The Lodge brand has been around for more than a century. Birthed in 1896 in Tennessee, Lodge is now a company that tries to outshine the competition with their quality-made grills. They have reimagined and redeveloped their cast-iron models for many times during the years. The model we’re about to review here, the Cast Iron Sportsman, has been in production ever since 1999.
The company advertises this model as an ideal choice for the patio, camping, tailgating, and picnics. It sports a rugged, heavy cast-iron construction and is one of the most durable devices of this type on the market.
These qualities have quickly turned the Cast Iron Sportsman into one of the best-selling tabletop outdoor grills on online shopping websites. It comes with a number of advantages, but it’s also moderately priced. It’s a top of the line Hibachi model and one that undoubtedly deserves its popularity.
Are you looking into getting one for yourself? Would you like to know more about its features? If you are, be sure to check out the rest of this article. We’ll help you determine the unit’s value for the money by carefully analyzing each one of its characteristics.
This is a Hibachi-style charcoal grill manufactured by Lodge (Tennessee).
- 120 square inches of cooking space
- Compact & portable
- Economical – doesn’t use a lot of fuel
- Front door access to fire
- Bottom vent for temperature adjustment
- Heavy cast-iron construction
- Made in the US
The term “Hibachi” still confuses many grilling enthusiasts. The word means “fire bowl” in Japanese, and in Japan, it’s a traditional, open-topped heating device. In the US, however, this term is used to describe small, portable cooking grills.
Why Get It?
Measuring only 20.063″ x 10.375″ x 8.125″ and weighing 31.3 pounds, the Cast Iron Sportsman is a compact grill. This small size turns the model into an ideal portable barbecue. It’s a perfect option for grilling enthusiasts who don’t have much space for storage. And, for some people, there really is no substitute for a portable charcoal cooker when it comes to camping/tailgate cooking.
The Cast Iron Sportsman is a reasonably priced grill-on-the-go model. Unlike many other grill brands that have gone overseas, Lodge still makes its products in the United States. For some people, this will be very important – they look into US-made grills only.
At 31.3 pounds, the unit can be considered as more cumbersome than most of the competing models. Almost all of its components come manufactured from cast iron. Fortunately, this kind of construction leads to superior heat retention. In other words, it produces a lot of heat in an even manner and doesn’t use a lot of charcoal.
A vital thing to mention here is that the model can rust if uncleaned or left to the elements. Even though this doesn’t mean it will become broken, the rust will undoubtedly eat away its body over time. Care is essential – store it in a dry location, and make sure that it’s frequently oiled and adequately seasoned. If you’re someone who doesn’t really take proper care of his investments, this model probably isn’t your best choice.
Cast Iron Sportsman is not suitable for large poultry – it’s not a kettle or barrel grill. It is, instead, ideal for smaller cuts, as these can be cooked quite quickly with high heat. The model, obviously, comes without a lid, as it really isn’t a substitute for an oven. It is not suitable for indirect cooking.
However, many people have reported that it works great for what it is. Cast Iron Sportsman works very well for grilling burgers and steaks with direct heat. A quality cast-iron cooking grid, such as the one found on this model, will leave beautiful sear marks on the meat.
The grilling grate of Cast Iron Sportsman by Lodge sports rounded corners. It is seasoned straight out of the box and can be used immediately. It is sufficiently large (120 square inches of cooking surface) to grill food for 2-4 people. It’s a fantastic option for the quick-cooking foods prepared in small amounts. You’ll be able to grill four ribeye steaks, three average steaks, or two large chicken breasts on it.
In purpose, the model closely resembles a Shichirin. It comes with a front door that lets the user add or rearrange coals without having to remove the cooking grate.
The air intake opening, on the other hand, is located below the door and allows one to easily control the heat output. More air means hotter flames. In case you want even more heat, you can just flip the grate to change the height. This is very convenient for hot fast searing.
Another thing we should mention is that this grill gets quite hot on its exterior parts. You’ll have to keep it away from children and guests. Make sure to use it only on non-flammable surfaces, and monitor every step of the cooking process. Due to its sheer mass, the Sportsman retains heat for a long time. This means that you should never douse it with water, as the quick temperature changes can crack the iron.
So, how well does this model actually perform?
We were, actually, quite surprised and impressed with how well the Sportsman works. The unit’s bottom sliding door is of great help when it comes to adjusting the temperature. The more open it is, the more air will come in and raise the temperature. In case you need to rearrange the coals, you can simply flip the fire door and shuffle them around with tongs. The grill is pre-seasoned. In other words, it was heat-treated with special oils to prevent rusting.
In our opinion, it is ideal for meat and fish. This is because it gets very hot and produces an excellent smoky flavor and a beautiful sear. As it is not perfectly flat, you’ll need to be careful with hot dogs – they can easily roll off the edge.
Every time you’re done with using this grill, make sure to burn off gunk and grease, particularly on the grate. Do some scraping if necessary, and then simply apply a coat of vegetable oil. This will maintain a non-stick surface and also prevent the rust from appearing.
Pros & Cons
- Rugged, durable construction
- Reasonable price
- Good heat retainer & fuel saver
- Small size allows easy transport
- Easy temperature adjustment
- Easy access to fire
- Two adjustable heights
- Manufactured in the US
- Overall 92% 92%
- Small cooking area
- Special care needed for bare cast iron
“As far as I’m concerned, this model is the best Hibachi-style grill out there. It heats up very nicely and produces evenly cooked, deliciously tasting food every time I use it. It’s my go-to grill when it comes to quick cooking and preparing small to medium-sized meals. I even used it as a camp stove, and it performed beautifully.”
Although small, the Cast Iron Sportsman is a highly versatile model with many uses. However, it is best suited for outdoor picnics and tailgates, as it was made for preparing foods such as burgers, hot dogs, and steaks.
What to Watch Out For
Small cooking area
Due to its small size, this model comes with a limited cooking space of just 120 square inches.
While great for thinner items such as hot dogs and steaks, the model is unsuitable for whole chickens or larger cuts of meat.
If you’re often grilling food for a lot of people, you’ll probably end up disappointed (as will your hungry friends).
Special care needed for bare cast iron
The unit’s bare cast-iron exterior requires special attention. Just like all other products manufactured from this material, the Sportsman shouldn’t be left out in the weather.
Not only will you have to clean it after every use, but also store it in a dry place. You can also purchase a custom cover from the manufacturer to prevent the unit from rusting.
A Piece of Advice
If you’re planning on using this model often, avoid placing it on the ground. It is quite cumbersome and difficult to move around. Rather than purchasing a weatherproof table, simply make a small grilling platform by yourself. You can do this by connecting two cinder blocks and some patio stones.
If you’re unable to do this, at least make sure that the surface you’ll be putting it on is non-flammable. As we said, the Sportsman can get very hot, with cast iron being an excellent heat retainer.
All in all, this portable little grill is well-engineered, heavy-duty, and very effective. Unlike the cheap, lightweight Hibachi models that fall apart after only a year of use, the Sportsman can last literally forever. The fact that it doesn’t use a lot of fuel is another advantage, as is the easy temperature adjustment and easy access to the fire.
In case you’re looking for a well-built, American-made Hibachi grill to make quick meals, this model should be among your top contenders. When properly cared for, it easily outperforms the competition and shows why it is so popular with grilling enthusiasts.