The Masterbuilt Gravity Series is a true revolution in the outdoor cooking market. It’s the first widely available charcoal fueled gravity fed cooking system that features grill, griddle and smoking options.
When I first encountered the Gravity Series 560, it was being used to cook some NY Strip steaks at 700 degree heat, achieving a stellar sear on the outside. Once I saw it in action, I knew I wanted to put one to the test.
Fast forward about 8 months, and we have hands on with a Masterbuilt Gravity Series 800 here at The Barbecue Lab. We’ve been able to put this unit through the ringer over the past 6 weeks, and what follows is the tale of our time together.
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800 sq. in
225° - 700° F
W55.1" x H50.9" x L30.5"
10lbs lump/16lbs briquettes
Once the order was placed, it took about a week for the grill to arrive. Delivery was made in the back of a full size van, and two ladies hefted it out and on to a dolly cart to bring it up the driveway and into the garage. Most grills arrive on a box truck with a liftgate, so this was a bit of a surprise for us, but we’re guessing that holiday deliveries being as hectic as they were this year that everyone was doing all they could to get packages out any way possible.
That being said, the unit arrived in a clean box without any visible dents or crush points, which isn’t something I can say for every unit that arrives here at the Lab.
The packaging on the Masterbuilt Gravity Series 800 was robust. I could see how multiple boxes could easily be stacked in the warehouse due to the amount of reinforcement that was present surrounding the unit.
As we were unpacking the cooker, we noticed that the gravity chute had a decent dent in the front that we were surprised to see. There wasn’t any kind of indentation or cut in the packaging, so our assumption is that this happened somewhere along the line in the factory and somehow made it into a box without anyone noticing.
I’m sure if we contacted Masterbuilt about it, they’d offer to make it right, but the dent is in a panel that doesn’t affect the functionality of the grill, so we decided to proceed and put it together.
Assembling the Masterbuilt Gravity Series 800 took about 90-120 minutes with the occasional “here, hold this please” assist from the missus. There are some screws that need to be put in this grill during assembly that could easily use two people, so consider having someone on hand to assist when you’re ready to put yours together.
The main body of the 800 and the gravity chute come pre-attached, so most of the assembly work comes in the form of building the cart, shelves and other paraphernalia. Like most grills that you can purchase at a big box store these days, there are pieces that come “pre-greased” that can make quite a mess, so plan accordingly.
How to Season Your Masterbuilt Gravity Series 800:
Masterbuilt supplies detailed instructions on how to season the Gravity 800 in the provided instruction manual, and you should follow them. It’s difficult to wait to get that first cook going while seasoning the grill for a couple of hours, but it’s important to burn off the oils and chemicals that are on the metal throughout the smoker before you put anything you want to eat inside.
The process is pretty simple.
- 1Start the grill and heat at 120°C/250°F for 60 minutes
- 2Kick up the temperature to 205°C/400°F for 30 minutes
- 3Shutdown & completely cool the unit
- 4Cover the internal surfaces of the cooking chamber with a cooking oil like Canola. We like to buy a spray bottle or two of cooking spray to make things easier.
- 5Start the grill and heat to 175°C/350°F for 30 minutes
- 6Completely cool and you’re ready to go
So, why would you want to go through all of the trouble to season it the right way? It’s simply the best way to combat rust on your grill. We do this on every grill that we have here at The Barbecue Lab, and it keeps rust at bay.
How to Season Your Masterbuilt Gravity Series 800 Griddle:
Seasoning the grill itself is different than seasoning the griddle attachment, but that process is pretty simple. You can find a video of how to season your griddle on our YouTube channel here.
We started by removing the grilling manifold, and putting the griddle manifold in place. After placing the griddle on the cooking surface, we fired up the grill to 260°C/500°F and let things get warmed up.
One the griddle was up to temperature, we applied a light coating of cooking oil to the surface and rubbed it in with a rag towel. As soon as we added the oil, the top began to smoke, and this is what we were looking for. The oil cooks into the griddle surface and helps it to season and take on the non-stick coating griddle cooks know and love.
We’d wait for the oil that was visible on the top to burn off, and as the top started to look dry again we would repeat the process. On this particular model, we applied oil 4-5 times over a period of about an hour before we felt that the top was ready to cook on.
As soon as we were satisfied with the seasoning of the top, we dove into our first cook by throwing down a rasher of bacon to give the top some flavor to absorb. If there’s a better way to season a griddle than using bacon, I haven’t found it.
The grill has quite a few built in safety features. The first is a lid switch, limits temp to 500°F/260°C when opened. This means that as long as you have the top open, 500°F is as hot as your grill or griddle will run. This is especially important when using the griddle as you’ll most likely have the lid open the entire time when using it.
Hopper switches can be found on both the top of the charcoal hopper and the ash door to keep the chimney effect in check. Without these switches, the entire column of charcoal could easily ignite with a fan blowing hot air into what then becomes a charcoal chimney. Masterbuilt knows this, and when either door is opened, the fan stops to protect your grill and your cook.
The Masterbuilt Gravity Series 800 Series is quite a beast when it comes to grilling at high heat. If you’ve ever grilled over a charcoal fire, you know how hot the coals can get if you want them to, and this grill has a fan that stokes the coals to get them piping hot.
We grilled a Porterhouse steak as the first high heat test, and the grill marks from the factory grill grates were stellar. The grates are reversible on the Masterbuilt Gravity Series 800, with one side marked for smoke and the other for sear.
The grilling (sear) side has wide grill supports to make sure there’s plenty of coverage for great marks. We also grilled some Snow Crab for Christmas dinner, and the unit infused them with a great smokey flavor that you can’t get in a boiling pot of water.
A 700 maximum for high heat grilling is no slouch, as most grills available at big box stores won’t even come close to this high of a heat setting for searing. That’s one of the things that I’m a huge fan of with this unit.
How to Change from Grill to Griddle:
To change the 800 over from grilling to griddle mode, you just take off the grill grates to access the manifold below.
There’s a manifold for grilling and a manifold for the griddle, and whichever one isn’t in use has a perfect storage spot on the shelf below the unit.
Simply take off the grill manifold and replace it with the griddle manifold and place the griddle on the grill surface. It’s incredibly easy to change modes with the Gravity series, and we didn’t find it to be troublesome over the many times that we went back and forth between cooks.
There are hooks conveniently located under the side shelf to hang the grill grates while the griddle is in use. We don't recommend using the hooks to hang the griddle, however. It *kind of* works, but the second you bump the grill the griddle will likely fall off. Don't ask us how we know.
The griddle surface is made of cold rolled steel, and it’s HEAVY. This isn’t a light and cheap griddle attachment that you might buy on Amazon for an existing gas grill. It’s made to fit the 800 series, and it locks into place and feels very secure when you’re cooking on it.
There’s a drain in the front left of the griddle top to allow for draining water during cleaning or other garbage that doesn’t need to stick with you for the duration of your cook.
There’s a handle attached to the griddle that allows you to pick it up and move it around without having to try and grip the cooking surface.
The sear that you can get on this griddle is exceptional. Not all griddles are designed to get to the high heat of the Masterbuilt Gravity Series 800, and this is where it shines. You can set the grill to 700 degrees, open the lid once you’ve achieved temperature and put a mean sear on burgers and steaks.
One of my favorite cooks on the 800 has to be the first time we did Smashburgers. We started with bacon and then added double patties and cheese with grilled onions, and the crust that was formed on the burgers was crispy and delicious. Simply an amazing way to make burgers with this grill.
When it comes to smoking on the 800, it’s a pretty simple process. Load the charcoal hopper full, but make sure that you’re placing chunks of your favorite smoking wood every 2” of coal or so. We love cherry wood around here, so we loaded up about 10 chunks of cherry with our full hopper of coal and the smoke was constant and consistent.
We also like to add a chunk or two of smoking wood to the ash bucket before we start a cook, and the hot ash that falls from the charcoal as its burning brings even more smoke to the party.
The first thing we smoked was a chuck roast, and we put it straight on the grates at 275 for 4 hours. We liked the color that we had at the 4 hour mark, so we put it in a foil pan with some beef broth and covered it to braise the roast to finish. The roast shredded beautifully and have a great red smoke ring.
Next we fired up a rack of spare ribs for mom and dad when they visited. Cooking at 250, we wanted to see how the grill would do with the ribs unwrapped for the duration, and the slab finished at the 4.5 hour mark with the kind of crust that you can only get with charcoal as the source of fuel.
There have been other cooks as well, but if you want to see more of those you can always check us out on Instagram.
We store our Masterbuilt Gravity Series 800 outside under the optional cover. The cover is heavy duty, and well worth it in our opinion if you’re going to be bringing this unit home and planning to keep it outside.
The grill does plug into a typical AC outlet, so if you’re going to be moving the unit around, keep this in mind as it does tether you a bit to available power.
What We Loved
Countdown and Count-up timer- The controller has a timer that will count both ways, which is great if you’re someone who keeps cooking notes like me. I like to start the timer as soon as I put a piece of meat on the grill so I can make notes when I did specific things during a cook. How far into the cook did I wrap? At what points did I spritz or open the grill lid? How long did it take to hit a specific internal temperature? Not many grills have added this option, and we love that it’s a part of the Gravity Series.
Smoke/Sear Grates- We mentioned earlier that the grates are reversible, designed on one side for grilling and the other side for smoking. The smoking side resembles the top point of a triangle, making as little contact with the meat as possible and allowing smoke the opportunity to contact as much surface as possible. The grill side looks like the flat bottom side of a triangle, giving as much grate exposure as possible for those grill marks that most grillers crave.
Probe port on cooking chamber- I can’t tell you how many grills don’t have a probe port on the side of the cooking chamber, but I’m sure glad that Masterbuilt added this. It’s annoying to constantly have to shut probe wires for thermometers in the door when you’re cooking a larger piece of meat. It wears on the cables, and kinks and thermometer cables just aren’t a good match for longevity.
Foldable Front Shelf- I love that the front shelf is foldable. It’s deep enough that I can rest a pan on it while I’m working with food on the grill, and having it fold out of the way makes for a smaller footprint to walk around on the patio when it’s not in use.
Opportunities for Improvement
Solder connections on controller- A strange thing happened after the first cook on the 800 when I went to put it away. There’s a cable wrap on the back of the side shelf to tie the power cable around when you’re storing the grill. A nice addition, but after reading the entire manual before heading out for the first cook, I didn’t read anything about needing to disconnect the power cable before you wrapped it on the cable wrap. If you’re going to use this to store your cable, please disconnect the cable from the controller first.
I just pulled the cable back and started winding it around the supports, put the grill away and didn’t think another thing of it. I went outside for an overnight brisket cook two days later, and the grill wouldn’t power on. I checked that the cable was plugged into power, checked that the cable was attached to the controller, all looked good, but no power. Tried multiple power outlets, still no power. It was like a cable was loose in the controller, so I pulled the controller out and took it apart. There it was. The solder joint that holds the power cable attachment to the motherboard had completely come off, separating the cable from the board.
I’m certain that this happened because I put the cable on the cable wrap after the first use, but really? Upon further inspection, the three cables that come out of the controller are crimped in between the front and back of the controller itself inside of a rubber oval. The power cable is in the middle of these three cables, and while the outside two cables hold strong in the rubber fitting, the power cable in the middle slides in and out with barely any resistance. If you’re interested in this grill, you’ll want to put some strain relief on the power cable connection at the controller.
Strain Relief on power cable- I believe that the power cable needs to have some strain relief instead of relying on a solder joint to hold the cable up. There are a couple of ways to do this. First would be to tie something around the power cable so that it can’t move far enough to put strain on the solder joint. Another way would be to attach a hook under the side shelf so that any strain is absorbed by the cable and not the solder joint. I’m not an engineer, so if you have an idea of how to better solve this feel free to comment below. Ya’ll are really ingenious, and I can’t wait to hear what you come up with.
Smoke leaking out top of charcoal hopper- The latches are set from the factory so that the top of the charcoal hopper will close relatively tightly, but we still had quite a bit of smoke leaking from the top of the hopper. We tightened the latches down considerably, and the lid was much tighter when closed, but we still had smoke leaking out of the top of the charcoal hopper for each cook that we did. Maybe smoke is supposed to leak from the top, but I thought that it needed to be a completely closed environment to stop the chimney effect. May not be anything serious, but something to keep an eye on. None of my cooks ended up with the hopper engulfed in flames, but we were nagged by smoke coming out of the top and wondered if it was supposed to be there or not.
Dent from the factory- Like we laid out above, the charcoal hopper arrived dented from the factory. I’m sure things like this happen and get through production on any unit that is mass produced, but it’s still something to note on areas that could be improved.
Black goo leaking from chimney seal that discolors patio- We had some liquid smoke? Black goo? Puddle of blackness? That formed at the bottom of the ash door and dripped on to our new outdoor patio that we weren’t happy about. I’m guessing it was a seal that wasn’t doing its job on the ash drawer access, but we have some cleaning to do and a grill mat to purchase for future cooks. The 800 found its way off the patio for future cooks until we could get a mat to make cleanup easier.
When using the app, grill will turn off for no reason- We had the grill turn itself off for no reason that we could figure out two times on two different cooks. Each time this happened, we were testing out the Masterbuilt app to check temperatures on both the grill and the meat we were cooking. It happened on the rib cook, and two hours into the cook, I walked out to see how things were going, and the controller screen was backlit blue, but there was nothing else on the screen and the fans were off. Second time was during the steak cook, as I was taking a screenshot of the app to show how hot the grill had gotten and how long it took, I walked out the door 5 minutes later with a steak and the screen was blue with no information on it and the grill was cooling down. After those two experiences, we just stuck to the “walk out and see for yourself” method instead of relying on the app. That’s a shame too, because the app is so freaking cool. From the smoke video background to the immediate updates to temperature and controllability, it’s a fantastic app. If it shuts down the grill though when you haven’t asked it to, it’s not as helpful as it could be.
Thickness of the metal- It’s almost impossible to meet the build quality that most of us consumers expect in a grill these days. Let’s be honest, most of us want a grill for under $500 that boasts ¼” metal thickness over the entirety of the grill. We also want the latest electronic controllers to make things set it and forget, and we want it to be able to live outside without a cover 24/7/365 and last 20 years. It’s an impossible task to meet those expectations at the sub-$1,000 mark, yet we complain all the more that the grill companies are skimping on quality and they’re ripping us off. Here’s the deal, for the price of this unit, I’m okay with the way they’ve built it. Is it a tank that will last 20 years? Probably not. It’s a charcoal grill made out of thinner sheet metal that can go up to 700 degrees Fahrenheit. The charcoal chute is double walled, which is fantastic, but it still has me wondering how long the grill can last.
Shaking the charcoal grate before lighting- The grate that the charcoal rests on at the bottom of the hopper should be shaken vigorously before you try to light any previously lit charcoal. You’ll want to knock off the ash so that the flame from your firestarter can light the coal instead of shield it from the fire. We forgot to shake the grate a couple of times, and it made getting things to light much, much harder. There are two metal strips that allow you to set your firestarter below the grate, and that’s the way to go to get a good light on this unit.
What lighters to use- There are so many different lighters that you can use when lighting charcoal, but for this purpose, we suggest going with flat, square lighter pucks like we use with our kamado. I used the Nitro firestarters from Grill Dome for each cook, and they were the perfect size for lighting up the Gravity series. I have Weber lighter cubes and Royal Oak tumbleweeds on hand, but they’re too tall to fit where the lighters need to go, so the flatter the better when it comes to getting this pit lit.
How to store the grill grates/griddle- There are two small hooks on the side of the 800 series located underneath the side shelf. You can store the grill grates here when you’re using the griddle, but we have yet to figure out how to store the griddle here when using the grill grates.
How to store the power cable- We suggest that you disconnect the power cable from the controller whenever you would like to wrap the power cable on the provided cable mount system on the back of the side shelf. If you don’t disconnect from the controller, there’s a possibility that you’ll pull the wire right off the controller circuit board and your controller won’t be able to get power without breaking out the soldering iron and re-attaching it.
Wood chunks in the charcoal hopper- One of the things that Adam taught us when we were first introduced to the Masterbuilt Gravity Series was to add wood chunks right into the charcoal hopper whenever you’re needing to add fuel. It’s recommended that you make sure to not exceed 10-15% of the hopper with wood so that charcoal is still the primary source of fuel and the controller can keep a consistent temperature. We like to add in 1 large chunk of wood every 2-3 inches of charcoal, and it keeps the smoke rolling.
Wood chunks in the ash pan- If adding wood chunks into the charcoal hopper doesn’t give you enough smoke, then adding a few chunks of smoker wood to the ash bucket will give you more. As the charcoal disintegrates during the burn, the hot ash will fall on to the smoking wood and bring more smoke to your cook.
Lump vs. Briquettes- The Gravity Series can run on both lump and briquettes, but we find that we use briquettes most of the time. We found that the briquettes gave us a more consistent burn and allowed us to cook longer without needing to reload the hopper.
The Gravity Series from Masterbuilt is a strong addition to the outdoor cooking market. They’re bringing technology what was previously only available to competition bbq cooks to the hobbyist’s backyard.
While the Gravity Series does have its drawbacks, we find that the pros outweigh the cons and make this a solid option for anyone who likes to smoke and grill.
The Masterbuilt Gravity Series 800 model combines the set it and forget it ease-of-use that we’re used to in a pellet grill with the flavor and high heat of charcoal.
With smoking, grilling and griddling as options on the 800 series, it’s hard to find another unit on the market right now that’s as versatile a machine in such a compact footprint.