The Master Forge Charcoal Smoker/Griller, like the notorious El Cheapo Brinkmann line, is a low cost bullet smoker aka water smoker. Like Brinkmann bullets, this Master Forge smoker is tough to use. Charcoal is burnt in a pan with holes running along the side. No charcoal grate is included to raise the coal off the bottom of the pan, and no dampers are included either. The poor design hampers air flow and doesn't facilitate adjustments, making air control, thus temperature control, very difficult indeed.
The bottom base latches onto the mid-section so it may be picked up by two handles on the sides. There are two 188 square inch chrome plated wire cooking grates.
The low-low price on these cheap bullet style BBQ smokers has found an audience in the big box stores. We can't recommend them. They are a far cry from quality bullet smokers like the venerable Weber Smokey Mountain.
Looked Closely At It
We have seen this product up close and we have also gathered info from the manufacturer, owners, and other reliable sources.
Sold only at Lowe's, Master Forge offers a lot of grill for little money by using inexpensive materials, construction, and components. While researching products we often cruise the web and look for comments by owners. Many owners raised concerns about construction, customer service, availability of parts, and the fact that the brand is only a few years old and still unproven in the market. On the other hand, many Master Forge owners love their grills and are eager to post praise. Additionally, a leading consumer rating service named the Master Forge 5-Burner Grill a top pick for large model gas grills. So what's the deal?
You get features out the wazoo: side burners, sear burners, warming/steaming stations, LED illuminated knobs, halogen lights in the lid, towel racks, fold-out tables; one model even has a built-in bottle opener! But the steel is thin, and some parts just look and feel cheap, like the plastic control knobs and the thermometers. As always, we strongly recommend you not rely on dial thermometers, and that you purchase a good digital thermometer to get accurate oven temp readings. Manufacturers would serve us better by replacing cheap dial thermometers with bottle openers. Nonetheless, overall quality is in line with other low cost grills. This is an important point. It's not useful to compare Master Forge to high end brands like Weber. Compare them to Brinkmann. However, if you're looking for economy and are considering other low cost grills, Master Forge may sweeten the deal with all the extras. Then ask yourself how long do you think it will last? Will you be replacing it in 5 years? The bargain price may not be such a bargain in that light.
Lowe's, like Wal-Mart and other big box retailers, carries popular brands and also has private label products made for them. This operation is managed by a division of Lowe's named LG Sourcing. Lowe's seems to have offered various grill lines for several years under various names like "Perfect Flame" and made by various companies like "BBQtek". Currently, Master Forge is manufactured by Sagittarius Sporting Goods headquartered in Taiwan. We have to wonder how the happy Master Forge owners mentioned above will feel about their grill in a few more years, particularly if Lowe's changes their BBQ line again. Any Perfect Flame owners out there care to comment?
We compiled a list of questions and called Lowe's to speak with a product manager. There was no Master Forge product manager. We ended up talking to someone in Public Relations. She wrote down our questions to present to the right person, but wouldn't allow us to speak directly. The following day she sent an email that said nothing of value and answered none of our questions. If this is the way they handle media inquiries from the world's most popular barbecue and grilling website, we shudder to think what their customer service is like.