Best Charcoal Grills

Updated August 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

23 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
132 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best charcoal grills

Last Updated August 2019

Whether grilling with charcoal is an occasional adventure for you and your family or a weekend way of life, you can’t get the job done without a charcoal grill. Since the food you cook on a charcoal grill is only as good as the grill, no matter what your level of commitment, you’ll want the best charcoal grill available.

If you’ve been grilling for a while, you probably already have an idea of what you’re looking for in a charcoal grill. However, if you’re new to charcoal grilling, there are a few things you’ll need to know in order to purchase the model that is best for you.

This informative guide will walk you through all the essentials so you can shop with confidence. However, if all you need is a quick recommendation, consider one of the top five products we’ve highlighted in our matrix above.

Adding wood chips to your charcoal can infuse your meats with additional flavor.

Key considerations

Although there are countless variations and hybrids, there are only three basic types of charcoal grills. Knowing how they work and who they are designed for is the best place to start your search for a new charcoal grill.

Kettle charcoal grills

When you think of a charcoal grill, a kettle grill is likely what you picture in your head. It is a metal grill on legs with a lid. This is a good type of grill for beginners to purchase because of its ease of use, versatility, and affordable price.

Barrel charcoal grills

Barrel grills look like small metal barrels lying on their sides. These larger grills are ideally used for slow cooking and smoking, but they can also work like kettle grills. This type of grill is best for a more experienced user who enjoys smoked meats and barbecue.

Ceramic charcoal grills

This grill looks like a giant egg, and the quality ones can run several hundred dollars. Because of the materials used and the design, ceramic grills excel at heat control. This type of grill is probably not ideal for a first-time buyer. A seasoned chef who grills year-round is the best candidate for a ceramic grill.

EXPERT TIP

Store any unused charcoal in a cool, dry place. Be sure to seal the bag or put it in a container to keep moisture out.


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Features

Besides overall grill type, there are a number of other features you will want to consider before purchasing your charcoal grill.

Cooking surface

The cooking surface determines how much food you can grill at one time. For example, a grill that is 22 inches in diameter can cook about a dozen burgers at once. Be sure the charcoal grill you get is appropriately sized for your needs.

Table space

Charcoal grills may have one side table, two side tables, or be built directly into a table. If you anticipate needing table space, be sure the charcoal grill that you are considering has this feature.

Storage space

Some charcoal grills have space to store your grilling tools, while others can accommodate extra charcoal. However, many grills offer little to no storage space.

Push-button ignition

A convenient option for higher-end charcoal grills is a push-button ignition that allows you to start your charcoal without the need for matches.

Temperature gauge

A temperature gauge that is built into the lid of your charcoal grill will tell you the temperature inside the grill. However, it won’t tell you the temperature of the meat. For that, you will need to purchase a meat thermometer.

Luxury grilling

Weber is known for its innovative design, impressive warranties, and excellent customer service. This charcoal grill features a push-button ignition, a mounted timer, and a built-in cleaning system. It also offers a large work table and has convenient storage space for both your charcoal and your grilling accessories.

Hinged lid

Many charcoal grills now come with a hinged lid. This is a highly desirable feature because it eliminates the need to constantly look for a place to set the lid when flipping burgers or adding charcoal.

Hinged grill grate

If your charcoal grill has a hinged or two-piece grill grate, you will be able to add charcoal without removing the entire grill grate.

Timer

A few higher-end charcoal grills have a timer built into the unit for convenience. Alternatively, you could purchase a separate timer.

Mobility

Most charcoal grills have wheels and are mobile. If you prefer, however, you can purchase a model that is permanently installed.

Ease of cleaning

Grills are tough to clean. Any device, feature, or system that a grill has that makes cleaning easier will be greatly appreciated.

Accessories

Unless you purchase a special bundle, chances are you won’t find many grills that come with a plethora of accessories. Many models come with a grill cover, but other items to look for include cleaning supplies, a grill light, grilling tools, and a grilling glove and apron.

Charcoal typically reaches a maximum cooking temperature of approximately 500°F.

Charcoal grill prices

You can pay as little as $25 for a kettle grill or make an investment of several hundred dollars for a ceramic grill. Anything below $35 is going to be a portable, tabletop grill that is good for a few uses per season but must be replaced in a year or two, depending on your level of care.

From $40 to $60 is where you start to find standalone kettle grills with wheels. These are no-frills units that are designed for the occasional griller. From $70 to $100, you’ll find convenient features such as a temperature gauge and easy cleaning. The sweet spot for affordable charcoal grills is between $100 and $150. In this range, you can get a number of features, reliable build quality, and a respectable warranty. If you grill once or twice a week, this is the best price range for you.

For those who grill more often, you’ll want to look at models above $200. At this level, you get luxury, durability, and features such as push-button ignition and precision temperature control.

DID YOU KNOW?

You can easily create a two-zone fire (high temperature and low temperature) on a charcoal grill by only placing charcoal on half of the grill.

Tips

  • Be sure your charcoal grill is clean and dry before starting.
  • Fully open the vents (dampers) at both the bottom and top of your grill.
  • A chimney starter is the easiest way for a beginner to light the coals. Fill the chimney about halfway with charcoal – you will learn the best fill level with experience – and place two sheets of newspaper beneath the chimney. Light the newspaper and wait for the flames to appear at the top of the chimney.
  • If you do not have a chimney starter, build a pyramid out of your coals and carefully light the pyramid in multiple locations on the bottom.
  • To keep food from sticking to your grill, allow your grill to preheat for a few minutes before adding food.
  • Oxygen is what determines the temperature of a charcoal fire. The better the airflow, the hotter and faster your coals will burn. Open your dampers to increase the temperature; close them (not fully) to decrease the temperature.
  • If you need to add more charcoal, only add charcoal that has not been pretreated with lighter fluid. Adding a product such as Match Light Charcoal to a charcoal fire is extremely dangerous.
  • Be sure to cook all meat to USDA recommended temperatures: 165°F for poultry, ham, and leftovers; 160°F for ground meat; and 145°F for fish, pork, and steak.

Affordable quality

Char-Broil’s charcoal kettle grill offers generous cooking space on a no-fall-through, rust-resistant, porcelain-coated cooking grate that stops flare-ups. Temperature is evenly distributed and controlled via a vent in the unit's hinged and latching lid. Additionally, the grill comes with a 10-year limited warranty.

Other products we considered

Grilling is a highly personal endeavor. Every chef has his or her own secret that makes the food exceptional. Often a key difference is in the equipment used. For individuals who enjoy hosting kebab parties, the affordable PartyFairyBox 32” Stainless Steel Charcoal Grill is perfect for the occasion. If you’re looking for a kettle design, the Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill can hold over a dozen burgers at once. The grill also has a built-in cleaning system and a hinged lid for convenience. If you’re interested in a higher-end grill, the Dyna-Glo Signature Series Barrel Charcoal Grill & Side Firebox is an option worth investigating. This multi-functional device works as either a charcoal grill or an offset smoker and comes with a custom-made cover.

You can create longer-lasting heat by arranging your charcoal in a circle around the inside of your grill. The secret is to leave a gap in the circle and only light the charcoal snake at one end.

FAQ

Q. What is charcoal?
A.
Charcoal is wood that has been cooked in a low-oxygen environment. Over a period of days, the water, methane, hydrogen, and tar inside the wood are slowly burned away, leaving pure carbon.

Q. What is the difference between lump charcoal and briquettes?
A.
While lump charcoal typically is easier to light and burns hotter, leaving less ash, charcoal briquettes burn longer at a lower, more even temperature. Briquettes are more affordable, but they are infused with additives, which some claim affect the final taste. If you’re looking to discover which is better, you’ll find professional grillers on either side of the debate. Experience will ultimately tell you which is best for your grilling methods.

Q. How long does charcoal stay hot?
A.
After your charcoal is ready – approximately 15 minutes for lump charcoal and 30 minutes for briquettes – it will remain at an effective cooking temperature for about one hour.

Q. I left my bag of charcoal out in the rain. Should I throw it out?
A.
No. It is possible to dry wet charcoal so that it is usable again. The best way to do this is to lay it out on a sunny day and allow it to dry naturally via the sun.

The team that worked on this review
  • Allen
    Allen
    Writer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Katherine
    Katherine
    Editor
  • Lauren
    Lauren
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
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