Masterbuilt came out with an innovative technology when they released the Gravity Series back in fall 2019. They took all the convenience and versatility that people love about pellet grills and packaged it in a charcoal grill, without sacrificing the charcoal flavor or requiring proprietary briquettes. Anyone in the market for a new pellet grill, should seriously consider the Gravity Series as an option. If it’s so innovative though, why haven’t other companies come out with similar designs?
Update: Read our full review of the Masterbuilt Gravity Series.
For the answer to that we have to look at what happened when the pellet grill. Joe Traeger invented the wood pellet grill and patented it in 1986 with a 20-year term. When the patent expired in 2006, we immediately saw Louisiana Grills and Green Mountain Grills come to market with pellet grills, followed by recteq (formerly Rec Tec) in 2009 and Grilla Grills in 2012. That’s ignoring all of the other established grill companies that, likewise, started coming out with pellet grills.
Like the pellet grill, the Gravity Series is innovative because it removes all of the difficulty of using a charcoal grill. A hopper is loaded with either charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal, then a fire is lit in the bottom of the hopper. The consumer then just controls the temperature on the grill or on a phone app. The fan and controller do all the hard work by controlling the airflow and thereby the temperature on the grill. There’s a cool video with a visual demonstration of the Masterbuilt charcoal smoker.
The technology was innovative and different enough that Masterbuilt was able to file for a patent in August of 2019 (No. US D935,840 S) which became effective on November 16, 2021 with a 15 year term. The only other company that uses a similar technology is Char-Griller with the Char-Griller 980 Gravity Fed charcoal grill. That grill launched on April 5, 2021, so we’re not sure if they were able to do that because the patent wasn’t granted yet or if there was a licensing agreement with Masterbuilt (we reached out to Masterbuilt for comment). It’s a moot point now though, because public company Middleby bought both Masterbuilt and Char-Griller in December 2021, so they own all companies with a gravity fed charcoal design.
Will the history of the pellet grill repeat itself and in 2036 we’ll see new gravity fed charcoal grills on the market? We’re not sure, but it will be interesting to see if other grill companies can come up with a new, innovative way to control temperature on a charcoal grill in the meantime.