Those who choose to use charcoal grills for their grilling needs are masters of patient food preparation and have an excellent understanding of heat management. If you are considering a new charcoal grill purchase then it is likely that you are one of these grill enthusiasts or you have a desire to follow in their footsteps. If so, a charcoal grill will serve your needs perfectly. But, What is the best charcoal grill on the market?
Angry BBQ’s Top Pick
Weber Original Kettle Premium – 26 Inch
- removable or rotatable lid
- convenient features like hinged cooking grates, a removable ash catcher, and a place to hook your cooking utensils
- high quality without any extravagant frills
How to choose the best charcoal grill
The Best Charcoal Grill is not determined by its price or any one deciding factor. In order to understand exactly what makes a fantastic grill, you need to understand the mechanics of grilling. Reading Charcoal Grill reviews will assist you in making a decision by narrowing your choices down to a few good ones. Ultimately, you will have to have the knowledge to decide for yourself which grill is best for you.
The most important part of grilling well is understanding heat management. Once you know how to manage the heat inside of your grill, it becomes very clear what kind of features are needed to assist you in getting the perfect amount, in the perfect place, for the perfect meat.
Where you place your coals and the locations of the vents will have a direct impact on how well your food turns out at the end of the grilling process, so you should be looking out for grills with multiple vents that work independently of the others and convenient ways to add coals without having to move your food.
|Grill Make and Model||Category|
|Weber Summit 24" Charcoal Grilling Center||Best Luxury||Check BBQ Guys|
|Kamado Joe Classic II||Runner-up||Check BBQ Guys|
|Weber Performer Deluxe 22"||Best Charcoal Grill for the money||Check BBQ Guys|
|Weber Original Kettle 26"||Top Pick||Check BBQ Guys|
|Dya-Glo Premium Charcoal Grill||Best Capacity||Check Price|
|Char-Broil American Gourmet 30 inch Charcoal Grill||Best Budget Friendly||Check Price|
|Weber Jumbo Joe 18"||Best Portable||Check BBQ Guys|
Why choose a charcoal grill over another type?
Many people understand that cooking your food slower (think brisket) results in deeper and richer flavors, which is exactly what you get with a charcoal grill. You also have the added benefit of adding the flavor of the smoke to your food which is impossible with something like a propane grill. I have always appreciated the smoky flavor you get in a burger that was grilled on a charcoal grill and I’m sure that it is a contributing factor to why you are considering getting one. The popularity of pellet grills and smokers has increased but the flavor a charcoal gives is still unique.
Charcoal grills are especially appreciated by the patient griller. It is true that it takes longer and is a more involved process to grill on a charcoal grill, but with that complexity comes greater control and a higher potential for a more tasty final product.
What makes charcoal grills unique?
Charcoal grills use charcoal as a heat source, which means that you can change where they are located to create different temperatures in different parts of the grill. This adds a level of versatility to your grill that other types will struggle to replicate.
Because of this added functionality, you could theoretically cook multiple different things on your grill at the same time if you have a good grasp on how to manage your heat properly and understand the specifics of cooking techniques for each different food.
You can create a very high heat zone for searing your meats, a medium heat zone for quickly producing several products, and a low-temperature heat zone for slow-cooking all at the same time if you have a big enough grilling surface.
Things to keep in mind when using a charcoal grill
Some things you should note about grilling on a charcoal grill is that the type of charcoal you use and how you prepare it matters. You can’t just go out and get any old charcoal for your grill, if you want a consistent flavor. If you want a stronger smokey flavor, you might consider adding wood chips to your coals.
When you are preparing your charcoal and heating it, you need to consider how you are heating it. Using a chemical like lighter-fluid could possibly result in a chemical smell and taste seeping into your food as it cooks. Many don’t consider that the first time they grill.
You should also be aware of fire flare-ups and how to deal with them. The last thing you want to do is ignore them and end up with burnt food. You should immediately move your food away from them and wait for it to pass or starve them by closing the vents. Whatever you do, don’t spray them with water. You could cause ashes to get into your food or make the flare-ups worse.
The art of patient grilling
Understand that grilling on a charcoal grill is slow, but that is not a downside, it is a feature. Cooking slower means you have more time to make decisions and ensure you are getting the optimal result. If you are an inexperienced griller then you might find yourself unsure about what your next step should be, when you should flip your burger, or what heat zone your hotdogs should be in. Cooking slower gives you time to think about these things and make your decisions with more surety.
Once you have become more experienced, you will know these things without having to consider them and that is when grilling on charcoal becomes faster and you can afford to cook at higher temperatures to speed the process along.
The importance of safety
Safety should be your primary concern when working with any open flame, but especially with a grill. Make sure that your grilling area is well-ventilated and that you keep your grill as stable as possible. This can be done by ensuring that it is completely level and making sure that anything that might tip it over is far away, like children or animals. Make sure that the tools you are using are long enough to keep you away from the flames. Don’t wear loose clothing that might catch fire.
Do everything in your power to prevent a fire, but understand that accidents happen and you need to be prepared in the event that your preventative measures weren’t enough. Keep a fire extinguisher handy and know how to snuff out different types of flames. Water should never be used on a grease fire. You could make the problem worse, instead of getting it under control.
A common question is “What do I do with the coals when I’m done cooking?” You need to extinguish the coals properly. You can either close all the vents and let the coals burn out for up to 48 hours, or douse them with water. I typically let them burn out to keep the mess down.
Grills to consider
- Includes plenty of space to put peripherals like cooking utensils and implements. It also provides a convenient place to rest your meats before serving them.
- Uses a hinged cooking grate which means you can safely add more coals to the fire during a long cooking session without having to remove your food.
- Has a push-start button to ignite your coals so you don’t have to spend extra money on another starting solution like a chimney starter or a fluid starter.
- The lid is attached and does not have vents on top in different positions, which means you will have to get creative with your heat-management solutions.
- Has trouble maintaining low temperatures for smoking which makes managing the heat tedious and inconvenient in that situation.
The Summit Grilling Center from Weber is the luxury choice for charcoal grilling enthusiasts that aren’t afraid to spend an extra buck for the sake of convenience. Weber is known for making Top Rated Charcoal Grills and this one is no exception. It comes completely packed with all sorts of convenience features that really help to eliminate any of the downsides of using a charcoal grill so you can focus on enjoying the experience of grilling without getting bogged down in the minutia of figuring out starting solutions or finding table space for all of your utensils and cooking accessories.
One of the features that we really appreciate about this grill is that it includes a hinged grate so that you can add more fuel to the fire without removing the grate and thus altering your food. We really like this kind of grate and appreciate the convenience it provides for managing fuel during a long cooking session.
Another fantastic aspect of this grill is the cart that it comes attached to, it provides a massive amount of space to manage your various tools and utensils while cooking as well as enough space to put a few plates so your meat can be prepared before it gets served.
- Has multiple cooking grates at different levels which allow for interesting cooking solutions and heat management techniques.
- Has handles conveniently placed on the sides so that the grill has added portability in any situation and can be moved even while in use during an emergency situation.
- Has attached side panels that can be used for hanging your cooking utensils or resting meats before they are served.
- The vent is placed directly on top of the lid, which means heat distribution will be harder to manage when cooking with multiple heat zones.
- Rests on wheels which could result in instability if placed on uneven ground or moved without lifting.
The Class II from Kamado Joe is another Top Rated Charcoal Grill. It has plenty of convenience features while also providing a lot of portability and mobility so you can take your grill anywhere and be prepared to whip up a fantastic meal at any time. I especially appreciate having multiple levels to grill on because it makes managing heat very easy.
A severely underrated feature of this grill is the handles that have been attached to the outside of the grill. Usually, you would have to wait until the grill is not in use and has cooled down before you could move it and once it is in use it would have to stay where it is. That isn’t the case with this grill, if you find yourself needing to adjust your position in the yard after you’ve already started grilling, that is an option. We feel that having this level of portability and mobility in a grill is greatly underappreciated and should receive more recognition.
- Comes with a basket container attached to the cart that you can use to safely store charcoal with your grill.
- Uses the push-start feature to quickly and efficiently light your coals and eliminate some of the prep work that other grills require.
- Attached to the cart is a clock with a timer feature so you can keep your cooking precise and consistent.
- It only uses a single grilling surface, so excellent heat management skills will be necessary.
- It is very heavy which will make it difficult to move when placed on an uneven surface that hinders the wheels of the cart.
The Performer Deluxe from Weber is a strong contender for Best Charcoal Grill for the Money. It has a starting solution built-in to the frame of the cart that the grill is attached to so you can start heating your coals at the push of a button. When I first started learning about grilling I would start my coals with lighter fluid and often experienced the unpleasant chemical smell while cooking on coals that have been doused in it and it would even sometimes cause my burgers to have a chemical aftertaste. With this starting solution that is no longer an issue.
This grill doesn’t need high-tech features to make the grilling process easier and more enjoyable. It has two manual features that provide a subtle, but significant level of convenience that really shows the distinction between a good grill and a great one.
Attached to the cart of this grill is a digital clock with the ability to set a timer, so if you find yourself a little distracted with socializing during the grilling process your food will remind you that it needs tending at crucial times.
It also comes with a basket underneath the flat top surface of the cart so that you can store your cooking utensils with your grill when it’s not in use.
- It has a removable or rotatable lid and an offset vent so you can put the vent exactly where you need it and manage the heat with ease.
- It has a lot of convenience features like hinged cooking grates, a removable ash catcher, and a place to hook your cooking utensils to on the handles of the grill.
- Extremely high quality without any extravagant frills to distract you from the cooking process. Just you and your grill making excellent food.
- It has wheels attached to the bottom which does make it easier to move but might also encourage tipping if placed in an unstable environment.
- The hinged grate opening is fairly small which might make it difficult to add coals precisely where you want them or in larger quantities.
The Original Kettle Premium from Weber is one of the Best Charcoal Grills in 2020. It has a solution for removing ashes so they don’t get into your food. Several times when I have been distracted while grilling or not feeling my best I have made simple mistakes that caused ash to get onto an otherwise excellent burger. Thankfully, this grill has an ash catcher at the bottom that can be easily removed and emptied in a few quick moments. It also has a lever for the vents at the bottom of the grill that can be used to break up ash chunks to get them out.
That is actually just an ancillary benefit of the lever, however, because its true purpose is to open and close the air vents on the bottom of the grill. This grill has air vents on both the bottom and the top so that you have a great amount of control over the airflow inside of the grill itself.
This grill shows why Weber is the standard by which all other charcoal grills are judged. It has all of the features you need for a good grilling experience without getting in your way and altering your grilling process.
- It provides a truly massive amount of cooking space so you can reliably feed an army of friends and family at a moment’s notice.
- Has multiple cooking grate levels for cooking multiple different foods at different heat levels.
- It has a convenient option for adding coals whenever you need to without having to interact with the cooking grate at all.
- There is only one vent on top in a fixed location, so you will have to be aware of that when managing the heat.
- The side spaces are pretty small, so you could probably only fit one plate on each side reliably.
This Barrel grill from Dyna Glo is not a Small Charcoal Grill. It has an extremely large amount of cooking space available to grill on and it even comes with side panels so you don’t have to worry about finding tables to put next to your grill.
One of the most important features of this grill is the ability to manage the fuel without having to open the grill or interact with the grate in any way! It has a slide at the bottom that can be pulled out so that you can add the coals in from underneath and then just slide them back into place to continue cooking. The only effect this should have on your food is a minor change in airflow while the slide is open. This is the most efficient option for fuel management we have seen in a charcoal grill, to date.
- You can adjust the level of the cooking grate to bring it closer or farther away from the coals which provides an interesting opportunity for heat management solutions.
- Has a second cooking grate in a fixed position for easier indirect heating when that is called for.
- Lighter than other grill options, so it should be easier to move when required.
- There is a very small amount of side space on this grill which will make it difficult to take full advantage of its cooking space without finding another location for resting your meats.
This Gourmet Barrel grill from CharBroil is a cheaper alternative to the Dyna Glo option. It provides a lot of the same benefits that that one does, but it is a bit smaller and much more affordable. The ash removal feature might be a bit unwieldy at first, but once you get the hang of it you shouldn’t have any trouble using this grill.
This is very lightweight for a charcoal grill which means it has added mobility in case you end up needing to move during the grilling process or take your grill on the go to a friend’s house or a party location.
It also makes use of multiple cooking grates which provides a different method for managing direct heat versus indirect heating that will be greatly appreciated if you have a difficult time with the usual methods or you might just end up preferring this new method altogether.
On top of having multiple grates, it also allows you to adjust the height of them so you can bring them closer or further away from the fire and manage your heat that way as well.
- The lid is rotatable so the vents can be placed exactly where you want them to be.
- The cooking grate is recessed, which means there is no fear of your meat slipping off the grill while you are handling it.
- Very low to the ground, which might make it a little inconvenient to use.
The Jumbo Joe from Weber is probably the Best Small Charcoal Grill you could find, especially for its price. You won’t find many grills at this price range and none of them will be as high quality as the Jumbo Joe.
The Jumbo Joe is a staple of the Weber grill lineup that has been around for decades. It is a very popular choice for grill enthusiasts that need a very cheap grill on short notice, but don’t want to make too much of a sacrifice in quality.
One of the great things about this grill is also something that may be overlooked by an inexperienced griller. The cooking grate is ever so slightly recessed into the grill itself, which means there is a small lip all around where your food cooks. This can be especially helpful if you find yourself struggling to quickly pick up a burger with your spatula and prevents any food from being knocked off of the grill and being wasted.
Durability and Construction
The size and shape of your charcoal grill has a lot of bearing on the cooking process. Not only that, but you also have to consider what kind of fuel you are going to use and how you are going to start it. Grilling with charcoal isn’t as simple as just finding any old lump of burnt wood and soaking it in lighter fluid for your heat source. We’ll give you a better idea of what you should be looking out for in each of the different parts of your charcoal grill below.
Two main types of charcoal are used for charcoal grilling; charcoal lumps and charcoal briquettes. Charcoal lumps are exactly what they sound like; lumps of charcoal of varying shapes and sizes. They are essentially just chunks of wood that have been burned in a special way to remove the harmful chemicals that would usually arise through the process of combustion. They burn really hot and super fast, so you will have to be careful about managing your fuel. They also come in different sized pieces, so that is also something you will need to consider when setting up. That said, they are pure wood which means there is no risk of harmful chemicals getting into your food.
On the other hand, you have charcoal briquettes which are made from otherwise useless wood and sawdust that gets put through the same process as charcoal lumps. It comes out in fairly consistent sizes which makes for an overall more consistent cooking process, but they are also made with special additives that you might not want around your food. They also are harder to light than charcoal lumps.
The shape of the basin that you use affects how air will flow over and around your food which will change how it cooks and where your direct and indirect heating zones will be. In the end, no one shape is better than the others, you just have to be aware of the shape of a grill when you are using it if you want to optimize your grilling and ensure that you aren’t under or overcooking your food.
Most grates are essentially the same, thin rods of aluminum or steel in a weave shape to prevent your food from falling through while also offering a space for heat to be exposed to it from below. Where the complication comes in is the grate’s elevation. Having the ability to adjust the height of your grate will allow you further control of how the heat will interact with your food. Higher or lower grates will change the temperatures you are cooking at, so you need to be aware of it when choosing a grill.
There are a lot of advancements being made in the placement and shape of different air vents as well as new grate technology being made to allow for bending and folding in different circumstances. You can get grills with multiple vents in different locations for more control of the airflow inside of your grill as well as grates that have hinges on them so you can fold them up to add more charcoal much easier.
A History of Charcoal Grilling
Charcoal grilling is the oldest form of grilling and there have been many advancements in the different types of grills over the years, but essentially the core practice is still the same. Put your food on a grate above lit coals until it is cooked. There is a bit more to it than that, so we’ll discuss that in further depth and how it has been affected by various companies below.
George Stephen was the original creator of the modern-day Weber grill. He created the prototype out of a marine buoy while working at Weber Brothers Metal Works in 1952. Over the following years, they kept the same basic design that you can see today while making slight variations to the size and color of the basins and adding new features for convenience.
Kamado grills are based on a similar ancient technology from China. They are usually made out of ceramics and are essentially a pot with a lid on it with added parts for ventilation control. They were originally made in Asia and were then introduced to Americans after the end of World War II.
Dyna Glo is a GHP Group Inc.-owned brand. GHP Group Inc. specializes in heating, usually involving fireplaces and fireplace accessories. So, most of their grills are built around the idea of using them in a fireplace.
CharBroils roots stem from W.C. Bradley Co. in the early 1900s. They acquired a parts manufacturer by the name of Columbus Iron Works and created the world’s first cast-iron grill. Over the years they began to make both charcoal and gas grills.
The Weber Original Kettle Premium is an excellent buy for anyone interested in charcoal grilling. It is one of the Best Charcoal Grills available and it has a modest price. It has a fantastic venting option that helps your heat management instead of hindering it and the convenience options it provides are extremely helpful without being clunky or getting in your way.
That said, you can’t go wrong with any of the Weber grills as any Weber-made charcoal grill is going to be a Best Rated Charcoal Grill.
Is a charcoal grill not for you? Maybe these combo pellet grills and smokers are a better fit.