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Tepro Detroit 1037 Barbecue with Trolley review: Good ideas but a flawed design

Maggie Holland
19 Jun 2016
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
90
inc VAT (as of 17th of June)

There's a lot to like here but it's let down by flaws in the build quality and design

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Specifications

Fuel type: Charcoal, Cooking area: 370x390mm, Dimensions (HxWxD): 840x920x430mm, Accessories: None, Warranty: One year RTB

The Detroit Grill, from German manufacturer Tepro, is a half oil drum-style barbecue, with adjustable height grill grates. The Detroit is big enough to cook for a whole family, or for one or two if only using one side.

Assembly and build quality

The Detroit is relatively straightforward to put together, the instructions are clear and despite the nuts and bolts all coming jumbled in a bag, there’s only three different sizes, so it’s not difficult to find the one you need.

I had the Detroit built and ready to light in a little over half an hour, although five minutes of that was pulling metal splinters out my fingers. All the main components of this barbecue are sheet metal, which has been punched out, presumably by machine. I found that many of the cut edges had not been smoothed off and this inflicted a couple of cuts and one large metal splinter on me.

Once built, the Detroit did seem fairly solid, although it seems as is often the case with this style of barbecue, the metal body was fairly thin and was painted in the standard matt black paint, which although looks good when new, it scratches off all too easily. Although this is far from the most expensive barbecue I have reviewed, I still expected a higher standard of finish, both in terms of manufacturing and paint finish.

Look and style

The Detroit certainly looks good when assembled and the matt black finish is appropriately workmanlike. The style is reminiscent of jury-rigged barbecues, made from an oil drum, which have been popular in the US since the 1950's.

While these imitation oil drums are a sensible design and look nice in a retro manner, they are nowhere near as tough as the real thing. I've only been testing Tepro's Detroit grill for a week, and I doubt it would look so good after regular cleaning and being left outside in all types of weather.

In use and features

The twin, height-adjustable cooking grates increase the Detroit's versatility from a rudimentary oil drum with a grate on top to a barbecue capable of grilling at different temperatures and keeping food warm, or just using one side without the other when catering for fewer diners. I even found it useful starting one side before the other and then switching sides to keep cooking longer - this method could be done indefinitely, should your barbecue or party last for several hours and you wanted to prolong cooking time.

The cooking grates slot in at three different levels, the first directly above the coals, the second around three inches above the top of the barrel, and the third around six inches. The latter only really being hot enough to keep things warm, whereas mid-height was good for slightly slower cooking such as sausages, and the bottom level grate was good for searing steaks and burgers.

Once fired up, I checked the heat across the grill, and distributed steaks, burgers, sausages and kebabs accordingly. Shortly after this was when our experience with the Detroit took a turn for the worse. This may sound hyper-critical until explained, and unless you were told in advance, it wouldn't even occur to you when looking at the barbecue, but the bars on the cooking grate run in the wrong direction - left to right, instead of front to back.

This has one drastic consequence - I couldn't pick up or turn the food easily. Every time I tried to slide an implement underneath a burger, from the front, it would slip through the bars instead. Sometimes I picked the whole grill up this way, worse still, as the grills slide in from the front, when trying to withdraw the implement, the entire grate dangerously slid out towards me.

In a bid to give the Detroit a fair review, I did my best to adjust my cooking method, to a somewhat unnatural sideways approach, but this became laboured and tedious when cooking over time and I often forgot and speared the grill again. In truth, this really spoiled our cooking experience with this barbecue, and although it sounds picky, we cannot overlook this both for the safety aspect and the sheer annoyance it caused.

It is also worth mentioning that, as with so many other entry level grills, the bars on the cooking grate are the usual thin chromed ones, which do not offer the best cooking surface or searing of food cooked on them.

Cleaning and storage

Once the coals had burnt out on our Detroit, the unenviable task of cleaning began. For the most part I didn't find this difficult, the cooking grills cleaned to their original shine in my dishwasher and, as long as a soft, non-paint-scratching, brush was used, the body was easy to clean too - if it weren't for one slight oversight in the design.

To clean the bottom of the barbecue requires removal of the two charcoal grates, underneath which are all the coals that have fallen off during lighting and cooking. Removing these grates was only achievable by partially disassembling the barbecue. I had to undo all the nuts and bolts and remove the middle section that holds the cooking grates, in order to access the deepest depths of the barbecue - another oversight that took the edge off an otherwise nice design.

Storage-wise, this is another large family barbecue that would be a struggle to get in and out of, or store in, anything other than a large shed or summerhouse. If I was planning to keep this barbecue outside, I'd definitely purchase a cover for it. With the thin paint, it wouldn't take long for the Detroit to pick up a few scuffs, that would soon rust. More importantly, though there's no lid, so the Detroit would fill up with rainwater if left open to the elements.

Conclusion

The Tepro Detroit Grill is a nice barbecue and looks very good when first assembled, although it's longevity and hardiness could soon be called into question. I liked the variable cooking heights/temperatures and the dual grill, offering the option of cooking for the masses or just the two of you.

On the downside, the Detroit was poorly finished and had two fundamental design flaws that made it annoying to use and difficult to clean. Although it is easy to be enticed by the Detroit's style and looks, which are admittedly pleasing, I found Tepro's oil drum barbecue in need of some major improvements before I could recommend it. For other options see our Best BBQ roundup.

Physical
Fuel typeCharcoal
Cooking area370x390mm
Dimensions (HxWxD)840x920x430mm
Weight15
Features
Controllable ventsYes
Cooking height adjustmentYes
ThermometreNo
AccessoriesNone
Buying information
WarrantyOne year RTB
Part code1037

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