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June 2, 2010 | Posted By: Troy Redington
Excuse the long sappy introduction - BBQ is a sensitive subject.
In a past life, I was apparently a BBQ Guru. By past life I mean '3 or 4 years ago.' By BBQ Guru - I mean 'really enjoyed it immensely and excelled at it more than the average backyard griller.' I was no where near the level of Steven Raichlen, but that didn't prevent me from trying. Unfortunately, a fail of epic proportions took away my BBQ mojo and sadly, I lost all interest in backyard cooking.
Late last summer, about one year after throwing away my Char Griller Super Pro - which I LOVED btw, I started feeling the urge to grill again. Nothing extreme, just steaks or meat on a stick type things.
After thinking about it all winter, this Spring I decided (begged my wife) to buy another grill. As much as I loved my Char Griller, I couldn't buy another one. The combination of buying something that I already threw away once and the fact that it took me 3 hours to put that heifer together convinced me to buy something different.
I've heard over and over again that Weber products last forever, so I went for it. I went with the Performer for its easy lid opening system, the touch'n'go ignition, and the giant work surface.
I quickly learned that there were no bargains for this grill. Which sucks, because I'm
I'm unhandy. I'm known for over-tightening screws and bolts to the point of them breaking or stripping. I tend to rush things, lose parts, or put parts on backwards due to unclear instructions, etc. Needless to say, I was a little bit hesitant about putting this beast together. I was pleasantly surprised how easy the assembly was though! The instructions were clear enough to prevent any accidental part swapping. I was able to do everything by myself. I was missing ONE single screw though, the one that held the two pieces of plastic together on the lid's handle. I called Weber, and they sent a whole new handle assembly FedEx Next Day Air. Way to go Weber!
One Touch Ignition
I was amazed at how easy it was to light the charcoal with this feature. You can pile your charcoal right on the middle of the charcoal grate or use the included charcoal baskets. Turn on the gas, push the red button, wait 5-minutes, turn off the gas, wait another 5 or 10 minutes and your coals are ready to cook. No stinky lighter fluids, no hot chimneys or flying embers of newspaper, no singed eyebrows.
Hinged Cooking Grate
The cooking grate has hinged flaps on both sides. This makes it super easy to add fresh charcoal to the already burning charcoal when you're doing longer, indirect cooking or smoking. They come in VERY handy - as you can add charcoal without having to move your meat. Initially I had concerns of the 22.5 inch surface being too small for big cookouts, but I think it will be fine for MOST grilling.
Giant Work Surface
I'm not one of those TV griller chefs who does all the prep work right there by the grill. (I also pronounce 'Cilantro' the normal way) That just seems more difficult than it is worth. However, the attached work table is GREAT for setting down plates of raw or cooked food, glazes, seasonings, wood chips, beers, fire extinguisher, etc. It is huge and relatively scratch and heat resistant. On its front edge there are 3 hooks for hanging your tools.
Contained Ash Pan
I remember as a kid, the ash pan of my Dad's Weber grill would often fall off and go blowing around the neighborhood. It was basically a thin piece of aluminum shaped like a hubcap that clamped into the undercarriage of the kettle to catch ash and glowing charcoal embers that fall through the vents. Not much has changed with the flimsy little hubcap ash pan of the lower end Webers, but the Performer and a few others have a sweet ash pan that is completely enclosed. When it is full, just lift the pan's handle and turn to release it. If you find yourself having to empty the ash pan too often, try switching from Kingsford to a lump charcoal. better flavor, longer burning, less ash.
Tuck-Away Lid Holder
I'm glad I wasn't the one who had to name this feature. This thing is the weird looking hoop on the left side of the kettle. It is also my favorite feature. No more trying to hang the kettle lid by its little hooky thingie. No more setting it down on the ground and hoping your kids or dog don't lick the hot enamel. No more holding it in one hand while you try to balance a plate on your arm and pull steaks from grates with your other hand. No no, with the Tuck-Away Lid Holder, just gently lift the lid and shove it to the left a bit. It slides right into this sleevy thingie and out of the way. It's like a hinge, but it's not.
Honestly, I had very little hope for this feature. A plastic trashcan looking thing that clips to the cart and has a wire preventing it from opening too far? It looks and feels flimsy. However...it works. I keep a couple 5 pound bags of lump charcoal in there at all times. It opens with ease and stays shut on its own. The charcoal stays dry too.
The Performer model comes with a thermometer built in to the lid. This is GREAT for monitoring temperature without opening the lid and feeling with your hand. Every time you open the lid, you add 15 minutes of cooking time (so I've heard.) The temperature gauge might not be too useful when you're cooking burgers, brats, or steaks, but with longer cooks it is very handy.
Overall I'm VERY happy with this grill. It is solid, not shaky at all. The wheels seem durable. The steel grate is easy to clean, but harder to get awesome grill marks than the cast iron grates of my old Char Griller. I have been thinking about replacing them with these cast iron grates