Compared to the majority of grills on the market, the Char-Broil All Star gas barbecue is… well… refreshingly small in size.
These days, a standard barbecue usually has around two to four burners, with large grilling areas that can accommodate enough food for at least six to eight people. But if you’re just cooking up a few burgers or roasting a small joint of meat, bigger isn’t always better.
What’s more, the majority of us have limited space in our gardens and there’s no point having a massive grill taking up a big chunk of that.
And that, folks, is the All Star’s appeal. It has a relatively small footprint, but features ample cooking space for up to four people. It’s great for grilling meat, fish and veg, but also for slow roasting and smoking, too.
I’ve cooked on a wide array of best BBQs (and pizza ovens) and each fuel has its own pros and cons. Charcoal infuses food with a unique smokey tang, but it takes a while to heat up. Gas, on the other hand, is a quick starter, but tends not to add any real flavour to the food, while wood pellets are great for smoking and are hugely convenient, but they can still be tricky to find.
I was keen to see how much use we’d get out of the All Star and if its compact size was roomy enough for our family of three.
The Char-Broil All Star’s product specifications
- Fuel type: Gas
- Dimensions: H110.1cm x W101.3cm x D64.6cm
- Cooking area dimensions: Dia. 45cm
- Weight: 30kg
- Number of burners: 1
- BTU output: 3.8kW
Unboxing the Char-Broil All Star
It’s worth mentioning that I’ve had the Char-Broil All Star for well over a month now and enough time has passed for me to forget the worst of the unboxing and assembly.
Because the All-Star is quite frankly, a bit of a nightmare to assemble. But please don’t let that put you off – because one you have managed that Herculean task, it’s really a rather nifty grill.
The All Star comes in a large box and one that you will need two people to carry (it weighs 35kg boxed) but it fits through a standard sized door without too much trouble. That’s when the ‘fun’ starts.
Once you have placed all the bits where you plan to build it – aim do this on a soft surface, like a lawn or on a blanket on a patio – then you need to cut open all four corners of the box to remove the packaging, a lot of which is unfortunately non-recyclable polystyrene.
It took my husband and I two hours to build the barbecue. It was all rather lengthy and overly complicated, with some extremely fiddley moments. Not to mention a couple of mistakes requiring us to back track, undo the work we’d done and start again.
The instructions aren’t very clear, the nuts and bolts, while packaged up in separate sections aren’t named alphabetically (yes, each section has been given a letter but is it too much to ask that these go in order?) All of which baffles me as it could have been made so much easier.
I’m really quite used at this stage at getting to grips with convoluted instructions and diagrams, having built many pieces of flatpack furniture, as well as barbecues over the years, but these instructions were so overly complicated and the diagrams were small and unclear.
You begin by building the trolley base, then after that you build the barbecue separately and join the two together. This means that the grill is completely separate from the trolley – it sits on top – so in theory, it’s portable or you can just forgo using the trolley if you have another sturdy surface on which to place it. Once you join the two, you do need to attach the gas pipe to the trolley, which is extremely tight and tricky to fit.
The grill build is pretty robust – the trolley not so much. The four trolley panels are made of fairly thin plastic and so rather flimsy, held together by two thick metal brackets. But in fairness, this is a pretty affordable barbecue compared to most, so as long as it holds the grill in place, you can’t really complain.
Once the trolley is built and then the grill, you attach the gas pipe to the trolley, add batteries to the ignition and you’re ready to go.
Having since assembled it using the awful instructions, I have since discovered that Char-Broil has its own free downloadable app with much clearer step-by-step instructions and real images (not miniscule b&w diagrams). Sadly, this was never mentioned in the instructions as it would have saved us a big chunk of time!
What is it like cooking on the Char-Broil All Star?
One touch ignition means that firing up the grill is super easy. You can’t really see the burner flame as it’s hidden under the infrared grate which sits underneath the cast iron grill grates. It’s this that delivers the brand’s TRU Infrared cooking technology, which stops excessive heat flaring up and burning food.
Getting it ready to grill on is easy and quick to do. You whack it up to the top temperature with the lid closed to heat up the interior and the grill plates, then after 10 minutes, it’s ready to cook on.
You then reduce the temperature if you’re cooking something like burgers that need to heat through. Or leave it on high if you’re wanting something that sear on the outside without overcooking in the middle, a medium rare steak.
Temperature control is pretty intuitive after a couple of uses – simply reduce the heat and you’ll see the heat go down on the temperature gauge on the hood.
Cooking on the Char-Broil All Star
I’ll not lie to you, it took a little time to get used to the grilling technique required for the All Star. The infrared technology ensures that the centre of the middle of the grill is intensely hot, while around the edges were relatively cool, so I found that it worked best to grill something in the centre and then move it to the edges or onto the higher shelf to keep it warm.
Cooking items like burgers and sausages tends to take a little longer than on a conventional grill, as the direct heat has been slightly deflected. However, you still get a great sear from the hot cast-iron grill plates and the food turns out to be very tasty.
Next, I tried roasting a chicken. To speed it up, I spatchcocked the chicken and draped it over a metal rib rack, which sat inside a large roasting tin to minimise the mess. Despite it all being quite oversized, it all fit inside the grill neatly and the lid closed easily. I raised the heat up to 220 degrees at first for around 20 minutes, then dropped it to 180 and left it to roast away for the time required.
To check that the chicken was cooked though, I used my digital thermometer probe (not included) and inserted it into the thickest part of the bird – which is usually the thigh and leg – and once it hit 73 degrees Celsius, I knew it was fully cooked. After 10 minutes of resting, the chicken was extremely moist and juicy (despite never basting it) and had a delicious smokey taste, too. It was quickly devoured and given top marks by the family.
I also roasted corn on the cob and grilled both grilled peppers and aubergine slices – all of which worked out perfectly. Halloumi kebabs were less successful – the halloumi stuck to the grill and broke up on the skewers, but I suspect this was more of an issue with the halloumi I used, than the grill’s fault.
The All Star comes with a Grilling Guide with 19 pages of information, suggestions and advice to help you understand the grill better and learn how to get the most from it.
It does say that ‘there are no hard and fast rules’ when cooking with the Char-Broil TRU Infrared grill’ so really once you’re armed with the knowledge, you simply take it from there.
I should add that I experienced a minor explosion when the flame went out and I pressed the ignition button… and BOOM! When I checked the instructions, I did find a warning saying not to do this, but it’s halfway down the safety instructions and not very prominent. Considering how front and centre the ignition button is, I feel that this should really be flagged up more – it could’ve been very bad indeed if I didn’t have the grill lid open at the same time.
Cleaning the Char-Broil All Star
Cleaning the All Star couldn’t be easier. Simply dial the heat up to full for 10 minutes after cooking on it, and any residue will burn off. If the next time you use it, it still has a few bits stuck to the grill, you can scrape these off using the toothy tool that comes with the barbecue once it has completely cooled down.
Storing the Char-Broil All Star
The All Star is very compact. It has two extremely useful shelves either side of the grill which feature hooks for tools that fold up and down, ensuring a small footprint.
There’s a space underneath for your gas cylinder to sit which is super handy too, but annoyingly, my standard Flogas cylinder was too tall so had to sit beside the grill rather than underneath, therefore negating the compact design somewhat.
In case you’re wondering, the manual states that “max cylinder diameter shall be 320m and 480mm in height’.
There is an all-weather cover available for the All-Star, but this doesn’t come with the grill. You can buy it separately for around £38.
How does the Char-Broil All Star rate online?
On Amazon, the All Star rates very highly from independent reviews, aside from the odd delivery issue, which doesn’t have anything to do with the grill itself.
Hoes does the Char-Broil All Star compare to similar barbecues?
The All Star is super easy to use compared to the majority of grills on the market. Once you get over the long, complicated build (for goodness sake, use the app!!), you’ll find it’s a pretty great grill – the convenience of it being easy to heat up, as well as easy to clean, meant we got a lot of use out of it.
Should you buy the Char-Broil All Star?
It depends on what you’re cooking and for how many people. For a small family, say around four – it’s perfect. Depending on what you’re cooking, you may struggle for enough space on the grill if you’re cooking for more.
It has ample space to cook a large chicken and there’s space for around eight burgers on the grill. It’s when you’re grilling a main course and veggies together that the space becomes a little tight so you may need to do them in batches.
However, I would recommend buying it if you’re looking for a simple and effective grill that won’t take up oodles of space on your patio.
About the review and this reviewer
Ginevra Benedetti is the deputy editor of Ideal Home magazine and has been writing about homes and gardens for nearly two decades for a wide range of magazines and websites.
As with all our reviews, the Char-Broil All Star barbecue has been tested first-hand in her garden over a number of weeks, using it just as you would, so you know exactly what you are buying.
The products are given to us free of charge and we test them for as long as possible before sending them back to the brand, unless we are able to keep them. This means that we can continue to use the product which gives us the opportunity to return to our reviews for updating, so you can keep up-to-date with how it’s fared over a period of time.