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Fans of traditional grilling need the best charcoal grill to practice their craft – it’s really that simple. But what should the best charcoal grill focus on? Should it be highly portable for on-the-go parties? Should it be a hybrid that can handle gas fuel as well? Just what is the best charcoal grill on the market? It’s time to find out.
In the end, the top place went to Weber’s Original Kettle 22-inch grill, both for its classic design and affordability. But, compare the Weber Kettle 22 vs 26 for an even larger grill. Sometimes it just doesn’t get any better than a simple, effective kettle shape that concentrates heat while still being easy to clean. Plus, with 363 square inches of cooking space, this Weber can still handle larger grilling tasks. But we made sure to highlight other types of grills for different missions, so take a look at all the winners! If you want more options, you can take a look at our guide to the best grills.
What is the best charcoal grill on the market? How do you even judge something like that? While charcoal grill performance does depend on the user, there are still plenty of ways to decide just how effective the best grill is.
We started with size and design, looking for grills that could fit in a variety of places, with simple and effective designs that make them easy to use. This is particularly important when it comes to placing and lighting charcoal, where different designs, such as the top charcoal smoker, have a noticeable impact on heating and the time it takes to ready the grill.
Versatility is also important: grills that can be easily used in multiple areas, or for a variety of different purposes/cooking techniques scored high on our list, while grills with multiple heating options and temperature control also did well. Closely related is the ease of use: What features does the grill have to make it easier to operate? If you’re wondering how to use a charcoal grill, you don’t want confusing instructions or unfriendly components. Ash catchers, easy to clean cooking grates, simple latches, and buttons, and clear designs all help you start cooking with no trouble and manage your grill (with minimum burns). There are also benefits to investing in one of the best built-in grills.
The highest-rated charcoal grills also offer you the right features for the right price: One of the advantages of going charcoal is that grills tend to be more affordable. We looked for models that didn’t overcharge for features that you don’t need, and extra-affordable prices for mobile models.
Related: EZ Grill Review
Isn’t it about time your grill had a specific purpose? Don’t just buy a grill to have one – buy the right model for your life and where you actually want to grill. Nothing will change a grill from a rarely used home accessory into a favorite cooking companion like switching to a model that includes features you actually need, like the option to switch over to gas, or super portability for tailgating. If you want a grill for a specific purpose like camping, see our guide to the best camping grills.
Additionally, if you just moved to a house with a yard, deck, or space large enough to grill, you may be looking at purchasing a charcoal grill for the first time. Why not start with the best? Of course, the opposite problem also applies: If your charcoal grill is 5-10 years old, it may be growing grimy, rusted, and generally unpleasant to use. The best charcoal grills are affordable replacements for old models, and if you grill frequently it’s worthwhile to upgrade!
Price: $99.00 | Cooking Surface: 363 square inches | Portable: semi-portable | Ash Catcher: Aluminum dish | Weight: 31.8 pounds
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Traditional is hard to beat with this affordable grill that still gets it all right.
What is a charcoal grill, really? Practically speaking, it’s a vehicle for your briquettes (or pellets, etc.) that provides fast, effective heat, with an easy method for holding food while it cooks and controlling the application of heat. Grills that enable this process with minimal distractions are the grills that you want – and that’s where Weber shines.
The Original Kettle Web grill hasn’t changed in decades, because it doesn’t have to. Everything in this simple, effective design is made to help you grill with charcoal, with minimal fuss and cleanup. It just works. Speaking of fuss and cleanup, you might be interested in the best electric grills.
Behind that classic, minimalistic design is features that haven’t needed much improvement for so long, because they already function so well. The aluminum ash catcher is effective and easy to clean as long as you keep up on it. The rounded design is perfect for concentrating and controlling heat for a quick warming process and effective cooking without any cold spots.
The ventilation system is probably one of the weakest points of the model – with the slide-open system that’s still a little too flimsy – but it’s still the cheapest way of offering simple smoke/ventilation control out there. Some of the best grills offer very simple operation.
Also, keep in mind that this model is more portable than it may seem at first glance. Those durable wheels make it easy to haul around the yard, and even move from house to house with a little deconstruction. Not only is this the best Weber charcoal grill we could find, but it’s also one of the most affordable large grills on the market (albeit without high-tech smart features), so it won’t be outside of anyone’s price range. What’s not to love?
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Price: $329.99 | Cooking Surface: 420 square inches primary, 120 square inches warming| Portable: Semi-portable | Ash Catcher: Grease cup |Weight: 110 pounds
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Switch between gas and charcoal – with plenty of room for larger meals.
Gas grills have completely revolutionized the industry, and there are always going to be grillers who appreciate the speed and ease of using a tank of gas instead of heating up charcoal. But what happens if you want both? What if you prefer some foods grilled with charcoal and others with gas? You turn to this Char-Broil model, which can handle both. For those who prefer grilling with wood, you’ll want to see our roundup of the leading Kamado grills.
The Gas2Coal, as the name implies, allows you to switch between gas and charcoal. You cannot use them both at the same time, but you can customize your cooking method based on the meal. Ordinarily, the grill is gas. If you want charcoal, you insert a simple charcoal tray, light the briquettes with the gas grill, and allow them to heat up. There’s no ash catcher, but like other gas grills, the model does have a grease cup to catch drippings.
Also, despite the size – 420 square inches of cooking space with a 120 square inch warming shelf – this model also has large wheels that make it more mobile than you may expect. Lower the arm trays, and it can fit into smaller corners. However, the size and gas capabilities do increase the price noticeably, so you’ll have to pay quite a bit more to get this hybrid option fired up on your back porch.
Price: $34.99 | Cooking Surface: 157 square inches | Portable: Yes | Ash Catcher: No | Weight: 18 pounds
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: This fold-up grill is perfect for grilling away from home.
Are you in the market for a highly portable grill that you can use for camping, tailgate parties, or other places where there’s not a lot of room? Hibachi-style grills are exactly what you need, and this Marsh Allen model is one of the best that we’ve seen. The cooking surface is only 157 square inches, but the whole thing folds up for super-simple travel and use.
If you’re wondering how to start a charcoal grill like this, it doesn’t take much work. Unfolded grill easily expands: there are two small grates, each with their own iron handle for control and placement, that you can use to cook a variety of meats at differing temperatures. At the bottom are two adjustable air vents to control the burn rate.
Grilling on the go is never especially easy, but it’s a whole lot more fun with a Hibachi grill like this on your side. The only issue is its size, which may be too small for a larger gathering. Of course, at $35, you could easily get two of them and assign someone else to the other grill.
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Don’t forget about grilling experience: If you don’t know how to use a charcoal grill, don’t buy one…at least not yet. Learn what you’re doing first. Learn how long to cook chicken on a charcoal grill, along with burger patties, hot dogs, and other common foods. Learn how to put out a charcoal grill, and how to clean a charcoal grill properly too – all things that benefit from experience. If necessary, choose a smaller, cheaper model while you learn more about your grilling skills and what sort of model will work for you in the long term. Charcoal grilling isn’t much like gas grilling or cooking on the stove.
Don’t ignore space requirements: Too many people buy grills without really thinking about where to put them. With small Hibachi models, that’s not a problem, but if you buy a standing grill you may want to do some measurements first to make sure it really will fit on your deck or balcony.
Don’t forget local codes: Speaking of where to put your grill, know that most apartments and condos have rules against using even the best charcoal grills on balconies or anywhere near the buildings. Know the rules before you buy!
Don’t avoid cleaning the grill: Grilling works much better if you clean the grills and cooking area every time afterward. This is a common mistake many grillers make, but that grease and ash will just get harder to clean if you leave it on, and lower the lifespan of your grill over time.
Think about more foods than just meat: When buying a grill, think about what else you will cook on it – not just burgers and steak, but also corn, toasted bread, zucchini, string beans, and much more. Pick a grill that has room for all the food you’ll cook!
If you’re looking for the best charcoal grills and grill smokers for cooking and aren’t sure where to start, you may want to read up on cooking charcoal and learn about how to find the best charcoal for grilling. The same is true if you aren’t sure how to light a charcoal grill: If you don’t have much experience, take it slow and learn the proper steps before you begin.
To keep up on the latest grill and smoker picks, Gadget Review covers other grilling news you may be interested in knowing about. If you prefer more indoor styles of cooking, you may want to check out articles like the best over the range microwave, as well.