Holds a Master’s degree in Linguistics, loves traveling and learning new languages. Fluent in Spanish, is learning French and Czech at the moment. Enjoys exploring national cuisines every time he visits new countries.
Claims that grilling is the art that he has been learning all his life long and is not planning to stop. Has been grilling for as long as he can remember. Author of numerous online and offline grilling masterclasses runs his own BBQ accessories shop.
Last updated: February 20, 2021
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A capacious, multifunctional grill that will last for decades and doesn’t break the bank. Sounds like a dream? A dream that can come true if you rely on our expert reviews of the best charcoal grills under $500.
When choosing the particular models, we factored in the dimensions of our recommended grills for minimal footprint but large cooking area with sufficient space to make a sizeable amount of food in a single batch. We also reviewed the best charcoal grill under $500 based on grates and accessories like firebox for indirect heating option, warming racks for more functionality, and side tables for food preparation and storage. All the featured grills are made with the highest quality materials that will last for decades. There are different sizes depending on the space you have available, including huge patio models as well as more portable ones suitable for camping.
Weber Performer Deluxe is not only the lightest BBQ charcoal grill under $500 in our list, but it also includes twin charcoal baskets and an electronic gas-powered ignition system for a quick start at the push of a button. Users acquire 14.1 or 16.4 oz. LP cylinders separately.
It also comes with an integrated lid thermometer to monitor internal temperature and an LCD timer with sizeable readout, so you don’t have to watch the food at all times. The mounted timer is detachable.
Charcoal is stored in a secure CharBin container. Remove the inner ring to access the charcoal baskets and reposition them for direct or indirect heating.
The lid holder features a heat shield to stay cool to touch and slide the lid out of the way to the side of the unit.
This grill offers 363 square inches of primary cooking area, a 2-part grate, rust-resistant aluminum vent, and a handle manufactured from nylon reinforced with glass to make it rigid and strong.
For ease of cleaning, our Editor’s Choice has a one-touch aluminized steel system and a porcelain-enameled bowl with a lid to collect ash and slide out for disposal.
There are plenty of storage options in the form of a wire shelf underneath the grill, hooks for hanging grilling accessories, and a table on the right side made of porcelain-coated metal for a prepping space within your arm’s reach.
Owners can regulate heat by adjusting the dampers to limit oxygen flow and extinguish the coals. They can also access 3D interactive information on the BILT app for step-by-step assembly instructions.
What we liked: This is the best rated BBQ charcoal grill under $500 on Amazon and it is made by a reputable brand. Users like its sturdiness, convenient lid placement and disposal system, and the integrated timer and lid thermometer. They also appreciate the spacious side table, the wheels for improving mobility, and the ignition that eliminates messy lighter fluid.
What could be better: The plastic coal container becomes very hot.
Our Upgrade Pick is a digital charcoal grill combo under $500 that uses the hopper system present in pellet grills. The gravity-fed hopper has capacity of 16 pounds for briquettes or 10 pounds of lump charcoal to provide constant fuel for 12 to 15 hours. Use the lower door of the hopper to access the ash pan.
Masterbuilt MB20040220 comes with a digital control panel, a DigitalFan for maintaining consistent temperature, one meat probe thermometer that runs through a rubber grommet, a programmable timer, and a built-in temperature gauge. There is room to add 3 extra probes acquired separately.
You can change the settings on the control panel or operate the grill remotely since this model is compatible with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth as well as the Masterbuilt app downloadable on smartphones. The app is resourceful with several grilling recipes.
The grill provides total cooking space of 560 square inches. It comes with reversible cast iron grates that are ideal for searing and smoking and two warming racks coated with porcelain so you can easily wipe them clean.
MB20040220 Gravity Series 560 Digital Charcoal Smoker and Grill preheats fast to reach a wide temperature range of 150 to 700 degrees Fahrenheit, which is advantageous when preparing diverse dishes that cook at different temperatures. It supports smoking, baking, roasting, grilling, and even searing since it is capable of high temperature. It is convenient to use and clean, and there is a tray to capture grease.
What we liked: It is a smoker grill combo with the convenience of pellet models and the distinct barbecue flavor of charcoal grills. It offers remote operation and several methods of heat regulation.
What could be better: Compared to the price, the 1-year warranty is pretty short. Wi-Fi loses connection and there are few partially burned coals falling through the hopper’s lower grate.
This is a Premium model with a price that may deter you at first glance, but its advanced features make it worth every penny. Oklahoma Joe’s Charcoal/LP Gas/Smoker Combo provides the best smoker charcoal grill combo under $500 for large meals and multiple dishes. It features a total cooking area of 1,060 square inches consisting of 750 square inches of primary cooking surface and cooking space of 310 square inches in the offset firebox chamber.
There are two separate cooking chambers; the one on the right is for gas grilling, and the left one is the smoker. The compartments are equipped with lid-mounted temperature gauges and air dampers for smoke and heat regulation. While you can use charcoal or wood chips in the firebox and the smoker, the gas grill is fueled by 20-pound propane tanks.
Buyers also receive 3 burners that each produces 12,000 BTUs for the gas chamber, a side burner, and 6 grates made of porcelain-coated cast iron to prepare several meals simultaneously.
Other features include a storage shelf underneath the grill, a firebox access door that is useful in limiting heat loss, handles that stay cool, and a chain adjacent to the side burner to match-light the grill.
Clean the grates with soapy water and a nylon grill brush. Check the included product guide for detailed information on seasoning, assembly, and cleaning.
What we liked: It offers plenty of cooking space in 3 different compartments with air vents and integrated heat control, and reaches a high maximum temperature of 600°F to accommodate various cooking options.
What could be better: The major user concerns are the rusting propane side and some of the products arriving with dents and chipped paint.
Our pick for the most affordable bbq charcoal grill under $500 is Royal Gourmet ZH3002-S, which has outstanding features for its price range. They include a porcelain-coated cast iron grates with spacious cooking surface of 576 square inches and 3 stainless steel burners that generate 9,000 BTUs per burner. BTU refers to British Thermal Unit that denotes heating capacity.
The grill is also one of the few charcoal models that come with a warming rack to keep your food ready for consumption and a silicone firebox that can withstand high temperature of up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit.
It also available with a built-in thermometer, 2 vents on the top of the lid and one slide-away vent at the front, and a height-adjustable charcoal tray for precise heat control. The tray is adjusted by a crank handle at the front
A bottom cart for gas tank is secured with doors and the two foldable side shelves provide more storage room. Buyers also receive a bottle opener. Although the grill does not include S-hooks, it has extensions on the side tables to hang utensils.
The burners have automatic ignition knobs. Owners appreciate the double-layer stainless steel construction that speeds up cooking, and the oil cup for convenient collection of dripping grease.
This is a gas and charcoal combo grill with dual power sources. It weighs 105.8 pounds which would be tedious to move around if it was not equipped with two 6-directional wheels and two locking casters.
What we liked: We like the ample cooking surface, the high-capacity burners and the multiple ways to regulate temperature, not to mention that it is a budget-friendly BBQ charcoal grill under $500. You can also use both the gas and charcoal grills simultaneously.
What could be better: The main complaint is about the flimsy construction as some grills develop scratches and dents. The assembly instructions could be better, and the ash tray and grates could be easier to remove.
Masterbuilt MB20040919 is another decent model that features cooking space of 504 square inches with enough room for 4 rib racks, 37 sausages, 8 chickens, and 21 burgers, providing the best BBQ charcoal grill under $500.
It also comes with two adjustable side shelves where you can store ingredients, utensils or ready meals, and a storage area at the bottom of the grill with an exposed back and doors at the front.
For better heat regulation, this grill is equipped with a built-in temperature gauge and two adjustable vents. You can adjust temperature by screwing or unscrewing the chimney stack lid or by raising or lowering the charcoal grate.
In terms of maintenance, Masterbuilt MB20040919 has an ash tray that is easily pulled out with a lever located under the access panel.
The grate and charcoal tray are made of cast iron, and cold rolled steel respectively.
What we liked: It is the best BBQ charcoal grill under $500 that is moderately priced and offers plenty of options for storage and temperature regulation.
What could be better: Although the components are labeled clearly, and instructions are included in the package, assembly may take up to 5 hours because of the multiple pieces. A number of users also had to reassemble it after they forgot to remove the support bar. Some buyers received damaged items, or the exterior started peeling after a while.
PK Grills SSB-X is a winner of several grill awards by reputable review sites and barbecue clubs, and TV shows. The capsule-shaped grill nests on a stand and detaches from the base by sliding over the shelf.
It boasts of great airflow facilitated by a patented venting system with 4 points for direct and indirect heating, broad cooking temperature range of 180 to 750 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal.
Notably, this smoker charcoal grill combo under $500 is covered against rust and manufacturing defects by an attractive warranty of 20 years that inspires user confidence.
This model is made of sturdy and rustproof cast aluminum that is lighter than steel products and better at heat conduction. The exterior is porcelain-coated for rust resistance.
Despite the hefty weight of 204.6 pounds, this is a portable grill owing to the lightweight construction material and foldable design, which flattens the stand to reduce its storage size. This makes it ideal for outdoor cooking during camping, fishing or tailgating.
Storage options include a cup holder and side shelf, and the grill is available in silver, matte red or graphite color to suit your personal style.
Compared to other BBQ charcoal grills under $500 we reviewed, this unit has the least cooking space of only 300 square inches. This is convenient for portability and would serve couples and small families well but would be unsuitable for a large gathering.
What we liked: The construction is durable yet foldable for easy transport and storage, and the wide range of cooking temperature and patented vents ensure consistent heat to cook various types of food evenly. We also like the long warranty.
What could be better: It has limited cooking space and does not come with a temperature gauge. According to some users, the graphite and matte red options are prone to chipping.
Things to Consider
The market is full of several models purporting to be the best smoker charcoal grill combos under $500. We have reviewed budget-friendly grills and the most important features to keep in mind to discern between marketing hype and the reality.
Features to consider when choosing a charcoal grill under $500
The following are the key features and accessories that will help you choose the best bbq charcoal grills under $500 that will fit match your budget and needs.
Cooking area: primary and total
The cooking area is measured in square inches. It refers to the grate surface where you place the cooking food, including the primary cooking space as well as any other compartments and warming racks. For instance, Oklahoma Joe’s Charcoal/LP Gas/Smoker Combo has primary cooking area of 750 square inches and an additional 310 square inches in the offset firebox chamber. Another great bbq charcoal grill under $500 with more than one cooking area is Royal Gourmet ZH3002-S, which has primary cooking area of 576 square inches and a warming rack with space of 164 square inches.
Some models feature grates that can be removed to increase room for grilling large pieces of meat or preparing several dishes simultaneously to reduce the batches.
Choose the size depending on your how often you will be grilling and the amount of food you prepare. Large grills come with a number of burners to prepare several meals simultaneously using varied cooking methods. Some include side burners for sauces and side dishes. With a big 3-burner grill typically featuring minimum cooking area of 450 square inches, you may have to contend with a larger and heavier unit.
As mentioned above, there are brands that include a warming rack to keep the ready food hot and to cook delicate dishes like vegetables by indirect heating. If this feature is very important to you, confirm its availability as not all grills include it. It will certainly provide you with extra room.
A firebox is an offset smoker for indirect heating. It should be made of heat-resistant material that can withstand the high temperature. The silicone firebox of Royal Gourmet ZH3002-S is safe up to a maximum temperature of 600°F.
Majority of grills come with 1 or 2 grates, whereas Oklahoma Joe’s Charcoal/LP Gas/Smoker Combo notably includes six grates. The more the grates, the more cooking surface you will have. Some products have grates that can be removed or adjusted to fit more food, and others like the Masterbuilt MB20040220 features two warming racks and reversible grates made of porcelain-coated cast iron.
Some grills feature side tables that provide more room to prep ingredients, serve food, or store utensils. Look for one with foldable side tables or collapsible shelves to minimize storage space.
Extra space is also created by removable racks, hooks for hanging utensils, and cabinets with doors where you can keep a gas tank.
You can get the best smoker charcoal grill combos under $500 that are available with wheels and casters for smooth mobility when relocating them. This is a key feature to prioritize, particularly if you will be using the grill on the move during outdoor trips. The wheels lock in place to secure the unit during use or in storage.
More often than not, the size of the grill corresponds to its total cooking area. Advanced BBQ charcoal grills costing under $500 come with multiple burners, sizeable coal containers, and spacious cooking surfaces that increase their size and weight. Shelves, storage compartments, stands, and wheels also add to the dimensions. However, some models get around this by incorporating a foldable size that reduces the overall storage size.
Look up the dimensions on the Company’s website for confirmation that the grill will fit in the available space prior to purchase.
The lightest grill we reviewed is Weber Performer Deluxe, which weighs 91 pounds. However, all the models we have recommended have wheels that make them easy to move from one place to another if you won’t be installing the grill in a fixed location.
Temperature gauge: The best smoker charcoal grill combos under $500 feature built-in sensors and meat probes to monitor internal temperature. Since different kinds of food vary in their cooking temperature, this feature maintains the set temperature to avoid overcooking or undercooking. Some charcoal grills have height-adjustable charcoal trays as well as air dampers for heat control. Consider a grill that is capable of producing high heat to sear steak while locking in juice and flavor, and low heat for sauces, fruits, and vegetables. These temperature gauges are normally mounted on lids. You will also find grills with digital readout of current cooking temperature.
Ash pan: Knowing how messy grilling can be, a convenient ash management system is a necessity. All the models we have reviewed have a dedicated ash pan that easily slides out for disposal. Some of the grills have removable trays to collect dripping grease. This speeds up cleaning and prevents flare ups. You can layer the grease tray with aluminum foil to add protection.
Cool-touch handles: This is pretty self-explanatory. With handles that stay cool, you don’t have to worry about grilling your favorite meals in case you misplace your oven gloves.
Adjustable air vents/flue: They grant you more control to maintain consistent cooking temperature.
Wi-Fi remote control: This function is mostly available in mid- and high-end grills, although there are a few smoker charcoal grill combos under $500 such as Masterbuilt MB20040220 with this capability. They let you operate the grill and watch the food remotely using a smartphone app connected to the unit with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. The apps feature multiple recipes and some save your cooking profile with custom settings.
Warranty: Plenty of grills are covered by a 1-year limited warranty. No wonder PK Grills SSB-X has won several grill awards; besides a portable foldable design, reliable vents, and rustproof long-lasting materials, the capsule grill is protected by a limited warranty of 20 years!
Automatic ignition: Electronic ignition saves startup time and is not as messy as lighter fluid.
The best BBQ charcoal grills under $500 pricing range feature porcelain-coated cast iron, cast aluminum, and stainless steel to promote heat retention, durability, rust resistance, and convenient cleaning. Silicone is also popular for high heat tolerance.
The ash tray should be cleaned after every use to keep the grill tidy and to prevent rust from ash accumulating moisture. Experts recommend allowing for minimum waiting time of 48 hours to ensure that the ash has completely cooled down before removing the ash tray. The trays easily slide out to dispose the ash in a non-combustible container.
This is not advisable. If you must keep the grill outdoors, get a grill cover to protect it from dust and natural elements that cause rust and corrosion.
Weber Performer Deluxe features multiple storage options, one-touch ash cleaning system, and a timer with readout, and accessible twin charcoal baskets for greater convenience. To improve user experience, our first pick for the best bbq charcoal grill under $500 also has gas-powered ignition and supports the 3D interactive BILT app.
Masterbuilt MB20040220 takes smartphone app compatibility to the next level with remote operation functionality via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. It also provides versatile recipes on the app, a maximum cooking temperature of 700°F, and several ways to regulate heat. Grab this smoker charcoal grill combos for under $500 and enjoy the best worlds of pellet and charcoal grills without their individual drawbacks.
Our third pick is another smoker charcoal grill combos with massive cooking area of 1,060 inches in two chambers and an offset firebox. Oklahoma Joe’s Charcoal/LP Gas/Smoker Combo is equipped with 3 burners and 6 grates to match the large capacity.