And it's a great grill for a crowd.
My family's grilling philosophy is simple: charcoal or GTFO. To cook outdoors was a visceral, communal experience that centered around the primal joy of building a fire. And how could you get that type of satisfaction with a gas grill?
Read: What kind of grill should you buy?
The Char-Broil Commercial Double Header Gas Grill, one of four gas grills we reviewed this season, has made me reconsider years of charcoal fidelity. This $699 stainless-steel titan would make a great centerpiece for your summer barbecues, especially if you cook for large crowds. It's easy to use, even if you're new to the world of gas grills. It does an excellent job of preventing flare-ups, no matter how greasy your meat. And it takes a low and slow approach to cooking, which means you can relax in a lawn chair without worrying about whether your meat will burn.
Low-and-slow cooking does have its drawbacks on the Double Header. None of the meat I cooked had the good char you expect on grilled dishes. Some foods that cooked over longer periods of time teetered toward being too dry. And while we're talking about downsides, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that $699 ain't cheap.
But overall, Char-Broil's Double Header is a worthwhile investment. If you can't swing buying a nearly $700 grill, check out the $299 Char-Broil Performance XL. It's missing some of the extras that the Double Header has, but it's a lot nicer to your pocketbook.
The Double Header is aptly named -- the grill has four burners that are split between two different fireboxes, aka cooking spaces with their own lids. Each firebox has its own warming rack, too.
These two separate spaces give you a lot of versatility. Use only one firebox if you're cooking for a small crowd or use them both for a large group. This setup is also effective if you want to cook dishes in different temperature zones.
The grill also features an additional burner on the right, helpful if you want to heat up some barbecue sauce. There's also a shelf on the left side for tools or dishes, but there aren't any tool hooks.
The Double Header was also relatively easy to put together. It took about two hours for our labs manager, Steve Conaway, to assemble it. He did note that the heft of the metal used for the bottom of the grill where you keep the propane tank was noticeably less than that of the fireboxes. We used a liquid propane tank, but the grill is dual-fuel-enabled if you want to convert it to natural gas.
Here's how the Double Header compared with other gas grills we've tested this year:
|Char-Broil Commercial Double Header||Weber Spirit II E-310||Char-Broil Performance XL||Broil King Baron S520|
|Color finish||Stainless||Red, blue, black, white||Stainless||Stainless|
|Number of burners||4 (2 per compartment)||3||5||5|
|Main burners BTUs||36,000||30,000||45,000||50,000|
|Number of side burners||1||0||1||0|
|Side burner BTUs||13,000||N/A||10,000||N/A|
|Dimensions (height, width, depth)||48 x 66.3 x 24 inches||44.5 x 52 x 27 inches||45.1 x 57.1 x 25.4 inches||45.5 x 63.5 x 24 inches|
|Weight||205 pounds||114 pounds||113 pounds||170 pounds|
|Temperature gauge||Yes (1 per compartment)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Propane tank scale||No||Yes||No||No|
A feature that makes the Double Header stand out is a design element called Tru-Infrared. Essentially, Char-Broil put a steel emitter plate between the burners and the grill grates that helps retain and evenly distribute the heat from the burners to your food. The plate also has grooves designed to catch grease and prevent flare-ups. It worked well during our tests: The Double Header was the only grill that didn't shoot up errant flames when we cooked hamburger patties.
For roughly two weeks, we grilled a medley of meats on the Double Header and other gas grills. Throughout our tests, the Double Header took a more gentle approach to cooking than the other grills. With a total power output of 36,000 BTUs across four burners (9,000 per burner), it was less powerful than the Weber Spirit II E-310 and the Broil King Baron S520 and on par with the Char-Broil Performance XL . This power output, along with the Tru-Infrared plate, resulted in a serious lack of exterior char on the meats during testing on low, medium and high levels. This was a disadvantage in my book: Part of the appeal of grilling outdoors is having meat that has a slightly crisp, grill-marked exterior and smoky, juicy interior.
The standout dish for the Double Header was hamburgers. It took an average of 14 minutes, 2 seconds, to bring six hamburgers to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. The Double Header wasn't the fastest burger griller; that honor belongs to the Broil King, which took 12 minutes, 46 seconds. But the Double Header cooked the juiciest burgers of the bunch. In our testing, we wait until all six burgers cooking during a test round reach 145 degrees before we remove them all from the grill. This means that some burgers tend to overcook while we wait for the last patty to come to temperature. With the Double Header, there wasn't nearly as much overcooking -- the majority of the burgers were still close to medium-well as intended. In the real world, that means you don't have to worry as much about burnt patties when you're cooking a big batch of burgers; you have some grace in getting them off the grill in time.
The rest of the grill tests on the Double Header weren't as great as the hamburgers. In one test, we cooked ribs on all the grills on low for three hours. Unlike the Broil King and the Char-Broil Performance XL, which required some adjustments to get good ribs, the Double Header cooked up decent ribs on those settings. However, the meat was slightly dry.
In another test, we cooked whole chickens over medium heat on each of the grills. It took the Double Header an average of 1 hour, 34 minutes and 51 seconds to get the chickens to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, which made it the slowest grill of this test. Unfortunately, the chickens were the worst out of the bunch. The skin was still flimsy after more than an hour and a half of cooking; the only crispness came from the layer of seasoning. And the meat of the chicken leaned toward being a bit too dry as well.
The $699 Char-Broil Commercial Double Header Gas Grill would make a good addition to your outdoor cooking setup. This grill is easy to use, especially if you're new to using a gas grill or antsy when it comes to flareups. And you won't have to worry about accidentally burning your food thanks to its gentle cooking. Just keep in mind that this grill has a tendency to dry out food after long cooking times, and it is an option for which you'll have to save up some dough. If dropping this much money on a grill isn't your jam, consider the Char-Broil Performance XL.