Part of our annual outdoors gathering in North Carolina is about learning new skills. For me, that entailed actually doing some real cooking this year. All of my previous camping adventures had a personal camp stove and dehyrdated meals as my main source of nutrition. Not this year. We got a Primus Atle BBQ stove for review, so I had to step up my game just a bit.
I found myself standing in the middle of the grocery store not knowing what food to buy for the week long camping trip I was going to attend. Yeah, I know. How hard can it be? Understand that I’m a single guy, and if it can’t be microwaved, it’s probably a sandwich for dinner. The same always went for me when doing overnights out in the woods. Heating up water to re-hyrdrate one of my freeze dried dinners was usually the extent of my cooking. I’d tried frying some Spam from time to time, but that was the limit of my culinary wizardry. So, using the new Primus Atle BBQ stove was going to be an experience.
The Atle BBQ is a propane powered affair which uses the standard 1lb propane canisters you can find at sporting goods stores or other camping outlets. It has a regular burner on one side of the stove, and on the left hand side, it sports a nice little BBQ grill. One thing I typically don’t get a lot of on my outings is cooked meat (the little dehydrated cubes don’t count), so I set about stuffing my cart with enough artery compromising sustenance to choke a bear. I ended up with bacon, eggs, sausage, hamburgers, thick pork steaks, New York Strips, and some chicken breasts to round out the variety. Once done, I also picked up some side dishes to prepare including mashed potatoes, baked beans, and then some breakfast food as well. This included pancakes and syrup and some good old fashioned oatmeal. I was pretty well set to go, I figured, but the proof would be in the pudding as they say.
Setting up the Atle BBQ stove is a relatively simple affair. First, it comes with a built in handle to make carrying it around very easy. It’s lightweight and has a pretty compact footprint, so you don’t need a lot of space to set up. Certainly, it’s not as compact as a backpacking stove, but it’s not unwieldy at all. Once you’ve found a spot for it, you simply undo the latch and open it up to get started. The windshields on the sides not only block wind, but they also provide the support to keep the stove open while you’re cooking. After the setup is completed, you attach the provided hose to the stove and then to your propane canister. That’s it! You’re ready to cook.
The only thing left is to start one of the burners–either the grill or the regular burner. The regular burner is rated at 12,000 BTU’s. Both have their own knob located on the front of the stove. Just pick the appropriate knob, turn it to get the gas flowing, and then hit the red piezo igniter button. The stove fires right up and you’re good to go. Now, you just have to start cooking and it’s all you at that point.
I figured I’d start my first morning off with bacon and eggs. Yes, it seems simple enough, but it was a feat of spectactular undertaking from my point of view. But, I took out the thick cut bacon and started frying it up in a skillet. I didn’t use the grill for the bacon because I wanted the grease to make the eggs. I figured I’d use the grill at lunchtime. It didn’t take long to get two batches of bacon done. Between myself, Jethro (my dog) and my buddy Joe, I figured I’d just fry up the whole pack. Once I was finished, I used a little of the grease to start making some scrambled eggs. I hadn’t made scrambled eggs since I was a kid, but I am not exaggerating when I say the eggs came out perfect! Joe even mentioned his appreciation for them, so I figured I did all right. Just a little salt and pepper for the eggs and I had a breakfast that was just about as good as I could expect in the outdoors.
Lunchtime rolled around and I decided on an American favorite–hamburgers. I had picked up 4 1/3 pound patties to cook and I had also bought some country style baked beans to add to the southern flavor of the event. Another little touch to the meal was some Mrs. Dash seasoning that I sprinkled on the burgers during the cooking process. I like the extra zip Mrs. Dash gives the burgers, and it made me feel like a real chef by adding my own personal touch. I had both the burgers and the baked beans going at the same time, but I did notice something about the burner controls during this process. The flame adjustment isn’t very precise. It’s either high or low (if you finaggle it just right), but that’s about it. Because of this, I burned a little bit of the beans which heated up very quickly. It was partly my fault because I wasn’t paying close attention, but I would have liked the ability to have a very low flame just for simmering and I just couldn’t make it work. So, this requires constant attention and stirring when cooking something like beans.
I had dinner at another camp that night, but picked up using the Atle again the next morning with some sausage and eggs. The eggs weren’t quite as good, but that was my fault. I didn’t grease the pan like I was supposed to do (told you I needed some learnin’), but they weren’t bad. Lunch had us cooking up some bratwurst dogs and some hot German potato salad. Ech! The brats and potato salad was my buddy Tim’s contribution because he wanted to see how the stove performed, and it pulled through in nice fashion. The brats were excellent especially with the addition of some spicy brown mustard and some salt and pepper potato chips. Yeah, we were living rough down there. I didn’t try the hot potato salad. Something about “hot” and “potato salad” didn’t work for me. But all in all, lunch was good. It was another hot meal at camp. I was really getting used to this!
During the next couple of days, the Atle stove got more use preparing the New York Strips (excellent with Mrs. Dash, by the way) and the thick cut pork steaks. Also the stove was used every morning to make coffee which is an absolute must for me. I like having the ability to have my favorite hot Starbuck’s brew out in the woods and the Atle made it very easy. Overall, the Atle turned out to be a great addition to the camp life. The only thing I didn’t like about this new cooking process was the dishes that had to be washed afterward. They aren’t as easy to do as just throwing away the bag from your dehydrated meal. But, given the tasty and filling dishes we were having that week, the dishes were a small price to pay and I can live with them.
The one thing that gave me pause at the beginning of the week was how quickly I went through the first propane canister. After two pans of bacon, a pan of eggs, and two pots of hot water for dishes, the canister was basically empty. That kind of suprised me. I had only bought two canisters and if they emptied at this rate, it wouldn’t last the week. But, that wasn’t the case. I don’t know if it was a bad canister or if there was some kind of break-in process or something, but the 2nd canister lasted the next five days with fuel to spare. That was a couple of meals a day, pots of water for washing, and for coffee making as well. Also, keep in mind the meals were typically cooking meat on the grill and making a side dish on the burner. So, I was much happier with the life of the canister once the second one was attached and doing duty.
Cleaning the Atle stove isn’t difficult at all. The grill is removable and has a non-stick surface, so it’s very easy to clean. There’s a drip tray on the underside of the grill where the grease from grill area comes to rest. You simply slide the drip tray out, clean it and put it back in place. The rest of the stove can be wiped down and cleaned very easily once those two pieces are done. I’ll admit that this aspect is very important to me. One of the reasons I don’t cook much at home is I don’t like the clean up process one bit. As good as a hot meal can be, I’m not one to mess around with the cleanup if it can be avoided. So, if the cleanup for the Atle stove had been the slightest bit cumbersome, I wouldn’t have found real value in it. But, it wasn’t. Cleaning it was very easy, and that’s just as important as the kind of cooking it can do. After finding this out, my approval rating went from “Good” to “Excellent” with regard to my overall opinion of the Atle BBQ stove.
At our annual gathering down in North Carolina, I’m usually well fed. I’ve got lots of friends down there who love camp cooking and they are never shy with handing out some of their tasty dishes. But, this year I found a new avenue for tasty, hot food–me! I won’t claim to be an outdoors gourmet cook. In fact, I’m not even close. But, the Primus Atle BBQ stove opened up a new world of culinary delights for me in the great outdoors. I’ll still use dehydrated meals for those times when equipment is limited and the location remote, but I’d be hard pressed to stay with those kinds of meals during car camping or basecamping outings when the Atle is so easy to use and the food is so much more appealing.
If you’re looking for a reliable stove for yourself or a small group, I’d heartily recommend that you give the Primus Atle BBQ stove a good look. It’s versatile in the kinds of foods you can prepae, easy to clean, and just as easy to pack and tote around. All in all, it’s a good value for what you get and I believe if you give it a try, you’ll agree!