Cuisinart's 3-in-1 Stainless 5 Burner Gas Grill is a pretty nice package deal for a pretty low price. It's called 3-in-1 because it's a gas grill that comes with a smoke tube and a cast iron griddle. One box for under $400 lets you grill, griddle, and smoke? Well, sort of. As is common with most gas grills, smoking performance is not as strong as it is on a dedicated smoker because gas grills have much more venting than a smoker and the vents can't be controlled. Still, 2 out of 3 ain't bad considering the price.
Overall construction is decent. We like the double walled hood that holds heat inside the grill: it's a nice feature that's particularly useful in cold climates.
And of course, 3-in-1 features a window so you can look while you cook.
Keep it clean boys and girls. Once grill and smoker windows go black, it's hard to clear them up even by scraping with a razor. A little Windex before or after each use does the trick.
Impressive heat distribution
In our tests, heat was even across the entire cook surface, besting performance of many of the more expensive gassers we've tested. The grill was slightly cooler toward the front as evidenced in our bread test.
A flight of wings with all burners on Low indicated that the temp drop-off at the front was not a big deal.
On a crisp fall day with ambient temp at around 50°F, we set all five 9,600 BTU stainless steel burners to Low. Our digital thermometer probes measured the grate temp: Left 500°F, Middle 512°F, Right 477°F. As usual, the lid thermometer was wrong, reading 440°F and illustrating why we constantly remind our readers about the importance of using an accurate digital thermometer. If you aren't using one, you should. Digital thermometers prevent the health risk of undercooked chicken and the wallet risk of overcooked steaks. Up your game overnight! Click here to learn why digital thermometers are the single most important tool in your barbecue arsenal.
With all burners on High, we found a similar temp pattern: Left 714°F, Middle 730°F, Right 702°F. Even though heat varies only slightly from left to right, plan on getting the highest temps in the middle of this grill. And while the Cuisinart’s lid thermometer has a range of 200° to 700°, it topped out at 600° and refused to move higher, even as the actual grill temperature increased.
With a temperature range of about 500°F to 700°F, 3-in-1 runs hotter than most gas grills. That's OK with us because there's no substitute for intense searing heat, and 700°F is a steakhouse temp. On the low end, you can get below 500°F by using a 2-zone set-up and placing the food over the unheated side. Read more about the advantages of 2-zone cooking here. To test both the low and high temp grilling performance, we reverse-seared a 1.5 inch thick T-bone. The reverse sear method is the best way to grill a thick steak and ensure the center isn't tough and brown, or red and raw. Start on a 2-zone setup with some burners shut off to create a moderate, indirect zone of 225°F fueled by the lit burners on the other side. Slowly bring up the internal meat temp to 110°F then remove it. Crank all burners up high to Warp 10, then sear the outside of the steak fast and furious! With a reverse sear, you'll get a delicious brown crust on the outside.
And perfectly cooked, pink, juicy goodness on the inside.
Click here to learn about reverse searing. And there's more on the indispensable technique of 2-zone cooking below. Cuisinart's high temps make it ace our grill tests.
For smoking, 3-in-1 includes a smoke tube which hangs under the 12,000 BTU side burner on the right of the grill.
Fill the tube with wood chips and it fits neatly between the two right burners, hanging from a hook in the back of the cookbox.
Crank the right burner, then take a picture.
As is typical with smoke tubes and smoke boxes on gas grills, most of the smoke goes billowing out the rear vents before having a chance to kiss foods with that magic flavor and aroma. That's because gas grills need to be well ventilated so the burners aren't extinguished from lack of oxygen. The wood burns up fast and, unlike some wood chip boxes, Cuisinart's is somewhat difficult to replenish.
Be that as it may, we had a couple slabs of ribs that needed to cook low and slow at 225°F, so we went 2-zone with burners 1 and 5 on Low and middle burners 2, 3 and 4 Off. That gave us a moderate indirect zone right in the center of the cooking grates.
Even without a ton of smoke, the results were still good because we used Meathead's Famous Last Meal Ribs Recipe: there was plenty of flavor and the ribs were soft and succulent. The smoke, alas, was subtle at best, as our pale picture attests. Almost no smoke ring. If you want more smoke flavor, plan on replenishing the smoker tube often. Don't bother soaking your wood chips to get more smoke out of them. It doesn't work! We busted that myth here.
Cuisinart generously throws in a large cast iron griddle which hangs under the left side shelf.
It's big and heavy, with a 15 x 12 inch griddle surface and a trough at the back for scraping off grease and gunk while cooking.
Griddles require a little maintenance or they will rust and get nasty, but they are well worth that small amount of effort. A griddle excels at cooking bacon and eggs, smash burgers, fajitas, and fish. A griddle also puts a superb sear on scallops and easily handles asparagus so you don't have to worry about them slipping through the grates. Click here to learn Why You Need To Start Griddle Grilling. While Cuisinart's griddle can be stored under the grill’s left shelf, you may want to store it indoors to keep it clean and dry, especially if you don't use it often or don't have a grill cover for inclement weather.
Ignition: Houston we have a problem
3-in-1 has dedicated, piezoelectric ignition at each burner. Piezoelectric ignition has no battery and uses a small, spring-loaded hammer to hit a crystal and produce an electric charge to light the burners. Many manufacturers feel piezoelectric igniters are less susceptible to failure than battery powered igniters. While that may be true, Cuisinart's are some of the more difficult to use that we've encountered. The manual contains lighting instructions that accurately describe the awkward procedure: "Push and hold down the control knob and turn SLOWLY (2 to 3 seconds) to HIGH. You should hear the igniter click. Note: This may need to be repeated 2-3 times to light the grill." Unfortunately, 2-3 times was a conservative estimate. After firing up the grill a few times, we began to develop a feel for the igniters, but they always required more effort than expected. Just be sure to follow the manufacturer's directions to a T.
We flipped for the warming rack!
Warming racks are useful and most gas grills have one. However, they can be a nuisance when you just want to fill up the main cooking grates with burgers for a big crowd. Cuisinart has a simple remedy: just flip it up and out of the way. Great idea!
A large drip pan with a small, removable grease tray slides out from the back, another useful feature.
3-in-1 also has tool hooks on the left side shelf, and its open air cart rolls around on four locking casters.
Assembly and packaging
Packaging was good and protected the grill from damage during shipping. The assembly instructions were easy to follow and assembly went smoothly with just one person.
There's a lot to like about Cuisinart's 3-in-1 Gas Grill and only a couple minor things to dislike. If not for the irritating igniters, 3-in-1 one would be a slam dunk AmazingRibs.com Best Value Gold Medal. As it is, we had to do some chin scratching and hand wringing, before deciding. Gold Medal anyway! The even heat and high temperature performance coupled with a few extras like the large griddle make 3-in-1 a great choice for a mid-size gas grill in this price range. Just plan on a few initial cooks to get used to those finicky igniters. One last quibble: Cuisinart states the primary cooking area is 502 square inches, but the three cast iron cooking grates are 9 x 17.5 inches for a total area of 472.5 square inches. Our posted primary grilling capacity in this review is the practical available cook surface of 442 square inches.
15 years on the stainless steel burners, 3 years on all other stainless steel parts, 1 year on all other parts.
Heat Flux is the BTU per square inch and is a more useful measure of how much heat a grill delivers than BTU alone.
Cooked On It
We have hands-on experience testing this product. We have also gathered info from the manufacturer, owners and other reliable sources.
Cuisinart is a home appliance brand owned by Conair Corporation. In 1971 Cuisinart introduced the USA to their electric food processor. They now offer a wide variety of cooking equipment including blenders, coffee makers, rice cookers and outdoor grills.