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By: Max Good
With their recent acquisitions of iGrills Digital Thermometers and June Technologies Smart Ovens, Weber signaled their vision of a high tech future for barbecue and grilling. Soon afterwards, Weber brand iGrill digital thermometers and iGrill Ready Gas Grills appeared. June Technologies’ sophisticated software and wireless functions were seamlessly incorporated into the Weber Connect Grilling Hub and SmokeFire Pellet Grills. In 2021 they added EX and SX Smart Grills to their popular Spirit and Genesis Gas Grill lines and we at AmazingRibs.com jumped for joy. Although Weber’s Smart Grills are not designed to control cooking temperature, they have Weber Connect Technology with a built-in digital temperature sensor that we hoped would enable backyard cooks to easily dial up and monitor accurate cooking temperatures via an LED display on each grill’s side table or from their smartphone app.
We’ve always instructed our readers to ignore old fashioned, built-in analog grill thermometers and trust only modern, accurate, digital thermometers. Those old bi-metal, analog thermometers were developed in the late 18th century. Their limited accuracy is degraded further by the oddly popular placement in grill hoods, high above the grate where the actual cooking happens. They are routinely off by 50°F to 100°F. Click here to learn why digital thermometers are the most important tool in your barbecue arsenal.
So we approached the new Weber Genesis II SX-335 with excitement and high expectations. We conducted exhaustive tests involving Weber technicians and our team of experts at AmazingRibs.com, including our thermometer guru, Bill McGrath. In the end we feel almost everything about the SX-335 is good and only one thing is bad. But it’s a big thing.
The Weber Genesis II SX-335 three burner with sear burner and side burner is, at its core, a wonderful gas grill. It is 47 inches high x 59 inches wide x 29 inches deep and weighs 160 pounds. Weber’s Genesis Gas Grills have been popular for many years. With great features, a solid build and Weber’s superb customer service, they continue to grab a large share of the premium gas grill market.
The SX-335 is an upgraded version of the E-335 that we reviewed a couple years ago. That model received our highest award: the AmazingRibs.com Platinum Medal. E models have porcelain enamel coated hoods and cast iron cooking grates, while S models have stainless steel hoods and stainless steel cooking grates. The 335 models come with a 12,000 BTU Side Burner and a 9,000 BTU Sear Burner. Genesis II EX-315 Smart Grills are also offered without the additional side and sear burners.
All X Series Smart Grills incorporate Weber Connect digital, wireless technology. Looking at Genesis II and Genesis II Smart Grills side by side, it’s clear they’re identical, other than the Weber Connect integration. Weber confirmed this observation. We decided to use bits and pieces of our previous E-335 tests for this review and focus more on what’s different in this grill: The new Smart Stuff. But don’t worry. You better believe we cooked on SX-335! The cooking experience was the same as E-335 – Good!
Genesis II Smart Grills feature Weber’s GS4 grilling system. GS4 consists of Infinity Ignition, tapered-quadrangle shaped burners, and a redesigned grease removal system. Weber claims Infinity Ignition is more robust and dependable than their older ignition systems, and they back it up with a ten year warranty. It has a single, battery powered ignitor with no crossover.
Crossover enables one lit burner to ignite other burners. Without crossover, as in this grill, the ignitor must be pressed to fire up each individual burner. A small inconvenience, but Infinity performed flawlessly throughout our tests. The GS4 burners themselves are meant to improve heat distribution. Note the unusual quadrangular burner shape in the photo.
Here’s a shot of the sear burner, located between the middle and right main burners in the cast aluminum firebox. The rust-proof aluminum housing has great thermal conductivity for holding and distributing heat.
Long-lasting, stainless steel flavorizer bars sizzle drippings and prevent them from gunking up the burners underneath. Note the notches on the sides of each bar which provide a visual confirmation that the burners are indeed lit.
Weber’s stainless steel rod grates on the SX-335 are some of our favorites.
Gas grill manufacturers often rely on cast iron grates to amplify heat from low powered burners, but we’re not fans of cast iron grates because they overpower foods with intense conductive heat at the point of contact, creating those alternating bands of dark brown and pale tan known as sear marks. If it’s flavor you want (which you do), the ultimate goal is an even sear across the entire meat surface, which transforms dull, tan meat to a delicious flavorful crust thanks to the magical Maillard reaction. More Maillard = more flavor. Stainless steel grates help you get there. If you’re confused, click here for more info on conduction, convection and radiant cooking.
To test SX-335’s searing power, we cooked a couple of ribeye steaks. We clocked temps at 750°F with all three main burners on high, and 880°F with the sear burner cranked. That’s steakhouse sear power that doesn’t need cast iron.
The stainless steel rods allow radiant heat to pass through and develop a tasty brown crust over the entire meat surface. Yes, conductive heat from stainless steel will do a little branding, but not as much as cast iron. Plus stainless steel is way easier to clean, won’t rust and doesn’t need periodic seasoning with oil and heat. Click here to learn about the pros and cons of various grill grate designs.
Our bread test showed the heat was pretty even across SX-335, with a slight drop off on the sides and front.
Under the center of the cast aluminum fire box is the grease management system: a porcelain coated steel slide out tray that funnels gunk into a disposable aluminum pan for easy clean up.
SX-335 comes with a handle light that turns on automatically when you lift the lid, a nice plus for grilling at night.
The round button in the image is an On/Off Switch that shuts the light off entirely for daytime grilling. You also get LED lights on each main burner control knob.
All of these lights are mighty useful when the sun goes down.
Weber’s “Fuel Gauge” for LP tanks is actually a scale that provides a rough estimate of how much fuel is in the tank by weight.
It’s not precise, but provides enough of a clue to warn you the tank is getting light and will need a change soon. The SX-335 is also available in a natural gas model.
You gotta love the warming rack. It quickly drops down and out of the way for rotisserie use or when you want clear access to the entire cook surface. No fumbling around popping the rack off and finding a spot to stash it.
A thermistor temperature sensor is attached to the rear wall of the SX-335 Smart Grill right behind the warming rack and six inches above the main cooking surface.
The sensor cable threads through the back.
And plugs into the Weber Connect System on the left side shelf.
The black wire in the picture is from the thermistor. The blue and red wires come from the main power box which uses six D Cell Batteries for the lights and Weber Connect. The power box is located on the opposite side by the LP tank. The Fuel Scale also plugs into the box and the blue and red wires send info on fuel and battery levels to Weber Connect.
Here’s where we get into the Smart Stuff. Weber Connect does a lot.
The Connect Display shows you:
You can also access all of the above via the free Weber Connect App on your smartphone.
The app is compatible with iPhones on iOS 12.1 or later and most smartphones on Android 7.0 or later. Grill apps are mighty useful. However, as with any WiFi device, you may have connection problems. Connectivity can be impaired by your modem’s age and location, your building construction, your internet service and so on. We had no problems, but connection issues are common and frustrating. If you can’t connect, stay calm and call Weber customer service.
Weber Connect includes a library of guided recipes that attempt to provide step by step directions, complete with alarms that notify you when it’s time to move onto the next step. Until recently, they sometimes discounted these guided recipes as tools for a novice that would likely be ignored by even cooks of modest skill. However, the recipe library has expanded quickly and they now view these recipes as a valuable asset which can open up a new world of cuisine to outdoor cooks who haven’t ventured past the burger, sausage, chicken and steak scene.
If you need any outdoor cooking guidance whatsoever, come one come all to AmazingRibs.com for all the detailed recipes, techniques, tips and tricks you need!
Weber continues to upgrade their software. Upgrades happen automatically over the air through WiFi.
This all sounds good. Right?
In our tests, the displayed Grilling Temperature was way off. We ran our tests with three different Fireboard digital thermometers, the industry-leading technology. After the first round of tests with our workhorse FBX11 we contacted Fireboard to confirm our disappointing results. To double check, they sent us a new, calibrated FBX2D, which confirmed our initial results. For good measure, Fireboard then sent their new PRO model. All three were within the same range and all three disagreed dramatically with the Weber Connect readings. We’ll summarize with some basic test results using the Fireboard PRO.
With all main burners on LOW the Weber Connect internal sensor read 440°F, while our digital probe at the center grate read 486.9°F, or 46.9°F higher.
With all main burners on HIGH our reading was over 100°F hotter.
We find it unacceptable that these readings are no more accurate than the old bi-metal hood thermometers.
In another test, we placed a second Fireboard probe on the warming rack right near to the Weber Connect thermistor. From that location, our readings fell squarely between our grate level probe and the Weber Connect readings. That made some sense as our grate probe was much closer to the burners.
Hmmmmm…perhaps the Weber sensor location was the problem. What if we moved the Weber Connect thermistor from the rear of the grill and clipped it to the center cooking grate right next to our Fireboard probe? Rather than unscrew the factory installed thermistor, Weber sent us a replacement. We disconnected the factory thermistor and plugged our replacement into Weber Connect. Suddenly the Weber readings were way hotter than our Fireboard! We abandoned that foray into R&D and went back to the factory mounted unit.
With all burners on LOW, gas grills still run too hot for cooking low and slow at 225°F, and even for roasting at 350°F. To dial in lower temps, you need to use a 2-zone setup with some burners OFF and some burners ON, which creates a moderate indirect heat zone over the unlit burners with heat supplied by the lit burners. Read more about the importance of 2-zone cooking here. We started this 2-zone test with a target temp of about 225°F in the indirect zone. Using our Fireboard grate level probes, we ignored the Weber Connect display and were able to stabilize the left side of the grill just about at our target temp by turning the left and middle burners OFF and setting the right burner to MEDIUM. As expected, the Fireboard/Weber disagreement continued: Fireboard said we were at 230°F and Weber Connect said 300°F. Next we went for a roasting temperature of 350°F with the middle burner OFF and the left and right burners on LOW. Finally Weber and Fireboard saw eye to eye. This was the only time Weber and Fireboard agreed. Keep in mind that we performed other temp tests as well: What you’re reading here is merely a short summary.
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Recipes often call for a range in recommended cooking temperatures, like “cook over medium-low heat (250°F to 350°F)”. So even if the Smart Grill display temp is inaccurate, the internal meat temp can still reach your desired doneness. The problem is that you could be in for a long haul if you rely on the Smart Grill to set up 2 zones for low and slow ribs and pork butts. With the left and middle burners OFF and the right burner on LOW, the lowest displayed temp we got from our Smart Grill was 260°F, while our Fireboard reported the actual cooking temp as 202°F. That’s REAL low and slow!
Throughout this saga, Weber went above and beyond to work with us, agreeing to Zoom meetings, supplying parts and even sending their techs on site to troubleshoot. One of their Smart Grill project managers spoke at length about the challenge of mounting a temperature sensor that would perform effectively for all recipes. He spoke of their extensive, real world cooking tests and how they developed a “Correlation Chart” to determine the best sensor type and position and best programming for the Smart Grill software. We were reminded that this process is ongoing and customer comments are now being assessed in addition to Weber’s internal data. They expect over the air upgrades to continue as they refine Smart Grill.
So what happens if our readers, armed with digital thermometers, complain that Weber Connect is inaccurate? Weber customer service is instructed to offer those buyers a Weber Connect ambient probe and grate clip to plug into one of the Meat Probe Inputs. Sadly, we tried this and it didn’t work either. After extensive testing, these inaccurate temp readouts were extremely frustrating to say the least.
Packaging of the SX-335 was excellent. The electronics made assembly somewhat challenging and we had to call customer service a couple times for some hand holding. It wasn’t terrible, but slow down and pay extra attention when you assemble this unit. Weber ships their shiny stainless steel hood and side shelves covered with clear, adhesive backed plastic for protection. Be sure to remove it. The plastic is laser cut around protruding surfaces like the Weber Badge in the photo.
This is common practice for stainless steel. The SX-335 plastic took a little extra effort to remove and left an outline around the cut marks that didn’t go away after cleaning. This photo was taken after we removed the plastic and then hit the lid with stainless steel polish. We tried again to polish away the lines, this time with more elbow grease, but could not remove the outline marks. We became concerned that the laser cut went too deep and etched the metal itself. Weber sent someone out. We watched as he used a cloth and Weber Stainless Steel Polish to vigorously remove it all without special chemicals or tools. Moral to the story: shoulda used more elbow grease.
Can Weber improve the cooking temperature inaccuracies over the air going forward? It’s a possibility. However we wonder if the ultimate fix will require the thermistor sensor to be movable and capable of being clipped onto the cook surface, especially for 2-zone cooking. Weber states, “The Weber technology will only get smarter over time, and we’ll continue to work on improving temperature accuracy. As the EX and SX lines are smart, we can issue over-the-air improvements as they are available. Improvements happen via the Weber Connect app, which gets updates via WiFi or 4G/LTE and sends them to the grill/device via Bluetooth.” We’ll be watching. If Weber fixes this one bad thing, then it’s all good and our rating could shoot straight up to our top Platinum Award.
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Meanwhile Weber tells us most buyers are happy with their Smart Grill purchases. We scoured internet reviews and this appears true. The minority of unhappy buyers had other complaints like shipping damage and WiFi connection issues. We didn’t find anyone griping about inaccurate cooking temperatures. Could it be that loyal Weber fans are already accustomed to their inaccurate hood thermometers? That may be, but we at AmazingRibs.com are not accustomed to inaccuracy. We believe displayed cooking temps should be the actual cooking temps.
If Genesis II wasn’t such an excellent gas grill, we would have thrown in the towel, rated this model Not Recommended and moved on long ago. The electronics are disappointing but this grill still cooks like nobody’s business. We’re giving Genesis II SX-335 Smart Grill our Bronze Medal, with qualifications. We also want to point out that the Genesis II S-335 is the exact same grill sans Weber Connect and the lights for $279 less. That means if you add an iGrill3 for a hundred bucks and a Grill ‘n Go Light for $32 to the S model, you’re still spending $132 less than the SX model. You don’t get the LED lights on the control knobs and iGrill won’t report the fuel level, but adding those two options on an S-335 gives you most of the SX-335’s features for less money. In our tests, the iGrill3 temperature readings were spot on.
Ten years bumper to bumper on everything but Weber Connect parts. Three years on Weber Connect.
We thank Weber for providing a Genesis II SX-335 for our tests.
Special thanks to Fireboard Labs for the generous use of their digital thermometers.
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 8pm 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.
Since then Weber, like many others, has outsourced manufacturing of more product lines. 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 appears this is beginning to change as Weber enters a new era of digital technology and software based products.
Published On: 8/25/2021 Last Modified: 9/14/2021
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