Excellent design; well made; wish it was all stainless
Jun 28, 2007 (Updated Jun 15, 2012)
Review by stuarth
Rated a Very Helpful Review
We were looking for a grill to replace our 5 year old, stainless Nexgrill unit which, although still functional, was starting to have problems and was never very good at grilling. The Nexgrill was made completely out of stainless 304 (the good stainless- non-magnetic), but the poor design left much to be desired. It did teach me a lot about what makes a good- and a bad- grill. For our next grill, I was willing to spend a bit more to get one that would cook well, and (hopefully) last a good long time.
Recommend this product?
Stainless grates were a must-have on my priority list. These should last a lifetime based on my experience with the Nexgrill which had them- they showed no wear or damage after 5 years of use.
Steeply pitched, stainless steel flavorizer bars, at least 1-1/2" below the grates was another. If they're too flat, or too close (or worst, both- like the Nexgrill), drippings will not roll off the bars and the resulting flare-ups will burn your food if left unattended. The pitch on the Weber bars is very steep (an inverted "V"), and the bars are made of relatively thick stainless (304) so they should last for years.
Next on the list was even heat distribution to avoid hot/cold spots across the grates (this was another one of the Nexgrill failings). Consumer Reports rated a similar Weber design (the E310) as "very good", and past CR articles have consistently rated Webers at or near the top in this regard so without being able to test the grill in the store, this was my next best source for this information. My experience so far is that this is the most even-heating grill of all that we've had.
Natural gas is what I was looking for as opposed to liquid propane. This was as much for cost savings over the long run as it was for the convenience of not having to run to the store a few times per year to fill/replace the tank. The downside of course is that the grill is tethered to within 10' of the gas outlet, and it cost me about $120 and 6 hours of time to tap into and run the ~55' of piping necessary. It was worth it. A tank of propane will last about 10-15 hours depending on your temperature settings. If you decide to use a rotisserie (I did- more on that below), you'll be cooking about 3 hours or more for each meal. I would need to replace the propane tank every 3 months or so based on our current frequency of use, which would be a pain.
Next on the list was all stainless construction, including the burners. This is one area where the S-310 is weak. The main body is a cast aluminum box with a hinged cover made with stainless on the top, front and back; and cast aluminum sides. The frame is made of enameled steel with painted sides, bottom, and back. The front doors are stainless, as are the side work surfaces/shelves. Enameled steel seems to hold up well if cared for, but at this price, I would have expected more. The burners are stainless steel however and I expect that they will hold up well.
The cooking surface area is fairly large at 507 square inches with three long burners running across from side-to-side. The flavorizer bars (5 total) also run across the width of the box and completely cover the burners to protect them from the drippings.
Burner controls are mounted on the right side shelf, with the electronic igniter close at hand. This is a battery igniter that keeps sparking for as long as you hold the button down- much preferred over the push-push-push, manual igniters which seem to stop working after a year or two.
The work surfaces on both sides are large, although the controls on the right side limit the use on that side.
Assembly was fairly straight forward and at a non-rushed pace, took about 2-1/2 hours. Instructions were fairly easy to follow although a bit more detail would have been appreciated. No shortages of parts- always a good thing!
Weber also put some thought into maintenance. The entire bottom of the burner box is a porcelain-over-steel, slide out tray that funnels drippings into a disposable, ~5"x7" aluminum tray. This allows for quick and easy disposal of the debris that typically ends up caking the bottom of the grill, and makes clean up a breeze relative to any other grill that we've had. Smart design. One suggestion: I've lined the tray with aluminum foil so that all I need to do is change the foil out instead of cleaning out the tray/funnel. This has worked well with only minimal cleaning of the tray required for drippings that make it past the overlapping seams in the aluminum foil.
We had about a dozen friends over for a 4th of July BBQ, and I thoroughly enjoyed grilling on the Weber. I've found the heat distribution to be excellent- food cooks consistently with the exception of a bit of extra heat on the left edge where a small burner tube runs front to back to light the middle & rear burners. Only the front burner lights with the igniter so you need to make sure you light that one first.
7/25/07 Update- A minor design issue has surfaced. The side shelves have decorative holes on the inner side, next to the grill box. Anything that drips through these holes will fall onto the frame, and some of this will make it's way into the lower cart area. This could/should have been designed out at Weber. It doesn't detract from the performance, but it is a disappointing oversight by the design team.
5/10/08 Update- After 10 months, I'm still very pleased with this grill, and am glad that I bought it when I did. Since then, the price has gone up $100, or about 14%.
I cleaned out the grill about three months ago, and was quite pleased with the ease of the task, and the way that it's held up. The aluminum foil on the drip pan did it's job and after a quick wash with soap and hot water to remove some congealed grease, the pan looks like new.
There is some discoloration on the aluminum sides of the firebox, but overall the grill still looks great. It does reside on a covered patio so it's not exposed to direct rain, and I keep it covered when not in use. The grates clean easily being stainless, and the controls continue to work fine. If you're willing to spend more for a grill that will last, I highly recommend this grill. If you will not be moving the grill and can do so, I would also highly recommend biting the bullet and installing a natural gas line. It's great not having to worry about whether the tank is nearing empty and/or keeping a spare around, "just in case".
I added a rotisserie a month ago, and it functions well. I initially bought a Weber rotisserie, but returned it and bought a Charmglow unit for a substantial savings ($80 Weber, $45 Charmglow). The Weber version was designed specifically for the S300 series, but paradoxically, was not listed as an accessory on the Weber website. The Charmglow did require some modification to fit properly, but it came with four stainless steel, four-prong forks for holding food on the rod vs. the Weber's two chromed, two-prong forks. The spit rod is also stainless (vs the Weber's cheaper chromed steel) and revolves on two stainless supports that mount on the side of the firebox. Although I did have to drill two holes on each side of the firebox, it was easy to do. The Weber version had just one support that mounts using the existing holes on the right side of the firebox (to support the motor drive), but the spit rod turns directly on the aluminum of the firebox which I thought was a poor design, bound to wear the aluminum over time if used frequently. The Charmglow motor drive housing is also stainless steel (although of the cheaper, magnetic type) vs. the Weber's plastic housing. We have used the rotisserie several times now to cook whole chickens and it works flawlessly. Moisture does accumulate on the inside of the hood, and ends up dripping onto the side work surfaces at the back, but it's an easy clean up.
Over a year now, and the grill is holding up well. The price is also up another $100 now so I'm glad that I bought when I did. Rotisserie cooking generates quite a bit of drippings which need to be emptied more frequently. The removable drip pan makes for easy cleaning, the stainless grates require little scrubbing, and the steep-sided heat distributing flavorizer bars never build up much "gunk".
6/11/10 Update- Three years with the grill, and it has help up very well. Zero issues at this point with everything working and holding up very well. Could not be more pleased with this grill!
6/15/12 Update- The grill is now 5 years old and has held up exceptionally well. Based on the condition after 5 years, I would expect to still be using this 10 years from now. I do keep it covered under a covered patio, and protect the drip pan with foil which undoubtedly helps. Still, this is one solidly built grill.
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Amount Paid (US$): 650 (w/disc)
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