[FTC Standard Disclosure] I received a Char-Broil Cruise at no cost for review purposes. All opinions are my own. I receive no compensation for this post, nor do I have any other financial arrangements with Char-Broil or their affiliates.
Product Review – Char-Broil Cruise Grill (MSRP $699)
Earlier this year, Char-Broil introduced their newest, game-changing grill – The Char-Broil Cruise. I was lucky enough to receive a Cruise unit from Char-Broil and have put this new grill through real-life cooking for the past few weeks. Here are my thoughts and experience with this new grill.
Tame The Flame, Change The Game
So what makes this grill a game-changer? Until now, gas grill heat controls have been knobs that control the gas flow at a set rate of consumption. If I set my old gas grill on “medium”, the grill will let the gas flow at that designated rate. That rate of flow doesn’t change regardless of the actual cooking temperature it achieves or factors like ambient temperature or wind.
The Char-Broil Cruise changes this by cooking at a specific set temperature. If I set the grill for 500°f, the Cruise will assess the grill temperature and if it is anything but 500°f, the grill will adjust the gas flow to achieve 500°f and maintain that temperature. No more guessing or adjusting.
|The Char-Broil Cruise automatically adjusts gas flow to maintain a specific cooking temperature.|
Let’s look at the features that I like and the experience I had while cooking some of the typical backyard basics.
Digital Temperature Control and Auto-Calibration
The ability to set a precise cooking temperature and know that the grill will maintain it gives a cook confidence. This is true from beginning backyard chefs to seasoned pros like me. The Cruise has a thermometer mounted inside the cooking chamber that provides feedback to a processor. The processor controls the two-burner tubes to maintain the set temperature.
|The controls are straightforward. The dial controls the temperature setting in 5°f increments.|
|The temperature probe is located at the back of the cooking area and protected by a cage. It uses an algorithm to approximate the temperature across the grill surface.|
Amplifire Infrared Grill System
Amplifire is Char-Broil’s infrared cooking system that:
- significantly reduces flare-ups,
- provides more even heat across the grill surface, and
- yields juicier food.
I previously enjoyed using this same system on the Char-Broil Commercial grill for years when it was known as TRU-Infrared technology. This system uses a stainless steel emitter plate to convert flame to infrared heat. Infrared heat cooks the food without drying it out compared to traditional gas grills that cook mostly with hot air, which dries the surface of the food.
|Together, the emitter plate and cast iron grates function much like the GrillGrates accessory that is so popular on the competition steak cooking circuit.|
A practical and common way to clean your grill after use is to finish with a high-temperature burn to incinerate any stuck-on food debris. The Cruise has an Auto-Clean mode that ramps the temp up to 600°f for a 30-minute countdown and then automatically shuts down. I find that quite useful because I have accidentally forgotten about a grill in burn mode and left it running for hours.
|A clean grill is a happy grill. The Auto-Clean feature incinerates leftover food and drippings by running the grill at high heat and then shutting down when done.|
|I will say that "Auto-Clean" doesn't mean you don't have to do anything. You still need to brush off your grill grates and the emitter plate after the grill cools down from the high temp burn-off. I like to use a nylon brush like the Char-Broil Safer Grill Brush after the grates have cooled down from the Auto-Clean session. Then I spritz the plates and grates with oil and heat it back up to 350°f for 20 minutes to preseason them, but that's just me.|
Porcelain Coated Cast Iron Grates
The porcelain-coated cast-iron grates can provide exceptional heat transfer, which means good sear marks. I prefer plain cast-iron, but those require more care and upkeep than these porcelain coated grates. That doesn’t mean you can abuse the porcelain grates, porcelain can crack.
|The cast-iron grates provide excellent sear marks while the emitter plate evenly cooks the food.|
I prefer grills with a lot of stainless steel because it looks great and makes clean up easier. The Cruise uses stainless steel for its front-facing trim and lid. The side shelves, side panels, and rear panels are painted.
|Stainless steel provides a stylish look and makes the grill easier to clean after a cook.|
|The grill comes with a side-mounted bottle opener which is convenient for opening a cold beverage while grilling.|
The grill has twin 19 ¾” x 12 ½” shelves which come in handy while cooking. I liked the shelves on the Commercial grill better because they were all stainless, which is more resistant to scratches.
|Twin shelves provide ample space for your tools and food while cooking.|
Digital Display with Lighted Indicator System
The Cruise has a digital display that is easy to read from up to 20 feet away. I don’t even have to go outside to check on it. The color-shifting light-ring around the dial gives you “at a glance” information about whether the grill is at temp, coming up to temp, auto-cleaning, or if there is an error.
|Oops....somebody ran out of propane gas!|
Stylish Hood with Glass Viewing Pane
The hood has a glass front that lets you see the food without opening the lid, because as the saying goes, “If you’re looking, then you aren’t cooking.”
|The glass front panel lets you see what is going on without opening the hood. You will need to clean this frequently if you want to keep using it or it will become obscured,|
The trick with grills that require electricity is what happens if the power goes out. The Cruise boasts a backup power supply that houses 4 d-cell batteries, so if the power flickers or goes out entirely, your cook won’t be affected for up to 2 hours.
|The power supply has a USB, so you could also use a power bank with a 5v USB output for extended cooks when no electrical power is available.|
No WiFi, No Problem
This unit is NOT a smart grill that requires connecting to a smartphone via an app. The intelligence is all on board; no mobile phone is needed.
The Cruise is backed up with a 10-year warranty on the burners, 3 years on the lid, firebox, and emitter plates, and 1 year on everything else.
For testing, I have used the Cruise for a little over a month, burning through one tank of propane. I grilled the classics, such as steaks, chicken, burgers, and wings. I cooked in varying weather conditions, including cold temperatures, rain, snow, and strong winds. I cooked using various cooking temps and setups.
Assembly was fairly easy. I put the grill together by myself in just over 1 hour and I didn’t swear an unreasonable amount of times (haha).
|Grill delivery day is always exciting.|
|It took me just over an hour, by myself, to assemble the Char-Broil Cruise.|
Cooks on the Char-Broil Cruise
|The roasting rack worked well for a modified indirect type of heat. I refer to that as "raised direct" in my first book several years ago - not really indirect but sort of cooks like it and can give crispier skin on wings.|
|In the last few minutes, I grilled the wings directly on the grates for a few minutes and glazed them with some sweet golden mustard-based BBQ sauce. These were tasty, as good as I could have done on my other grills.|
|I seasoned the steak with Fire and Smoke Shiitake rub. I made a compound butter with the same rub and a clove of minced garlic.|
|I preheated the grill to 500°f and seared the steak for about 4 minutes per side. The temps held steady and did an excellent job on the steak.|
|As soon as the steak came off the grill, I topped it with some of the Shiitake garlic butter and let it rest.|
|Deliciously medium rare and flavorful.|
|The Cruise is quite the steak cooking machine.|
|The Cruise put clean grill marks on the patty and cooked the burgers flawlessly.|
|Ooey, gooey, perfection on a bun.|
Chicken BLT Sandwich
|Juicy grilled chicken, smoky bacon, lettuce, seasoned tomato, and onion on a grilled brioche bun - now THAT'S a chicken sandwich.|
|The Cruise grill is convenient and competent.|
|Another quick and simple meal from the Cruise.|
Steak Fajita Burritos
|One of the nice things about the digital display is knowing at a glance that the grill is hot and ready to go.|
|Is there any better aroma than onions, peppers, and meat on the grill? I think not.|
|Flawless victory! I could have just eaten it straight out of the tray like this.|
|But we grilled some tortillas and rolled it all up for hand-held yumminess.|
What it does well
- Precision Heat Control – My experience has been that the Cruise Control Technology works and I quickly trusted the grill. When I set a temp, the grill controls the cooking temperature at that temp even in less than ideal weather.
- Infrared Heat - I remain a fan of the Amplifier infrared system, it cooks hot and evenly. If I’m going to use a gas grill, I prefer one with a system like this. It is quite similar to the GrillGrates that I and many steak cook-off competitors have used for years.
- Direct Heat Grilling – It is easy peasy to grill on this thing. Plenty of heat, no flare-ups, nice grill marks, and it handles the weather while cooking. The range of 350°f to 700°f handles all but low and slow smoking. The MAX setting is useful for searing, such as; sous vide and reverse searing.
- No two-zone fire or indirect heat options – As mentioned in the review, The Cruise can’t do two-zone or traditional indirect cooking because there is only one temp control for the entire grill. The Cruise’s solution is to put the warming or roasting rack in the lower position so food isn’t in direct contact with the grates. This worked reasonably well enough but that rack is only about 4.5” x 23.5”, limiting the amount you can cook. If I was using this grill often for indirect heat, I would find a larger grate (about 16” x 23”) and use nuts and bolts to create 1.5” legs to raise it up.
|The single heat control means that the entire grill cooks at the same temperature, no two-zone fires.|
- No side burner – One of the advantages of owning a gas grill is having a side burner since virtually no charcoal grills have one. At this price point, I would expect to see a side burner on the Cruise.
I have often said that the Char-Broil Commercial grill was my favorite grill from a big-box store but with its precise temperature control, the new Char-Broil Cruise gives it a run for its money.