Archive | Product Review RSS feed for this section

Weber Q Series Review

15 Sep

WeberQ220Product Description:

Weber started out as a small sheet metal shop in Illinois, and eventually grew into one of the world’s most recognized brands in outdoor cooking.

Historically, the company’s most successful grill has been its iconic charcoal kettle grill (now modernized and sold as the Weber One-Touch series).  But in 2003 Weber launched the unconventional-looking, gas-fueled Q series.  And since then, the Qs convenience and accessibility have propelled it to becoming one of Weber’s top selling lines.

Weber offers 3 different sizes and 2 different configurations in each size.  The smallest version (Q100) comes in a super-portable size and with a manageable 189 sq in cooking surface.  The largest version goes all the way to 393 sq in of cooking surface (the Weber website claims 462 sq in, but the extra 69sq in beyond the Q300 are just an included warming rack).  It also comes with a large stationary cart making it less portable but turning into a solid full-size grill stand-in.  Click here for a full chart comparing all the Q models.

*Weber also offers 2 electric Q grills, but we are not including them in this review.

American Alternative Review:

Weber manufactures and assembles many of its gas grills in Palatine, Illinois.  In this facility, they stamp, roll, and finish all the sheet steel before assembling it into finished grills.  Unlike standard grills however, the Q bodies are made out of cast aluminum and the grill plates are made of ceramic-coated cast iron.  Both of these major components require entirely different machinery, so Weber sources them (and most of the other Q parts) from factories outside the US before assembling these imported parts and packaging the finished grills in the Illinois.

3/5 stars

This good-but-not-great score makes the Q one of the better gas grill options at a lower price (for example it is both cheaper and more American-made than the Weber Spirit Series).

If you have the budget and the space for a full-sized grill though, we’d instead recommend one of Weber’s higher-priced options such as the Genesis or the Summit.

You can check out the Weber Qs here.


Vermont Castings Gas Grills Review

5 Sep

Vermont Castings

Product Description:

Vermont Castings has a 35 year history, and a lot has happened to the company over these 35 years.  Even though the company has undergone many changes, Vermont Castings gas grills are still ranked very highly by Consumer Reports; two models scored 80 out of 100 points, earning Vermont Castings the 3 and 4th spots, right behind Weber’s Spirit Series grills.

Vermont Castings started off making high quality wood and coal burning grills.  Their first products were well received by consumers and were considered top quality.  However, after going through a few bankruptcies and mergers, product reviews reveal that quality has been suffering recently.

As expected with a name like Vermont Castings, the company has two facilities in Vermont – a foundry in Randolph, VT and a large assembly plant in Bethel, VT.  There about 200 employees between these two facilities.  In addition to their Vermont operations, they have manufacturing in Paris, KY, and Mexicali, Mexico with distribution centers in Canada.

It’s lengthy and complicated, but we tried to figure out Vermont Castings’s history.  After their founding in 1974, things went well until the company declared bankruptcy and was taken over by CFM Corp, a company from Ontario, Canada owned by Teachers Private Capital, which is the equity arm of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension system.  Then, CFM declared bankruptcy in 2008 and was bought by the private equity firm Riverside Co. for $42.5 million.  Riverside merged Vermont Castings with Monessen Hearth Systems., a manufacturer of heating products like stoves and fireplaces that they already owned.

As of August 2013, Monesson’s management team was expected to purchase Monessen and Vermont Castings from Riverside.  Hopefully, this is the end of all the turnover Vermont Castings has recently experienced.

American Alternative Review:

monessen logo

Vermont Casting began their business by making air-tight stoves.  Currently, their core competency seems to be in wood and charcoal grills, but in an effort to expand business, they also make infrared and gas grills.  Despite not being core products, their 300 and 323 series grills are highly ranked by Consumer Reports.

Finding a way to contact Vermont Castings was difficult, but once we got a hold of them, their customer service representative was supremely helpful.  Most of the grill is made from US-sourced materials.  Exceptions to this include valves that are from Spain and electronics/wiring from China.  Aside from these components, almost all the metal in Vermont Casting grills are from US-sources.  The stainless steel is from US suppliers.  The cast iron is from recycled brake drums and engine blocks sourced from US-based recyclers. This surprised us since most other grill manufacturers get their cast iron grates from overseas.

All the metal parts are formed in the US, and pack out and assembly happens domestically as well.  The company is based in Kentucky and was recently bought by a US-based management team.  With all this, Vermont Casting has earned a respectable score from us.

4.5/5 stars

Vermont Castings grills got good marks from us, but be forewarned that they are not cheap.  Many models cost more than $1,000.  You can check out some of their older models here and here.

Weber Spirit Series Grills Review

13 Aug

spirit grill pic

Product Description:

Weber started out as a small sheet metal shop in Illinois, eventually growing into one of the world’s most recognized brands in outdoor cooking.  Now, in addition to its iconic kettle grill (now modernized and sold as the Weber One-Touch series), Weber offers a number of larger full-size gas grills.

The Spirit Series is Weber’s entry-level line of grills, and they come in a number of different configurations.  Here’s a little chart showing how it breaks down.

spirit chartAnd beyond these, which all feature a porcelain-enameled shroud, there is an S-210 model.  It is exactly like the E-210, except it features a stainless steel shroud.

American Alternative Review:

Many of Weber’s grills are made in one of their two factories in Illinois out of mostly American-made parts and materials.  The Spirit Series grills are not.  They used to be made in the US, but to cut costs, they were moved to a factory in China (the plant is still owned and operated by Weber though).  All of the parts and materials are also sourced from overseas.

The grills were still designed and made in the US though.  And repair & refurbish are also in the US, so if you decide to be a refurbished model, it will be slightly more “made in the US” on account of the additional labor.

For new Spirit Series Grills though 1.5/5 stars

You can check it out here, but if you’re interested in this product, we’d instead recommend one of Weber’s higher-priced grill lines like the Genesis or Summit.

Broilmaster H-series Grill Review

31 Jul


Broil /v/ to cook by direct exposure to radiant heat (from Merriam-Webster)
Master /n/ an artist, performer, or player of consummate skill (from Merriam-Webster)
Broilmaster /n/ a US company with over 40 years of history making high quality grills

Product Description:

Despite what the name suggests, Broilmaster grills are good for more than just broiling.  They’ve been known to be excellent for grilling and barbecuing too!  The company started in 1966 with the G-1000, an American-made heavy duty gas grill.  They’ve built upon the success of that model, and while you can buy Broilmaster charcoal and infrared grills today, they are still best known for their gas grills.

Broilmaster makes theirs grills in a tiered system.  You can buy an H-Series, a Premium Series, or a Super Premium Series gas grill.  After reviewing their costs and features, we decided to focus on the H-series line of grills as we think this would be the most desirable to the widest range of people.

Broilmaster’s first grill, the G-1000, rolled off the assembly line in 1966.  In the early 2000’s, Broilmaster was acquired by Empire Comfort Systems, a company that produced different types of gas-powered heating systems.  It seems like gas grills was a perfect fit for their portfolio.

Empire Comfort Systems started in Belleville, Illinois, where they still reside.  Henry Bauer started the company in 1911 as a sheet metal shop, but then incorporated it with his family in 1932 as the Empire Stove Company.  Their first products were sheet metal stoves that ran on gas.  During World War Two, they contributed to the war effort by making smoke bomb casings.  The company is still run by the Bauers today, and they make grills, heaters, fireplace inserts, and fireplaces.

broilmaster logo

American Alternative Review:

What immediately caught our eye about Empire Comfort is their policy of giving preference to North American Suppliers, wherever possible.  This may be because grills are large and heavy products, so it makes financial sense to source locally and save on shipping.  Regardless, the effect is more of their stuff in made in America.

Broilmaster’s/Empire Comfort’s customer support team was extremely helpful in providing us with insight into their company.  The casting for the grills are done in Wisconsin.  Like we saw with charcoal grills, the grates are imported from overseas.  The carts and side shelves are completely made in Belleville, and packaging for the grills comes from St. Louis.  For H-Series grills, the burners are imported from overseas, but the nicer Premium Series has Illinois-made burners.

All the components of the grills come together in Belleville where it is assembled and packaged.  The customer support representative went out of their way to emphasize how long employees have been with the company.  People stay with the company for multiple decades, with a customer service manager who has been there for 53 years!

With a lot of history, loyal employees, and lots of US-made components, Broilmaster’s grills receive a very good score.

4.5/5 stars

The H-Series is comprised of 36,000btu base and 40,000btu base grills on different accessories.  Not all are available online, but you can check out a base and a grill on Amazon.

%d bloggers like this: