“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well.” – Virginia Wolf.
This is a mantra that my family lives by. But my interest in food is not limited to eating a hearty meal. I also enjoy cooking and experimenting with my food. I have learnt over the years that to really nail a dish, one requires the right equipment alongside a great recipe.
One such appliance that I swear by is a charcoal grill and the unique smoky flavor it adds to my meats.
Buying a charcoal grill though is not as simple though. There is a considerable investment to be made and there are a fair number of technicalities you should be aware of. The options out there in the market are almost unending with each claiming their product to be the best.
You are looking at spending tens if not hundreds of hours on choosing the right grill for your household.
The good news is that we have it covered. We have done an extensive research on this category so that you can buy the best charcoal grill for your needs without spending much time on research.
At a Glance: Our Recommendations for the Best Charcoal Grills in America
- Weber Performer Deluxe 22 – Best Overall
- Weber Original Kettle Premium 22 – Best Value
- PK Grills PK360 – Best Portable
- Weber Smokey Joe 14 – Best Budget
- Kamado Joe Classic II – Best Kamado
- Lodge Cast Iron Sportsman's Grill – Best Hibachi
- Buying Guide
- Best Charcoal grills in 2019 – Our recommendations
- Weber Performer Deluxe 22″ – Best Overall
- Weber Original Kettle Premium 22″ – Best Value for Money
- PK Grills PK360 – Best Portable
- Weber Smokey Joe 14″ – Best Budget
- Char-Griller 1515 Patio Pro – Another decent budget pick
- Kamado Joe Classic II – Best Kamado Style
- Lodge Cast Iron Sportsman’s Grill – Best Hibachi Grill
- Some Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Words
What is a charcoal grill? And how does it work?
As the name suggests, a charcoal grill cooks your food in the radiant heat of burning charcoal. And there are no direct flames as you may see in gas grills.
This grill, at its most basic, consists of a metal/ceramic container and a metal grate. The container holds the burning charcoal and your meats and vegetables go on the grate.
There is typically a lid that retains the heat of burning charcoal and a chamber that collects all the ash that is produced.
What you will love about charcoal grills?
1. Smoky flavor
Barbecue fans love charcoal grills for the unique smoky flavor they add to your meats. The smokiness is unique to charcoal and cannot be mimicked completely in any other way. Yes, the gas grills can use lava rocks or flavorizer bars, but they still cannot match the flavor that even a cheap charcoal grill can produce.
To be fair, you may not find much difference if all you are cooking are some hot dogs and burgers. But if you are going ‘slow-roasting the ribs and the pork way’, the difference will be noticeable.
2. Minimal complexity & high durability
There is nothing fancy or complex about charcoal grills and this makes them easy to handle. You won’t need any experts to assemble them and their maintenance is even simpler.
Cleaning is typically straightforward, and you only have to wipe the grates and take the ash out periodically. With basic maintenance, your one-time investment should last you years if not decades.
Charcoal grills are pocket-friendly and won’t burn a hole in your wallet. The prices are reasonable as the inherent design is fairly simple.
A basic bucket style grill will start at $25. If you are looking for a portable grill, you can get several good options within the $100-200 range. Compare this to gas grills which start at $100 and can run in several thousands.
Charcoal grills are light-weight and are much more portable than gas or electric grills. You don’t have to worry about electric or gas connections and can simply carry the fuel alongside your grill. This makes them perfect for those camping or tailgate parties.
Most models come with wheels or carts so moving them is easy. However, portability also depends upon the size and bigger grills won’t be as portable.
Another thing charcoal grills are excellent at is searing food. This good searing can be attributed to the fact that charcoal grills can reach a temperature as high as 900 F. For comparison, most gas grills can go only as high as 500 F.
What you won’t like much?
For all the convenience that a charcoal grill provides, there are a few things that may put you off. Let’s take a quick look.
1. Time they take
You will need to be patient when you are operating a charcoal grill. They don’t have a knob that can turn them on or off immediately. Coal will take a minimum of 15-20 minutes of burning before the grill can get to your desired temperature range and you can start cooking. These grills will also take a lot of time to cool down completely (this can hamper portability).
2. Steep Learning Curve
We have become used to appliances that don’t need constant attention. Whether you are cooking on a gas stove or an oven, you put in your food, set your desired temperature and time and that’s mostly it.
This is not the case with charcoal grills. In fact, they can and will test your patience. They take time to start but even once you get to desired temperatures, you need to keep a constant watch on the temperatures. Everything, from the type of fuel to the arrangement of aforesaid fuel to the oxygen flow and outside weather can impact your grill’s temperature and you need to adjust these parts constantly throughout your cook.
This means a reasonably steep learning curve for the beginners.
Charcoal grills can be dangerous if you are not cautious. Unpleasant incidents like coal tumbling out or sparks flying around are not uncommon. To make matters worse, you may sometimes get those dreaded flare-ups.
We recommend that you should wear heat-resistant gloves while operating these grills. And ideally have a squirt gun or a fire extinguisher near-by just in case.
Types of Charcoal Grills
There are various types of charcoal grills in the market that you can choose from. They differ in their design and the quantity of food that you can cook on them.
1. Kettle Grills
A lot of people swear by kettle grills as they just work and are still reasonably priced.
The design is straightforward. There is a lower chamber where you put the charcoal in. This bowl is shaped like a kettle, giving the grill its name. The unique shape also helps in distributing the heat evenly. Food is placed on the grates and the lid on top can be closed to retain the heat and smoke inside the cooking chamber itself. Finally, the vents help with managing the overall oxygen flow.
Kettle grills are a good choice if you are a beginner or don’t want to invest too much. Most models in the market are priced below $200 and you can get a decent one under $60. Remember, that you won’t be able to entertain large audiences with these grills as their cooking areas are typically smaller and geared towards small families.
2. Barrel Grills
Go for a barrel grill if you primarily want to slow-cook and smoke your meats. As the name indicates, these grills resemble a barrell, cut in half. The two halves are hinged together and the upper half acts as a lid.
There are vents in both the halves to allow air circulation and temperature control. A chimney is also provided to give the smoke a passage to pass through.
Barrel grills are typically more expensive than kettle grills. They are priced anywhere from $100-$400 and can go as high as $1000.
3. Ceramic or Kamado Grills
Ceramic grills are based on what was originally a Japanese design and are amongst the most efficient charcoal grills when it comes to temperature control and heat distribution.
Similar to barrel grills, Kamado grills too use vents at top and bottom to control the air flow. They are typically larger in size and can be kept outside in your backyard or patio. They are however amongst the most expensive charcoal grills and can set you back by anywhere from $300 to $5000.
4. Hibachi Grills
Hibachi grills are exceptionally simple in their design and only consist of two parts – a box to hold the charcoal and a grill to hold your food. That’s it.
Their claim to fame is their portability and price. They start at as low as $15 and can be easily carried to parks for your family picnics.
Hibachi grills work best with thinner cuts of meats and vegetables. You will find that these grills don’t do a good job at smoking or cooking large cuts of meat.
Also note that there is no lid. So the only way to control the heat is by changing the amount of coal you use or by changing the distance between the charcoal and the food.
These are good grills for one-off picnics and small gatherings.
If you are confused which one you should go for, here is our pecking order:
- Kamado grills are the best all-round option in our opinion. Go for them if you can afford same.
- Kettle grills are quintessential charcoal grills. Go for them if you want something cheap and don’t care about smoking your meats that much.
- Barrel grills offer great smoking options at even greater prices. Check them out if you see yourself smoking large cuts of meats.
- Hibachi grills are perfect for those one-off picnics where you just want something functional
14 Aspects to keep in mind while purchasing a charcoal grill
Following pointers can help you in making a good decision when you are purchasing a charcoal grill.
1. Do you need a built-in smoker?
What do you want to do with your grill? Do you want to make only hot dogs or do you want to get more sophisticated and bake pizzas and smoke large cuts of meats?
A kettle grill is good enough if you are looking for an affordable basic grilling option. But if you want to go a step further and want to smoke your meats, a kettle grill will not suffice. Go for a barrel or a ceramic grill if smoking meats is what you are buying your grill for.
2. Do you need indirect grilling?
Large chunks of meats like pork loins won’t cook properly under the direct heat. The outer surface will be seared quickly while the insides will still be raw. In fact, for most meats other than chicken breasts, you will need a grill that has two separate heating zones.
One zone that contains the burning charcoal directly underneath it, and the other one that gets heated through the radiant heat. The lid should be snug enough to prevent the heat from escaping.
This gives you options – you can place foods that need direct grilling in first zone while all thicker cuts go to the second zone.
3. Temperature Control
When you are using an oven, do you cook all your food items at the exact same temperature? No, right. The same principle applies to BBQ grills as well.
Now charcoal grills don’t have those knobs that can be turned to get to the desired temperature. Instead, you need to keep an eye out for a bunch of things:
- Ensure that you have a tight-fitting lid
- Ensure that there are at least two vents and dampers fit tightly
- You should ideally be able to change the height of cooking grates, hence changing the distance between burning coal and your food.
- Look at temperature leakage and how much weather or winds will impact heat retention of your grill
From this perspective, a kamado is the best bet. Its thick walls and tight fitting lids are matchless when it comes to retaining heat and vents give you reasonably control over air-flow which then determines the max temperatures the grill can get to.
4. Ease of cleaning
I know many of you would love to serve scrumptious grilled food to your family. But remember that post serving that scrumptious food, someone must clean up the mess left behind.
Charcoal grills create a lot of ash and same must be removed periodically for your grill to continue operating at its best. How easy it is to remove this ash is an important aspect that you must keep in mind before you purchase.
Some grills come with removable ashtrays. Others have ash pans on the side of the grill. Both are ok. But avoid those models where you have to take off the grates to clear out the ash as it will make the post BBQ cleaning a bit tedious, especially as you have to wait for your grill to cool down.
5. Ability to add coal without removing the cooking grate
Most beginner grills will give you a cooking time of about 60 minutes with one load of coal. This is not enough if you want to slow-cook your food or if you are hosting several guests, and you will have to add charcoal multiple times.
Now if you can’t add this charcoal without removing the red-hot cooking grate, it’s both inconvenient and dangerous. Keep this in mind.
Look for those grills that either have an inbuilt fuel doors or hinged grates to provide an easy access to charcoal chamber.
6. Safety Aspects
Well, this goes without saying. You don’t want to expose yourself and your family to an unattended fire. To avoid any mishaps, look for these safety features before you buy a grill.
- Stable legs to avoid any unintentional movement. Grill shouldn’t tip over easily especially if you have kids or pets at home.
- The handles should be at a considerable distance from the hood so that the handle doesn’t become too hot. Even better is to go for a heat-resistant handle.
- Make sure there are no sharp edges. And the wheels, if any, must be lockable.
7. Grill’s Footprint
Do you need a small grill that can be stored indoors, or do you need a large cooker that can adorn your patio? Do you want your grill to stay put in one place or do you want to carry it to your camping trips?
Think about the place where you are going to put your grill. Imagine the floor space that will be required just for your grill. Don’t forget that your grill will need 2 feet of empty space on all sides.
This is the max available footprint that your grill has to fit.
Also, if you are looking for a portable grill, be sure that you are able to fit it in trunk of your car or are otherwise able to get an attachment to help carry it to different places.
8. Cooking Area
Asking yourself a few questions may help in deciding the right size of your grill:
- Do you intend to cook only for your family, or do you want to host BBQ parties with large gatherings?
- Would you like to grill more than one type of food at a time?
- Do you plan to limit your BBQing to burgers and hotdogs or do you see yourself smoking some ribs and roasts too?
Answering above questions should help you visualize the cooking area you need for your grill. The standard measurement of this cooking area is in square inches and as a rule of thumb, you will need about 80-100 square inches per person.
9. Durability and Build Quality
We all want value for our hard-earned money. In theory, charcoal grills should last you a decade or more and shouldn’t break down very often. But like anything else in life, this depends upon the brand and the quality of your grill.
Focus on build material of the grill and the grates. Go in for heavy and durable – I like ceramic or 16-18 gauge steel but Aluminum is ok too.
Look at the wall thickness. Thicker the walls, better they will retain the heat and lesser chances of them cracking under high temperatures.
10. Cooking Grate Material
Pay attention to the material the cooking grates are made of.
Grates are usually made of either porcelain-coated cast iron or stainless steel. Cast iron is non-stick and will leave good sear marks with proper seasoning. It is prone to rusting but you can prevent that by oiling the grates after each cooking session.
Stainless steel is more expensive as compared to cast iron and you will find it difficult to get sear marks on stainless steel grates. You might also find them turning black after a few grilling sessions but the good news that these grates don’t rust and cleaning them just needs a good scrub with a hard brush.
There are more options out there like chrome and porcelain-coated grates.
Chrome-plated grates look great, but I don’t like them because of their inherent maintenance issues. Porcelain-coated grates do not rust and are the easiest from a cleaning perspective. They are also my preference but they are typically only available in high-end models.
My recommendation – go for porcelain followed by either the cast iron or the stainless steel. Also, don’t forget about the thickness of cooking grates. 1/4″ is good, 3/8″ is better.
11. Can you move it around easily?
Your grill should be easy to move around. And we are not talking only about carrying your grills for those outdoor BBQ parties.
What if you place your grill in your backyard, you are in a middle of a long smoking session and it starts pouring? It helps if your grill has sturdy wheels or if comes in a movable cart.
Having said that, not all grills can be moved around as some of them are extremely heavy. Choose your grill location carefully if you are interesting in such models.
12. Value for Money
The price matters and a lot of us may not be willing to shell out a lot on a BBQ grill. Fortunately, you can buy a good basic charcoal grill for as low as $100 to $300.
If you are ready to pay more, you can of course get a much more sophisticated model. Good kamado grills start around $700 and some of them are known to go as high as $5000.
If affordability is a concern, we recommend that you look at kettle grills. They perform well and don’t cost much. Barrel grills too are a reasonable choice if you are on budget but want something that can smoke those meats.
13. Warranty & Support
Your grill will inevitably need service at some point in time. When that moment comes, you don’t want to run helter-skelter searching for service options. Look for brands that offer a reasonable after-sales service network. Additionally, it should be easy to get after market parts even years down the line.
A good way to ensure this is to look at the warranty the manufacturer offers. The best of them will offer a lifetime warranty on the grill and about 5-year warranty on the components. Avoid those who don’t offer any warranty or offer a warranty of less than a year.
Here is a list of accessories that will enhance your grilling experience. Keep them in mind when you are deciding your budget
- Gloves – Your grill is going to be terribly hot when in action. It is easy to get carried away with guests around and you can burn your hands if you are not careful enough. The best way to avoid such hazards is to wear heat resistant gloves.
- Tongs – You are going to play with burning coal and hot pieces of meat. You may want to use tongs to flip your food or move coal. As they say, better safe than sorry.
- Chimney Starter – Getting your fire started can be time-consuming if you don’t use the right tools. A chimney starter is a small investment and should make your life much easier.
- Grill Covers & Charcoal Bags – Keep an eye out for grill covers and charcoal bags. While not necessary, they will prove to be super convenient in long run.
Some manufacturers will provide these accessories alongside your grill purchase. Keep an eye out for same when you are comparing prices across models.
Best Charcoal grills in 2019 – Our recommendations
Beautiful summer nights call for backyard barbecues and a feast of grilled food. To enjoy this pretty picture, you need a durable grill which will suit all your needs.
But there are so many charcoal grills in the market that it may become confusing to choose one. Well, worry not as we have narrowed down these choices to a few:
- Best Overall – Weber Performer Deluxe 22″
- Best Value for Money – Weber Original Kettle Premium 22″
- Best Portable Charcoal Grill – PK Grills PK360
- Best Budget Grill – Weber Smokey Joe 14″
- Another Great Budget Pick – Char-Griller 1515 Patio Pro
- Best Kamado Style – Kamado Joe Classic
- Best Hibachi Grill – Lodge Cast Iron Sportsman’s Grill L410
Let’s look at each of these recommendations in detail.
Weber Performer Deluxe 22″ – Best Overall
Weber is amongst the most preferred BBQ brands across the globe. Their high-quality products are both affordable and durable. And their strong customer support takes care of most post-purchase problems. If you can’t tell already, I am a big fan.
Anyway, we found Weber Performer Deluxe 22″ to be the best value for money when it comes to charcoal grills. The price is tag is slightly higher but the features and the build quality more than make up for it.
The grill has a reasonably sturdy construction. It weighs 99 pounds and is meant for outdoor use. It comes with a porcelain-coated steel lid and a fire bowl. This coating prevents the grill from rusting or charring even with prolonged usage.
The lid also has a heat-resistant handle so that you don’t burn your hands while working on a hot grill. Further, a tuck-away lid holder holds the lid when you open your grill.
It comes mounted on a powder coated, stainless steel cart, almost giving it the look of a workbench. The cart gives you some extra space to work on your presentation too. There is a painted metal wire rack where you can place your spices and other accessories. As you can see, it solves that problem of finding a place to keep these important cooking essentials.
This grill comes with Weber’s Gourmet BBQ System cooking grate. It is made of plated steel and is a two-part grate. Because of the hinged construction, you can remove the center section and add a wok or a griddle instead. You can also use poultry roaster, sear grate and pizza stone for more versatile cooking. Finally, you get a warming rack that can be inserted or removed without any hassles.
These hinged grates also help you to easily add charcoal during your cookouts. There is a charcoal storage bin under the grill giving you easy access to fuel. You also get two charcoal baskets that can be arranged to get direct and indirect heating.
The grill comes with a large cooking area of 363 square inches. To visualize it, this much cooking space should be enough to cook 13 burgers at a time.
This grill is not portable in the strictest sense but has two wheels to move it around your kitchen. It also has two swivel locking casters so that it stays put in one place. A built-in thermometer gives you a reading of the temperature using which you can adjust the heat for perfect grilling. Additionally, rust-resistant aluminum vents give you the desired heat levels.
A key distinguishing feature of this grill is its touch-n-go ignition system. Normally, starting a grill can be a pain and takes a lot of time. Weber Performer Deluxe 22” allows you to ignite your charcoal within a few seconds. The ignition system works on liquid propane cylinders and an electronic lighter. This is super convenient and takes away one of the major crib points about charcoal grills.
Cleaning this grill is pretty simple and a removable ash catcher helps. This grill also boasts of a one-touch cleaning system so that you can clear any residue simply by rotating a lever. Finally, since the body is porcelain-coated, a good wipe with a towel is all you will need to clean it.
Overall, it is a great grill and you will certainly not regret buying it. A 10-year warranty takes care of any accidental damages.
- Sturdy and Strong
- Easy to light
- Simple to clean
- Large cooking surface
- Good warranty
- Not Portable
- Slightly Expensive
- Timer goes only upto 99 minutes
Our next pick is also from the Weber grills family. Experts love this model for its strong and solid build. Beginners will like it for its ease of use and value for money price.
It is a versatile grill and you can set up two different zones to cook in both direct and indirect heat. Whether you want to slow-roast meats or make burgers, this grill adds great flavors to all kind of foods. It also works great with other accessories to sear and smoke your meats.
The cooking surface has a diameter of 22 inches and gives you 363 square inches of cooking space. This area is enough to cook for a family of 3-4 members. The lid and bowl are porcelain-enameled ensuring that it stays away from rust and char.
The lid has glass-reinforced nylon handles and a heat shield so you won’t burn your hands while cooking. The lid fits tightly ensuring good a heat retention. Angled hooks are provided to hang the lid if you ever need to take it off and is a nice safety touch.
The vents are made of aluminum and are rust-resistant. These dampers help you with greater control on temperature. A long handle is provided to control the lower vents so that you don’t have to struggle accessing it. This vent doesn’t get hot and can be operated with bare hands.
A thermometer is built into the lid so that you can keep a watch over the temperature. However, as is the case with most grills, this thermometer is not accurate, and you must use a digital thermometer for precise readings.
The legs are sturdy and built of rust-resistant aluminum. Two legs have all-weather wheels making it easier to move the grill. However, the wheels have plastic tires which are not the best quality.
A key feature this grill has is a hinged cooking grate. You can enjoy uninterrupted cooking and won’t have to remove your food to replenish the fuel. A one-touch cleaning system with a handle is provided at the bottom so that you can collect ash in a heat-resistant bowl. The grill comes with a 10-year warranty on the lid, bowl and grate.
If you are matching the grill color with your interiors, it comes in four colors – Crimson, black, green and copper. Finally, the price is super attractive, like for all it offers, it comes at a great value for money price. Go for it if you want something good that’s still won’t set you back by a lot.
- Durable and easy to use
- Hinged grates
- 2-zone cooking
- Heat resistant handle
- One touch ash collection system
- 10-year warranty
- Plastic Tires
3 Sister models you may like
Original Kettle 22 – The price is slightly lower when compared to the premium 22″. There is no ash catcher. The cooking grate is not hinged, and replenishing coal can be a bit troublesome. It doesn’t come with any in-built thermometer but that’s not much of a deal-breaker anyway.
Master-Touch Charcoal Grill 22 – This grill has an additional 80 inches warming rack which increases your total cooking area to 443 square inches. You can create both direct and indirect heat zones by using the charcoal boxes that come along. You can also change height of grates to gain slightly more control on temperature. This grill is slightly more expensive when compared to Kettle Premium 22″ but these extra features are well worth it.
Original Kettle Premium 26 – It has a greater cooking surface area of 508 square inches and people who have owned 22” find it to be quite large in comparison. The cost however is almost double when compared to the Original Kettle Premium 22″
PK Grills PK360 – Best Portable
This grill from PK Grills stands out for its smart rectangular shape. Due to this design choice, you get adequate cooking area while the overall size of the grill is still small.
To be more specific, PK360 offers an overall cooking area of 360 square inches making it ideal for mid sized gatherings. This is also enough space for you to create two separate zones for direct and indirect grilling.
This model weighs about 90 pounds and is known for its portability. It is easy to assemble and won’t take more than an hour even if you are a beginner.
The body is made of thick cast aluminum which does an excellent job at retaining heat. Thanks to same, your food will get cooked quickly while conserving the amount of coal consumed. The cooking chamber is well insulated and reduces the risk of accidental burns.
The food grill and the charcoal grate are made of marine grade stainless steel which will never rust. The grates are hinged together and these hinges help in adding charcoal as and when needed.
The grill is placed on a removable pedestal that can be easily detached with a quick-release knob if you ever want to take it outdoors.
It also has two side shelves where you can place your food and spices while cooking. These shelves are detachable and can be hanged on the side. They are made of a high-end, engineered glass-fiber reinforced polyester material called Durabilium, which is highly heat resistant.
Four vents are provided to give you greater control over temperature. Two of these vents are on the top and the other two are at the bottom. These bottom vents have metal plates on top to prevent charcoal from falling inside. The lid has an in-built TelTru thermometer which is better than most other grill thermometers. Having said that, we recommend that you get a separate thermometer if you are serious about grilling.
Several ceramic grills take a long time to cool and thus become prone to cracking. PK cools down relatively faster as the lid can be completely taken off. This also makes cleaning that much easier.
The grilling chamber is mounted on a metal base and can be detached if you want to take your grill out for camping. The same metal base has two wheels attached on the bottom for easy portability. There are hooks attached to the bottom of the grill where you can hang your tools, towels or an ash bucket.
PK stands out in ash disposal as well. Ash gets collected inside the cooking chamber which means no ash will be flying around.
The price may be a concern for some of us and it is not as cheap as those Weber grills we reviewed earlier. But think of it as a good long term investment. The grill is backed by a 10-year warranty.
Go for it if you want something high-quality and portable that will last you ages.
- Easy to assemble
- 2-zone cooking
- 10 year warranty
- High quality construction
If you are worried about the high price of PK360, look at PK Grills Charcoal Grill Smoker Combo. This is the older design that has stood the test of time and was the original grill PK was known for.
Weber Smokey Joe 14″ – Best Budget
If you are looking for a small, portable and affordable charcoal grill, Weber Smokey Joe is a great option. As is the case with other Weber products, this grill too has a good build quality and is quite durable. A 10-year warranty further safeguards you from any future wear and tear. The unit is easy to assemble and even a beginner can assemble it within a couple of minutes.
It has a small cooking area of 147 square inches on which you can prepare 6 burgers at a time. It weighs around 10 pounds making it a great choice for outdoor barbecue parties. Due to its compact size and light weight, you can easily carry it along for your camping or fishing trips.
But despite its small size, there is no major compromise as such. The lid and bowl are coated with porcelain enamel due to which they won’t rust easily and do a good job of retaining heat. The lid has a glass handle which stays cool even when grill is in operation.
4 aluminum vents are provided to control the air flow and temperature. However, a lot of users find it difficult to control the air flow. The bottom vents are difficult to manage as you can’t see them. Also, since it is right at the bottom, these vents can get clogged with food or ash that falls down.
The cooking grate which is 14.5” in size is triple nickel-coated. The grill doesn’t come with any other bells and whistles but has an aluminum ash catcher at the bottom.
A major flaw with the grill is the absence of handles on the sides. Without these handles, it becomes quite difficult to move a hot grill. You will have to instead wait for the grill to completely cool down before you can drive off home after those cookouts. The legs are made of aluminum and are not very sturdy.
This grill comes at a great price and is easily our recommendation for a budget charcoal grill.
- Just Works
- Great Price
- No Side Handles
Char-Griller 1515 Patio Pro – Another decent budget pick
This affordable grill from Char-Griller has a barrel shape which looks slightly old-fashioned. It just weighs around 47 pounds and its small size along with wheels makes it a good portable option. To think of it, you can easily fit this grill in the trunk of your car and go camping or tailgating. When at home, this grill can be just as easily used in your patio or backyard.
It has a cooking area of 250 square inches on which you can place about 10 burgers at a time. The barrel design makes it good for indirect cooking too.
It comes mounted upon a cart with a wooden shelf on the side which can be used to place your cooking tools. A metal shelf is also provided under the unit to accommodate your grilling accessories.
A charcoal tray holds your extra coal which is a convenient touch as you won’t have to bend down and pull extra coal from time to time. Side hooks are provided to hang your utensils.
This grill reaches a high temperature even with a small quantity of coal due to its small size. Another aspect where Char-Griller 1515 Patio Pro scores high points is in even heat distribution. Your meats will get crispy on the outside while retaining all the juices inside.
Further, due to a heavy double steel bottom, this grill does a good job of holding the heat inside. Side vents take care of airflow and provide greater control over the temperature.
The handle is made of wood which is a good protection against those accidental burns as it stays cool at all times. The cooking grates, on the other hand, are made of cast iron which is known for its heat retention ability. These grates will also leave good sear marks on your meats. Note that cast iron grates need constant seasoning to prevent rust build-up.
An ash pan collects all the waste for easy waste disposal. For all these features, it is extremely well priced. However, note that there is no thermometer, warming rack or any form of instant startup system.
Assembly will take time as instructions are not very clear. The side shelf is small in size and you may still need a table to place your cooking essentials. Some users also complained about the plastic wheels not fitting well into the axles which is a reflection on the workmanship in a way.
Go for it if you want something cheap that still works well.
- Stay Cool Handle
- No Warming Rack, thermometer or instant ignition
- Unclear Assembly Instructions
Kamado Joe Classic II – Best Kamado Style
This mighty ceramic grill can be spotted from a distance owing to its bright crimson color. Kamado Joe is known for their innovative features in Kamado circles and this grill is no different.
Joe classic is known for its unique “Divide and Conquer” system. It has a multi-level grate and heat deflection system that helps you get different temperatures. This combination is effective enough that you can use this grill for grilling, roasting, smoking and baking!
Like most other ceramic cookers, this egg-shaped grill is quite heavy and weighs 188 pounds. Though you will be surprised at how easy it is to lift the lid despite its heavy weight. The reason is an air lift hinge that reduces the effective weight of the lid by about 96%.
You can opt for a cart to mount this grill on. The cart is made of cast iron and has four casters for easy rolling.
This model has a cooking surface area of 254 square inches. Nevertheless, you can get a total of 660 square inches of cooking space if you utilize all the extra grates and expander. The seal between the lid and the bowl is tight and a plush wire mesh along with a fiberglass gasket ensures that no air can enter the grill when the lid is closed.
The thermometer provided on the lid is reasonably accurate though we think that you are better off getting a separate digital thermometer. The grill comes with two foldable shelves with tool hooks. These hooks and the front handle are made of high density, marine grade polyethylene.
The firebox in most ceramic grills develops cracks over time. This is due to constant expansion and contraction that firebox has to undergo. Kamado Joe has solved for this by using a multi-panel firebox.
This kamado is simple to clean because of its easy ash removal system. There is a drawer that can be pulled out from the vent for easy ash disposal. Vents come with rain-caps which is a good design choice for those wet days.
One of the best parts about this grill is its lifetime warranty on the material and the workmanship. There is a 5-year warranty on metal and cast iron parts though. And thermometer and the gaskets come with a 1-year warranty.
So, is Komado Joe Classic for you?
This grill offers several unique and beneficial features, but it comes at what may seem like a steep price. Keep about a grand aside if you are interested in this grill. If you are interested in kamados, check what other Kamado grills we recommend.
- Excellent Build Quality
- Air Lift Hinge
- Divide & Conquer System
- Excellent & Innovative Accessories
- Exceptional Performance
Lodge Cast Iron Sportsman’s Grill – Best Hibachi Grill
This grill features in our list because of its durable cast iron body and ease of use. And it should last you a long time with proper maintenance. It comes pre-seasoned and can be used right after you unpack it.
This grill is small in size with an overall cooking surface of about 153 square inches. This size is enough for 2-3 people. Given the size, this grill is relatively heavy at 33 pounds, probably down to its solid construction. Though you should still be able to easily carry it outdoors to enjoy a starry camping night.
The cast iron body helps in an even heat distribution so that your food can be cooked to perfection.
While cooking your food, you may sometimes want to shuffle the coals so that they burn evenly. When the grill is hot, it can be difficult to do so as lifting the grate to reach the coals is troublesome and poses a danger.
This hibachi grill provides a smart solution with a lower door which can be opened to reach the coal chamber. So you can adjust the fuel without lifting the grates. This grill is an economical buy and won’t set you back by much.
A word of caution though: Since it is made of cast iron, there are greater chances of rust building up on the body. However, you can avoid this by seasoning the grill after you are done with your cooking. Regular oiling will not only keep the rust at bay but will also prevent your food from sticking on the grates. Also, do not use soap while cleaning the grill as it will wipe off the seasoning from the grates.
- Solid & Durable
- Value for Money
- Slightly Heavy
- Smoking isn't great
- Small Cooking Area
Some Frequently Asked Questions
How to control the temperature of your charcoal grill?
Coal is highly inflammable and famously unpredictable, but it is still possible to control the temperature of your grill. Here are the four ways in which you can do this.
- Using vents – Oxygen is required for any burning process and you can control its supply by opening and closing the vents in a grill. Open the vents wide and you can get a hotter fire for searing your meats. You can shut the vents partially if you want a cooler fire for slow-cooking or overnight roasting.
- Using grates – Your food will cook faster if it is placed closer to the fire and vice-versa. You can change this distance by moving the grates up and down. To slow-cook your chicken, raise the grates and lower them if you want to sear your steaks.
- Creating multiple heat zones – You can achieve this by layering the coals. Divide your grill into three different zones of equal width. In the first zone, make layers of coal to get a hot temperature. In the second zone, make only one layer for moderate temperature and leave the third zone as it is for a cooler temperature.
- Making a heat shield – You can block some heat by adding an aluminum foil under your food. Fold it thrice and put it on top of your grill if your food is burning from excess heat.
How to light a charcoal grill?
Lighting a charcoal grill can be challenging as it has to be done manually. Before you begin, clean out any ash from the previous grilling session as it absorbs moisture and can make lighting difficult. The next step is to open all the vents fully so that maximum amount of oxygen can flow inside to aid the lighting process.
A Chimney Starter is, by far, the easiest way to light your grill. Alternatively, use some paper and light same with a matchstick or a lighter. A lot of people use lighter fluid to light to get their grills started. We strongly suggest that you avoid them as it may add a foul chemical smell to your food.
How to maintain your charcoal grill?
To make your grill last long, you will have to clean it periodically so that carbon, ash or rust don’t get built up. Here is how you can clean the different parts of your grill.
- Grates – it is a good habit to clean your grates before and after each grilling session. Before you start cooking, heat your grates for about 10 minutes. Once they are hot, scrub out any residue using a grill brush. The idea is to remove only the food leftovers and not tamper with the black protective layer.
- Lids – Sometimes, grease and smoke can collect in the lid giving an appearance of paint coming off. You can remove this non-toxic layer by using a stainless-steel brush. To avoid this in future, you can clean the lid with a paper towel or a soap solution after you are done with cooking.
- Bowl – Any leftover ash will absorb moisture and form cement-like debris inside the bowl. To avoid this, clear out all the ash after your cooking is done.
- Ash catcher – this is as simple as it gets as you only have to take it out and empty it post every cooking session.
- Finally, when the grill has fully cooled down, wipe the outsides with a mild detergent soap to remove any dirt or grease.
Which charcoal to use?
You may find people using coal and charcoal interchangeably. Please note that when it comes to grilling, we always mean charcoal. Coal is expensive, non-renewable and poisonous. You must never use coal to cook your food in the direct flame.
Charcoal is wood that has been cleared of any impurities by burning in the absence of oxygen. It is available in two forms for grilling – briquettes and lump charcoal. Let’s take a look at them in brief.
- Charcoal briquettes – These are evenly shaped pieces of pulverized charcoal. They are cheap and burn evenly. Briquettes are not chemical-free though and most are laced with additives like starch, sawdust, sugar which act as binders.
- Lump wood charcoal – It is pure carbon and burns clean without producing much ash. Lump wood is free of any artificial substances and burns quickly. It will char your food and leave a delicious smoky flavor to your meats. However, since it is not even in size, stacking and getting your fire started can be a bit tricky.
And finally, should you get a gas grill instead?
A charcoal grill is the way to go if the foodie inside you is craving for that traditional smoky flavor in your food. It is also good for high-heat searing and charring your meats. You will also get many portable options if you want to enjoy a cookout with your friends on your picnics. It is also cheaper when compared to a gas grill but that’s where its advantages end.
A gas grill is great if you want to cook when you are short on time (erm that’s like all weekdays). It heats up quickly and will not require your constant attention. It is easy to clean as you don’t have to worry about ash or rust.
Hope this guide helps you decide on the right grill for yourself. However, if there are any more questions in your mind, feel free to ask. We will do our best to help you out.
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