By: Max Good
The Ferno Freestanding Grill is one of the more unique gassers we’ve encountered for many reasons. Foremost is Ferno’s large, eye-popping “Firewheel” which raises and lowers the three, 18 gauge, 304 stainless steel, 12,000 BTU burners. We’ve seen adjustable height charcoal trays, but never adjustable height gas burners. Ferno’s ability to quickly change the distance between food and fire adds an extra dimension to cooking on gas.
The control knobs on the right go up and down with the burner array. Push the control knobs in to activate battery powered ignitors at each burner. Here are the burners in low position. Ferno claims dropping the burners down to the low position reduces flare-ups.
And high position. The height adjustment range is about 5 inches.
The tent shaped Lower Radiant Plates under the burners are meant to sizzle drippings and distribute heat evenly.
They work in conjunction with the Upper Radiant Plates, aka “heat tents” that do the same while shielding the burners from gunk.
With the heat tents installed, it’s difficult to visually confirm the burners are lit, particularly in daylight. After firing Ferno up a few times, we noticed the burners let out a pronounced audio burst when ignited. Nonetheless, a small cut out in the tents for visual confirmation would be a reassuring addition to this design.
The three, coated cast iron grates are crazy heavy: weighing 50 pounds total. A grate lifting tool is included to help manipulate these massive, iron slabs. The wide, flat surface is similar to a griddle, which is good and bad. On one hand, small items like veggies and shrimp won’t go missing in action, but the conductive heat can burn your food, as we soon learned. Read on.
You can flip the grates over to the pointed side if searing is not desired, like when roasting a whole turkey.
Ferno has three grates. The left and middle are 12 x 21 inches apiece and sit above the three burners. These two main grates are Ferno’s active cook surface. The smaller 5 x 21 inch right grate rests over the chain driven cranking mechanism and receives moderate indirect heat, making it suitable for holding and warming foods.
Our bread test indicated Ferno’s heat was very even across the two main grates, with a pronounced drop off on the small right side grate, which is to be expected given that there is no burner directly beneath this right side grate.
We couldn’t wait to unleash Ferno’s sear power by turning the burners up high to heat up the main, massive, cast iron grates. Cast iron has a high thermal capacity, making it very efficient at holding and transmitting heat to meat. With the Firewheel and control knobs cranked all the way up, heat tents over the three 12,000 BTU burners were one inch from the bottom of all that iron. The grates got hotter faster than we anticipated. Flipping our strip steaks after two minutes, we were shocked by Ferno’s sear power. The meat surface was already getting blackened while our instant read thermometer showed the interior needed more time.
We pulled back the heat and commenced to flipping. I’m happy to report our blackened steaks were still delicious. Had we whistled and walked away for a beverage, the results could have been disastrous.
Lesson learned: everything in moderation. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should with Ferno. Next we tried fajitas. This time with the burners and Firewheel dialed back. Exquisito! Note the even cooking, side to side, front to back. Our thin skirt steaks quickly developed an excellent brown exterior while retaining a juicy pink center.
You already know brown is beautiful. Click here to read why!
Pulling in the reigns further and shooting for a slightly less intense cook surface, we made some luscious salmon. We were beginning to get a feel for Ferno.
Given Ferno’s unusual design which expands the gas grilling experience, Ferno’s User Manual should offer more guidance. There is good info on technical and safety issues, but very few tips about cooking on Ferno. Their website has a How To tab that includes a “Quick Reference Guide for specific temperatures” and a limited number of recipe videos. The Quick Reference Guide is useful.
But it would be nice to have it, and more, included in the manual. We didn’t know it existed on Ferno’s website until after our tests began. As always, the built-in hood thermometer was way off. You need to use accurate digital thermometers to ensure cooking temps and internal food temps are correct. If you don’t already know this fundamental fact, click here to learn why digital thermometers are the most important tool in a cook’s arsenal. Ferno points out their thermometer is “commercial grade” and capable of being calibrated. Of course you would need an accurate point of reference in order to calibrate it. Perhaps a digital thermometer?
The double walled, rectangular prism hood is filled with one half inch thick ceramic wool insulation. Vents are designed to create a downdraft air flow to nudge heat back down over the food rather than let it escape easily out the upper back of the hood as is typical with most gas grills. Air flow coupled with insulation caused Ferno’s heat to circle back down over our turkey, delivering Ferno’s promise of a crispy finish on poultry.
The aluminum handle assembly holds three C Cell batteries and an On/Off switch to control LED hood lights.
The lights automatically shut off when the lid is closed.
A drip pan that catches grease and gunk slides out from the left side.
The LP tank enclosure beneath the grill is attractive, but somewhat annoying. The structure feels relatively lightweight and springy, particularly with a full tank, and requires a bit of effort to lift the tank door back over the latch to close it. Connecting the tank to the hose was also irritating as the hose is short and the regulator must line up perfectly with the tank valve to connect properly. Ferno reminds us that schlepping a tank into an enclosed cabinet and hooking it up can also be annoying and irritating. True enough. Still, a more solid structure would be an improvement. Natural gas models are available, as are conversion kits. Ferno specifies their conversion kits must be installed by a qualified technician.
The 17 x 23 inch Mapletex side tables are NSF-rated for food safety. Mapletex is a popular material for cutting boards and you can cut foods on Ferno’s side tables if you don’t mind them developing a rough, chopping block appearance. They are removable and can double as serving trays.
Aside from the cast iron grates, Ferno is made with stainless steel and aluminum. The grill and fasteners are all top grade 304 stainless. The solid, welded, powder coated frame is a lesser grade 201 stainless steel. Four substantial casters aid in Ferno’s mobility.
Unpacking and assembling this grill was the easiest, by far, we’ve experienced. That’s because it arrived, tightly strapped down on a wood pallet, firmly packed in foam padding and cardboard, with white glove delivery by Ferno. That’s right. We took pictures while they unpacked, assembled and set Ferno up. This service is included in the price. What do you expect for $5,000?
Not often can we proclaim a grill or smoker “one of a kind”. However, that lofty title applies to Ferno. We know of no other gas grill with adjustable height burners and if one exists, we’d be surprised if it possessed Ferno’s seamless operation and striking appearance. Appealing cosmetics, elegant design, and quality construction combine to make Ferno a noteworthy choice in the luxury gas grill market.
Ferno should do a better job at providing more detailed instruction on operation of their multi-dimensional device. Nonetheless, we quickly began to hone in on Ferno, and the journey was pretty fun.
The Firewheel chain driven mechanism feels well-made and provides smooth operation. But it obviously will need maintenance that other gassers do not. Ferno’s manual states, “The chain and jack screws that make it possible for the burners to be raised and lowered leave the factory with enough lubrication to last many years. If at some point the grill begins to squeak when raising or lowering the burners then it may be time to consider lubricating.”
They also highly recommend taking advantage of the included Ferno cover when not in use.
Ferno offers a limited 20 year warranty on the stainless steel grill housings and frame. 10 year warranty on the cast iron grates, burners, radiants and all associated jack and transmission components, including the manifold and gas valves. All of the above exclude labor, shipping and handling. Additionally, Ferno extends a 1 year limited warranty on all parts that includes shipping, handling and labor, “where necessary”. Labor must be authorized by Ferno.
We thank Ferno for providing a grill for our tests.
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Ferno Grills out of California, home of stainless steel outdoor kitchen, introduced their unique gas grill in 2018. Ferno’s patented Firewheel raises and lowers the burners to provide a multi-dimensional gas grilling experience.
Published On: 1/7/2020 Last Modified: 3/17/2021
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