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Napoleon Phantom P500 Reviewed and Rated

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Napoleon Phantom P500

Canadian manufacturer, Napoleon, is typically not top of mind for grill shoppers in the U.S. despite having a good number of retailers and etailers here.

This isn’t so in Canada and many other countries, where Napoleon is well known as a major, global brand with a vast catalog of high-quality outdoor cooking products in a wide variety of designs and price ranges. Phantom is a relatively new line that is based on Napoleon’s popular Prestige Series gas grills but with some important upgrades as well as an unusual, attractive black matte finish that embodies its name. When Phantom appeared on the market, it immediately created a buzz. 

But then COVID-19 hit and the overwhelming demand for the unit, coupled with the pandemic-related supply chain issues that affected all manufacturers, left customers screaming “WHERE IS MY @#!&%*!!! GRILL?” We too were lost in the crowd, waiting for the day a Phantom test unit would be ours.

So it was with great excitement that we received the long-awaited delivery of our Phantom in 2023. Even the box was tantalizing.

Did Phantom live up to our expectations? Yes and no.

By the numbers

Phantom is 66.25″W x 26.5″D x 50.25″H and weighs 197 pounds. The exterior is powder-coated steel with a distinct matte finish. A bright orange placard inserted in the manual provides special instructions on how to clean and maintain the finish. A good deal of the internal construction is stainless steel, notably the massive cast stainless steel cooking grates. 

Under the hood

And here they are now. We see a lot of cast iron cooking grates, but very few cast stainless steel grates. Napoleon’s characteristic wavy grate design makes these jumbo cook surfaces even more striking. And it’s a good bet they will last a looooooooong time.

Another unique Napoleon design is their staggered heat tents. The lower tents cover the main burners. The higher positioned tents disperse heat beneath the cook surface.

The Phantom P500 we tested has four, 12,000 BTU stainless steel tube main burners. As seen in this picture, a slide-out drip pan sits beneath the burners and funnels drippings into a central, removable grease tray for disposal. 

An 18,000 BTU rotisserie backburner is located in the back, just above the cooking surface. Like the main burners, it is a tube burner. Most backburners we’ve encountered are ceramic infrared burners, which makes sense as backburners are positioned to provide heat laterally toward food on a spit. A ceramic IR burner’s heat is focused and directional and travels sideways without much dissipation. Heat from a standard tube burner will naturally travel upward. Napoleon mitigates this by covering the tube burner with a radiant plate that helps bring the heat to the spinning meat. 

Instead of a standard side burner, Phantom has one 14,000 BTU ceramic, infrared sear burner mounted in the left side shelf. The burner is said to reach 1,800°F.

Flame thrower ignition fires up the four main burners. There is one ignition switch on the left side of the control panel for all six burners.

The removable, stainless steel warming rack has various cut-outs. Those holes are meant for jalapeno poppers and the notches running along the front are for hanging drumsticks. The rack is removable but doesn’t flip down out of the way.

A switch on the right side of the control panel turns on LED lights in each control knob. Blue light = burner OFF. Red light = burner ON.

The ignition and lights are powered by a battery pack inside the cart.

Temperature tests

As always, we emphatically state that you must use accurate, digital thermometers to dial up your cooking temperature and monitor internal meat temperatures. Click here to learn why digital thermometers are the most important tool in your BBQ Tool Box. For this review we used a Fireboard digital thermometer.

With our temperature probes clipped to the thick stainless steel cooking grate, at center left, middle, and right, and with all four main burners set on LOW, our average temperature was 445°F. With all four main burners set HIGH our average temperature was 728°F. That’s pretty hot for a gasser’s main burners.

Testing the backburner with a Fireboard probe clipped to the center of the rotisserie spit, our reading was 245°F. Turning the left and right mains to LOW boosted the rotisserie temp to 410°F.

We weren’t even going to run the risk of burning up our temperature probes on that 1,800°F ceramic sear burner and decided to leave that evaluation to a couple of strip steaks.

Our bread test for even heat with all four mains set LOW suggested a minor hot spot in the center cook surface. 

However, our chicken wing test disagreed. With all four mains set LOW, we grilled a flight of chicken wings, flipping often but not moving them around. The whole batch cooked evenly front to back, left to right. 

Click here for our Chicken Wing Recipes. 

1,800 degrees Fahrenheit

Great googly moogly that’s HOT! Whenever we test a grill that claims super-sear power, we love to reverse-sear steaks. Reverse searing is our favorite method for cooking thick steaks, 1.5″ or thicker. For a reverse sear, you start cooking with a low temperature to bring the interior of the steak up to around 110°F, then crank your sear burner to finish them off. This method creates a delicious, deep brown steak surface while leaving the interior pink and juicy. Click here to learn all about Reverse Searing.

On the main cooking grates, with the left and right burners set LOW and the middle burners OFF, we clocked the center temp at 245°F. This is a little hotter than we’d like for reverse sear but within range. On went our trimmed and seasoned strip steaks with a digital meat probe inserted in one. If you ever had the humiliating experience of serving overcooked expensive steaks to friends and family, you’ll love this part. Relax….have a glass of wine. Just keep an eye on your thermometer as the internal meat temp slowly rises to the 110°F target.

That’s when it’s time to switch gears and start searing. With many grills, you’d need to remove the steak while you crank the heat from low to searing temps. Not Phantom. Talk about 2-zone cooking with a moderate indirect heat zone and hot sizzling zone, Phantom does both simultaneously. Just crank that infrared sear burner a few minutes before sear time and your steaks can go straight from the indirect zone under the hood, to the sizzle zone over the ceramic burner.

MAN that IR burner was HOT! We could have yanked those beauties off a couple minutes earlier, but no one was complaining.

Rotisserie

Our next test was rotisserie performance. Phantom comes with a rotisserie motor and spit to compliment the backburner. We easily adapted Meathead’s Stuffed Pork Loin Recipe for rotisserie cooking. Mounting Phantom’s rotisserie motor and setting up the roast was easy. With a pan of veggies beneath the meat to catch the delicious drippings we flipped the switch and started spinning.

Another fine performance from Phantom.

Let the complaining begin

So far we’ve shared all the good experiences we had with Phantom. Sadly, we ran into some disappointing issues as well that started during assembly. At first, we were impressed by Napoleon’s clever cart design. No screws, bolts, or fasteners were used at the outset. Instead, Napoleon employed a precise tongue and groove hooking design for the cart walls and shelves. Here’s a photo of one of the hooked corners.

Look ma no bolts.

The entire cart body was hooked together during the first few steps before we needed to bring out a wrench and screwdriver. Brilliant!

Then the trouble began. Most brands have some way to organize and identify their hardware. Nuts, bolts and small parts are grouped in plastic bags and labeled with letters or numbers. Here’s an example from another grill we recently reviewed.

If Napoleon was following some logic for grouping their hardware, we were unable to discern it. Everything seemed jumbled together. Our confusion was exacerbated by the pictorial manual which has no descriptive text and caused a good deal of head scratching as we tried to identify what part was what. This statement at the front of the Assembly Guide was a warning.

After some tedious, time-consuming effort, Phantom started coming together despite reoccurring roadblocks. For example, we had a big gap between the two cart doors. The Assembly Guide offered this instruction.

But this is the best we could get.

We really hit a wall at Step 20 – attaching the left side shelf that houses the infrared burner. By now we were accustomed to playing a guessing game about which bolts to use. However, we faced a new challenge. Check out sub-step 3; the four side shelf mounting holes.

Which mounting holes would you choose?

And guess what? None of them were threaded so we’d be stuck even if the correct four holes were identified.

We called customer service. All representatives were busy speaking with other customers. After some time on hold, we grew impatient and opted for their automated system to have someone call us back. They called back while we were on another call, and left a message to call their customer service number again. We were back to square one. We called and waited 20 minutes before choosing the call-back option again. This time we didn’t get a call back that day or the next. We called again and waited 40 minutes.

Needing to get on with our review, we gave up on customer service and reached out to one of our higher-level contacts. Within a few hours, a Napoleon representative was assigned to our case and emailed us his direct contact info.

Our first question was how to mount the side shelf when none of the mounting holes were threaded. Turns out self-tapping screws for mounting should have been included with the other fasteners. The rep sent us a package of the appropriate screws. We identified the correct holes to tap by lining up the side shelf mounting holes to the various cart holes. Tapping required some elbow grease. Luckily we had a good ratchet wrench. Then we encountered a new problem. Straining to get underneath the shelf and work around the IR burner and gas line, we couldn’t maneuver the ratchet wrench into the upper side shelf corners to tighten the screws. “This could have been easily avoided by moving the top two mounting holes a couple of inches downward,” we grumbled. “Or hooking the top side shelf into the body instead of using screws.”

We spoke with a couple of Napoleon dealers who acknowledged Step 20 is difficult, but doable. Surely, we thought, others must have experienced similar problems with Phantom. But very few complaints about assembly were posted in buyer’s reviews on the internet. Eventually, we were able to tighten three of the four mounting screws and decided to move forward.

Phantom had a couple more surprises left. Every year we move all grills, smokers, and furniture from our deck to wash it off. When we rolled Phantom down our ramp onto the yard, the casters buried themselves in the grass and wouldn’t budge.

We were stuck, and decided to bring Phantom back onto the deck and clean around it. As we struggled to get it on and up the ramp, the right cart door fell off.

We moved several other full-size grills and smokers at the same time and didn’t have either of these issues.

Conclusion

The grill head and infrared side burner are excellent and would easily win our Gold Medal or even possibly our top Platinum Medal were they not attached to the problematic cart. We’ve assembled an awful lot of grills and smokers over the years and don’t recall dealing with anything as frustrating as Phantom’s cart. It’s as if the grill and cart were designed by two different teams. Our disappointing experience with Napoleon’s customer service must be taken into account too. On the other hand, we must also consider the overwhelming positive response Phantom continues to receive from both dealers and buyers.

At the end of the day, that dang cart just racked up too many strikes for our top awards. We give Napoleon Phantom our Silver Medal.

If you decide to buy a Phantom, consider having the dealer deliver it fully assembled, and think twice about using it on grass.

Warranty

Napoleon (Wolf Steel Ltd, Barrie, ON, Canada) warrants that the components in your new Napoleon product will be free from defects in material and workmanship from the date of purchase, for the following periods.

HoodLifetime
Stainless Steel LidLifetime
Porcelain Enamel LidLifetime
Aluminum CastingsLifetime
Stainless Steel Cooking GridsLifetime
Stainless Steel Tube BurnersLifetime
Stainless Steel Sear Plates15 Years
Porcelain Enamel Cast Iron Grids15 Years
Stainless Steel Infrared Rotisserie15 Years
Infrared Bottom/Side Burner15 Years
All Other Parts15 Years

We thank Napoleon for providing a Phantom for our review.

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Product Information:

  • Model:
    Phantom P500
  • Item Price:
    $ 1,999.00
  • Where to buy (buying from this supplier supports this website):
  • Made in USA:
    no
  • Review Method:
    Cooked On It
    We have hands-on experience testing this product. We have also gathered info from the manufacturer, owners and other reliable sources.
  • Primary Function:
    Grill
  • Burner Type:
    Sear, Rotisserie
  • Fuel:
    Propane Gas, Natural Gas Capable
  • BTU:
    48,000
  • Heat Flux:
    96
    Heat Flux is the BTU per square inch and is a more useful measure of how much heat a grill delivers than BTU alone.
  • Main Burners:
    4
  • Primary Capacity:
    500 square inches
    Mid-Size (about 24 burgers)
  • Secondary Capacity:
    240 square inches

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Published On: 11/6/2023 Last Modified: 1/16/2024

  • Max Good, Full time grill tester - Max Good, AmazingRibs.com's Vice President of Product Reviews & Keeper of the Flame, is the man in charge of finding the best products for the AmazingRibs.com Equipment Reviews section. Max bottles his own barbecue sauce recipes and now sells them around the country.

 

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