When it comes to grilled dishes, the classic smokey flavor of a charcoal grill can’t be replicated by other types of grills. This makes this equipment unique, irreplaceable, and a must-have for most homes.
However, shopping for one is no easy feat. Don’t be fooled by the process’ straightforward nature and think that all you really need is a pan that will hold the charcoal briquettes and a good-sized grill because this isn’t the case. There’s so much more to a charcoal grill that finding the best one can really change and improve your grilling experience.
The Different Types of Charcoal Grills and Which One is the Best Choice for You
The first thing you need to know about charcoal grills is the three types they’re available in. Choosing the right one for your needs is essential to help you achieve what you want to cook with them, so pay close attention to what they offer and what they can do.
These grills have a round shape composed of a domed cover and a defined bowl. They come in various sizes and are some of the most readily available options in the market today. They’re very easy to use and cooks quickly, but they can have a limited cooking area. They can be great picks if you want something straightforward, affordable, and portable.
Barrel Grills & Smokers
As the name suggests, barrel grills have a barrel shape that makes them look like a small drum that’s cut half. They offer a bigger cooking area, making them suitable for those who like to cook for friends and family. They can also do a good job in slow cooking your meats, while there are also a few units that can handle smoking tasks. These units are often pricier than kettle grills but they’re great alternatives to full-size gas grills.
Ceramic & Kamado Grills
These grills are also known as outdoor cookers as they do more than just grill food. They are specially designed to effectively retain and regulate heat. Aside from grilling, they can also slow cook meats and even make pizza, bread, and some desserts in the case of Kamado cookers.
The best type of charcoal grill for you depend largely on your needs. How much grilling you intend to do and the size of your outdoor area are the biggest factors in choosing the one that suits you best as well. For example, kettle grills are excellent options for those who don’t need to grill a lot of ingredients in one go and have small outdoor spaces. Barrel grills are perfect for those with their own backyards and intend to do more than just grilling in these things.
Your budget will also play a part in picking a good charcoal grill, but since these three don’t really have overlapping price ranges, picking according to your needs will be the best way to end up with the right unit.
The Best Charcoal Grills Reviewed. Updated for 2019!
Seem too obvious? I think sometimes the obvious choice is the right one when it comes to charcoal grills! The Weber 22″ Original Kettle Grill has been in production since 1951. When you have a good thing, why change it, right? More than 60 years later it still offers the best combination of price, convenience, and performance. It’s about as simple as they come, constructed from two curved sheets of steel. This iconic kettle shape isn’t just for looks though. It’s simplistic design and lack of weld points prevents unwanted heat loss. Now who doesn’t love that?
This Weber grill has a large 363-square-inch grilling surface, and the classic domed lid is large enough to accommodate a large amount of food. Quick and easy setup, heat up and easy to maintain, this grill is also covered by the company’s limited 10-year warranty. If all of that weren’t reason enough, these grills are also available almost anywhere. Convenience at it’s finest.
2. Big Green Egg
Originating in Japan, this grill is increasing in popularity. It offers a degree of versatility not found in your average picnic. In addition to grilling, Kamados can be used to smoke, roast and bake food – much like your regular oven in your kitchen. There’s just something about eating food from the grill though.
Though this grill is one of the top-performing charcoal grills out there, this one comes with a much higher price. The large model sells for $849, putting this particular product outside of the average backyard grillers budgets. Don’t let the price tag fool you though. The quality of this product and its promised longevity make this charcoal grill worth it for the high price. The Big Green Egg is coated in a ceramic material which gives excellent temperature regulation and superior fuel efficiency.
I know what you’re thinking – this is just another Weber knock0ff. That’s where you’re wrong. This Kettleman is far from the familiar basic kettle grill formula. The hinged lid is a great addition giving you an extra free hand while you’re busy cooking. Most grills feature thin grates that expose food on the grill to the hot coals. This Kettleman has what Char-Broil calls a TRU-Infrared grate which acts as a radiant cooking surface and the thin openings prevent flare-ups. This gets rid of the need for sear plates.
The inverted v-shaped ridges allow for a greater surface area and more even heat distribution.
As with any product, there are pros and cons. The Kettleman takes longer to heat up than a lot of the other grills on this list. It also has difficulty maintaining an even temperature across the entire grilling surface, particularly at lower temperatures.
Our second Kamado style grill on the list. This Primo All-In-One is a sturdy, ceramic-coated grill that’s guaranteed to have an extended life. It’s true! It even comes with a standard 20-year warranty. This product comes assembled and ready to use.
The All-In-One’s sleek design isn’t all it has to offer. It’s has excellent temperature control and heat insulation. Now, this model is also extremely heavy but equally durable. The price on the Kamado All-In-One is expensive but for the quality of the product, it might be worth the extra pennies.
The first barrel-shaped grill on our list. The Char-Griller Patio Pro is a cheaper option for the casual (or beginner) griller. Though it’s priced on the lower side, this option might surprise you.
The grill has a hinged lid leaving your hands free for burger flipping and it has built-in shelves which are more than useful when you have a lot of food you’re cooking. One downside to this is that the cooking area is only 250 square inches in comparison to the 363 square inches that the Weber offers. If you’re feeding a crowd, this might not be the best option but for a small get-together, this grill is a perfect choice.
The Patio Pro is able to maintain an even temperature across the grilling surface and has a fast heat-up time. This option is great for small decks or patios. It features a “Stay Cool” wood handle, side shelf, double steel bottom and side air vent. It is assembled with wheels making the grill easy to move.
Look familiar? This might look a lot like the Original Weber grill but don’t let it fool you. There are numerous features that set this guy apart from it’s popular, well-loved sibling.
For starters (no pun intended!), it has a gas ignition system that removes the need for excessive lighter fluid use and kindling. (Ladies, we all know that fear you get in the pit of your stomach when you see the boys out there, heads down in the grill they just doused with lighter fluid, getting ready to light a match next to it…) It features a lid holder, built-in charcoal storage container, hooks for all your BBQ tools and a removable timer. The center of the cooking grate is removable and the cooking grate has side flaps if you should need to add more coals while cooking.
The Performer heats up quickly and cooks food evenly which is always a plus. This model might not outperform the Original Kettle but if those extra features are worth it then this could be the option for you!
The Char-Broil brand is an innovator in grill arena with clever designs, low to midrange prices and impeccable customer service. With 840 square-inches of total cooking space, you definitely won’t run out of room. Don’t make your guests wait to eat – There is enough space to grill up to 20 burgers at once. It features adjustable fire grates and dampers so you have better control of temperature control. It also comes with a removable ash pan.
The cooking grates are cast iron which are great for searing and who doesn’t love that? Assembled with rolling casters, the American Gourmet 800 is easy to move. It also comes with a swing-a-way warming rack with 272 square-inches of secondary cooking space. The temperature gauge is located directly on the hood so you are able to closely monitor the temperature of your food. Additional features include a full-length front shelf, 3 tool hooks and two folding side shelves so all your tools are easily accessible while grilling.
If you grilled back in the 50s or grew up in the 50s, you might recognize this grill. First manufactured back in 1950, these grills still look the same with a rust-resistant cast aluminum material and a life of over 40 years! That’s getting your money’s worth right there! It’s classic design offers great heat radiation which means even cooking for your food. The nickel-plated steel cooking grates are also rust resistant and are hinged for easy fuel additions.
The Cast Aluminum grill offers a side tray and bottom shelf which is also made of durable cast aluminum. This offers convenient holding space for charcoal, utensils, plates, etc. In addition, this model has four air vents, giving you superior temperature control allowing you to also use this as a smoker.
The unique side hinge gives you greater access to the cooking surface which is good if you’re cooking a large amount of food. It offers 300 square inches of cooking space.
If you’re a tailgater or an avid camper, this might be the grill for you. It’s light aluminum body and removable cooking section make this a portable option without having to downgrade to a smaller cooking surface.
Most Kamado-style grills are really pricey but this Char-Griller is relatively inexpensive. They are made of a double layer of 22-gauge steel instead of their siblings which are usually made of earthenware. Though you won’t get the heat retention and conduction of the clay or ceramic models, the double layer does help with insulation.
The cooking surface of this grill and smoker is cast-iron, making it ideal for even cooking. It also comes with a locking lid which allows for a more airtight seal to keep in the heat. The Char-Griller Akorn comes with 306 square inches of cooking space with an additional 165 square-inch warming rack.
This model additionally comes with two folding metal table and a built-in temperature gauge.
This heavy duty option is ideal for large quantity cooking as it comes with a hefty 816 square inches of cooking space! Equipped with an adjustable charcoal basket, you are able to raise and lower the temperature for better control. The access door to the charcoal is made from cast iron and it helps to keep the heat inside as you cook.
In addition, there’s more temperature control with the stainless steel smoke stack and adjustable flu. It also has a built in temperature gauge, heavy duty wheels and locking casters, side shelves and basket for storage, and a stainless steel bottle opener.
Top Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Charcoal Grill
Once you have chosen your charcoal grill, the next thing you’ll want to know is how you can get more out of it. So, to help you out, here are some tips that you should keep in mind:
1. Clean with heat before and after grilling.
Brush the grates clean using a stainless-steel brush once it’s already preheated and brush it again after cooking and before the grill cools down. This way, removing the stuck debris will be easier, giving you a more thorough clean. Rubbing it with a slice of onion works, too!
2. Oil the heated grate by wiping it with a lightly oiled cloth using tongs before placing the meat for easier grilling and better results.
Oiling the grates before you put the meat on them offers better results. This can make turning a lot easier as the meat won’t get stuck on the grates. Your meats will be moister as well.
3. Always use separate cutting boards, spatulas, tongs, and platters for your raw and cooked meats.
This should go without saying, but for the sake of your safety, it bears repeating to never use the same containers and utensils for raw and cooked meat to avoid cross-contamination. The bacteria on raw food can cause food poisoning and no one wants that. A simple segregation method can prevent this danger, so make sure to keep this in mind.
4. Do not throw or splash water on hot coals.
This can damage your grill, so avoid doing so at all costs.
5. Know what kind of grilling works best for your ingredient.
The most important grilling technique that you should know about in whether to use direct or indirect heat on different meats and dishes. Some items like pork chops, sausages, ground beef patties, duck breast, and beef steaks require direct contact with the heat source to be thoroughly cooked, while others like pork rib racks, roasts, and whole birds can’t take high heat and should be cooked slowly for the best results.
Finding the best charcoal grill shouldn’t feel like an undertaking as it’s not only a fairly simple thing to do, but also because it leads to wonderful meals with your loved ones. To make sure that you’ll get the right product for your needs, it’s best to make ample research and read reviews to arm yourself with the knowledge required to make an informed choice and put your money where you will benefit in the long run.