Char-Broil Big Easy Smoker, Roaster and Grill review: a clever three-in-one BBQ
The Char-Broil Big Easy delivers succulent, juicy roasts with smoking capabilities thrown in for extra culinary kudos. We put it to the test to find out how it performed
If you want to roast a large chicken in under an hour, smoke ribs, steak, and brisket to perfection, or just enjoy a fluffily-cooked jacket spud, Char-Broil’s three-in-one Big Easy will deliver. However, if you’re looking for a grill that will churn out burgers and sausages for a crowd, keep on scrolling, nothing to see here!
Great smoky flavour
Generous drum capacity
Teeny grilling area
Not for slow cooking
The Char-Broil Big Easy Smoker, Roaster, and Grill is in a class of its own. Similar in style, if not quite as stylish as the Big Green Egg, it earns the Easy moniker by being gas-powered. No poking about with charcoal here. It’s also pretty easy to set up and clean.
Featuring Char-Broil’s celebrated Tru-Infrared technology, the Big Easy uses radiant heat to cook quickly, without drying the meat out. Smoking in the Big Easy yields superior results, flavor-wise, compared to any grill-top smoker box we’ve tried, but the size of the grill means this isn’t the best choice for regular BBQ fodder, such as burgers and sausages.
The Char-Broil Big Easy’s small footprint makes it perfect for small patios and even balconies, but don’t be fooled by its diminutive scale – it can pack away an 11kg turkey should you be entertaining the masses on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day! We tried the Char-Broil Big Easy in prime summer BBQ season, testing out various recipes from the Big Easy Grilling Guide, as well as a few lazy Sunday roasts (with salad, it was far too sunny for all the trimmings!).
Once you’ve found out how we got on, why not take a look at the other contenders in our best grills guide.
Char-Broil Big Easy product specifications:
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- Fuel type: Gas
- Number of burners: 1 x 5.3kW
- Dimensions (with lid closed): H92 x W59 x D59.4cm / H36.2" x W23.4" x D23.1cm
- Weight: 22.7kg / 50lbs
- Materials: Porcelain coated cast iron and stainless steel
- Total cooking area: D38.5cm / D180sq"
- Guarantee: 2 years
Unboxing the Char-Broil Big Easy
The Char-Broil Big Easy arrives in an easy-to-manage, if heavy, box which is cleverly packed to minimize wasted space. This did make it tricky to pull everything out without wrecking said box, but there wasn’t an excessive use of plastic or polystyrene inside, which is always appreciated in our household (the council recycling service takes barely any plastic).
Assembly was easier than some regular BBQs I have tested, but still took about 14 steps and more screwing and bolting together than I’d have liked. It took around 40 minutes to connect the gas valve and control panel, add on the legs and various handles, plus the lid, base, and grease tray. The drip plate on the underside didn’t fit very well, but since you’ll never see it after assembly, it’s no biggie.
Overall, the Char-Broil Big Easy looks like a serious piece of kit – well-built and substantial – but there are a few less robust elements that let it down a touch. For example, the grease tray was quite clunky to slide in and out and the smoker box didn’t latch on terribly smoothly. The two control switches also felt loose and plastic-y. In my opinion, wobbliness at these touchpoints can make the entire product feel cheaply made, even if that’s not the case.
On the plus side, I did admire the handy hanging spots around the Big Easy, which ensured all the BBQ tools and accessories were kept on board and close to hand. It also comes with a handy thermometer probe, plus clips for hanging ribs inside. And there’s no denying the materials used to make the Big Easy are top class. We’re talking a cast iron exterior, porcelain coated grill, and decent-grade stainless steel inside.
Using the Char-Broil Big Easy
While the Big Easy arrived with printed copies of the Assembly Instructions and Operating Instructions (which were VERY basic), there was no sign of the Grilling Guide that I’d spotted in the downloads section of the website. Luckily my printer was stocked with ink (rare) so I could print it out as it contains a lot more information than the literature sent and includes some handy recipes at the end. Definitely download it if you don’t receive one.
Like the grill on most BBQs, the Big Easy’s stainless-steel cooking chamber needs to be seasoned before first use. Following the guidelines, I used an oil spray bottle to blitz the interior with vegetable oil and then gave it a wipe down with a kitchen towel to get rid of any puddles. I then turned the Big Easy on the High setting and shut the lid to let it burn off.
Around 10 minutes later the chamber had stopped smoking and the metal had turned bronze, which is how you know it is good to go. Char-Broil recommends adding a light spray of oil after each use to keep the chamber seasoned and help prevent any rusting. The instruction guide suggests you treat the cooking chamber in the same way you would a cast iron skillet – i.e., keep it well seasoned and the more you use it, the hotter and more evenly it will cook.
Cooking on the Char-Broil Big Easy
There are two settings on the Char-Broil Big Easy – High or Low. To turn it on, you just turn the left-hand control knob to your preferred setting and then twist the right-hand ignition knob until the gas ignites, which it did on the first turn, every time.
I’ve never used a smoker before, so was excited to see how it would impact the taste of our food. The Char-Broil Big Easy has a smoker box attached to the side, which you fill with wood chips. You can fill the box with real wood chips or smoking pellets; the former will smoke for about 45 minutes and the latter twice as long. Since my husband is a cabinetmaker, we went with the real wood, which he made by chipping a piece of oak. If you buy pellets, you can get more adventurous flavors like applewood and hickory.
To test out the smoker capabilities we decided to smoke a shoulder of pork for Sunday lunch. I filled up the smoker box with oak, taking care not to overfill as per the instructions, and turned the Char-Broil Big Easy on High, closing the lid. Once it started smoking, around 10 minutes later, it was time to lower the pork in. I placed the joint in the bottom of the basket with the thermometer inserted, then turned the heat to Low and left it to it.
I was hoping to slow roast the pork, pulled pork style, but it was obvious within the first hour that wasn’t going to happen. In fairness, my joint was only about 1.9kg, whereas I’ve always bought a much bigger joint to do pulled pork in the past.
It took a little under two hours for the pork to cook through, ready to go. Any longer would have just dried it out, and I didn’t want to add tin foil because that would surely block out the smoked flavor!
Having done a bit of digging online, it appears if you want to slow cook with the Char-Broil Big Easy, you’ll need a substantial joint and two layers of tin foil, possibly some marinade, and to make sure the joint is on the bottom of the basket. But I still don’t think the burners go low enough for a really slow roast. The official heat range is 135-260°C (275-500°F), but according to the supplied meat probe, it never stayed as low as 135 degrees for longer than 10 minutes. In fairness, Char-Broil does not make any slow roasting claims for the Big Easy.
Anyway, back to the smoking. We topped the smoker box up once during roasting, which required another 10-minute burst on High (I set a timer to make sure I didn’t cremate the joint), and the flavor really was sublime. I was skeptical about how much difference a few chips of a tree could make but everyone really noticed and enjoyed the taste, especially on the outer edges of the pork, but it was also noticeable all the way through. It made an inexpensive joint of meat hugely satisfying.
We also tried smoking chicken thighs, this time putting them on the higher shelf of the basket (using the inserts) as the instructions state the smoking is more intensive the higher it’s placed. This was a huge success; the meat was juicy and tender with a lovely smoked flavor. Oh, and if you're looking for pizza oven ideas, wood-smoked pizza (use a pizza stone and the High setting) was a taste sensation.
I did find it tricky to get the wood-chip box in and out. You need to line up a hook but the triangular shapes that the box slots into just aren’t conducive and it takes a fair amount of shunting and jiggling to get it on.
Oh, and on the subject of trickiness, it’s not very easy to get a large joint out of the bottom of the basket without scalding your arms. We used two long BBQ prongs to wrestle the pork out. Char-Broil advises leaving your meat to rest in the basket, which will help it lift off the basket without sticking and give the metalwork a chance to cool down.
In the USA, the Char-Broil Big Easy is heavily marketed as an oil-free, healthy way to BBQ a turkey (presumably on Thanksgiving). With no turkeys to hand, I bought a large chicken weighing about 1.5kg from our local butcher. The instruction book recommends roasting for about 10-15 minutes per pound or using the thermometer supplied to ensure the center of the meat is 75°C (167°F).
I made a slight boo-boo with seasoning, as I bought a BBQ flavor dry rub from the butcher that included sugar. Only after I had roasted the chicken and noticed the skin had turned black did I spot the paragraph in the instruction book that says not to use seasoning containing sugar as it will burn. Luckily, we weren’t hosting a garden party for guests! I just pulled the skin off before serving and dinner was quickly devoured, again noticeably moist and tender.
We also roasted a joint of beef and lamb during our testing period, and each time I was amazed and impressed by the speed (much quicker than our fan oven or AGA) and moisture retention. According to Char-Broil, this is down to its patented Tru Infrared technology that turns convective heat into radiant heat, which equals moist and juicy food. There are pretty diagrams to help explain this alchemy but all you really need to know is that it works!
Even if you've got some top grilling tips up your sleeve, simple BBQ grilling is perhaps where the Char-Broil Big Easy lets itself down, but only if you have a big family or are entertaining. The 38.5cm diameter grill area was perfect for our family of four but there just wasn’t space to feed more.
Also, you need to turn the Big Easy on for 15 minutes, on High, before you can begin grilling, which is a lot of wasted gas. The burners are at the bottom of the drum, so it’s easy to understand why it takes so long to heat up, but my regular gas BBQ is ready to cook in just over five minutes.
On a more positive note, you can smoke on the grill (on Low with the lid down), which of course we did and enjoyed delicious smoked burgers, corn and sausages. Yum.
I also noted that the food cooked very evenly on the grill, so you didn’t have to keep reorganizing the burger layout to get them evenly browned. A final plus; the grill has an unusual grate design that means nothing falls through (I’m looking at you, chicken kebabs), and as the burners are under the drum, you don’t get any eyebrow-burning flare-ups (or scorched food) when the fat drips down.
Cleaning the Char-Broil Big Easy
When it comes to cleaning the BBQ, the official advice from Char-Broil is to use soapy water and a non-abrasive scouring pad. The FAQ section at the back of the Grilling Guide manual also suggests burning off excess grease at the end of each cooking session with a 15-minute blast on High (lid closed) until it stops smoking.
You can use a wire grill brush on the stainless-steel drum but not for cleaning the grill plates or exterior. Happily, the basket and grill plate can go in the dishwasher, although they do take up a lot of space. Char-Broil sells aluminum liners for the grease tray, but I didn’t have any so just emptied out the wasp-ridden grease (gag) and cleaned it with soapy water (it can’t go in the dishwasher).
I’m also fond of using the pressure washer to clean BBQs and can report our pressure washer (on highest power) worked very well on all internal elements of the Big Easy. I went for a lower power on the exterior just to be safe.
Don’t forget to re-season the cooking chamber after cleaning. I generally just wiped the oil from the bottom of the drum, where the fat fell, to avoid interrupting the lovely seasoning that was building up and because I’m too lazy to re-season constantly! And a top tip: popping a layer of foil in the bottom of the drum, with a hole in the fat tray, speeds clean-up.
Storing the Char-Broil Big Easy
Being tall and slim, the Char-Broil Big Easy is a fairly compact unit that could slide into a corner of your shed or garage with ease. You can also buy a cover, for £21.99, that will protect it from dust, wind, air, and snow so it could feasibly stay on the patio year-round. It is fairly heavy (22.7kg), with no wheels, so you’d need help to carry it.
How does the Char-Broil Big Easy rate online?
There are only two customer ratings on Char-Broil’s website, both five-star. One reveals they cooked a 2.3kg leg of lamb in 45 minutes, while the other declared the roast chicken is the best they’ve ever had. Praise indeed. Over on Google Reviews, the Char-Broil Big Easy gets a decent 4.4 stars, with a lot of positivity about roasting speeds and smokiness. Apparently, the Big Easy is far superior to using a smoker box on a regular gas grill.
Complaints generally revolve around the grilling capacity and the basic instructions. More guidance on how to use the Big Easy in terms of predicted cooking times and which temperature is best for which meats were in high demand.
How does the Char-Broil Big Easy compare?
The Char-Broil Big Easy is rather a unique proposition, and I can’t find a similar-shaped gas-powered product that’s designed to grill, roast, and smoke. The closest match is the charcoal-fuelled Weber Summit Kamado e6 but, like most Kamado-style BBQs, it is four times the price of the Char-Broil Big Easy. Plus, there’s nothing easy about charcoal cooking if you are comparing it to gas.
A better comparison in terms of functionality would be the Char-Broil Performance Core combined with a smoker box, which also boasts Char-Broil’s Tru-Infrared technology but has a much more useful grilling surface. It has a lid for roasting joints and somewhere to hide the gas canister, making it a more appealing proposition in my eyes. Aside from the price, which is £161.99 more than the Big Easy.
Should you buy the Char-Broil Big Easy?
Yes, the Big Easy is a lot of fun and offers plenty of flexibility compared to a regular BBQ. It does take a bit of practice to get your head around cooking on the Char-Broil Big Easy; for starters, this is absolutely not a slow cooker. But it’s also not nearly as slow as your regular fan oven so you’ll need to adjust your timing expectations compared to roasting indoors. We’d recommend spending an hour or two on YouTube where you’ll find some great recipes and advice from Big Easy converts.
A great size for a balcony or small garden, nobody will fall in love with the Big Easy for its dodgy design. Speedy roasts and smoky goodness is where the Big Easy excels; don’t bother if you just want to grill.
About the review, and our reviewer
Linda Clayton is a professionally trained journalist, and has specialised in home, interiors and fitness for more than two decades. She’s a fastidious product reviewer, design obsessive, serial renovator, and amateur runner.
Now on her fourth reno project (a Victorian redbrick in Devon), she is lucky to have recently completed the garden landscaping and patio area, which are finally perfect for hosting barbecues for family and friends.
She and her husband tested the Char-Broil Big Easy over several weeks in early-mid summer, trying out a range of grilled, smoked and roasted recipes.
While Char-Broil does not pay us to review its products, the company prefers not to have used barbecues returned as they cannot be re-sold. 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.
Linda fell for the interiors world soon after graduating Cardiff’s School for Journalism and has been happily writing for the likes of Gardeningetc, Homes & Gardens, Livingetc, Ideal Home and Real Homes for two decades. Her current home in Devon was previously a commercial nursery – they grew the plants that garden centres buy. After renovating the house, the garden is now on her radar and she has grand plans to overhaul the extensive outdoor spaces.
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