It has been a while since we have seen a new grill come onto the consumer market that appeals directly to Tailgate Nation. Most of the newer grills that have come out considered tailgating as an afterthought after they had already hit store shelves and were trying to expand their market share. Needless to say, it has been rather boring the past few years with the lack of innovative ideas for tailgating grills coming out. That changed this week with the introduction of the Blacktop 360 Party Hub Grill-Fryer.
I first saw the Blacktop 360 from their promo video they put up on YouTube back in August. It looked very cool and very versatile but then again, it was their own promo video. Almost any product can look good with great editing and a slickly produced video package. Not that I doubted the product was going to be great but we here at TailgatingIdeas.com test tailgating gear personally before we offer up a review, good or bad. By doing this you know the product has been personally tested by either myself or one of our writing staff members and you know we understand tailgating in and out and the unique needs and requirements tailgaters in the lots have come to expect. Luckily we were able to make a connection with the folks over at Blacktop 360 and secure a sample to test out for ourselves.
(Disclaimer: We did receive a sample Blacktop 360 grill for free. The fact this sample was provided to us in no way influenced our opinion of the product nor did it impact our ability to test and review the product fairly and objectively.)
First, take a look at their official promotional video and then read on for the main features of the grill, where to find it and our opinion of how the Blacktop 360 performed in a real tailgating environment.
As you can see from the video, the Blacktop 360 is the definition of versatility. Most tailgating grills are just that. A grill and not much else. Not much you can do with a grill other than grill traditional grilling foods like hamburgers, hot dogs, brats, steaks, shish kabobs, etc. If you want cook breakfast foods like scrambled eggs, hash browns, pancakes, etc. you had to buy an accessory like the Sizzle-Q to convert your grill to a flat surface griddle. And forget using your grill for other items because the griddle takes up the majority of the space and almost all of the heat. If you wanted to keep food warm while cooking more grub on a traditional tailgating grill, you needed to buy an after-market raised grill rack. If you wanted to fry something like fresh french fries or onion rings, you needed to buy a separate portable deep fryer. With the Blacktop 360, you have your traditional grilling surface, a griddle surface, a warming area and a deep fryer all in one unit. The best part is that if you don’t want to deep fry anything at that particular tailgate, you can use the frying basin to keep your queso dip warm, make chili, soup for those cold January NFL playoff tailgates or even use it as a wok to stir-fry veggies. Take a look at the details and specs on this tailgating grill/fryer and then read the details of our testing of the product and if it gets the TailgatingIdeas.com “Tailgate Approved” stamp of approval.
- Deep Fryer, Infrared Grill, Griddle and integrated Warming Plate
- Independent temperature controls
- 24,000 BTUs total with three separate cooking functions
- 650o F+ ceramic infrared grill burner
- Super-durable double porcelain enamel cook surface
- Portable with storage/carrying bag included
- No assembly required
- Stainless steel burner construction
- Stainless steel and ceramic Infrared burner
- Electronic pulse ignition (requires one AA battery—not included)
- Optional hose attachment for 20 lb. propane tank
- All-steel powder-coated and enameled folding frame
- Insulated handles with integrated tool holders
- Accessory rail for cutting board or additional equipment
- Lid fits over grill, griddle or warming plate.
- Cooking surface has a dedicated drain channel and supplied insulated oil holder
- Rubber feet for stability and protection
- Included accessories: Cutting board, slosh ring, thermometer, liquid catch bottle, three-position cover, storage/carrying bag
- Set-up unit measures 31W x 31L x 30.5H inches
- Retail box 30W x 11L x 29.5H inches
- Retail weight is 37 lbs.
Here is a gallery of photos we shot while testing out the Blacktop 360 on Labor Day 2011. Click each image to see greater detail individually.
As you can see, we set the Blacktop 360 grill/fryer up in the grass of our backyard. The menu was traditional 3-day weekend BBQ and tailgate food including burgers and hot dogs. (We have a three year old and a five year old at home, so nothing too extravagant in order to appease the picky eaters.) We also had planned to grill up some Bacon Wrapped Garlic Cream Cheese Jalapeño Poppers as appetizers much like I do while out tailgating. Because I wanted to test out all facets of the Blacktop 360 we also did some homemade beer battered onion rings and thick cut french fries.
As you can see by the photos we started with the poppers and then started on the onions rings. The onion rings turned out fantastic and the cooking thermometer that came with the Blacktop 360 was key in keeping the oil at optimum temperature to make the rings come out perfect. I then started doing the french fries and while those were cooking, fired up the grill section and griddle section. I added the hot dogs and hamburgers to both sections and was pretty busy keeping an eye on the meats while also keeping an eye on the fries. The warming area was so convenient in that it prevented me from getting something overcooked or, dare I say burned. I just moved it over when it was ready to come off and it stayed warm until everything was cooked and ready to serve.
…the Blacktop 360 would be perfect for those “three meal tailgaters”…
Because the Blacktop 360 is unlike any other tailgating grill I have cooked on, it did take a little getting used to. Because the grilling section uses infrared as its heat source, the grill did not behave exactly like a regular open flame tailgating grill. The meats still turned out great. They just cooked faster than had I been using a traditional open flame tailgating grill. Also, you can see in one of the photos, I was grilling 1/3 pound sirloin burgers. Only about four of them fit on the grilling surface and if you have a larger group that all wants to eat at the same time, this could pose a problem. But the problem is easily solved by moving the burgers or whatever you are cooking to the warming section and then throw on four more. Once those are done, the first set of burgers will have stayed hot and now your guests can start eating.
As I was using the Blacktop 360 I started to think of all the different kinds of food I could now bring tailgating. The fryer in the middle tended to ignite the most tailgating food ideas like making state fair style funnel cakes for a tailgating desert. I spent nearly five years in Oklahoma and have eaten my fair share of fried okra. I immediately thought those doing a little Oklahoma Sooners tailgating outside Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium would love the Blacktop 360 for that dish. LSU Tailgaters outside Tiger Stadium might make some gumbo in the fryer reservoir.
I also got to thinking that the Blacktop 360 would be prefect for those “Three meal tailgaters”. You know they type. The tailgaters who get to the parking lot at 5 am for a 7 pm kick-off. These warriors will fire up breakfast, cook lunch and have dinner before heading inside. The Blacktop 360 would be perfect for these types of tailgaters because all four quadrants can handle whatever type of foods they could possibly want throughout the course of a long day tailgating.
Once everything was cooked and I turned off all the burners, it was time to eat. I left the thermometer in the oil to see how long it took for the grill and the oil to cool down. After finishing my meal, I went back outside to test the grill surface and check the oil temperature. I would estimate I was away from the grill for about 15 minutes and by the time I came out, the grilling surface was cool to the touch and the oil had cooled to about 90 degrees. Definitely a safe temperature to start the clean up process and storing the used oil. I used the stainless steel canister that was provided to drain the oil. I then removed the top and broke out the hose and soapy water. I made sure to use a sponge without an abrasive surface so as to not damage the porcelain enamel coating.
…The Blacktop 360 is 100% “tailgate approved” and performed beyond expectation, which by the way, was pretty high to start with…
The clean up was rather easy because I was at home. Had I been using it in a parking lot, I would suggest keeping the grill on and letting it burn off any bits or drippings that may have fallen on or around the IR heating element. There shouldn’t be much left other than white ash. To clean the other surfaces, you can douse a little water onto the cooking surface with the burners still on and caked-on food will wipe away. Make sure you have some water in the center cooking reservoir when cleaning. Bring an extra large (unused) trash bag to place the cooking top (once cool enough) in it just in case you didn’t have enough time to completely clean it while in the parking lot. That way it will not ruin the carrying bag when you pack it away.
All in all, the Blacktop 360 was very impressive and proved to be immensely versatile as a tailgating grill. The fact that it took someone this long to come up with a product that allows tailgaters to prepare all three meals on one cooking device without any add-ons still is amazing to us. If you are an all-day tailgater or just one that likes to have lots of variety in your tailgating menu, you need to get a Blacktop 360. This tailgating grill is 100 percent “tailgate approved” and performed beyond expectation, which by the way, was pretty high to start with. We’ve seen a lot of tailgating grills in our time and it takes a lot to impress us. This one impressed us due to it’s high versatility and fantastic functionality.
The Blacktop 360 is available now from Sports Authority and soon will be available on Amazon and from Sports Chalet. The price over at Sports Authority lists it at $249.99. To learn more about the Blacktop 360, please visit their website at blacktop360.com. You can also follow them on Twitter (@Blacktop360) or like them on Facebook.
If you will be attending the Denver Broncos vs. the Oakland Raiders Monday Night Football game on Monday, September 12, you can see the Blacktop 360 in action. They will be hosting a massive tailgate party from 2 pm to 5 pm at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Just look for the big black truck near the Lot C entrance.