Weber vs Char-Broil: which is the best barbecue brand for you?

Summertime and the grilling is easy with a Weber or CharBroil barbecue

Weber vs Char-Broil on white background
(Image credit: Weber | Char-Broil)

It looks like a bit of summer has arrived and that can only mean one thing – time to dig out the old barbecue. Until, of course, you lift the cover off your current BBQ only to discover it’s in a poor state of disrepair, mostly because you purchased a very cheap no-name brand model and all the screws have rusted away, there’s a big jagged rust hole in the bottom and two of the legs are about to fall off.

This is an all-too-common situation brought about by the misguided money-saving notion that all barbecues are created equal and that any barbecue will continue to provide good service for at least three years. Sadly, that is often not the case because cheap barbecues are invariably built using cheap, flimsy materials that have no chance of survival once winter sets in. Rain is obviously the biggest culprit, especially during winter when there isn’t as much sun and warmth to help dry out a barbecue before oxidation sets in. And once rust gets a foothold, there’s no going back.

Of course, budget is often of prime concern but buying a really cheap BBQ is essentially a false economy because you end up having to buy a new one within about three years – and often much earlier.

With this in mind and for T3's Outdoor Living Month, we thought we’d extol the virtues of two market-leading barbecue brands – Weber and Char-Broil. Both manufacturers have a long history of producing robust, practical and efficient barbecues in a wide range of sizes, grilling styles and price points. 

After all, you’ll find these brands featured in many online round-ups, including our own guides to the best gas barbecues, best electric grills, best smokers and best portable barbecues.

Weber vs Char-Broil: brand profiles

Let’s start with Illinois-based Weber, arguably the world’s most popular barbecue brand. Before one George A Stephen came along, outdoor enthusiasts during the 1940s and mid ‘50s would grill meats on an open brazier. Braziers are still in use today – especially the half oil drum variety you see at public BBQ gatherings – but they require total attention at all times or the meat onboard will quickly turn to a cinder. Braziers are also hopeless in the rain and they blow hot ashes all over the place when it’s windy.

In 1951, Stephen had a lightbulb moment at his metalworks and cut a steel buoy in half, put a handle on top and drilled a small cluster of ventilation holes in the bottom and on the lid. The Weber kettle grill, as we now know it, was born.

By coincidence, Georgia-based Char-Broil’s history started around the same time. In 1948, just after WWII when outdoor cooking became a new leisure activity, Char-Broil produced what is often considered the world’s first cast-iron charcoal barbecue.

However, it isn’t so much charcoal-based grilling that Char-Broil is most famous for, it’s the company’s wide range of gas-powered grills and their unique TRU-Infrared grilling systems. In fact, Char-Broil is often considered to be ‘America’s number one gas barbecue brand’.

Weber vs Char-Broil: design profiles

Weber lifestyle

(Image credit: Weber)

When it comes to overall build quality, Weber is well up there with the very best brands, including Napoleon, Broil King and, of course, Char-Broil. Weber barbecues use quality materials that are weather coated for durability – even the screws are usually rust resistant. In fact the company offers up to 12 years warranty on many of its grills.

I can vouch for the longevity of the average Weber kettle grill because I owned one for five years before handing it to my son who still uses it five years later. And there is hardly any signs of rust on it, even though it’s rarely under a cover. That’s the thing with Weber BBQs – they genuinely last for years and years.

As we all know, Weber is justly famous for its line of kettle barbecues. These dome-shaped denizens of the patio perform an indirect method of grilling which usually means putting the charcoal to one side of the grill and putting the food on the other and then closing the lid and opening the bottom and top vents for a modicum of air circulation. The oven-like convection process – ie hot air circulating around the inside – takes over ensuring that both meat and vegetables are cooked to perfection with no scorching. 

As long as you stick to the golden rule ‘if you’re lookin’, it ain’t cookin’ and leave the lid on as much as you can, food on a Weber kettle grill will cook superbly well without the need to turn the food too much. Nevertheless, if you want to sear a steak or develop a crispy chicken skin you can simply put the food directly above the coals and leave the lid off for a few minutes while turning regularly, brazier style. In a nutshell, Weber’s tried-and-trusted kettle system is one of the most efficient, fuss-free and reliable ways to cook food without being a slave to the barbecue. 

Weber has since branched out into other fuel forms and currently produces a wide range of premium gas grills in a variety of sizes and price points, plus a small but very popular range of pellet grills and charcoal smokers.

Char-Broil Smart-E

(Image credit: Char-Broil)

Char-Broil also produces a huge range of barbecues that use both charcoal and gas though gas is far and away the company’s most popular line. Like Weber, Char-Broil is also renowned for the high quality of its grills though Weber just swings it when it comes to overall build quality and use of higher-end materials. Like for like, Weber barbecues generally cost between £200 and £300 more on average.

One of the best design points about Char-Broil’s grills is the company’s unique TRU-Infrared grilling system. Instead of using basic rolled stainless steel or higher-end cast iron for their grill grates, Char-Broil uses a two-tier system comprised of a cast iron grate on top and just beneath it a thin sheet of corrugated stainless steel with thousands of tiny holes punched into it. It’s this section that gives their barbecues the TRUInfrared moniker. In short, this panel radiates ‘infrared’ heat from the gas burners or charcoal below, ensuring even heat distribution and high meat-searing temperatures. I have grilled many times using this infrared system and I’m always amazed at how moist and succulent the results are. However, the slight downside is that the corrugated panels require regular cleaning but thankfully Char–Broil usually provides a tool for the job.

Like many BBQ manufacturers today, both Weber and Char-Broil also produce a small range of smart barbecues with on-board computer processors that monitor grill temperatures so you can relax while technology oversees the cooking process. Char-Broil recently nailed this process with the introduction of its beautifully-styled Smart-E electric grill while its very latest gas-powered Evolve model is said to use a similar set-and-forget system, too.

Check out our Weber Genesis II EX-335 GBS Smart Barbecue vs Char-Broil Professional Pro S2 comparison guide.

Weber vs Char-Broil: prices and availability

We look at a cross section of Weber and Char-Broil barbecues just below this section and this is where you can buy them.

We rate the Weber Master-Touch E-5755 GBS very highly so grab yourself a cracker at John Lewis & Partners where it’s selling for £325. Likewise, the awe-inspiring Weber Summit Kamado is also well worth checking out. You can buy it direct from Weber (£1,399) or BBQ World (£1,118).

One of our favourite gas grills is the Weber Genesis E-325. Head over to John Lewis & Partners and nab one for a reasonable £1,399. If you want something smaller, there is no better portable gas BBQ than the Weber Traveler from John Lewis & Partners (£399) and Amazon (£530).

Finally, for the smokers among you, the Weber SmokeFire EPX 6 is a brilliant pellet grill that does everything, from smoking to searing. Try BBQ World – after you’ve arranged an overdraft for £1,934. 

Fancy a very decent charcoal kettle alternative? Char-Broil’s Kettleman is your best bet and it’s yours for £170 from BBQ World and Robert Dyas (£213). Or maybe you prefer gas, in which case go for our favourite, the Char-Broil Professional Pro S3 – £900 from John Lewis & Partners.

What about a full-sized electric BBQ? There’s no better than the Char-Broil Smart-E. Buy now from Robert Dyas (£669), John Lewis & Partners (£800) and Amazon (£669). And if you’re off car camping and need a great small gas barbecue, give the Char-Broil Grill2Go a go. Try Amazon (£155), Robert Dyas (£191) and Argos (£230).

Weber vs Char-Broil: best Weber models

Weber Traveler BBQ

(Image credit: Weber)

The Weber Master-Touch range is a mainstay of patios and backyards the world over, which is hardly surprising given its efficiency, build quality and keen price. This model comes with a 57cm grate which is a perfect size for families and small gatherings.

If you think the smoking of meats over charcoal sounds appealing, the Weber Summit Kamado is a perfect model for the job since it comes with extra insulation for long smoking sessions in excess of five hours at a time. It’s just as good for conventional grilling, too.

If, on the other hand, gas is more your thing, the Weber Genesis series is a great place to start. Available in a whopping 18 variants, this class-leading range is usually among the first ports of call for anyone looking for a highly-regarded gas model that’s a cut above much of the competition.

For camping, beach parties and balconies, look no further than the amazing Weber Traveler. This single-burner gas model has enough meal estate for four and comes with the best folding mechanism the world has ever seen.

For the most authentic and fuss-free smoking and grilling experience, few pellet grills hold a candle to the Weber SmokeFire EPX 6. This handsome behemoth can smoke meat and veg for as long as you want, and at a temperature that never varies. A true set-and-forget, do-it-all option for the well heeled.

Weber vs Char-Broil: best Char-Broil models

Char-Broil Smart-E lifestyle

(Image credit: Char-Broil)

Don’t fancy splashing too much cash on a charcoal BBQ? Try the Char-Broil Kettleman which has just one centimetre less of grilling space than the standard Weber kettle but at a substantially lower price.

For our money, the Char-Broil Professional Pro S3 is an ideal family-sized three-burner gas barbecue. This stainless steel model has acres of grilling estate and, to top it off, a 900°C Sear Burner on the side for caramelising steaks to utter perfection.

If you’re looking for a camping-specific gas model that also serves as a cracking balcony barbie, go for the rugged pint-sized Char-Broil Grill2Go, which uses the same TRU-Infrared grilling system as its larger stablemates. 

Finally, we mustn’t forget our old friend the electron and big up the practicalities and environmental credentials of the electric barbecue. There aren’t many full-sized models out there but Char-Broil makes one and it’s called the Smart-E. We highly recommend giving this set-and-forget model some serious consideration.

Weber vs Char-Broil: verdict

barbecue in the garden

(Image credit: Canva)

From a style and overall build quality point of view, Weber is an exceptional brand with an excellent reliability record, massive worldwide distribution and an enormous range to choose from. While Char-Broil isn’t as big a brand in the UK as it is in the USA, its products have always impressed us, especially its TRU-Infrared grilling technology which genuinely produces succulent results time after time.

In this instance it ultimately comes down to budget. If you can afford a Weber, you won’t go wrong no matter what model you choose. But if price is of major consideration, head straight for the Char-Broil camp. There’s no true winner here since both operators provide a sterling tranche of barbecues in all flavours.

Derek Adams

Derek (aka Delbert, Delvis, Delphinium, Delboy etc) specialises in home and outdoor wares, from coffee machines, white appliances and vacs to drones, garden gear and BBQs. He has been writing for more years than anyone can remember, starting at the legendary Time Out magazine – the original, London version – on a typewriter! He now writes for T3 between playing drums with his bandmates in Red Box (redboxmusic).