Guide to Gravity Feed Smokers — What Is It & How Does It Work?

These are grills that utilize the power of gravity in their cooking process.

And they are said to be easier to use as they require less ‘babysitting’ for most meat smoking recipes.

Many brands have their own version of a gravity smoker

Masterbuilt has the Gravity Series and Myron Mixon also has its own series of gravity feed smoker grills.

In this article, we’ll be using the words ‘smoker’ and ‘grill’ interchangeably, as it functions as both.

So are wondering how does a gravity smoker works? A gravity smoker works by using the force of gravity to move the lump charcoal from the charcoal grate to the firebox. You set the temperature with the digital panel and a ball valve either on or to the side of the firebox works to control the temperature to your setting/

As you can see from above it is a little complex, so read on everything you need to know about gravity feed smokers

What Is a Gravity Feed Charcoal Grill?

All gravity feed smokers run on charcoal.

So unlike a pellet smoker or pellet grill, it runs on charcoal instead of wood pellets. 

However, you’ll find that it’s actually unlike other charcoal grills and charcoal smokers on the market.

Because this one doesn’t require constant monitoring.

So you can actually just turn it on, set it up properly, and just let it do its thing.

This means that you can go off and actually enjoy entertaining your friends, worry-free.

Instead of having to hover over your smoker to ensure everything’s cooking properly. 

How Does a Gravity Feed Grill Work?

Before we dive into the functions of this cooking appliance…

Let’s first familiarize ourselves with all of the different components of a gravity smoker. 

These are …

  • The ashtray — needs to be cleaned because this is where the ashes and food build up over time
  • The charcoal grate
  • The charcoal chute
  • The ball valve
  • The exhaust chimney, plus the damper
  • The air intake damper
  • The fire box chamber
  • And, of course, the cooking chamber

The charcoal chute is located to the right of the smoker’s cooking chamber.

This is where you should pour in the fresh charcoal. The charcoal will then pile up on top of the charcoal grate or fire grate. And then this grill ultimately uses the force of gravity to move the lump charcoal from the charcoal grate to the firebox.

You’ll then find a ball valve either on or to the side of the firebox.

This is the component that regulates the overall airflow, which is crucial. Because customizing the airflow ultimately allows you to control the cooking temperature.

In short, the more air you allow to enter the cooking chamber, the larger the fire and the hotter the temperature.

Of course, we don’t think that we have to go through what the cooking chamber is. The cook chamber is where you place your food in to cook. 

The exhaust chimney, which has a damper, is the next important component.

The ball valve draws in the air into the cooking chamber, and alternatively, the exhaust chimney helps to let all that air escape.

This is significant. Because it prevents excess moisture and condensation from accumulating in the cooking chamber.

What’s the Temperature Control Like?

Many of the gravity feed smokers found on the market today are digital.

This means that they have a digital control panel that gives you precise temperature control of your gravity smoker. 

Analog gravity feed charcoal smokers work differently.

With those, you start off by filling the airtight chute with charcoal that’s already been lit.

However, the ones that come with a digital temperature control panel are electrical. And they need to be plugged into an electrical power source in order to work and operate. 

The digital controllers essentially allow you to control the fan speed in the grill.

This fan will push the heat from the hot charcoal in the firebox into the main grill body. And this is how you’ll be able to easily increase the overall internal temperature of your smoker. 

Why You Should Get a Gravity Smoker

You might be surprised to learn that a gravity charcoal smoker actually uses fewer charcoal lumps. Especially when compared to how much charcoal ordinary charcoal grills go through.

We’ve definitely noticed that our charcoal briquettes burn up a lot faster in our normal charcoal grill. 

So while a gravity smoker is certainly a lot pricier, you’ll find yourself saving a little bit of money during your future cook.

Because you’ll certainly be going through fewer bags of charcoal.

Other advantages of smoking with a gravity feed grill include the fact that it provides you with a lot more control.

We’ve found that it offers more control when setting the grill temperature. And it also distributes the heat a lot more evenly.

You’ll notice that you will not experience any uneven cooking spots in the grill’s cook chamber.

And, of course, you won’t have to keep checking up on your food as it cooks in the gravity smoker. This grill does an excellent job of maintaining your desired cooking temperature.

Is There Anything You Should Consider Before Making the Big Purchase?

Here are some of the things which you might want to look out for:

(Especially before forking out your money one of these expensive yet highly efficient charcoal grills.)

  • Size — When you first look up ‘Gravity Feed Charcoal Grills’ online, you’ll find that these come in a lot of large sizes.

    However, there are also smaller versions sold. So, you’ll definitely be able to find one that’ll fit in your backyard.
  • Usability — Not all of these grills look and function the same. For example, you’ll need to see whether you’ll want one that has a digital control board or one that doesn’t.

    The number of racks available in the cooking chamber also differs from model to model. So, be sure to do your research properly before you make the big purchase.
  • Safety — You’ll want to make sure that the model you go with has built-in safety features.

We hope that you found our article insightful and that it’s helped you learn a little bit more about what a gravity smoker is, as well as how it functions. 

Do you prefer cooking with pellets or charcoal?

Smoke On!


Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).

I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling recipes with you!

You can read more about me on our About Us page.

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