Welcome to T3's Broil King Baron 490 IR review, a large four-burner gas barbecue with side sear station and fully-equipped rotisserie. Is this one of the best gas BBQs on the market? Let's find out.
Gas barbecues cost more than their charcoal counterparts and they also take longer to assemble, but they are far and way the most convenient type of BBQ to use and the quickest to get up and running from a cold start. Simply turn on the gas, light the burners and you’ll have the meats on the grill within 15 minutes. Moreover, because the burners are so easily controlled, flareups and scorching is kept to a bare minimum.
Broil King is one of the most respected brands in North America which is hardly surprising given the quality of workmanship that goes into its products. I know this because I’ve personally assembled three of its barbecues to date – including the company’s amazing T3 Awards-nominated Regal 500 pellet grill.
So how does the humongous Broil King Baron 490 IR fare against its main competitors? Let’s hit the Sure-lite electronic ignition button and find out.
Broil King Baron 490 IR: price and availability
The Broil King Baron 490 IR is available in the US from Acme Tools, BBQGrills ($1,099 each) and ABT which is selling the stainless steel version for $1,299. New stock is due at Walmart and Amazon in the next few weeks or you can go for a similar three-burner Monarch model from Home Depot for $749.
Broil King Baron 490 IR review: assembly
I must have assembled about 45 barbecues during the course of my reviewing and, despite the enormous size, the Baron 490 turned out to be among the easiest of any gas barbecue to date. In fact the only time the assembly came to halt was when I got to what should have been the easiest part of all – attaching the two cupboards. I managed it in the end but the illustrations for this particular section were pretty confusing, it has to be said. I also faced the perennial challenge of working out which wire goes where when connecting the electronic ignition system but this is the norm will all gas barbecues. Hint: the little wire clips can be plugged into any input as long as the the clips and inputs are the same size. I just wish manufacturers would tell you that.
What mostly impressed me during the assembly was the overall quality of the metal work and components. There were no warped panels (a common anomaly) and every one of them slotted and screwed together perfectly. Since the main chassis comes preassembled, it was mostly a case of fitting the legs, assembling the bottom cart section and clipping in the four robust casters. In the arena of barbie building exercises, this one passed with flying colours.
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Broil King Baron 490 IR review: design
It must be said that gas barbecues in general don’t look as stylish as some of their charcoal counterparts and they’re nowhere near as funky as most pellet grills but, despite being unmistakably of American origin, the Baron 490 is a very decent looker, especially in the black livery of our test model. Mind, there’s also a stainless steel version of the same barbecue for those who like dazzling their guests.
The Baron 490 IR is stupendously well built using a variety of high-end materials that you can’t help noticing when assembling it, and that’s always an excellent sign. Let’s start with the main cook box which is made from heat radiating Therma-Cast aluminium and equipped with four stainless steel dual-tube burners that amount to a whopping 12.4 kWh of output.
If you look towards the back of the grill grate you’ll spot another burner specifically for the included rotisserie set while over to the far left there’s a shelf with an infrared burner for searing steaks. Broil King’s array of proprietary protective stainless steel Flav-R-Wave baffles, meanwhile, distribute heat across the full width of the grilling surface while vaporising drippings for that unmistakable barbecue flavour.
Heading up to the black porcelain enamelled hood, this one’s tall enough for a large turkey and cast from heavy-duty stainless steel with cast aluminium end caps and a large thermometer bang in the centre. The lid has a lovely weighty feel to it, too. Finally, veering southwards – just past the backlit burner controls – you’ll find a sizeable two-door cupboard for a 5kg or 13kg propane gas cylinder and some space, but no shelf, for a few BBQ accessories.
All in all, the whole package feels and looks more than premium enough to justify the £1,500 price tag.
Broil King Baron 490 IR review: features
The Baron 490 IR is not short of features, that’s for sure. In fact, you get more bang for your buck here than with practically any other similarly-priced premium gas BBQ on the market. With a commendable 2,864 square centimetres (65cm x 45cm) of primary cooking space at your fingertips, this barbecue is perfect for larger families and anyone who loves entertaining on a regular basis.
I love the reversible cast-iron grill grates on this barbie. Aside from being superb at distributing heat and holding temperatures exceedingly well, the grates can be reversed for different styles of grilling. For instance, with the pointed side up, juices run off the grate and onto the Flav-R-Wave baffles below where the fats are instantly vaporised, flavouring the food in the process. But if you turn them over, a series of channels capture the fats and juices which helps meat retain its moisture.
Normally I would advise prospective buyers to avoid purchasing a gas barbecue with a side burner because a) there’s no point in having a gas hob on the side when any additional pot- or pan-based cooking can be done on the kitchen hob, and b) side burners are a right pain to assemble. However, in this instance I would wholeheartedly recommend the side burner because it comes in the form of an infrared sear station and not a boring bog-standard hob.
Having a sear station on board is an essential addition for any discerning steak or fish fiend who loves sear marks and the caramelised flavour that only very high temperature grilling can attain. This side searer does just that. Simply whack up the heat, wait until the protective mesh turns red hot and slap on the beef for American steakhouse results, replete with obligatory criss-cross sear patterning and deep, succulent flavour.
As if that weren’t enough for one barbecue, this model also comes equipped with a full rotisserie set, including the motor, prongs and all fittings (with most other manufacturers, the rotisserie is usually optional). To use, skewer a whole chicken, leg of lamb what have you and fire up the dedicated rear-mounted burner which will kiss the revolving meat with its naked flame while you go off and read a book.
Broil King Baron 490 IR review: performance
I first tested this gas grill using simple chicken drumsticks which are among the most common ingredients for us Brits. That said, I did rub them in Traeger’s astounding Fin & Feather spice for good measure. In hindsight I should have reversed the grill grate to channel-side up so they were a bit more succulent but I can’t complain because the skin was as crispy as that produced by the Ninja Foodi 11-in-1 SmartLid Multi-Cooker OL550UK.
For my second test I lit up the side infrared burner and chucked on a prime fillet which, after 90 seconds of scorching heat, displayed all the hallmarks of a top-whack steak, replete with criss-cross sear marks, very decent caramelisation and a stunningly juicy centre that melted in the mouth. I’m liking this infrared burner, a lot.
Frankly, you could cook anything on this barbecue including eggs and pancakes if you opted for the optional griddle plate that sits atop the side burner. In fact, you could feasibly whip up an entire Henry VIII banquet in one go, including a rotisserie chicken, a dozen sausages, 10 kebabs, corn on the cob and some halloumi, and still have space on one side of the grill for some fish or prawns.
Broil King Baron 490 IR review: now that’s what we call a cover
Every barbecue should be covered when not in use to prevent rust and bird droppings from tarnishing the finish. The trouble with most BBQ covers is that they also trap in ambient moisture which eventually produces a horrible furry mould all over your grill grates, especially if they weren’t cleaned before putting it away. Most covers also discolour quickly in the sun and then start to crack before completely disintegrating a year or so later.
Well this one came with the best cover in the business, replete with two handles to lift it off and, crucially, mesh vents on either side to promote airflow which should, over the course of a winter, prevent mould from gathering all over the grates and other internal parts. I can’t recommend this cover enough so don’t forget to buy one.
Broil King Baron 490 IR review: verdict
Granted, there are much cheaper gas barbecues out there but you’d need to look far and wide to find a more thoughtfully designed model with so many amazing extras as standard. The industry-leading build quality is exemplary throughout and that is something you’ll come to appreciate several years down the line. Nice one Broil King. I like it, it’s good.
Want something much smaller? Head over to our guide to the best portable barbecues.