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Broil King Baron S520 review: Cooks hot, whether you want it to or not

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The Good The Broil King Baron S520 offers a hefty amount of grilling power and a spacious grill box that can fit plenty of food. Metal plates beneath the grates help distribute heat evenly and vaporize drippings.

The Bad Even on medium and low settings, the S520 runs hot, so you'll need to be careful not to accidentally burn your food. It lacks extras such as temperature probes and side burners.

The Bottom Line The Broil King Baron S520 is a good fit for veteran grillers who don't need frills and like cooking at high heat. Look elsewhere for a more balanced grilling experience.

6.7 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 6
  • Usability 8
  • Performance 6

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. 

Read our group test: These new grills will fire up your summer BBQ

Warming up the grill

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.

Chris Monroe/CNET

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:

Comparing gas grills


Broil King Baron S520 Char-Broil Commercial Double Header Weber Spirit II E-310 Char-Broil Performance XL
Price $649 $699 $599 $299
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
Propane cabinet Yes Yes No Yes
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
Warming rack Yes Yes Yes Yes
Temperature gauge Yes Yes (1 per compartment) Yes Yes
Propane tank scale No No Yes No
Wheels 4 4 2 4
Tool hooks 4 No 6 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.

Clean heat

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.

broil-king-2

The grill has plenty of room for food with the Flav-R-Wave under the grates distributing heat.

Chris Monroe/CNET

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.

Getting hot in here

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.

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