Weber Spirit II E-310 review: Weber's Spirit II E-310 makes grilling season a bit brighter
Weber's red $599 Spirit II E-310 gas grill cooks pretty well, but costs too much.
I'm not gonna lie. I wanted to review this grill because I love its bright color.
If red isn't your thing, the $599 Weber Spirit II E-310 gas grill is also available in black, white and blue (The Spirit II is available on Amazon and at Home Depot for $499). It's expensive, considering it has just three main burners and no side burner, but I cooked up some good ribs, burgers and whole chickens during my testing. (Good, not great.)
In addition to its decent performance, the Spirit II has a couple of special features -- a propane tank scale and an optional integration with the $100 Weber iGrill 3 temperature probe. If the tank scale and iGrill 3 accessory matter to you, the Spirit II might be worth your money.
We also tested the $649 Broil King Baron S520, the $699 Char-Broil Commercial Double Header and the $299 Char-Broil Performance XL this time around. The Baron S520 is a five-burner grill that can hold a ton of food, but its powerful BTUs might intimidate a beginner. The Char-Broil Double Header is a solid grill for entertaining, since it's technically two separate, two-burner grills in one, but those small compartments do limit is ability to cook a lot of the same food on the same grill at once.
The Char-Broil Performance XL was the real winner here. It offers great grill performance, five main burners and a bonus side burner -- all for much less money.
Note: The original Weber Spirit is still available for sale at Lowe's for $449 -- it looks a lot like the Spirit II, but it doesn't have the iGrill 3 docking station or the open cart layout (which offers more storage space). The first-gen Spirit grill is also only available in black or stainless steel.
But the main difference between them, according to Weber, is the Spirit II's new GS4 High Performance Grilling System, which is also available on the $850 Weber Genesis II E-310 gas grill we reviewed last year. The GS4 system includes a new ignition system that's "ensured to ignite every time." It worked eight times out of ten, but it didn't always ignite after my first attempt.
GS4 also features updated, tapered burners designed to optimize heat distribution (this worked fine), something called "Flavorizer Bars" that are supposed to help reduce flare-ups (they did not) and a new "grease management system" that's supposed to make everything easier to clean (it was roughly as easy to clean as the other grills we've tested).
Since the Spirit II is also sold for $499 at many retail locations, I'd suggest getting it over the Spirit if you're sold on Weber.
Getting to know the Spirit II
Wanna know how the Spirit II compares to other gas grills? There's a chart for that:
Comparing gas grills
|Weber Spirit II E-310
|Char-Broil Performance XL
|Broil King Baron S520
|Char-Broil Commercial Double Header
|Red, blue, black, white
|Number of burners
|4 (2 per compartment)
|Main burners BTUs
|Number of side burners
|Side burner BTUs
|Dimensions (height, width, depth)
|44.5 x 52 x 27 inches
|45.1 x 57.1 x 25.4 inches
|45.5 x 63.5 x 24 inches
|48 x 66.3 x 24 inches
|Yes (1 per compartment)
|Propane tank scale
As you can see, the Spirit II is an expensive grill. Yes, it's technically less expensive than the Broil King Baron S520 and the Char-Broil Commercial Double Header, but it has only three burners compared to the Baron's five burners and the Double Header's four (two per main grill compartment).
That means the Baron excels at cooking large quantities, whereas the Double Header has two separate, main grill compartments for optimal multitasking during entertaining. Stick a chicken on one side on indirect medium heat and flip burgers on the other side using high heat. The Double Header also has a side burner if you want to heat up some BBQ sauce on the side while you make your main course. The Spirit II is limited to one main three-burner compartment; with 30,000 BTUs of total grilling power -- 10,000 BTUs per burner.
It also doesn't have a spot to hide the propane tank like the Spirit II's competitors. That isn't necessarily a deal-breaker, but it looks less streamlined since you can easily see the tank versus hiding it behind a couple of doors. At least in the case of the Spirit II, it's for a good cause. This model has a fuel tank scale. Mount the propane tank to the scale and little indicators on the side tell you how full it is.
The scale isn't fancy; little red lines let you know the level of your propane tank. It's definitely helpful if you don't want to deal with the hassle of hauling the tank to the store knowing there's a chance you still have some propane left over. I also like that the grill has indicators that let you know where exactly to adjust the burner knobs for high, medium and low heat.
The Spirit II has something confusingly called "Flavorizer Bars." Its user manual explains that these bars are "angled just right to catch drippings that smoke and sizzle, adding that irresistible smoky flavor we all know and love to your food." They're also supposed to help route drippings away from the burners toward the "grease management system." I'll talk about this more in the performance section below, but I'm not convinced the Favorizer Bars did anything to help my grill's cooking performance -- or to mitigate flare-ups.
This model is compatible with Weber's $100 iGrill 3 app-enabled temperature probe. Since the iGrill 3 costs an extra hundred bucks and is optional, I didn't test it with the Spirit II. In theory, you connect it to the grill and can check in on the temperature of your food from your phone. The other grills we tested don't offer any smart accessories, which sets the Weber apart.
The Spirit II is similar to the $850 Weber Genesis II E-310. The Genesis II has a slightly larger cooking area, four wheels (compared to the Spirit II's two) and 37,500 total BTUs (compared to the Spirit II's 30,000 BTUs), but they are comparable in terms of performance, design, features and overall ease of use.
Gratefully, it was easy to install. At 114 pounds, it's one of the lightest grills we tested. Even so, it was easier to put together with help from someone else. It took my colleague, Molly Price, and I just over an hour to finish building the Spirit II.
Now let's get to the good stuff. In terms of grill testing, I cooked ribs on low heat, whole chickens on medium indirect heat, and a bunch of burgers on high. We chose ribs, chickens and burgers specifically to see how each grill handled different temperatures.
For the ribs, I put a dry rub on a rack of pork ribs and let them cook on the warming rack on low heat. I used a probe to check the temperature after 3 hours and they were hovering close to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. The USDA suggests pork should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees to be safe to eat.
After giving the ribs 10 minutes to rest, we gave 'em a try. They were tender and pretty juicy, but not falling off the bone. Next time I'd try cooking them on indirect low heat on the main rack to see if they'd be even more tender.
I also grilled three whole chickens (in three consecutive tests) on medium indirect heat using the same rub from the ribs test. For these tests, I turned on burners 1 and 3 and left burner 2 in the middle of the grill off, per the user manual's suggestion. I placed each chicken on a small piece of foil in the center of the grill, directly over burner two (which, again, was turned off).
With help from two temperature probes connected to a datalogger, I was able to track the time it took for each chicken to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Like pork, the USDA has recommendations on food-safe cooking temps for chicken.
Across the three chicken tests, they averaged 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach 165 degrees. That isn't a very long wait, but it's significantly longer than the Char-Broil Performance XL, which only took 1 hour and 11 minutes. My chicken was tender and somewhat juicy with somewhat crispy skin -- I even took some home for leftovers. But the speedy Performance XL blew it away with deliciously tender whole grilled chickens.
I cooked 36 5.3-ounce burgers in the name of grill testing -- six consecutive tests of six burgers each on high heat. Each time, I stuck a temperature probe in the middle of each burger and used a datalogger to see how long it took them all to reach 145 degrees. (Read more about the USDA's recommendations for cooking beef.)
The first three tests were a bust. Our testing process involves flipping the burgers six minutes into grilling, and that's hard with a temperature probe stuck inside each one. Grease from the burgers dripped inside the grill, causing sometimes-large flare-ups that caught me off guard. One of those times I dropped a burger, rendering the test invalid. The other two times, one of the burger probes fell out midflip amid flare-ups. Again, I'm pretty sure the Flavorizer Bars didn't provide much of an assist here. And if they did, I don't want to think about its flare-ups without them.
Tests 4, 5 and 6 went much better. My burgers were consistent across those tests and took between 15 and 17 minutes for every burger to reach 145 degrees. Since we measured each burger's temp, I could also see how long it took each burger to finish to determine if there were any obvious hot or cold spots in the grill. Fortunately, there weren't; each burger took between 12 and 14 minutes (on average) to get to temperature.
Since we had to wait until every burger got to 145 degrees, many of them were more on the well-done side by the time each test ended. Even so, they had a nice char on the outside and were pretty tasty. That was generally the case across all of our grills, except for the Char-Broil Commercial Double Header. It didn't have as much of a char on the outside, but those burgers were closer to the medium doneness we were trying to achieve.
Should you buy it?
I like the $599 Weber Spirit II. The thing is, most people will find more value in the $299 Char-Broil Performance XL. The Performance XL has more burners (including a side burner), it cooked more delicious food faster, and it costs a lot less.
Some of the niche features, like the Spirit II's propane scale and its optional integration with the iGrill 3 smart temperature probe are really nice extras. Ultimately, though, they aren't worth spending three hundred dollars more ($400 more if you also buy the $100 iGrill 3). For most people, at least.
Still, it's a pretty grill that stands out from all of the regular stainless steel cookers. But I wouldn't get one unless you're especially keen on its propane scale and optional temperature probe -- and nice range of color finishes to choose from.