Which Gravity Smoker? Chargriller or Masterbuilt?

  • Some of the links on this forum allow SMF, at no cost to you, to earn a small commission when you click through and make a purchase. Let me know if you have any questions about this.
SMF is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

BaxtersBBQ

Meat Mopper
Original poster
Jan 5, 2020
171
190
So my next purchase is going to be a gravity smoker. Masterbuilt 1050 or Chargriller 980?

I’ve read other threads on this same topic and watched a ton of YouTube videos but I still can’t decide. Is it true the Masterbuilt doesn’t have a heat diffuser so the entire bottom grate is useless for smoking? Does it really require a water pan?
Is the Chargrillers top rack really to small and flimsy to cook anything larger than ribs? I’m looking for something that can hold a lot of food .
Anybody have any experience with these?
 
I've had the 980 for about 8 months now. I haven't needed to use the top rack for anything, as the main grate has ample size for my needs. I'm not sure that its 'flimsy' but it is narrow. There is an LSS mod that looks pretty good to extend it if you really need the extra space.
I've done several pork butts and ribs on the 980, I don't use a drip pan or water pan. It is an excellent smoker IMO. I've done two large butts on the main grate with no drip pan and didn't line the diffuser with foil. It all worked great for me, no grease fire, cleanup seems relatively easy in the 980. I just scrap the diffuser, take it and the manifold out, and scrap the debris down into the grease tray. I've also not had any grease dripping out.
If you end up with a 980 and fill it up with a lot of food let us know how it turns out! I've been very happy with mine.
 
Got a MB560 a few weeks ago. Have to say, I mainly got it to use for efficient charcoal searing of steaks, and it does that well with the wide bottom grates and short time to get to 700°. The bottom sort of defuses the heat as its immediately pushed to the sides to circulate. What it doesn't do well thus far is smoking. The long vent on the back lets the smoke out immediately, and the food I've cooked in it thus far has less smoke flavor then I would get from my Treager even without the a-maz-n tube. The design seems to definitely be a grill first, smoker second. Add to that MB support has been horrible in my experience, if I had a choice again I would go for the barrel and the Chargriller.
 
Is it true the Masterbuilt doesn’t have a heat diffuser so the entire bottom grate is useless for smoking?
What do you mean by "heat diffuser"? There is a large manifold that runs almost the length of the cook surface for heat dispersion. The areas right next to the firebox tend to run hotter than the opposite end, but adding a water pan seems to stabilize things. I regularly use my bottom grate for smoking with excellent results.

My primary issue with the 1050 is the quality of materials and components - in particular the switches, you won't have to look too hard to find my posts on that. But the food I've put out from the 1050 is by far the best I've ever smoked/cooked/grilled.

I expect the 980 would be similar results in terms of food quality. The offset charcoal with PID controller and really is a great method, irrespective of if it's the Masterbuilt or Chargriller units. If you are deciding between these two I would weigh design and functionality for how you intend to use it.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 912smoker
What do you mean by "heat diffuser"? There is a large manifold that runs almost the length of the cook surface for heat dispersion. The areas right next to the firebox tend to run hotter than the opposite end, but adding a water pan seems to stabilize things. I regularly use my bottom grate for smoking with excellent results.

My primary issue with the 1050 is the quality of materials and components - in particular the switches, you won't have to look too hard to find my posts on that. But the food I've put out from the 1050 is by far the best I've ever smoked/cooked/grilled.

I expect the 980 would be similar results in terms of food quality. The offset charcoal with PID controller and really is a great method, irrespective of if it's the Masterbuilt or Chargriller units. If you are deciding between these two I would weigh design and functionality for how you intend to use it.

I’m just going by complaints from YouTube videos. I guess the chargriller has a seperate diffuse plate on top of the heat manifold. Helps to keep the direct heat off the bottom rack.
Just from more research I think I’m going with the Chargriller. It seems to have a better build quality. The porcelain coating seems to make a huge difference. Some Masterbuilt owners are complaining of rust after just 6 months.
 
I have a 1050 and have gotten the best cooks of my life. I've used the bottom shelf to cook 2 turkeys and the tops for various other cooks. No water pan is required. I don't feel like I've lost too much smoke in my cooks and the ability to sear my ribs right after smoking is my favorite thing. I believe there is a difference in insulation between the 1050 and there other models but I love mine. I burn through charcoal pretty quick but it's worth it to me. I'm putting some pictures of a few cooks I did before the snowfall
20211019_181501.jpg
20211009_200341.jpg
20211009_192805.jpg
20211009_152400.jpg
20211005_145612.jpg
20211005_143604.jpg
 
My sister in law has the MB560. She loves it, and we've each enjoyed what the other cooks! As mcokevin said, both make good food.
As much as I love the 980, its not perfect. Sometimes I admire the compact size of the 560. The size of the 980 is both a pro and a con. Its great for multiple butts, turkeys, and I can do two large pizzas side by side. But, a lot of my cooks are a few chicken thighs or burgers for just my wife and I, they look pretty dinky on that great big grate! and the 980 really goes through some charcoal to heat that big chamber.
I also have an Akorn, fuel consumption is no comparison. the one thing my family prefers off the akorn is grilled boneless/skinless chicken thighs. Despite the ability to hit some high temps on the 980, its still an offset smoker, not as good a direct grill like the akorn.
I've used the akorn very little in the past 6 months, but have rolled it out for use recently as the fan died last week on the 980. A few emails to CG support and a new fan and controller are on their way. But glad I have a backup :)
 
  • Like
Reactions: BaxtersBBQ
But, a lot of my cooks are a few chicken thighs or burgers for just my wife and I, they look pretty dinky on that great big grate! and the 980 really goes through some charcoal to heat that big chamber.
This is why I keep my two burner gasser. It's perfect for the quick weeknight cooks if it's just my wife and I and our kids. No prep needed and negligible fuel cost.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 912smoker
A little off topic, but since I mentioned my fan issue with the 980 I thought I should follow up that CG customer service sent a new fan and controller out on Monday, arrived today, and the new fan resolves the problem and runs like a champ. They provided a return shipping label for the failed fan. First time I've needed warranty support, and it was excellent.
 
  • Like
Reactions: BaxtersBBQ
SmokingMeatForums.com is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.
Clicky