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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):
REASONS TO BUY
At a Glance: Our Top 6+ Picks for Best Charcoal Grill
- Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill
- Weber Charcoal Go-Anywhere Grill
- Weber 10020 Smokey Joe 14-Inch Charcoal Grill
- Dyna-Glo Signature Series DGSS730CBO-D Barrel Charcoal Grill
- Weber 15502001 Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill
- Char-Griller E16620 Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Barbecue Grill and Smoker
- 1 Our Top Picks for Best Charcoal Grill Reviews for 2019
- 1.1 1. Best Overall - Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill
- 1.2 2. Best portable grill: Weber Charcoal Go-Anywhere Grill
- 1.3 3. Best small grill: Weber 10020 Smokey Joe 14-Inch Charcoal Grill
- 1.4 4. Best grill with a smoker: Dyna-Glo Signature Series DGSS730CBO-D Barrel Charcoal Grill
- 1.5 5. Under $500: Weber 15502001 Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill
- 1.6 6. Under $300: Char-Griller E16620 Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Barbecue Grill and Smoker
- 2 By Brands
- 3 Final Verdict
- 4 What Am I Looking Out For In A Charcoal Grill?
- 5 Construction
- 6 Easy To Clean
- 7 Other Extras
Our Top Picks for Best Charcoal Grill Reviews for 2019
1. Best Overall - Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill
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.
2. Best portable grill: Weber Charcoal Go-Anywhere Grill
Tiny and immensely maneuverable.
3. Best small grill: Weber 10020 Smokey Joe 14-Inch Charcoal Grill
Small, simple, and cheap as they come.
4. Best grill with a smoker: Dyna-Glo Signature Series DGSS730CBO-D Barrel Charcoal Grill
If you need a smoker, Dyna-Glo has you covered.
Check out our complete list of charcoal smokers here.
5. Under $500: Weber 15502001 Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill
Essentially the Weber Original with all the extras; it’s the same base grill with a lot of add ons.
An interesting and unique charcoal grill.
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 (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 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.
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:
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.
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.