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Gadgets: Blacktop 360 Party Hub Grill-Fryer

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[Photographs: Blacktop 360]

The Blacktop 360 Party Hub Grill-Fryer ($213) is marketed as the grill you'd bring along when you're tailgating, and it comes with a handy carrying case. So it's portable, right? Right. Which probably means it's tiny, right? Way wrong. This thing is about 30 inches in diameter, with the cooking surface just about 24 inches in diameter, so it's not a backpacker's grill.

What make this portable are the legs that fold compactly and the carrying case that makes it easier to haul around. Also, the grill is made to run on a small propane tank, but you can attach a larger tank if you buy an adapter hose. I wouldn't want to lug it up a mountain on my back, but it's very polite about getting in and out of the car.

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The center of the grill is like a bowl that you can use as a deep fryer or to boil water for steaming. Around the bowl are three sections: an infrared grill, a griddle, and an unheated section that gets warm due to the heat from the rest of the grill (that last section is used for warming). There's also a lid that's designed to fit any one of the three outer sections.

The grill gets very hot very fast, and not just over the infrared section—the griddle gets blazing hot as well, too hot to measure with my laser thermometer.

The one downside to this grill is that because of that bowl-shaped center section, you can't cook anything very large, so no pizzas or oversized racks of ribs.

However, you can cook a whole lot of smaller things. I cooked an entire meal for four people on the grill—with plenty of leftovers—and that included an appetizer, an eight-rib rack of lamb, potatoes, and grilled vegetables.

The top of the grill comes off, which makes cleanup easier, but it's a tad big for a standard kitchen sink if that's your plan. It can be done, though. Another plus is that it cools down quickly, which is great if you're packing the grill up and taking it with you.

Overall I was really impressed with this grill. Although I haven't used that center bowl as much as the grill and griddle, I can see that it has some interesting possibilities beyond steaming my corn on the cob, like heating chili for chili dogs or keeping a sauce warm. And while this is marketed for tailgaters, I think it would also be a great grill for small families or those who don't have space for a larger, more permanent grill.

About the author: Resident yeast whisperer and bread baking columnist Donna Currie also has a serious gadget habit. When her father-in-law heard about this column, he upgraded the nickname for her kitchen from "gadget world" to "gadget heaven." You can find her on her blog, Cookistry or follow her on Twitter at @dbcurrie.

Disclaimer: Testing samples were provided to Serious Eats.

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