The Best Charcoal Grills & Smokers for The Money

Last Updated on April 13, 2021

A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.  

A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling,

passed on from his father and grandfather to him.  

charcoalgrilling

Based on our research we manage to decide on which is the best product.

We created a table that lists down benefits of each product.

Check out a thorough review based on hours of research.

There’s just something about charcoal.

While gas grills are a very convenient way to get a meal on the grill quickly, they just can’t infuse the same kind of flavors smoked into everything that touches a charcoal grill or smoker.

If you’re in the market for a charcoal smoker or grill, keep reading for an in-depth look at some of the best smokers on the market right now.

If you’re looking for a simple, reliable, all-around smoker, the Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill is hard to beat. It’s been a backyard staple for decades, and with good reason.

The Weber Kettle is made with durability and simplicity in mind. Plus, it’s versatile, and simple to use. And, with nearly 400 square inches of cooking space there’s plenty of room to grill or smoke large items.

cooking using charcoal

Charcoal grilling is more of an art than a science. There are no conveniently pre-made 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 Best Choice

Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill

best overall

TOP Reasons to BUY:

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

Our Process

Top 12 Charcoal Grills and Smokers Reviews

1. Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill

best overall

Why You'll Love it

  • Portable and easy to use
  • Easy to maintain and clean up
  • Perfect for everyday use
  • Great value for your money







What we liked

  • Large grilling surface of 363 square inches. Fits about 13 burgers.
  • Porcelain enameled lid and bowl retain heat better than just metal.
  • 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.

What we didn't like

  • 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.

The Original is everything you need in charcoal grills 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.

Read full review here.

best portable

Why You'll Love It

  • Easy to handle and put together
  • Best choice for urban grillers
  • Perfect for camping








What we liked

  • With an impressive 160 square inches, this grill can cook steaks and other dishes, including up to six hamburgers
  • Porcelain enameled shell ensure better heat retention.
  • 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.

What we didn't like

  • 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.

Tiny and immensely maneuverable.

A great choice for quick and convenient cooking comes from Weber. As the name implies, the Go-Anywhere is a grill that goes anywhere you do. It weighs less than 15 pounds and is easy for just one person to carry.

When you use the Weber hamburger press, you can perfectly form six patties that will all fit on the top grates. The grates offer 160 square inches of cooking space and can easily hold and cook both chicken and seafood as well as other foods. Though the grates use steel, they also have a special coating that keeps food from burning or sticking to the grates. That coating also makes the grate easy to clean.

Thanks to the convenient locking lid, you can use this grill in a few ways. When you lock the lid, you can keep the heat and smoke inside to keep it from escaping, which helps you grill faster. That lid also locks when you’re not using the grill to create the perfect place to store your extra supplies. The biggest downside of the Go-Anywhere is that it doesn’t have a hinge link other grills do, which means that you need to completely remove the lid to check on your food.

3. Weber Smokey Joe 14-Inch Charcoal Grill

best small grill

Why You'll Love It

  • Retains heat and is easy to clean
  • Small enough to take anywhere
  • Perfect for small spaces




What we liked

  • 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.
  • Very lightweight (under 10 lbs). Easy to pick up and move.
  • 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.

What we didn't like

  • 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.

Small, simple, and cheap as they come.

The best small charcoal grill and one that you can use on the tiniest of patios or decks is the Smokey Joe from Weber, which is just 14-inches across. Don’t assume that the small size will limit your cooking though. It has plenty of room for grilling hotdogs, pork chops or chicken breasts and can cook up to six burgers. You might even have enough space for some side dishes too.

Thanks to a handle on the top, you can easily remove the lid to check on your food or flip the burgers. You cannot use that handle when the grill is still hot though, which can make moving it difficult. It also comes with a tripod base that gives the grill some structure and keeps it from falling over or wobbling.

4. Dyna-Glo Signature Series DGSS730CBO-D Barrel Charcoal Grill

best combo grill

Why You'll Love It


  • Solid construction and heavy duty
  • Cooks quickly and evenly
  • Perfect for big cooking








What we liked

  • Construction: This is Ooni’s best gas powered model, with a full sized 16 inch interior and a fairly thick (15 mm) cordierite baking stone. The construction on this oven is impeccable, with a powerful rolled carbon steel exterior that’s powder coated for easier maintenance of appearance and a bit of scratch resistance. Cordierite is likewise the perfect material for baking pizzas on, being durable and highly heat resistant so you can boost the temperature.
  • Size: The size is relatively small as well, making it easily man portable. While not as easy to transport as the smaller Ooni we’ll cover below, it’s still light and easy to store as long as you have a bit of room; smaller car trunks might struggle to fit such an awkwardly shaped item, but otherwise most modes of transport should find it easy to move this around.The gas powered nature makes it perfect for use pretty much anywhere. Propane is easy to get and transport as well, and provides a lot of oomph for a fairly small cost. The oven heats up in under 20 minutes as well, making it easy to prepare for use and create delicious pizzas in no time flat (in under a minute once it’s fully heated).
  • Heat: In this case, the temperature goes up to 932 degrees Fahrenheit (500 degrees Celsius), the perfect temperature for quickly cooking a perfect pizza. It can also be used for other purposes as a more general use oven.

What we didn't like

  • Price: Price is a bit higher than average.                                             

5. Weber 15502001 Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill

best charcoal grill under $500

Why You'll Love It


  • Comes with a stylish design
  • Has a huge work space
  • Comes with an excellent warranty





What we liked

  • Provides you with 363 square inches of cooking space inside a 22-inch copper bowl
  • Includes a large attached table for prepping ingredients and storing supplies
  • The Touch-N-Go system makes it easy to turn on the grill and get it up to the right temperature
  • A built-in thermometer helps you monitor the cooking temp inside the grill
  • You can use the timer to make sure that you cook food for the right amount of time

What we didn't like

  • The large size can make it hard to move the grill.                              
  • You might not get as much storage space as you expected from the bottom because of the ash catcher

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

If you only have $500 to spend on a new grill and want one that will meet all your needs, make it the Performer Deluxe from Weber. It mimics the design of egg grills with a large copper bowl that sits on one end of an attached table. That bowl measures 22 inches and has space for burgers, chicken breasts and more with 363 square inches of cooking space.

The top feature of this grill is easily that attached table. It extends out from one side of the grill to give you space for prepping and has even more storage space below. Though the ash catcher does take up some of that valuable space, you’ll still have room for some of your supplies. The base of the table has both casters and wheels to move it around.

Two other nice features include the thermometer and LCD timer. While the timer lets you set a reminder to flip or remove food from the grill, the thermometer shows you the temperature inside. It also has a cleaning system that lets you clean the entire grill with just one touch of a button and a Touch-N-Go ignition system. Another model that has a set up like this is the Weber Summit Charcoal Grill.

6. Char-Griller E16620 Akorn Kamado Kooker 

best charcoal grill under $300

Why You'll Love It


  • Has a great temperature control
  • Extremely well insulated
  • Can use for long cooking






What we liked

  • Between the warming rack and cooking area, you get 447 square inches of cooking space
  • Designed to be insulated; uses less charcoal and retains more heat inside, making cooking easier and cheaper.
  • Sturdy mixed cast iron (cooking surface) and steel (outer shell) construction.
  • Price: This model comes at a great price, being about half what you’d pay for the top model.
  • 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.

What we didn't like

  • Given the weight of the grill, it should have better and stronger wheels
  • Wheels are somewhat inadequate for a grill of this weight.
  • When you use the warming rack, you'll sacrifice valuable cooking space

7. Lodge Cast Iron Sportsman’s Grill

Lodge Cast Iron

Why You'll Love It


  • Exceptional performance.
  • Cast iron construction is sturdy and built to last a lifetime.
  • Adjustable height.
  • Small and portable, easy to pack in a truck or van.
  • Great price for the quality




This cast iron grill might not be what most people think of in a portable grill, but what it lacks in lightweight portability it more than makes up for with an incredibly high performance design.

Cast iron cookware is arguably the best you can use in terms of raw ability to make good food. It’s good for baking, searing, and sautéing all sorts of things. Cast iron is also naturally nonstick when properly seasoned, which this grill comes out of the box already done for you.

That ability extends to grills made of cast iron as well, providing an excellent sear for steaks, with unmatched ability to retain heat among standard grilling materials.

This particular cast iron is especially well made. Lodge is an experienced company that’s been making cast iron products for over 100 years, and their experience shows with this grill. It’s thick and has clean lines, with an adjustable height for added convenience. The coals can be accessed by a simple flip down hatch in the front (where the logo is), and from their coals are easy to add or manipulate as needed to make a better fire.

The only real drawback is the aforementioned weight, clocking in at 27 lbs. While not ridiculously heavy, travel grills often come in at about half that weight, and for good reason. They should be easy to transport on long hikes and the like fi needed.

That makes this an excellent campground or cabin grill, and works well for tailgating too, but you should probably look elsewhere if you want a light, easy to carry, and compact travel grill.

8. Char-Griller Patio Pro Charcoal Grill

Char-Griller E1515

Why You'll Love It


  • Lightweight and easy to transport.
  • Compact, perfect for smaller patios and porches.
  • Reasonable price.
  • Good grilling space for a compact grill.




This is an interesting one. It’s designed a lot like a compact version of a larger grill. Where most manufacturers would instead change the whole design (likely to a kettle grill shape), Char-Griller instead has shrunk down the classic barrel grill design to a more manageable size.

This is perfect for smaller patios or decks, back porches, smaller covered grilling areas, and anything else of that nature where space is at a premium.

Its smallness also makes it quite good for tailgating, loading up easily in the back of a truck (or van in a pinch) and unloading just as smoothly. This grill is lightweight (not even double the weight of the Lodge cast iron grill above) and has a very steady construction, if a bit top heavy. I’d be careful about bumping this one, as it’s likely to tip over if jostled too hard.

The rest of the design is good though. Well made steel construction and a nice wooden side table that’s heat resistant and perfectly sized for preparation. The price is good, and the size (250 square inches of grilling space) provides a lot of workable space compared to similar compact grills.

It’s hard to go wrong with this option, especially given how inexpensive it is.

9. Royal Gourmet Charcoal Grill

Royal Gourmet CC1830F

Why You'll Love It


  • Great interior cooking area.
  • Small footprint makes for easy storage and use in smaller spaces.
  • Very low price, especially given the quality.
  • Well constructed of sturdy steel.
  • Nonstick porcelain grates.
  • Wide variety of quality of life features.




This is a very nice and surprisingly large budget grill. It costs less than most you’ll find, but it’s decked out with a lot of good quality of life features. It’s a full (if slightly smaller than average) grill, with two side prep tables, and a very sturdy, blocky shape that makes it difficult to tip over.

The interior is spacious, with a great 393 square inches of primary coking space, plus a 205 square inch warming rack included.

The construction is solid, with an overall steel shell and porcelain cooking grates that are nonstick and exceptionally easy to clean.

The real standout features here are the nice little quality of life touches. The grill rolls easily on its oversized wheels, but stays solidly in place when parked. The ash tray pulls out from a hatch in the front, and it makes cleaning this grill a snap compared to a lot of charcoal grills. The height of the charcoal pan can be easily adjusted for maximum control of cooking, and it’s done with a nice little level on the front that can slide through 6 different levels.

Even the chimney on this one is great, a full smokestack that makes this grill excellent as a simple smoking tool.

It’s very hard to do better than this for the price, with its only drawbacks being a lack of portability. While it’s relatively lightweight for the size and fairly compact, it’s a very awkward shape to try and hoist onto something; it would absolutely not be my first pick to take tailgating or to some kind of camping trip.

Other Products to Consider

10. Weber Smokey Mountain 22-Inch

Weber Smokey Mountain 22-Inch

For simple, authentic charcoal smoking, a vertical smoker provides lots of space in an easy to use platform.

The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker 22-Inch Charcoal Smoker is a durable smoker with enough space for a crowd.

With two nickel-plated cooking grates and over 700 square inches of space, the Smokey Mountain has enough space for a turkey or other large items. Below the cooking grates, this smoker is fitted with a large porcelain enameled water tray to help keep meats moist and tender.

A side access panel allows users to quickly add charcoal, wood chips, or water without disturbing the food. Upper and lower vents provide simple temperature control.

11. Char-Griller E22424 Table Top Charcoal Grill

If you’re tight on space or want a charcoal smoker you can take with you, check out the Char-Griller 2-2424 Table Top Charcoal Grill

This small charcoal grill still has about 250 square inches of cooking space, despite its compact size of just 18.5″ x 17″ x 16″. With a barrel shape that’s suitable for both indirect, 2-zone smoking and direct grilling, this little Char-Griller is a very versatile unit.

As the name implies, this smoker is designed to sit on a table or other suitable surface. The short legs only hold the Table Top a few inches off the ground.

The exterior of this grill is constructed of heavy duty steel with a wood covered handle and vents at either end. Inside, you’ll find a long-lasting cast iron cooking grate.

12. Char-Broil Kamander Charcoal Grill

Char-Broil Kamander Charcoal Grill

While smoked meats are undeniably good, sometimes you need a little diversity. Direct grilling takes less time and is considerably easier.

While many of the other smokers already covered are made for double duty as both a smoker and grill, one of the best options for both charcoal grilling and smoking is the Char-Broil Kamander Charcoal Grill.

With an all steel insulated double wall exterior, the Kamander is capable of maintaining steady temperatures for long periods of time. A built-in temperature gauge and a set of air vents help users find the perfect temperature.

best overall

FINAL VERDICT

Jim Bob

Jim bob

long-time contributor

If you’re looking for backyard grilling that’s cheap and good, then this weber grill hits the perfect sweet spot. Weber is a great grill for everyone from beginner charcoal grillers to masters of the char. Actually, 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.

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 and sausages doesn’t end up tasting like nothing but smoke.

Finally, although a backyard grill is not like an RV grill that’s easy to move around and sturdy, there are a lot of backyard grills that are portable which you can easily move around your home.

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.

To Pick the Right One Consider This Checklist

Understand Your Needs

Before you jump in and start shopping, take a few minutes to really try and understand what you need in a charcoal smoker.

Do you just have a small family to cook for?

Or, do plan to prepare food for a crowd regularly?

Even a small, portable smoker can work for a family. But, if you’re smoking for a crowd, you’ll need a few hundred square inches of cooking space and a smoker that’s built to handle the stress that comes with heavy use.

Know The Market

As you begin your search for a charcoal smoker, it’s also important to understand what’s out there. Charcoal smokers come in many different configurations, so it’s important to understand what you’re looking at.

One of the most popular types of charcoal smokers is the traditional kettle style grill. And one of the most iconic kettle style smokers is the Weber Kettle, though many other manufacturers make similar grills. This style is good option if you plan to do a lot of direct grilling and smoking. They’re also typically fairly compact, making them easy to store and transport.

Another common style of smoker is the offset smoker. With these smokers, the charcoal is added to separate firebox that sits adjacent to the main grilling chamber. Offset smokers make it easy to keep the heat indirect and controlled.

Vertical charcoal smokers take the offset style to the next level by turning the main cooking area into a vertical space with a series of racks. These style smokers are great for smoking lots of meat.

Some of the other charcoal smokers available are small and portable units, as well as cabinet styles.

The Size

Size is another important factor when buying a grill or smoker.

Most average size grills provide around 300 to 400 square inches of space. That’s plenty of room for a family or a few friends—even a smaller party or gathering.

But, if you’re planning to cook for a larger group, you may want to consider a smoker with at least 400 square inches of space or more. Most offset and vertical charcoal smokers provide at least this much room, making them ideal for a crowd.

Know Your Budget

Fortunately, most charcoal smokers are relatively affordable. They don’t need the same sort of complex systems that make gas or pellet grills tick, and this helps keep the price down.

Most charcoal smokers can be had for $100 to $500, with most of them being priced around $200.

In need of charcoal briquettes or lump charcoals? We have it reviewed here. However, if charcoal grill is not what you need, maybe our propane grill reviews will help you decide.

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