Weber's reputation for building durable, practical outdoor grills goes back decades. Now the company wants you to think smart, too, when you think Weber. To that end, the $850 Weber Genesis II E-310 has lots of what you expect from a Weber BBQ, plus a side of app connectivity.
To enable the smarts on this already expensive propane cooker you'll need to shell out an extra $100 for Weber's iGrill 3 accessory. It's actually a fairly useful add-on, but it's not included in the core product. Due to three powerful burners and sensitive heat controls, mastering your grilling technique on this hot-rod cooker also takes practice.
All this makes the Genesis II suited to more experienced grill enthusiasts with the patience to master this high-end unit. If smarts in a more forgiving high-end grill is what you want, the $800is slightly cheaper and easier to use.
Built like a Weber
I appreciate how sturdy and solid the Genesis II feels. Its lid and pair of side tables are built from heavy steel. Both the grill's cast iron grates and lid are enameled in porcelain too. My only complaint, a minor one, is Weber's choice to use some plastic in the E-310's construction. The ends of the grill's side tables are wrapped in gray plastic bumpers that cheapens its appearance. The same goes for the plastic trim on the lid. Still, the lid does have a large built-in thermometer, a Weber standard feature the Char-Broil SmartChef Tru-Infrared lacks.
This gas burner's a real hot rod
The Genesis II relies on what Weber calls the "GS4 High Performance Grilling System," which involves three propane burners each rated at a robust 37,500 BTU. That's plenty of heating power to have at your disposal. The Char-Broil SmartChef, by comparison, has three gas burners as well, but they provide less oomph at just 25,000 BTU apiece. You do get a small side burner with Char-Broil's SmartChef grill, a feature Weber includes on various grills across its product lines, but not on this one.
Both grills differ in the way they cook your food. The Genesis II uses wedge-shaped bars to cover and protect its burners from grease and drippings. The bars also act as deflectors to spread heat evenly across the grilling surface above as well. All three burners are lit by the same ignition module and its corresponding igniter button. You have to supply it with AA disposable batteries, as you do with most other propane grills. Each of the burners have their own weather-resistant electrodes, however, to improve reliability. Weber refers to the design as "Infinity Ignition."
The SmartChef protects its burners with similar protective bars, though it calls them "heat tents." Char-Broil also introduces a second part in the mix, a thin steel plate just below its grates and above the burners. A component in Char-Broil's "Tru-Infrared" grilling system, the plate is designed to absorb the heat from the burners, and use it to mimic the radiant heat you get from charcoal. The different cooking methods likely explain the results of my cooking tests, too. I'll get to that soon.
One huge advantage of Weber's Genesis II grill design is it's a snap to clean. It has large parts, and only a few of them. They're also spaced out well so pulling the machine apart for maintenance is easy. Weber also built an elegant grease management system at the heart of the cooker. Any juices and drippings that make it past the burners are funneled towards a waiting disposable drip tray for collection.
Smarts that target cooking
The Weber Genesis II E-310 is among just a few backyard grills that support smart technology. Weber didn't create this tech on its own --, a line of Bluetooth, app-connected thermometers, including the $50 .
The latest product to join the iGrill line postacquisition is the $100 iGrill 3, and it works as an add-on to Weber's Genesis II and Genesis II LX grills that fits into a physical socket on the front of those units. Weber pushes the iGrill 3 as an upgrade meant for its Genesis II grills alone but aside from the tailored receptacle, it will work fine with any brand of grill, it just won't have a dedicated slot to mount it securely.
All of the various iGrill models link to the Weber mobile app, which lets you monitor the Genesis II wirelessly from a distance of 30 feet. The scope of the app is narrow compared to Char-Broil's SmartChef application. SmartChef tackles lots of things besides food. It tracks propane levels, burner status and even tells you if the grill is cool enough to cover. Weber's app just sticks to measuring temperatures of meat, fish and poultry as you cook.
Regardless I prefer Weber's targeted approach and the iGrill software overall. The app is intuitive, cleanly organized and uncluttered. Barbecue enthusiasts will enjoy the handy graph that extrapolates when your meal will be done based on current conditions. My favorite feature is how the software pings you when you're 10 degrees out from your probe's target temp. It then pings you each time the thermometer rises by 1 degree until your food is done.
The application's connection to its probes was continuous and always ready to display temperatures in real time. By contrast the Char-Broil SmartChef app usually lost temperature probe data if I closed it or simply opened another application on my phone (a). Another advantage the iGrill app has over SmartChef is a simple wizard to setup probes to actively monitor your food while it cooks. For example, you can select the food type (chicken, burgers, steak and so on) and iGrill knows what target temperature you need to hit. You can also choose the level of doneness you'd like and the app adapts accordingly.
This is a big catch though. To add smarts to the Genesis II you'll need to purchase the iGrill 3 accessory separately, a $100 upgrade. All of the Char-Broil SmartChef grill's technology comes built-in. Still, especially if you're a new to grilling or you simply like to cook with precision, the iGrill 3 is a worthwhile addition to this or any other grill, since it makes cooking tricky items such as poultry and big cuts of steak safer and easier.