Review: Char-Broil Kettleman BBQ
Char-Broil is a US company, who have been manufacturing BBQs since 1948. Like a lot of manufacturing these days, the grills are made in China.
Weber seems to have a dominance in the UK market when it comes to kettle BBQs. I own 2 Weber GBS BBQ’s and they are great bits of kit. They have their faults, but as a quality charcoal BBQ to cook on, I think they definitely up there.
One thing I would love to be able to do is to recommend other manufacturers. The more competition there is will only be a good thing for consumers as manufacturers will have to innovate and provide quality products in order to sell products. The Kettleman from Char-Broil has attempted to do some things differently, which I will be highlighting in this review.
Tim (@silverbackgrill} wrote a review on this website on the Napoleon Pro 22, which also is highly recommended by @kungfubbq. Nathan has just finished his review on his website. It sounds like a great kettle BBQ and should be among the main contenders when considering a kettle BBQ.
Unboxing and Assembly
The Kettleman comes in a fairly large box, with all the components very well packaged.
Like the Tepro San Francisco I reviewed last year when unpacking the main body of the Kettleman felt very solid. I think this was the easiest kettle BBQ I have ever built. It took me around 25 minutes to assemble, and I didn’t need help from anyone to put it together.
The build quality feels good, especially the bottom and top bowls. Like the Weber GBS, it sits on 3 legs. Two at the back have wheels with a supporting leg at the front. However, it doesn’t feel quite as sturdy as the Weber.
The most difficult bit when assembling was putting the hinged lid on, but again this is not really that difficult. The lid is also a feature I really like as when you are tending to food it is really easy just to flip open the lid. It opens to just over a 90-degree angle so is well out the way when moving food around.
The BBQ has a very modern look when assembled, and more so when stood next to the Weber GBS. Although it is round, when it is closed is has a bit more of an elliptical shape, which I really like.
The Char-Broil Kettleman BBQ has a good set of feature. I think Char-Broil have tried to innovative with some of the design features, some that I think has worked really well and others less so.
Super-Sized Vent: A super-sized vent on the lid opens to let heat out and closes to decrease cooking temperatures. I do seem to be able to get the temperature really high on the BBQ. The vent is positioned in the middle of the lid which makes good sense. It works well although I it has stuck for me a couple of times where I have been unable to move it.
Removable Ash Bowl: one of my bug-bears with BBQ’s is the ash catcher systems. On both the Weber GBS and Tepro San Francisco kettles they both have faults in this area. However, I really like the one on the Kettleman. It has a fairly shallow tray which easily clips into the bottom of the BBQ to catch any ash. It feels really secure but is so easy to remove and slot back in. Granted it doesn’t have the easy-clean system but it doesn’t take much to remove the grates to knock the ash into the catcher.
No-Fall-Through Grate: this is a unique feature on the Char-Broil Ketltleman. A porcelain-coated no-fall-through cooking grate keeps food on top, prevents flare-ups and distributes heat evenly. This really does help prevent flare-ups and also does stop food falling through. I think this could be great for people who are new to BBQ.
Lid-Mounted Temperature Gauge: I still need to test how accurate this. As a general observation it does register very high temperatures.
Big Wheels: Easily move your grill around your backyard or patio. The wheels are slightly smaller than the Weber and Tepro, but work perfectly fine and are on a par with other kettles I have cooked on.
TRU-Infrared Cooking Technology: Cook your food evenly and with less flare-ups, using infrared technology. You’ll get juicier food every time. I didn’t get these grates with the version I am testing. I have used these on one of their gas models and they work really well. Again, I would say this would be a great addition for someone just starting to get into BBQ.
Air vents in the bottom bowl: This is not actually a feature Char-Broil talk about in their material. On the bottom bowl there are not any vents you can open and close to control the airflow. Instead there are holes all around the circumference of the bowl. These are approximately 2-3 inches apart, and then inside the bowl is a lip so the air gets pushed downward first. Personally, I am not keen on this as it reduce an element of control for me. Also, at the end of a cook I like to choke the charcoal so I can re-use it. Having these holes prevents this being possible.
Lid catch: The Char-Broil Kettleman also has a latch to secure the lid to the base. I tend to only use this when moving the BBQ around, but is a useful feature as it stops the lid from opening.
Overall, the Kettleman has a nice set of features and I do think they have tried to differentiate themselves a little from the competition, with some unique design features.
Cooking on the Char-Broil Kettleman
I have been cooking on the Kettleman for around 4 months now and I am really impressed with it. It does give a slightly different cooking experience than other kettles I have used.
Firstly, the charcoal grate that your fuel sits on it very close to the actual cooking grate. I always cook with a direct and indirect zone, and with the Kettleman, I think this is even more vital. With the fuel being so close to the grate it can get really hot on the direct side of the BBQ. With the charcoal grate being so close to the cooking grate, it can cause issues, if you use lump charcoal and you have large pieces in the bag, you will find there is not enough space between the grill grate and charcoal grate for these larger chunks.
Secondly, with the other kettle BBQ’s I have used, there is usually a way to add more fuel or wood chunks. With the Kettleman, there is not an easy way except to remove the whole cooking grate. Granted I don’t tend to do this a lot but is definitely a consideration.
The porcelain cooking grate is a unique shape, being made up of ridges which are very close together. This prevents any food from being able to fall through any gaps in the grate. Although the fuel is close to the grate, it seems to deflect some of the direct heat, so your food does not burn and it helps avoid a flare-up.
Another thing with the porcelain grate is that it does seem to absorb the heat on both the direct and indirect areas. If you are cooking indirectly food cooks really well using this method. The final thing I would say it also provides some nice grill/sear marks when cooking directly.
Managing the Cook
A feature I do like on this BBQ is the hinged lid. I do own the Weber GBS which has a lid holder, but the angle the lid on the Kettleman opens together with the ease of opening is far better than the Weber.
In the lid are some air vents, which can be easily opened and closed to control the airflow and therefore the temperature. In comparison to other kettles, the 3 vent holes are much bigger, but you can partial obscure them. I do like the positioning of the vent as it is in the middle of the lid. As mentioned above, it has stuck on me a couple of times initially whilst I have been doing cooks, but I haven’t had this issue on recent cooks.
The 57cm diameter cooking area, is comparable with other kettle BBQ’s, providing plenty of cooking space to manage multiple items.
It is really important to keep your BBQ clean. Not just from the obvious hygiene factors but also to ensure you are able to manage your cooks effectively.
- Porcelain Grate: this was really easy to keep clean using my Kamhairaiog Cleaning brush. As with my other BBQ’s I give the grate a good brush just before I start cooking on it (once the grate is hot) and then once I am done with my cooking. Any residual food cleaned off really easily. I have not once had to take this indoors and use soap/water to clean it.
- Bottom Fire Bowl: in order to clean the fire bowl you need to remove the cooking grate and charcoal grate. I need to use a brush to sweep the ash into the ash catcher at the very bottom of the bowl. What was very noticeable was the lack of grease that seemed to be in the fire bowl, so despite some regular use the fire bowl is still pretty clean.
- Ash Catcher: the ash catcher design on the Kettleman is great. It sits on the base of the bowl and easily slides in and out of the base when you need to empty it. It has a fairly good capacity too so you only need to empty it every few cooks.
The Kettleman is really easy to keep clean. It hasn’t had what I would call a deep clean in the 4 months I have been using it despite cooking on it around 3 times a week, and still looks really good.
Firstly, a huge thank you to Char-Broil for sending me the Kettleman to review. I have really enjoyed using this BBQ and putting it through its paces.
The BBQ is well built and really easily put together. I really liked the porcelain cooking grate, which was good to cook. The grate is also easy to cook on and helps avoid flare-ups which is a good feature, especially if you are new to BBQ.
The hinged lid and also the ash catcher system is a real positive on the Kettleman.
The less good….
I am less keen on the positioning of the charcoal grate in terms of how close it is to the cooking grate. This may have been done on purpose to work in conjunction with the porcelain grate. The other feature I was not keen on, was not having control of the airflow from the bottom bowl as the air-holes cannot be closed.
My baseline for this review is the Weber GBS Master-touch. I did see the Kettleman for sale recently for £149 but the cheapest I can find it for at writing was £169. Even at that price, I think it represents good value as it is more slightly cheaper than the price for the Weber Original Kettle E-5710 Charcoal BBQ.
The other thing I would consider is where you think you will take your BBQ journey. Weber offers a tonne of accessories that can be upgraded to if you start with one of their less featured models. This includes updating the grate to the GBS cooking system and accessories like the Rotisserie. There is also a lot on non-official accessories available if you are looking to upgrade and use different accessories.
The Kettleman does not come with the range of accessories and upgrades that the Weber range does, but there are accessories like the Charcoal Manager, which helps with low ‘n’ slow cooks on the Kettleman.
I think this is a really good BBQ. It is well-built, and it is easy and enjoyable to cook on. In my view, it is competitively priced and should definitely be on a list of BBQ’s to consider if you are in the market for a kettle BBQ. Much of it will come down to your budget, how often you will use it and if you potentially want a BBQ you can upgrade.