Char-Broil Commercial Series TRU-Infrared Grill (2015) Review

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Char-Broil. All opinions are 100% mine.

Gas grills are much more convenient than charcoal grills as they do not require the preparation or clean-up time. I was drawn toward infrared grills because it combines two of my loves: technology and cooking meat.  Char-Broil produces some of the more inexpensive infrared grills, and their 2015 models have many features and improvements over the grills I have previously used. The Char-Broil Commercial series grills have a patented TRU-Infrared cooking system.  The way this system is implemented prevents flare-ups, and provides even temperatures.

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Description

Char-Broil Commercial Series™ grills: Sold exclusively at Lowe’s, this is a best-selling line of infrared gas grills. It includes two models – a three-burner size and a four-burner.

In 1948, Char-Broil brought the first charcoal grill to market. In the years since, the company has introduced a series of innovations that are now standard among modern grills, always striving to make grilling easier, affordable, and more memorable for the millions of people who barbecue each week.

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Almost 60 years after introducing the first charcoal grill, Char-Broil debuted another innovation every bit as monumental: the TRU-Infrared™ cooking system. It delivers even heat across the entire cooking surface (no more hot and cold spots), juicier food, higher temperatures without flare ups, for restaurant-quality results. All Char-Broil Commercial Series™ grills are equipped with the patented TRU-Infrared cooking system, which is unique to Char-Broil.

On the next page we explain why you should care about infrared grilling technology…

Infrared Grilling Technology

There are a lot of mis-conceptions when it comes to food science, and infrared grilling is largely misunderstood. Normal gas grilling uses convection heat, meaning that a hot current of air surrounds the food, much like a traditional oven.  The hot air must escape, which creates an air current around your food.   This current expedites evaporation of liquids, which means that foods become drier as moisture is wicked from inside the meat to the outside. Infrared grilling is cooking using a radiant source of heat.  The burners in infrared gas grills directly heat a specially-designed piece of metal, which retains and emits radiant heat.  Since the infrared emitters are between the food and the burners, flare-ups do not occur, and air convection does not dry the food.

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The infrared emitters get much hotter than a normal gas grill; I measured around 750 degrees using an infrared thermometer after an initial 10-minute warm-up.  This is perfect for searing steaks and cooking other food quickly. Learn more about Char-Broil’s infrared technology I experienced much juicier grilled meats and larger hamburgers from the Char-Broil infrared grill.  Many people believe that juicier meat is achieved by “searing in the juices”, but this is largely misunderstood.  Searing actually causes more cell damage, which causes more juice leakage. The juicier meat is a result of several factors: reduced air convection and radiant heat waves penetrating directly into the meat. On the next page we unpack the Char-Broil infrared grill…

Grill Features

The Char-Broil Infrared grill looks very rugged and professional.  It certainly has more thoughtful features than any of my previous Char-Broil grills. The unit comes in a very large box with lots of Styrofoam.  Assembling the unit starts with constructing the base, attaching caster wheels, then the sides and then the main firebox.  The firebox and lid is pre-assembled so that step is just dropping in and securing it. The instructions rely on illustrations rather than words. Installing the grill burners and battery compartment are very straightforward.  Some of the parts have pre-drilled screw holes, but they were way too tight so they had to be opened up a little with a drill bit.  To avoid over-tightening I secured all screws by hand. The entire assembly took about 2 hours to complete.

The stainless steel is a higher grade than lesser models, and appears to be the same thickness as Char-Broil’s other commercial line.  With a good cover and proper maintenance, it should endure a generation (or two). The inside of the firebox is where the quality is also greatly improved.  The entire firebox has a durable coating to prevent caking, and is sloped to allow grease to drip into the center drip pan.  The burners are stainless steel, as are the diffusers and infrared grills.  One of the biggest enemies of gas grills are the acids in food drippings, which eventually corrode these metal parts.  The upgrade in steel makes these firebox parts durable, and when you consider that they are protected by the infrared emitters then these parts carry a lifetime guarantee.

firebox burners in firebox firebox burners with dispersion plates

The one-button flame ignition system is greatly improved other Char-Broil lines.  It still uses a single AA battery, however the battery is completely sealed from the weather, and distribution wires terminate at each burner.  Pressing the button sends a spark directly to each burner, so they all light.  The grill also has standard match holes so the burners can be lit from the outside using a campfire match.

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The propane tank has an integrated fuel gauge, which is a nice addition since a separate gauge takes up space and can cost around $20. The knobs have a rubbery feel and have notched grooves to provide tactile feedback when setting the burn level.

parts fuel gauge macro parts side burner knob


Side burner and shelves

The grill also has two stainless steel shelves on the left and right.  The right side contains a brass 3,800 BTU burner, which is covered with a stainless steel lid.  The lid is flush with the rest of the shelf, so it remains functional as an organizer or cooling rack when not in use.  The side burner’s grate is very slick, so light pans slide off easily.  The lid is not removable and sometimes gets in the way or can be blown down by the wind.

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There is ample room for organization and cooling with the two side shelves.  If at least one of them could collapse then its smaller footprint would make this grill more attractive for small patios. The casters on this grill are rather large and rotate completely.  It can take a little maneuvering to get them all aligned in the same direction, so going straight forward or back takes some side motion first.  The front wheel can be easily locked with a foot to keep the grill in place.

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Ceramic-coated iron grills

The dense metal of the cast iron grills mean they heat quickly and retain that heat, which makes for intense grill marks, especially compared with stainless-steel grill plates.  The grates rest on top of the holes of the infrared emitters, so convection heat from the burners is directly straight into the grill.  The iron is also coated with ceramic, which makes cleaning them slightly easier to clean (although cleaning while they are hot is highly recommended).

Testing

In our tests, the grill heated up to around 700 degrees in about 8 minutes.  The ambient temperature (as measured from the lid’s thermometer) did not break much past 250 degrees.  If convection heating is your goal, then removing one or more of the infrared emitters will do the trick. After warming up, meat placed on the grill had a very satisfying sizzle, and very prominent grill marks are easy to achieve.  Meat drippings that normally drop on the gas burners (and cause flare-ups) were caught by the infrared emitters.  The emitters are so hot however, that the grease practically atomizes, which can cause quite a smoke cloud.  I found that I had to move the grill to a location where the wind blew this away from me.

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The infrared emitters distribute heat much more evenly than air.  While there were measurable areas of the grill that were hotter than others (particularly toward the back), they did not vary as widely as the convection-based gas grills I’ve previously used.  We measured a temperature variance of less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit between the hot and normal zones, which we consider very even heating.

Cooking Performance

You do not need to heat the inside like an oven, so this grill is more suited to direct grilling rather than indirect convection.  One advantage of this is that you can grill easily with the lid open without losing any cooking power. Another advantage of the infrared plates is how it prevents flare-ups.  I prepared chicken wings on the infrared grill in about 20 minutes; compared with an hour in the oven.  There were no flare-ups from the chicken skin, so the wings were a perfect crispy brown instead of over-charred blackness.  Usually when I cook chicken on the grill I have to do a quick sear and then move over to a cold part of the grill and finish off using indirect heating, which takes about as long as an oven.

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Cheap hot dogs ended up plumping without getting blisters.  There was no air current going around the dogs to cause this.  They just had very prominent grill marks. I was actually surprised at how prominent the grill marks appeared on steaks.  Food cooked much quicker, but you have to be careful with delicate foods like chicken, potatoes, asparagus, and sugary sauces (like thick barbeque sauce).

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The infrared plates are hot enough to ignite wood chips in short order, but they burn too hot to get the best smoke flavor.  Using a smoker box is better, but not intended for long-term cooking like a true slow smoker. The 3-burner model is a good size for a small deck.  It would take up even less space if the left side shelf could be folded down for storage.

Seasoning the emitters

The infrared plates must be seasoned before first use.  They have machining chemicals that need to be burned off, and seasoning the plates make for a natural non-stick surface, which makes cleaning them easier.  The layer of seasoned oil also helps prevent oxidation. After the first grilling session, the infrared plates took on a black appearance, so they visually blend in with the cast-iron grill.  Since much of the food grease is cooked by these plates, they must be cleaned very frequently; I do this usually right before pre-heating the grill.

Conclusion

I am very impressed with the Char-Broil Commercial Series Grills.  It gets hot enough to sear steaks closer to “restaurant quality”. The 3-burner model has a smaller footprint so it can fit on small decks, and since you’re heating less space there is much less fuel usage. The warming rack not being attached to the lid means that a rotisserie is easy to add, and can install warming rack as needed, or pull it out of the way.

sticker char broil tru infrared sticker commercial

I’ve used cheaper grills before and they all have their problems.  Grills in this price range have thoughtful features:

  • weather-sealed electric push-button ignition system
  • redesigned firebox and drip pan
  • accessory expansion mounting points
  • built-in fuel gauge
  • ceramic-coated iron grills

This Char-Broil Commercial TRU-Infrared grill can be found exclusively at Lowe’s.  It is easily the best I’ve owned, and would put it up against other gas grill in its price range any day.

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Alan is a web architect, stand-up comedian, and your friendly neighborhood Grammar Nazi. You can stalk him on the Interwebs via Google+, Facebook and follow his ass on Twitter @ocmodshop.

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