Summertime means grilling season, and there is plenty of warm weather left to make use of a new grill. While there are a variety of grill options to choose from, gas grills make a popular choice because you can fire one up on a Tuesday night and be ready to grill in minutes, rather than waiting for a charcoal fire to be ready. Among gas grill enthusiasts, American-made grills from Vermont Castings enjoy a solid reputation. The company makes three basic styles of grill; three-burner (both the 322 and 332 series are 3 burner models), four-burner (422 series) and five-burner (522 series) models. We fired up the Vermont Castings 422 model (starting at $1,699 MSRP) with the optional infrared sear burner to see how it performed.
Home assembly of gas grills is never a quick process, but assembling the 422 was challenging and time consuming. While the directions were relatively straightforward, I did have to switch from the usual assembly guide to a separate assembly in order to install the side sear burner. Vermont Castings recommends two people assemble this grill together, which is good advice as the process took almost four and a half hours to assemble the grill completely. Some screws were difficult and in awkward positions to reach; on a few occasions, I had to ask my wife to screw some of the parts together because I could not fit my hands into the space available. I don’t have particularly large hands, so this could be an issue. If you have the option to purchase this grill already assembled, save yourself an afternoon and go for it.
Once assembled, the Vermont Castings 422 is an impressive grill. A heavy, cast-iron lid, high-grade stainless steel construction and porcelain-coated cast iron grates suggest that this is a grill meant for years of use. Unfortunately, the lower doors on the grill that house the propane tank and storage were noticeably off center. Don’t blame my assembly: These doors come attached to the grill frame from the factory, and the half inch-difference between the two doors was one of the first things visitors remarked on. Additionally, the back panel of the storage housing came with a very noticeable dent. For nearly $2,000, it would be exceptionally frustrating to receive this grill and then find these issues. Both should have been noticed and corrected in the factory. This is the kind of grill you want to guests to envy and appreciate, not comment that the doors are askew.
Cosmetic issues aside, the 422 performs well. The four burners provide an even heat over the grilling surface. Oftentimes, gas grills can have cold spots where the burners don’t heat as well. The Vermont Castings 422 doesn’t have that issue; time and again I grilled items over the entire surface of the grill and not once did I find any issues. At approximately 110 btus per square inch the 422 delivers enough heat to get a good crust on steaks, even if you don’t opt for the sear burner. The two-sided grill plates cater to different types of food. The rounded side works well for juicy items like hamburgers, while the flat side makes it easier to remove delicate items like shrimp. The burners maintain a solid heat and creates excellent grill marks. At 493 square inches of grill surface, nine New York steaks fit comfortably on the grill. A specially designed sear plate helps direct grease away from the flames, which minimized flare ups, even with fatty foods. The heavy hood seals in heat effectively, allowing for easy roasting. It has one noticeable flaw: The built-in hood thermometer fogged up with every use, rendering it virtually worthless. While this is more of an issue with roasted items than grilled items, it was yet another frustration that shouldn’t be an issue on a grill at this price point.
The 422’s versatility is a major selling point. In addition to being able to roast and grill like every other gas grill, it also comes with a built-in rotisserie. This rotisserie is much more powerful than most rotisserie attachments sold for gas grills, which lets it handle plenty of food. The infrared sear burner may just be the must-have option for the 422. Essentially a separate, super-hot burner, it allows you to quickly sear a steak or other item, sealing in the juices and getting that steakhouse-like quality that is often missing from other grills. After searing (the instructions recommend two minutes per side for steaks), you can move the steaks over to the grill to finish cooking. A warming rack above the main grill easily holds an ear of corn lengthwise, and will hold 10 to 12 whole ears at once, which, along with the large grill area, makes cooking for a crowd much simpler.
Backlit dials and an attached light make nighttime grilling a breeze with the 422, and two built-in condiment trays mean that rubs, seasonings and sauces can be kept handy until needed.
Overall, the propane-powered Vermont Castings 422 excels in a variety of cooking styles, from searing to grilling to roasting and rotisserie. A number of user-friendly features enhance the cooking experience. Unfortunately, quality control issues like crooked doors and a faulty built-in thermometer shouldn’t exist in a grill at this price point. If your sole concern is cooking performance, the Vermont Castings 422 is a great choice. If you are looking for a high-performance grill that you can show off to your friends and neighbors, I’d advise a bit of caution here. Check with your dealer to see what they will do if you have parts installed poorly, dents, or gauges that don’t work properly. At $1,699 MSRP, you wouldn’t want to be stuck with a model that doesn’t look pristine.
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