Best Portable Charcoal Grill

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There comes a point every year, no matter where you live, that you will want to venture forth and spend a day at a park or even a weekend camping. Chances are, you’ll also want to enjoy some grilled food while you’re in the great outdoors. We all know those park grills aren’t going to…

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Best Portable Charcoal Grills
Weber Jumbo Joe Portable Charcoal Grill

There comes a point every year, no matter where you live, that you will want to venture forth and spend a day at a park or even a weekend camping. Chances are, you’ll also want to enjoy some grilled food while you’re in the great outdoors. We all know those park grills aren’t going to cut it, either. Who knows exactly how old and dirty they are (and who really wants to know either?) So here at Angry BBQ, we took the time to study and review a number of  portable charcoal grills to crown what we consider to be the best portable charcoal grill as well as round out the top five.

Our submission for the best portable charcoal grill is the Weber Jumbo Joe. It packs in 363  square inches of cooking space while weighing under 18 pounds. Hard to beat that Weber quality in that package. 

We’re going to dive into what to look for when shopping for a portable charcoal grill, breaking down the defining characteristics of the best portable charcoal grills so you can be well-informed when making a decision. We’ll also give you a comprehensive review of our top five grills on this list.

Let’s fire up the list!

Our Top Picks At A Glance……

IMAGE MODEL FEATURES
byb2-table__imageTop PickTop PickWeber Jumbo Joe
  • Largest Cooking Area
  • Low Weight
  • Carry Handle
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageRunner-UpRunner-UpWeber Go Anywhere
  • Dual Top Dampers
  • Light Weight
  • Budget Friendly
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageKamado StyleKamado StyleChargriller Akorn Jr.
  • Heavy Duty Build
  • Cast Iron Grates
  • Consistent Temps
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageHeavy BuildHeavy BuildOklahoma Joe Rambler
  • Adjustable Charcoal Tray
  • Removable Ash Pan
  • Temp Gauge
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageBest High-EndBest High-EndPKGO Portable
  • 20-Year Warranty
  • Flipkit = 2 Grills
  • Multiple Vents
CHECK PRICE

What Makes The Best Portable Charcoal Grill?

It’s well and fine to tell you what our opinion of the best portable charcoals is, but how do you know what to look for when shopping? There are some key characteristics you need to consider when looking for a portable charcoal grill for camping or just a small charcoal grill to put in the back of your vehicle for a day at the park.

Overall Size

First, the overall size of the grill is extremely important. Are you able to fit it in your vehicle easily? Is it going to be too heavy for picking up and carrying to and from the campsite or picnic table? 


Grill Materials

Piggybacking off that is the quality of materials the grill is made out of. The lighter the grill is, you might find yourself questioning how well put-together this grill is and its durability. You’re going to want a grill that will last you more than one season. Steel is always a good choice, and porcelain-enameled exteriors tend to help the grill last longer as well.

Stands / Frame

You’ll also want to consider how the grill itself stands. Is it a tabletop grill with short legs? Then make sure wherever you’re taking the grill has picnic tables (or bring your own portable table) so you aren’t hurting your back bending over to grill.

Weber Jumbo Stands

Also, consider how many people you’ll be feeding. Are you camping by yourself, with one or two other people, or feeding an entire family at the park? Make sure your grill will accommodate the amount of food you’ll be cooking otherwise you might miss out on eating with everyone.

Now that you’ve got an idea of what to look for and consider, let’s get moving on our list of the top five best portable charcoal grills!

1. Best Portable Charcoal Grill – Weber Jumbo Joe Review


What We Like…

  • 363 sq in of cooking space on a portable grill
  • Has a wire carrying handle for easy transport, which also acts as a stopper to keep the lid locked down during transport
  • Ash pan at the bottom helps with easy cleanup

What Makes Us Angry…

  • Top vent handle can get hot. Could use a silicone cover so it doesn’t get so hot
  • The height of the lid restricts what you are able to grill

The Weber Jumbo Joe charcoal grill looks like someone took the iconic Weber kettle grill and shrunk it down to be super portable. Both the lid and the charcoal bowl are porcelain-enameled to help resist rust formation to ensure that the Jumbo Joe will stand the test of time. The charcoal grate is heavy-duty steel for longevity as well.

The Jumbo Joe packs in 363 square inches of cooking space into a small charcoal grill that weighs just over 17 pounds. If you’re looking to grill burgers and hot dogs (and even steaks!) on the go, this small charcoal grill can accommodate all that. The grill comes with a damper on both the lid and the bowl to make controlling air flow easy and precise. The lid itself has a heat-resistant handle that will stay cool to the touch even when you’re searing steaks.

However, the main lid is not very tall, so if you’re trying to roast a whole chicken on the go, this grill isn’t for you. Then again, it’s not necessarily intended to be your main go-to grill for all your weekly cooking endeavors.

To further boost portability, the main bowl has a wire handle so you can carry it with one hand while keeping your other hand free to carry your grilling tools. The Jumbo Joe sits on three small legs, so this is a tabletop charcoal grill. Then for easy cleanup when you’re done and ready to pack up, the Jumbo Joe has a large ash pan sitting underneath the grill. You can just sweep the ash away rather than having to tip the grill upside down. 

The Jumbo Joe has a 10-year warranty on its lid and bowl so you can rest assured that any issue affecting the cooking area’s integrity will be taken care of. Even with the slight shortcomings regarding how tall the lid is, there’s no question that between the weight and the cooking space, the Jumbo Joe is the best portable charcoal grill.


2. Runner Up: Weber Go-Anywhere Charcoal Grill Review

Weber Go Anywhere Charcoal Grill


What We Like…

  • Porcelain-enameled lid and body helps ensure longevity
  • Two dampers in the lid help control air flow
  • Lid locks in place with the swivel legs to help keep the grill together in the car and between the car and your cooking area

What Makes Us Angry…

  • Small cooking area only suitable for one or two people
  • Proximity of charcoal to the grill grates requires careful preparation and cooking
  • Leg design can leave the grill a little wobbly 

Yes, another Weber product is on the list. The Go-Anywhere charcoal grill is aptly named as it weighs in under 14 pounds and the wire legs swivel up to serve as locks for the lid. You can slide this easily in your car for a weekend getaway for yourself or with a loved one or friend. 

I say for you or one other person because the cooking surface isn’t large enough to accommodate a family cookout. It clocks in at 160 square inches, enough room to grill up around six burgers. 

The grilling experience can take some getting used to. The charcoal sits close to the grill grates, so you might encounter some burnt food if you aren’t careful. However, the rectangular design of this small charcoal grill can allow you to create two distinct heat zones, perfect for ensuring you’ll be able to cook your food thoroughly and then sear it over direct heat. The cooking grates are steel-plated for heat retention and easy cleaning.

The Go-Anywhere grill comes with two side handles so you can carry it easily. The lid itself has a handle and two dampers for temperature control. While there are no dampers on the main body of the grill, you can still use the top vents to create the proper airflow.

The wire legs are an important part of the grill. They clip into the sides of the grill and swivel under the body of the grill to support it. When your grill is not in use, you can swivel the legs around to lock the lid to the body for storage and portability. Some customers did express that the curved design can make the grill a bit wobbly, so make sure you or anyone around stay clear so they don’t bump it and potentially send your food (and burning charcoal!) scattering.


3. Kamado Style: Char-Griller Akorn Jr. Portable Charcoal Grill Review


What We Like…

  • Heavy-duty powder-coated steel construction ensures a long life
  • Cast iron cooking grates retain heat and will last
  • Dampers on the top and bottom in conjunction with the lid thermometer ensure you can control the temperature

What Makes Us Angry…

  • Heavy-duty construction means a heavier grill at 33 pounds
  • A small cooking area at 155 square inches
  • Some customers reported alignment issues with the lid and the main body

A portable kamado-style grill? That sounds like a terrible idea for anyone who has experience with a Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe, or any of the other ceramic kamado companies. The horror stories of a grill falling, cracking, and becoming unusable are plenty. 

However, there’s a reason those kamado-style grills are so popular. The heat retention, control, and versatility are only second to a computer-controlled grill. You can smoke, grill, bake, and sear. 

So Char-Griller introduced the Akorn and its little brother, the Akorn Jr. These are steel-bodied and triple-insulated kamado-style grills designed to replicate the behavior of ceramic grills at a much lower price point and weight. That doesn’t mean that the Akorn Jr. is a lightweight, however. It’s appropriately the third-heaviest grill on this list, more than double the Go-Anywhere and just under twice as heavy as the Jumbo Joe. 

However, at 33 pounds, the Akorn Jr. is still portable. That means you can take the efficiency and versatility of a ceramic grill on the go and not worry about it splintering into pieces. 

The Akorn Jr has 155 square inches of cooking space on a cast iron grill grate. That means you can grill burgers, hot dogs, or steaks for a few people at a time. If you purchase the Smokin’ Stone, you can even set the grill up with the top and bottom dampers to hold steady at 250°F (121.1°C) so you can smoke smaller cuts of meat while camping for the weekend or tailgating. You also don’t have to worry about running out of charcoal because the center of the grill grate is removable, allowing you to add more fuel throughout the cooking process. You can also run the Akorn Jr wide-open to reach temperatures around 700°F (371.1°C) to sear off  steaks on the go. 

Even though this is heavier than either of the Weber grills on the list, Char-Griller’s Akorn Jr. is one of the most versatile portable charcoal grills on the market and deserves consideration, especially if you like smoking at the campsite or tailgate.

IMAGE MODEL FEATURES
byb2-table__imageTop PickTop PickWeber Jumbo Joe
  • Largest Cooking Area
  • Low Weight
  • Carry Handle
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageRunner-UpRunner-UpWeber Go Anywhere
  • Dual Top Dampers
  • Light Weight
  • Budget Friendly
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageKamado StyleKamado StyleChargriller Akorn Jr.
  • Heavy Duty Build
  • Cast Iron Grates
  • Consistent Temps
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageHeavy BuildHeavy BuildOklahoma Joe Rambler
  • Adjustable Charcoal Tray
  • Removable Ash Pan
  • Temp Gauge
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageBest High-EndBest High-EndPKGO Portable
  • 20-Year Warranty
  • Flipkit = 2 Grills
  • Multiple Vents
CHECK PRICE


4. Oklahoma Joe’s Rambler Review: Adjustable Charcoal Tray


What We Like…

  • The charcoal tray is adjustable so you can bring the heat closer for searing or further away to cook low and slow
  • Constructed of materials to withstand the test of time
  • Removable ash pan for easy cleanup

What Makes Us Angry…

  • Heaviest grill on the list at 48.5 pounds
  • Some customers had issues with the lid not closing properly
  • Some customers complained about warping after very long hot cooks

The name Oklahoma Joe’s might conjure images of black steel offset smokers. However, that doesn’t mean the company can’t make a quality portable charcoal grill. Enter the Rambler. This is a tank of a portable grill, weighing in at nearly 49 pounds of heavy-duty steel in that distinctive all-black coloring of Oklahoma Joe’s. 

The color isn’t the only similarity between the Rambler and the company’s offset smokers. You’ll find a smokestack to help regulate airflow as well as a large temperature gauge mounted on the lid. 

The Rambler is intended to serve both as a high-temp grill and a low-and-slow smoker thanks to an adjustable charcoal tray with three settings, unlike any other portable charcoal grill on this list. You can pull the tray up to the cooking grates to sear steaks or drop it low and set the charcoal up for indirect heat to smoke. Not only does it have the smokestack for airflow control, but it also has large sliding dampers on each side of the grill to help manage your temperatures.

The grill has 218 square inches of cooking space spread across two cast iron grates, second only to the Weber Jumbo Joe. You can pack this grill full of burgers or smoke a rack of ribs while on the go. Then when you’re done, you can slide out the full-size ash pan to get rid of the cooled ashes. 

While the Oklahoma Joe’s Rambler may be the heaviest charcoal grill on this list, its versatility as both a grill and smoker makes it deserving of a spot on this list.


5. Best Highend: PK Grills PKGO Portable Charcoal Grill & Smoker Review


What We Like…

  • Two vents in the lid and two in the bowl allow for two-zone cooking control
  • Included FlipKit to turn the top lid into a second grill
  • Unheard-of 20-year limited warranty on the cast aluminum cooking capsule

What Makes Us Angry…

  • The bottom-side vents can allow ash and embers to drop out of the grill
  • On the heavier side at 45 pounds
  • Most expensive on the list by far

PK Grills have a distinctive cast aluminum cooking “capsule,” as they call it. The PKGO  portable charcoal grill features the same with some distinctive differences. First, this is a tabletop portable charcoal grill. It’s designed to be grabbed with the top lid handle (the lid  has latches to keep it in place) and put in the back of a car and taken on the go. 

PK Grills didn’t want to sacrifice quality and versatility for portability, so the company made sure to include the two lid vents along with two vents in the bottom of the grill for the highest degree of airflow control regardless if you’re searing on high heat or smoking  barbecue. 

At face value, the PKGO had 204 square inches of cooking space. Why do I say face value? This particular model comes with what’s known as the FlipKit. The add-on allows you to detach the lid and put it on an included stand so you actually have two direct-heat grills with 408 square inches of cooking space. That’s an awful lot of burgers and hot dogs you can grill up at one time.

It’s easy to understand why you see steak competition cooks use a full-size grill from PK Grills. The cast aluminum body will hold up for years, and even the PKGO features cast iron grill grates for great grilling performance.

Perhaps the biggest sign of PK Grills’ belief in the PKGO is that the grill capsule (lid and body) is backed by a 20-year warranty. If you want a portable charcoal grill that you can count on to be working for years to come along with great versatility, you should look long and hard at the PKGO.


What Do You Need For Your Portable Charcoal Grill?

Once you’ve made your decision on which portable charcoal grill to purchase, there’s still more to consider. What do you need to bring with you to the park or camping to get the most out of your small charcoal grill?

Charcoal (And Can You Use Wood Chips Instead Of Charcoal On A Grill?)

Lump Charcoal

This seems obvious, but you don’t want to show up at the campsite only to discover you’ve forgotten charcoal. Any kind of scavenged wood is fine for a fire pit, but you don’t want to cook over the wrong kind of wood (softwoods). If you’re not sure what kind of charcoal to get or are looking for a new brand, check out our breakdown of the best charcoal briquettes

As for using wood chips, you can absolutely bring wood chips along to add some smoky flavor when you’re grilling. However, wood chips do not generate enough sustainable heat to serve as the primary heat source in a charcoal grill. You can follow the steps in our article about how to use wood chips to make a foil packet or use a smoker box in your portable grill.

Chimney Starter

Charcoal Starter cover image

Whether you’re grilling on a full-size grill or a portable charcoal grill, please ditch the lighter fluid. You want your food to taste like it’s been cooked over a fire, not doused in lighter fluid. Chances are you also don’t have an electric source, so that can eliminate plug-in electric torches. Here at Angry BBQ, we love using chimney starters to get our charcoal started. Whether that’s Weber’s starter or the Char-Griller quick-release, you cannot go wrong. Pair it with a fire starter like the Grill Trade Fire Starter Sticks, and you’ll be up and cooking quickly. For more info on all of these options, check out our roundup of the best charcoal starters.

Tongs And Spatula

You’ll also need the standard grilling tools like tongs and a spatula to handle your food. You don’t want to be reaching into the middle of a fire to grab your food with bare hands. Check out our favorite tongs and spatula in our list of grill and smoker accessories you actually need.

Grill Gloves

A good pair of grill gloves are essential whether you’re grilling at home or on the go. You don’t want to burn your hands while cooking or cleaning, so make sure you’ve got a pair on hand. I personally use the KUWANI gloves listed in the accessories article linked above. As a bonus, they come with some food prep gloves so you can keep your hands free of raw meat. That’s especially nice in situations where you might not be as able to wash your hands as often as you can when working at home.

Water

Not only do you need water to stay hydrated, but having extra water will allow you to cool off and dispose of your ashes when you’re done cooking. Listen to Smokey Bear and prevent forest fires.

Wrapping It Up

For our money, we feel that the Weber Jumbo Joe is the best portable charcoal grill on the market. The sheer amount of cooking space combined with being lightweight and even an ash tray on the bottom for easy cleanup is hard to beat. Just remember, due to the  compactness of these grills, they likely will not take over for a full-size grill for backyard  cooking.

If you’re looking for a list of the overall best portable grills, including portable gas grills, we’ve got you covered. You can also check out my deep dive review of the Z Grills 200A Crusier portable pellet grill for another idea while shopping. 

Do you have a favorite portable charcoal grill? Let us know in the comments!

IMAGE MODEL FEATURES
byb2-table__imageTop PickTop PickWeber Jumbo Joe
  • Largest Cooking Area
  • Low Weight
  • Carry Handle
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageRunner-UpRunner-UpWeber Go Anywhere
  • Dual Top Dampers
  • Light Weight
  • Budget Friendly
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageKamado StyleKamado StyleChargriller Akorn Jr.
  • Heavy Duty Build
  • Cast Iron Grates
  • Consistent Temps
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageHeavy BuildHeavy BuildOklahoma Joe Rambler
  • Adjustable Charcoal Tray
  • Removable Ash Pan
  • Temp Gauge
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageBest High-EndBest High-EndPKGO Portable
  • 20-Year Warranty
  • Flipkit = 2 Grills
  • Multiple Vents
CHECK PRICE

FAQs:

Question: Are portable grills worth it?

Answer: If you love to go to parks or go camping and also enjoy grilled food, portable charcoal grills are the perfect way to marry grilling and the great outdoors. While you might need to be a serious enthusiast who goes camping or to the park multiple times a month to purchase one of the more expensive portable grills, there are affordable options for if it’s something you only do semi-regularly. However, we here at Angry BBQ condone grilling at every chance you can, so grab a small charcoal grill and grill on the go.

Question: How do I make my charcoal grill hot enough for steak?

Answer: Just because you’re camping or at the park doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a great  steak out in nature. However, no one wants a lightly-grilled steak. Regardless of your doneness preferences, you want a seared exterior. So how do you achieve that on a portable grill? You want to set your grill up for two-zone cooking and open your vents for maximum  airflow. If you’re using a grill like the Oklahoma Joe’s Rambler, you want the charcoal grate as high as it can go. That should allow you to start your steak on indirect heat for overall cooking and then finish on high heat to get the best crust possible.

Jeremy Pike

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