Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 Digital Charcoal Smoker Review

Masterbuilt 560 Gravity Series Charcoal Smoker on Deck

SmokedBBQSource is supported by its readers. We may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you if you buy through a link on this page. Learn more

The Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 is the first digitally controlled hopper-fed charcoal grill.

I test a lot of grills, so it’s always refreshing to see a manufacturer try something different.

If I’m being honest, charcoal grilling is not my favorite due to the hassles that come with it, so I was excited to see if the Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 could give me the convenience of a pellet grill, with the flavor of charcoal.

Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 Overview & First Impressions

The Gravity series is basically a pellet smoker that doesn’t use pellets.

Let me explain.

You have a digital control panel that lets you set your exact temperature between 225 – 700°F. The control panel connects to an app for remote control.

The digital control panel includes room for up to four meat probes.

Instead of a hopper full of pellets, you add lump or briquette charcoal. You still need to add a fire-starter, but then the fan controls the burn rate and manages the temperature of the grill.

The hopper can hold enough charcoal for 12-15 hours of cooking depending on temperature and conditions.

We purchased the 560 model for this review, there is also a virtually identical 1050 model which gives you a lot more space, but can only run for up to 8 hours.

I could comfortably fit two full racks of ribs on the bottom and one on the top shelf.

You could easily sear four large steaks at once.

Manufacturer specifications:

Cooking surface560 sq in (430 primary + 130 warming)
Hopper capacity10 lbs of lump or 16 lbs of briquettes
Shelves and storageSmall side tray and open storage area
Meat probesOne included (capacity for four)
Warranty1 year
PriceCheck price at Amazon or BBQGuys

I was interested to see how well this concept performed with real use.

I’m happy to say the grill can hold very consistent temperatures. The accuracy was average to slightly better depending on whether grilling or smoking. We’ll get into our test results later on in the review.

Some storage and prep areas are provided with the Masterbuilt 560, but it’s about average.

What I like

  • Ease of use – Get charcoal grilling or smoking results with the convenience of digital controls.
  • Temperature range capability – Most pellet smokers can’t get close to 700°F so this grill has an advantage when it comes to searing.
  • Clean up – Cooking with charcoal usually means a lot of clean up. Not with the Gravity Series.
  • Temperature consistency – The fan and digital controls keep a nice consistent temperature.

What I don’t like

  • Hopper charcoal tray – Cutouts in the tray are too large which causes too much charcoal to fall through. I found a good hack to improve this so read on to the end of the review for that.
  • Average build quality – After a few uses already noticed some paint coming off and the materials used are clearly average.
  • Short warranty – One year warranty for a grill feels stingy. It makes me worry that Masterbuilt isn’t willing to back their new technology.

I’ve heard from some other reviewers that have had defective fans, after a decent amount of use I haven’t experienced that yet but it’s something to keep an eye on.

With any first-generation product, there is some risk with being an early adopter.

For the rest of this review, I’ll go more in-depth with my experience using this grill but if you just want the quick version, here’s what I think.

If you are a die-hard, charcoal for life, kind of griller, but admit that you have secretly peeked over the fence and envied some of the features that you saw on a pellet grill, then this grill is very attractive.

It’s not going to last you for decades, but it’s also cheaper than most other digitally controlled grills. Everything I cooked tasted excellent and none of the issues I had were deal breakers for me.

Packaging and assembly

The grill was packaged very well. Lots of cardboard, foam, and clear wrapping was used. I saw no signs of metal to metal rubbing of parts

This was not the easiest grill to put together, but it wasn’t a nightmare either.

Putting the fiberglass gasket on between the hopper and the ash bin did present a little bit of a challenge.

The grill did take quite a bit of time to put together at about 2 hours and 20 minutes, but you could probably cut this down if you had help.

Everything I unpackaged was painted very well, and there weren’t any gouges in the parts or areas with no paint.

While assembling a grill, I spend more time inspecting for poor manufacturing or material handling than most, but I didn’t see any with the Gravity 560.

Everything fit together just as it was supposed to.

Design and build quality

I would say the strength of the material used is average for a grill of this price.

Most of it is thin sheet metal, but this is normal for many grill companies.

The grill appears to be somewhat sturdy, but not noticeably stronger than other grills.

The temperature gauge doesn’t exactly inspire confidence either, with no actual temperature markings. It’s more cosmetic, as you can see the temperature readout on the digital screen.

The side tray looks like it is riveted on. That is a little concerning – as, if you pulled very hard, it might break off.

Plus, one day those rivets will rust, and then the side tray may come as also. The bottom storage area is decently sturdy.

The strength appears to be reasonable for the size and price of the grill.

The wheels used are unremarkable. They are plastic with a tougher plastic tread on the outside.

Not super heavy duty but they look strong enough to last and make the grill easy to move around.

Issues with the build quality

Some of the high temp black paint is coming off of the grill in key areas. I am starting to see black paint bubbling off of the underside of the hopper lid, and just below the firebox shut off slide plate in the ash drop area.

Now, these areas will need to be oiled regularly to keep them from rusting. The paint shouldn’t be coming off this early. Or if this is normal, it should be noted in the manual to keep those areas oiled. 

The one-piece rubber seal from the ash drop door also seems to stick regularly to the metal it closes against after a cook.

This happens to be the area closest to the fire, and it also happens to be where the ends of the 1 piece seal are bonded together.

My guess is the glue that bonds the two ends together can’t handle the heat; so it partially melts the glue every time the grill gets hot enough.

I don’t seem why that bonded section couldn’t have been put at the BOTTOM of the door away from the fire.

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as pulling the rubber seal and sliding it around the door frame. 

Cooking on the Gravity 560

I wanted to put this grill to the test under a variety of different cooking scenarios. To test out the low and slow capabilities I smoked three racks of ribs. I’ve also seared steak and pork chops.

Ease of operation

This was the easiest charcoal grill / smoker I’ve ever used.

  1. Fill the hopper with charcoal
  2. Put a fire starter block in the starting area and light it.
  3. Shut the door 3 minutes later. Turn the grill on to whatever temp you want and walk away.

How simple is that?

Igniting charcoal with butane torch
Using a butane torch to ignite the fire starter cube at the bottom of the hopper

After cooking a variety of different foods I can say the grill performs exactly as advertised. The temperature control is very accurate. It maintains whatever grill temperature you set.

It worked just as well for searing steaks as it did for grilling chicken thighs at lower temperatures. 

Using the app

This grill connects to the Masterbuilt app via Wifi and Bluetooth.

As far as Apps go, this one is about average.

It occasionally seems to have connectivity issues, but better than other ones I have used.

It has some decent features, but some logic is missing.

The MasterBuilt app has a clean modern design but lacks some useful features

For example, if you set a temperature for the meat probe once it reaches that temperature, the alarm goes off as you would expect.

But if you then want to then change to a different temperature and reset the alarm, it won’t let you.

I had to shut the app off and start over. 

This is annoying if you want to do a reverse sear where you will initially aim for say 110°F, and then you want to increase the heat and aim for 135°F.

My experience seems to be shared by others. The Masterbuilt app has a rating of 1.8/5 on Google Play and 1.7/5 on the App Store.

Ease of Cleaning

Compared to any other charcoal grill on the market, this grill is a piece of cake to clean.

All the ashes fall into a tray that you can pull out and dump.

used charcoal tray
Removable charcoal tray

There is a full-size grease pan that pulls out from the back of the grill to clean anything that dripped down from the grates.

Removable grease tray

There is a smaller grease tray that attaches to the grease pan to collect the general grease for easy disposal. The cast-iron grates are easy to clean. 

Grate performance and quality

The grates were a mixed bag for me. The cast-iron seared very well, which I was happy about.

But I had to lather them multiple times with oil to keep them from rusting, far more oil than I’ve had to put on other cast-iron grates.

The Masterbuilt 560 had no problem searing.

Not sure why these are different. I have a little caution as to how long they will last and how much babysitting they will need.

In case you were wondering here are some pork ribs I cooked. They turned out real nice and juicy.

Testing the Gravity 560

I like to put every grill I test through some standard tests to see how well it performs in a few different areas.

Come up to temp speed test

Masterbuilt claims this grill can be at 225°F in 7 minutes and at 700°F in 13 minutes.

I am happy to say that Masterbuilt backs up their claims. I actually measure 700°F in just shy of 12 minutes.

I actually recorded temperatures as high as 737°F a few times so it’s safe to say this grill can sear.

Temperature accuracy test

I used my ThermoWorks Signals to test the difference in temperature between what I set the grill control to, and what was actually recorded across the grill surface.

Thermoworks Signals on the Masterbuilt Gravity 560
Using the Signals to detect temperature variation at different points on the grill
Probes placed to measure middle and left and right sides of the grill

I recorded the following measurements at different set temperatures.

Grill set toLeft sideMiddleRight side
225°F217°F 227°F211°F
Actual temperature variance at different temperature settings

As you can see:

  • At lower temps the actual gill temp accuracy was off by 0~10° in the middle of grill.
  • At higher temps, the actual gill temp accuracy was off by 0~47° in the middle of the grill.

It is important to note that the temperatures do SEEM to stabilize the longer the grill is at a specific temperature. 

For a charcoal grill I think this performance is above average.

Modding the hopper base tray

The one aggravation that I had with this cooker is the hopper base tray, the tray that holds up all the charcoal.

The cut outs are meant for ash and tiny pieces to fall through the openings and into the ashy bucket as they are burned up.

The issues I had was that basically whole briquettes and large chunks of lump would still fall through and often.

I found myself throwing out quite a bit of chunks after cook sessions.

You can see in the picture below how sizable briquettes can fall through.

So, I fixed this issue by taking chromed metal rods about an ⅛” in diameter and placing them in the middle of each cutout.

They are just held in place by tension. I actually used some extendable hot dog cookers I found at the local grocery store for the rods. It’s cheap, simple, and best of all, it works!

Hopefully, Masterbuilt will remedy this for the future.

Should you buy the Masterbuilt Gravity 560?

This grill/smoker is aimed at people who want the taste of cooking with charcoal, without any of the hassles.

So can you have your cake and eat it too?

The Masterbuilt Gravity Series is an exciting proposition that should appeal to a lot of folks.

I have to give Masterbuilt credit for innovating, rather than making just another Traeger clone.

Everything I cooked turned out great, and none of the issues I found would be considered deal breakers.

That said, I’m a little nervous about the build quality. Especially when you have electronic components, cheaply built grills can turn into a big headache.

If you don’t mind taking that risk, and make sure you look after the grill and keep it out of the elements then I would say go for it.

30 Responses

  1. On reading your review of the masterbuilt 560 you never mentioned the adding of wood for smoking on this grill. Is this not something that can be done, or was it just not part of the review.

    1. Great question, forgot to mention in the review. You have two options: 1) Add 1-2 chunks directly to the ash bin which will last for 2-3 hours. Or you can layer wood chunks in the hopper alongside the charcoal.

  2. You may want to double check that “peeling paint” inside the hopper. Odds are it’s just creosote build up that you can scrape off with a plastic scraper.

    I’ve had this grill since June 2020, and I absolutely LOVE it!

    1. Hi Eric,
      I thought it might be creosote build up as well, but I did actually use a plastic scraper and lightly scraped the peel off. And it was just bare unpainted metal underneath. So I lightly oiled the bare sections and heated up the grill again to bake it in.
      I do really like this grill though. It is an awesome grill. Thanks for the response!

  3. Was thinking about getting this before I read the review. Your test had great information and detail and now decided to get one.

    1. Hi Chad,
      I’m glad we could help with your decision making! Thanks for the feedback. We strive to provide honest reviews so readers can decide for themselves what will work best for them. Keep in touch and let us know how you like your new grill/smoker!

  4. Is there any difference from the 560 to the 800 to the 1050. Is it basically the size is everything the same.
    And wanted to say again I really enjoyed the article.

    1. Yes, the sizes are different, but there are a couple other feature differences. The GS800 is the only model that comes with a flat top griddle. Both the GS800 and GS1050 comes with a folding shelf and cord storage. The GS560 doesn’t not come with the shelf, cord storage, or the griddle. All other features are the same.

  5. If you do a long cook on a brisket can you just keep refilling the charcoal hopper.
    Can you use a water pan?
    Thanks for the Info

    1. Yes, as long as the grill is 250°F or below, you can open up the hopper and add more charcoal. You could probably put a water pan inside the grill on the grates, but it would probably take up quite a bit of room . Other than that, I don’t see why not.

  6. Great review! Is the extra $200 worth the expense to go from the 560 to the 800? How imperative is the cord storage and what do you do with the cord on the 560 when not in use? Is the folding shelf a worthwhile consideration? If I opted for the 560 couldn’t I purchase an aftermarket griddle top if I wanted? (not sure I would use it). Also does the cover offer enough protection to protect against the elements if keeping outside (Western PA). Thanks for all the information. I am really trying to decide between the 560 model and 800.

    1. Hi Robert. Thanks! It depends. If you ever plan to have larger gatherings or smoke lots of meat, I would go for the 800. If you will only every use your grill for 1-4 people, I would opt for the 560. Personally, I like to have more grill than I need. And I do tend to cook from more people sometimes and smoke larger quantities of meat at times as well. It’s nice to have the extra room. And this grill has NO trouble getting up to higher temps. So I bet the 800 wouldn’t either.
      There cord storage is not a must, but it’s helpful. The cord has a quick disconnect on it so you can remove it and take it inside. But why?!?!? Pretty much all other grills have a way to store cord! Who the heck wants ANOTHER thing they have to store somewhere? Again, not a must. To me, it should come standard with cord storage.
      There is NO SUCH THING AS TOO MUCH FOOD PREP SPACE. At least, not that I have come across with any grill thus far. To me, the folding shelf is a must have. You’ll thank me later.
      I wouldn’t base your decision on the griddle top. Yes, you can always buy an third party griddle to use on your grill.
      I believe you would be satisfied with the cover. I keep all my grills outside year round. Granted, I live in TN and probably don’t get as much snow as your area. But they do great down here. If you need more protection, you got a couple quick options: 1. get a grill gazebo (to keep grill covered overhead) 2. add a tarp to cover over the grill
      Hope this helps with your decision!

  7. Hi Ryan,
    Great review, very thorough.
    I echo your concerns about the long term durability of this product. I’m willing to pay more for a better product but unwilling to spend 2k-3k for a smoker.
    According to my research (Google lol), a charcoal fed gravity smoker in the $800-$1000 range doesn’t exist yet.
    Do you concur with this? Is there a slightly more expensive/nicer smoker in this category?

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Harry.
      I agree. To my knowledge, (and I could be wrong), there is not a digital smoker like this in that money range yet. However, I would be willing to bet that Masterbuilt will end up producing some higher end ones in the near future. They tend to listen to their customers and improve pretty regularly.

  8. 5 stars
    Hi Ryan,

    I just finished reading a lot of articles on this site, could someone help me with my decision for a first time (smoker) i have a small backyard with a 5 burner grill already. I would love to smoke ribs and brisket. I am torn between something like a pellet smoker or this and an electric smoker (just because of my first time doing this).

    Thank you

    1. Hey Ben,
      While we can’t decide what smoker is best for you, we CAN guide you in the right direction. Please answer these questions so we can see what might work best for you.
      1. Are you looking for a dedicated smoker or a grill/smoker?
      2. Do you have a burning media preference? Charcoal, wood chunks, wood chips, pellets, gas, doesn’t matter to me
      3. How much meat will you normally be smoking? 1 rack of ribs? 3 racks at a time? 1 boston butt? 3 boston butts?
      4. What is your price range?
      5. Any other additional desires?

  9. I’m curious on your opinion on the difference in flavor. Was a charcoal fed smoker just a game changer in the flavor of your meat? Or would you say that a pellet smoker gets you essentially the same flavor results? I’m pretty sold on the campchef woodwind, but saw this option and am now worried that I’ll always wonder if my food would be better if cooked with charcoal.

    1. Hi Josh,
      As always, everyone has their own opinion. Here is mine: There are several offerings for charcoal pellets made by Pit Boss, Camp Chef, Lumber Jack, and etc. When I have used charcoal pellets with my pellet smokers, I have tasted NO definitive difference between my pellet smoker and a typical charcoal smoker. I’m sure there are some out there that will shutter at this very comment, but this is my honest observation. So, to me, it really comes down to what method you enjoy using. The flavor will end up the same.

  10. One note to add wrt the 560 vs 800. The 800 comes with an additional manifold for the griddle. Just using an aftermarket griddle in the 800 may not be satisfactory without the open top manifold which directs the heat upwards to the griddle.
    Your review was outstanding. Still riding the fence here. I think a lot of us are waiting to see how the darn things hold up, with a lot of concern over the burn box and it’s insulation. Not real keen on spending another $200 to re-engineer Masterbuilt’s product.

    1. Totally understandable, Thomas. No one wants to spend that kind of money and have to repair/replace it in a year or two!

  11. I bought the grill 1st then stumbled upon your review. Thanks for that! And I agree. I also have issues with the top hopper lid paint, it actually peeled off while curing the grill. Very happy with my purchase so far. Currently trying brisket for the 1st time.

  12. How does this compare to a weber smoky mountain?

    You think it has the same flavor profile to that of a WSM?


    1. Hi Max,
      I have not personally used a Weber Smoky Mountain, so I can’t say with 100% certainty. With that said, after comparing both grills, and from my experience testing other grills, I would be confident in saying that the flavor profile is not really gonna be different. The charcoal and flavor wood you are using is gonna set that for you. As far as flavor intensity (level of smoke), this really depends on how much flavor wood you put in your fire. I have seen this done very well on grills like the Smoky Mountain. However, I believe it will be EASIER to obtain and/or vary that intensity with the Masterbuilt grill. It will also be easier to control you fire. I hope this helps.

  13. There is another brand out there offering the same gravity charcoal setup, if not improved. Char Griller
    Gravity 980

    1. Hey Jason,
      Very true! There is some competition on the horizon for Masterbuilt. In fact, I have one of the Char Griller digital charcoal grills on the way and will be reviewing and comparing it soon. Stay tuned!

  14. I purchased a 1050 about a month ago. It has been great. I love both smoking and grilling on this unit. Grilled chicken is flavorful and juicy. Smoked meats and queso are better than my electric Masterbuilt smoker. I am extremely happy with the results.

    I have a few frustrations:
    1.) re-light of the charcoal already in the hopper – it takes me 2-4 attempts to get the charcoal re-lit. I often have to empty all of the charcoal and reset to get it lit properly. I shake the heck out of the base grid to get the ash off the charcoal, but still have problems lighting. I have lately begun to limit how full I load the hopper on each cook and add as needed, just so that I don’t have a hopper that is half-full that needs to be emptied before my next cook.

    2.) My temperature probe often produces are Err2. Means it is not working properly – may need to be replaced.

    3.) I have always used my propane grill in the rain – I never had to worry about whether or not it was going to rain, if I was planning to grill. (If I smoked, I would put at edge of garage and run a fan to blow smoke out.) I am very worried about rain starting during a cook or unexpected rain when I plan to cook for a larger group. My ability to use this grill/smoker is currently impacted by the weather.

    4.) It takes a while to cool. During this time, I suspect it is still emitting carbon monoxide – which means I don’t want to wheel it back into my garage and close the door 5-10 minutes after done cooking, like I can with my propane grill.

    1. Hey Scott,
      Thanks for the feedback. Hopefully I can help provide some feedback to your frustrations that might help.

      1. This one is strange. I never encountered this issue. Mine started every time. I DID always use those little firestarter sticks instead of paper or paper towels like the instructions mention. If you aren’t using some sort of
      firestarters, this might be the issue.

      2. This never happened to me. This shouldn’t be happening. I would contact Masterbuilt. Their customer service is very good. I believe they will get you taken care of.

      3. I’m afraid this is just a trade off of using a electrically controlled grill in place of a manual one. Although it may not be in your budget, I would consider getting a grill gazebo or some sort of permanent long term covering
      to aid with this.

      4. Yep, this falls under the same category as #3 above. This is a trade off of using charcoal vs gas or pellet. They all have their advantages and disadvantages. For example, on pellet grills, many of them have to run through a 15-20 minute cool down stage before you can turn them off.

      I know right where you are at on some of your frustrations. These are some of the things that I had to overcome as well when I transitioned to using other styles of grills other than propane.

  15. I purchase the 560 and the first one lasted about 1 month and the digital head went out. I took it back to Home Depot and they were very good about replacing the smoker. The second 560 lasted about a month and 1/2 again the fan stopped working and trouble shooting determined that the digital head was out again. I always cleaned and stored the smoker covered. Unfortunately I am back in the market for a smoker again. The quality of components just isn’t there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *