Review: Pimping my Char-Broil TRU-Infrared grill with a rotisserie robot, and all the fixins
Boing Boing's barbecue gadget reviewer found a good, cheap grill on Amazon. But which add-ons, like an automated rotisserie, are worth buying? He investigates and tells all, right after this bite of chicken.
I recently wrote for Boing Boing about how happy I am with a “budget” grill I bought on Amazon, the Char-Broil Performance TRU Infrared 480 gas barbecue. After using it as-is for a month, I really wanted to branch out and explore the limits of what this sub-$300 grill can do. So I picked up a bunch of accessories for it.
In this update, I'm going to explain which of the available "sold separately" accessories I tried out. I'm also going to share some assembly tips, and finally, tell you which ones I ended up feeling were worth the money and trouble.
The grill I bought comes all set for a plug-and-play rotisserie kit which is sold separately, the Char-Broil Premium Electric Rotisserie ($50 on Amazon at the time of this blog post). That particular kit is designed to fit a few Char-Broil models.
It wasn't clear to me whether or not you actually need the suggested Char-Broil Rotisserie Adaptor For TRU Grills ($12) to make it work with the 480. Turns out it's kind of up to you. The adaptor is simply an extension to give you more clearance from the grill grates if you want or need it (I got like 2.5 inches more).
The setup of the rotisserie kit was really easy.
First, you have to remove the warming rack from the firebox (yes, you must lose the warming rack for frequent, sumptuous rotisserie), and attach a bracket on each side with the provided screws and nuts.
At this point, if you want greater clearance, attach the extension kit brackets to the grill brackets.
Always tighten things slowly to make sure the curved areas line up for the spit to pass through smoothly.
The firebox hood should fully close snugly between the bracket's arms with the spit and motor connected (notice the motor is "upside down").
If you are using the extension, the hood will not close over. The kit provides a brace to rest the hood on. Be careful though: it's cast iron, it stands over the heat, and it does not connect to the grill. It will fall away if you don't hold it while opening the grill hood (Warning: Hot!).
The motor is powered via extension cord (not included), plugged into a grounded outlet. The motor easily slides onto the right side bracket "upside down" (receptor on the bottom) in order to ensure the spit is level across the grates. Char-Broil warns to always make sure the motor is powered off via its switch before un/plugging the unit into the electrical socket, and to keep the side-burner open whenever using the rotisserie.
Next I attached the hooks and handle to the spit and laid it across the grill. One end is pointier than the other, so I plugged the blunt end into the motor (the spear tip will go through your grilling goodies) and setup was complete. The spit should now sit nicely across the grill grates.
After I had it all set up, it was time for some rotisserie chicken. Remember the blunt end gets the motor, so the spit gets: one of the three-pronged stabilizers finger tightened on its screw collar, then your meat pressed into the prongs, then another stabilizer pressed in and tightened (double-up your meat if you like, there's four stabilizers), then wipe the pointed end off, slide on the handle and secure it. You now have a spit of goodness ready to be rotisserie.
The motor is smooth and quiet and you don't really have to think about it other than the cook timing for your particular dish. For $50, you won't be able to do an all-day, 100lb hog-roast, but for everyday home use, the motor is more than sufficient power-wise.
I occasionally came outside to check-on and baste that bad boy. If you know BBQ, you know it's the internal temperature of the meat that counts and for that I picked up the Lovit Scientific Digital Internal Meat Thermometer ($14)
For a nice price you get a lot of features: Hold (keeps the last temp reading in memory), auto shut off (15min), low battery alerts (visual + vibrate), one-touch F°/C° readings and smart design packaging: it doubles as a protective case with strap. But my favorite is that it's long (4.75-inch probe). You can reach into meat with having to get as close as most thermometers. The digital display has clear large numbers which is convenient, and it's quick to give you a reading. I verified its accuracy in the ambient air, boiling water, and slush-ice: all were spot on.
Using in meat, on the grill, the reading was on the slower end (5-10sec.) to finalize (not as quick as the air reading) but that's not an issue me in this case. The real test is meaty results.
I checked the poultry internal temp to confirm the bird was done (165°F). The results were outstanding: without time for a brine, just a quick wet rub, the chicken stays really moist. The rotisserie delivers a crunch crusty skin that is insanely good. The TRU-Infrared disperses the heat very evenly and it showed in the results.
Afterwards, cleanup is easy, the grill itself just takes a wipe-down, and the thermometer, spit and stabilizers get washed just like anything else (the thermometer is waterproof but I wouldn't put it in the dishwasher).
I want this grill to last so protection is important. I needed a good grill cover to keep it safe from the elements and prolong its yummy services. While Char-Broil offers a bunch of covers, I ended up choosing the Classic Accessories 73912 Veranda Barbecue Grill Cover, Medium, 59 Inch ($21 on Amazon). I liked this one best for a bunch of reasons. One is that it's a better fit for the 480: 59 inches wide for the 56 x 21 x 45.5 inch grill (the recommended cover is actually too small).
It is also has a more durable build with double stitching all around stressed parts like the handles. You can tell these are going to last just from the look and touch.
Importantly, it has a vented design which lets air circulate when in storage while keeping most pests out. The ventilation prevents any moisture and/or mold build up.
While most covers have the draw-string to secure it, the Veranda goes further and also adds straps sewn to the corners that clasp to the wheels, keeping the cover literally secured to the grill. I like this feature but haven't seen it on many covers.
One area I kept open for experimentation is the side attachments. The 480 side shelves come with holes ready to attach Tool Hook Bars. But I've decided to think about it and use some S-hooks in the meantime. It's a great DIY solution and lets me think about what I want to attach to the side of the grill more permanently.
BOTTOM LINE: I love this grill, and the accessories only make it better. They pay for themselves quickly by saving me hassle, guesswork and wear-and-tear. And most importantly, they keep me in healthy, and fresh, homemade rotisserie.
You can find the Char-Broil Premium Rotisserie set ($50), the Lovit Scientific Digital Internal Meat Thermometer ($14), and the Veranda Barbecue Grill Cover ($21) at Amazon.com, along with a ton of other Char-Broil grill accessories.
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