There is perhaps no household appliance that speaks more to the man of the house/lord of the manor/schmo-who-mows-the-lawn than the grill.
Charcoal or gas it doesn't matter. The grill and the ability to grill food well enough that your wife accepts it as a suitable replacement for cooking in the kitchen is perhaps the most vital of all skills a father must master… at least if he wants to regularly eat barbecue ribs and steak.
That's why when my faithful grill of ten years died a month or so ago I was sent into a panic. I went into research mode and narrowed in on two brands I knew from my many trips to Home Depot -- Weber and Char Broil. I was expecting to buy a size bigger than the tiny two burner I was replacing. I purchased it to fit on a tiny deck in our city condo long before kids and the suburbs were in the cards.
My wife sent me a link to a Kenmore grill on sale at Sears and I dismissed it because I hadn't really heard of Kenmore as being a "grill" brand. A quick check of Consumer Reports and I discovered Kenmore was actually highly rated. The wife was right again it seems.
I sometimes get products to test from companies that make shavers or undershirts. But could I get a grill to test? I contacted Weber, Char Broil and Kenmore and got a response from Sears that they'd be happy for me to test out one of their new units. I said I was looking for a three-burner and was told to expect a test unit soon.
Sears service called me to set up a delivery time just like the last time I bought a refrigerator myself there a few years back. I've always thought their customer support was pretty good and they were friendly this time too.
Then the grill arrived.
It was not a three-burner, no, it was a grand five-burner with a side searing burner and another side burner for sauce pots. I was worried it would be "too" big but it has sturdy wheels which is good because I look to move the grill close to the kitchen door or away from my kids when they're playing outside near the garage.
This thing retails at a whopping $1499 but the invoice on the grill said $863.00 because it was a floor model. Despite a small scratch on the side I didn't think anyone buying a grill would mind that type of discount for a floor model. There are five-burners from Kenmore that start around $500 which would still be on the high side of my budget. $800 is definitely more than I would have spent because I knew that I didn't need all those burners.
How wrong I was.
First Test: BBQ Chicken
I was raring to test this monster out of course but my wife had bought skinless chicken breasts to grill and some zucchini. The thought of bare chicken meat hitting a pristine grill grate worried me, so I put foil down to cook them and the zucchini. The result was as you would expect, well cooked, moist chicken but nothing special.
But even at this stage I learned it seemed like I had used almost every inch of the grill surface.
Second Test: Burgers
I was ready to get those grills some grease with a family favorite, cheeseburgers. It's one of the few meals where everyone at the table eats exactly the same thing. And that is a joy that is really underrated until you have kids who prefer mac and cheese to just about anything.
I could not get the grill hot enough to get a good sear on the outside of the burgers but the inside was perfectly cooked and the kids gave thumbs up. I definitely need more work though on getting the meat’s look right.
Third Test: Sirloin Steaks and Brussels Sprouts
With the idea that there is a side burner and a sear burner I couldn't wait for one of our favorite meals, steak with brussels sprouts. Generally we roast the sprouts in the oven with olive oil, herbs, onions and garlic. Instead I put them in a pan on the side burner. I turned the heat up pretty high and as they cooked I put some corn on the main grill and waited to do the sirloins on the sear burner because I had read they only take a few minutes with that much heat.
And here is one major issue I have with the grill. While it came with instructions on assembly and care it sure didn't tell me how to cook anything on it!
How long does it take for the sear burner to get hot? Why does it cut off at a certain point?
I did go to Google to get some tips however. But I still had issues. I didn't have it hot enough when first putting on the steaks and the sear marks weren’t perfect. However, once again, temperature management was great, and we had two perfectly cooked sirloins.
It was great cooking a whole meal outside without our kitchen getting hot on a blistering, sunny, summer evening.
Fourth Test: Ribs
If you're a dad of two kids and have a smoker to do your barbecue more power to you. I understand what smoke imparts into slow-cooked meat. I do. But I think you can get great tasting ribs on a gas grill too without smelling like a smokehouse afterward. And the Kenmore proved me more than right, right out of the gate.
I put a lot into my ribs. I make a dry rub in the morning, apply it, bag the ribs and put them in the fridge until about lunch time. Then I get them on the grill, directly on the flame, bone side down for a half hour at 250, flip them over and cook meat side down for about the same amount of time. If they look good I wrap them in foil with some brown sugar, butter and honey and put them on indirect heat for 3-4 more hours at the same temperature.
I was able to control the temperature pretty well but definitely had to take into account the blazing sun beating down on the steel grill.
When I unwrapped the ribs and they were moist and tender, just short of fall-off-the-bone like my wife prefers. I matched them to my habanero barbecue sauce, which I had to make inside on the oven because of all the ingredients I dump in and didn’t want to be running in and out.
Throughout each test my wife gave a thumbs up to everything I put on the table which means I get to grill even more stuff.
I'm going to keep updating my experiences with the Kenmore 700 through football season. I have many more steaks, burgers, chicken and ribs to grill and I will get those grill marks using the searing burner if it's the last thing I do.
As mentioned above, Kenmore provided the grill for review in this story.