This large gas grill is best suited for those who crave power.
The complexities of the Broil King Baron S520 all lie under the surface. At a glance, this five burner, $650 propane-powered stainless steel cooker is a simple, if sizeable gas grill. It doesn't have much in the line of features -- no side burners, smart temperature gauges, or tools to measure the remaining gas in your fuel tank. It doesn't even really have color accents. It's big and silver with black text, and a little intimidating at a glance.
That intimidation factor can carry over once you start to cook, too. The Broil King runs hot. If you're not prepared for it, you could easily burn your food. Once you get used to it, you might appreciate the power of the Baron S520, especially if you're cooking a pile of meat at once. The Baron also does plenty of little things right -- it's easy to light, easy to control, easy to maintain and it cooks evenly. It distributes heat well because of ridged metal plates above the burners.
Because it runs hot and lacks simple extras, I don't recommend the Broil King Baron S520 to beginners. Even if you're well seasoned as a pit master, consider the $300 Char-Broil Performance XL, which offers almost as much power at less than half the price. The $600 Weber Spirit II has lots of clever smarts, but not as much power. The slightly more expensive $700 Char-Broil Commercial Double Header handily has two separate, smaller grilling compartments so you can cook at two different temps. However, if you just want a large grill with a ton of power and you know how to wield it, the Baron S520 has the chops to help you host sizeable cookouts.
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Given its hefty size, our Labs Manager Steve Conaway had a relatively easy time assembling the Broil King Baron S520. We've tested four gas grills side-by-side over the past couple of weeks, and Steve called the Baron's assembly the easiest of the bunch -- which includes two models from Char-Broil and a Weber grill.
Note that you'll want to allow yourself a couple of hours to put your grill together. Assembly was easy when compared to similarly sized gas grills, but it's still something of an undertaking. Once you have it assembled, the instructions walk you through attaching your gas canister, checking for leaks and running the grill for a while to burn off any residue collected during shipping or storage.
I like the simple look of the S520. It's understated and elegant. The shelves on either side of the grill are roomy enough for platters and utensils, and it has a few hooks for tools hidden under the shelves on either side. The cabinet underneath the main grill hides the gas tank and still has room for a little extra storage. Broil King also put lighting and safety tips on the inside of the left cabinet door for quick reference.
The grill itself combines five burners for a hefty 50,000 BTUs of power. The main grilling area offers 555 square inches of space and the S520 includes a warming rack with 250 square inches for 805 square inches of total cooking space. In practice, we were able to easily fit six burgers on the main rack during our high heat test. You could cook 12 burgers on the main rack at once without feeling too cramped.
Here's how the specs of the S520 stack up to the other four grills in our latest batch of testing:
|Broil King Baron S520||Char-Broil Commercial Double Header||Weber Spirit II E-310||Char-Broil Performance XL|
|Color finish||Stainless||Stainless||Red, blue, black, white||Stainless|
|Number of burners||5||4 (2 per compartment)||3||5|
|Main burners BTUs||50,000||36,000||30,000||45,000|
|Number of side burners||0||1||0||1|
|Side burner BTUs||N/A||13,000||N/A||10,000|
|Dimensions (height, width, depth)||45.5 x 63.5 x 24 inches||48 x 66.3 x 24 inches||44.5 x 52 x 27 inches||45.1 x 57.1 x 25.4 inches|
|Weight||170 pounds||205 pounds||114 pounds||113 pounds|
|Temperature gauge||Yes||Yes (1 per compartment)||Yes||Yes|
|Propane tank scale||No||No||Yes||No|
If a big grill with lots of power sounds appealing to you, the S520 is exclusive to Lowe's. Head to the store or Lowe's site and you can buy it for $650 now. It's only available in the US.
Once you're up and running, maintaining the S520 is pleasingly simple. You can access the grease trap through the cabinet doors beneath the grill, or you can reach it through the gaps in the side of the cabinet. The trap slides off of a metal rail so you can dispose of its contents and put it back fairly quickly.
The grill grates themselves lift away in manageable pieces, as does the stainless steel "Flav-R-Wave" beneath them. Similar to the "Tru-Infrared" plates that some Char-Broil grills use to distribute heat, the metal plates that comprise Broil King's Flav-R-Wave rest between the gas burners themselves and the grates for your food.
They're ridged like a potato chip, with gaps so you can still see the flames when you light the grill and adjust the heat. As with Char-Broil's version of the feature, they distribute heat fairly effectively. Char-Broil's feature also prevents flare-ups, and the Flav-R-Wave doesn't. Instead, in addition to distributing heat, it's designed to catch grease drips and vaporize them to create a smokey flavor.
According to the instruction manual, the Broil King Baron S520 should roughly hit 600-650 degrees Fahrenheit on high, 450 degrees on medium and 310-350 on low. The first test I ran on the S520 was an anecdotal rib test designed to see how it does with long, low cooks. I preheated the grill on high, turned the dials to low, then put the ribs on the warming rack for 3 hours.
The grill hovered between 450 and 500 degrees the whole time and burned the ribs to a crisp. The fact that the ribs were inedible is partly my fault -- the 3-hour time limit was standardized across all of our grill tests, but I obviously needed to pull the ribs out much, much sooner.
At the same time, the S520 doesn't offer any smart meat thermometers, only the temperature gauge on the lid, and you shouldn't open the lid more than absolutely necessary during a long cook. I wanted to let the test play out, as this was my first test with the grill, and I thought maybe the heat closer to the flames wasn't as bad as the heat accumulating at the top by the temperature gauge.
It was. The S520 runs hot, even on low. I ran the test again using indirect heat. I only turned on three burners and set them to low, and set the ribs on foil over the off burners for three hours. With only three lit burners on low, the grill held a temp around 300 degrees. The resulting ribs tasted great -- albeit a little more like tender, juicy roasted meat instead of hardy, smokey ribs.
With all four grills, we ran formal temperature tests on medium heat while cooking chicken, and on high heat with burgers. The burger test doubles as a way to gauge how evenly the grill cooks across its surface.
The S520 runs too hot on medium as well with all five burners going, but we used indirect heat on our chicken tests and the Broil King grill fared pretty well. Across three tests, the S520 cooked a whole roughly 4.5-pound chicken in 1 hour, 22 minutes on average. We run our tests until our temperature probes confirm a food safe internal temp of 165 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the chicken.
That time was roughly the same time as the Weber Spirit II and distinctly faster than the 1 hour, 34 minute average of the Char-Broil Commercial Double Header. The Char-Broil Performance XL had the fastest average of 1 hour, 11 minutes.
The Char-Broil XL's chicken also tasted the best, with the best mix of crispy skin and juicy meat. The S520 produced chicken that looked a little burnt. Fortunately, it didn't taste burnt and the skin was lovely and crispy, but it was a little dry.
The Broil King S520 turned out the fastest time on burgers of the bunch. I wasn't surprised, given that this was a high heat test and we used all five burners. We cook six 5.3-ounce burgers at once with the test, each with its own temperature probe. We flip the burgers after 6 minutes then leave them on the grill until they all hit an internal temp of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
We're aiming for a consistent medium cook with some pink in the middle and a charred exterior. The Broil King finished the last burger in 12 minutes, 46 seconds on average. The pattern of finishing times shows the middle of the grill cooks burgers the quickest, as you'd expect. The right side of the grill cooked burgers the slowest, with the lower right corner finishing roughly 2 minutes behind the central burgers on average.
Still, the burgers all finished relatively close to each other, showing a fine propensity for even cooking. Thanks to flare-ups, and waiting for the last burger to finish, none had any pink remaining by the time I pulled them off of the grill. The edges were nicely charred. The Char-Broil Double Header aced this test. It took a little longer to finish the burgers, but they were still juicy and pink on the inside.
Altogether, the tests confirm that the S520 runs hot on any setting. That could be beneficial if you're cooking lots of burgers at once and need the power, or if you want to sear a steak. You'll just want to keep a close eye on your food so it doesn't get burned. If you actually want medium or low heat, you'll want to turn off a couple of burners.
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If you like the idea of a powerful grill, the $650 Broil King Baron S520 will be right at home on your patio. If you're a beginner, or want a more balanced or feature-rich grill, look elsewhere. The $300 Char-Broil Performance XL, in particular, offers plenty of features and power at a reasonable price. The $700 Char-Broil Commercial Double Header lets you cook at two different temps for greatly expanded versatility.
The Baron S520 is designed for veteran grillers who'd rather do away with frills and desire power above all else.