THIS PRODUCT, the name of which is so evocative of Australia’s past, is actually from Africa. The background is quite interesting: In the mid-1990s, environmentalist Ken Hall designed a cooker so that villagers could use dried corn cobs for fuel. Wood supplies were scarce, but there was an abundance of corn cobs in the village as maize was the staple diet.
The cookers evolved into the simple but technologically sophisticated, ecologically friendly and attractive product of today. Time magazine recognised its significance by naming it one of the 30 most important inventions of 2001.
The Cobb is handy both at home and in the bush, and with an increase in campsite restrictions, and a lack of firewood at some campsites, campfires are not as common as they used to be.
This is likely to continue and it makes the Cobb an ideal replacement for gas bottles, stoves, camp ovens, frying pans and so on.
The whole unit, in its strong carry bag, is 30cm in diameter and a little over 30cm tall. Considering fuel can be carried inside the Cobb, it is an effective use of space in a vehicle. With the increasing popularity of smaller cars, and the huge amount of outdoor gear people typically pack, the Cobb’s size is important.
When it comes to doing what it’s designed to do, the Cobb has plenty of cooking ‘bang for your buck’. The Cobb can grill, fry, boil and even smoke food.
It comes into its own as an oven, and it’s much easier to use than the traditional camp oven.
It can also be used as a stove, while a frying pan is available as an accessory and can be used instead of the standard grill. Last but not least, with appropriate care, it can be used as a heater simply by removing the lid and grill. Plus it’s good for the environment.
To get the Cobb cooking, three to four firelighters and the recommended number of heat beads need to be placed into the fire-well, which is surrounded by a moat (of water).
Light the firelighters and wait for the beads to ‘whiten’, and then attach the grill. Now you’re ready to add food.
Don’t forget to put water in the moat, and never put the lid on without there being food on the grill.
We used four heat beads and when the fuel went white we put on the juicy leg of lamb, which cooked in the planned two hours.
The damper took 75 minutes, which was 15 minutes longer than expected.
But be sure to check after 40 minutes, as a damper often needs to be turned.
There are two booklets that come with the cooker with instructions, hints and recipes. They are simple instructions, but it’s very important to read them.
Potatoes, pumpkins and carrots can be cooked on the plate directly, as can greens in a foil packet. Vegetables can also be cooked in the moat. We prefer to cook the hard vegetables on the plate and the greens separately, but this is a personal choice.
The cookers are available from a wide variety of camping and outdoor stores, while Snowys Outdoors in Adelaide often has demonstrations.
There is a gimbal-mount attachment available for boats, but this was not available locally or on the internet at the time of writing.
The RRP is about $220-230, which is good considering ours was $199 nearly 10 years ago.
Add a casserole dish, frying pan and billycan – and perhaps a gas ring – and you could have all the cooking essentials needed to travel around Australia.
Maybe we will try that on our next trip instead of the mound of cooking gear, including five camp ovens, we usually carry.