The Bottom Line
The Kettleman Charcoal Grill proves that Char-Broil can be innovative and build a product that can compete with anyone. The hinged lid is a great feature, as is the removable ash catcher. Fully loaded this grill is cheaper than the comparable Weber, but its limited production quality and inability to be shutdown leaves more than a few things to be desired.
- High-temperature cooking
- Efficient fuel usage
- Removable ash catcher
- Cannot be shut down
- Limited quality control
- 360 square inches of total grilling area
- Locking hinged lid
- Porcelain enameled body and lid
- Porcelain coated steel cooking grate
- Removable ash catcher
- Three legs, two on wheels
- Lid-mounted thermometer
- 10 year limited warranty
- Made in China
Guide Review - Char-Broil Kettleman TRU-Infrared 22.5" Charcoal Grill
My opinion is that that Kettleman does what it promises. Yes, the TRU-Infrared trademark stamped all over the packaging is a bit of a stretch, but this grill cooks hot, has good temperature control and can do it all with less charcoal than the competition on a single cookout measurement.
Calling a charcoal grill infrared is a little strange. Charcoal emits about 25% of its heat as infrared and the rest by convection, so any and all charcoal fires have an infrared component to them. However, for charcoal to burn there must be airflow and that means that this grill is no more and no less infrared than anything else.
The implication is that because of the infrared element, that this charcoal grill is more efficient. The reality is that the distance between the fire and the food is much shorter than on similar style grills. This puts the heat closer to the food, meaning that a smaller fire will do. Of course, burning at full speed, this will go through the same amount of charcoal over time.
At least, that is my experience with this. The big problem with this argument though is that this grill can not be shut down, meaning that the vents cannot be closed and the fire extinguished. An experienced charcoal griller reused charcoal from cookout to cookout by putting out the fire when it is no longer needed by starving it of oxygen. By using this method, charcoal can be conserved, reducing the total fuel cost of operating a grilling. The Kettleman's bottom vents can not be adjusted or closed since there is no adjustment at all.
The intact vents on this charcoal grill are unlike anything else. They are holes, ported downward on the inside to prevent burning embers from escaping, that run all the way around the grill between the cooking grate and the coal grate. The temperature on this grill is controlled solely by the large top vent and since the bottom vents can not be closed, this grill will remain hot until all the charcoal is completely used up, so while it can be started with less charcoal, all of it is going to be used.
The cooking grate on this grill is certainly more substantial than those found on any Weber charcoal grill. Heavy, porcelain coated upside down V's make up the grilling surface that is easier to use and won't let food slip through as easily as those wire grates you typically find on charcoal grills.
This is certainly the best feature on the grill though it remains to be seen how long it will last.
As with many Char-Broil products, there is a certain lack of quality control when it comes to the insignificant parts. Screws and bolts and easily stripped and things don't line up quite as well as they should, but this is a pretty simple product and assembly is quick and easy.
Ultimately, the question with this grill is whether or not to buy it or a comparable US made Weber grill. This unit does have great features and I know that the hinged lid, something you would have to spend a lot more money to get something comparable on a Weber, is certainly a selling point. No, it doesn't really affect the cooking performance, but being able to open a lid without having to drape it on the side of the unit with Weber's little hook is nice.
While the infrared and efficiency arguments made by Char-Broil are largely meaningless, this grill can do most anything a Weber can, with some nice additions. I don't believe it will last as long, but at around $120USD, this is a good investment. Because the "bottom" vents are always open, I really recommend getting a good cover to go with this grill.