From searing veggies and meat to perfection to filling your food with a perfect smoky flavor, there’s a lot to cherish about a charcoal grill. And with the concept of grilling dating back over thousands of years ago, you would be tempted to pick any model that comes your way. Sure, any grill will cook your meat, but there are huge differences between charcoal grills that set them apart from each other. Precise grilling calls for the best charcoal grill and that’s why we have done our research to bring you the best grills you can buy.
Best Charcoal Grill Buying Guide
Let’s face it; the backyard barbecue is a crucial aspect of the American experience. While you might exercise great caution in selecting and preparing the foods to serve, the success of a meal often comes down to the quality of the grill. If you’re looking to buy a charcoal grill, particularly if you’ve not owned one before, it is a great idea to consider what you intend to use it for.
Is your goal mainly hot dogs, steaks and burgers? Is barbecuing a turkey or racks of ribs your aspiration? Depending on what you want to achieve, here are the three common charcoal grill types to choose from.
Are you specifically looking for something more portable? Then check out our other review article, The Best Portable Charcoal Grill.
Types of Charcoal Grills
1. Kettle Grills
These grills are quite a popular option because of their simplicity, affordability, and versatility. Most are about 22 inches in diameter, which is enough space to comfortably cook 15 burgers without overcrowding. Kettle grills are known for their round shape as well as defined bowl that holds your charcoal briquettes.
The bowl shape lets this grill to retain most of its heat for even cooking and this makes it a great option for simpler grilling tasks that need shorter cook times. The most basic kettle grill models start at about $100 (or sometimes less) and are a great choice for anyone who wants a decent grill to get the job done.
2. Barrel Grills and Smokers
Barrel grills are quite bigger than kettle grills and are a great option if you’re looking to do more than just basic grilling; smoking, slow cooking, and barbecuing. Since it offers a larger cooking surface, this grill is ideal for large barbecue parties. The woods or coals go in the bottom half of the grill while the top half forms the lid.
It’s basic design incorporates a chimney, air vents, and a wheeled stand to push it around. Most barrel grills come with an additional warming rack besides the main one. Being bigger in size, the barrel grill is a bigger commitment in terms of space and money, with a price range of $200 and above.
The barrel grill is a great choice for anyone who wants to go beyond conventional grilling while enjoying a generous capacity.
3. Ceramic and Kamado Grills
Ceramic grills, also known to many as Kamado grills are the most expensive grills and recommended for use by pro-grillers. However, their solid ceramic constructions provides superior heat retention in addition to efficient temperature regulation – which is a crucial aspect for those who prefer winter grilling.
With thick walls and a great egg-shaped design, ceramic grills warm up faster than other models in addition to producing better flavors. You can cook at temperatures from 200 F (at the lower end), which is ideal for smoking and barbecuing, all the way to 500 F or hotter, which is ideal if you want to cook a pizza.
The ceramic grill is a great choice for those who do lots of grilling and prefer a durable appliance that can remain outside all year-round.
Important Features to Consider When Buying a Charcoal Grill
Here’s a checklist of features you should consider when shopping for the best charcoal grill.
1. Build Quality
The construction materials, and how the stand up to intense heat and heavy use greatly determine your grill’s quality. Thick materials like heavy ceramic, cast iron or cast aluminium are great choices for top-of-the-line charcoal grills. But if you’re looking for something less sturdy, chrome-plated and porcelain-coated can do the job but will probably not stand up intensive use with time.
2. The Size and Cooking Area
Size is an important attribute to consider depending on how many people you’re grilling for or whether you need a piece of equipment you can carry on your camping trip. Kettle grills are smaller in terms of floor space and weight while barrel grills are fairly big. In terms of cooking area, if you only need to cook for less than four people, any size cooking surface will do. For big backyard BBQs, however, you will need a grill with a larger cooking surface.
3. Temperature Control
If you’re a griller who cares about precision, then you want a grill that allows for temperature control. The lid of a grill is critical in temperature control and a tight-fitting lid should be a preference. Another aspect that influences your power over the temperature is the dampers. Typically, grills have two dampers, one for allowing oxygen in and other to serve as an exhaust. Additional vents or dampers offer more temperature control, particularly for larger grill models.
4. The Ease of Use
Grill racks which sit steadily, vents that are easy to open, hoods that hand conveniently – it is the little attributes that could make the difference between a great grilling experience and frustration. In this case, you should consider a model with a thoughtful design and a great ease of use.
If you want to customize your cooking experience, here are some accessories that would do the trick.
- Multiple sections – some grills offer several sections so that you can cook different items at different temperature levels simultaneously.
- Adjustable – This feature lets you adjust how far the wood or charcoal is from the cooking surface.
- Thermometer – A grill that incorporates a thermometer allows for better cooking results. Besides, you can grill items exactly how you want them.
- Ash Tray – A grill that has a removable ash tray makes cleaning and maintenance easy and convenient.
The 5 Best Charcoal Grills 2019 Reviews
Weber has quite a reputation for kettle grills, and the Weber Original Kettle 22-inch is the epitome of a tried and tested design that cooks vegetables and meat perfectly. With a shape that offers great heat circulation, this grill also features a 22-inch diameter round grate that provides 363 inches sq. of cooking area. This backyard icon boasts reliability, simplicity of design and consistently scores highly with users on a delicious final product.
The grate features a hinge so that you can lift slightly to top up coals in addition to an ash catcher that holds all remains of the burned coal. The handle is glass-reinforced nylon that is also fitted with shields to prevent overheating. Heat control is also achieved to precision all thanks to the aluminium dampers that you can close completely to cut out oxygen supply. This grill is fitted with sturdy wheels that facilitate easier movement to your backyard and back to storage the storage area. Weber grills are USA-manufactured, but component parts could be sourced globally.
- Grill is easy to assemble
- The circular shape creates a convenient heating system
- Numerous accessories available for customized cooking
- Adding charcoal is easy
- Easy to clean
- Beautiful finish
- Sturdy construction
- The ash catcher could be difficult to remove
- The 3-legged design could be a little unsteady
- The grill grate is difficult to move up or down towards the coals for cooking
Big barbecue parties are a breeze for the Royal Gourmet 800 Square Inch Grill’s large cooking area and an offset smoker combination of a charcoal grill and offset smoker for the much-coveted dual style barbecue.
This appliance boasts some spacious, porcelain-coated grates that retain heat evenly for better smoky flavors. It also features two adjustable dampers that let you control your cooking heat as needed. This grill is also fitted with lifting handles that let you lower or raise the fire pan to two different levels for better control of the grilling distance.
The access door fitted on the side fire box allows you to easily and quickly tend your coals. Other great additions include a side, front and underneath rack for convenient storage of your cutlery as well as conveniently positioned hanging hooks for easy access of all accessories. And with a total of 800 square inches of cooking area, this grill is not only great for creating smoky flavors but also roasting side dishes like vegetables or corn.
- Combination smoker and charcoal grill
- Easy to transport
- Adjustable fire grate
- Lid-mounted temperature gauge lets you monitor your heat
- It heats up quickly
- Great value for the price
- Not ideal for adults since it is just 4 feet tall
- Difficult to assemble
- The lid doesn’t close properly so smoke escapes easily
- Doesn’t hold heat too long
The multiple charcoal pan adjustments make the Royal Gourmet CD1824A Grill a great option for searing and finishing chops or steaks, and for cooking most of your grill favorites.
It boast a total of 598 square inches of cooking space, with 393 inches sq. on the primary grates and 205 on the secondary. There’s also an access door conveniently located in the front to allow for better addition or tending of charcoal. The height-adjustable charcoal pan can be lowered to different levels for easier cooking further or closer to the heat source.
The adjustable vent on the side facilitates better air flow into the charcoal chamber for great heat control. And for temperature-precise grilling, there’s a lid-mounted gauge for better monitoring of grilling temperatures to avoid overcooking.
The two side tables serve as great additions since they offer ample work space to prepare your items for grilling as well as keep your tools organized. The entire grill bottom is also covered by a large, removable ash tray that’s incredibly easy to clean.
- Enhanced mobility because of two wheels
- Grate level adjustment is great
- Well-made and sturdy
- The height is just great for all people
- Complaints of multiple assembly parts missing
- Difficult to get the legs onto the rest of the body
- The paints seems to come off with too much heat
- The ash tray isn’t deep enough and fills up easily
Classic in design and shape, the Weber 741001 Charcoal Grill offers a compact yet sufficient grilling space, complemented by the patented Weber damper system that allows for both high-heat searing and slow smoking. Standing at 25 inches wide and 38.5 inches high, this grill is great for small patio spaces.
If you’re looking for a heavy-duty grill that promises long-lasting service, then the Weber 741001 Charcoal Grill is what you need. It comes with 574-square inches of cooking area which is enough to grill 20 burgers at a go. This grill is incredibly easy to operate al thanks to its simplistic design and a temperature gauge that helps in monitoring the grilling temperature. The foldable side shelves make storage easier since you save more space. And if you like enjoying a drink, this unit comes with a bottle opener which serves as a great addition.
Weber’s One-Touch system makes cleaning the grill incredibly hassle-free. Better yet, all ash is conveniently caught in a fully-enclosed tray.
This grill also features a hinged grilling grate for easy access when you need to clean and tend to coals while cooking. The grates are made of heavy-duty cast-iron that withstands high grilling temperatures. The adjustable charcoal pan allows you to adjust the level of charcoal depending on your preferences. Unfortunately, the grate is static and distance from the briquettes cannot be adjusted while grilling.
In terms of construction, this unit is crafted from steel and features a porcelain enamel coating that prevents cracking, rusting, and peeling under high grilling temperatures. In addition, the porcelain-enameled bowl and lid retain heat for even cooking temperature.
- Great air-flow system
- Hinged grates
- Easy to clean
- Great for use in small spaces
- Grill allows for easy control of heat levels
- Charcoal pan is easy to adjust
- Comes with additional accessories like a bottle opener
- Heavy-duty, sturdy and durable
- Keeps a well-ventilated fire
- Holds temperature well for slow cooking
- The lid falls off easily as you move the grill around
- The wheel design isn’t durable
- The adjustable coal tray feels wobbly
If we had to pick one of the charcoal grills reviewed as the best, we would have to go with great heat retention capabilities, portability, and compact design, and in this case the Weber 741001 Charcoal Grill. First, it offers a great design, sturdy construction, an enclosed ash catcher, and an incredibly simple assembly process. It also has convenient hooks on the side handles to hang your tongs, spatula, or other tools. Add the solid warranty and this grill is the best value going.
Although there are varying preferences among buyers, we guarantee you’ll find value in all the grilles reviewed here provided you take into account the capabilities of each.