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Masterbuilt Gravity Series Review – Like a Pellet Grill with More Smoke

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Most people like pellet grills because of the convenience they offer. The main complaint with pellet grills though is they don’t produce enough smoke flavor. Enter the Masterbuilt Gravity series charcoal grills, offering more smoke and pellet grill like convenience.

The Masterbuilt Gravity Series operates similar to pellet grill. You fill its hopper with charcoal (lump or briquette), then light a fire starter at the bottom of the hopper. Set the temperature on the onboard controller, and it will use a fan to do all the work for you.

For this review we bought a Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 charcoal grill. It has enough cooking space for an average sized family, and larger items like brisket. Other than space, the main difference with the larger models is a folding front shelf and on the 800, a griddle insert. Please note that many of our pictures show a rotisserie accessory attached to the grill, it doesn’t come with the grill.

Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 by a Solo Stove Bonfire
Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 by a Solo Stove Bonfire

Summary

The Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 charcoal grill does exactly what you’d want. It has pellet grill ease with more smoke flavor. The build quality could be better, but for the price it’s good enough.

Pros

  • More smoke flavor
  • Easy to use with app connectivity
  • Relatively inexpensive

Cons

  • Subpar build quality
  • Difficult assembly
  • Connectivity issues

Model Comparison

The whole Gravity Series line is pretty inexpensive as far as connected grills and smokers go. They also often go on sale, so watch the pricing when you buy. We’ve found that Amazon usually has the cheapest price.

Masterbuilt Gravity Series Model Comparison Chart
Masterbuilt Gravity Series Model Comparison Chart

There isn’t much difference in features between models, so choose based on size and budget. The addition of a griddle isn’t a big selling point in my opinion because it will be expensive to run off charcoal, and it doesn’t have grease management. You’re better off just getting a gas griddle, which can be had for pretty cheap.

Masterbuilt also sells a portable version of their Gravity Series called the Masterbuilt Portable Charcoal Grill and Smoker. We really liked that version in our review.

How it Works

The Gravity Series grills have a hopper that you fill with lump or briquette charcoal. You then light a starter underneath the hopper, set the temperature on the controller, and let the grill do the rest.

Briquettes work a little better, because smaller pieces of lump will fall through to the ash catch bin in the hopper. You can also fit more lump charcoal in the hopper because they have a uniform shape, giving you longer burn times.

There are also two plates that you have to remove to start the grill and to put out the fire when you’re done. One blocks the intake fan from feeding air to the charcoal, and the other blocks the fire at the bottom of the hopper from the heat manifold that supplies heat and smoke into the cook chamber.

No Shutdown

One minor annoyance with this Masterbuilt smoker, is there isn’t a shutdown timer, like on a pellet grill. When you’re done using it, you turn off the controller, and then put the metal plates back in to block airflow.

Then you’re just left with a smoldering fire though. There isn’t a timer that lets you know when it’s safe to put away your grill. We store most of our grills in a garage, so that’s a little problematic.

The fire smolders for a really long time too. You can smell the smoke and feel the warmth on the hopper long after you turn off the grill and block airflow. We like being extra safe with fires, so we end-up just leaving it for hours before we store it.

Assembly

Assembly of the Gravity Series is really tough. I’ve done engine swaps in cars, put together kitchens, assembled many grills and done everything in-between. It didn’t matter for assembly, it still took hours to put together.

Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 in the Box
Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 in the Box

I started putting the grill together in the afternoon, thinking it would be ready to cook dinner, and it wasn’t. It started to get into the evening hours, so I put it away with a few steps left, and ordered pizza. Now, anytime I tell my wife I’m putting together a grill before cooking, she mentions how long this one took.

If you’re putting one of these together, make sure you plan ahead, because you’ll have the assembly time and the burn-in time. I’d recommend buying the grill from a store that offers assembly, especially if it’s free, and avoiding the whole thing.

Build Quality

While the Gravity Series charcoal grill works just as advertised, the build quality is on the cheaper side. The metal is all pretty thin, and feels it, and the buttons on the controller feel cheap too.

It could be designed better for assembly, but also to add to the quality of it. One example is the heat manifold that spans the entire inside of the cook chamber rests on a bracket and is secured with two tiny screws. To make it worse, one of them easily stripped out during assembly. While the manifold doesn’t hold any load, it just feels cheap.

Cooking

The grill is as easy to use as a pellet grill once you start it. You just set the temperature on the controller or the phone app, and let it do the rest.

Impressive Temperature Range

Despite the thin metal, this grill has no problem at all hitting it’s full temperature range of 225° – 700° F. I used this in December in Michigan when the temperatures were in the low teens, with 30+ MPH winds, and it still held 700° F like a champ.

The wide temperature range is something is nice about this grill compared to a pellet grill. Not only can you do low and slow, you can also crank it up to sear some steaks. The cooking grates are also two-sided, with one for smoking and one for searing.

Flare Ups

Much like using any other charcoal grills, it’s easier to have flare ups at high heat. Unlike a pellet grill where there is a big heat deflector over the fire pot, the fire from the hopper is open to the cook chamber.

The higher heat capabilities, combined with flames trickling into the cook chamber, means you have to watch the grill when you’re using a fattier piece of meat. I learned that the hard way with a prime rib roast. I went to sear the outside of it and all that fat dripped onto the manifold causing some large flames.

More Smoke Flavor

If you want more smoke flavor than a pellet grill, this is the grill for you. It give much more smoke flavor. The only thing to be aware of is smoke from charcoal tastes different to me than smoke from a pellet grill, or an offset smoker for that matter. The smoky taste isn’t quite as clean tasting, but that’s also personal preference.

Masterbuilt App

The Masterbuilt app works with the gravity series for controller the grill. It has the basic features that you’d want, so no complaints there.

I did have some complaints about connectivity and how the app works. I had to reconnect the grill much more frequently than other connected grills I’ve reviewed. There also is a glitch with the software where I get a notification that the grill has pre-heated almost every 15-minutes.

Masterbuilt has been working on their app though, so some of those problems have lessened in the newest version.

Moldy Charcoal

When charcoal burns it releases moisture that’s stored in the charcoal. While the moisture content of charcoal is low, it still exists. This mostly goes unnoticed in a traditional charcoal grill.

Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 with Moldy Charcoal
Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 with Moldy Charcoal

One tip for the Gravity Series is water vapor is released in the hopper when the charcoal burns. The top of the hopper has a rubber seal around it, so it can’t escape during operation. If you leave your charcoal in the grill for a few months, you’ll come back moldy charcoal from all the water that was released.

This happened when we were using it and did a winter cook, then didn’t use it again until spring. You have to leave the hopper closed during cool down to choke off oxygen from the fire. To preserve your charcoal, come back the next day and prop open the hopper lid to let the water evaporate.

Conclusion

Despite it’s flaws, I really like the Masterbuilt Gravity Series charcoal grill. It’s nice that it has the capability to be a smoker or grill, all in one easy to use package. If you’re looking for the features of a pellet grill but with more smoke flavor, this is the grill to get.

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