This budget-friendly grill is a cookout centerpiece

Grilling season is upon us and if you are looking for a new grill there are dozens of options out there. We tested four gas grills at the CNET Smart Home. I spent most of the two weeks grilling on the Char-Broil Performance XL. This five burner grill offers a lot for the money. It looks great, runs well, and at $ 299, it was the cheapest grill we tested. I would recommend the Char-Broil Performance XL to both beginners and grillmasters.

To read: What kind of grill should you buy?

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The Char-Broil Performance XL is a well-priced five burner option for beginners and seasonal grills.

Chris Monroe / CNET

Design

The Char-Broil Performance XL has a classic look with its stainless steel design and black details. The grates above the five stainless steel burners are made of cast iron coated with rust-resistant porcelain. A temperature indicator on the lid shows the internal temperature of the grill. A cabinet under the double door grate houses the liquid propane tank and the grease tray. This grill uses a standard 20-pound liquid propane tank and cannot be converted to use natural gas.

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The Char-Broil Performance XL is a five burner gas barbecue with porcelain coated cast iron grills.

Chris Monroe / CNET

The Char-Broil Performance XL includes a convenient side burner for reheating side dishes or sauces. Char-Broil warns that using the side burner with a pot larger than 6 liters may exceed the weight limit of the burner shelf. A full 6-quart plate is pretty large, so I expect most people won’t be bothered by a weight restriction there.

I have some problems with the design of this grill. Knob controls may feel more robust. The quality isn’t totally lacking, but unlike other grills we’ve tested, there’s no indicator for an average heat setting. It is also a little too easy to turn the burner on and off completely. Other grids we tested, such as the Broil King Baron S520, had a nice sturdy capture point to prevent the knob from turning past its highest setting. The Char-Broil Performance XL also does not offer any type of tool holder as we have seen on the Weber Spirit II E-310 and Broil King Baron S520 we tested.

Our lab manager, Steve, assembles the Char-Broil Performance XL.

Chris Monroe / CNET

Aside from the minor design complaints, I enjoyed cooking on the Performance XL. The temperature gauge made it easy to track low heat and long cooking times for dishes like ribs and chicken, and since the grill has five burners, you can choose a two, three or three, two configuration for indirect heat.

As we have tested

We tested our grills by cooking chicken, ribs and burgers. This allowed us to compare medium indirect, low indirect, and direct high grilling conditions on all four grids. The test involved temperature probes inserted into each piece of meat (two per chicken, one in each breast) and connected to a data logger and a computer program to monitor the temperature in real time. For the chicken, we needed an internal temperature of 165 degrees for food. For burgers and ribs, the target temperature was 145 degrees. Once each piece of meat on the grill reached its food safe temperature, we removed the meat, recorded the time, and let it sit before giving it a good old taste test. Here’s how it went with the Char-Broil Performance XL

Chicken

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