for this grill; it does indeed look like something Apple would produce! (The designer of the Element is Robert Brunner, a former Director of Industrial Design at Apple.)
What we'd change: There were two design drawbacks to the Element that we would change if we could.
The first one we are slightly more neutral about, perhaps, and that is the lid. The lid is fairly light, easy to grasp, and it obviously is part of the grill's signature look. But it's hard to maneuver when you're cooking; we cook with the grill lid on a lot of the time, and since this one gets really hot, we always had to have a hot pad on hand to grab it. And then, once it was off we had to put it on the ground or a bench while working with the food. It's just a little awkward.
Ideally, a grill would have a stay-cool handle and a way to just hinge the lid back or off to the side. But if this is the tradeoff for the sweet look, OK.
Speaking of hinges, they are involved in what is the major design flaw of this grill. Well, lack of hinges. The bottom half of the grill has a removable front so you can install and access the gas canister. We like to turn off the gas after cooking; we are pretty cautious about this, especially since the grill sits on our deck, near the house.
But this panel attaches by hooks that pop in and out of connectors on the grill itself, and we have struggled mightily with it every time we use the grill. Why didn't they just design the panel with hinges, so it could swing out without being removed? We don't know, but it is by far our biggest complaint about this grill.
Summary: The design flaw of the bottom panel doesn't stop us, though, from giving this two thumbs up. We've cooked many, many things on this grill now. We've even baked no-knead bread on it! It's performed reliably and admirably and the cooking surface is big enough to handle quite a lot. We love the design of the inner and outer burners, and the small footprint of the whole thing. Every guest we've had to dinner has admired it, and it makes a fine-looking yet fully functional accessory for your summer parties. Highly recommended!
• Buy it! The Element Grill, $449-$649, depending on the model
(Images: Faith Durand)