When we first reviewed the Masterbuilt 7-in-1 Smoker and Grill four years ago, we were notably reserved in our praise. For this update our opinions haven’t changed much, but the fact is that this versatile unit is a big seller, and that you can grill, smoke, barbecue or fry remains compelling, especially for a barbecue grill under $200.
For those who want to learn how to barbecue, or for grillers who want to expand their outdoor cooking skill set, the Masterbuilt 7-in-1 may be an excellent choice for a starter barbecue that can do it all.
1. Propane smoking
2. Propane grilling
3. Charcoal smoking
4. Charcoal grilling
5. Boiling (great for shellfish)
6. Steaming (handy for cooking live crab after a day on the bay)
7. Deep frying (makes a killer turkey, and perfect for wings)
The Masterbuilt 7-in-1 is a vertical smoker in two removable sections. Both sections are used for all functions except for grilling, when the top section is removed to allow the food to be closer to the heat source.
The grill diameter for both sections is 18.5”, smaller than the Weber’s 22.5” grill. For small groups this is usually enough capacity, especially if the food is being smoked. In smoking, both the upper and lower sections and grills can be used, however the food should be rotated between grills at least once during the process to ensure even exposure to the heat source. The grills are porcelain coated to reduce food sticking to them.
Included are the two barrel-style sections for the smoker body, a 10 qt. pot and basket for frying or boiling, and a propane connector hose.
Propane vs. Charcoal
Either propane or charcoal may be used. Charcoal should be the first choice for grilling. As with any charcoal fired unit, don’t skimp here. Briquettes with heavy filler and binder content should be avoided as they can add an acrid, chemical taste to the food.
I like Kingsford Competition Briquettes. They are readily available locally, burn hotter than regular briquettes, but they are comparatively expensive at about $2.00 per pound.
A great alternative that burns as hot (+/-1,000F at grill level) and costs only about $1.50 per pound including shipping is Primo Natural Lump Charcoal, from the high-end grill manufacturer.
Gas as a heat source with wood chunks as fuel is good for smoking and barbecuing, as a gas valve makes it easier to maintain a constant temperature. The trick is to learn how to throttle it down to keep a constant temperature of 175F for smoking, and 225-250F for barbecuing.
There have been some complaints about difficulty in holding the temperature down to the smoking level in this Masterbuilt unit. Sometimes with low flows, the air/gas mix is impeded and the small flames will pop and intermittently flame out. A fix was posted:
1. Shut off gas at propane tank
2. Open the pressure regulator all the way.
3. Disconnect the hose from the propane tank.
4. Reconnect to propane tank – leave the pressure regulator wide open.
5. SLOWLY turn on the propane tank while lighting the burner.
Based on some of the comments we’ve seen, using this Masterbuilt primarily as a smoker, where temperatures below 200F are required, may be perplexing. It’s not intended as a very low temperature smoker, but by experimenting with the drafts and tweaking the propane controls, it should work for intermittent smoking.
Summary and Recommendations
My first barbecue unit was nearly identical, and made by Coleman. While I prefer a horizontal cooking chamber for convenience, the vertical design works well too, and is much less expensive due to lower manufacturing costs.
I learned how to barbecue on the Coleman, and used it heavily for five years, until I upgraded into my current Pitts and Spits unit, costing about $3,200. Not everyone will want to make that commitment to a barbecue, and for a starter unit the Masterbuilt 7-in-1 is a good choice.
We can’t support the concept of the Masterbuilt being your only outdoor cooking device, however. For about $100, you can get a basic, top quality Weber charcoal grill, or for a more convenient and easier to use unit, our highly recommended Weber Performer, reviewed here.
Masterbuilt quality isn’t the best, but it’s not priced as a lifetime unit. If you can get five years of use from it, that’s about $2.50 per month. Not bad, and it will probably have some value even after five years.
For those who primarily grill and would like the capability of cooking low and slow on occasion, or for those just learning the basics of outdoor cooking, the Masterbuilt 7-in-1 Smoker and Grill
is hard to beat for the money.