Review of the Char-Griller 2123 Wrangler 640 Square Inch Charcoal Grill / Smoker

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Char-Griller is a company out of Georgia that makes a grill/smoker hybrid that looks like an oil drum that somebody converted into a barbecue grill.  Actually, they make all kinds of different grills, but this seems to be what they are best known for.  FULL DISCLOSURE: I have one of their products as my personal grill (& I love it!).  But today, we’re going to take a look at their #2123 Wrangler model (no, I do not own this one).

This is a very popular model in their product line that is at a noticeably reasonable price point.  It’s not too fancy, but is still marketed as an everyday grill that is a good option for the general public.  While Char-Griller pitches their products as being “designed for the professional BBQ’er in you”, let’s take an in-depth look at their grill.  Does it stand up to that billing?

  Specifications

The Char-Griller Wrangler grill and smoker features some impressive qualities.  It has an airtight flanged hood with a heat thermometer on the front.  A nice feature that comes in handy all of the time.  The grill itself is built out of heavy gauge steel, which you’ll notice the first time you open the lid.  It has three hooks for hanging utensils and such, and boasts over 635 inches of cooking space — that’s right folks!  The breakdown is 435 square inches on the primary cooking surface, and 200 square inches on what they call the ‘warming rack’.  I do plenty of cooking on this rack myself.  Trust me; it comes in handy.

The feature that distinguishes Char-Griller sets from other grills is their use of cast iron grates.  This bad boy comes with 3 removable grates that work in tandem to form a solid grilling surface.  Cast Iron grates are not for everybody, but its a nice touch that sets their grills apart.  They also include forms that give you the option of ordering replacement parts, should you be so inclined.

Pros

For anyone that wants a grill that can handle performing for large crowds, the Wrangler grill/smoker is a fine option.  It has some serious capacity for a really reasonable price.  The overhead ‘warming tray’ is a fabulous feature.  Since it sits up from the main grates, it allows for more indirect cooking – this thing comes in handy all the time & is a convenient addition for less experienced cooks.  If you’re not sure that chicken is done, give it some extra time on the warming rack.

It also has an adjustable ash tray to catch the ashes from your coals.  The benefit of this thing is that you can move it up and down, to have the charcoal sit near the surface grates or deep into the well.  Again, the flexibility given to you for heat control is a nice touch.  This means you won’t have to burn up a lot of coal every time you grill.  Nice.

This is small potatoes, but I also like the little side and front prep trays on these grills.  It helps to sit your stuff down before it goes on the grill (or back in the house) for last minute adjustin’.  And underneath the side tray are 3 hooks to hang utensils on.  It keeps things simple having all of your grill tools right there with the grill.

 Cons

The Wrangler can handle a heavy workload and makes some great meals.  But the truth of the matter is that this grill takes work to maintain.  First things first: this grill is susceptible to rust.  The outer exterior is most vulnerable to rust.  Therefore, buying the Char-Griller Smokin’ Pro Deluxe Grill Cover is a must.  It runs under 30 bucks, but it’s another thing you have to get.  The company doesn’t exactly make this clear, but due diligence requires it.  That bothered me.

That’s not the only bad news.  The grates, because they are cast iron, will rust too.  There are simple methods to care for and maintain the grates to prevent this, but bear in mind that a lax maintenance effort on your part will incur rust on the grill.  All this means is that you can’t just park it in the backyard as is; it needs ongoing care.  Now ask yourself, are you willing to consistently perform the necessary upkeep on this product in order to preserve its quality?

Another negative is the assembly.  If you do what I did and buy the pre-assembled model from the showroom, then no problem.  If not….well prepare for an exercise in frustration.  This is a rather common complaint, which makes it all the more curious that the company hasn’t addressed the issue by improving the assembly instruction booklet.  Most folks that put the grill together at home complain of incoherence in the instructions.  Quick tip (put together the grill first AND THEN tighten all of the screws.  It makes a huge difference).

And speaking of screws – be prepared, because over time the screws will loosen.  The nut that attached to the bottom left support for the warming rack fell off and disappeared after a few months (I had to replace it).  Then when the one on the other side began to loosen, I was prepared for it & tightened it myself.  All-in-all, a handy dude will find the upkeep to be simple.  But if you’re not too good with hand tools, be prepared to learn a thing or two.

Final Analysis

The Char-Griller 2123 Wrangler 640 Square Inch Charcoal Grill / Smoker is truly a good value.  It makes a damn good meal and is newbie friendly.  I own an almost identical model and I have cooked for just my family, as well as for extended family and friends on all of the major holidays.  Worked fine every time.  I particularly like the warming rack, as I can give foods the delicate, indirect heat method.

What I don’t like about this grill is that you have to buy a cover, which adds roughly $30 to the price before tax.  I guess it’s not a big deal, but the principle of it really rankled me.  Also, this grill rusts!  Now I gotta tell ya that with proper care and maintenance, rust will not become an issue.  I haven’t had any problems to date. Just keep it covered & oiled and everything will be fine.

This is a tricky grill for a newer griller.  The actual performance is fantastic!  You have so many variables to play with, that cooking on it is a joy.  But most rookies are unaware of the hidden maintenance issues that can pop up over time.  Nothing earth-shattering (aside from the rust issues), but the bottom line is that a major part of the long term investment includes periodic upkeep.  That can be a bit touch-and-go for less experienced grill hands.

Recommendation

All things considered, I do recommend the Char-Griller 2123 Wrangler 640 Square Inch Charcoal Grill / Smoker, with this caveat: if you don’t mind putting in a little effort from time-to-time, then you’ve got yourself a Winner!

Getting 10 years of good times outta the Char-Griller is within anyone’s reach.  But if having to invest the added time into upkeep doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then this may not be for you.  That’s okay.  There are other models out there.  And if you’re more of a few times a year cookout guy, then this is not for you.  But if you wanna get your grill on in a serious way….this is your product.

Bottom line, I recommend the grill. Feel free to check it out here.

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