When you think of grilling, are charcoal grills the first thing that pops into your head? Or am I the only one who makes that connection instantly?
However, choosing the best charcoal grill can be tricky, even for the most experienced grill masters.
There’s a significant difference between finding the best grill feature-wise and finding the best grill for you.
That’s why the focus of today’s article will be on finding the perfect balance between the two. I’ll show you some of the best grills that the market has to offer and help you figure out what works for you, as well.
Let’s get to it!
Table of Contents
- Why Get Charcoal Grill?
- Top 3 Best Charcoal Grill: A Comparison Chart
- Top 10 Best Charcoal Grills Of 2019
- #1. Weber 741001 Original Kettle 22-Inch Charcoal Grill – Best Charcoal Grill
- #2. Char-Broil TRU-Infrared Charcoal Grill – The Runner Up
- #3. Weber 121020 Go-Anywhere Charcoal Grill – Best Budget-Friendly Charcoal Grill
- #4. Weber 15502001 Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill – Best High-End Option
- #5. Kamado Joe KJ13RH Joe Jr Charcoal Grill – Best Kamado Charcoal Grill
- #6. Lodge Cast Iron Sportsman's Charcoal Hibachi-Style Grill – Best Portable Charcoal Grill
- #7. PK Grills PK Original Outdoor Charcoal Portable Grill & Smoker – Best Grill and Smoker Combo
- #8. Char-Griller 2137 Outlaw Charcoal Grill and Smoker – Best Extra-Large Cooking Surface
- #9. Expert Grill Heavy Duty 24-Inch Charcoal Grill – Convenience at Its Best
- #10. Royal Gourmet BBQ Charcoal Grill and Offset Smoker – There’s Room for Improvements
- How to Pick the Best Charcoal Grill: Buying Guide
- Final Thoughts & Recommendations
Why Get Charcoal Grill?
Gas and electric grills are way more straightforward to use. All you need to do is power it up, push a few buttons, wait for it to heat up, and you’re good to go.
And if that’s the case, why should you even consider buying a charcoal grill?
Because, no matter what you do, gas and electric grills can never give you that distinct, mouth-watering, authentic fire-grilled flavor that a charcoal grill can.
When you think about summer grilling, that’s the flavor you think of immediately!
That said, the unmatched, delicious aroma produced by the heat and smoke is only one of the reasons why getting a charcoal grill is something worth considering:
The best charcoal grills are typically more portable, less expensive, and reach higher temperatures than electric or gas ones.
And even though charcoal grills aren’t regarded as “beginner-friendly,” look at it this way:
Once you master the art of grilling on a charcoal grill, everything else will be a piece of cake.
Top 3 Best Charcoal Grill: A Comparison Chart
Top 10 Best Charcoal Grills Of 2019
It’s time for my in-depth reviews of the market’s leading charcoal grills of all shapes, sizes, and price ranges.
One of the following ten models might turn out to be the best charcoal grill for you!
Weber is a force to reckon with when it comes to high-end charcoal grills – and easily a favorite among grilling enthusiasts not only in the USA but worldwide, too. On that note, the Original Kettle is an excellent choice in every regard – a simple grill that’s worth every penny.
The body of the grill is constructed out of porcelain-enameled steel, so, it’s rust-resistant. Overall, the entire unit has a sturdy, well-made feel to it.
The durable, plated steel cooking grate offers 363 square inches of cooking space, which should be more than plenty for a family of four. It’s available in several different sizes, but I do believe that the 22-inch model offers the most versatility to the user.
Straightforward temperature control is ensured by incorporating two air vents into the design – one at the top, and one located at the bottom of the grill.
Also, it’s equipped with a removable ashtray, but here’s what makes it stand out – the One-Touch cleaning system. It pushes all the debris out into the ashtray, making the clean-up process fast, easy, and hassle-free.
If there’s one thing I didn’t like, it’s the lack of additional features. Even the basic additions, such as a thermometer, have to be bought separately.
Next, I’d like to show you a model that can go neck and neck with the more popular Weber Kettle – the Char-Broil Kettleman.
What makes it so interesting is its unique grilling grate – the Kettleman grill’s 360 square-inch cooking surface features something called the TRU-Infrared technology. The porcelain-coated grates resemble a radiant sheet. It minimizes direct exposure to heat, reduces dry air circulation, eliminates flare-ups and hot spots, and ensures concentrated radiant heat.
As a result, whenever you cook on the Kettleman, you can expect your food to be seared to perfection and moist, with minimal burning.
Also, the temperature control on this thing is outstanding. First of all, the grill comes with a large, 360-degree air inlet and a damper located on top of the hinged lid. However, it doesn’t stop there – it also features adjustable charcoal grates, and to top it all off, an integrated temperature gauge.
If there’s one thing I didn’t like, it’s that it lacks side tables. Overall, though, I think this is an excellent grill – and a serious competitor for Weber’s most popular model.
I wanted to show you another highly portable option that you can take with you wherever you go, and I’m not done with Weber yet:
As the name already implies, you can ‘Go-Anywhere’ with it.
The rectangular design of this durable, porcelain-coated unit is different than the rounded shape you’re used to seeing in Weber grills. It was designed with functionality and portability in mind, though.
The 160-square-inch cooking surface is relatively sizeable for the grill’s overall dimensions. It can prepare meals for up to three people, which is more than enough for weekend trips with family or friends.
It only has a handful of features, but they’re all about ease of use and convenience. The plated steel legs double as a locking mechanism, which is a nice touch for both storage and transportation. Also, it features a total of four air dampers, allowing for superior temperature control.
One of its most significant downsides is the plastic lid handle – it gets too hot to the touch. Also, I noticed that the grate isn’t adjustable. While I don’t think that’s a total deal-breaker, you’ll certainly have your work cut out for you when it comes to controlling the temperature.
As I pointed out previously, the Weber Original Kettle is easily one of the most popular charcoal grills on the market. However, if you don’t quite consider it the best charcoal grill for you, the Performer Deluxe version might be what you’re after here.
It’s still a Weber Kettle, and it performs like one, too, but it comes with an array of additional options, and it’s mounted on a portable table, as well!
Thanks to the electronic Touch-N-Go ignition system, this charcoal grill incorporates the ease-of-use that gas grills are known for – you can start the coals with a push of a button.
It’s equipped with a plethora of other handy features, too:
A stand with plenty of prep space and hooks for all your tools, and the One-Touch cleaning system that makes clean-up effortless. With the air dampers, a built-in thermometer, and an LCD timer included, precise temperature control shouldn’t be an issue, either.
The bolts for the lid holder stick out and mess with cooking grate removal, but that’s more an annoyance than an actual flaw. Other than that, it’s perfect!
No list of the best charcoal grills is complete without a Kamado-style grill. The Kamado Joe Jr. is a mini version of the Kamado Joe Classic – all the same features, functionality, and performance, but with the advantage of being space-efficient and portable.
The grill’s body is ceramic, which is more substantial compared to materials more commonly seen in charcoal grills. However, due to its compact size, it isn’t so hefty for it to be problematic. Plus, a ceramic construction has its benefits, including exceptional durability, heat retention, and locking moisture and flavor in your food.
The stainless steel grate offers 148.5 square inches of cooking space. While it’s on the smaller side, it’s perfect for picnics, camping trips, tailgating, and other outdoor activities.
It’s equipped with a sturdy, powder-coated cast iron stand which lends it some much-needed stability. Also, it comes with handy additions such as an ash catcher and an integrated thermometer that lets you keep an eye on the unit’s internal temperature.
However, ceramic grills are easily the most expensive variety of charcoal grills. Price-wise, it probably wouldn’t be a beginner’s first choice. They do offer exceptional construction quality and superior temperature control, though, and that’s something worth considering.
Buying any Lodge grill is usually a worthy investment, and this particular model is no exception – it’s compact, affordable, and very durable.
And as the name “Sportsman’s” implies, it’s perfect for all sorts of outdoor activities.
The design takes into account one of the main drawbacks of cooking with charcoal – the lack of precise temperature control. The issue is addressed by allowing the user to adjust the height of the cooking grate by choosing one of the two available positions. It's a feature that’s not often seen in the more compact charcoal grills.
Furthermore, besides the actual damper, the grill is also equipped with a flip-down door. It not only allows for quick access to the charcoal but acts as a method of temperature control, too.
It’s a hibachi-style grill, so don’t expect it to come with a lid. What you’re getting here is charcoal grilling at its most basic form – a substantial cast iron body, fire, charcoal, and food. It’s doesn’t get much simpler than that, but I feel like that’s an advantage, not a drawback.
It does come with a limited amount of cooking space, though, so you’ll probably have to cook your food in several small batches.
The PK Grills Original Charcoal Grill and Smoker is the perfect example of the “don’t fix it if it isn’t broke” rule. It’s beyond loyal to the original design. Why? Because it hasn’t seen any drastic changes over the decades – even 60 years later, it still stands as an American classic.
And although the decades-long tradition behind this grill may be a tremendous factor in its popularity, there’s a lot more that it has to offer to grill enthusiasts.
Firstly, there’s the durable, rust-proof cast aluminum construction with the signature capsule-shaped design. It’s made to last. Plus, the top detaches from the stand, so it’s portable, too.
Its main selling point, however, is the two-zone cooking system. The grill allows you to choose between direct or indirect cooking, depending on how the air vents are set. That means that it serves as a grill, as well as a smoker.
The grill employs a signature, four-point ventilation system, so precise temperature control within a 180 to 750 degrees Fahrenheit shouldn’t be an issue.
However, it doesn’t have an integrated ash catcher, so ash and bits of charcoal can fall through the bottom vents.
I already introduced you to a Char-Griller model. But since they’re so impressive lately, I decided to include one more grill in my round-up.
The Outlaw comes with a massive grilling area, a little over 1000 square inches when you count in both the main cooking surface and the warming rack. If that alone isn’t impressive enough for you, I don’t know what is.
If you’re searching for a grill that will allow you to cook for a large crowd, this is it.
It’s equipped with a few handy features, too, like the easy-dump ash catcher, plenty of prep space thanks to three integrated shelves, a built-in temperature gauge, and a wheeled cart for portability.
Also, the fire grate is adjustable, which allows for easy temperature control.
And while I do appreciate the powder-coated, heavy-gauge steel construction, I couldn’t help but notice that certain parts of it still feel flimsy, and even cheaply-made. The warming rack, wheels, and the coal tray are a few good examples, and I wouldn’t be surprised to discover warps on some of these parts, either.
Another reliable option worth considering is the Expert Grill Heavy-Duty Charcoal Grill – it’s relatively simple in appearance, but for me, that’s an advantage and not a downside.
The grill’s design seems surprisingly well-thought-out, and the overall construction feels reliable and robust. It’s completed with the powder-coated lid that handles high temperatures and improves the grill’s energy efficiency.
And with a cooking surface of 372 square inches complemented by a 201-square-inch chrome-plated warming rack, you’ll be able to cook up to 20 burgers at once. Moreover, the rest of the food will remain warm until you’re done.
The grill sits on top of a wheeled cart, which, among other things, includes a side shelf that can be used as prep space. Also, it has a bottom rack that could serve as storage space for coal and other equipment. Oh, and I’m sure that you’ll agree with me that the built-in bottle opener is a nice touch, too.
My main issue with this grill is that it has a few plastic parts, including the wheels and the handles. As you can imagine, high temperatures and plastic don’t mix well, so these components do have questionable durability. It’s not a total deal-breaker, but you’ll probably have to replace the handles in the future.
What does the phrase “best charcoal grill” mean for you? If it’s a model that offers all the functionality of a regular charcoal grill with the included option to use it as a smoker, this might be the answer to all your needs.
At first glance, the grill seems compact, and one might wonder how they managed to pack so much versatility in it – but they did. And don’t let its seemingly small size fool you.
Hidden inside the main cooking chamber is a large, 440-square-inch cooking surface, along with a 180-square-inch warming rack. Next to it is a side smoker, which features an extra 180 square inches of space. You’re getting a total of 800 square inches of cooking grates that are porcelain-coated.
The side smoker is connected to the main chamber seamlessly, and the adjustable dampers work together with the integrated temperature gauge to help you maintain the right cooking temperature.
However, the side smoker box, although handy in specific scenarios, is a bit too small to heat the main chamber effectively. Plus, the thin metal construction might result in warping at higher temperatures.
How to Pick the Best Charcoal Grill: Buying Guide
How are you supposed to pick the best charcoal grill when the market is flooded with so many different options?
I’m glad you asked; here’s what you need to consider before making that final choice!
1. Look for Solid Construction
Buying the best charcoal grill should, with proper maintenance, be a long-term investment. That’s why it’s so crucial that you pay attention to the grill’s construction, including the quality of the materials used and the warranty offered by the manufacturer.
You’ll need something that will be able to stand up to intense heat and heavy use. Materials such as cast iron, ceramic, and cast aluminum are durable enough to withstand intensive use for years to come. Porcelain-coated and chrome-plated options will do the job, too, but they’re generally not as long-lasting.
2. Size and Cooking Area
When it comes to size, you have two things to consider – the size of the grill itself and the size of the cooking area.
First of all, you have to be sure that the grill will fit in its dedicated space, especially if your backyard or patio is relatively small. There should be enough space to let you operate the grill comfortably and store it away when the time comes.
The size of the cooking surface is an equally important concern. You should have a general idea about how many people you’ll be cooking for on the grill. Most regular charcoal grills should be enough for three or four people. However, if your plan is to cook for a larger crowd, make sure that you have the grilling area for it.
3. Temperature Control
You can’t ever consider yourself a good cook if you don’t know your cooking temperatures and how to control them. Sure, using an indoor oven is a fool-proof way to control the heat, but outdoors?
If you’re not a barbecue pro who knows how to tame those flames and handle inconsistencies, you’ll need some assistance with maintaining a steady temperature. That’s where the following features come to play:
4. Additional Features and Accessories
Let’s face it; the extra features and accessories are always welcome. Charcoal grills are already challenging as is, which is why ease of use is one of the most important factors to consider. Having these additional features could bring your cooking experience to the next level.
I always recommend factoring in your habits, too.
For instance, if you hate making a mess, an ash catcher is a must. If you like having all your tools, condiments, and other supplies on hand, get a unit with integrated side tables. And if you struggle with maintaining the right temperature, a built-in thermometer will make things a lot easier for you.
Final Thoughts & Recommendations
There’s one more question for me to answer today:
Which one of these hits that perfect balance between functionality, convenience, and price?
And out of all the grills I’ve tested, my vote goes to the Weber 741001 Original Kettle 22-Inch Charcoal Grill. It’s the best charcoal grill out there, and one that I’d gladly recommend to you, too!
- Holds up to 13 burgers made with a Weber burger press
- One-Touch cleaning system provides hassle-free ash cleanup
- Porcelain-enameled lid and bowl Retain heat, and won’t rust or peel
- Use the lid hook to avoid placing the lid on the ground while grilling
- Dampers allow you to easily control the temperature inside your grill
What made you choose charcoal over gas and electric grills? Share your grilling experiences with me by dropping a comment below!
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