Words & Photos by Chili Dog
As long as there have been humans, there has been cooking outdoors. But thanks to hashtags and the sharing of “Instagram worthy moments,” the age-old necessity of eating in the woods has become a glamorized affair. The Skottle is a poster child of the overland movement, earning it equal parts disdain and reverence. We were curious to see if the hype was real so we took it to the desert for a week of riding with four hungry mountain bikers. Let’s see how it did.
Originating in South Africa, the Skottle was born out of necessity and convenience. Farmers would convert old harrow discs into cooking surfaces. The concave design, while cumbersome at first glance, is what makes the cooking surface so versatile. The center is the hottest part where the cooking happens, while the edges can be used for warming. Typically the center sits around 350 degrees, while the outside edges hover around 160 degrees.
The concave form also means that meats cook in their own juices, yielding more flavor and better results. If you’re really clever, you can even do things like boil pasta in the center while cooking chicken and veggies on the side. The possibilities are endless. It’s like having pots, pans and a griddle all in one.
Tembo Tusk is a small Southern California company founded by owner Jerry L’Ecuyer. He ran with the Skottle design and adopted it to the camping world. He takes pride in creating an entirely American made product right in his own facility. From seasoning to welding, it all happens in house at Tembo Tusk. Along with their line of camping accessories, like fridge slides, Tembo Tusk offers the Skottle in two sizes: a 12” compact Adventure Skottle, and the 18” Skottle Grille kit, which is what we reviewed here.
Included in the kit is the pre-seasoned Carbon Steel Skottle, four legs and wing nuts, a Coleman style 10,000 BTU burner and well made carrying cases for the legs and Skottle. It also comes with a neat little plastic stand that attaches to your propane bottle so you can forgo the legs for ultra compact traveling. If you ditch the legs, everything you need fits in the single Skottle carrying bag. It even has room for multiple propane bottles. To assemble, simply slide the legs into the holes under the Skottle, secure them with the provided wing nuts, and slide the burner into place. It’s all done in about 60 seconds.
When we first arrived at camp, my friend Austin immediately called out my “hipster wok.” After goading me, he began to set up his griddle, which he insisted was far superior to my hyped up disc. “Besides he said, how are you going to cook in something that’s curved anyway?” Meanwhile I set up the Skottle in half the time it took him, and had it cleaned and was enjoying the fire while he was still trying to pull his grease trap out. Two meals later he was asking me how much my Skottle cost… From that point forward, the Skottle made every meal. Whether it was scrambles for breakfast, orange chicken for dinner, or even spaghetti and meatballs, the Skottle cooked it all. In typical cast iron fashion, it only tastes better the more you cook on it. I’ve yet to have a better chorizo and egg scramble than the one that came off this Skottle!
You can laugh at the hype, but after using this Skottle on multiple trips, there’s a reason they’ve gotten so popular. It is seriously practical. Our Skottle takes up a fraction of the space that other options do, which matters when you’re fitting everything into your car or even motorcycle. To cook the same meals on a stove set up would mean bringing the stove, pots, pans and something to keep them in. A griddle is a great option, but only works for things that can’t run off a flat surface. A stove with pots and pans or a griddle also takes a lot more work to clean after each use. With the Skottle, simply boil some water after each meal and scrub off the residue with a spatula. It’s that easy. Just like any other cast iron pan however, you don’t want to use soap.
Thanks to the included carrying bag, storage is easy. Even sitting in the back of my truck on trips, the Skottle stays clean and ready. The rugged design also means I don’t have to worry about damaging it off road. You’d be hard pressed to break something with zero moving parts!
Two things we wish we’d added to our kit and plan to add in the future is a lid and a wind guard. Both are sold on the Tembo Tusk site and aid in the cooking process. The wind guard is really only necessary in strong winds, like those found in the desert. When you need it, you need it. Aside from that, we have ZERO complaints about the Skottle. It doesn’t use any more propane than your average stove or griddle either.
The Wolf’s Last Word
If you are a doubter of the Skottle, it’s about time your mind is changed. There are few camp cooking options as simple, easy to use and effective as this. While the design may seem odd at first, it adds the kind of cooking flexibility needed when camping so you can pack lighter. Tembo Tusk even has a free cook book chalked full of great ideas and recipes. If you’re like us, one time using the Skottle will be enough to convince you to never use anything else. It ain’t cheap, but you know you’ll never be buying another one again.
We liked this kit so much, we asked Tembo Tusk for a discount for all of you.
If you want to get your own, use the code “wolfpack” for 5% off anything on the site.