Sold only at Lowe’s, Master Forge offers a lot of grill for little money by using inexpensive materials, construction, and components. While researching products I like to cruise the web and look for comments by owners. Many owners raised concerns about construction, customer service, availability of parts, and the fact that the brand is only a few years old and still unproven in the market. On the other hand, many Master Forge owners love their grills and are eager to post praise. Additionally, Consumer Reports 2012 Buying Guide gives the Master Forge 5-Burner Grill a “Very Good” rating and top pick for large model gas grills. So what’s the deal?
The Master Forge gas grill line is extensive, from a small tabletop all the way up to an 8′ long, 115,500 BTU, 8 burner, stainless steel deck barge that costs less than a Weber 4 burner Summit. And you get features out the wazoo: side burners, sear burners, warming/steaming stations, LED illuminated knobs, halogen lights in the lid, towel racks, fold-out tables; one model even has a built-in bottle opener!
The steel is thin, and some parts just looked cheap, like the plastic control knobs and the thermometers. As always, we strongly recommend you not rely on dial thermometers, and that you purchase a good digital thermometer to get accurate oven temp readings. Manufacturers would serve us better by replacing cheap dial thermometers with bottle openers. Nonetheless, overall quality was in line with other low cost grills. This is an important point. It’s not useful to compare Master Forge to high end brands like Weber. Compare them to Brinkmann. However, if you’re looking for economy and are considering other low cost grills, Master Forge may sweeten the deal with all the extras. Then ask yourself how long do you think it will last? Will you be replacing it in 5 years? The bargain price may not be such a bargain in that light.
Lowe’s, like Wal-Mart and other big box retailers, carries popular brands and also has private label products made for them. This operation is managed by a division of Lowe’s named LG Sourcing. Lowe’s seems to have offered various grill lines for several years under various names like “Perfect Flame” and made by various companies like “BBQtek”. Currently, Master Forge is manufactured by Sagittarius Sporting Goods headquartered in Taiwan. I have to wonder how the happy Master Forge owners mentioned above will feel about their grill in a few more years, particularly if Lowe’s changes their BBQ line again. Any Perfect Flame owners out there care to comment?
I compiled a list of questions and called Loweís to speak with a product manager. There was no Master Forge product manager. I ended up talking to someone in Public Relations. She wrote down my questions to present to the right person, but she wouldn’t let me talk to that person. She’d get back to me with answers. The following day she sent an email that said nothing of value and answered none of my questions. If this is the way they handle media inquiries from the world’s most popular barbecue and grilling website, I shudder to think what customer service is like.
LP Tabletop Grill has a single U-shaped burner generating 12,000 BTUs, small folding legs, a locking lid for travel and a push button igniter. Stainless Steel body and grate with a 217 square inch cooking surface. The compact configuration by necessity brings the heat up close to the grate for a good sear on your burgers and steaks. Some owners reported igniter and regulator malfunctions. Be sure to position this grill to allow the propane tank to stand upright. This igniter is piezoelectric. The rest of the Master Forge gas grill line includes battery powered electronic ignition and lid thermometers.
2 Burner Grill is great for an apartment, balcony or small deck. The left and right side tables fold down for easy storage. Two P-shaped stainless steel burners produce 30,000 BTUs. Grates are porcelain-coated cast iron with a 346 square inch of primary cooking area and 109 square inches on the warming rack. Construction is black porcelain-coated steel with double wall lid, cast aluminum end caps and a single door enclosed cart.
4 Burner Grill has 4 stainless steel burners for 48,000 BTUs, porcelain-coated cast iron grates with 480 square inches of primary cooking surface and 188 square inch on the warming rack. This also features folding side tables and a single door cart.
4 Burner Green Gas Grill (right) has a neat look with its hunter green and black porcelain and powder-coated steel body and split lid. One side houses three stainless steel burners at 12,000 BTUs each and the other houses a 13,000 BTU sear burner. Porcelain-coated cast iron grates for 535 square inches of primary cooking and 168 square inches on the warming rack. The sear burner is smallish, accommodating perhaps two modest size steaks. Double wall lids and double door enclosed cart. Also includes an 11,000 BTU side burner, side shelf handle, attached condiment boxes, tool holder and a bottle opener! Natural gas conversion kit available.
4 Burner Stainless Steel looks pretty in the picture and on the showroom floor, but remember: Even high quality stainless steel needs to be maintained to keep that fabulous shine. If you cover this grill and polish it periodically, it will still be prone to discoloration and corrosion. It has four 304 stainless steel burners burning 48,000 BTUs and one 13,500 BTU side burner. Stainless Steel grates with a total cooking area of 444 square inches of primary cooking area and 125 square inches on the warming rack. Throw in two stainless steel side shelves and a double walled stainless steel hood. Natural gas conversion kit available.
5 Burner Grill. The model Consumer Reports rated “Very Good” has 5 stainless steel burners for 60,000 BTUs, one 12,000 BTU sear burner, one 12,000 BTU side burner, 576 square inches of primary cooking on stainless steel grates and 211 square inch warming tray. Inside is a 13,000 BTU rotisserie burner back by the warming tray, two halogen lid-lights and LEDs above each control knob. A unique feature is the pull-out table that wants to stay pulled out. I collapsed the table and tried to latch it shut with no success. Some owners complained about this so keep it in mind during assembly. I believe the latch has a very narrow tolerance. Master Forge offers a variation on this theme that appears identical except the retractable table has a slightly different design.
Modular Brown 5-Burner Grill with Modular Sink/Bar. The grill module has four cast iron burners (!), an IR sear burner and IR rotisserie burner for a total of 70,000 BTUs. 618 square inches of stainless steel primary cooking grates on a large cart with three stainless steel doors and brown coated metal cabinet. The sink module mirrors the grill in size and look with the same combo of stainless and brown coated metal. Both have granite counter tops. The sink includes a granite splash guard with a ìbarî on top. Of course there is an under mount sink with bar faucet, two drawers and one door that presumably encloses stored beverages. You also get a 13,000 BTU cast iron griddle and two 12,000 BTU stove top burners. In-lid halogens on the grill and LED illuminated knobs all around. A natural gas conversion kit and custom cover are included at no extra charge. The Lowe’s 2011 Grill Buying guide completes this set with a matching 2.1 cubic foot outdoor rated refrigerator.
8 Burner Grill. Invite the whole neighborhood when you fire up this beast: five stainless steel burners, two side by side brass burners, a “sear top with warming station” and one IR sear burner for a total of 115,500 BTUs. Thankfully a natural gas conversion kit is also included as well as a custom cover. All stainless steel construction with a double wall hood and quick disconnect side burners. Stainless steel grates for 684 square inches of primary cooking and 264 square inches of warming rack. Control knob LEDs, in-lid halogen lights, slide out tank tray and trash bag holder complete the package. At eight feet long, with three doors and two pull out drawers, this unit is mighty big. In fact the oversize lid is too big to accommodate a rotisserie. Who would want or need such a large grill you ask? There were quite a few reviews for this unit at Loweís website and almost all were five stars.
Bottom line. The good news is you get a lot for what you pay. Everything with the Master Forge name on it is low cost. For example, a Master Forge rotisserie kit is $35 compared to the Weber Genesis kit for $80. The bad news is you usually get what you pay for. Only time will tell.