Dallas-based Nomad set out to take an age-old cooking method and modernize it — but not by introducing connected or smart features. Instead, the Nomad Grill & Smoker takes classic charcoal grilling and relies on clever industrial design to make it packable and portable, while making sure cooks of all expertise levels can make great-tasting food even if they’re cooking with charcoal for the first time.
Nomad’s grill looks like some kind of fancy protective case that you’d expect to see traveling with a film crew, crossed with maybe a modern Mac Pro. It has an anodized aluminum build that uses a unibody casting in manufacturing, with high external durability and internal heat retention. It measures roughly 2 feet by 2 feet and is around 9.5 inches tall when closed, with a total weight of 28 lbs. including the cast stainless steel grill grate that’s included in the basic package.
28 lbs. may seem like a lot, but it’s remarkably light for the cooking surface you get with the Nomad, which adds up to either 212 square inches of space in single-grate closed mode (good for smoking) or up to 425 square inches in open-grill mode, which can double the cooking surface with the purchase of an optional second grate and charcoal placed in either side (better for open-flame BBQing).
The case features a strong and durable dual-latch closure system and a reinforced handle for toting it around. Silicon skids offer protection for surfaces when laying the grill down to cook and there are two magnetic air vents on either side for controlling airflow and flame, which are adjusted simply by manually sliding.
Design and performance
The Nomad design is deceptively simple — at heart it’s essentially a metal box. But looking below the surface a bit, it actually hides some very advanced construction, including a layered shell design that means the outside never actually gets too hot, which is great not only for chef safety but also for setting it down on a wide range of materials during the actual cooking process. For a portable grill, that’s a huge benefit.
Looking at the grill grate specifically, it features a honeycomb design that helps better distribute the heat, which is also domed subtly to allow more clearance for the charcoal underneath. It’s removable, but also snaps into place in the grill itself using magnets, which is great for transport and also for ensuring things don’t move around with any bumps.
One other huge benefit that seems like a small thing at first glance is a built-in thermometer that’s molded into the case. This provides you easy, clear temperature readings for the grill, and it’s analog so there’s no power required — another big benefit for portability.
In practice, the grill works exactly as you’d expect a great charcoal grill to work, which is amazing given its size and portability. It should definitely be mentioned that you’re going to be much happier getting the grill lit if you pick yourself up a charcoal chimney, which eases the lighting process — but that’s a great accessory regardless of what kind of charcoal grill you’re using.
I was particularly impressed by the Nomad grill’s performance when it comes to smoking. It maintains an even and consistent temperature with the box closed, and it’s easy to moderate the temperature with the built-in vents if you need to adjust the cooking intensity. The proximity of the charcoal to the food also imbues it with great flavor.
The Nomad Grill & Smoker is $599, which is a fairly high asking price, but it’s also unique in the market for the convenience it provides combined with the performance it offers. Whether at home or on road trips, Nomad is a wonderful addition to any home cook’s arsenal, and an all-in-one supplement that can replace even a dedicated, more fixed installation charcoal grill if that’s the way you want to go.