Char-Broil Evolve smart gas barbecue review: grilling wizardry for novices and tech geeks

The new Char-Broil Evolve takes pellet grill technology and applies it to gas

Char-Broil Evolve smart gas barbecue
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

Char-Broil enters the smart grilling sphere with one of the most advanced gas models the world has ever seen. The new EVOLVE not only grills brilliantly well, but its set-and-forget app-controlled method of grilling may just be up your garden path, especially if you’re a complete barbecue novice or a technophile who loves anything that works with an app.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Impressive use of technology

  • +

    Allows temperature control from the app

  • +

    TRU-Infrared tech for succulent results

  • +

    Stylish design

  • +

    Superb digital interface

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Do we really need smart tech on a gas BBQ?

  • -

    And what happens when there’s a power cut?

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Welcome to T3's review of the Char-Broil EVOLVE, the first gas barbecue we know of that you can control almost entirely from an app.

Char-Broil is one of the biggest grill manufacturers in USA and a very popular producer of both gas and charcoal barbies here in the UK. In fact, you can read more about the brand and its products in our Weber vs Char-Broil face-off and check out some of the brand’s best models in our guides to the best gas barbecues and best portable BBQs.

There seems to be a big trend at the moment towards smart barbecues like this. But like T3 Home Editor, Bethan Girdler-Maslen said on the rise of smart barbecues, I’m not entirely sure I’m an especially big fan of smart BBQ tech either. While I appreciate the ability to check and even adjust barbecue temperatures on an app, it just seems a bit gimmicky to me.

I can see the benefits of using an app with a pellet grill like the Broil King Regal 500 or even the Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 charcoal smoker-cum-grill but maybe that's because I’ve got used to cooking on them. However, a fully-integrated app-enabled gas barbecue seems like a step too far, perhaps. Especially when you have to plug it into the mains to operate it.

The main idea behind these grills is to enable newbies to cook outdoors without killing everyone with a dose of Salmonella or burning the living daylight of everything. They are just as welcome to seasoned barbecuers who just want a bit of time to chill out with guests instead of always being chained to the grill at the bottom of the garden.

The new Char-Broil EVOLVE is, to my knowledge, the gas first barbecue of its type and I’ve been cooking on it quite a lot, partly because I’ve always been a fan of Char-Broil’s innovative TRU-Infrared grill grate system. So let’s take a look at this rather handsome new addition to the patio in a bit more detail.

Char-Broil EVOLVE review: price and availability

The Char-Broil EVOLVE is available in electric or gas, like the one we’re reviewing here. You can purchase this gas model from Robert Dyas, priced £739.99, Barbecue Centre (£739), Appliances Direct (£738.96) and, of course, Amazon (£739.99).

If the electric version is more your bag of tricks, try Argos where it’s selling for £900 or BBQ World (£809.99).

Char-Broil EVOLVE review: set-up

Char-Broil Evolve box

(Image credit: Future)

Like all large barbecues, the EVOLVE comes in a big box strapped to a heavy wooden palette which you will somehow have to get rid of.

Thankfully none of the parts – including the main gas bed lid assembly – were too heavy to carry though you’ll make things easier for yourself if you lift the lid of the barbecue and remove the bunch of heavy boxes – including the cast iron grill grates – before lifting the main carcass.

I’ve built loads of BBQs in the past – too many perhaps – and this one proved to be one of the easiest since the last pellet grill I assembled – especially for a gas model which is always more complicated to build than any other type of barbecue.

Rather cleverly, it uses a slot system and most of the screws are already fitted so you simply grab a leg – each one is marked with a number – locate the correct panel and slot and screw them together.

Crucially and rather helpfully, all the electronics are pre-wired so there’s no faffing about with little connectors. In fact, the hardest part of the entire build was fitting the supplied gas hose to the barbecue’s nozzle and regulator. Tip! Use a hot hairdryer to soften the rubber or you will NEVER be able to force the pipe on to the two fittings.

Char-Broil EVOLVE review: how it works

Char-Broil Evolve smart gas barbecue

(Image credit: Future)

Char-Broil produces two versions of this grill – the gas version we’re looking at here and an electric one. I took a flier on this gas model because I couldn’t believe it would be possible to adjust the temperature of the grill using just the app. But, joy of joys, you can!

This is groundbreaking stuff because gas is an almost impossible fuel to control remotely. Firstly, it’s coming out of the gas bottle, through the regulator and down the pipe at full pressure. It’s up to the manual barbecue controls to adjust the amount of gas going through the grill’s burners. And that is always performed via a set of mechanical knobs that control the amount of gas going to each burner.

Granted, a pellet grill also has a mechanical system on board – a motorised auger that delivers the pellets to the fire pot at a rate dependent on the speed of its motor, which in turn is commanded by a computer processor. This process is easy to understand. But how do you activate a mechanical knob remotely so the heat can be turned up or down via an app?

The answer is you don’t turn any knobs at all, at least not while the grill is up and running. Instead, Char-Broil has come up with a very clever system that simply turns the gas off to one or both of its burners when the grill hits a preset temperature. It then re-fires its Piezo ignition system automatically when the internal temperature shows signs of dropping below the required temperature so the grill can maintain a constant heat – just like a pellet grill.

Char-Broil Evolve smart gas barbecue

(Image credit: Future)

You can actually hear the system working and this caught me out the first time I heard it. In fact I thought it was some kind of fault. So I set up an experiment and set both sides of the grill to 200˚C (you have to do this initial ignition sequence using the amazingly tactile knob on the front, but thereafter it’s also app controllable).

The next thing I heard was the tic-tic-tic sound of the Piezos firing up as they ignited the gas to each burner. I left it alone for about 10 minutes and when both sides had reached 200˚C I heard the burbling sound of the burners being turned off. I looked at the app and sure enough, both sides of the grill were at 200˚C. Then just a minute or two later I heard the Piezos firing up again to maintain the correct temperature.

It did this on and off process until I changed the left side to 105˚C smoking temperature and kept an eye on the app. Sure enough, the left burner turned off for several minutes until the temperature on both the grill’s big LCD screen and the app showed 105˚C – while the right side of the grate was still showing 200˚C. And that’s how it works. It simply runs the burners at full bore and turns them on and off on a regular basis to keep a steady preset temperature that can be set from the app no matter where you are.

It’s an ingenious system, no question, but I admit I wasn’t sure how reliable it would be in the long term given that Piezos are known to get gummed up and fire erratically or not at all. But I think Char-Broil has nailed this issue by installing not just one Piezo ignition unit per burner but two of them. And they fire incessantly whenever required, giving the gas no option but to ignite. I’m guessing that if they ever do gum up, a quick squirt of WD40 contact cleaner will solve any possible issues in the long term.

Char-Broil EVOLVE review: design and features

From a design point of view, this has to be one of the most stylish looking gas barbecues around – a refreshing change from the macho norm. Instead of looking like a 1950’s Studebaker, the EVOLVE actually looks quite minimalistic, as if a Scandinavian had been at the design helm.

When I reviewed the Char-Broil Smart-E electric barbecue last year I was a little disappointed that you couldn’t control the temperature through the app. It seemed like an oversight given that electricity is the easiest form of fuel to control remotely. But as you’ve already read above, this unique gas grill can be controlled almost completely using just the app – including temperature changes. 

Of course, whether you want to control everything is up to you but it’s nice to know you can have a chat with guests while you keep an eye on grill temperatures and timers, etc. Of course, the downside is that you need a power supply for this grill or it will not work at all. And this could be a major inconvenience if you have a power cut and you don’t have the Best Portable Power Station to hand.

The first thing that draws the eye to this barbecue is the striking LCD interface and giant silver dial that adorn the upper facia. When turned on, it is quite literally one of the prettiest looking screen interfaces of any product I’ve ever seen. When the grill’s on, both sides of the dial light up with pin-sharp digits displaying the current temperature. These digits are about 7cm in height so you can easily read them from the other side of the garden, at least in lower ambient light.

Char-Broil Evolve assembly

(Image credit: Future)

The EVOLVE’s twist-and-tap control dial is extremely tactile, too, making it a pleasure to use. When first turned on, the dial’s control system defaults to controlling both burners at the same time. You simply turn the dial to your preferred temperature setting – from 90˚C all the way up to a steak-searing temperature of 370˚C – and tap it. The same command can be performed using the app. A bright LED band around the dial, meanwhile, glows in different colours depending on the status of the internal temperature.

Alternatively, if you want to use a different temperature on, say, the left side of the grill, simply tap the left side of the two grill icons above the temperature digits, turn the dial to the new temperature and tap – or use the scrolling wheel on the app. You can also set a timer that makes the grill and the app beep when finished.

One of the most unique things about this grill – indeed all Char-Broil barbecues – is the dual-layer cooking system comprising a slated 57 x 39cm cast-iron grate on top, a thin corrugated panel of perforated stainless steel beneath it and a large tall lid with rubber dampers. Char-Broil calls this system TRU-Infrared and what it allegedly does is radiate the heat evenly over the grilling grate so the food cooks more directly than it would on a standard convection barbecue where the heat bounces around the inside of the lid, often drying out the food in the process. 

I can vouch that the food off this grill is indeed extremely succulent and juicy so the TRU-Infrared system must be doing something right. As a major plus, this model also ships with not one but two meat probes and all you need to do is plug each one into the side ports and pre-set your preferred level of doneness. You will receive a notification when the correct internal temperature has been reached. This is an excellent addition that really takes a lot of the guesswork out of barbecuing.

Char-Broil Evolve smart gas barbecue

(Image credit: Future)

The only real issue with the TRU-Infrared system is that the perforated panels require regular cleaning – like after every grilling session – but thankfully the EVOLVE comes with a self-cleaning function whereby it whacks the heat to full blast for a set amount of time reducing all fats and food bits to dust. Char-Broil also provides a special toothed tool to scrape away any burnt-on food. To fully clean, you simply sweep the dust away or use a vacuum cleaner.

Although you don’t get the most useable cupboard in barbecue-land, it does at least perfectly fit a small 5kg propane gas bottle like those from Patio Gas. Sadly I wasn’t able to fit my taller 10kg Gaslight bottle in the cupboard so I can’t imagine it accommodating a 13kg one either.

Char-Broil EVOLVE review: app connectivity

Char-Broil Evolve app

(Image credit: Future)

I’ve been very impressed with the Char-Broil app. It’s not too complicated and very easy to navigate. Setting grill temperature once the grill has been manually ignited is simply a case of thumb scrolling until you reach your desired temperature. Likewise, you can select whichever side of the grill you want, which side you want hottest or whether you want both to run at the same uniform temperature. 

Like the Traeger, Weber and Broil King apps, you can also call up a bunch of tantalising recipes – just follow the instructions, tap ‘Start Cooking’ and the grill will set its temperature accordingly. There’s also a ‘Discover’ section with tips galore on all aspects of barbecuing, from learning how to smoke food properly to searing steaks to grill preparation and cleaning. Oh, and there’s also a shop on the app so you can spend more money. Operating the EVOLVE without the app seems like a waste of the technology if you ask me so you might as well make good use of it.

Char-Broil EVOLVE review: performance

Char-Broil Evolve smart gas barbecue

(Image credit: Future)

I’ve never grilled a duff meal on a Char-Broil. I don’t know what it is about its TRU-Infrared technology but meats always seem more succulent than on other barbecues. Mind, I should add that my wife thought the chicken kebabs we had seemed a bit too moist in parts, as if I hadn’t grilled them properly. I had. Nevertheless, it can sometime be a bit of a shock when you bite into a perfectly cooked chicken leg with nicely browned skin and it’s flesh is so juicy and soft that you think it may have been undercooked.

I had no issue grilling on this barbecue and found the app a breeze to use. The app and barbie synced up well and I have no hiccups to report. Yes, at first I thought there was a fault when the burners kept reigniting but, as I’ve mention above, that’s how it works. Mind, whether it all continues to work after 20 barbecues is a moot point.

Char-Broil EVOLVE review: verdict

If you love stuff that works with an app, this sorcerer of the patio is just the grill for you. It’s a great looker, easy to assemble, pretty well built throughout and it comes with one of the prettiest and easiest to use LCD interfaces on the market. It also grills superbly well, which is, of course, the most important thing of all.

Personally, I prefer my gas grills to work wherever I want and not be a slave to an AC power outlet. It bothers me that, if there’s a power cut – it happens – and you’re in the middle of impressing a bunch of friends and acquaintances with your new grilling toy, you’ll look a right fool when the whole evening comes to a grinding halt and you’re scrabbling for the indoor oven. You might want a portable power station to hand, in other words.

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).