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Consumer Reports rates gas grills in latest tests

Posted Sunday, May 20, 2007

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Weber Genesis E-320, Vermont Castings Signature Series, Blue Ember by Fiesta, and Broilmaster top CR’s ratings for midsized Grills

Yonkers, NY — Two midsized grills costing under $500 outperformed other grills that cost up to three times the price, according to Consumer Reports’ latest reviews of gas grills in the June issue.

The two grills designated as CR Best Buys — the $450 Blue Ember by Fiesta (FG50069-U401), and $300 Char-Broil Commercial Series (463268007) which ranked 84 and 79 respectively — scored higher in CR’s ratings than the $1,100 Frigidaire Gallery (GL30LKEC), which ranked 58.

Among large models, the $1,750 Weber Summit S-650 and the $3,200 Viking T Series (VGBQ300-2RTL) CR tested had high-end features like a smoker burner and a rotisserie spit, but couldn’t outperform an $800 Kenmore (Sears) (16237) grill — the top scoring large model — in grilling tasks.

In the latest CR tests, experts ran 30 liquid-propane grills through weeks of tests and cooked more than 160 pounds of beef, chicken and fish on large, midsized, small, and portable grills. Among midsized grills, Vermont Castings Signature Series (VCS3507P) topped the ratings. The Weber Genesis (E-320) was also highly rated. However, it was recently recalled by the Consumer Products Safety Commission because of a fire hazard with a gas hose. Weber is replacing the hose for free.

Robert Markovich, Home and Yard Editor for Consumer Reports, said now might be a good time to purchase a gas grill. “Rising costs for raw materials such as stainless steel could mean higher prices in the next six months to a year,” he said. “Although prices aren’t dropping, consumers are more likely to find premium features including side burners, rotisseries, and high-quality cooking grates that have trickled down to lower-priced grills.”


How to match size and features to your budget

Basic: $100-$250: Best if you want a small or midsized grill with fewer frills. Features include a painted cart and cast-aluminum firebox and hood. On a small grill, the surface can fit 15 burgers; a midsized grill fits 24 burgers. As prices increase, many have a side-burner and stainless steel trim. But most lack premium, coated-cast-iron grates; longer warranty burners; a rotisserie, and a smoker tray.

Midpriced: $250- $500: Best if you want the benefit of some added features but don’t want to spend too much. These models have more features, and on large grills, larger cooking surfaces that can handle 30 or more burgers at a time. Features include burners backed by longer warranties; premium grates; more stainless steel; and often double doors on the cart.

High-end: $500 to $1,000-Plus: Best if you want a midsized or large grill that’s loaded with features. Features include mostly or all stainless steel construction; lifetime burner warranties; more burners producing greater heat; a fully rolling cart; and extra storage. But paying more than $500 doesn’t ensure better performance.


How to choose the right grill

The June issue of CR offers the following tips to choose the right grill:
  • Don’t be wowed by Btu (British thermal units per hour.) Brands tout Btu. But that figure indicates how much gas is used, not grill temperature, so a higher number doesn’t guarantee faster heating.
  • Test its metal. Look for 300-series stainless. Take a magnet with you while shopping to identify lower grade metals which are usually magnetic.
  • Rate the grates. Grills with heavier stainless-steel or porcelain-coated, cast-iron grates do a much better job searing than thinner steel ones.
The full report is available in the June 2007 issue of Consumer Reports, which is available wherever magazines are sold and portions of the story are available for free online at
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Consumer Reports rates gas grills in latest tests
Consumer Reports rated the $300 Char-Broil Commercial Series gas grill as a Best Buy.
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