Masterbuilt MB20040220 Gravity Series 560 Digital Charcoal Smoker Grill Review
People love an outdoor cooking device that can smoke with indirect heat as well as grill over direct high heat. In the past, grill manufacturers have tried to address this in various ways. One popular option was to put an offset smoker box to the side of a barrel-style grill. However, this limited you to a certain grill profile, and temperature control while smoking was dubious at best. Yet it still delivered the powerful smoky flavors charcoal and wood smoke flavors that most people associate with classic competition barbecue.
The other option was a wood pellet smoker, that feeds prepared wood pellets to the fire pot for consistent heat control. Yet many barbecue purists complain that the smoke can be a little too light. Most wood pellet grills also lack a broiler plate for direct flame searing.
Masterbuilt steps up to the plate to answer these long-held head-scratching problems with their MB20040220 Gravity Series 560 Digital Charcoal Smoker Grill. It was specifically designed to burn charcoal briquettes or lump, with the option to feed wood chunks for competition level smoke. Yet it also has a gravity feed system with a proprietary “Digifan” linked to a digital control center to carefully control the internal temperature.
This means that you can set it as low as 150-degrees, where the warm smoke wafts into the primary cooking chamber. If you want a higher temperature, you can dial it up as high as 700-degrees Fahrenheit, which will develop direct flames under the porcelain coated grill grates. Masterbuilt even offers a special app that lets you monitor the temperature and control it via a WiFi or Bluetooth signal.
The hopper itself can hold up to 10 pounds of lump charcoal or 16 pounds of briquettes. Its gravity fed, so as it burns more charcoal naturally falls out into the burning chamber. Ash then falls out to the ash pan to make room for more charcoal to fall into place. There’s also a grease tray to capture any drippings.
Construction & Ease of Assembly
Masterbuilt knew that if they were going to truly compete with the established presence of offset charcoal smokers and wood pellet grills that they were going to have to start with high-quality materials. This is followed up with sound engineering principles that give you surprisingly accurate control over the heat via the digital control center. The WiFi app is a nice touch, but it still feels like it’s in the Beta mode, and probably isn’t something to get overly excited about.
When it comes to assembly, this smoker/grill is a little on the complex side and it weighs in at 147 pounds. So, make sure to recruit a buddy to help you put it together. Masterbuilt offers easy to read instructions and online assembly videos which can make the MB20040220 easier to assemble than you might think.
The Masterbuilt MB20040220 definitely opens a new door on the possible versatility of a smoker/grill combo. It has the flavor and flame of a charcoal grill while the automated convenience of a pellet grill. It can handle temperatures as low as 150-degrees. It heats up to 225 degrees in as little as 7 minutes, and can also hit 700 in 13-minutes. This means that you can truly hybrid grill without having to move the meat from one side of the grate to the other.
If you want a maximum heat flame, you can load it with jumbo lump charcoal. On the other end of the spectrum, charcoal briquettes might be best for maximum consistency. Technically this grill will let you add wood “Chunks” to the feeder system in tandem with charcoal, though it isn’t designed to work entirely on wood. Nor does it work with “Wood Chips.”
If you want to add a little more authentic smoke flavor from mesquite, hickory, green oak, or applewood, you could simply add it to the ash pan. This will let it smolder without flaring up, while the burning charcoal and the Digifan maintain a consistent temperature.
It can accommodate up to four meat probes. This lets you further dial in the right temperature you need for the food you’re grilling or smoking.
One minor complaint with the Masterbuilt MB20040220 is that it lacks a dedicated water pan. If you do need to add some extra steam to a long smoking session, you could always improvise with a heavy-duty aluminum baking pan set in the far corner of the burning chamber.
The porcelain-coated grill grates and warming rack give you a total of 560 square inches of cooking space. You could argue that it’s a little bit on the small side, but you should still be able to comfortably smoke two whole chickens, a large pork shoulder, or grill for a family of four, with room to spare.
The gravity-fed charcoal system working in tandem with the digifan and digital controls lets you dial in the heat, without compromising the fire-kissed, smoky flavors.
The app with WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity is meant to be a special feature, but it arguably needs some future refining.
Ease to Clean
For a charcoal smoker and grill, the Masterbuilt MB20040220 is easier to clean than you might think. The grease pan is easy to pull out and clean. The ash pan efficiently collects spent embers without a lot of mess. The porcelain coating on the grill grates reduces stubborn stuck-on bits of food, to minimize scraping.
It’s also worth noting that unlike wood pellet grills, you don’t have to empty the hopper when you’re done grilling. If you plan to fire it a day or two later, you can just leave the charcoal in the gravity-fed hopper chamber, without worrying about it jamming up with lignin and wood pulp.
The Masterbuilt MB20040220 only comes with a 1-year warranty, which might be a little light for a grill in this price range.
The Masterbuilt MB20040220 is arguably creating its own niche that takes the best aspects of offset smokers and wood pellet grills to combine them in a new type of grilling device. The wide temperature range and easy temperature control certainly make it very versatile.
The lack of a water pan and the clunky app are minor knocks that you can learn to improvise around. It would also be nice if it came with a more substantial warranty.
- 150 to 700-degree temperature range
- Gravity-fed charcoal hopper
- High heat grill and smoker in one
- Digital controls with a fan
- Fast preheating
- Easy to clean
- Smartphone app needs more development
- No water-pan
- Minimal warranty