By: Max Good
Vermont Castings has relocated manufacturing from China back to the USA. The 324 Signature Series 3-burner gas grill has received a few decent reviews and VC touts it as “Rated #1 by a leading consumer magazine”. But when we got under the hood at a recent trade show for a hands on inspection we were unimpressed. Fit and finish were decent, but the internal components don’t exhibit the look or feel of quality one expects in this premium price range.
Speaking of the hood, VC is proud of their cast iron side caps, which DO have superior thermal conductivity characteristics to the more commonly used cast aluminum sides. However as AmazingRibs.com science consultant, Dr. Blonder observes, “Heat retention within the walls is a red herring- the gas burners provide more than enough heat, if it can reach the meat before being lost through the metal side walls.” Blonder feels that with all else being equal, (which it likely is not, the guts of this grill look like they belong in a much lower priced cooker), the cast iron may reduce fuel consumption, but will be prone to rust if the enamel coating is compromised. Knowing the hood is usually the first thing a prospective buyer touches, some manufacturers design it to feel thick and heavy, hoping to create the perception of solid construction and durability.
Checking a review from “a leading consumer magazine”, we noted the previous version of this model was rated 77 out of 100, but user reviews averaged out to 2.5 stars out of 5 stars. A 1 star review started out, “At least it’s shiny”, and then proceeded to lambast quality and customer service. Said magazine did not review the current model as they believe the new version is practically identical.
Although they are trying, in our view, Vermont Castings has not yet regained their once respected position in the premium BBQ gas grill sector. Until then, there are plenty of better options.
Years ago Vermont Castings produced a line of premium gas grills that were sold by independent dealers servicing the luxury grill market. They’ve gone through dramatic changes that saw them shift from being a high quality American Manufacturer to a low cost, outsourced brand for big box outlets. In 2008 the private equity group, The Riverside Company acquired the assets of CFM Corporation, including Vermont Castings, and merged the assets with Monessen Hearth Systems. Riverside acquired Monessen in 2006. The company later took on Vermont Castings Group as its corporate name. Shortly thereafter the Vermont Castings management team purchased the company from Riverside.
In recent years there were glimmers of hope that VC intended to restore the grill line to premium status. Although Vermont Castings did not respond to our inquiries, we hear from dealers that manufacturing has shifted back to the USA and all grills were redesigned with numerous improvements. However, when Vermont Castings reduced price and quality to go after distribution in Home Depot, many independent stores lost interest. It will take time and effort to reestablish the VC grill line in the premium space.
Published On: 9/16/2014 Last Modified: 2/21/2021
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