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Char-Griller 980 first impressions

O C

Newbie
16
34
Joined May 10, 2021
I've had my 980 about 2 weeks now. Here are some of my impressions.
I have an Akorn and Traeger Pro 575. Like them both, use them interchangeably, although the Traeger has had a lot more use lately because its just so easy.
I've wanted one of the Masterbuilt Gravity Series since they came out, held off primarily because I don't really have room for another grill, and partly because of my impression that build quality might not be great and they seemed to need a some mods to improve performance. But I wanted to switch out the Traeger for something as easy, and using the same fuel as my Akorn.
Then the 980 shows up. Seems to have a beefier build, no need for a firebox mod, no need for an add on drip tray, no need for a rear vent mod. Early reviews looked good. I love my Akorn from Char-Griller, I decided to give the 980 a try...

Build quality seems excellent. Heavy, sturdy, good quality paint finish. Someone said in another thread the in store demo unit felt wobbly. I bought a boxed unit because I wanted to assemble it myself, and I think its a very sturdy grill. In particular the double-walled porcelain coated hopper and heat manifold, heavy duty. The body, legs, shelving, paint quality all suggest good durability.
Started off using briquettes (Ridge, then Kingsford Blue) for seasoning, and first few cooks. First cook was pizza at 600. I could cook on two 13" stones at once, and have room for wings etc.! Not bad, flavor was great, but it took as long to cook the pizza as it did in my preheated 425 degree oven. I think although grill reached 600 quickly, it needed more time to heat soak the heavy components.
I did a second pizza cook a few days later, this time gave it 20+ minutes to heat soak at 500 before I kicked it up to 600, that did much better. Pizza on this was a winner.

I've not been as impressed with general grilling performance. So far I've done burgers, beer can chicken, chicken wings, and boneless skinless thighs. All tasty, with great flavor. But none of them as crispy grilled as I can get on the Akorn, or the Traeger. Granted, I've been using temps and times based on those grills, maybe its a temp reading thing, and I've actually been cooking at a much higher temp on the Traeger than I thought. Or maybe the 980 is just more indirect heat or needs more time to heat soak. I cooked wings on the 980 tonight at 425-450, they turn out crispier on the Traeger at 375. The cheese on the burgers didn't melt the way it does on the Traeger. So far things just seemed more baked than grilled on the 980.
Unfortunately I don't have a good separate grill probe to check temps. But I hope to soon.

I have not yet done a low and slow cook. I expect this to excel at those temps. It runs very stable. Hope to do a couple of pork butts soon.

The ash generated with briquettes was so much more than I ever had with lump in the Akorn. I switched to B&B lump the last couple of cooks, ash is greatly reduced. Picked up several more bags from the current Ace Hardware sale.

Smoke from wood chunks in the ash tray seems to work well. I've not added any to the hopper. Been happy with general flavor and smoke, even my daughter commented on a better flavor compared to the smoke profile from the Traeger.

This is a new grill and a new grill style. I know from my Akorn and Traeger there can be a learning curve. Maybe I just need to learn how to work with this grill. It is easy to use. I'll keep using it 3-4 times a week and see what happens.
IMG_0877.jpg IMG_0881.jpg IMG_0885.jpg
 

mike243

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
2,672
1,112
Joined Feb 25, 2018
Thanks for the review. I will be watching for more reviews
 

PPG1

Smoking Fanatic
347
255
Joined Aug 22, 2020
Looks great. I know this is probably a stupid question but you did not mention whether you independently check the actual internal temp of the grill to what you set it at. I know my MB 560 I have to set the temp at 250 to get my real temp of cooker to 225. Not a big deal to me because it still hold steady once i get my desired temp.

edit: whoops that was a stupid question I just reread your post and you did mention you have no grill probe
 

Smokin Okie

Smoking Fanatic
325
163
Joined Jun 27, 2018
Just from my experience with the MB 560 , I think these gravity feeds are far more smoker than grill. My Kettle is still my primary tool for grilling.

What I'm more interested in hearing about this CharGriller, is how well the grease management system works. Grease fires are a concern on my MB 560 if I don't clean it and line the tray with foil at least after every other cook, if not every cook. Maybe searing steaks over a raging grease will take ya to flavortown, but I don't like the idea of it, .... from the get-go.
 

jarrett

Newbie
7
14
Joined Dec 18, 2011
That's a great write up. I've had mine for about a month. Here is what I will say about it:

It definitely does better going low and slow. I did a pork butt last night, it turned out incredible. The last two cooks I've done on the 980 I've used my temp probe to get a grill temp reading. There is a big difference at times with the grill's temp probe reading and my temp probe. My plan moving forward is to use the reading from my temp probe and adjust the grill temp to hit my target temp. This does not bother me. Some might not like it.

My first experience using it like a grill was disappointing. I experienced the same issue. The food was more baked than grilled. After experimenting at different temperatures I found that you need to be close to 700 degrees to get good color on a steak. The temp gun shows a reading on the grates of 650 to 700 when you run it at the max temp. You are correct about it needing time to warm up.

The grill is very well built. It's HEAVY and sturdy. It has plenty of room. That was one of my deciding factors for buying it. You can load it up with plenty of meat. It's been a great addition to my 7 series Pitt Boss vertical smoker. I wanted something that could double as a grill and in my opinion it meets those needs.
 

JWFokker

Smoking Fanatic
391
142
Joined Mar 5, 2019
The gravity fed design is inherently indirect heat. With your pellet burner you're getting a fair amount of radiant heat coming up through the drip tray even if the firepot has a deflector on it. Same with the Akorn unless you take extreme measures to prevent it (deflector plate+water pan full of water or sand). They both have the fire below the grates. Gravity fed cookers are essentially the same as a traditional offset smoker. The forced air from the fan likely produces more even temperatures across the cooking grates than a traditional offset too. Keep the Akorn for your grilling.
 

O C

Newbie
16
34
Joined May 10, 2021
Thanks for the feedback! Picked up an 8lb pork butt and 2.7lb beef pot roast this morning to smoke for sandwiches later this week. Hope I can get a grill probe to confirm my grate temp beforehand.
I got back in to charcoal when I got the Akorn almost 6 yrs ago. Its been a great grill and smoker. I like the Traeger a lot, but honestly, the more I try different things, the more value I find in my old $250 Akorn. Coupled with the BBQube Tempmaster for easy smoking. And its held up well all these years :) Hmm, maybe I can use the Tempmaster to check the grate temp, shoulda thought of that!
 

O C

Newbie
16
34
Joined May 10, 2021
did burgers tonight. Last time were from frozen these were fresh ground 85/15. Tempmaster showed the grate at 225 when grill read 275. let the grill heat soak 15+ min. Put the burgers on for 20 min at 225(275). Turned temp up to 425 and timer for 8 minutes. Grate temp was 370ish. Flipped the burgers and did 6 more minutes, with some cheese.
These turned out great! Sizzle without flames, smoke even at the higher temp (b&b lump and applewood chunks in the ash pan), melted cheese on top of nicely grilled burgers! Perfect. I wish I had pics but as usual I was 'dang that was good I should have taken a picture'...
Chicken technique will have to wait, I think the beef roast tomorrow :)
 

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