There’s nothing more irresistible than a charcoal-grilled barbecue. The delightful aroma is enough to tempt you to try whatever is on offer without a second thought.
In the world of culinary arts, charcoal grills represent the original barbecue. Indeed, many enthusiasts insist on grilling their food solely with charcoal.
While the difficulty level is certainly high, modern charcoal grills have incorporated new technologies such as auto-ignition systems and in-built temperature gauges and vents to make grilling easier.
So, how do you know which charcoal grill is the best for you?
After hours of research, we’ve broken down the top picks for backyard charcoal grills, as well as what you should look for when buying one.
Don’t Have Much Time? Check Out Our Top Pick!
The Weber Performer Deluxe made it to the top of our list because of its superior performance, excellent design, and ease of use. It delivers all the taste and none of the fuss, making it our pick.
- Cooking area of 363 square inch
- 22-inch diameter porcelain-enameled bowl
- Electronic Touch-N-Go gas ignition system
- Aluminum-steel One-Touch cleaning system with ash catcher
- Built-in lid thermometer
- Removable LCD cook timer
- Tuck-Away lid holder
Charcoal Grilling Tips for Beginners
Buyers’ Guide - How to Pick the Right Charcoal Grill for Your Needs
Charcoal grills may not be the ideal choice for beginning grill masters, as operating them can be quite challenging. However, picking the right charcoal grill could also help you dramatically improve your pitmaster skills.
Various factors reign supreme when picking a great charcoal grill. Not paying attention to these factors could spell doom to your culinary aspirations. The most important factors to consider are:
Build, Design, and Durability
The materials that make up the grill matter because they determine how long your grill will serve you. Charcoal grills need to be heavy-duty to withstand the intense heat generated internally. Materials like heavy-gauge steel, cast iron, cast aluminum, and heavy ceramic can stand up well to the heat and heavy-duty nature of charcoal grilling.
Stainless steel grates, chrome-plated steel, nickel-plated steel, and porcelain-enameled steel are also an excellent choice for mid-priced units. Avoid any units that feature plastic components as these will just melt in the heat.
Size and Cooking Area
Are you someone who regularly grills for large groups, or do you only occasionally grill for yourself? Before you purchase a charcoal grill, make sure you’re clear on the size (and cooking area) you’ll need.
Purchasing too large of a grill will result in the use of more charcoal than is needed. This is an unnecessary expense. A large unit, because of its size, also presents limitations for storage.
Conversely, going too small may lead to other inconveniences. It might take you a long time to cook for a moderately sized group.
There’s no point in buying an appliance that you can’t use. When choosing the ideal charcoal grill, consider how comfortable the grill is to use, and whether it has accessories that make the process of grilling more manageable for you.
Look for air vents that open quickly, mechanisms that allow you to hand your lid to the side of the grill, grill racks and work surfaces, storage, and racks for your sauces, accessories, and utensils.
Also, check for glass-reinforced handles and heat deflectors that keep most of the heat generated away from the lid and handle. Caster wheels are also important, as they provide mobility and maneuverability.
Ease of Maintenance
Buying a grill comes with responsibilities. These appliances are often life-long investments and need to be cared for to expand their lifespans. It’s vital to buy a unit that has removable, easily accessible parts that can be taken apart and cleaned. Look for removable ash pans, wood chip pans, charcoal pans, and water pans that are dishwasher-safe and coated to prevent rust build-up.
Accessories and Add-ons
Charcoal grills are the most basic and authentic grilling experience, but in the modern world, they come with various accessories and extra features that make cooking easier.
When buying your grill, look for charcoal drawers, in-built dampers, built-in vents, fold-away work surfaces, grilling tool racks, grill covers, pizza stones, temperature probe holes, and removable ash catchers.
These are just some of the add-ons that may add value to your grill, making it fun and easy to use.
Grills aren’t cheap. Even the more affordable models start at the $200 mark. Therefore shopping for one with favorable warranty terms makes sense.
Most grills offer a 5-10 year warranty on metal parts. Kamado grills come with a lifetime warranty on ceramic components. Whatever model or brand you choose, make sure the warranty terms make sense and are commensurate with the overall value of the grill.
Top Charcoal Grill Reviews
Weber needs no introduction in the world of grilling. They are known for their superior charcoal grills, including this Weber 15502001 Performer Deluxe Grill, our Editor’s Choice.
This grill has a unique Touch-N-Go gas ignition system, which makes the process of starting it up a whole lot easier and quicker. It ignites charcoal briquettes with the push of a button, eliminating the need for charcoal chimneys and paper starters.
Start-up is the trickiest element of charcoal grilling. This model makes it incredibly easy.
Also, a handy LCD countdown cook timer attaches to the charcoal grill to keep an eye on cook times and eliminate any undercooking or overcooking issues. A built-in lid thermometer also displays internal temperatures, making heat adjustments easy.
The grill has heavy-duty cooking grates to control grilling along with a classic (and durable) porcelain-enameled bowl and lid for increased heat retention. This charcoal grill is also safer to use, as it comes with a heat deflector to keep heat away from the glass-reinforced handle. There is also a convenient lid placement attachment.
Revel in the extra workspace and the handy storage hooks for all your barbecue accessories. The patented One-Touch Cleaning system and rust-proof aluminum ash catcher also make cleaning up a breeze.
Storage options are plentiful. The CharBin storage container protects your charcoal from the elements, and a wire bottom shelf is handy for container or accessory storage.
All-in-all, the Weber Performance Deluxe is the Rolls Royce of charcoal grills. For convenience, it is also compatible with LPG gas cylinders. You’re bound to produce flavorful, smoky foods with minimal fuss using this beauty.
- Gas-lighting system makes this grill more convenient to use
- Sturdy and durable construction with weather-resistant and rust-proof components
- Fuel efficient
- Attractive and functional design
- There is no lid on the fuel bin
- Large and heavy so not suitable if mobility is a factor
For most barbecue enthusiasts, the Weber Original Kettle is the poster boy for all charcoal grills.
It is compact, easy to assemble, easy to use, and easy to maintain. This grill features a hinged cooking grate for the simple addition of charcoal while grilling. The adjustable dampers make it quick and convenient to control the temperature without lifting the lid, and the 22-inch circular and durable grate make it easy to arrange coals into hot and cold areas to enable dual-zone cooking.
The built-in heat deflector prevents your lid from getting too hot, and the glass-reinforced handle allows you to hold onto the top without suffering burns. For further added safety, an angled lid hook enables you to conveniently hang your lid onto the grill’s side, avoiding the need for (unhygienic) placement on the ground.
Post-grilling, the patented One-Touch cleaning system—with its high-capacity, removable, aluminum ash catcher—makes this grill easy to clean. As for mobility, the durable wheels make it easy to maneuver around your backyard or porch.
- Easy to use and maintain
- Rust-resistant components increase longevity
- Base wheels for easy maneuverability
- Affordably priced for its excellent construction
- Fully manual operation: This charcoal grill may not be easy for beginners to use
- Legs are not particularly sturdy, especially on uneven ground
For the price, the Expert Grill 24-inch charcoal grill is solidly built for longevity. In fact, it is completely ideal for heavy-duty, high-temperature charcoal grilling.
The metal used in the construction of this model is very solid and built into a neat design. Although the finished grill is quite heavy, it has well-designed wheels, which make it maneuverable even in rough, patchy ground.
Twenty-four inches of grill space with heavy-duty cast iron grill grates give plenty of space to grill steaks, burgers, or hot dogs. And this unit has a warming rack to keep toasted buns or cooked entrées warm as you prepare subsequent dishes.
The charcoal tray can be raised or lowered at will using a simple knob. There is a removable tray to dump any charcoal or ash that has accumulated. Also, a fold-down shelf provides extra prep space and convenience.
A built-in thermometer, at the top of the grill box, comes in handy to regulate temperatures. Overall, this heavy-duty grill is extremely usable, maneuverable, and durable. An excellent purchase!
- Easy to assemble and use
- Great, durable design with hardy, long-lasting components
- Warmer rack to keep cooked foods hot
- Removable tray for easy cleanup of charcoal and ash
- Lacks ventilation: the vents consist of plastic material, which isn’t durable
- Not rust-resistant
The Dyna-Glo Charcoal Offset smoker consists of heavy-gauge porcelain-enameled steel construction and gives you the advantage of a charcoal grill and wood-fired smoker in one! This steel is also powder-coated to prevent corrosion due to the elements.
It works using an electronic pulse ignition system that ensures quick and reliable ignition. This model boasts an incredible 784 square inches of smoking area, capable of smoking up to 100 lbs. of food per cook cycle. All of this, despite only weighing 57 lbs. Also, you can pack in various types of foods into the smoker by using the six height-adjustable cooking grates.
This charcoal grill/smoker has a heat-retaining dual door design that efficiently traps all the heat generated within the smoker while allowing for the addition of wood chips while cooking. The in-built charcoal chamber also keeps briquettes tightly stacked for increased burn efficiency.
Overall, this model is well-built and perfect for large barbecue productions. Although there is hardly any automation in the cooking, the temperature controls, including the Dyna-Glo Smoke Zone indicator, make preparing foods much more manageable.
- Great value: 2-in-1 charcoal grill with smoker
- Huge cooking area, suitable for large barbecue productions
- Heavy-duty, powder-coated construction for durability and longevity
- Affordably priced
- Some users have complained that it struggles to reach desired temperatures of more than 220F
- Users have complained of an unresponsive customer service
Infrared cooking is the “new kid on the block” in the world of charcoal grilling. The Char-Broil TRU-infrared Kettleman best embodies this style of barbecue.
This grill comes with a 22.5-inch diameter porcelain-coated cooking grate, which keeps food on top of the fuel, preventing any flare-ups. During operation, the hinged lid with mounted temperature gauge makes it easy to grill without fear of the cover crashing down, and it is a cinch to check temperatures inside the grill. The vent on the lid also makes temperature control effortless by opening to let the heat out and closing to increase cooking temperatures.
This grill has a patented infrared system that facilitates evenly cooked barbecues with precise temperature control. Hot and cold spots on the grill disappear almost completely, resulting in faster cooking and more efficient fuel consumption.
A removable ash bowl allows for simple post-grilling cleanup, and the two wheels offer easy maneuverability on the porch or in the backyard. A chrome-plated wire bottom shelf provides added stability and convenience.
- Sturdy cooking grate controls and eliminates flare-ups
- Perfect for dual-zone cooking
- Protective lip around the edge of the grate keeps food secure
- Comes with a generous warranty
- No handy extras like a warming rack or in-built table
- Leaks in harsh weather conditions
Are you a grill-on-the-go enthusiast? Do you prefer charcoal grilling to any other type of grilling? Weber has the perfect solution to get you started!
The small Weber Go-Anywhere Charcoal grill, coming in at only 15 lbs., makes it easy to grill food during those camping or tailgating adventures. This seemingly small grill can hold up to six burgers on its cooking surface in one cook cycle. Not bad for a small unit.
With its porcelain-enameled lid and base, it retains most of the heat during cooking, and it dampers for temperature control. You’re bound to yield juicy and tender entrees with this beauty. What’s more, as these components are porcelain-enameled, they won’t peel or rust for the lifetime of the grill.
The lid locks—with the Tuck-N-Carry Lid Lock system— latch securely for safe transport and storage. Also, this grill is durable and hardy due to its triple-nickel-coated stainless steel cooking grates and legs.
- Incredibly light-weight and portable
- Perfect for camping, tailgating, and small productions
- Affordably priced
- Sturdy, durable cooking grate
- Porcelain-enameled lid and base are rust-resistant (with high heat retention)
- Not suitable for large barbecue productions
- The lack of a heat reflector can make the handle unbearably hot to the touch
If you’re looking for a versatile charcoal grill that can enable you to do anything—searing, grilling, baking, or cooking pizza—the Kamado Joe Classic II Ceramic Grill should be on your bucket list.
This 18-inch robust ceramic grill with a cast-iron cart, mold-proof inner chamber, and lock-on wheels retains heat and cooks barbecue low and slow. It has a 2-tier “divide-and-conquer” system that allows you to cook various foods with differing ready times in one cooking chamber. Grill veggies, fish, poultry, and meats in one single cook cycle, conveniently placing them in different sections of the multi-level half-moon cook chamber.
A top vent gives you consistent and precise airflow management and temperature control, especially as you open or close the dome lid, allowing you to grill and smoke over an impressive temperature range from 225F to 750F. This grill also features a fiberglass gasket that provides an airtight seal during cooking.
Maneuverability isn’t challenging, thanks to the lock-on caster wheels that attach to the steel frame. Also, this grill has additional versatility: a built-in thermometer, folding side-shelves, a grill gripper, an ash tool, a removable ashtray, and a stainless-steel cooking tray.
Operating this grill is easy, effortless, and convenient.
It comes in an attractive red color with a six-part patented design. This reduces the possibility of cracking or breaking during transit.
Aside from Kamado Joe, there is also other great Kamado Brands. Click Here
- Highly versatile: perfect for barbecue, grilling, baking, or braising
- Durable and long-lasting
- Attractive and eye-catching design
- Comes with a free assembly service from Amazon
- Can possibly break or crack on transit due to the ceramic construction
- Quite expensive
Masterbuilt has a reputation for building some excellent, affordable smokers, and the Masterbuilt Charcoal Bullet smoker is no exception.
This wood and charcoal-powered smoker is basic but sturdy and does the job, producing flavorful foods cooked to perfection. It has two porcelain-enameled smoking racks to enable you to divide various foods inside the smoke chamber while smoking them in the same cook cycle.
The front-access door makes adding charcoal effortless, and the in-built thermometer helps to provide accurate temperature readings inside the smoke chamber as the food cooks.
As the food is smoking, the porcelain-coated charcoal pan and water bowl keep it flavorful and moist. The compact size also keeps operations manageable. And with carry-on handles and sturdy legs, this smoker is easy to move about on your porch or in your backyard.
- Excellent 2-for-1 charcoal grill and smoker
- In-built water pan keeps foods tender and juicy
- Affordably priced
- Incredibly well-built and durable for the price
- Assembly can be difficult
- No viewing window to keep up with the progress of the smoke
Based on the core elements of reliable construction, high performance, fuel efficiency, and usability, the Weber 15502001 Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill comes out on top. This powerhouse of a grill has solid, rust-proof, weather-resistant construction. It is also affordable, and it perfectly combines fuel efficiency with ease of use.
Remember, charcoal is expensive, so going for a grill that conserves this fuel is always a good idea. This grill also has a removable ash pan that makes post-grilling clean up manageable.
So, do you agree with our choice? Are there any other charcoal grills you think we could have featured? Get in touch with us and let us know. And happy grilling!