Outdoor charcoal grilling is a great way to get the beauty of barbecue at home, without losing the beautiful traditional tastes we all associate with grilling. Here are 11 of the very best charcoal grills for all budgets, tastes, and needs.
Weber Original Kettle Grill
Where else would we start this list than with one of the all-American classic grills?
Charcoal grills are at their very best when kept simple. Without the need for heavy-duty burners or propane tanks, a charcoal grill just needs to have a strong build and large enough chamber to build a roaring charcoal fire within.
Weber's Original Kettle has exactly this.
Over the decades since its original build not much has changed, and why should it? If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
What really sets the Kettle apart from the rest through is its vents. Also called dampers, these vents sit both at the bottom and the top of the grill chamber. They control airflow through the grill, allowing you to easily manage the cooking temperatures of your Kettle.
The Kettle's vents also help give the grill another function: It can double up as a BBQ smoker.
The air vents are one thing but what also helps the Kettle's excellent performance is it shape. It has an almost spherical build, which helps allow for perfect convection. Without getting too bogged down in the science of this, the shape allows near perfect heat distribution while also reducing flare-ups.
The Weber Kettle's simple build might be off-putting to people who prefer something that has a bit more heft and boasts more features, but it delivers exactly what is needed from a good charcoal grill.
For others, its design is a classic, and its lighter weight (not an indicator of poor quality) and wheels makes it perfect for taking on the road camping or to a tailgate. For this reason we've even listed as among our best tailgate grills.
Let's get into details. Its 22-inch width gives you a 363-square inch cooking surface to work with, which is more than enough for a portable charcoal grill.
Easy charcoal access is a key factor when looking for a good grill. You need to be able to replace coals as they burn out, and also when it comes to cleaning your grill after you cook.
The Weber Kettle offers exactly this, with its hinged cooking grates. If your coals are on the verge of burning out, you can quickly and easily swap them out.
It also has an ash catcher built into the bottom of the grill's drum, which collects ash as it cooks. You then remove it after grilling and you're good to go again.
No nasty build-up, and no stressful clean-up operation needed between uses.
It has a built-in thermometer, but I always recommend just getting your own to ensure maximum accuracy and reliability for heat level reading.
If you are new to charcoal grilling then this classic grill is the perfect place to start.
Royal Gourmet CC1830F-C Charcoal Grill
A close runner-up is this heavy-duty entry from Royal Gourmet.
We're a big believer in sturdy and strong builds being an indicator of good quality and high performance, and the Royal Gourmet does not disappoint here.
The grill chamber itself sits upon a rigid cart and enlarged metal base shelf. This holds everything in place and never feels at all shaky.
What really makes this grill stand out is its offset smoker function too.
For the unfamiliar, offset smokers are built with a side smoker (or 'offset', if you will) that hosts the coals. The smoke is then drawn through the main chamber of the grill, cooking and submerging your food slowly and evenly.
This isn't just a gimmick though, and the Royal Gourmet is just as strong a grill as it is a smoker.
Its main grills grates are porcelain enameled, which helps to retain heat as well as distribute it. This is always a key feature I look out for on modern grills as its helps to reduce uneven cooking temperatures.
Also added is a good sized warming rack, and charcoal pan to allow you to give your food a good sear.
It's a great performer, and has a large enough chamber and grill grate area to take on a lot of food.
We have a couple of gripes with some aspects of the grill's construction. Although I love porcelain enamel grates, these are done on thin metal in this case.
Also, although the main chamber is well built, the smoker box is constructed with what appears to be quite a thin metal. There shouldn't be any key issues because the chamber seems solid enough, but the built of the smoker box is a little concerning.
Although primarily a smoker-grill hybrid, it's still a great charcoal grill. If you adjust the charcoal pan to cook at the lower end of its heat range then it can still cook great grilled food.
Just like a lot of modern charcoal grills, it has an ash tray to help speed up cleaning. Its big enough to take on quite a lot, so you shouldn't have to empty it too frequently.
If the flexibility to BBQ smoke is important to you then this smoker-grill combo is definitely worth considering. However if you're only interested in a grill at this stage then there's a lot here that is probably unnecessary for you.
Kamado Joe Classic II
Let's address the egg-shaped elephant in the room here: The Kamado Joe's appearance.
The first thing that will strike you here is its appearance, and for this reason the Kamado Joe divides a lot of people.
Whichever side of that fence you sit, its performance can't be questioned. Its innovative design has a thick-walled ceramic case that makes it a fantastic grill and smoker.
With features such as the Airlift Hinge for simple opening and closure, the 'Divide and Conquer Flexible Cooking System' which provides you unparalleled flexibility to cook with distinct grate configurations, along with also the 'Kontrol Tower Top Vent' for optimum precision and control when handling heat.
You want to go large! This can be the one which will take your grilling match to another level and then leave your grilling pals from the dust. Nevertheless, it is not only about bragging rights.
The KJ Classic II is the one which will interest serious grillers who love the elegance of invention and that love the hottest updates like the Airlift Hinge that lessens the dome lid weight by some 95%! Along with also the rust-proof, weather-proof Kontrol Tower Top Vent that retains the airflow atmosphere -- that is the way you control temps -- just throughout dome closing and opening.
Additionally, it is a top choice if you prefer to grill different foods at precisely the exact same time due to the innovative flexibility of its Divide and Conquer multi-level and heat-deflection system.
If your grilling customs are more clear-cut and you are not juggling numerous meals at precisely the exact same period, the KJ Classic II may just be a lot of barbecue for you.
Where do I begin! I must confess to a particular gluttonous love of updates and extras. I adore the grills I have but can not help maintaining a covetous watch on anything smart fresh things are coming down the pipeline. Well, Kamado Joe has lots, and they have undoubtedly produced a Mercedes Benz with the Timeless II. Flexible and versatile, it truly makes it possible to control just what foods are getting various levels of warmth.
I really like the Airlift Hinge since I almost always have something different in my palms and to have the ability to lift that heavy lid with a single finger and have it remain in virtually any place, well it only about defies physics! It would certainly create the work of grilling a great deal simpler.
I love too the stainless-steel and cable mesh fiberglass gasket since these are the things which guarantee a tight seal, so when I am smoking I understand all that goodness is remaining beneath the hood rather than escaping, in addition to keeping temperatures wrapped down.
That is a hefty grill. We really enjoy this, since it reveals quality n substance utilized, thermal mass, and also contrasts to temperature equilibrium. But it is not one you are likely to wheel gently around your lawn. When it is in, it is in. So just consider where you need it before you bring it all home! This grill will pay you back significant time with several years of fantastic grilling!
Just how much do I really like it? I actually have the first KJ classic, I really like it, and it is my favorite grill and smoker. I'll be updating to the model II...I am only awaiting permission from the boss' (my spouse ) to invest more money in my obsession!
In my view, if you're trying to find an awe-inspiring piece of heavy-duty engineering with high-quality materials and construction excellence, then you have found it at the Kamado Joe Classic II.
This is a layout before others, along with a great deal of thought, has become smart techniques to win against the goblins of grilling (cracked fireboxes, peeling paint, rusting bolts). The Kamado Joe Classic II climbs gracefully over it and delivers on every front. Find it and begin!
Landmann Charcoal Grill
This is another grill with an offset smoker built to its side, allowing you to smoke meat as well as grill it.
It has more than just a smoker though. With a 733-square-inch grill grate, it offers very generous cooking space, as well as an additional warming rack.
Its cooking grates are porcelain-coated, which ensures fantastic heat retention and distribution during cooking. No cold spots, no flare-ups. Porcelain enamel is also very durable and robust against peeling, so the grates are unlikely to degrade over the first few years of use.
It has an inbuilt temperature gauge, although I do always recommend getting your own grill thermometer for the best and most accurate results. In any case, the gauge helps you monitor internal temperatures without having to lift the lid and disrupt the cooking temperatures in your grill chamber.
If you want an offset smoker function with your charcoal grill this is a great entry level option that comes at a very reasonable price.
Weber Performer Deluxe
While predominantly a charcoal grill, Weber's Performer Deluxe does have some gas elements built into it. None of this takes away from the charcoal elements of the grill, but rather are including to make grilling that little bit easier.
Included is Weber's now standard Gourmet BBQ System, as well as a gas-powered charcoal lighter to help make start up times much quicker.
It comes with 363 square inches of cooking space across its porcelain coated grilling grates, as well as an aluminum ash catcher for easy clean-up.
For anyone who has struggled with lighting grills in the past, this might well be the grill for you. Its one-touch 'Touch-N-Go' ignition systems helps you light your grill in a simple bush of a button.
Its build isn't quite as heavy duty as some of the other models on this list, but this is very much a charcoal grill built with convenience in mind.
It's a great mid-range option for relatively new grill heads looking to stay loyal to traditional charcoal flavors without compromising on ease of use.
Weber Jumbo Joe
Weber have done a great job of catering for newcomers with the Jumbo Joe, as well as offering a great option for people who just want a simple and reliable tailgate or RV grill.
It's cased in a porcelain enamel bowl to help heat retention and distribution. This helps maintain even cooking temperatures while also reducing the risk of leaking as you cook.
With a 240-square-inch grilling surface, it's one of the smaller charcoal grills on this list but if you're after something compact and easy to take on the road with you then this is one of the best portable charcoal grills out there today.
The grill is generously sized, with 725 square inches of primary of main cooking space and 338 square inches of secondary cooking space in the form of a warming rack.
The grill chamber is made of heavy-duty steel, and will stand up to the elements for years to come.
What makes the Weber Performer stand out from a lot of charcoal grills is its removable cleaning tray placed at the underside of the grill chamber. This acts by collecting ash and grease as your cook, allowing you to simply remove the tray after grilling so you can empty it. Clean-up is a big drawback with charcoal grilling, so the tray is a very welcome addition.
Dyna-Glo Heavy Duty
At the more affordable end of the scale sits this budget-friendly grill from Dyna-Glo, but there's actually enough here to satisfy a lot of users.
Its 686 square inches of cooking space sits upon porcelain enameled grill grates. This is a great addition considering the price of the grill, and helps to ensure good heat distribution and retention, while also reducing the risk of flare-ups or cold spots.
Expert Grill Heavy Duty
This grill is deceptively large. Fresh out the box it doesn't look like much, but across its main grill surface and warming rack it offers plenty of space to work with.
Its charcoal tray is adjustable, giving you much more control over cooking and the temperatures in your grill.
It features an ash dump tray at its base that you can remove and empty, helping you to keep your grill clean.
Char-Griller Akorn Kamado
I love the Char Griller Akorn Kamado grill (which is why we listed it as one of our favorite Kamado grills).
A lot of Kamado-style grills are built with ceramic, however the Char Griller is built with double walled stainless steel to improve durability.
Like a lot of Kamado grills, its grill set-up is layered. This means that rather than offer just one main grill area, it has two smaller ones that sit on top of one another.
This means that you might have to compromise on searing or high temperature grilling in bulk, but does make it great for BBQ smoking.
Here are the answers to your burning questions so you know everything before before buying a charcoal grill.
What are the advantages of a charcoal grill?
There is a lot to be said for the convenience and ease that gas and electric grills provide, but the authentic experience of a charcoal grill is simply unmatched.
The dry, white-hot warmth of charcoal sears meat quickly. This helps to create a crackly, caramelized exterior, all while leaving you with a lush pink, tender inside to meats like steak.
Not only this but charcoal cooking gives you a far smokier taste than can be created with most gas grills. Largely because of higher cooking temperatures, but also because you can use charcoal and wood chips.
Additionally, as your meat warms it up releases drippings. These are filled with tasty fats, proteins, oils, and sugars, which strike the flames of your grill, combust, vaporize and grow to coat and be consumed back into the meat.
It's a beautiful process and is what gives charcoal-grilled meat the extraordinary flavors which make us mad for more.
One of the factors that draws so many people to charcoal grilling is the authenticity around it. Not just with the flavors, but the skill and learning curve required to cook with it.
Unlike BBQ smoking, or even gas grilling to a certain extent, charcoal isn't a set-and-forget style of cooking. It requires to be on hand at all times. You need to monitor surface temperatures, meat internal temperatures, and to ward off any appearances of cold spots or flare ups.
While this might put some people off, it's also what has drawn so many people (including us!) to the beautiful cooking art form.
What to look out for
Not that you're firmly on board with charcoal grilling, let's have a look at what to search for in a fantastic charcoal grill that is likely to stand up to repeated blasts of extreme heat through recent years.
Here's a detailed checklist of all of the qualities and factors you should keep in mind while you shop around for the very best skillet.
But continue reading afterward, because we have done the research and published a fantastic short-list of the top grills on the market, at price points to match every wallet.
The substances used, and the way they stand up to heavy usage and extreme heat will establish the caliber of a charcoal grill.
Not searching for high end at a high cost? Porcelain-coated and chrome-plated will perform the job for less, but these thinner substances won't always stand up to intensive usage over time.
Grill size & cooking area
Consider how much space you want on the grill for cooking and how much distance you need to shop and run a restaurant.
If you too little, you may sometimes struggle to feed large amounts. But should you purchase too large unnecessarily, then you may use more gas.
Temperature control & efficiency
If you are a pro at taming the fire, great. It's possible to manage quirks and inconsistencies with fever. However, for many, assurance that the grill will react to your signature and keep steady heat when needed is a massive bonus.
The plan of a few grills will provide you more help for this than others. And lots of models feature an integrated thermometer.
Ease of use
Vents that available readily, grill racks which sit, hoods that hang conveniently around the side -- It is the little stuff that may make the difference between a smooth and agreeable gliding experience, and frustration or perhaps burnt fingers!
So be sure that you start looking for a grill that is famous for its thoughtful design and simplicity of use.
Nobody enjoys this task, so while it is infrequently top-of-mind once you're grill-shopping, it is essential to think of how readily the grill could be taken apart, cleaned and preserved.
If that is important to you, start looking for good-sized ash pans and convenient levers to return and forth, which will drain ash out of the grill body.
Again, consider your personal use.
Should you grill infrequently, mid-size to funding options can work for you since the less costly building materials won't always be analyzed.
If you grill frequently, go for demanding build substances, like cast iron and also heavy-gauge steel.