Masterbuilt AutoIgnite Series 545 review: a smart charcoal grill and smoker that ignites automatically

Starting your charcoal grill just got easier

Masterbuilt AutoIgnite Series 545 Digital Charcoal Grill and Smoker
(Image: © Future)

Top Ten Reviews Verdict

You no longer have to struggle to light your charcoal grill thanks to an automatic igniting feature in the Masterbuilt AutoIgnite Series 545 Digital Charcoal Grill and Smoker. Outfitted with cast iron grates, Smart technology, and the ability to maintain a desired temperature, Masterbuilt has made charcoal grilling and smoking so much easier. Assembly may be frustrating and the AutoIgnite feature isn’t fool-proof but it’s steps above most other charcoal grills.


  • +

    Two wheels for maneuvering

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    Starts faster with AutoIgnite feature

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    545 square inches of cooking space

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    Smart grill connects to app through WiFi

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    QuickSear hopper cast iron griddle plate

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    Set cooking temperature with digital control panel


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    Lots of clean up

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    Cumbersome to assemble

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    AutoIgnite isn’t full-proof

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    Very long seasoning process

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While I love the flavoring that can come from a charcoal grill and smoker, I am pretty awful at getting charcoal grills to light. In the past, when I tested other charcoal grills, I had to try multiple times (sometimes 30 minutes or more) to light the grill, but to no avail. You can imagine my excitement when I was asked to test the Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545 Series Digital Charcoal Grill and Smoker — because it makes the igniting process much easier.

I tested this grill for two weeks, cooking up some delicious meats and vegetables on its cast iron grates and plate. Throughout that time, my love for Smart grills, such as this one, was cemented as it makes the cooking process so much easier. While I'm a solo gal who didn't need to cook for more than myself (sometimes a friend came by), the 545 sq-inch surface is plenty large for big groups, parties, and families of all sizes.

Read on to find out what I discovered in the testing process of the Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545 Series Digital Charcoal Grill and Smoker and why it should absolutely be on your list of grills to consider. Be sure to check out our side-by-side comparison of gas vs. charcoal grills to decide which type of grill is best for you. If you prefer to cook on gas, our shortlist of the best gas grills would be worth a look, so you can opt for a number of burners that best suit you.

Alex Temblador
Alex Temblador

Alex Temblador has been reviewing household products since 2020. She has tested everything from vacuums to coffee machines, mattresses, gardening tools, hot tubs, and more. Alex reviewed the Masterbuilt AutoIgnite Series 545 Digital Charcoal Grill and Smoker in the backyard of her 103-year-old home in the Dallas, Texas, area.

Masterbuilt AutoIgnite Series 545: Key Specs

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 Row 0 - Cell 1
Cooking surfaceGrate
Cooking surface area545 square inches
Side burner?Yes
Rotisserie compatible?Yes (not included)
DimensionsH43.8 x W56.5 x D24 inches
Weight129.8 lbs

Masterbuilt AutoIgnite Series 545: Price & Availability

Priced at $499.99 and available direct from the manufacturer or via resellers such as  Amazon, Lowe's and Home Depot, the Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545 Series Digital Charcoal Grill and Smoker proves that Smart grills are becoming more affordable. Based on the Smart technology, cooking space, and how the grill can maintain your desired cooking temperature, I’d say that this price is altogether fair and accurate. Admittedly, a one-year warranty is a bit low for that price. 

If you're interested in buying the cover with the grill (as it is sold separately), the compatible Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 Digital Charcoal Grill and Smoker Combo Cover can be found on the Masterbuilt website or listed with resellers such as Home Depot, Amazon and Walmart. It's priced at $69.99 by Masterbuilt, though you could potentially find it on sale at various retailers. 

Score: 5/5

Masterbuilt AutoIgnite Series 545: Setup

The grill was dropped off in a large, heavy box and a smaller box on a wooden pallet. Masterbuilt sent me some lump charcoal, fire starters, and a cover for the grill. 

Unfortunately, I had to put the grill together, and I found it to be a frustrating experience. The instructions that came with the grill were printed in black and white and featured only images (there were no written instructions to go with the images). I understand that images are more accessible. However, if the images are not printed with enough gradient  — like mine weren’t  — then you can't tell which part is which or even where to put it on the grill. I struggled constantly trying to figure out such things. 

The assembly took about three hours to do. One of the pieces even arrived slightly bent and I had to fix it with pliers. I managed most of it on my own, though a friend helped me out at the very end. 

I had to use a power cord to connect the grill to an outlet, or else I wouldn't have been able to utilize a lot of the grill's features. The Smart technology assembly was easy to put together, until I turned on the grill and an error code appeared. I had to shut down the grill a few times and restart it, and then about 15 minutes later, the error code went away. 

Once I had everything set up and installed, I had to season the grill, which essentially meant adding charcoal to the hopper, starting the grill, and setting the temperature to 250 degrees for 60 minutes. After that, I had to set the temperature to 400 degrees and run it for 30 more minutes. From there, I had to let the grill cool completely and then rub cooking oil on the grates and sear plate before lighting it up at 400 degrees again for another 30 minutes and then letting it cool and adding more oil. 

This is a very long seasoning process -- too long if you ask me. I've tested quite a few grills and none had a seasoning process this long. However, if you want to protect the cast iron from rusting, it's best to follow the instructions. 

the delivery of the AutoIgnite™ Series 545 Digital Charcoal Grill and Smoker

Left to right: lump charcoal, MasterBuilt AutoIgnite™ Series 545 Digital Charcoal Grill and Smoker, fire lighters and cover (Image credit: Future)

Masterbuilt AutoIgnite Series 545: Design

The Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545 Series Digital Charcoal, Grill, and Smoker may be a Smart grill, but the overall design isn’t anything that you wouldn’t be familiar with if you’ve used a grill in the past. In fact, if I didn't know any better, I would've assumed it was a gas grill based on the design alone. 

The Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545 Series is primarily made of metal and plastic, with two wheels to make it easy to move around your yard. It can’t be left outside without some type of protection  — like the water-resistant Gravity Series and AutoIgnite Digital Charcoal Grill and Smoker Grill Cover  — or else it’ll rust and ruin. If you can store it under an awning and/or in your garage, that would be even better.

There are two side tables, one of which can be lifted up to better fit the grill in certain spaces. The left tray has the digital control panel, which is outfitted with the AutoIgnite button, temperature and settings buttons, jacks for the digital thermometer, and a dial to adjust the temperature. Along the sides of the trays, there are hooks where you can hang your grilling tools and such. A grate lifter tool is included in the packaging. Below the right tray is the ash pan. Above the ash pan is where you slide in a fire starter.

Under the grill is a tray. To get to it, you have to open a door. While you could store stuff under the grill, be mindful that sparks and ash fly out of the grill and onto that bottom tray, so don’t put anything there that could catch fire  — at least not when operating the grill. Right below the main body of the grill is where the grease pan and tray are located. You slide them out to access them.  

Under the hood, you’ll find 545 square inches of cooking space with cast iron cooking grates, a foldable warming rack, and the charcoal hopper, which has a lid that doubles as the QuickSear hopper cast iron griddle plate. It can be used to sear or saute your food.

This grill has two stand-out design features  — AutoIgnite and Smart technology. Let’s start with the AutoIgnite feature. When it comes to charcoal grills that use lump charcoal, it can be difficult for the charcoal to catch fire because you can’t use lighter fluid. Fire starters help but often, you’ll find yourself waiting for long periods of time for the coal to catch fire or have to use multiple fire starters. You put the firestarter on the side of the grill so that the grill can light it on fire during the AutoIgnite process, and then the lit firestarter can light the charcoal in the hopper.  process, and then the lit firestarter can light the charcoal in the hopper. 

Masterbuilt AutoIgnite™ Series 545 Digital Charcoal Grill and Smoker

Putting the firestarter in place (Image credit: Future)

With the AutoIgnite button and ignited fire starter, the grill utilizes an interior fan to blow air at the right speed to grow the fire and then keep it going at the right level throughout the cooking process. Starting the grill this way is very easy, especially once you do it a few times. (You can manually light a fire starter in the hopper if you want to, but I don't know why you would need to.) Does the AutoIgnite button work flawlessly? No  — but it’s still a lot better than not having the AutoIgnite feature, as I know from my countless grill testing experience. 

I discovered that I had to clean not only the ashtray but the hopper of any remaining charcoal lumps or ash every single time I wanted to start the grill. If I didn't, I’d have a really difficult time getting the charcoal to catch fire. I realized this the second time I tried to use the grill. I’d only emptied the ashtray, and the AutoIgnite failed. I then tried to remove more ash, and that didn’t work. I tried three more times until I finally removed everything from the hopper and gave it a really good clean to remove all the bits of ash. Finally, that worked.

To be clear, even when you clean out the hopper completely, there is still the potential that the lump charcoal won’t catch. It happened to me. It's unclear at times why the charcoal doesn't light the first round, but it usually lights the second time. 

Let’s move on to the Smart technology because it actually plays a role in the AutoIgnite feature. Upon setting up this grill, I was able to connect it to the Masterbuilt app on my phone via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. This is important for users to do because the app allows you to oversee the grill without having to stand right next to it. 

The app notifies me when the grill is preheating and if the AutoIgnite fails. I can watch the temperature reach whatever I’ve set the temperature to in real-time and set timers to notify me to go out and turn my food on the grill. It also saves the thermometer readings that I do. Even during the cool-down phase, it sends me reminders that the grill is cooling down and to clean it thoroughly.

Score: 4.5/5

Masterbuilt AutoIgnite Series 545: Performance

Overall, I was very happy with how the Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545 Series Digital Charcoal Grill and Smoker worked and the delicious foods it produced. I cooked a wide variety of food on this grill  — salmon, pork loin, steak, chicken, boudin, Brussel sprouts, leeks, corn on the cob, carrots, bok choy, and bacon-wrapped stuffed jalapenos.

It generally took anywhere from 10-15 minutes for the charcoal to catch fire and heat to my desired temperature. I usually set the temperature at 400-450 degrees. I loved that the grill maintained the temperature I wanted, and I didn’t have to do anything to open vents or such to keep it that way. The fan that’s built-in does all the work to maintain the fire at whatever level it needs to be so that it can grill and smoke consistently.

Perhaps my favorite part of cooking on this grill had to be the cast iron grates and the cast iron QuickSear plate atop the hopper. If you’ve ever used cast iron pans to cook, you know that they are great heat conductors and seal in flavors and juices. The grates and the sear plate produced some beautiful lines and charring on my meats, which I enjoyed.

I did notice that the sides of the grill seemed to cook the meats and vegetables a lot faster than the middle section of the grates. So, if you really want to slow smoke a brisket, you’d want to put it in the middle of the cook surface. I used the warming rack, especially for vegetables that cooked faster than the meats. When not in use, I would fold it up so I could access the rest of the grill easily.

Masterbuilt AutoIgnite™ Series 545 Digital Charcoal Grill and Smoker

(Image credit: Future)

It usually took about 20-25 minutes for the grill to completely cook my meals, which isn’t entirely long. If you want to cook some ribs slowly, of course, that’s going to take more time, but with a charcoal grill and smoker such as this, it’ll result in some tasty food.

You can't really switch between 'grill' and 'smoke' settings; rather, it does both at the same time, so everything I grilled was also smoked. In my opinion, it resulted in tasty food that was juicy, though not overly so. The smoke flavor was subtle, which was fine by me. I don't like or need my food to taste too smoky. You could always add different types of wood to the charcoal in the hopper for slightly different flavorings. 

grilled and smoked salmon

Grilled (and smoked) salmon and asparagus  (Image credit: Future)

Even after I was done grilling, the grill took a while to cool down. One time, I used it in the evening, and by lunch the next day, I found that there was still one burning coal in the hopper. That tells you how well-insulated the grill is and that it does take a long time to cool down, so be mindful of this.

Clean up is a bit of a hassle. I had to remove the ash tray, clean out the hopper, wipe down the grates and the plate, and clean the grease pan and tray. Often drippings or pieces of my food would fall through the grates and stick to the vent. I needed to clean that too. Mild detergent can be used to clean the grill. Cooking oil needs to be applied to the grates and the plate to prevent it from rusting. 

Score: 4/5

Masterbuilt AutoIgnite™ Series 545 Digital Charcoal Grill and Smoker

(Image credit: Future)

Masterbuilt AutoIgnite Series 545: Maintenance

Proper maintenance of your Masterbuilt AutoIgnite Series 545 Digital Charcoal Grill and Smoker ensures longevity and optimal performance. The first and most crucial step is always to keep your grill clean. After every use, remove any remaining ash, debris, and grease from the cooking grates, interior surfaces, and drip tray. Use a grill brush or scraper to remove any stubborn buildup.

Inspect and clean the hopper and auger system to prevent blockages or malfunctions. Another critical aspect of maintenance is to ensure that all the grill's components are in good condition and functioning correctly. Check the temperature probes, digital control panel, and other electrical components to ensure they work correctly.

Replace damaged or worn-out parts immediately to avoid further damage or safety hazards. Lastly, regularly check the grill's wheels and handles to ensure they are secure and functioning correctly.

Masterbuilt AutoIgnite Series 545: User reviews

As the Masterbuilt AutoIgnite Series 545 is a new product at the time of writing, there are just two user reviews on Amazon. According to these reviewers, the charcoal grill is easy to use, precise, and maintains the temperature of the grill very nicely. The AutoIgnite feature makes it easy to light charcoal and the grill cooks very evenly. One reviewer highly recommends it to anyone wanting an easy charcoal smoker or grill. Another reviewer had some damage on receiving the grill, but customer service was helpful and sent a replacement part. 

Should you buy the Masterbuilt AutoIgnite Series 545?

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Score Card
PriceGood price for a Smart grill and smoker; sold at various online retailers★★★★★
DesignAutoIgnite and Smart technology integrated into a typical charcoal and smoker grill. Assembling it is a chore. ★★★★½
PerformanceResults in juicy and seared meats and vegetables thanks to a fan that maintains desired temperature. ★★★★½

Buy it if...

You don’t want to struggle to light a charcoal grill

The AutoIgnite feature of the Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545 really changes the game for charcoal fanatics. It makes lighting a charcoal grill so much easier and more hands-off.

You love cooking with cast iron

Not all grills, charcoal or otherwise, are outfitted with cast iron grates or plates. It’s definitely a luxury you’ll enjoy while using this grill.

You don’t want to man the grill the entire time

Thanks to Smart technology, you don’t have to stand by the grill the whole time you’re cooking. An app will notify you when to check the grill or do some task. Not to mention, the built-in fan maintains the temperature you set, so you don’t have to mess with vents or the like throughout the smoking and grilling process.

Don’t buy it if…

You hate big clean-up jobs

I’ve tested other charcoal grills in the past and I have to admit that this one does require a lot more in terms of maintenance. Perhaps that’s because it’s designed like a gas grill. If you want less clean up, go for a kamado style charcoal grill.

You want the grill to heat up super fast

For a charcoal grill, the Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545 actually heats up pretty quickly, but of course, it has nothing on a gas grill. Those on the go, who have little patience for maintenance or don't care about smoky flavors, should invest in a gas grill.

You don’t want to assemble a grill (or have someone do it for you)

I’ve assembled grills in the past, and while it’s not the most fun, this one was a bit of a nightmare. If you can get someone to do it for you (either a partner or by hiring a TaskRabbit), go that way. Or simply find a grill that comes fully assembled to your door or requires very little assembly.

How does the Masterbuilt AutoIgnite Series 545 compare?

If you’re willing to spend a little more money and forgo the Smart and AutoIgnite technology, the Big Green Egg is a beloved charcoal grill and smoker (I have one myself!). It’s much heavier, but that’s because it’s made with ceramic, which does a fantastic job at capturing heat. A limited lifetime warranty isn’t shabby, either.

I’ve also tested the Char-Griller Akorn Kamado, which is shaped much like the Big Green Egg but is made with metal and is thus cheaper. Like the Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545 Series, this charcoal grill connects to an app and can maintain the fire to your desired temperature. The Akorn also helps with starting the fire, but not in the all-encompassing way the Masterbuilt does. You light a fire starter, put it in the charcoal, open the vent to whatever level the digital display tells you, and then the Akorn’s fan starts running to help light the fire. It's not an AutoIgnite process, which is why the Char-Griller Akorn Kamado is cheaper than the Masterbuilt. 

How I tested the Masterbuilt AutoIgnite Series 545 Digital Charcoal Grill and Smoker

I’ve tested many charcoal grills so I was comfortable testing the Masterbuilt AutoIgnite 545 Series Digital Charcoal Grill and Smoker. I cooked a variety of meats and vegetables on this grill over the course of two weeks in the middle of February. Everything from the assembly to the grilling and clean up was done by me so that I could provide in-depth insight into all the grill's features.

Find out more about how we test.

  • First reviewed: 5th March 2024
Alex Temblador
TTR Contributing Editor

Alex Temblador is a Dallas-based award-winning author and freelance writer that has covered home, design, architecture, and art in publications such as Real HomesGardeningetcHome & GardensDwellArchitectural DigestTech Radar, Tom’s Guide, among many others. She recently bought her first home, a green Sears & Roebuck house that's over 100 years old, sits on half an acre of land and features a stunning wraparound porch, original hardwood floors, pocket doors, and a butler pantry. Alex loves to test products for Top Ten Reviews, GardeningetcReal Homes, and Homes & Gardens buying guides and reviews which has helped to expand the richness of her first-time homeowner life. The Mixed Latinx writer can usually be found working or relaxing in her outdoor spaces.