You can use pretty much any grill to cook meat, but nothing quite tastes the same as meat cooked using a charcoal grill. That particular flavor can make all the difference to a meal, and it’s a taste you can’t quite achieve with any old grill.
If you’re looking to add a little bit of extra zing to your meals, you may be in the market for a charcoal grill. The main question is how do you find a good charcoal grill, and what do you need to look out for? Thankfully, we’re here to help you find the perfect charcoal grill for you. Read on to find out our rankings of the best charcoal grills on the market. We’ve also included a handy buying guide to help you to know what you need to look for?
In a hurry? Our top pick is smokin’ hot!
Our winner after 35+ hours of research
Best Charcoal Grills – Comparison Table
Best Charcoal Grills – Our Reviews
#1. Our Overall Top Pick
This is a classic charcoal grill from Weber that you can’t really go wrong with. It’s a very easy model to assemble, and you can set it up fairly simply in less than 15 minutes. It has a kettle with a dome lid and handle. It also has heat shields and a plated steel grate that has 363 square inches for cooking. You can cook a lot of burgers and dogs using this grill!
The grill also has dampers at the top and bottom of the kettle, and these help to make sure that the heat control is perfect so you can cook the food exactly as you like it, whether that’s rare, medium or well done. It consists of a steel construction that’s coated in porcelain enamel so you don’t need to worry about any rust or corrosion.
The grill also comes equipped with a built in lid thermometer so you can see how warm it is. You will also get a hinge on the plated steel cooking grate that will allow you to add in charcoal while you cook. It’s an easy grill to clean too with a one touch cleaning system that will allow you to sweep any debris and ash into the removable ash catcher for simply, hassle free disposal.
- Compact and classic design
- Cost efficient
- Ash catcher for easy cleaning
- Small wheels
#2. Runner Up
PK Grills Original Outdoor Charcoal Grill and Smoker Combination
Whether you’re a professional chef or a novice griller, you’ll find something to love with the PK Grills Original Outdoor Charcoal Grill and Smoker Combination. The grill is a durable, yet efficient option for those barbecues with the family.
The grill is made of cast aluminum so it’s very good at conducting heat right off the bat. It’s got a pretty intriguing shape and a four point venting system that makes it quite good both for smoking and grilling foods. It has a whopping 300 square inches of cooking surface too, so if you have a particularly large family that just HAS to be fed right now, you don’t need to leave them waiting for many different batches as you can fit a lot on it all at once!
The grill even has two work shelves where you are able to prepare the food. It heats up the coals very quickly too so no need for waiting for ages for it to heat up, and the shape of the grill is ideal for allowing you to cook a number of different types of food.
- Easy to set up
- Good heat control and retention
- Can be taken tailgating as it’s portable
- Side table built in for prep
- The lid doesn’t attach securely to the grill
#3. Runner Up
If you’re looking for a charcoal grill you can just pack up and take with you on your world adventures, look no further than the Weber Smokey Joe Portable Charcoal Grill! This grill is perfect for people going camping, among other activities.
The grill is similar to its bigger brothers as it sports a 14 inch grill that has a porcelain enameled lid and bowl, and it even has steel grates and an ash catcher positioned on the bottom. It can hold an impressive seven burgers at once, so you’re in for a treat if you have 7 in your household! The handle is also made of glass reinforced nylon so it remains cool when you’re using it.
The grill provides impeccable value for money, and it’s super easy to carry it around with you to a range of different events. You will get fantastic food quality too with this fantastic, pack up and go grill.
- Portable – you can take it anywhere!
- Quick and easy assembly
- Not a lot of airflow when the cover is on
#4. Runner Up
This Kamado style grill can be used to both bake and smoke dishes and provide a lot of taste that’s sure to have you licking your lips!
The Char-Griller model has a triple walled solid steel construction, so it’s pretty durable. It also has 314 square inches of cast iron grill space, and a handy removable warming rack. There is even a thermometer built in that will allow you to cook at temperatures in the range of 200 to 700 degrees Fahrenheit.
Another interesting part of this grill is that it has two very handy folding side tables and utensil hooks. This means you can easily prepare the food and reach for your utensils without having to set up a separate table for it. A lot of reviewers have also said it’s useful for preparing a range of meals as you can grill, smoke and – get this – even bake pizza on this grill! Barbecues have never been so simple!
- Good heat retention
- Budget friendly if you aren’t able to spend a lot of money on competitors
- Easy cleaning
- The thermometer in the lid isn’t always accurate
#5. Runner Up
This little Hibachi grill is another fantastic option if you need something more portable to pack away for your latest outdoor adventure. This popular grill will satisfy all of your deepest barbecuing desires, all from the comfort of outside of your tent, or while tailgating or grilling in a smaller space.
The grill weighs 30 pounds total and measures at 10.25 x 8.25 x 19 inch in total, and it’s made of American made cast iron, so it’s designed to be especially durable so it can last a long time. It’s possible to adjust it as it has two different adjustable heights. It also has a draft door which helps you to be able to regulate the heat, and there’s even a flip down door that will let you access the coals without any extra trouble.
All in all this is a durable, and powerful little grill that will allow you to have a delicious barbecue while tailgating or camping. It’s even easy to clean – how could you go wrong with that?
- Good size
- Easy cleaning
- A little heavy for its size
Best Charcoal Grills – Buyers Guide
If you’ve made up your mind that you want to buy a charcoal grill, and if you are a newcomer to grilling, the main thing you need to consider is what kind of things are you going to be using your grill for. Will it be used to grill your standard hotdogs and burgers, or do you want to grill some fat juicy steaks? You may want to try some smoking! Regardless of what you’re using it for, you need to identify the reason you’re buying it before you click that ‘add to cart’ button. You should also consider your budget and how much you can justify spending, or even how much you want to spend. Finally, think about the space you plan on giving to your grill.
Gas or Charcoal
When you’re looking for a charcoal grill when online or in store, you’re likely to be presented both with gas and charcoal grills. Charcoal grills are slightly easier to operate, and are a bit simpler in the way they are constructed as they give you a container in order to burn the coals, and then there’s a rack above that’s designed for the cooking process. Because of this they are also more affordable because they’re easier to operate. There’s a pretty high price for gas grills if you get a high quality one that’s durable. They will need things like burners, tanks, hoses, valves and ignition systems. They can also be more stressful when it comes to worries about propane tanks, leaks and parts you need to replace.
Of course gas grills are a bit more convenient, whereas charcoal grills are going to need a bit more engagement and time to get set up. While it may seem more straightforward to opt for a gas grill because you set the temperature yourself, it’s very rewarding to get a charcoal BBQ.
The types of grill you can opt for are: ceramic grills, barrel grills, and classic kettle grills. These allow you to barbecue, smoke or grill, but they all have their own unique features, as we will cover below.
Kettle Charcoal Grills
These types of grills tend to be a little bit smaller in size. They are usually anywhere from 18 to 22 inches in diameter as standard, and the 22 inch diameter can give you 363 square inches of cooking space. This amount of cooking space will let you grill anywhere from 12 to 15 burgers at once. Some of them are slightly larger, like 26 inches and some even more than 36 inches, but for the most part a 22 inch model should be sufficient for most families.
Barrel Charcoal Grill
Barrel grills usually are a little bigger than kettle grills, having an average length of roughly 36 inches and 435 square inches of cooking space. They;re made both for smoking and grilling. These kinds of grills tend to have a chimney and air vents, and they allow you to cook more food. The downsides of this is that you will need to have more space for it, and it’s also going to cost you more when you’re buying.
Ceramic Charcoal Grills
These grills are quite expensive and are usually not the kinds of grills to invest in if you’re camping, a newbie or a tailgate griller. They tend to give fantastic heat control for smoking and barbecuing. They come in a range of different sizes, and the largest can even weigh over 200 pounds!
Things to Consider When Buying A Charcoal Grill
It’s helpful to be able to control the temperature because it will determine how well you cook the food. Charcoal grills differ a little from your normal household over that has temperature control as charcoal grills usually don’t have any. They tend to have a number of characteristics that help to influence the cooking temperature. These things include dampers or air vents, thermometers or temperature gauges, lids, adjustable grate distances above the charcoal, coal beds that can be moved, and experience at the grill.
Grills will usually use at least two dampers, one that will be used for intake and the other for exhaust. It’s possible to control the temperature with the chill you use for input, as this will allow the oxygen to enter and feed the fire. If you want to lower the temperature you can also choke the fire using the vent.
If the grill has a lid it should fit onto the grill to keep the temperature.
You can get a decent digital thermometer on the market easily these days. You should avoid a dial thermometer as they are a little archaic. A thermometer or temperature gauge is definitely a good investment.
One of the best ways to control the temperature of your grill while you’re cooking is through adjustability and grate distances. If you drop or raise the coal bed then the temperature is going to lower, and so on. This will help you to be able to cook slowly at the start, and you can sear the meats right at the end. Some of these grills will also have cranks that will let you raise or lower the charcoal bed.
You need to consider whether the grill will give you enough room in order to load the charcoal on one side, as it will allow you to have a direct heat area and also a lower heat area where you are able to cook with indirect heat.
It’s important to have the ability to add charcoal in while you are grilling, or ones that are even able to allow you to move the charcoal in the grill while you’re cooking. Some of them come with doors or folding grates that will give you the access you need.
Ashes and Removing Them
A decent ash removal system can make your life so much simpler! Some of them will come with drawers or removable receptacles that will make it easier to remove the ash. It’s important to remove the ashes as they can insulate and absorb the heat which can reduce the performance of the grill. It’s helpful to have a way to clean up faster.
The positioning of the food when you’re grilling can make a big difference. Some grates are made out of cast iron but these tend to need a little bit more maintenance. It can be a good choice to go for steel plated or chrome plated wire grills as they don’t tend to block the heat and you will get better airflow with them.
You should try to ensure that the grill you’re thinking of getting is very durable. Some good alternatives are stainless steel, ceramics or 16 to 18 gauge steel. The thicker the material that your grill uses is the better your grill is going to react to the heat. Flimsy grills are most definitely not a good choice.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the benefits of using a charcoal grill?
The main benefit of a charcoal grill is that they are usually much easier to transport than large gas grills that obviously need to account for the gas. They also provide lovely flavoring to the food you are cooking, which will not be the same with a gas flame.
Are there any problems with using charcoal grills?
When you’re using charcoal grills there is a slightly higher risk of fire so if you’re in an apartment or a condo you should first check the local fire codes or building codes. You can also get very dirty from handling charcoal and it can be a bit tricky to light. As long as you keep water nearby you should be fine as far as sparks are concerned. You should also note any flare ups that can burn your food, and you may also need to consistently add charcoal in order to keep the heat up to where you need it to be. A lot of charcoal grills also do not have rotisseries, and you will always need to get rid of the ashes once you’re finished using the grill.