At a glance, the CB-500X appears to be a tough-man’s treasure chest, with its black metal construction, pre-seasoned cast iron grate, and a frontside door that gives you direct access to the fire pit.
Functionally, though, it struggles for precision grilling — the coals burn too hot and fast, and the vents are too small to let you effectively control the temperature. On the plus side, it offered the largest cooking area of just about any grill we’ve tested, while still fitting nicely into the back of a Honda Civic.
Arriving unassembled, it took about 45 minutes with basic tools to set the grill up out of the box. Certain design elements on the CB-500X are well thought out — the entire floor of the unit slides out, toaster oven-style, for easy ash cleaning. The charcoal grate is adjustable to three height settings, although moving it while cooking is a scary proposition. The fire access door is something we’d love to see on all grills; however the low placement of it makes adding charcoal onto the grate difficult at best. We ended up adjusting the door’s position to act as a vent after struggling to get the proper ones to work well. And plastic end caps on the legs are an unfortunate inclusion — heat traveled from the metal chassis down the leg and melted one after we fired the grill up.
Once we had a consistent fire lit, we found satisfactory cooking results, but only for a short period as the charcoal would quickly burn away. One of our testers preferred the chicken cooked on this over the other grills in the roundup. But we spent more time adjusting and re-adjusting the CB500X to keep the heat in the right place at the right time. Its rectangular shape just isn’t optimized to control the thermal aspects of cooking with fire.