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. 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!
- 1 Best Charcoal Grill
- 2 How We Choose the Best Charcoal Grills
- 3 Why You Should Buy a New Charcoal Grill
- 4 #1 Pick Weber Original Kettle 22-inch Charcoal Grill – Editor’s Choice/Best Charcoal Grill Under $100
- 5 #2 Pick Char-Broil Gas2Coal 3-Burner – Best Gas Charcoal Combo Grill
- 6 #3 Pick Marsh Allen Cast Iron Hibachi Charcoal Grill – Best Portable Charcoal Grill
- 7 What to Look for When Buying the Best Charcoal Grill
- 8 Mistakes to Avoid
- 9 What Else You Should Think About
Best Charcoal Grill
|Rank||#1 - Editor's Choice/|
Best Charcoal Grill
|#2 - Best Gas |
|#3 - Best Portable
|Cooking Surface||363 square inches||420 square inches |
120 square inches warming
|157 square inches|
|Ash Catcher||Aluminum dish||Grease Cup||No|
|Buy Now||Buy Now||Buy Now|
How We Choose the Best Charcoal 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 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 also did well. Closely related is 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, simple latches and buttons, and clear designs all help you starting cooking with no trouble and manage your grill (with minimum burns).
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
Why You Should Buy a New Charcoal Grill
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.
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!
#1 Pick Weber Original Kettle 22-inch Charcoal Grill – Editor’s Choice/Best Charcoal Grill Under $100
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.
Behind that classic, minimalistic design are 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.
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, 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?
#2 Pick Char-Broil Gas2Coal 3-Burner – Best Gas Charcoal Combo Grill
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.
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.
#3 Pick Marsh Allen Cast Iron Hibachi Charcoal Grill – Best Portable Charcoal Grill
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 of are two adjustable air vents for control 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.
What to Look for When Buying the Best Charcoal Grill
- Look for protective coatings for the outside of the grill that make both cooking and cleaning easier.
- One of the few but welcome improvements to the classic Weber grill has been the porcelain enamel and extra-tough nylon handles. Coatings that make it easy to wipe away soot and grease are a big plus.
- If you are wondering how to clean a charcoal grill, it begins with choosing the right components. In addition to those welcome enamel and ceramic coatings, looking for aluminum dishes and other pieces that will 1) resist rust and 2) make cleaning even easier.
- Stainless steel works, but it isn’t quite as resistant to rust as aluminum, and steel grates can be tough to clean off at times. Cast iron is often favored by traditionalists, but it’s one of the hardest to keep clean, so if you go with our third pick then make sure you take care of it and don’t let it rust!
- Our top Weber pick has a 10-year limited warranty. Our Char-Broil hybrid pick comes with different warranties for different components.
- These types of warranties help make sure that if something goes drastically wrong, you can at least work to get the grill replaced.
- Extra space is always welcome – and we’re not just talking about grilling space, although that’s great.
- Look for warming shelves and side trays where you can put dishes, lighter fluid, and tools. Grills aren’t always good at providing much extra space, but the best charcoal grills tend to offer a little extra space to put these things down while you’re working.
- What’s the best way to start a charcoal grill? The frequent answer is, “Whichever way doesn’t burn off your eyebrows.” Seriously though; safety is important, so keep an eye open for designs that easily contain charcoal and help you control the heat with no surprises. Remember that – except in rare exceptions – you’ll also need to vent hot smoke while using the grill.
Related: Best Chef Knife 2019
Mistakes to Avoid
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 own 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 measurement 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 grill 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 breads, zucchini, string beans, and much more. Pick a grill that has room for all the food you’ll cook!
What Else You Should Think About
If you’re looking for the best charcoal grills and 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.