The Best Charcoal Grills for The Money

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Charcoal grilling is more of an art than a science. There are no conveniently premade hot spots, or even consistent set temperatures to go by, you need to wing it all the way and go by feel through most of the cooking process. This makes charcoal grilling easy to fail at, producing food that is closer in consistency to the fuel used to cook it than anything edible, but also rewarding and delicious when you get it right.

If that sounds like the kind of adventure you want to embark on, then this buying guide should be a great first step down that road.

Our Top Pick (If You Only Have A Moment):

best overall

REASONS TO BUY

  • Perfect for first time griller!
  • Great value for your money
  • Great quality with solid construction
  • Easy to clean and maintain

The Original is everything you need in a charcoal grill and nothing you don’t. While it would be nice to have an attached smoker or side tables, you can make do without both. The lack keeps the cost low, and allows the grill to focus on the basics.

It’s made of good quality materials, sturdy but still lightweight, large without being overbearing, and focuses mostly on quality of life features as its extras.

The lid hook is nice, and something more grills of this type could easily implement but choose not to. The biggest draw here is the easily removable ash catcher, which makes the chore of cleaning ash and soot out of the grill as easy as humanly possible without moving away from charcoal altogether.

Some grills have more stuff that comes with them, but none are better at just being a simple charcoal grill than the Weber Original.

Pros

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    Large grilling surface of 363 square inches. Fits about 13 burgers.
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    Porcelain enameled lid and bowl retain heat better than just metal.
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    Built in thermometer.
  • Dampers provide precision heat control, whether you need to heat things up, cool them down, or kill the embers outright.
  • Cooking grate is hinged at one end to make adding more charcoal easy. You don’t need to lift the whole grate.
  • Handle is designed to shield your hand from heat.
  • Lid hooks to the side of the grill to avoid needing to put it on the ground or a table.
  • “One touch” cleaning system allows easy removal of the ash catcher for dumping and cleaning without moving the whole grill.
  • Sturdy tripod design is easy to move but doesn’t wobble when in place.

Cons

  • Simplistic design makes a table and other storage necessary; is not an all in one grilling station.
  • Lid height is a little snug. Not ideal for cooking larger meats or smoking.
  • Light weight makes indoor storage necessary.
Technical Specifications:
  • 39.5 x 22.5 x 27 inches total space. 7.5 inch lid height.
  • 32.3 lbs in weight out of package.

  • 2. Best portable grill: Weber Charcoal Go-Anywhere Grill

    Tiny and immensely maneuverable.

    Pros

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      160 square inches of grilling space can cook up to 6 burgers at once.
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      Porcelain enameled shell ensure better heat retention.
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      Very small and portable, roughly the size of a large lunchbox and only 14.1 lbs.
    • Lid locks for easy transport, and doubles as extra storage on the go.
    • Easy to clean plated steel cooking grate.
    • Extremely affordable.

    Cons

    • Plated steel legs are made of a good material, but the construction and design is likely to wobble and may be frustrating if not properly anchored.
    • Does not come with any fold out arms or tables to make set up and use easier; all but requires another tabletop for proper use.
    • Lid locks but is not hinged, meaning it needs to be set on the ground when taken off the grill.
    Technical Specifications:
  • 12.2 x 21 x 14.5 inches total space.
  • 14.1 lbs in weight out of package.

  • 3. Best small grill: Weber 10020 Smokey Joe 14-Inch

    Small, simple, and cheap as they come.

    best small grill

    Pros

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      14 inch grilling space is perfect for meals for a small group of people. Up to five burgers, or three pork chops and a side.
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      Very lightweight (under 10 lbs). Easy to pick up and move.
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      Tripod design is sturdy and steady.
    • Single damper for temperature control.
    • Porcelain enameled shell retains heat and doesn’t chip or peel.
    • Steel grate is easy to remove and clean.
    • Very cheap, under the price of an average meal at a restaurant.
    • Handle is heat resistant for easy grilling.

    Cons

    • Ash catcher and grease tray are rudimentary and difficult to empty and clean.
    • No attached table or side handles, making it the worst of both worlds in terms of portability and utility.
    Technical Specifications:
  • 15.6 x 15.6 x 9 inches total space (lid on).
  • 9.5 lbs in weight out of package.

  • If you need a smoker, Dyna-Glo has you covered.

    best combo grill

    Pros

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      14 inch grilling space is perfect for meals for a small group of people. Up to five burgers, or three pork chops and a side.
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      Very lightweight (under 10 lbs). Easy to pick up and move.
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      Tripod design is sturdy and steady.
    • Single damper for temperature control.
    • Porcelain enameled shell retains heat and doesn’t chip or peel.
    • Steel grate is easy to remove and clean.
    • Very cheap, under the price of an average meal at a restaurant.
    • Handle is heat resistant for easy grilling.

    Cons

    • Ash catcher and grease tray are rudimentary and difficult to empty and clean.
    • No attached table or side handles, making it the worst of both worlds in terms of portability and utility.
    Technical Specifications:
  • Primary cooking area 443 square inches.
  • Secondary cooking area (offset) is 287 square inches.
  • 52 x 33.9 x 59.8 inches total space.
  • 123 lbs in weight out of package.
  • Check out our complete list of charcoal smokers here.


    Essentially the Weber Original with all the extras; it’s the same base grill with a lot of add ons.

    best charcoal grill under $500

    Pros

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      Same high quality as the Weber Original Kettle.
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      Comes with electric one touch ignition; no more fiddling with newspaper or fire starter cubes.
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      Built in removable cook timer and thermometer in the lid.
    • Ash catcher is larger but just as easy to clean as the Weber Original.
    • Lid simply slides off to the side and rests on the attached rack, making it even easier than the lid hook.
    • Spacious under area and work table for ease of use.
    • Three tool hangers to keep your cooking table/workspace clean and neat from messy utensils.

    Cons

    • Relatively high price for a charcoal grill, though still well under some kinds.
    • Large and cumbersome to move.
    • Four wheeled design makes it iffy on any lightly sloped surface, even with wheel locks.
    • Most of bottom rack is largely unusable; the ash catcher gets in the way.
    Technical Specifications:
  • 30 x 48 x 43.5 inches total space.
  • 9 lbs in weight out of package.
  • 363 square inches of grilling space.

  • An interesting and unique charcoal grill.

    best charcoal grill under $300

    Pros

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      Designed to be insulated; uses less charcoal and retains more heat inside, making cooking easier and cheaper.
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      Sturdy mixed cast iron (cooking surface) and steel (outer shell) construction.
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      Damper is numbered for ease of use.
    • Lid locks for easier storage.
    • Fold out tables are small, but serviceable.
    • Low footprint makes finding storage space a breeze. Perfect for small porches or patios, but just as easily rolls into a garage or small shed.
    • Easy dump ash pan for easy clean up.

    Cons

    • Sturdy construction makes it heavy. Worse, egg-like shape makes finding a proper handhold to move the Akorn difficult.
    • Wheels are somewhat inadequate for a grill of this weight.
    • Warming rack is poorly placed and gets in the way of full grilling area.
    Technical Specifications:
  • 26.6 x 24.8 x 21.6 inches total space.
  • 100 lbs in weight out of package.
  • 314 square inches of grilling space.
  • 133 square inches of warming rack.

  • By Brands

    Dyna-Glo

    Dyna-Glo grills tend to be fairly large by comparison to other brands, and usually have a smoker attachment or something similar to justify that size. This makes them very sturdy, long lasting grills that have a bit of versatility to them for the tradeoff of being a little more expensive than the competition. Still, the price difference is small enough for what you get that you might consider it well worth the extra money for something like a smoker, which is harder to buy separately in any case.

    Dyna-Glo products are well worth the price of admission, and few more so than the Signature Series of grills, most of which are quite affordable and come in a range of combination grill types.


    Kamado Joe

    Kamado (or Kamado Joe) is an interesting brand. They pride themselves on innovation and pushing the limits of what you can do with a grill. The construction of their grills is second to none, being highly insulated (the Akorn on this list is triple insulated) to make highly efficient grilling machines.

    Unfortunately with each new innovation comes an exponential increase in price, with some Kamado charcoal grills coming in at well over $1000, for features like multiple racks for cooking (layers deep) and better ash catchers, among other things.

    They are high quality, and you get what you pay for, but Kamado runs into a problem when they’re compared to higher end brands which boast a similar price and much larger grilling surfaces, with no drop in quality.


    Weber

    Weber is the go to brand for affordable grilling. Their construction is inexpensive without being cheap, and sturdy enough to stand up to most standard abuse. It doesn’t hurt that most of their products are warrantied up to 10 years.

    The Weber Original is essentially the baseline for every charcoal grill Weber makes. All of the upgrades are variations on the same basic design. If you want good, affordable grills that are available almost anywhere (unlike some high quality, higher priced brands) Weber is a good go to.


    Final Verdict

    best overall

    The Weber Original Kettle is the standard for charcoal grills. It hits that perfect sweet spot between being cheap and good that makes it a great grill for everyone from beginner charcoal grillers to masters of the char. Every other grill on this list is great as well, but many are either more niche (like the portable models) or have extra features and a higher price point that may not be for everyone. Sometimes simple is the way to go, and the Weber Original nails those fundamentals of grilling.

    Our best overall grill also comes in well the best under $200, making it the clear winner here. Most charcoal grills are $150 or less, with very few outliers. For the price range, this is hands down the best grill on the market. Some match it, but none come to mind that exceed it. The ash catcher’s easy cleaning alone is enough to recommend it over similarly large and sturdy grills that don’t have such a feature.


    What Am I Looking Out For In A Charcoal Grill?

    Charcoal grills, like any grill, share the same basic things you’re looking for. You want to look at how large the grill is and what it’s made of first and foremost. Other than that, anything else is extra…but you want a lot of these extras.

    First, the basic:

    Construction

    You want sturdy materials that retain heat well and can stand up to the elements. Steel is good, and aluminum is acceptable. Cast iron (whether they’re coated with porcelain or not) for the grilling bars is the metal of choice here.

    You want a good seal on the lid to keep the smoke in, but enough ventilation that your meat doesn’t end up tasting like nothing but smoke.

    Finally, you want a grill that’s sturdy but easy enough to move around if you need to.

    Other than that, for a charcoal grill everything else is a plus. They’re pretty simple that way. The main one I want to go into detail on is the big one though:

    Easy To Clean

    There are a lot of bonuses to charcoal grilling once you get the hang of it, but the one thing that will always stay a downside is the cleanup. The mixture of ash and grease that accumulates in the bottom of a charcoal grill is its main sticking point. You want to make sure you’ve got a grill that you can easily drop the ask out of and doesn’t require too much scrubbing to clean up after.

    Other Extras

    Smoker attachments, tool racks, table space, storage shelving, and other similar extras are all optional but nice to have.

    A charcoal grill is pretty simple overall; it’s a rounded chunk of metal with some legs on it for the most part. This makes them fairly cheap on average, so adding extras isn’t going to hit your wallet as much as other types of grills. You may as well look for one that will make your life easier if you can find it.