10 Aug The Best Charcoal Smoker of 2018: The M1 Smoker from M Grills
Few charcoal smoker/grill combos ever excel at both smoking and grilling. Most are cheap, some are clunky and poorly-designed, and they’re usually either good at one task (usually grilling) or mediocre at both.
Every once in a while, however, you come across a model that manages to leave you impressed with both the succulent smokiness of ribs or brisket, and with it’s high-heat, steak searing abilities. Case in point: The M1 Smoker from M Grills. Handcrafted in Mesquite Texas, this absolute tank of a smoker/griller was designed to be the “best multi-functional charcoal grill and wood smoker” in existence, and it certainly feels like it is. With both a reverse flow smoker and traditional charcoal grill creating smooth, even heat, it’s a high-quality, versatile all-in-one cooker that won’t leave you disappointed – and our pick for the best charcoal smoker of 2018. But the goodness doesn’t stop there…they went above and beyond with the M1 by making it one of the best backyard “stick burners” on the market as well. Yep! You read that right…not only does it blow other charcoal grills out of the water, but also excels as a wood burning smoker (and that is something even a Hasty Bake can’t match)!
The Problem With Other Smokers and Grills
M Grills created the M1 to avoid some of the pitfalls of other smoker styles; offset smokers are too inefficient, with gaps and leaks allowing heat to escape and a shape that isn’t conducive to even airflow. Pellet grills simply aren’t the same as real smoking or charcoal grilling and can be cheaply made. And ceramic cooker/smokers can make that consistent, delicious flavor, but don’t work for charcoal grilling and can be difficult when it comes to controlling temperature.
So, they created the M1, which has the functionality and versatility of each of these smokers, and is far more consistent, high-quality and durable than 95% of them. Whether its charcoal cooking or real wood smoking, the truly is best in class!
Built Like A Tank: Build Quality and Durability
Get your hands on the M1, and the first thing you’ll notice will surely be the insane quality, craftsmanship and all-around heft this charcoal grill and smoker combo has been built to. Why? It’s built from thick, hefty, 10-gauge steel in the body, with 304 stainless steel making up the rest of the hardware, handles and grates (each of which is ¼” thick) and clocks in at a hefty 375 pounds. Seriously, it’s a beast. See it in person or try to move it around your deck and you’ll agree.
M Grills went all out and constructed it entirely (rather, about 95%) with welds, meaning there’s far less ways for air, smoke and heat to escape from the smoker, except up – the direction you want it to. This means one thing: temperature control. You’ll be able to easily and consistently control the heat flow, for an even, smooth smoke always. The lid and the firebox are also sealed with Nomex High Temperature gaskets to keep smoke and heat in; Nomex is a flame-resistant, aramid-based material regularly used in military applications.
The front is one solid piece of metal and doesn’t swing open like it might on many other grill/smoker combos. This is great in that it eliminates venting but does leave the smoker with one potential drawback: there’s no way to access the grate on which the charcoal is placed without removing the actual food grates, and it can be practically impossible – or at least very difficult – to stoke the fire, add more charcoal or spread the coals around. There are included grate holders (M Grills calls them Grate Grabbers), however, for removing the grate and accessing the fire.
The outside is painted in a black thermal paint, which is baked on to ensure it doesn’t peel or chip over time. And honestly, we think the paintjob looks slick.
All that sits on top of some locking swivel casters with rubber wheels, which makes it easy to move around and maneuver into place. Which is good, because at 375 pounds, it certainly isn’t light.
Overall, on the outside, the M1 is built to last and impressively bombproof – and we haven’t even gotten to the good stuff.
And, bonus points in our book: It’s all made right here in the USA. That’s what we love to see in everything we buy, and for something as All-American as a smoker grill – it’s more than icing on the cake.
The Design: How This Bad Boy Grills and Smokes
The M1 uses a three-tiered, multi-layer design to accommodate both grilling and smoking. At the bottom left of the structure is the firebox, which is double-walled and features roughly ½” of insulation. To get into it and place wood chips or charcoal, simply open the firebox door – which is about ¼” thick itself and features stainless steel handles – and slide it out. It slides out quickly and easily.
The firebox has a sliding vent for air intake for controlling smoker temperature. From the firebox, the heat and smoke travel through a slanted “Heat Channel,” which helps send the air upward towards the meat. It makes its way up the smoker in a reverse-flow configuration, which works in a sort of s-shape design and creates a smooth and consistent heat not found on other smoker configurations (such as an offset smoker grill).
From there, it goes past – and through – a baffle (also called a heat deflector). The baffle is a sheet of steel welded into the grill that allows smoke and heat to travel through on one end – to get you that delicious smoky flavor – while also absorbing and radiating heat upwards toward the cooking grill.
Along the way, the heat and smoke will pass through the height-adjustable charcoal grate, where you place your charcoal when opting for some regular grilling. Built from the same 304 stainless steel as the other grates and hardware, the charcoal grate can be raised or lowered with the crank handle in the front of the smoker; turn it to the right to bring it up high, which is perfect for searing burgers and steak. Crank it to the left to lower it – which is better for roasting or slower-cooking. There’s even an additional air intake to control the charcoal heat, and M Grills says it’s 50% larger than previous models. The charcoal grate is large enough for 2-zone grilling too – if you’re into that sort of thing.
This is the kind of versatility the M1 offers, that M Grills is so proud of. It’s essentially an all-in-one cooking machine, in ways that few other charcoal smokers are capable.
The heat – from either the firebox or the charcoal pit – then makes it way to the top cooking grate, where you place your meat. This grilling rack gives the M1 an impressive 481 square inches of grilling space. You can also use the charcoal grate as a secondary grilling grate for an additional 328 square inches; over 800 square inches can smoke a lot of succulent meat.
Lastly, want to do some baking? Simply fill the firebox with charcoal, fire it up and open up the lid damper. You can now bake all sorts of delicious foods – like wood-fire pizza.
Thermometers and Features
On the M1’s hood is a Tel-Tru thermometer, which is made from stainless steel and is accurate to within 1-degree Fahrenheit. Tel-Tru thermometers are known for their accuracy and reliability, and they’re some of the most popular thermometers amongst BBQ pros and amateurs alike. Including them is a nice touch. Obviously, the lid needs to be closed to get an accurate reading, but the Tel-Tru thermometer should keep things accurate and help you keep a consistent, smooth smoking temperature. (Of course, for best results, you should always use a meat thermometer when smoking that brisket or turkey).
On top of the lid is also an exhaust vent to let out smoke; like the charcoal vent, it’s 50% larger than on previous models. When you’re grilling, you can use it in conjunction with the charcoal vent for perfect heat, and if you’d like serious heat for searing, keep them all open for increased air flow.
M Grills has a lot of pride in this grill – for good reason – and to secure the deal, they back it up with a Limited Lifetime Warranty against defects.
Bringing It All Together
So what do you get when you put this indestructible build, handcrafted attention-to-detail and total control over heat together? One of the best charcoal smoker grills on the market, that stacks up against the best smokers already out there. Whether you’re already a BBQ pro or just getting into the game, the M1 Smoker can make those perfectly-smoked, low-and-slow pork ribs or beef brisket, sear that porterhouse to perfection. At just under $2000, it certainly doesn’t come cheap, but give this thing a shot and we think you’ll be using it for years to come.