If you’re the type of amateur barbecue chef who finds charcoal impossibly volatile to grill with then you’re a perfect match for either a wood pellet grill like one of those in our best smokers guide, or a gas barbecue like one of these two heavyweight hitters from Weber and Char-Broil.
The Weber Genesis II EX-335 GBS Smart Barbecue has only just been launched and T3 is one of the first UK-based publications to try it. Rather handily, the similarly brand new but smaller Char-Broil Professional Pro S2 also landed in the garden at roughly the same time, so it only seems right that we should fire both barbies up to see which one is our choice griller for tonight’s al fresco nosh up.
Remember, to see even more great barbecues be sure to scope out T3's guide to the best barbecues.
Weber Genesis II EX-335 GBS Smart Barbecue vs Char-Broil Professional Pro S2: design
Anyone who has ever owned a Weber barbecue will know how well they’re built and how many winters they last even after being left out in the rain with no cover. All Weber barbecues use high-quality materials that are weather coated for durability. Even the screws seem rust resistant. So that’s a good reason right from the off to consider buying one. Another is the 10-year warranty on all parts (three years on the electronics in this particular model).
At 120 x 150 x 74cm, the Genesis II EX-335 is a monster. Build quality is very much high end and everything is made out of either aluminium – like the main tub – or stainless steel. The porcelain enamelling of the gigantic hinged lid is a sight to behold – so smooth and curvy you can’t help but caress it, except when it’s on, of course.
This closed cart model is equipped with three main gas burners, a Sear Station burner sandwiched between the two right-hand burners for higher steak-searing temperatures, and a side burner for pot and pan-based cooking. Personally I can’t see the point of a side burner unless it’s for searing steaks, like the one on the Char-Broil Pro S2. Also, side burners add a lot of extra time to an already complex assembly, but more on that below.
If you’re after a gas grill that is big enough to possibly feed up to ten people then the Weber Genesis II EX-335 will do it in style. The primary grilling area measures a huge 68cm x 48cm and it comes with a heavy duty porcelain-enamelled cast iron grill grate that’s divided into two main portions: a slender grate to the left and on the right, a wider grate with a removable centre. This wider section forms part of Weber’s Gourmet BBQ System of interchangeable accessories. Simply remove the grate's centre section and drop in the pizza stone, sear grate, poultry roaster or Dutch oven for a variety of cooking scenarios.
Both of these gas barbies come with a cupboard where you would expect to house the gas bottle and that is the case with the Char-Broil which has a big enough capacity for a 10kg gas bottle. By contrast, Weber has decided that the cupboard space should be used for storing things so it comes with a divider shelf. I personally can’t think of anything I’d store in it and would much rather have seen the space allocated to at least a 5kg gas bottle. Instead, on the Weber you hang the gas bottle on the right, slightly tucked away from view by two black metal partitions.
The Char-Broil Professional Pro S2 is the popular US company’s latest two-burner gas barbecue and while it lacks the pleasing aesthetics of the Weber Genesis II, it’s still a very decent looker in all that shiny stainless steel. The Professional Pro S2 falls under Char-Broil’s premium range so build quality and materials are pretty top notch and everything is nicely finished – a special note must go to the tall double-walled stainless steel lid with integral temperature gauge.
Being of the two-burner variety, grill space is naturally much smaller than that of the Weber (47.8cm x 44.5cm) but still big enough to feed a party of six. Porcelain-coated cast iron grates are always the best performers since they retain their heat much more effectively and that is certainly the case here.
However, what really sets this grill apart from the competition is the inclusion of a sear burner. I genuinely hate normal side burners for pots and pans because they’re surplus to requirement and add extra complication to the assembly process. But a steak or fish searer? Now we’re talking. With this model you can fire up the right hand burner and properly sear a steak or fillet of fish before finishing them off on the main grate, or vice versa. Top marks to Char-Broil in this respect.
Weber Genesis II EX-335 GBS Smart Barbecue vs Char-Broil Professional Pro S2: key features
The Weber Genesis II EX-335 GBS is being advertised as a ‘Smart’ gas barbecue so it comes with a shedload of on-board electronics. To some degree, this barbecue behaves like a pellet smoker to make grilling as fuss free as possible with real-time Bluetooth and WiFi monitoring via the built in thermometer, included food probe (there are ports for two) and the Weber Connect app. However, unlike most pellet grills that are genuinely smart because you can actually turn down or turn up the heat on your phone while you’re out shopping, with this model all you can do is monitor the grill’s temperature remotely but do nothing remotely about rectifying any heat issues.
In other words, Weber has basically integrated a version of its iGrill Bluetooth system into the barbecue. Nevertheless, this is still a great feature because the internal temperature can easily be monitored using the app or by simply looking at the big temperature read out on the digital display mounted into the left-hand shelf. While it might not be genuinely ‘smart’, it’s still a useful system to have on board, especially if you’d rather be entertaining guests than be chained to the BBQ.
Another cool feature with the Weber is the Sear Zone – basically an extra burner positioned between the two right-hand burners. This area will be your friend when it comes to caramelising steak or crisping the skin of fish without overcooking the centre.
Barbecuing at night is never easy because you have to reach for the head torch to see how well the food is doing. Rather brilliantly, the Weber comes with a handle-mounted LED light that switches on the moment you lift the lid. The Grill ’n’ Go Light is also available separately so I would recommend purchasing one for whatever barbecue you have. Just make sure it will fit first. The Weber’s final design flourish comes in the form of back lit burner knobs which look cool and help the user see where the knobs are positioned in the dark.
Right, let’s move over to the admittedly much cheaper and lower-specced Char-Broil Professional Pro S2. As mentioned above, this silver hunk comes with a side steak searer which is much better than having a simple burner for heating up stuff.
However, the best feature with this barbecue is what Char-Broil calls TRU-infrared. Infrared in this instance is simply a term used to describe the thin corrugated panel of perforated metal that sits between the grill top and the gas burners. What this panel does is radiate heat across its entire surface which in turn ensures even heat distribution and high meat-searing temperatures. I’m a big fan of this system because it genuinely works well. However, the panels do require regular cleaning to keep the tiny air holes free of muck (Char-Broil provides a tool for this purpose). Like the Weber, this model also comes with bright back-lit burner knobs (in this case red) for grilling in the dark.
Weber Genesis II EX-335 GBS Smart Barbecue vs Char-Broil Professional Pro S2: performance
I always harp on about how amazing pellet barbecues are because you can set the temperature like an indoor oven and it stays that way unless adjusted using the control knob or an app. For a gas-fired model, the Weber Genesis II EX-335 is pretty damn close to a pellet grill and that’s a big bonus that removes some of the hassle of barbecuing while you’re trying to entertain guests. I found no serious hotspots on the grill and everything was easy enough to use, including the Weber Connect app which comes with a variety of recipes, guidance tips and info on the grilling process.
Personally I couldn’t really tell the difference in the results of my grill-off between these two models. Perhaps the Char-Broil’s TRU-infraded technology produced slightly more succulent chicken legs but by then I was so hungry after having assembled them, I could have eaten roadkill. Both feasts were top notch in my opinion and were duly wolfed down.
Weber Genesis II EX-335 GBS Smart Barbecue vs Char-Broil Professional Pro S2: assembly
When you order a large barbecue, it will almost certainly arrive on a wooden palette and the delivery driver will not help you get it into your garden because the box and pallet weigh a ton. So what you’ll have to do is unpack the box and carry all the parts to wherever you plan to assemble it.
I have assembled loads of barbecues over the years and pellet models are far and away the easiest to build because they are almost fully assembled at the factory. Charcoal barbecues are the next easiest to assemble because they’re mostly made up of simple parts. Gas barbecues, on the other hand, are an utter palaver to assemble and these two models took even longer than average – over three hours apiece. Why? Because of the bloody side burners and the electrical fittings for the back lit knob lamps, etc.
The Char-Broil was marginally easier than the Weber to build because it doesn’t have nearly as many electrical fittings and all the screws and colts come in clearly-labelled cardboard-backed pouches. With the Weber I had to flit from one box to another to locate the required parts. However the Char-Broil loses points to the Weber by not having the gas hose already fitted to the regulator. This process, as anyone who has ever tried this impossible feat before, is a right pain in the arse.
Rant over – let us hop straight to the verdict.
Weber Genesis II EX-335 GBS Smart Barbecue vs Char-Broil Professional Pro S2: verdict
Both of these gas barbecues produced excellent results and I genuinely found it difficult to decide between the two. The Weber is clearly a lot bigger so it’s a much better bet for large families and those who regularly entertain guests. It’s also much better styled and it has tons more onboard tech that beginners and busy hosts may find very useful. However, the Weber Genesis II EX-335 GBS also costs more than three times the price of the Char-Broil Professional Pro S2 with its excellent side searer, and that is likely to be a huge obstacle – unless you’re loaded to the hilt and love the Weber brand and everything it stands for. The choice is yours.
Need a portable BBQ? Then check out T3's best portable barbecue guide