For 2018, Weber sticks to the basics with a revamped version of their popular, full-size, entry-level Spirit gas grill line. Like its predecessor, Spirit II is a workhorse that delivers solid performance and is easy to use, easy to clean and available in two and three burner configurations. Increasingly cuckoo for color, Weber offers Spirit in black, ivory, red, sapphire, exclusive mocha versions for Lowe's and exclusive stainless steel versions for Home Depot. Spirit II E-310 features Weber's new GS4 grilling system consisting of their battery powered Infinity Ignition, three 10,000 BTU stainless steel burners, and the tried and true porcelain enameled steel “flavorizer” bars and grease management system. The enclosed cart with doors is gone. Spirit II has four legs, two wheels and a lower open-air storage rack. Why the revision? I speculated it may be a cost cutting measure, but Weber responded, "the tank was moved to the side of the grill for easy access. The open cart was designed to have easy access to tools in the rack below". In any case, prices for the new Spirit II are unchanged from the previous model.
GS4 Grilling System
For the most part, Spirit’s GS4 Grilling System is similar to the previous Spirit line. One big difference is the fire box. The last Spirit Series had cast aluminum sides with a large, slide out grease tray that doubled as firebox bottom. Spirit II has a single piece, cast aluminum fire box with a funnel shaped bottom that diverts grease into a small slide out grease tray (see below).
This fire box design holds and radiates heat evenly, perhaps making up for a lid that seems slightly light weight. As for clean up, it’s as easy as can be. The small grease tray slides out from the front and disposable foil liners are available. Simply scrape any accumulated grease and gunk from the funnel walls into the tray now and then.
In windy conditions, a gap between the grease tray and firebox hole could disrupt airflow in the grill. To minimize this possibility, Weber includes a “Heat Diffuser” (shown below).
The diffuser pops in place under the middle burner. Attention to detail such as this is one reason the Weber name commands higher prices than many mass market brands. Weber’s price tag also includes quality construction and the best customer service from a manufacturer in the business, on call seven days a week from 7am to 9pm CST.
Most gas grills use metal heat tents under the cooking grate to disperse heat, protect the burners, and to sizzle drippings that impart flavor to foods. Cheap gassers often have only one tent over each burner. Better quality grills, like Spirit II, blanket the entire cook box for more even heat and more delicious sizzle (see below). Weber famously calls their tents “Flavorizer Bars”. Note the notches on the sides of each bar which provide a visual confirmation that the burners beneath them are indeed lit.
Reversible Porcelain Enameled Cast Iron Grates
Reversible cooking grates aren’t unusual, but Spirit II grates are a little different than most. Spirit II reversible grates have a thin side which Weber believes is “ideal for food such as shrimp and fish”, and flat side which “creates a thick sear mark”. We’re not typically fans of cast iron grates because they overpower foods with intense conductive heat at the point of contact, creating the alternating bands of dark brown and pale tan known as sear marks. Click here to learn about grill grate designs. The ultimate goal is an evenly dark brown crust across the entire surface of the meat, which transforms dull, tan meat to a delicious flavorful crust thanks to the magical Maillard reaction.
A red hot bed of fire on a charcoal grill creates a blend of radiant, convection and conduction heat that can out-sear most gas burners, particularly in this price range. Gas grill manufacturers often rely on cast iron conduction to amplify the gas burner heat and at least add some brown sear marks to food surfaces. Some grillers have discovered a cast iron pan or griddle on their gasser works even better and effectively sears the entire meat surface. Below is an older set of Weber cast iron grates. Note that the cast iron grates are not as wide as the opening between them.
The flat side of the Spirit II grill grate is half cast iron for better heat conduction and searing, and half open for radiant and convection cooking (see below).
The extra iron produces a hybrid cooking experience somewhere between a solid griddle and a standard grill grate, searing while allowing the flavor and aroma of sizzled drippings to permeate the food. Click here for more info on conduction, convection and radiant cooking. Additionally, the relatively small openings between the grates prevent items like shrimp from falling into the fire. Cooking temp on the Spirit II is pretty even, with the back of the grill running slightly hotter than the front. On a cold day with ambient temperatures in the upper 30°F range and all three burners on the low setting, Spirit II registered temps of about 410°F in front and 440°F in back. With all burners on High, temps were about 600°F front and 680°F back.
We cooked a grillful of pre-made one-third pound hamburgers on high with the lid down. They cooked fast at two minutes per side, although the front row needed an additional minute. We’d prefer overall, even heat from the front to the back of the grill, but we appreciated how quickly and easily Spirit II cooked this popular item. The burgers were remarkably juicy, perhaps due to the fast cook time.
Steak fajitas anyone? We tried this popular item on the grill as well. For the veggies, we stuck with the two minute per side formula.
For the steak, we used thin flank steak and cooked it with the old fashioned crosshatch grill mark method: grill two minutes on one side, then rotate 45 degrees, grill two minutes more, then flip and repeat on the other side for a total of about four minutes per side. Of course we don’t cook by time, but by internal meat temp. We cooked the steak until our accurate, instant read digital thermometer registered an internal temp of 130°F for medium-rare. Click here to learn about the importance of digital thermometers.
The flank steak was cooked just right for fajitas. Not exactly steakhouse quality, but not bad by any means.
Whole chicken or turkey are good candidates for the thin side of the grates. So we cooked a whole chicken. You want to cook whole birds evenly at moderate temperatures to slowly crisp the skin. With all burners on low, the temp range of around 420°F was a bit too hot for slow roasting a chicken, so we changed course and went for a 2-zone setup following Weber’s instructions to turn off the middle burner, leaving the left and right burners on Low. Then we placed the chicken in the middle in the indirect heat zone. Click here to learn more about the essential technique of 2-zone cooking.
To monitor the cooking temperature, we generally don’t rely on thermometers built into the hood. They are notoriously inaccurate. Instead, we placed our digital thermometer in the middle area, and it registered a cooking temp of 295°F. The sweet spot for roasting chicken is 325°F. At that temperature, poultry cooks gently and thoroughly while developing delicious brown skin. Cook too low and you risk dry meat and rubber skin; too high and you may have to snatch the bird off the grill to prevent burning the outside before the bird is properly cooked inside. We dialed up 325°F by goosing the left and right burners to Medium. Voila! Crisp and juicy chicken.
Our main complaint for just about every grill is the obligatory bi-metal dial thermometer in the hood that gives you a ballpark reading of what the temperature is high above the meat. Since we cook down on the grates, it's always better to use your own digital thermometer and place a probe at the cooking surface. With their acquisition of iGrill digital thermometers, Weber is addressing this issue. Spirit II is “iGrill3 Ready” with a mounting place on the right side shelf for an optional iGrill 3 digital thermometer. This Bluetooth device enables you to place one digital probe at the cooking surface to dial up the correct oven temp, and one probe in your food to monitor internal meat temp. The concept is a big leap in the right direction. Surprisingly, however, there is no read out on the iGrill 3 itself. You need to use the app even when you're standing at the grill. Check out Weber's iGrill 3 video below that shows how to install this optional thermometer on their Genesis II.
Weber claims their new Infinity Ignition is significantly enhanced, more robust and consistent. They back up the claim by increasing the warranty on the ignition from two to ten years. You fire Spirit II up by turning the left control knob to HIGH then pressing the ignition button. A crossover flame runs from left to right to ignite the middle and right burners. Throughout our limited time testing Spirit II, we were impressed by the flawless ignition performance.
Racks and Shelves
A warming rack and fold down left side shelf are included with Spirit II. The left and right side shelves have integrated tool hooks. Spirit II is also offered as a 2-burner. Both sizes have the same features and are available in LP and natural gas models. LP models have Weber’s Fuel Gauge, which estimates your gas tank level by weight.
Spirit II continues to be a solid, dependable tool for aspiring backyard pitmasters and pitmistresses. With the multitude of $300 gas grills invading the BBQ market every year, a big challenge Weber always faces is price. Although Spirit II is Weber's entry level full-sized gas grill line, it is still more expensive than many popular low cost brands. However, most Spirit owners feel that Weber’s quality, durability, performance and customer service are worth it. Many cheapo gassers only last three to four years while Spirits can keep grilling for decades. Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices on Spirit II 3-burner and 2-burner grills are $599 and $499 respectively, but the street price is about a hundred bucks less. Those who take the long view on purchasing decisions could consider Spirit’s $500 (3-burner) and $400 (2-burner) street prices a bargain.
The manual states the warranty is 10 years for the cook box, lid, burners, ignition system, and grease management system; five years for the coated cast iron cooking grates and coated steel flavorizer bars. All remaining parts are warranted for two years. However, the Weber website claims the warranty is 10 years on everything. Weber says the website is correct. They explain, “Our new warranty is truly a bumper to bumper 10 year warranty on all Spirit II gas grills, Genesis II gas grills, and Summit gas grills purchased after 10/1/17. What unfortunately has happened is that the reprints for the Spirit II manuals had incorrect information pertaining to our ‘older’ warranty – which was a combination of 10/5/2 years, depending on the component. It’s been addressed and should be corrected in any new future printing of manuals.”
Cooked On It
We have hands-on experience testing this product. We have also gathered info from the manufacturer, owners and other reliable sources.
Weber-Stephen is one of the oldest and most respected manufacturers of BBQ equipment and related accessories in the world. Weber grills and smokers cook beautifully and have great features that are clever, effective and easy to use. As popularity and demand for BBQ gear grows worldwide, Weber continues to earn their long standing reputation for quality, durability and outstanding customer service and support, (7 days a week from 7am to 9pm CST), in an increasingly competitive environment. Even in this crowded marketplace, many consumers are still willing to pay more for the Weber name and they are rarely disappointed. They make a variety of cookers and smokers. Their iconic black charcoal kettles are known throughout the world. Indeed Weber is expanding globally.
Weber-Stephen was family owned since it was founded in 1952 by George Stephen. At the end of 2010 the Stephen family sold a majority stake to Chicago investment group BDT Capital Partners. In 2012, Weber settled a class action suit out of court regarding their use of the phrase, "Made in USA". Weber previously qualified the "Made in USA" statement by specifying their products are assembled in the USA with some components that are sourced globally. Here is an excerpt from Weber's statement "Weber believes that because all Weber grills and the disputed accessories are designed and engineered in the USA, and all grills save for one line [Spirit]* are manufactured and assembled in the USA using component parts primarily made in the USA, it did nothing wrong and therefore has valid defenses to plaintiff's claims. The court has not held a trial or ruled in favor of either party on any disputed issues. Weber and the plaintiff have agreed to settle the matter to avoid the costs of continued litigation." As a result of this suit, Weber can no longer claim to be made in America.
Things change, but we believe Weber's commitment to quality and innovation has not.
The biggest barrier for many folks is price. Webers are not cheap, but when you consider that they last decades, the price is easy to justify. Many some cheap grills fall apart after three years or so.
Our main complaint: All Webers have the obligatory bi-metal dial thermometer in the hood that gives you a ballpark reading of what the temperature is high above the meat. Since we cook on the grates, though, it's always better to bring your own digital thermometer and place a probe there. It would be nice if they would go digital in the digital age and it appears with their acquisition of iGrill digital thermometers, this is begining to change.
*At the very end of 2016 Weber introduced their new line of Genesis II gas grills to replace the popular Genesis series. Genesis II is made in China. Genesis II LX is still made in Palatine, IL.