We Tested The 2 Best Gravity-Fed Smokers

Written by Mike Futia | Updated January 2, 2024

Gravity-fed smokers offer the convenience of pellet grills, with the natural, smoky flavor of charcoal. 

After smoking ribs, chicken, and pulled pork on five gravity-fed smokers. our testing revealed that the Masterbuilt Gravity Series 1050 is the best gravity-fed smoker for most beginners.

Our criteria for gravity-fed smokers

  • Charcoal efficiency

The ideal gravity-fed smoker should excel at burning charcoal, giving you extended smoking time.

  • Temperature control

The best gravity-fed smokers allow you to smoke foods as low as 200˚F and as high as 700˚F.

  • Multi-Use

Our favorite model, the Masterbuilt 1050, allows you to use the model as both a grill and a smoker.

  • Hopper capacity

Look for a gravity-fed smoker that gives you at least 16 lbs. of hopper capacity, to give you long smoking sessions.

2 Best Gravity-Fed Smokers to Buy in 2024

Click the links to jump directly to the reviews

Our Comparison of the Best Gravity-Fed Smokers

Specifications

Masterbuilt Gravity 1050

Char-Griller Gravity 980

Hopper Capacity

16lbs of briquettes /

10lbs of lump charcoal

16lbs of briquettes /

7 lbs of lump charcoal

Cooking Space

1080 sq. in.

980 sq. in.

WiFi Connectivity?

Yes

Yes

Maximum Temperature

700°F

700°F

Capacity

17 chickens /

7 racks of ribs /

45 burgers

8 chickens /

8 racks of ribs /

6 briskets

Dimensions

61 x 52 x 33 in

34 x 65 x 51 in

Weight

203 lbs

200 lbs

masterbuilt gravity

Pros

  • Built-in digital control
  • WiFi connectivity
  • Set it and leave it technology
  • Simple to use

Cons

  • Built-in digital control
  • Lack of automatic ignition system

Our top pick for a gravity-fed smoker is the Masterbuilt Gravity Series 1050 XL Digital Charcoal Grill & Smoker. This machine is the more expensive of the two we reviewed, but it’s worth it if you can afford the price point.

The Gravity Series 1050 is the largest of the Gravity Series lineup, offering ample cooking space and capacity for an excellent grilling experience. It’s part of the new age of grilling options, complete with WiFi connectivity for complete control from afar.

What impressed us specifically was the smoker's ability to maintain consistent temperatures, and how quickly it heats up—during our tests, it reached 700 degrees in just under 13 minutes, which is really impressive.

masterbuilt

Up to ten pounds of charcoal can go into the hopper, meaning you can load it, set your temperature, then keep an eye on it from the couch from the app on your phone. While especially long smokes may require a re-load, we find 10 lbs. of charcoal is sufficient for many recipes like smoked pork chops and smoked spare ribs. Also worth noting is the ease of adding wood chunks to really enhance the smoky flavor.

The Masterbuilt Gravity 1050 includes premium long-lasting features like reversible cast iron grates, porcelain-warming racks, and a built-in temperature gauge. It’s equipped with everything you could need to cook and more.

masterbuilt

The 1050 is one of the more premium gravity-fed smokers, coming in around $799. However, it’s worth it for those who plan to frequently smoke meats.

What we like

  • Built-in digital control: The built-in digital control system makes it easier than ever to use the gravity-fed machine to cook your meats, veggies, and beyond. 
  • Thoughtful additions: Additions like a storage box on the side and four wheels with locking casters make the 1050 an excellent choice for any cook.
  • Simple to use: Digital controls and excellent features make this grill easy for anyone of any experience level to use. 

What could be better

  • Limited space with lid closed: Once the lid closes, there is highly limited space on the front shelf, which can be frustrating as you lose some cooking space.
  • Lack of automatic ignition system: There is no automatic ignition system, which can be irritating if you’re cooking in a hurry or have no experience with charcoal. 

#2. Runner-Up: Char-Griller Gravity Fed 980

char-griller 980

Pros

  • Easily reaches high temperatures
  • Simple clean-up process with easy-dump ash an
  • WiFi connectivity
  • Plenty of food prep space with a side and front shelf

Cons

  • Short warranty

Our second choice for a gravity-fed smoker is the Char-Griller Gravity Fed 980. This grill is a little smaller than the Masterbuilt 1050, but it’s a bit longer, meaning it really doesn’t save you any space. It does, however, have more food prep room than the Masterbuilt model. 

Like the Masterbuilt, there is a fan inside the 980 that manages the temperature and keeps it under control for the best cooking experience. The Char-Griller 980 has a PID controller to manage its temperature, promising to stay within plus or minus 5 degrees of the set temperature. It also has many of the same features as the 1050, such as WiFi connectivity, a 10 lb hopper, and wheels which make it easy to move as needed even though it is 200 lbs.

It can hold up to 16 pounds of briquettes or 7 pounds of lump charcoal in its hopper, and it has a heat deflector and drip pan for better heat management and grease control, reducing flare-ups and making for easier clean-up.

In our experience, and the reason we didn’t rate this gravity-fed smoker number one, is because the construction doesn’t seem to keep warmth in as well as the 1050. As a result, even though these gravity smokers are similar (and this one is slightly smaller), we find ourselves feeding it charcoal a bit more often. But for amateur meat smokers, the difference probably doesn’t matter. 

The only major difference that we need to note is that the Char-Griller comes with a side griddle, which does make it easy to make sides without needing to worry about a second appliance. We don’t use it often, though, so the fact that the Masterbuilt 1050 doesn’t have one isn’t a deal breaker. 

Both the 1050 and the 980 are excellent options, and the one you should choose will mostly depend on the number of people you are cooking for, as well as whether or not you want a side griddle! 

What we like

  • Side Griddle: No need to use the stove and the smoker, as you can use the side griddle to make baked beans while you smoke!
  • Simple clean-up process: The Char-Griller makes it simple to clean up the grill after cooking is all done with the easy dump ash system. The grill also has porcelain-coated iron grates for ease of cleaning.

What could be better

  • Short warranty: Buyers will only get a one-year limited warranty.
  • Troublesome build quality: The build quality is solid for all your cooking needs, but it does seem to be average when compared to some higher-end models. 
  • Power cord. The power cord design could be improved for better security.

What Is A Gravity-Fed Smoker?

masterbuilt

A gravity-fed smoker is unique in that it uses gravity to ensure your device is able to retain heat for hours at a time. It uses a hopper that is filled with materials like charcoal to cook the food, allowing more charcoal to be lit at certain intervals with a gravity-run system. 

Let’s discuss a few of the significant pros and cons that come with the use of a gravity-fed smoker. Although they aren’t for everyone, many enjoy the ease of use and unique flavors that come from cooking on a gravity-fed smoker. There are some places where they stand out and others where they fall far behind alternatives.

Pros

Here are a few of the pros of gravity-fed smokers, from the temperature to the smoke:

  • Quick lowering and raising of temperature: It only takes a few seconds for the gravity-fed smoker to reach a consistent temperature. 
  • Charcoal smoke taste: Users get the unique tang of charcoal which many other smokers (like electric smokers) can leave you lacking. 
  • Temperature Maintenance: Gravity-fed smokers maintain temperature better than other types of charcoal smokers. 

Of course, we can’t mention the best parts of a gravity-fed smoker without talking about the worst. There are some significant areas where the gravity-fed smoker could use some improvements. 

Cons

No matter how cool a product is, chances are high that it will have some issues. The gravity-fed smoker isn’t without some prominent ones. These can significantly lower the value for some. 

Here are some things that aren’t as desirable in a gravity-fed smoker:

  • High risk of product defects: Integrated technology with many moving parts means there is a much higher likelihood the smoker could become defective far sooner. 
  • No multi-zone cooking: Unfortunately, there is no multi-zone cooking. Only one temperature across the entire smoker at all times.
  • Not all gravity-fed smokers have an ignition system: If yours comes without, you’ll have to deal with the hassle of lighting charcoal. 

These cons don’t ruin the gravity-fed smoker, but they can be irritating for some individuals. Keep these in mind if you’re thinking about a gravity-fed smoker. If you already have one, take care to prevent issues with the machine if possible. 

What To Look For In A Gravity-Fed Smoker

masterbuilt

Let’s dive into a few of the best things to look for in a gravity-fed smoker. If you keep your eyes peeled for these, you should have no trouble picking out the right gravity-fed smoker based on what you need and how much you want to cook.

Cooking Space

First, consider the cooking space on the gravity-fed smoker. If you think you’ll have constant events and need tons of area to cook a wide variety of meats, you need something with a large cooking area. If you think you’ll just use it for your family, you don’t need anything massive. 

We recommend planning for 100 square inches of cooking space for every family member you regularly cook for, plus a buffer of 100 square inches for those times you want to cook for guests! 

Hopper Capacity

One of the next items to look at is hopper capacity. This area of the gravity-fed smoker is where the charcoal goes inside the machine, determining how long the heat will last. The larger the hopper capacity, the longer you can cook without refilling and replacing the charcoal.

Ideally, you want something with a decent hopper capacity to cook as much as possible for an extended period at one time without stopping to relight the fire. We recommend ensuring you get at least a 10 lb hopper capacity. Otherwise, you will be refilling your smoker frequently. 

Accessories

If you want specific accessories, ensure you go with a model that comes equipped with what you want, such as extra room to prepare meat or WiFi connectivity, as many of these things can’t be added later. 

If you want other accessories like a pizza oven or a rotisserie kit, you’ll want to ensure you purchase a brand that is compatible with these. While these are usually added after purchase, not all brands may connect with your exact accessory. 

Price Point

Finally, consider the price point. We recommend purchasing the best gravity smoker you are able to afford and approaching the shopping experience with a range rather than an exact price point. Remember that you often get what you pay for with appliances, and if you purchase a cheap gravity-fed smoker, you will find yourself replacing it before long. 

Sometimes, if you have a really low budget, it is worth it to put off purchasing a smoker until you can afford a better one. This is especially true with gravity-fed smokers that have many components and can break easily. The last thing you want to do is waste money on a gravity-fed smoker you only use a handful of times! 

Warranty

Try to purchase a gravity-fed smoker with the longest warranty possible, especially if you are purchasing a less premium brand. We recommend looking for a 3-year  warranty if you can find one, as many companies only offer a 1-year warranty on their gravity-fed smokers, and we find these smokers are likely to break after just a year or two of use. 

The Final Verdict

If you’re interested in a gravity-fed smoker, there are plenty of options available. Our top two picks are the Masterbuilt 1050 and Char-Griller 980. Each provides similar features in varying sizes, providing a unique electronic gravity-fed experience. Ultimately, it’s up to you to look at the features and decide if one of them is right for you.

Mike Futia

Hello, I'm Mike Futia, a passionate griller and BBQ enthusiast. I'm the creator of Grill Frenzy, and I'm committed to sharing my knowledge of grilling and smoking with you. I believe that BBQ and grilling should be accessible to everyone. Whether you're a seasoned pro or just starting out, I'm here to guide you on your grilling journey. Welcome!


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