Welcome to our review of the special-edition Napoleon TravelQ Pro285 Phantom, a gorgeous matt black two-burner gas barbecue with innovative rolling cart for supreme portability. Not for nothing is it hogging the top spots in our guides to the best portable BBQ and best gas BBQ.
I should start by saying that I’m a big fan of Napoleon BBQ products in general. In fact, in my capacity as a reviewer of many barbecues, I put the Canadian brand up there with Broil King and Weber for consistently high build quality and materials.
The TravelQ Pro285 is available in two colour schemes, a standard black model that retails at £449.99 and, for £50 more, the Phantom option we’re reviewing here which comes in a stylish black matt finish. On top of that, the standard TravelQ Pro285 is also available without the scissor cart for £359.99.
Whichever variant you choose, rest assured that you’ll be purchasing a barbecue that will last for years and grill all types of food with consummate aplomb. How do I know this? I have one right in front of me and it has already produced three delicious meals without breaking into a sweat.
Is it a better choice than its most obvious challenger, the stupendous Weber Traveler?
Let’s find out.
Napoleon TravelQ Pro285 Phantom: price and availability
The Napoleon TravelQ Pro285 Phantom is a hugely popular barbecue so many UK stockists are currently sold out and awaiting new shipments. However, we've managed to track some down at Oaktree Garden Centre and Keen Gardender where it's selling for around £474. More shipments are due but, such is the way with the world at the moment, there may be some delays.
And if you live Down Under, head over to Joe's Barbecues where they're selling the standard black scissor-cart version for A$699.
Napoleon TravelQ Pro285 Phantom review: design and features
If you like your products Mad Max black like a supercar wrap, you’ll love the paint job on this beauty. It’s a stunner in all weathers, whichever way you look at it.
Where the similarly-styled Weber Traveler has just one 3.8kW burner and runs out of the box on small disposable screw top gas canisters made by the likes of Coleman, Weber and Primus, the TravelQ Pro285 features two gas burners amounting to 4.10kW of power and it runs off a full size propane bottle like those from Patio Gas. I should add at this juncture that both models can be converted to run on the two different sized gas canisters mentioned above with the use of an optional adaptor.
There are good arguments for both systems – the Weber is set up for use away from home without the need to lug a large gas bottle around while the Napoleon is better suited for use at home. However, I still prefer the Napoleon method for use away from home because it will cook for far longer on a large propane bottle than it would using a disposable canister.
I say this because, while advertised as portable, both the Weber Traveler and the Napoleon TravelQ are too heavy to pull for long distances along terrain like gnarly paths and soft beaches, even though their carts are fitted with good-quality wheels. In this respect I think Napoleon’s is a better system simply because with a BBQ of this weight (around 23kgs), you’re more likely to take it on a camping trip in the car rather than a schlepp off piste by foot, in which case it will easily fit inside most vehicles. For most of us, though, it’s the perfect sized gas barbecue for use on a small patio or even a balcony.
Aside from the tall cast aluminium lid with integral thermometer – which will easily accommodate two large chickens – one of the best things about any Napoleon BBQ is the quality and design of its grill grate, which adopts a unique wave-shaped design that not only leaves an attractive pattern on steaks but also prevents slim foodstuffs like small prawns, halloumi and chipolata sausages from slipping through onto the heat deflectors below.
The wavy grate itself is made from high-quality cast iron and measures 54 x 37cm – or 285 snare inches, which is where the TravelQ gets part of its name from. You should be able to get two large chickens on it or about 20 hamburgers. It also ships with a narrow stainless still warming rack that literally sits on top of the main grate.
Given that this model comes with a foldable cart for easy transportation and storage, it also features two side shelves, one foldable for storage convenience.
Napoleon TravelQ Pro285 Phantom review: folding system
Like the Weber Traveler, this model also comes with a wheeled scissor cart that folds down and expands in a thrice. However, the Weber wins by a small margin in this regard because of its incredibly tactile damping action when folding it down. The Napoleon doesn’t have this feature but at least it doesn’t just drop with a clatter, trapping your toes in the process. Once folded, the barbecue can be wheeled around and stored upright, using one of its shelves as a support strut. In fact, you can even hang it on a strong wall by its shelf handle. Although its folding mechanism isn’t quite as slick as the Weber Traveler’s, I don’t consider this a deal breaker in any way.
Napoleon TravelQ Pro285 Phantom review: performance
Having two burners is a major bonus when it comes to grilling because it allows you to adjust temperatures either side of the grate. This is especially useful if cooking two different types of ingredients or when some of the food has cooked more quickly and you need to move it to a section that isn’t quite as hot.
The first thing you notice when firing up the TravelQ Pro285 Phantom is the furnace like effect of its trademarked Jetfire ignition. When you turn the gas control knob to the left, its Piezo ignites the gas just like a furnace and this ensures that the burner is well and truly lit. This caught me out at first because the burner’s flame was so gentle by comparison to the ignition flame that I thought it hadn’t lit. It had, as it turned out.
I’ve tried a few different ingredients on this barbecue – chicken legs, wings, fillet steak kebabs and halloumi – and everything has cooked to succulent perfection with no serious flare ups. Control is immediate, mind, so it doesn’t take long to tame the heat at any one time.
As is the case with any BBQ with a lid attached, I stuck to the American maxim – if you’re lookin’, it ain’t cookin’ – and I managed not to burn anything. The aluminium tub and lid helped a lot in this regard because aluminium is an excellent heat conductor. Hence, temperatures across the entire grate with both burners on full whack were very consistent.
Napoleon TravelQ Pro285 Phantom review: verdict
In many ways, this is the perfect barbecue for a family of four and up to six or eight guests if serving small ingredients like drumsticks and sausages. In fact, I’d rather have this barbecue on my patio than any of the larger models I’ve reviewed in the past, simply because it’s compact, easy to use and, if necessary, I can take it away from home. It’s also superbly made – it comes with a 10 year warranty – and is unquestionably one of the best looking barbies on the market. Top buy.