Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545 review: the smarter charcoal grill and smoker

The Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545 cooks food perfectly thanks to its great design and range of clever features

Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

Aspects of the Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545 Series Digital Charcoal Grill are tedious, and that includes the self-assembly process at the beginning and the clean-up procedure at the end. Once you’ve got it going though, the AutoIgnite aspect of the appliance makes getting up to heat and managing it much easier. It’s got plenty of cooking space too, meaning this is more than suitable for anyone needing to cover larger outdoor gatherings.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Excellent cooking results

  • +

    Has AutoIgnite feature

  • +

    Supporting app is handy

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Big and bulky to store

  • -

    Takes time to assemble

  • -

    Plenty to clean up afterwards

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Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545 review in a sentence: A very capable charcoal grill and smoker with some useful onboard tech although it’s big, bulky and takes some cleaning.

You don’t have to look far to find any number of best barbecue options out there, but if you’re serious about it and have lots of mouths to feed, then you’ll want to go large. In the case of the Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545 Series Digital Charcoal Grill, that means receiving a big and bulky package on a palette, along with a sizeable old sack of charcoal. It’s a bit of a monster this machine, but it also comes with a smart AutoIgnite feature that makes getting up to the correct heat easier and keeping things that way simpler.

While the Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545 Series Digital Charcoal isn’t that high-tech, and in many ways is not much different to other barbecues, grills or smoker options, it does feel easier to use. That said, it’s a sizeable thing and there is quite a lot of initial assembly involved. However, it works a treat with plenty of room for cooking all kinds of foodstuffs, from sausages and chops through to whole racks of ribs, with room for veg too.

Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545: Price and availability

The Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545 Series Digital Charcoal Grill is available now at retailers like Robert Dyas and BBQ World. As you’d expect from such a beefy cooking machine, it’s not the cheapest with a £499 price tag. However, this is a competitively priced product that sits in the middle ground and therefore should appeal to anyone who loves to cook outdoors, but who isn’t obsessive about it.

Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545

(Image credit: Future)

Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545 review: What is it?

The Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545 Series Digital Charcoal Grill is a big and bulky machine made for outdoor use, with dimensions of 112cm high, 61cm deep and a width of 143.5cm. It arrives unassembled, usually on a palette. The unit is built from a combination of mainly metal and plastic, with everything needed to get started inside the box. You will, however, have to get a bag of charcoal if it’s not ordered from Masterbuilt itself, along with a pack of fire starters.

The grill is designed to make cooking that little bit easier thanks to the addition of an AutoIgnite feature. This means there’s an electronic panel that allows you to start the appliance easier as well as managing temperature more effectively. Once seasoned, the grill can be up and running to full heat in around 20 minutes and features a sizeable 545 square inches of grilling real estate. This should be good for handling 26 burgers, four racks of ribs or eight chickens.

Considering its size, the Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545 Series Digital Charcoal Grill comes with two wheels at one end, allowing it to be moved around with reasonable ease. It is quite heavy though, so is much more practical once it's in situ. Being built of lightweight steel means it can be used outdoors, but needs to be covered to fend off rust from rain and moisture over time. This applies even more so to the electrical components and wiring, so investing in a cover to put over it once it has cooled down might be a sound additional investment.

Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545

(Image credit: Future)

Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545 review: Is it any good?

Well, first things first, if you’re buying the Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545 Series Digital Charcoal Grill, be prepared for a big package and quite a lot of assembly. My test unit arrived on a wooden pallet, which weighed a lot. I got a big bag of charcoal at the same time, so just getting everything into position was a challenge in itself.

Next up, there’s the assembly, which is not for the faint of heart or anyone who runs a mile if they see a bag of screws. The Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545 Series Digital Charcoal Grill does come with a proper printed manual, although some of the diagrams are not as clear as they could be. 

There’s also everything needed for the build and installation, though you’ll need an assortment of screwdrivers as some locations are tight or awkward to get into, so a stubby Philips is good alongside a regular and long-handled version.

I managed to just about build the Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545 Series Digital Charcoal Grill on my own, but it’s definitely easier if you get some help. I’m not joking though, assembly took me a couple of days on and off due to a combination of rain showers and frustration with the manual. A couple of things had to be taken off again and reinstalled. It’s a bit of a faff. That’s the least good bit about this machine.

The good news though is once you’ve built it, the Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545 Series Digital Charcoal Grill is pretty good. It’s rugged, which means it’s fine outdoors although you’ll want to make sure the powered areas are well covered and any power cords are unplugged or bagged up when not in use.

Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545

(Image credit: Future)

Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545 review: Performance

One of the best things about the Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545 Series Digital Charcoal Grill is that it takes a lot of the fuss out of getting up and running. A lot of this is down to the smart technology that adds an extra dimension to the machine. Admittedly, I did have to initially season the grill, which means a couple of sessions of running it up to heat and down again, then another blast at full chat. Its less of a faff than the assembly, but this does take time too.

Once I’d got the Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545 Series Digital Charcoal Grill set for business though it proved to be impressive. To get things going I had to pop in a fire starter, which slots into the right-hand side of the unit easily enough and allowed me to get my charcoal started in the hopper directly above. The added ingredient here though is the AutoIgnite button. When this is pressed it kickstarts a fan that allows the machine to get the charcoal going much more rapidly. It works well.

I quite liked the a supporting app too, which offers practical assistance such as telling you if the AutoIgnite has not worked, as well as monitoring temperatures both on the way up and on the way down again. It’s possible to make do without this though, especially if you’re not keen on getting your phone covered in grease and smut as you stand in front of the Masertbuilt surveying your ingredients as they sizzle.

The cooking area is a strength of the Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545 Series Digital Charcoal Grill too. There’s plenty of space for all kinds of foodstuffs, from burgers and dogs to ribs and chicken cuts. Corn and other vegetables can be accommodated with ease too, which means this model is perfect for anyone with lots of people to cook for. I found that once it was up to full heat the grill could cook even thick burgers in around 20 minutes or so, although as with anything, this also depends on how your guests like their food done.

Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545

(Image credit: Masterbuilt)

Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545 review: Verdict

There’s no question the Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545 Series Digital Charcoal Grill is a very capable machine. I got great results once I’d got the unit ready for business. And therein lies the slight downside with this appliance – it’s quite labour-intensive. This starts with the initial assembly, which is very time-consuming through to seasoning the grill for first use.

In-between that and the rather tedious clean-up session, I found it cooked all sorts of food very well, and the temperature probe is a handy inclusion to check things are sufficiently well done enough to eat. You’ll need to be a pretty keen fan of barbecue though to get full value from its beefy potential.

Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545 review: Alternatives to consider

If you’re looking for a grill with a similarly large cooking surface to feed your family or a party of people in a social scenario, consider Kamado Joe’s Big Joe Grill Series III. Alternatively, for a no-frills charcoal grill with high performance and construction, the Kamado Joe Classic Joe Series I is a great option. Or, if you prefer to grill with propane as opposed to charcoal, the Weber Spirit E-315 is a very decent option. 

Rob Clymo

Rob Clymo has been a tech journalist for more years than he can actually remember, having started out in the wacky world of print magazines before discovering the power of the internet. Since he's been all-digital, he has run the Innovation channel for a few years at Microsoft, as well as turning out regular news, reviews, features and other content for the likes of Stuff, TechRadar, TechRadar Pro, Tom's Guide, Fit&Well, Gizmodo, Shortlist, Automotive Interiors World, Automotive Testing Technology International, Future of Transportation and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International. In the rare moments he's not working, he's usually out and about on one of the numerous e-bikes in his collection.