I recently tried the Char-Griller 5050 Duo Gas and Charcoal Grill for two weeks, with the help of my husband. We did this so that I could write a detailed review for consumers considering buying this combo gas and charcoal grill. We made a point to cook on the Char-Griller unit as often as possible during the review period so that we would get a good idea of how this model performs with regular usage. Here is my review of the Char-Griller 5050 Duo Gas and Charcoal Grill.
The Char-Griller 5050 Duo Gas and Charcoal Grill will cost you a little over $400, making it mid-range as far as price is concerned. This Char-Griller model is unique in that it is actually two separate grills (plus a side burner) on one frame; one grill uses charcoal and the other grill uses propane. This combination gives you much more versatility in grilling than a single grill of either type could possibly offer you. This Char-Griller model is compatible with an attachable smoker unit also made by Char-Griller, available to buy separately. My husband and I did also purchase the optional smoker, so that we would be able to evaluate everything this Char-Griller combo unit is capable of doing.
I ordered our new Char-Griller combo grill online and had it shipped to use so that we wouldn’t have to deal with the hassle of getting such a large and heavy product home safely. I was somewhat surprised by just how heavy this combo unit is; it weighs a hefty 160 pounds without the addition of the optional smoker. We removed all the parts from the box and examined them. Much of the hefty weight of this Char-Griller unit comes from the cooking grates; they are constructed of heavy-duty cast iron. That is my personal favorite, as well as my husband’s absolute favorite, material choice for grill cooking grates, since cast iron retains and disperses heat better than other metals do. Cast iron does require some maintenance though, you need to keep the metal oiled (also called seasoning it) to prevent rusting. You are rewarded for that small bit of maintenance with picture-perfect grill marks that also impart flavor to food.
The other components of this Char-Griller Duo Gas-and-Charcoal Grill are constructed of materials that are not quite as heavy-duty as the cooking grates are. The sheet metal that makes up the main body of this combo grill is a bit on the thin side. The materials are decent, just not overly impressive. My husband and I tackled assembly and it took us longer than any other grill we ever assembled: 2 full hours! I suppose that is to be expected since we were actually putting together three different units on one frame (four units if you want to count the side burner.)
One strange thing my husband and I noticed was the holes in the bottom of the smoker attachment. You need to fill this unit with sand and holes let the sand fall out. So obviously, there should not be holes there. The holes appear to be there in order to attach legs if you are using the smoker as a stand-alone unit. We put a couple of screws in the smoker holes to fix the problem, but I think that is something Char-Griller ought to have done for us.
My husband and I both feel that Char-Griller should have done a better job of making all three components a little more air-tight. Obviously, no grill or smoker will actually be air-tight (and you wouldn’t want it to be.) However, this particular combo unit lets quite a bit of air into the cooking areas, even with the dampers completely closed. This does make it somewhat difficult to control the temperature.
First, let’s talk about the Char-Griller smoker. I loved having one, although that is certainly not specific to this particular smoker. Smoking really gives food a deep, natural flavor that can not be duplicated with other cooking methods. My husband and I used the smoker for pork ribs, beef brisket and an entire brined turkey during the review period. All of these items cooked beautifully. One quick note: we noticed the paint at the top of the smoker bubbled slightly after the turkey. This was our third time using it and we had it going for 12 hours straight. A wire brush cleaned up the problem and it looks fine, but it does go to show that this isn’t the most heavy-duty smoker out there. We did have some trouble controlling the temperature while smoking, as I mentioned earlier, but the smoked foods still ended up perfectly cooked even with some heat variations. I suppose I can’t complain too much about the excess air if the smoked food it produces is excellent. All in all, this is a decent smoker.
Charcoal grilling is pretty basic and a grill’s responsibility when it comes down to successful cookery can be broken down to two main things: an ability to regulate the temperature in the cook box and heavy-duty cooking grates. Beyond that, the griller’s own skill and know-how will determine the level of success. So first, there is some issue (although not too serious of an issue) with temperature regulation on this unit. However, this charcoal grill gets high marks for the second determining factor: the cooking grates. The cooking grates on the charcoal grill are heavy-duty cast iron, which does require some maintenance, but offers the best possible grilling results. Cast-iron will prevent sticking while adding grill marks and flavor to your foods. All in all, this is a decent charcoal grill.
The gas grill on this combo unit heats quickly and cooks fairly evenly. My husband and I both noticed a couple of “hot spots” on the gas grill but once we knew where those spots were it was no longer an issue for us. We simply used those hotter areas to sear food. The cooking grates are solid and heavy-duty cast iron on this unit too, and they do a great job of grilling up food. The cook box is decently constructed, although there is some heat loss due to the excess air gaps and somewhat thinner materials. This is something to be aware of if you tend to use your gas grill to cook large items, such as a whole chicken, that require ambient heat. This unit will still get the job done, but it will require a longer cooking time and more flipping of the food to compensate for the temperature variants. All in all, this is a decent gas grill.
The side burner is the perfect size for a charcoal chimney, which makes it very useful. I also like using it for side dishes while I am outside grilling. I did notice the side burner was prone to being blown out by the wind. This is a common problem where I live, in the windy Midwest. This may not be an issue for most people plus it is simply remedied by re-lighting the burner.
Overall, my husband and I both agree that all four components work well. There is just nothing outstanding about any of the components. You can find a better side burner, a better smoker, a better gas grill or a better charcoal grill. But this Char-Griller combo grill and smoker offers an economical way to attain all four of these things in one handy package. It also takes up less room than four separate units would.