Friday, March 20, 2015

Product Review: Char-Broil CB500X Portable Grill

I teased the review of this grill in my last post when I was grilling skirt steak for a salad using the Char-Broil CB500X Portable Grill.

Char-Broil CB500X Product Review

One of the perks of being a Char-Broil All Star is that each Spring, I get a package of grills and gear as part of their sponsorship*.  For a griller, it's like Christmas morning when the shipment arrives.

Not pictured here is the Char-Broil Commercial 3 Burner grill with TRU-Infrared technology which is coming directly from Lowe's, the exclusive retailer.

The CB500X immediately caught my attention and I have already put it to work several times this week.  It is about as stylish as Dad's old metal tool box so why do I like it so much?  Because it is simply well made, has well designed features, and has a variety of potential uses as a portable grill.

Well Made
There isn't a lot to the CB500X and that simplicity is the beauty of it.  Assembly is straight forward and takes about 15 minutes. The first thing you notice is the heft, because it is made from heavy gauge metal.  Some portables are flimsy but not this dude, he's built like a tank and will handle the abuse that comes with grilling on the move.  Also, what it lacks in the style department it makes up for in functionality.  That square shape means you have more head room from edge to edge, so you can actually cook indirectly on this portable grill.

The CB500X compared to the two portable grills that I have been using.
L to R:  Weber Smokey Joe, Char-Broil CB500X, Bodum Fyrkat
Well Designed Features
  • The CB500X has almost 100 more square inches of space than these two.  It's what I would call a "full size portable" versus a compact models that I have been using.
  • It has an adjustable 3 position charcoal tray to give you more control over direct heat.  I think this is my favorite feature because of the flexibility it gives you.  Position it an inch or so from the grate for searing (steaks, chops) or drop it all the way down if your are roasting (half chicken, pork roasts).
  • The CB500X sports an access door for adding wood or fuel when the coal grate is set at its lowest level.
  • The cooking thermometer is a plus as it is something you don't see on a lot of the small portable units.
  • A slide out tray for ash removal makes it easy to keep the grill clean.
  • Heavy duty cast iron grates help stabilize cooking temps and leave the tale tell sear marks of grilling.
  • Dual slide vents allow for better control of cooking temps and air flow.

The adjustable charcoal tray lets you control how close the radiant coals are to the food.  For example, we cook skirt steak as close to the coals as possible so the outside is charred and the inside, medium rare.  For bone in chicken pieces, you lower the coal tray to cook the meat evenly all of the way through.

Char-Broil CB500X portable grill
The access door let's you add wood or coal during a cook without letting all of the heat escape through the top.

Many portable grills don't have a thermometer included so you are just guessing about cooking temps.

Cast iron grates, CB500X
Cast iron grates are an instant upgrade.  These will last forever as long as you take care of them.

This was supposed to be a picture about the dual slide vents but now all I can see is a poor surprised face. My grill looks startled. 

Variety of Uses
With it's size, construction, and design, the CB500X is perfect for a lot of things.  My first thought was how great this would be for tailgating, it doesn't take up much space but has so much space for cooking.  It would be also be ideal as a grill for a couple just starting out.  Camping?  The CB500X is your grill! I know I'll take it along to BBQ competitions for cooking our meals.

Is that to say this grill is perfect?  Of course not, no grill is perfect for everyone.  There are a couple of things that potentially could be an issue. 
  • The charcoal grate seems a little bit "lighter duty" than the rest of the heavy gauge construction.  I'm tempted to place a piece of heavy gauge expanded metal on top of the coal grate to make the grate last longer.
  • As good as they are, any cast iron grates can become a liability if neglected.  This isn't a defect, it's just a fact.   If you ignore your grill for a month or two at a time, these grates will rust on you.  The best "maintenance" I have seen for cast iron grates or really any grill is frequent use.
So overall, I'm very happy with the Char-Broil CB500X so far.  It may be portable but it isn't undersized or underpowered.  It is well suited for its intended purpose and I recommend it if you need a compact or portable grill.

Another perk of being on the All Star team is I can give you the hook up.  If you want to buy this or any Char-Broil cooker or accessory through their online store, I can get you a 15% discount - just use the coupon code B15NT.  I don't get any commission from it, it's just a discount for you.

Char-Broil Live Post - March
Can a person have too many grills?  Probably.  But I also believe that there are plenty of great reasons that a person can need more than one grill.  In fact, that was what my last post was over at Char-Broil Live - Why Everyone Needs a Second (or third) Grill.  I'd greatly appreciate it if you click on the link and give it a read.   

*[FTC standard disclosure] While I do get sponsorship support from Char-Broil, I'm under no obligation to post reviews about the gear.  If I am talking about it here, it is on my own time and it's because I like it.