If you’re looking for the most convenient portable charcoal grill on the market, this might be it. Scratch that, if you’re looking for the most convenient portable grill on the market, the Masterbuilt Portable Charcoal Grill even beats out pellet grills. Leveraging technology from the Masterbuilt Gravity Series, this small charcoal grill gives you set it and forget it performance anywhere.
Released earlier this year, Masterbuilt didn’t get too creative with the name and it’s actually called the Masterbuilt Portable Charcoal Grill. They have had some presentations where they called it the Gravity Series Portable, but that name hasn’t made its way to the product page.
Portable Charcoal Grill Features
- Retail price $219.99 (check price) or if you want the collapsible cart too it’s $329.99 (check price)
- 200 square inches of cooking space
- Easy dial-in temperature of 250 degrees F to 500 degrees F
- Charcoal hopper holds 1.5 lbs of briquettes or 1 lb of lump which gives up to 4 hours of use
- Lockable lid for transportation without a mess
- Two side shelves
- Runs off of an included cord or 4 AA batteries that give 6 hours of life
- Temperature dial gauge included
- Flavor of a charcoal grill with the convenience of a pellet grill
- Runs off AA batteries, so no need for a power source
- The collapsible cart makes it easy to take anywhere
- The grill is short on the cart
- The side shelves don’t collapse making the grill big for storage
- Cart isn’t quick release
Tabletop Charcoal Grill or Buy the Cart?
The first part of the buying decision for the Portable Charcoal grill is if you want to pay more for the cart or not. Ultimately we’d recommend getting the cart because it makes it easy to transport and to have a built in place to grill, but there are some things we didn’t like about it.
The first is height of the grill is too short with the cart. If you’re over 6′ tall, the handle on the grill hits you a few inches above your knee. It was surprisingly short when we got it put together.
The second is while Masterbuilt advertises the cart as being removable, it doesn’t have any type of quick release. It’s removable in that you can get underneath the grill and take out some screw. That not exactly convenient and an area that could be improved.
How it Works Summary
The grill works similar to how a pellet grill does. There is a hopper that you fill with charcoal and light it. There is a dial knob on the front of the grill that controls the temperature of the grill. The grill measures the temperature inside of the grill and depending on where the dial is set, it turns the fan on or off. It does a great job keeping temperature, all you need to do is make sure there is enough charcoal in the hopper.
How it Works in Detail
The picture below shows inside the hopper. The part that has the zig zag metal is removeable. You place the fire starter (link to the fire starters we used in testing) on the cross bars below the zig zags. It’s a little awkward to get it to stay at first, but gets easier with use.
You light the starter and once it’s going, you load the hopper with charcoal. You can turn the dial on the front of the grill that controls the fan higher to make it easier for the charcoal to start burning. Just be careful to give it a minute so you don’t blow the flame out with the fan.
You can see on the hopper picture that there are vents on the side of the hopper. There are vents like this on both sides. The fan for the grill is located underneath the grill and the air is vented up into the hopper.
The picture above shows the removable manifold that is underneath the grate on the grill (sorry we didn’t clean it for photos!). The hopper fits in-between the manifold and the side of the grill, where the fan opening is. The temperature controlled fan blows air through the charcoal in the hopper, and into the manifold. The manifold has holes along the front to allow smoke and heat to escape across the grill grate.
The radiant heat from the manifold and the convective heat from the fan are what cook your food. Despite there being a digital controller that measures temperature and regulates the fan, it doesn’t have a display. There’s an analog dial thermometer on the grill lid that you read temperature from.
What Can Fit on the Grill?
Grill companies always advertise a crazy amount of meat that will fit on grill, and it’s usually exaggerated. In this case what Masterbuilt claims is pretty accurate. They claim that it will fit 15 sausages and above is a picture of 5 sausages, 5 brats and 4 hot dogs. You can see how you could fit 15 pretty easily.
Keep in mind when cooking that the hopper with the charcoal creates a hot spot on the grill. Before I flipped them, the brats were all along the right side of the grill and you can see where the edges burned from the heat.
If you’re looking for a portable smoker, this is an option since it gets down to 250 degrees F and will hold the temperature well. We tested it and a whole rack of ribs will fit on the grill, just keep in mind the hot spot on the right to not overcook the last rib.
Not Just a Tailgate Grill, a Great Small Charcoal Grill
Most people that are looking at the Masterbuilt Portable Charcoal Grill are likely thinking of it as a tailgate grill, a camping grill or for other activities where being portable is important. It’s great too though as a small charcoal grill for home. With how easy it is to start and regulate heat, it’s perfect for cooking for a couple people. It makes the charcoal cooking process pretty foolproof.
Better than a Portable Pellet Grill
There are some good portable pellet grills out there, but they all have the same problem. Despite being advertised as portable, they need a power source. That leaves you with buying a generator, a power station, or spending a lot on the only portable pellet grill with a built-in battery.
Really if you’re looking for a potable pellet grill, it’s probably because you want the convenience of what a pellet grill brings. What’s great about the Masterbuilt Portable Charcoal Grill though is it has the same basic design and convenience of a pellet grill. It runs off charcoal though, so you don’t miss out on the flavor that you sacrifice with a pellet grill.
For the same price as a portable pellet grill you can get this grill with a cart and you only need 4 AA batteries to power it. That makes it truly portable compared to pellet grills.
Tips and Tricks
- While temperatures aren’t listed on the dial, they’re what you’d expect. Near the lowest setting for 250 degrees F, near the middle for 350 degrees F and all the way for as hot as the grill will go.
- If you’re doing a lot of cooking, keep an eye on the temperature gauge. If the fan is constantly on, but it’s struggling to keep temperature, it’s time to add more charcoal.
- We found that Masterbuilt’s fire starters worked well and were pretty cheap. In the manual for the grill it said that you can use 2 to start the grill even faster. We found that the grill started pretty quick with 1 and didn’t need 2.
- The enclosure for the batteries has a gasket on it, also the outlet for the cord has a plug over it. That’s a nice touch to help shield them from the elements.
- If you plan on using this the day you get it, keep in mind that it has a long process to season it. The manual says to burn a hopper of charcoal, let it cool, put cooking oil all over it, then repeat the process. That takes quite a bit of time.
The Masterbuilt Portable Charcoal Grill isn’t just a great portable charcoal grill, it’s a great grill. While it has a few minor annoyances, they aren’t nearly as severe or plentiful as the pros. With the ability to run off AA batteries, it proves to be even more convenient than a portable pellet grill, with better flavor.