We tested some of the latest gas grills to see which one is worthy of your backyard barbecue.
Ashlee Clark ThompsonAssociate Editor
Ashlee spent time as a newspaper reporter, AmeriCorps VISTA and an employee at a healthcare company before she landed at CNET. She loves to eat, write and watch "Golden Girls" (preferably all three at the same time). The first two hobbies help her out as an appliance reviewer. The last one makes her an asset to trivia teams. Ashlee also created the blog, AshleeEats.com, where she writes about casual dining in Louisville, Kentucky.
The sun's shining, humidity levels are on the upswing and bugs are zipping through the air. It's time to grill, y'all. But what's a backyard (or front yard -- no judgment) barbecue without the right grill at its center?
For two weeks, we tested grills in search of the models that will make this season's barbecues easier and tastier. We narrowed our focus to four gas grills and went on to cook an exorbitant amount of chicken, burgers and ribs. We took note of how easy they were to assemble and use. Here are some highlights of what we learned about our group of grills.
Char-Broil packs plenty of perks into this $299 grill. There are five burners with a combined total of 45,000 BTUs of power and an extra side burner. Plus, it grilled the best chickens out of the four grills we tested: juicy meat and crisp skin that wasn't too burnt. The Performance XL is a good pick for the budget-conscious.
This grill comes with two separate cooking zones separated by their own fireboxes. That means you could easily multitask your grilled meal. For example, you could cook some ribs on low for hours in one section and burgers on high in the other without the need to even lift the lid the former. This grill also has a side burner for extra cooking. But at almost $700, the Double Header is definitely an investment, albeit a worthy one.
What it lacks in features, this grill makes up for in heat output. Its five burners have a combined output of 50,000 BTUs, the most of the group of grills we tested. This resulted in fast cook times for burgers and charred chicken skin. You have to be careful with the Baron: If you're not prepared for its high temperatures, you could easily burn your food.
This Weber gas grill gives you the chance to customize the way you grill. It comes in four colors: red, white, blue and black. And it works with the $100 Weber iGrill 3 temperature probe so you can keep an eye on your food's internal temperature. Plus, its propane tank scale makes it a lot easier to determine when its time to get another tank.
We selected these four gas grills after searching for the latest gas models available. Some models are available long after they first debut, and there aren't huge crops of new grills every year. This isn't meant to be an exhaustive list. We wanted to take a look at some of the latest products grill companies have to offer and see if they can grill good food.
As we used each grill, we evaluated its usability and features along with the actual food it cooked. Here's a breakdown of our grill tests.
We used hamburgers to test each grill's cooking capabilities when its burners were on high. We used 80/20 beef formed into 5.3-ounce patties. During each round of testing, we cooked six patties at a time on high heat, each with a thermocouple inserted in its center to measure its internal temperature. After 6 minutes, we flipped the burgers and waited until each one had reached an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit before we removed them all from the grill. We performed at least three rounds of this test on each grill.
This test showed us a lot about each grill. First, we could see how evenly the burners distributed heat by measuring the average time it took each patty to reach 145 degrees. We also got a look at how each grill handled grease. We saw plenty of flareups when running this test, with the exception of the Char-Broil Commercial Double Header. This grill has a plate located above its burners that works to help distribute heat more evenly and prevent small grease fires.
We cooked chickens in each grill to see how they performed using medium heat. Each chicken was roughly 4.5 pounds. We covered them with an all-purpose spice rub, then inserted one thermocouple in each chicken breast to keep track of the internal temperature. We sat the chicken on a piece of aluminum foil and let it cook over indirect heat until the temperatures in both breasts reached 165 degrees. We performed this test three times on each grill.
For us, the ideal chicken was one that had a crisp, smoky skin and juicy meat. The Char-Broil Performance XL came closest to that ideal in all of its test. The Broil King Baron S520 was the hardest on the chickens -- the birds came out with skin that looked burnt and meat that was slightly dry.
We considered the rib tests an anecdotal one. We covered a slab of pork ribs in seasoning rub and cooked them on each grill's warming rack over low heat (with all burners on) for three hours, then made adjustments to the next rib test depending on the result. For the Weber Spirit II E-310 and the Char-Broil Commercial Double Header, that baseline cook setting produced decent ribs. For the Broil King Baron 520 and the Char-Broil Performance XL, the 3 hours over low heat turned out burnt, inedible ribs. These grills cooked better ribs when we turned off two of the burners, left three on low heat and cooked them indirectly for 3 hours. This resulted in the best ribs we had during testing.
So which one should you pick?
Selecting a grill is a highly personal choice. You have to decide what you can afford, what features you can't live without, and what power level you're comfortable with. Use our reviews as a guide for what you should expect from gas grills this season.