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The was quick to heat up initially, taking just 7 minutes and 19 seconds to reach our low fire target temperature (325°F). It was rather slow to reach our high fire temperature, though, taking a rather long 20 minutes and 19 seconds to reach our target of 625°F just above the grilling surface. That's significantly longer than many other grills.
We found good performance in our tests grilling at the low fire setting, with our test hamburgers emerging pretty evenly cooked, and taking about 11 minutes to be fully done.
A good grill should provide a uniform heat across the cooking surface, and we found that the did a good job, with only minor variations in the temperature across the grate.
A good grill should also keep the temperature on the cooking grate constant over time, and again the did a decent job here, with the temperatures that we measured over a 15 minute period varying by a maximum of about 13 per cent.
When we set the to a high fire temperature of about 625°F, we found that it also performed well, cooking our test burgers in about 8 minutes, with about a minute of difference between the time to cook the first one (the one in the top right corner) and the last one (the one closest to the cook).
Running at this higher temperature, the produced a mostly consistent temperature across the cooking grate, but with some hotspots in the middle and left.
The temperature did not vary that much over time, though: we found that it changed by only a small amount over the 15 minutes that we measure temperatures.
A good grill should heat up quickly, but keep the handle and the lid as cool as possible so that you don't burn yourself when opening or leaning against the lid. We found that the did well here, with the temperature of the handle never rising above 100 degrees. lid got significantly hotter, though, which we measured at a maximum of 289 degrees.
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.
Weber claims that the main burners of the can output up to 48,000BTU/Hr, but we measured it at a little below that: 46.967BTU/Hr. However, this is close enough that we would consider the manufacturer's claims as truthful. We also measure the BTU/Hr output of the grill at our low and high flame settings, and calculate how long a typical propane bottle might last. For this grill, we found that a bottle would last about 18 hours on the low fire setting and 9 hours on high.
Most of the controls are located on the front panel, with four large plastic dials for each of the burners. There is no separate ignition control: pushing in and turning the dials triggers the lighter. You then control the level of gas by rotating the large dial counter-clockwise to reduce the gas flow or clockwise to increase it. To turn the gas off, you push the dial in and rotate it fully counter-clockwise until it locks into place.
This control system works well: because the dial requires both a push and a turn to start the grill, you aren't going to accidentally trigger it when you brush against it, and you are unlikely to change the cooking level by accidentally moving the dial while loading the grill. The large dials are quite stiff, though; someone with a limited range of motion might find it more difficult to control than one with smaller dials that require less force to move.
Just above the control dials is an indicator that shows the gas level in the canister when you push the button: a useful feature for making sure you aren't going to run out of gas halfway through a cooking session.
The side burner is controlled with a single dial and igniter button. Like the burner itself, these controls are located underneath a panel that covers the entire burner, so this area can double as a work surface if you aren't using it to cook. These controls are also easy to use,
The is powered by liquid propane gas in a bottle that is stored in the space under the grill. The regulator that controls the flow of gas is permanently attached to the pipe that leads into the grill and side burner, and will work with any standard propane gas tank.
The uses an automatic electronic lighter, which is triggered when you push in and turn the burner control dial.
Weber claims that the main cooking area of the measures . In our tests, we found that the actual usable space is a little less; we measured it at 27.25 by 19 inches, for a total of 517.75 sq in. But we find with most grills that the usable space is a little smaller than the specs, because the claimed number includes areas at the edge that do not get effectively heated.
Above the main cooking area is the warming tray, which measures 26.75 by 5.5 inches, for a total of 147.2 square inches. That should be adequate to warm your buns or to store cooked items before serving.
On the left side of the grill is a large preparation area, complete with a towel rack and hooks where you can hang your grilling tools. The area on the right appears similar at first glance, but a lid lifts up to reveal a side burner for heating a pan. This arrangement is very flexible: you get the choice of two prep areas or one prep area and an additional burner to heat up your beans or boil water.
The design of the grilling rack makes for quick cleanup: the rounded bars of the rack are easy to scrape and scour. Our only issue here is that the rack comes as one large piece, which makes it a little difficult to take off and clean. Other grills offer smaller sections to the rack (such as the 4 parts of the rack for the Broil King Royal 490) that are easier to handle individually. These smaller parts could fit into a dishwasher, while the large single rack of the wouldn't fit into most dishwashers.
Tool Rail - On both of the two side areas, there are rails for hanging grilling implements from, with three lugs for hanging tools at the far end.
Light - A bolt-on LCD light is included, which attaches to the middle of the handle. This could be handy if you are a midnight griller, as it is pretty bright and illuminates the food from above to make it easier to see if it is cooked. We prefer the flexibility of lights that can be moved, though, such as the one on the Vermont Castings 4-burner grill.
With fantastically even heat and temperature, the Vermont Castings edged out a win over the Weber performance-wise, though that doesn't necessarily make it a better grill overall. The Weber offers a side burner, easy assembly, and a $700 savings.
Both grills had even heating and temperature performance. The Char-Broil took less time to reach a high temperature, though the Weber felt much more substantially built and was easier to assemble. Both grills are excellent, but at nearly half the price, the Char-Broil is perfectly adequate.
While the Broil King only sells for a few hundred dollars less than the Weber, that's money well spent. The Weber may lack an included rotisserie, but it offers up better overall performance in the form of even heating surfaces and consistent temperatures. Even outside of cooking ability, the Weber feels more substantial and is easier to put together.
The S-420 is a good grill overall, but it is not a great one: it doesn’t have the performance of some of its more expensive cousins or their long list of features. But it provides good performance for the price, and would be more than adequate for the typical home griller.
The had good, but not outstanding performance. It cooked our test burgers quickly, but they were ready at different times, which makes cooking in batches hard. We also found that the temperature varied over time more than we like to see.
The is pretty easy to use overall, with comfortable controls and a straightforward layout. Cleaning is a little awkward, though, as the cooking grate has to be removed as one large piece.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.