Char-Griller Flavor Pro Review

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Flavor Pro

Char-Griller's Flavor Pro Multi-Fuel Grill is a four burner gas grill with a slide out "Flavor Drawer" above the burners that can hold wood and/or charcoal, enabling you to cook with any of the fuels or all three. Although Char-Griller describes Flavor Pro as a "first of its kind grill design", it is actually a $500 version of a $17,000 Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet Hybrid Fire Grill. Although we've seen other multi-fuel gas grill designs, Flavor Pro is the first that attempts to utilize Kalamazoo's Hybrid Fire Grilling Drawer concept. Hats off to Char-Griller for taking a shot at bringing this innovation to the mass market.

Cooking with gas

Flavor Pro is essentially a gas grill with four stainless steel tube burners rated at 10,000 BTU each. We can't help but compare Flavor Pro to Char-Griller's excellent, low-cost, high powered three burner Grillin' Pro Gas Grill, which won our top Platinum Medal Award for exceptional performance in a gas grill under $200. Both models have similarities as well as some dramatic differences. We loved Grillin' Pro's high temperature range of 850°F from its three 13,600 BTU burners across a 390 square inch cook surface that delivered an impressive heat flux rating of 104.62. Heat flux is the BTU per square inch and is a more useful measure of how much heat a grill delivers than BTU alone. However, in Char-Griller’s multi-fuel Flavor Pro, the four 10,000 BTU burners under 508 square inches of cook surface maxed out around 700°F with a heat flux rating of 78.74. Not bad, but not knocking our socks off like Grillin' Pro.

A single, battery powered ignitor starts all four burners. The flame doesn't cross over from burner to burner so the ignitor must be used to fire up each one separately.

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We like the 180 degree dial adjustment from Low to Hi but wish Char-Griller had added a couple visual markers for mid-range settings. 

Four porcelain coated, matte finish, cast iron grates make up the primary cook surface, and a fold away porcelain coated steel warming rack adds extra capacity.

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The warming rack is affixed on each side to a fold away frame by hex nuts threaded onto long bolts. On our test unit, the nuts kept coming loose and falling into the Flavor Drawer. Strange because the same warming rack design is used in Char-Griller's $200 Grillin' Pro Gas Grill which held together during our tests. One clever Grillin' Pro owner offers this advice: "No need to install the nuts that hold the warming rack as the supplied screws (bolts) are long enough to keep it in place and make its removal a 5 second job." Still, Flavor Pro's $500 price tag warrants higher expectations. Buyers should not have to pluck parts from the fire or chase them around the deck.

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Temperature tests

Our bread test for even heat across the cook surface indicated heat concentration at the center rear.

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The pattern was not as pronounced when actually cooking, particularly in moderate temperature ranges.

With all four burners on Low, the grill’s cooking temperature was in the upper 400°F range. With all burners on Hi, Flavor Pro topped out around 700°F.

Most gas grills have a limited low and high temperature range. Flavor Pro's high temperature range is actually very good, though not as good as their less expensive Grillin' Pro. The low temp range of around 400°F is typical in gas grills and requires using a 2-zone setup for roasting at temps below 350°F. In a 2-zone setup, one side of the grill produces direct radiant heat, the other side produces no heat, and food on that side cooks by indirect convection heat. On a gas grill, this is accomplished by turning some burners off and controlling the indirect cooking temperature with the lit burners. Click here to learn about the importance of 2-zone cooking.

Winging it

For a simple 2-zone test, we like to cook chicken wings. That enables us to further test the heat pattern by flipping the wings but not moving them around on the cooking grate, which reveals the actual evenness of heat in a real-world cooking scenario. For Flavor Pro, we set the left and right burners to low and left the two middle burners off. Ignoring the inaccurate hood thermometer, which is even more useless for monitoring 2-zones, we clipped a temperature probe from our Fireboard digital thermometer to the indirect cooking grate. To reach our desired temp of 350°F, we needed to boost the left and right burners to just shy of medium. Click here to learn why digital thermometers are the most important tool in your BBQ toolbox.

During cooking, the difference in heat from front to back was slight. We took the wings at the back off a few minutes before those up front, and the results were very good: Crisp skin and moist meat. If you love wings but don't want to mess with frying, try our Crispy Grilled Buffalo Wings Recipe.

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High temp searing

We cranked all four burners up high. When it comes to searing, fajitas don't lie. First, you want to sizzle the veggies quickly.

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Then zap the thin skirt steaks with intense radiant heat to sear the outside while leaving the interior nice and pink. 

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At high temp, we did experience the discrepancy of heat between the hot back and more moderate front, but it was acceptable and not dramatic.

So far so good. Flavor Pro was easy to set up for 2-zone cooking and its high temperature searing ability was better than many gassers in the same price range. But what we were really waiting to test was...

The Flavor Drawer!

The Flavor Drawer concept, seemingly inspired by the luxurious, stellar Kalamazoo Hybrid Fire Grill Drawer, burns charcoal or real wood right above the gas burners in a slide out drawer that lets you tend the solid fuel fire without opening the lid. The drawer has stops that prevent it from sliding out all the way, which keeps red hot carnage from spilling onto your deck, while a solid metal sheet at the drawer bottom traps falling embers.

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In addition to holding charcoal and wood, the porcelain coated steel Flavor Drawer over the burners functions as a large heat tent to sizzle drippings and disperse heat.

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Under the burners is a large drip tray to catch grease and ash. A removable grease pan slides out of the drip tray from the front of the double-door cart and the entire drip tray slides out from the back.

When cooking with charcoal or wood, ash is meant to drop through the flavor drawer slots to the drip tray below.

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Unfortunately, grease and ash also fall onto the burners.

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On standard gas grills, solid, metal heat tents protect the burners. Although Flavor Pro's burners are ported on the sides rather than on top, we wonder how this will affect performance over time. Minimally, this design requires the burners to be cleaned regularly.

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To prevent ash from building up in the grease pan, Flavor Pro has a hinged door in the drip tray that covers the grease pan while allowing grease to flow underneath into the pan.

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After cooking with solid fuel, shake down ash from the flavor drawer, remove grease pan from the front, then slide out the ash laden drip tray from the back for clean up.

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Grilling on charcoal

Fill the "Wood Product Zone(s)" with charcoal, crank the burners underneath and let the briquets ash over before grilling. We've seen charcoal trays for gas grills and even pellet smokers, so this Flavor Pro Function isn't all that unique.

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And since Flavor Pro's gas burners get searing hot without charcoal, you've got to ask yourself one question: "Do I feel like cleaning up charcoal ash, or just grease and gunk?" When doing a bunch of greasy burgers, the answer may be charcoal, which will burn up most of your gunky burger drippings.

Adjustable exhaust chimneys

One interesting aspect of the design that initially intrigued us and is different from other gas grills, is Flavor Pro's adjustable exhaust dampers on the two chimneys.

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Open up the exhaust air flow or shut it down by spinning the dampers. Very few gas grills have adjustable dampers for safety reasons. That's because gas burners need to be well ventilated to ensure the flame doesn't go out for lack of oxygen. Gassers typically have air intake vents on the lower grill body and a large exhaust vent gap about an inch wide running along the back between the lid and grill. When you try to smoke on a gas grill using wood in a smoke box, tube or pouch, the generous airflow helps the wood fire burn up quickly and the brief burst of smoke escapes out the vent gap.

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On most gassers, you can get a whiff of smoke on foods that cook fast, like fish, but good luck trying to do smoky ribs, let alone an overnight smoking session like pork butt or brisket.

Flavor Pro has a small vent gap between the lid and body. That coupled with the adjustable chimneys gave us a glimmer of hope that Char-Griller's Flavor Pro might effectively work as a gas smoker like the fabulous Kalamazoo Hybrid Fire Grills. Flavor Pro's manual describes a few different ways of using charcoal and wood in the Flavor Drawer, with and without gas burner assist. 

Uninterested in a short smoking session with wood chips or pellets, we decided to start with wood chunks, setting our sights on doing a couple slabs of baby back ribs that would take three to five hours. A real smoking test! Before bringing out the ribs, we did a dry run with no food to calibrate Flavor Pro and get to know how it handles wood. With several good sized wood chunks in the right-hand Wood Product Zone, we followed Char-Griller’s instructions to use burners 3 and 4, "making sure to avoid wood erupting in open flame." We set burners 3 and 4 to Medium (turned halfway), then lid down, chimney dampers closed, we watched closely, aiming to adjust the burners when the wood began generating smoke. Eureka! Smoke started wafting out. The dampered chimneys and small vent gap seemed to be holding smoke under the hood.

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But our diligence was to no avail. Though we kept the lid down, the wood soon burst into flames, temperature shot up, and the fire burned until the chunks were incinerated after producing little smoke.

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We tried large chunks, split logs, combos of charcoal and chunks. What began as an exciting journey soon degenerated into tedious, protracted drudgery. We struggled to hold a low and slow smoking temp of around 225°F on the indirect left side without causing the wood to flame up.

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Char-Griller said they were scratching their heads and hadn't encountered the flare ups we experienced. Indeed we saw their YouTube videos with wood chunks happily smoking away and no flames in sight. "The design of the burners, drawer, and smoke stacks empowers our customers to apply many different tactics to get the smokey results they desire," Char-Griller contends. "Burners on low vs. high, more or less fuel, and the position of the smoke stacks will all impact the temperature of the grill and overall cooking performance. Practice will make perfect when using this model."

After days of fiddling around with different fuel and burner schemes, we achieved modest success at best.

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Our ribs were better than any we had made on a gasser with a smoke box, but they were neither as good nor nearly as easy to execute as on an inexpensive gas smoker.

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Incidentals

Flavor Pro has fixed left and right side shelves with built in tool hooks. Positioning the LP tank inside the double door cart is a tight fit. You have to drop the tank on its side and slide it in place. When shutting off the gas while the grill is still hot, take care not to burn your hand on the drip tray which hangs just inches above the gas valve. 

We also had to lift Flavor Pro up by the right side shelf to move the unit. One caster at the front right corner consistently swiveled against the direction of the other wheels, preventing the grill from rolling. We flipped Flavor Pro on its back and described the problem to Char-Griller. They said the wheels didn't seem defective and our assembly was correct. Another head scratcher without resolution.

Packaging and assembly

Flavor Pro came in a large, cardboard box that was difficult to open. Some assembly steps were a bit unclear. The manual had obviously been revised several times and would benefit from a thorough update. Some fasteners had to be screwed into tight corners that were difficult to get at resulting in scraped knuckles.

Conclusion

Not a bad gas grill. Heat is fairly even and it can get searing hot. The pull-out fuel drawer is kinda cool, enabling you to burn charcoal, and to some extent wood without opening the lid. 

The grease solution worked OK for our tests, but using the fuel drawer may get messy over time or for large, greasy cooks where gunk and ash can mix together. Cooking with charcoal was fun and easy, but the gas burners get pretty hot without having to mess around with charcoal and ash.

You can throw small wood chunks or chips into the fuel drawer for a whiff of smoke on fast cooking foods, but using Flavor Pro for low and slow smoking frustrated us. The adjustable damper chimneys hold promise, and Char-Griller swears they don't understand why we had difficulty, but we can't see Flavor Pro even coming close to the smoky results and ease of use afforded by an inexpensive, dedicated gas smoker. Build quality is weak for the price and the strange wheels round off our list of disappointments. For our 500 bucks, we'd go with Char-Griller's $200 Grillin' Pro Gas Grill and one of the many available $200 to $300 vertical cabinet gas smokers. 

Still, there's enough potential here for someone who really wants a single gas grill with some wood and charcoal burning ability. It's a little better than some of the other low cost "Dual Fuel" gas grills we've seen. Char-Griller Flavor Pro gets our AmazingRibs.com Bronze Medal.

Warranty

Grill hood (Top Half) and main burners – five years

Grill body (Bottom half including the Flavor Drawer) – one year

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price: 
$499
Primary Function: 
Grill
Smoker
Combination Grill & Smoker
Fuel: 
Charcoal
Propane Gas
Logs
More Than One Fuel
Primary Capacity: 
508 square inches
Secondary Capacity: 
217 square inches
Main Burners: 
4
Made in the USA: 
No
BTU: 
40,000
Heat Flux: 
78.74
Heat Flux is the BTU per square inch and is a more useful measure of how much heat a grill delivers than BTU alone.
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.

Char-Griller

Char-Griller makes some of the cheapest cookers on the planet. Almost all of their models are round, horizontal charcoal grills and smokers. They also offer charcoal and gas combo cookers. Char-Griller epitomizes the old saying that you get what you pay for. Budget conscious buyers often can't pass up the Char-Griller price tag and many models are very popular. Hence they have wide distribution coast to coast in all the big box stores and online. Unfortunately, many novice cooks aspiring to slow smoke are drawn to Char-Griller's super cheap offset smokers. Offsets are already difficult to work with and Char-Griller's tin can, drafty construction has been a source of consternation for generations of first time smokers. That said, their Grillin' Pro gas grill and Akorn kamados, offer a lot of bang for very low bucks.

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Max Good

As AmazingRibs.com's Vice President of Product Reviews & Keeper of the Flame, Max Good is the man in charge of finding the best products for the AmazingRibs.com Equipment Reviews section. Max loves barbecue so much that he took his barbecue sauce recipes, had them bottled, and now sells them around the country.

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*Based on 4" raw burger with 1/2" space on all sides

“The most respected and comprehensive reviewers of grills and smokers in the world”

- Larry Olmsted,
Senior Contributor (Forbes)


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