Spirit II (Natural Gas) grill won't sear.... (warning: Manifesto!)


 

RobSmith

TVWBB Member
The one huge difference between a normal gas grill and charcoal is not necessarily temps alone. Charcoal (especially good lump coal) emits a lot of infrared heat. This behaves differently because it actually heats the "object" in this case a steak more so than the air then the object. So the heat acts directly on the food you cook. Bottom line though the "sear" or Maillard reaction takes place at 350F (I may be off on the actual temp here but IIRC I am VERY close). If you're looking for food that's "blackened" and call that a "sear" don't invite me for dinner. :D
I have posted many times (though I don't know how to find the posts) how well my steaks have a nice crust all over, beautifully rosy center. I don't ever use full heat (unless I'm trying to grill outdoors in dead winter and it's only 20F outside). In summer on my Genesis I heat the grill up full on for a good 15 min. Allowing everything to come to temps and stabilize. I then drop center burner to low and front/rear to med, leave the lid open about 2 or 3 min to get rid of excess heat and place my steak(s) in the middle. I leave the lid closed and allow them to cook a few min then quickly flip, leave 5 min or so, flip again and one final time. Pull and rest when they hit about 125 internal. Rest 5 to 6 min, serve. Perfect every time. I do the same thing on the Wolf (except that grill has more burners and I have to work left to right not front to rear.
The only time I feel compelled to use extreme heat (and then I usually resort to charcoal lump only btw) is Tuna steak. IDK why but tuna will not crust otherwise without ruining the interior. I think because of the different moisture and texture levels of seafood vs land food. There ya have it. Seems some use "how hot my grill can get or how dark I can sear" like 2 guys having a how big mine is contest. Worthless in the end
Good information here, Mr. Michaels.
From your description it seems that your steaks are exactly what I'd like mine to be. (I'm not a true "Charred" and certainly not blackened type)
I'm going to try your procedure using a couple test steaks from WalMart - and see if that works for me.
 

RobSmith

TVWBB Member
Based on my experience, the problem with this grill is that it's natural gas. Natural gas just doesn't get as hot as propane. Every single NG grill I've ever used has been very poor for searing. My dad has a propane Spirit and after a 15 minute warmup the hood thermo always reads at roughly 600 degrees. Sears like a beast.

Unfortunately there isn't a fix other than converting to propane, but even then you do need to understand it'll never be as good as searing over charcoal. Still need to temper your expectations.

Back when I still had my Genesis, I put a large griddle in it and it pretty much became my "Blackstone" and a finisher/warmer. I still relied on my charcoal SSP as my workhorse, especially for searing.
Thanks for the input, Mike.
After reading about the differences between the thermal output of propane vs. NG prior to making a purchase, I knew there might be some differences. What I read led me to believe that the thermal output of propane could be matched in a natural gas grill by the manufacturer using larger venturi, etc. for the NG grill. In fact, when looking at Weber's literature for the same Spirit II grill, one being NG, and one being propane... they both claim a 30,000 BTU per hour output. Makes it seem like there's not likely a difference in the way they cook.

AU CONTRAIR!
 

Bruce

TVWBB 1-Star Olympian
Yes, they are mechanically designed to to function the same between the two types of gas. The differences are in the valves/orifices. Once the gas leaves the valves, there are no mechanical differences between the LP and NG grills.
 
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A Lee

TVWBB Fan
I think this is an example of mismatched expectations. I'm not saying you did anything wrong when buying this grill, @RobSmith , but these Spirit grills don't grill the same as a charcoal grill and those were your expectations. It's kind of a bummer that there's not a "try before you buy" situation available to consumers because it is a lot of money to spend on something that doesn't work the way you assumed it would.

This situation caused me to re-read one of Meathead's articles on AmazingRibs.com about the various ways that heat is conducted to meat in various types of grills (diagrams about halfway down the page). It may explain why you don't get the sear you were expecting.

I agree. Sounds like the OP is looking for the kind of performance obtained from charcoal, using a vortex or chimney to create an extemely hot fire. The downside of sous vide is that it just isn't easy to achieve a sear after meat has been cooked in a water bath. The meat usually has too much water on the surface, which inhibits the maillard reaction. At the same time, the sear needs to be hard and fast to avoid overcooking. This just isn't that easy to achieve, especially on a standard grill like the spirit series. I think his expectations are unrealistic as most gas grills will struggle to produce a nice sear on sous vide meat.


I'm not saying it's the OP's fault either. There's a lot of fake news out there nowadays. It's not hard to find crappy instagram influencers pretending it's easy to achieve a perfectly seared sous vide meat. A lot of videos look good but either omit a lot of information, only show you the good stuff, or are using dangerous techniques that can cause a serious grease fire.
 

Chris Allingham

Administrator
Staff member
Rob, I hope you get some satisfaction from your local Ace owner. My brother is an Ace owner and I know he wants his customers to be satisfied, but I'm sure that sentiment varies from store to store. Let us know how it resolves for you.
 

LMichaels

TVWBB 1-Star Olympian
I guess the ones I've used weren't setup correctly because there was definitely a difference.
NG has fewer BTU per cu ft, than LP HOWEVER this is taken care of by proper metering. I see absolutely no difference in performance. I keep both type manifolds simply because sometimes I have a desire to use my grill in different location so switch them out. Runs the same NG or LP. Now if incoming pressures are not to spec (too high/low) for spec on one or the other yeah you MIGHT see a difference. But properly set up no difference at all
 

Scott Smith

TVWBB Pro
I have absolutely no idea about the performance of natural gas vs. propane, but I feel the urge to chime in with some old-fashioned common sense.

Back in the days of steam trains, some locomotives were occasionally converted from burning coal to burning oil. This involved modifications to the fuel delivery inside the firebox. The parallel is modifications of the manifold in a grill. Nobody would expect the performance to be exactly the same after either conversion because important things have changed. You would expect to see a difference. However, with tweaking and set up, either conversion might be set up to give performance indistinguishable from before the conversion.
 

MikeLucky

TVWBB Pro
NG has fewer BTU per cu ft, than LP HOWEVER this is taken care of by proper metering. I see absolutely no difference in performance. I keep both type manifolds simply because sometimes I have a desire to use my grill in different location so switch them out. Runs the same NG or LP. Now if incoming pressures are not to spec (too high/low) for spec on one or the other yeah you MIGHT see a difference. But properly set up no difference at all
So, I recently grilled steaks on a friend's high dollar Kenmore NG grill, 6 burners, side burner, ceramic rotisserie burner, and ceramic side sear burner. Even after turning on all 6 burners on high and letting it get as hot as it would get, I still had to use the sear burner to any kind of decent sear on the steaks.

Compared to my Genesis propane 300 series 2015 model with the extra sear burner, that thing got so hot and seared steaks like a champ. It was a night and day comparison and I'm fairly certain he paid much more for what appeared to be the top of the line Kenmore grill. Thank goodness it had the ceramic sear burner or there was no way those steaks were getting seared.

Again, just my experience.
 

LMichaels

TVWBB 1-Star Olympian
Gonna do a very nice prime strip steak I cut myself tonight. But by the time I can get it on and cook, it'll be too dark to add photos. Bet your last buck though I won't be using insane heat (I can my Wolf if I use it can burn the hair off your arms from 6' away) but again all this bragging about "sear this and that" to me it's all foolishness like "mine's bigger than yours". It's just boasting. I guarantee that strip steak will come off the grill tonight with a great crust and rosy from edge to edge. It's not how big (hot) it's how you "use" it
 

RobSmith

TVWBB Member
Gonna do a very nice prime strip steak I cut myself tonight. But by the time I can get it on and cook, it'll be too dark to add photos. Bet your last buck though I won't be using insane heat (I can my Wolf if I use it can burn the hair off your arms from 6' away) but again all this bragging about "sear this and that" to me it's all foolishness like "mine's bigger than yours". It's just boasting. I guarantee that strip steak will come off the grill tonight with a great crust and rosy from edge to edge. It's not how big (hot) it's how you "use" it
Mr. Michaels,

If you get a chance, can you measure the distance between your burners (Or where the top of the flame would be) and the grate?
I get the feeling that this distance is more crucial to a sear than the actual temperature inside the grillbox.
Going out to measure mine now

Thanks
 

Jim C in Denver

TVWBB All-Star
Rob -- Warning -- manifesto.

There's a reason why Weber now sells grills with a sear burner.

Weber grills are designed to provide nice even heat without a lot of flare ups (i.e oven roasting or baking function). Hence the big Weber innovation of flavorizer bars. On the classic older grills, those had two layers of flav bars. And the prized deeper cook box, which increased the distance from grate to burner even further.

The Webers were a major step forward as compared to cheaper gas grills. Which had tons of hot spots and flare ups (remember lava rocks?). If you want a sear, a flaring up hot spot is exactly what you want. But that isn't great for other kinds of cooking.

In recent years, grill makers have tried to keep even/no flare up while adding better searing (i.e. broiling function). Hence IR burners. [IR is the main driver of the great searing you get from charcoal.] Hence sear burners. My newer Weber gasser has a sear burner -- it does what you are looking for.

I was close to chucking my old 3 burner Silver B (no sear burner) for lack of sear/broil. But I gave the oft discussed GrillGrates a try. Mission accomplished! The flat side (like a griddle or cast iron pan) sears like crazy. As the Meathead piece above describes, conduction (hot metal in direct contact with your steak) is a highly efficient sear mechanism.

Easiest thing for you to do is get a griddle (or some GGs) to cover half of your grill when needed. Works GREAT for searing. Holds in some more heat so the grill runs a little hotter. And comes in super handy generally -- smash burgers, shrimp, veggies, cheesesteaks, breakfast, etc. Unless you want to trade in for a sear burner model grill, get some kind of griddle/flat top/GG thingy and you'll be loving your Spirit.



You also could get a great sear if you removed a flav bar before cooking your steak. Just keep the fire extinguisher handy.
 
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LMichaels

TVWBB 1-Star Olympian
IDK how far the burners are from the grates but I can guarantee being an old 1st gen Genesis they're MUCH further away than the Spirit.
Last night after grilling our corn, I set the burners front and rear medium, center on low, gave the steak a generous S&P and put it on. We enjoyed a steak house (likely better) quality strip, with perfect crust and my only gripe was I got side tracked and went about 7 deg over on my cook so it was closer to med than to med/rare. I pulled it at 130ish rather than the 122-125 I normally do. Had perfect crust edge to edge pink and even though it was from the tougher end (which I usually reserve for a roast) it was mahvelous. I used to fall for all the high temp nonsense and so on. Now? Good steak, and good skills. I apologize for it being too dark out there, I prefer to do photos in good ambient light. I even had grill marks :D
Now I will be going back into the garage to finish assembly of my new pellet grill
 

John Burns

TVWBB Member

Spirit II E-310 Gas Grill (Natural Gas) $639.00​

My original review to Weber (hey, they asked!) :​

Not great for searing, does other stuff well.​


Bought this grill in late June, 2022 from a local small hardware store after doing lots of online research. Assembly went smoothly, and the construction seems pretty solid. The grill did have one bent leg, which may have occurred in shipping, but I was able to get it straightened out adequately after a few minutes.

It's a good looking grill. Controls work smoothly, fit and finish are good, and the features are about what I'd expect for a grill at this price point.

It starts up easily and heats to temp in about ten minutes. It'll max out the thermometer, at about 600 degrees.

My only gripe about the grill is that it doesn't sear well. Actually, in the technical sense, not at all.

The grill will get very hot, and it's good for cooking chicken, hot dogs, burgers... But it won't put even a slight char on a piece of meat.
-Sure, you'll get darker marks from the grates, but the rest of the meat doesn't get any char (between the lines).
Three different times now, I've cooked a nice pork tenderloin in a sous vide, and tried to finish it by searing on this grill. The grill just won't sear it. I COULD get it to char if I left the meat on there longer, but then it overcooks.

-Additionally, when grilling corn on the cob, if you like some nice charred spots, forget it, unless you are willing to leave it on the grill for awhile, and don't mind the corn overcooked.

I'm going to hazard a guess that the flames are just to far away from the grate to be able to sear, so you get more of a high-heat baking effect. When searing pork tenderloins on my charcoal Weber, where I can get the coals as close to the meat as I'd like, results are perfect.

I've also tried just cooking a ribeye (1.25" thick) on the grill - and while I get brown grate marks, the rest of the meat doesn't brown before the ribeye is done.
This is probably a decent grill for cooking burgers, chicken or other things that require indirect heat, but it's not ideal for more direct heat applications.

Recommends this product

✘ No
-------------------------------
Weber's response was to make sure the lid stayed closed and preheat for 15 minutes.
-OK, so I understand that some people need these instructions. The same ones that need you to tell "not to stand on aluminum ladder, in a pool, with an extension cord in your teeth."

A few days later I got an email from Weber telling me they'd like to help, so I sent them similar, but expanded information from my review. As follows:

"Hello,
I'm having an issue with my new (Purchased in June 2022) Weber grill. I've tried to work with Weber customer service, but have not received timely answers. My ticket number is 2854***

I'd like to speak with a technical rep, or anyone else in customer service who may be able to help.

The problem I'm having centers around the grill not being able to sear at all. I believe it's a design issue. I'm not satisfied with this grill and would like your assistance in coming to a resolution.

Rob Smith
robs************.com

Original ( and second) email to Weber:
"-I read the Weber response on the website about my review, and it suggested keeping the lid closed and pre-heating for 15 minutes.

I was already following that procedure, and in addition, I ensured that the grill was turned up as high as it would go to get the most heat (600+ degrees, according to the thermometer in the grill). Still no satisfaction on getting a sear on meat. Please note, I have used this grill about 6 times now.

The burners are just too far away from the grates to get any kind of actual sear. (And I'm really not talking about a serious "Burn-it-up" type char...just a nice searing to make the meat look browner and a little crisp to it.)

So, having spent almost $600 on this grill, I can't really just go out and buy another- better one. I'm kind of stuck with what I have, unless your customer service team can come up with another idea.

And then I could write a review about the awesome Weber Customer Service!

By the way: Sous Vide cooking (What I was talking about in my original note) is really gaining popularity, and it invariably requires a cast iron skillet, charcoal, or gas grill to finalize the process and sear the meat (as it comes out of the sous vide kind of grey).
-And yes, I dry the meat with paper towels before throwing it on the grill because wet meat won't sear well.

Since more and more people are using this method to create a very nice dinner - often on expensive cuts of meat - I might suggest having Weber designers take a look at this, and all their grills, to ensure that they can sear well, otherwise you can probably expect more reviews like mine... from less than satisfied customers.
Looking forward to your response.
Feel free to contact me if you come up with other ideas, or would like further.
Rob"
-------------------------------

After not hearing from them for over a week, I found their customer service number and called. I reached a nice young gentleman who looked up my ticket number and said they'd never received my response email and indicated that their servers were down the week before, so a lot of emails didn't get through. We talked for a few minutes, where he repeated the advice to keep the lid closed and preheat for 15 minutes....and from what I could understand, said he'd get my complaint to a person more technical so I could get a proper response. I was having dificulty understanding because English IS my only language, and he didn't vocalize words I'm familiar with very well.

Over the last couple weeks I've gotten two other emails from Weber. One asking me to rate how well they solved my problem, and another stating "Thank you for your reply. What temperature does the grill reach with all the burners on high for 15 minutes?" Response time from them is very slow, and to date, very unhelpful.

I've gotten a little pre-advice from a couple others on this forum (Thanks much!) but at this point, I'd rather not modify my grill, or stick to cooking things that don't need to be seared.

To sum: The grill seems to heat to proper temp -in a normal time (600+ degrees, verified with an oven thermometer in addition to the Weber thermometer). The grates get hot enough to leave brown stripes, but the meat will not sear - unless left on the grill way past the "well done" stage".
So. I'm just about to the point where I give up being nice, and lay out some reviews on different sites to let more people know that this grill won't sear.

I'm also to the point where my displeasure with Weber customer service is going to leak into the reviews.

Apologies for the enormity of this post, If you've stuck with me so far, give me a holler. You and I can be best friends and I'll buy you a beer next time you're between Daytona and Orlando ;)

Cheers!



Can you provide any photos showing what your cooking results look like?
 

RobSmith

TVWBB Member
Can you provide any photos showing what your cooking results look like?
Hey John,

Had to do a couple screen grabs, but here's some test pork chops. Grill marks, but no sear. If I'd left them on any longer, they would have been too done.
 

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RobSmith

TVWBB Member
Rob -- Warning -- manifesto.

There's a reason why Weber now sells grills with a sear burner.

Weber grills are designed to provide nice even heat without a lot of flare ups (i.e oven roasting or baking function). Hence the big Weber innovation of flavorizer bars. On the classic older grills, those had two layers of flav bars. And the prized deeper cook box, which increased the distance from grate to burner even further.

The Webers were a major step forward as compared to cheaper gas grills. Which had tons of hot spots and flare ups (remember lava rocks?). If you want a sear, a flaring up hot spot is exactly what you want. But that isn't great for other kinds of cooking.

In recent years, grill makers have tried to keep even/no flare up while adding better searing (i.e. broiling function). Hence IR burners. [IR is the main driver of the great searing you get from charcoal.] Hence sear burners. My newer Weber gasser has a sear burner -- it does what you are looking for.

I was close to chucking my old 3 burner Silver B (no sear burner) for lack of sear/broil. But I gave the oft discussed GrillGrates a try. Mission accomplished! The flat side (like a griddle or cast iron pan) sears like crazy. As the Meathead piece above describes, conduction (hot metal in direct contact with your steak) is a highly efficient sear mechanism.

Easiest thing for you to do is get a griddle (or some GGs) to cover half of your grill when needed. Works GREAT for searing. Holds in some more heat so the grill runs a little hotter. And comes in super handy generally -- smash burgers, shrimp, veggies, cheesesteaks, breakfast, etc. Unless you want to trade in for a sear burner model grill, get some kind of griddle/flat top/GG thingy and you'll be loving your Spirit.



You also could get a great sear if you removed a flav bar before cooking your steak. Just keep the fire extinguisher handy.
Thanks for the input, Jim. Very helpful.
Going out now to take a look at those flavorizer bars. I had the thought that if I drilled a few big holes in one or two sets of bars, but low enough in the "V" to keep grease drips from infiltrating my venturi, it might help.
Void the warranty, but it might help.
 

timothy

TVWBB Olympian
Maybe remove the flavorizer bar on one burner?
I know my Q doesent have bars and the burner tube only needs to brushed off every once in awhile.
 

 

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