We test how quickly the grills can heart up by measuring how long it takes the grill to reach two critical temperatures just above the grate: the low fire temperature of 325°F and the high fire temperature of 625°F. We found that the was pretty quick at reaching the low fire temperature (it reached it in 7 minutes and 25 seconds), but was very slow to reach the high fire temperature, taking 25 minutes and 5 seconds to get up to temperature. This is probably due to the heavy construction of the grill: it is made of much heavier metal than most.
Our tests involve cooking a number of meat patties at the low fire temperature for 5 minutes a side, then measuring the temperature of the inside of the patty to determine how long they would take to cook. We found that this grill performed well here, cooking quite quickly and uniformly, with the range of cooking times being between 10 minutes 52 seconds and 12 minutes 20 seconds. This even cooking means that you can cook large batches of food at once without having to constantly check if each item is done: they should all be cooked at the same time. For this grill, we were able to fit eight patties on the cooking grate.
As our cooking tests show, this grill has good uniformity at low temperature, with only one issue: the bottom left corner of the cooking area was a little cooler than the rest of the space.
The temperature of the cooking area was also pretty consistent over time, with only minor variations in the temperature across the cooking area.
We also found good performance from this grill at our high fire setting, with our patties cooking in just over 8 minutes, and with only 16 seconds between the cooking times for all of them. That's a very impressive result that will delight anyone who has to cook a huge pile of burgers for a party.
When we measured the temperature across the cooking area, we also found that it was very consistent, with the exception of the far left of the grate, which was somewhat cooler than the rest of the area. This is probably caused by an irregularity in the pattern of the gas burners.
The temperature was not as consistent as we like to see: we did see some variations in the temperature over time that might cause issues with cooking some foods effectively.
The handle of the did not get overly hot: even after the grill had been running at the high fire setting for an hour, it was still under 100°F. The case did get rather hot, though: in use, we measured the surface of the lid at an average temperature of 298°F, with some parts rising to above 300°F. Although it should be okay to use the handle without a glove, we would strongly recommend the use of a good safety glove in case your hand accidentally brushes against the metal of the lid.
The image below was taken with an infrared camera to show the heat levels of the lid. The numbers at the bottom indicate the temperature scale.
The heat output of grills is measured in BTU/Hr (British Thermal Units per hour), and the higher this number, the more heat it can output. Vermont Castings claim a BTU output of 54000BTU for this grill, but we measured it as being a little lower at 51,969BTU/Hr. That's lower than what they claim, but it still within the allowable range for their number to be accurate.
From these numbers, we would estimate that a typical 20oz propane bottle will last about 17.1 hours on our low fire setting, and 8.1 on our high fire setting.
The controls for this grill are located on the front panel, with the ignition and lighting controls on the left side. Each of the four burners gets an individual dial, plus there is a dial for the back rotisserie burner in the center of the control panel.
The is powered by propane from a bottle located under the grilling surface. This cannot be converted to run on natural gas, but a similar, dedicated natural gas model (the VCS401SSN) is available.
An electronic lighter is included, which is triggered with a small button on the left side. We found this to be reliable and had no issues with misfires. The ignition is not automatically triggered when you turn the dial on, though.
The cooking area measures 28 by 17 inches, for a total of 476 square inches. The grate is constructed of three parts, which makes each small enough to take off and clean individually. These sections are made of porcelain coated cast iron, so they are can be washed in a dishwasher.
The warming area is a tray located above the cooking grate. It measures 26.75 by 9.5 inches, for a total area of just over 254 square inches. It is made of a simple cast iron grate in one piece, so it is harder to remove and clean than the main cooking grate.
Cleaning this grill is relatively easy: the main grate comes off in three sections, and these are small enough to wash in a bucket or dishwasher if required. The sear plates that cover the burners are also easy to lift off and remove. Under the grill is a small grease tray that catches the grease falling from the food. This is rather small, but it easy to remove, wash and replace.
Rotisserie Burner - This grill includes a separate rotisserie burner, located behind the main cooking area. An optional rotisserie arm and electric motor is available to drive the arm to rotate the food. This could be useful if you have a fondness for rotisserie chicken or the like, but it is not really big enough to hold an entire pig on a spit.
Light - an LED light on a flexible arm is located on the left side, which can be rotated to illuminate the main cooking area. This produces a lot of light, and allows for late night grilling.
Both grills offered strong performance, but the Vermont Castings grill had the edge, with more consistent temperatures and cooking times. The Weber is by no means a bad grill, however, and it's also much cheaper than the Vermont Castings model. If you don't mind losing a bit of performance to save money, the Weber is a good pick.
The Char-Broil is an excellent grill, though it couldn't match the Vermont Castings' even heating. Still, for a third of the price of the Vermont Castings, most grillers would gladly choose the Char-Broil, which also includes a side burner.
Though the Broil King is far less expensive than the Vermont Castings grill, it can't match the pricier grills far superior performance. On nearly every measure, the Vermont Castings offered a better grilling experience: more even temperatures over longer periods of time, a uniformly hot grate and easier assembly. The Broil King does have a rotisserie and side burner, however, and many infrequent grillers may overlook its shortcomings for its more attractive price and better features.
The VCS401SSP is a serious grill for serious grillers. It offers great performance, has a built in rotisserie and a light. But you are paying a lot for this performance: this is twice as expensive as many other grills that may provide performance that is nearly as good.
We found excellent performance from this grill, with quick consistent cooking across a large cooking area. Our only real complaint was that the grill took a long time to heat up to higher temperatures, with the grill taking over twice as long as some others.
The is a very easy to use grill, with simple, straightforward controls and a handy light to illuminate the food when grilling on a late summers evening. It lacks a side burner, however.
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