Pellet grills, as we cover here in T3's Broil King Regal 500 review, have been all the rage in the USA for years but have only recently increased in popularity in the UK and Europe. Perhaps it’s because the UK and northern parts of Europe are, by comparison to the US, South Africa and Australia, way behind when it comes to grilling on a more imaginative scale.
After all, we Brits are usually quite content with sticking to the clichéd staples of chicken legs and wings, sausages, burgers and kebabs while Americans (especially those in the Southern States) have been pushing the envelope for years, grilling and smoking a wide variety of exotic meat cuts and experimenting with different recipes and sauces.
Brisket and ribs are two key staples that Americans love, and these meats really benefit most from low temperature smoking so that their inherently tough texture softens so much it falls off the bone or simply shreds like pulled pork. A typical smoking session can run from five to 12 hours and longer, and involves all sorts of sequences along the way, including foil or towel wrapping and regular spritzes of apple juice and cider vinegar.
You could certainly use a well sealed charcoal barbecue like a Japanese Kamado to perform a low-and-slow cook, but keeping a consistent temperature with charcoal is a real struggle if you don’t know what you’re doing. Charcoal BBQs also require constant monitoring throughout the process. This, dear wannabe pitmasters, is where the mighty pellet grill comes in.
What is a pellet grill?
Pellet grills burn compressed wood pellets and there’s a wide variety of flavours and aromas to choose from – maple, apple, oak, mesquite, cherry, etc. Pellet grills also require an electricity source to operate an auger (basically a large corkscrew) that delivers the pellets from a hopper to a fire pot that’s positioned below a metal heat deflector. A fan is also used to fan the flames. The whole process is controlled by an onboard computer with a display and control panel.
The main reason pellet grills are so brilliant is that they completely take the guesswork out of grilling, smoking, roasting and baking so that even a novice can produce amazing results. How so? Well, the computer’s algorithm is so well dialled that if, say, you set a temperature on the display to 180˚C, the grill will maintain that temperature for as long as there are pellets in the hopper. Just like an indoor oven. For a long smoking session, this means that you can set the temperature to 107˚C and it will stay like that for hours, which means you can go watch telly or do something else while your ribs are being gently cooked to fall-off-the-bone perfection, replete with tell-tale pink smoke rings and a deliciously chewy outer ‘bark’, as Americans call it.
Even standard grilling is a cinch. Simply whack the heat up to around 220˚C or higher, slap on your usual ingredients, close the lid and go and chat to your guests, safe in the knowledge that nothing will burn to a cinder and everything will cook to succulent perfection. Pellet grills also infuse food with a subtle smokey flavour that you will come to love.
You can also use most pellet grills with an app so you can control the grill and monitor the cook remotely. Most pellet grill apps also come with a wide range of tantalising recipes that the respective grill will cook almost autonomously.
Perhaps the only thing most pellet grills aren’t especially good at is searing steaks. This is because their temperatures don’t go high enough and the deflector plate beneath the grilling grate prevents naked flames from kissing the meat. However, some pellet grills can reach searing temperatures of 600˚F, and the Broil King Regal 500 is one of them.
Want a smaller, portable pellet grill for your balcony, patio or RV? Then you need the plucky little Traeger Ranger.
Broil King Regal 500 Pellet Grill review: design
When I say that the Broil King Regal 500 is built like a steam train I really mean it, chimney and all. Tap any surface of its 2mm,14-gauge steel cladding and I guarantee your knuckles will hurt. Make no mistake, this is arguably the most solidly built barbecue you’ll ever come across and once in position, even a landslide would have trouble budging it. The black paintwork, too, is layered on so thick that I’d be surprised if even a hammer made any impression. So, top marks all round for build quality.
Pellet grills always look the business – like the host really must know his or her stuff. This one is more rugged looking than my other favourite, the Traeger Ironwood 650, which is a bit more refined in design. However, there’s no getting away from the fact that when in situ, the Regal 500 looks like one big bad-ass mother ****er. And it grills like one, too. But more on that below.
Broil King Regal 500 Pellet Grill review: features
If you’re looking for a pellet grill that comes with more features than a film festival, step right over here because this one is arguably the most fully featured grill in barbie land.
Let’s start with grill size. Including the porcelain-coated warming rack, this model has 865 square inches (or 5,580 square cm) of cooking space. The main 625 square-inch cooking grate (81cm x 49cm for those in Europe) is made from heavy-duty cast iron and is cleverly divided into five separate sections for easy removal when cleaning. I’d say there’s enough meal estate here for a genuine large-scale home banquet – eight guests minimum.
The huge steel lid has an oven-style gasket around the entire edge and this really does help keep the heat in, especially in low ambient temperatures. Uniquely, this pellet grill also features an ingenious fire pot cleaning agitator that empties the burnt ashes into a little container underneath the chassis. Simply wiggle the front lever from side to side after each grilling session and it’s ready to roll for the next one. This is a major convenience because practically all other pellet smokers require removing the greasy grill plate, the deflector and the fire pot protector in order to vacuum up the inevitable mess of pellet dust that follows every grilling session. The Regal also includes an efficient drip tray system for the excess fats that slow-and-low cooking inevitably creates.
Another major bonus with this pellet grill is that it’s capable of reaching the magic 600˚F (315˚C) required for searing steaks, and that’s an attribute few pellet smokers are capable of.
Broil King Regal 500 Pellet Grill review: control panel
All pellet smokers are equipped with onboard computers that regulate the temperature so that they retain a constant heat throughout the entire grilling or smoking process. It’s this electronic wizardly coupled with an electrically-powered pellet-delivering auger that makes all pellet grills really easy to use and more consistent than any other type of barbie on the market.
Aside from the Regal 500 display’s three preset cook buttons – Smoke, Roast and Grill – you can also select your own temperatures at will by using the huge rubberised control on the front. And you won’t need to wear your reading glasses to see the temperature on this model’s display because the figures are brightly lit and in huge lettering. The whole digital control panel is a joy to use and really simple to get a handle on. Aside from the manual temperature control dial, a timer and stop watch, the Regal 500’s digital controller also sports two meat probe inputs for the two meat probes it ships with – most probe-equipped grills ship with just one.
Like all the best pellet grills, you can use the Regal 500 with an app (in this case Bluetooth and wi-fi) so it can be controlled remotely from anywhere you like. Granted, the Broil King app isn’t as comprehensive or as user friendly as Traeger’s, but it’s still worth downloading, if only to keep tabs on the cook while entertaining guests.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, this particular monster of the patio also ships with a full rotisserie set, including the motor.
I would always advise buying a cover for any pellet grill, if only to protect the electrics from inclement weather. The cover for this behemoth is superbly made and looks like it will last for years without cracking and eventually disintegrating like so many others I’ve used.
Broil King Regal 500 Pellet Grill review: performance
The Regal 500 is an ideal all-rounder, whether you’re grilling, roasting, baking, slow smoking or even searing. To test it I first slapped on a pair of pre-rubbed baby back ribs and tapped the preset ‘Smoke’ button which took the temperature to 107˚C. It maintained this temperature with staggering accuracy throughout the entire six-hour process. Needless to say, it produced stunning results, with noticeable smoke rings, a crunchy/chewy bark and fall-off-the-bone tenderness. Better still, the 10kg hopper still had loads of pellets left for the next task.
Totally satisfied by this result, I then tried something that most pellet smokers are incapable of pulling off with charcoal-style success – namely searing. For this method, I tapped the preset ‘Grill’ button and the temperature rose to its predetermined 315˚C (600˚F) in about 45 minutes. This is a phenomenal temperature for a pellet grill to achieve but the Regal 500 pulled it off with consummate ease. I then slapped on a prime sirloin steak and I could hear the sizzling as it caramelised the meat to perfection. Just like a charcoal grill, it came off with proper sear marks on either side.
The Regal 500 also comes with a dedicated ‘Roast’ button with a preset temp of 176˚C so I chucked on a chicken and it roasted it better than the indoor oven. I’m not sure how, but it was far juicier than the numerous oven-roasted chickens we’ve had over the years. Its skin was crispier, too.
If you want to find out more about this grill and what it can do, I recommend heading over to You Tube to check out some of the exquisite grills and smokes at Wills Grill Shack, Britain’s very own backyard pit master.
Broil King Regal 500 Pellet Grill review: pellets
In my experience, all pellet grills I’ve looked at have worked perfectly well with food-specific pellets from different manufacturers. For instance, I’ve often put Traeger pellets in a Weber and vice versa with no adverse effects. However, each respective manufacturer will always recommend using its own-brand pellets and the same thing applies with the Regal 500.
According to various sources, when Broil King developed this model it decided that a slightly smaller pellet would be better for its auger. I’ve looked at Broil King’s pellets against both Weber’s and Traeger’s and the Traeger pellets are indeed larger while the Weber ones are exactly the same width, which suggests that the Regal 500 will work perfectly well with Weber pellets but possibly not so well with Traeger pellets. Just thought you should know. There are five varieties of Broil King pellets available, including apple, hickory, mesquite and Griller's Select blend.
Broil King Regal 500 Pellet Grill review: assembly
Pellet grills are much more solidly built than any other type of barbecue, some Kamados notwithstanding. Like its competitors, this model arrived on a pallet and in a huge box large enough to sleep in. Thankfully, the outer shell of the box comes off to expose the parts beneath.
Unlike gas and charcoal barbecues which require almost full assembly, pellet grills (this one included) come from the factory almost fully built. All you have to do is get someone to help carry the extraordinarily heavy main unit comprising the grill area, the lid and the hopper-cum-display controller to where you want to site it. Everything is pre-wired so all you have to do is fit the stocky legs, a cross strut or two and the grills parts.
Despite its enormous size, this model turned out to be one of the easiest this reviewer has ever assembled. Everything was clearly labelled (including each leg) and all bolts and screws fitted perfectly with zero fuss.
Broil King Regal 500 Pellet Grill review: verdict
At around £1,900 (and cheaper if you look around), the Broil King Regal 500 is far from cheap, but it’s such a wondrous grill in so many respects that I have no compunction in awarding it an unequivocal high five. It simply rocks on all fronts.