Grilling season is upon us, and If you're in the market for a new grill there are dozens of options out there. We tested four gas grills at the CNET Smart Home. I spent the better part of two weeks grilling on the Char-Broil Performance XL. This five-burner grill offers a lot for the money. It looks good, performs well and at $299, it was the most affordable grill we tested. I'd recommend the Char-Broil Performance XL to beginners and grillmasters alike.
The Char-Broil Performance XL has a classic look with its stainless steel design and black detail. Grill grates above the five stainless steel burners are made of a rust-resistant porcelain-coated cast iron. A temperature gauge on the lid displays the grill's interior temperature. A cabinet beneath the grill with double doors houses the liquid propane tank and grease collection tray. This grill uses a standard, 20-pound liquid propane tank, and it cannot be converted to use natural gas.
The Char-Broil Performance XL includes a convenient side burner for heating up side dishes or sauces. Char-Broil warns that using the side burner with a pot larger than 6 quarts could exceed the weight limit of the burner's shelf. A full 6-quart pot is pretty large, so I'd expect most people wouldn't be inconvenienced by a weight restriction there.
I do have a few issues with the design of this grill. The knob controls could feel sturdier. Quality isn't totally lacking, but unlike other grills we tested, there's no indicator for a medium heat setting. It's also a bit too easy to turn the burner past high and shut it off completely. Other grills we tested like the Broil King Baron S520 had a nice, sturdy catch point to stop the knob from turning past its highest setting. The Char-Broil Performance XL also doesn't offer any sort of tool rack like we saw on the and Broil King Baron S520 we tested.
Minor design complaints aside, I enjoyed cooking on the Performance XL. The temperature gauge made it easy to monitor low heat and long cook times for dishes like ribs and chicken, and because the grill has five burners, you can choose a two-on, three-off or three-on, two-off configuration for indirect heat.
How we tested
We tested our grills by cooking chicken, ribs and burgers. That allowed us to compare indirect medium, indirect low and direct high heat grilling conditions across all four grills. Test involved temperature probes inserted into each piece of meat (two for chicken, one in each breast) and connected to a datalogger and computer program to monitor the temperature in real time. For chicken, we needed a food-safe internal temperature of 165 degrees. For the burgers and ribs the target temperature was 145 degrees. Once each piece of meat on the grill had reached its food-safe temperature, we removed the meat, logged the time and allowed it to rest before giving it a good old fashioned taste test. Here's how it went with the Char-Broil Performance XL