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. 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:
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.
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|
|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 someuse 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.
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.