Virco vs. Majestic & Jenn-Air

peboSeptember 26, 2002

For a grill upgrade, IÂm considering a choice between the Virco (Costco), the Majestic (Home Depot), and the Jenn-Air (Lowes). The latter two are the $599 models that seem to be nearly identical, perhaps both made by Vermont Castings(?). At $799, the Virco is at the absolute top of what IÂm willing to spend. I know that the Virco has more features, including the side burner and IR rotisserie. My questions to the list readers have to do with the cooking grids (grills), the sear plates (flame tamers?), and the burners on these grills.

The stainless cooking grids on the Virco look nice and should last forever. But, I know that some stainless steel does not transfer heat very quickly (try drinking a hot beverage from a stainless ÂSierra cup and then from a cheap porcelain-enameled steel cup; the latter will be uncomfortably hot on your lips, but not the stainless cup). IÂve seen a lot of discussion of the two materials, but it has all been with regard to durability and ease of cleaning. Is a porcelain-coated, cast-iron grill like those on the Majestic and Jenn-Air perhaps better for searing meats than stainless?

My second question regards the sear plates. The Majestic and Jenn-Air have wavy, heavy-gauge stainless plates with just a few slots in them for drippings to pass through. The Virco has large holes to the inside of the curved burners, which I can imagine would let very strong heat from the flame pass through to the grill, possibly in a less even distribution than the other two grills. I hate having to work around hot and cool spots on a grill. Anyone have experience with both types? Is heat distribution a problem on the Virco?

Finally, IÂm wondering about the 3 burners of the Virco vs. the 4 burners of the others. Any big advantages either way? Thanks for your help!

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Stainless heat transfer: True Sierra Club cups are bi-metal. I believe they are aluminum clad on the bottom, so that they will cook more evenly (yes, they are supposed to be able to be used as a little cooking pan). So when a cold cup is filled with a hot liquid, the bottom of the cup will feel hotter than the rim. Cheap imitation Sierra Club cup clones are often just stainless, which seems to transmit heat to the lip quicker than the originals. I don't think stainless transmits heat any slower than regular steel, though. And heat transfer is really not an issue with a grill grating. The flames will get it plenty hot despite its composition. In fact, I think it's better that the grating be heavy gauge like the Virco. It will hold heat better. I did have a problem with the grating with the notch in it warping in the middle. I requested a replacement with no notch (as I reasoned that the notching caused uneven stresses) and Virco sent one promptly for no charge.

In/with regard to the burners, I don't have an issue with the Virco's heat distribution, but some people feel it less even than desirable. Some have retrofitted their grills with porcelain briquettes, and claim that works well.

Three vs. four burners? Look at the total BTU. The Virco has three 18,000 BTU burners. I'm sure this is equal to if not more than that on the others you are considering.

Lastly, please do not discount the Virco infrared rotisserie burner. It is really an excellent feature, perfect for roasting poultry and other meats, with a minimum of cleanup afterwards.

Also, if you have a Sam's Club nearby, I suggest you also look at the $599 Members Mark.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2002 at 8:50PM
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Thanks, Rich, for your comments. Perhaps you are right that the heat transfer rate of the grate material is not too important. I suppose another bit of evidence is the prevalence of stainless grids on the very high-end (several $1000s) grills.

I took another look this evening at the Virco and the Medallion (I mis-wrote it as Majestic in the subject of the original post). I don't know exactly why, but I'm still just a bit leary of the Virco. Something about it makes me think that the primary design goal was to make it LOOK like the high-end grills. All that stainless is very impressive, but looking closely makes me nervous about the quality, and for me it's a lot of $$. Every one of the knobs on the display model was broken. I realize they get abused in the store, but none of the Medallion's knobs were broken on the display at Home Depot. It does seem that others on this forum have had pretty good customer support from Virco, so that is encouraging.

Anyway, I appreciate your response.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2002 at 1:49AM
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You're welcome. Well, I saw broken knobs on one Virco on display at my local Costco also. My conclusion was that either kids had pulled them off and jumped on them, or some lummox with a forklift had dropped the grill on its side, as there isn't any padding between the knobs and the cardboard box. I transported mine on its side, knobs down, in the packing box, about five miles in the back of a pickup truck, but the knobs and the valves are just fine. (I didn't realize the knobs were taking the weight of the unit). And Virco seems happy to replace any broken or defective items.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2002 at 5:57AM
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The grates on my Virco have become seasoned over the summer and work just fine. Food does not stick to them and they sear meat well. I do not really have any hot spots either. Maybe the first couple of inches in the front do not get as hot as the rest of the grill. As for the knobs, I can't imagine them being more durable than they already are. They seem to be professional quality, heavy duty knobs.

I also compared the grills at Lowe's and Home Depot earlier in the year. I was looking at the $899.00 versions but could not bring myself to purchase either one. I found the lids on both grills to be a problem. The floor models, especially at Lowe's, had the enamel worn off the sides where the lids rubbed against while opening and closing. Also, if I remember correctly, the cabinets were made of steel that was painted. I do not think they were cast or stainless, therefore they would probably be subject to rusting.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2002 at 9:28AM
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