Top critical review
Very hard to clean, versatile but so-so practicality
Reviewed in the United States on April 8, 2020
Okay ... so get ready for the most honest and helpful review of this product you'll find. I had been wanting one of these for a while but the old version got so-so reviews, so I held off. I saw this new version (which isn't saying much because Weber's new version of the Spirit line of grills with the exposed tank and plastic base failed miserably vs. the older line with the doors). I wanted something for my Spirit II to allow me to cook sausages, peppers and onions and to not smoke up my house cooking bacon.
This came and I was impressed by how heavy it was. However, I noticed that it was not cast iron and that the instructions said a metal scraper cannot be used, nor metal brillo pads. I guess the fact that this is enamel coated vs. cast iron is good because I've had Lodge cast iron skillets which were completed ruined with rust, even after drying them completely. However, the black baked on 'soot' is near impossible to remove using anything but metal. However, a few scrapes too many with a spatula to clean it and your enamel coating will be ruined.
To clean this thing is rough ... and cleaned it must be at least every other time you use it. (Each time for bacon) It is heavy and awkward to twist and wash, even if you have a deep sink and detachable faucet. Good luck holding with one hand and spraying with the other (and I am 6'4, 230 lbs.) because it's near impossible. The book says to soak it in warm, soapy water but it is too big to lay flat in my sink, so I pretty much use warm water and a nylon bristle brush which says it's safe for cleaning enamel. Even still, I can't get all the baked on soot out.
The surface cooks well if you are into things you need griddled such as sausage, peppers, onions, bacon, Philly steak style meat, etc. I have not tried pancakes. Eggs were a disaster as they spread out and the white becomes too thin and burns while the top of the yolk stays raw. Scrambled eggs are slightly easier if you are making a lot of them. But if you are cooking one or two eggs, you'll wind up with more of an egg crepe with a runny yolk on top. (Unintended but you can make an interesting egg wrap which you can use to make sandwiches, etc.) Bacon cooks very well but makes a complete mess with splattering everywhere and after 5-6 times, you'll notice a greasy film all over the inside and outside of the grill on the side you are griddling on ... which can't be safe in the long term.
The first few times I used this, there were flare ups and a grease fire ... I've had the Weber Spirit II for 2 years and never had a grease fire until the second time I used this. I doused it with a couple boxes of baking powder to put it out and tried to figure out why. I placed a level on the top of the grill and saw that it was slightly unlevel on my concrete patio, which was causing the grease to drop off the grease catching pan and into the base of the grill where it was ignited by the burner. The problem was fixed when I found a more level spot ... but it might not be a bad idea to have a box of baking powder on hand, just in case.
I will say, despite all the flaws, it does a darn good job cooking meat. Some things that I can cook better on the griddle side ... it is amazing for making smash burgers (place a ball of meat on the griddle and press them down with a griddle press) and searing steaks which give a slightly crispy, caramelized exterior before finishing them on the grill. The smell is amazing when you do this. Another thing I've found to make is Philly Steak sandwiches ... you get some shaved prime rib, onions, peppers, mushrooms and griddle them up. Add some cheese-whiz sauce (this is a must ... but I guess you could use melted American or Provolone cheese) to the pile and mix it for a steak and cheese better than any restaurant in Philly can make. Sausage and onions and peppers stadium-style are great for game days. I'd like to try pancakes one day but the surface may be too small. Even when making Philly Steak sandwiches for 3-4 people, you have to cook the veggie pile and remove them, then cook the meat and re-add the veggies when it finishes up because it's too small to do both at the same time. I find 2-3 burgers is the max you can griddle. You couldn't do eggs and bacon at the same time. A package of bacon will not fit on the griddle, so you'll have to cook bacon in 2 shifts. 5 or 6 pieces max will fit on the grill until it shrinks down.
Some big minuses about this product would be that the cooking area is very small ... this is especially true if you have the Spirit II ... in fact, I would have upgraded to a Spirit III if I knew in advance. Because it is recessed, the edges are hard to clean and the heating on this is very uneven. I find that the front half does not heat up very well whereas the middle and back half do. Also, this is so heavy that your grill won't heat past 400 degrees (which is the optimal temperature for the griddle according to the instruction book) while it is in the grill. Each time you open the hood to season or flip, the temperature drops to 300 degrees. Keep the grill open while you are flipping and preparing food and you'll get 200 - 250 degrees. This is fine for the griddle side, but if you are cooking something requiring higher temperatures on one side, you might be in trouble.
Not sure why they didn't put the hole on the left side above where the grease drain is ... because of it's position on the right side of the grill, the grease has to drip across the pan and into the tin container where grease ends up. If the grill isn't level or the grease gets heavy and veers off course, this is going to be a mess and require one more step of a thorough cleaning by taking the pans out and doing a deep clean every time, or couple times you use this to cook greasy foods like bacon or shaved steak.
Overall, this is a solid 3 ... 4 stars for performance (wasn't thrilled about uneven heat spots) and 2 stars for the labor intensive task of cleaning it after each use. If only you could give it a quick scrape down while still hot and then a quick wash with a rag when cool. Don't expect this to solve all your issues but for under $100 it gives another dimension to your Weber Grill and allows you to cook foods that would either smell or smoke in your house (fish and bacon) or would fall through the grill grates. You'll love this or hate it ... but it's not a great tool for more than a couple to use on a Spirit II as it really is a small cooking area.