Char-Broil 18202076 20” Bullet Charcoal Smoker Review
A backyard smoker doesn’t necessarily need to be fancy. It just needs to have quality in the places where you need it most. Bullet or so-called capsule smokers represent a popular alternative to traditional smoker cabinets. This has prompted a wide range of grill manufacturers to inject their take into the marketplace.
The Char-Broil 20” Bullet Smoker tries to inject some innovation into the process. The lower damper is operated via an easy to slide handle. It has numbers to help you understand exactly what it is set at. Once you dial it in, the numbers help you adjust it consistently.
There is no formal water pan included in the purchase. However, the drippings pan can pull double duty for sessions where you want to inject some extra steam into a particular session.
The removable lower ash pan makes cleanup easier. The two grill grates are also easy to clean, thanks to their non-stick porcelain coating.
The Char-Broil 20” Bullet Smoker’s body is made from thick gauge steel that has been coated with very durable black porcelain. This is a step up from powder coating you find with many competitors in this niche. The side access door is hinged, which allows you access to reload wood chips, and charcoal, or to check on the meat being smoked. The lid has a built-in thermometer to help you monitor the internal temperature.
Construction & Ease of Assembly
Char-Broil puts their best foot forward with their 20” Bullet smoker. The porcelain coating on the body and grill grates is a step above what you find with most similar competitors. The door is hinged and seals tighter than many other Bullet-style smokers, where the door simply removes.
That’s not to say that this smoker is perfect. The lid doesn’t seal perfectly, and the thermometer isn’t quite as accurate as you might want it to be. Doubling the drippings pan as a water pan can lead to a messy boil-over event.
When it comes to assembly, the Char-Broil 20” Bullet Smoker is pretty straight forward. There are a few points where the instructions might trip you up. If you take your time, you should be able to have it fully put together in under an hour.
The Char-Broil 20” Bullet Smoker can certainly get the job done with most of the things you want to make. There’s enough room on the porcelain coated grill grates to make an amazing mess of ribs or pieces of chicken.
One little foible in the design is the spacing between the top and bottom racks is small. This makes it hard to smoke multiple tall pieces of food at the same time. You could certainly put two pork shoulders on the top rack and sausages on the lower rack, or perhaps beer can chicken on top and riblets on the lower rack. You just couldn’t load it with four beer can chickens or four pork shoulders.
At first glance, the whole idea of using the drippings pan as a water pan seems like a good idea. Just bear in mind that the drippings pan is very close to the charcoal tray. If it is more than half full, or the meat being smoked releases a lot of drippings the combined volume could cause a very messy boil over problem.
The best way around this is to spring an extra couple of dollars for a disposable, heavy-duty aluminum foil bread pan. You can then fill it with 2 to 3 cups of water or marinade to provide the steam you want without the constant worry of a boil-over. In this configuration, the drippings sometimes vaporize adding to the smoky flavor in the chamber!
The Char-Broil 20” Bullet Smoker has two grill grates that have been coated with a special layer of non-stick porcelain. Combined they technically provide you with just over 570 square inches of smoking space.
Just bear in mind that they are close together in the chamber. This makes it hard to smoke tall items on both layers.
At first glance, the side access door doesn’t appear to be all that special. Still, it seals better than most of the competitors in this niche, which improves heat retention and reduces smoke loss.
The lower damper is easy to control and slides with a simple lever. The numbers also help you dial it in, consistently.
Ease to Clean
Assuming you take measures to prevent a boil over problem with the dual-purpose water/drippings pan, the Char-Broil 20” Bullet Smoker is relatively easy to clean. The non-stick porcelain layer makes it easy to clean the grates. The ash collection pan at the bottom is easy to pull out at the end of a smoking session.
On the other side of the coin, if you don’t take measures to prevent a boil-over incident, you will be looking at a nearly unholy mess. Drippings and things like excess marinade can then mix with the charcoal and ash causing a gummy substance that will stick under your fingernails for a week, any water that boils over and drains to the bottom will dribble out onto the deck to leave a stain.
Adding your own smaller water pan will help prevent this and spare you the mess of a boil-over.
The Char-Broil 20” Bullet Smoker is backed by a 1-year limited warranty against manufacturer defects. This is a step below most of the competitors in this niche.
The market is currently flooded with so-called Bullet, Barrel, and Capsule smokers. It can be hard to weigh all the various pros and cons of each. All things being equal if you don’t intend to smoke a large number of tall foods, and you take measures to prevent a boil over the Char-Broil 20” Bullet Smoker might just land in that sweet spot where affordable price and sufficient quality meet.
- Porcelain coated body
- Non-stick porcelain coated grill grates
- Easy to operate lower damper
- Not much of a warranty
- Prone to water pain boil-over problems
- Inaccurate thermometer