A lot of the top grillmasters out there will tell you that nothing beats charcoal when it comes to an authentic BBQ taste. Some think that gas is more convenient, but this isn’t strictly true, and plenty of charcoal grills make life easy when grilling. If you’ve decided that this is the way forward for you, and are looking for the best charcoal grill, we’ve got you covered with our guide. We’re taking you through all the options of sizes and functions and finding what’s best for you.
Our reviews of the best-rated charcoal grills have taken into consideration all the vital features including the shape and size of the BBQ which is vital for fitting in your yard and can affect how the food cooks. We’ve also looked at the bowl diameter, the cooking area (how much room there is for food) and also the warranty and reliability of the products.
Top 12 Charcoal Grills Review 2020
Our team have spent weeks researching the best options whether you want a portable charcoal grill or a larger, permanent-fixture for your backyard. We’ve drawn on other reviews, first-hand experience and info from manufacturers to create our list of top products, and also to create the buying guide, which is at the end of our article and allows you to explore the most important features and inform your decision. Before this, there is a simple-to-view table summarizing the selections we’ve made, and then detailed reviews of the top models of grill on the market.
Kamado Grills have gained a strong reputation in recent years, and our editors pick is the KamadoJoe KJ23RHC Classic II Ceramic Charcoal Grill.
One of the things which makes this the best charcoal bbq grill is the highly impressive build quality. The grill should last you many years if it is treated right. This is also shown by the generous warranty given by the manufacturer. Five-years for the metal components and lifetime on all of the ceramics.
The ceramic top of this is very thick and is designed to keep all of the smoke and moisture inside, should this be what you want. Combined with the fact this grill can be used at any temperature between 225 and 750’F and you can use this for pretty much any type of grilling or smoking imaginable. You shouldn’t need to cook at any temperatures outside this range.
A great feature which helps with the cleaning up is the slide-out ashtray. This is very easy to empty after use and is something that makes life much easier if you’re grilling with charcoal.
In spite of being sturdy and hard-wearing, the lid is very easy to use. It can be opened and closed with a gentle touch, and has an air vent which allows for temperature control. This is vital for ensuring you don’t ruin your food!
The “Divide and Conquer Cooking System” helps to maximize space and means you can cook on multiple levels. This means different food can be at different levels based upon the temperature they will need to cook. The thermometer which is oversized, allows you to see the temperature inside with ease.
This grill and smoker combo has set out to tackle one of the main issues a lot of BBQ lovers have; keeping consistent heat. Not only does it help you to do this with its clever system of vents, but it is also set up to have two different zones running at two different temperatures. This means that you can have something smoking or cooking slowly in one zone while you quickly heat something in the other.
The PK Grills Outdoor Charcoal Portable Grill & Smoker Combination is also built to last with rustproof aluminum being the main component of the construction. Though it is designed to never rust, the manufacturers provide a very impressive 10-year warranty on this for peace of mind.
The grill is marketed as portable. It weighs under 50 lbs and while it is true that it is very easy to move around and designed on wheels with a clever tray system for serving, it isn’t really for people who want to put it in the car and take to the beach. This is good for wheeling around the yard or over to neighbors, but isn’t totally portable. That said, the grill area does detach from the stand, which makes it easier to take further afield.
This has 300 square inches for the cooking surface. To put that into perspective, it can easily handle a large turkey or rack of ribs.
Fairly portable, but still large enough for big cuts of meat
Two zones which let you control the heat easily
Doesn’t come with a thermometer, and a compatible, official model can be expensive
Having the option to either smoke or grill food in your charcoal grill opens up a world of cooking opportunities. That is exactly what is on offer with the Char-Griller E16620 Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Barbecue Grill and Smoker, which is a clever, compartmentalized grill with loads of control over temperature.
As well as having a thermometer to help you monitor your grilling, this has a system of dampers and also comes with a diagram to show you how to use them to get the desired level of heat, whether you want quick grilling or ‘low and slow’ BBQ style.
With the Kamado style, it is natural that this grill has been compared to products like the green egg, but this is significantly cheaper, and has many features which are great for all sorts of pitmasters.
The side shelf folds down and makes the grill more compact, and it has wheels for moving around the yard, but at nearly 100 lbs in weight it isn’t that easy to take elsewhere, such as trips to the beach.
The bottom damper is situated near the ashtray. While many users have praised this for making the cleaning up a whole lot easier, it can be a bit tricky to detach and then re-attach. Another area which can detach is the warming rack, this adds 133 square inches and gives the chance to warm bread, for instance, or keep some items warm while others cook.
The bottom part of this grill comes with a five-year warranty for parts, but the general warranty is only one year, which could be better.
This is our top-rated Weber grill, and is in the very popular kettle design that a lot of backyards around the USA opt for when choosing their charcoal grill! The features of the Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill are impressive, and the grilling surface size is fairly good, but it is also good to know that it is relatively portable as it is wheeled, with quite a low bulk. It is just over 30 lbs in weight. This means that taking your grill on trips with you is definitely an option.
One of the great things Weber have added to this grill is the ash and debris catcher underneath. It makes it so easy to empty out your grill and the cleaning is simple and straightforward.
You can tell the quality of this Weber grill when you use it. It is rust-resistant and the makers clearly have a lot of faith in its ability to last as they offer a 10-year warranty when you buy this product.
The attention-to-detail is arguably one of the best things about the Weber grill. Little things like the fact that the grill grate is hinged and lets you add fuel to your fire during the cooking process quickly and easily.
Dampers on top let you control the heat of this grill, and though the temperature range isn’t as high as some others, it is great for most grilling needs.
363 square inches of grilling space is roughly the same as 13 burgers, so there is still plenty of grilling space on this smaller, kettle-style of charcoal grill.
Generous 10-year warranty on the grill
Easily add fuel through the hinged grate
Dampers to control the temperature.
Relatively lightweight and portable
Easy cleaning system with ‘one-touch’ cleaning
Ashtray area can be tough to understand, especially for first-time use
While it’s normal and nice to be inclined towards the modern-looking products when searching for the right charcoal grill for your needs, sometimes, that old-school-designed unit may just be the best one available, with the IG Charcoal BBQ being the perfect example. Equipped with a large cooking area of 480 inches, this excellent grill is capable of cooking for a huge number of people at a time. In fact, you can easily use it to host your next BBQ party without any fuss.
Merely looking at this unit, it’s easy to see that a lot of thought has gone into its design. First of all, it comes with four casters, which allow you to roll the unit around effortlessly. However, while there are two locking wheels to keep the unit in place as soon as you are ready, the locking mechanism doesn’t seem to be ideal as the unit wobbles a bit. However, that’s only a small flaw and is probably not enough to be a deal-breaker. Besides, the built-in legs slide out easily for transportation, which aids convenience of use.
In terms of cleaning up, this unit is very easy to clean, especially when you compare it to other charcoal units. Moreover, it features a removable tray and two fold-down side trays. These allow you to conveniently keep your food, condiments, and utensils handy as you grill, without needing extra side tables. Besides, the two fold-down trays also make the unit a bit more compact, which is good for storage.
While this charcoal grill is a remarkable unit, one other failing we noticed is its lack of a lid. Since it doesn’t have a lid, you cannot smoke your meats or indirectly cook food easily. Otherwise, it’s a remarkable grill that is durable enough to stand the test of time.
Many of the top charcoal grills on the market are trying to stand out by having a unique selling point, and this option, the Char-Broil TRU-Infrared Kettleman has a really interesting way of doing this, and this means a lot of people are looking at this as an option!
The grill is unique. The infra-red grates are designed to reduce the need for fuel (charcoal) and let you do more grilling with less coal. The grate is designed to distribute the heat more evenly and therefore have a consistent heat all across the grill. You don’t have to keep adding coal to increase the heat. This has the added effect of creating a shield from flames, so food doesn’t flare-up and become burnt on the edges unless you want it to!
Besides this clever feature, it has a lot of other plus points. A 10-year warranty shows that this product is built to last. It is pretty portable, too, and has wheels for ease of movement. The only issue with the grill could be the fact that it is quite small, with not enough grilling space if you need to cook for lots of people at once.
The hinged top is very easy to use, and there are vents for temperature control, with a 360 degree inlet for airflow. Like most of the products on this list, it also has its own tray for ash.
Even heat distribution which can mean using less fuel and more even cooking
Lightweight and portable
Reliable: comes with a 10-year warranty
Not a lot of grilling space
Can lose some of the ‘flame-grilled’ taste if this is what you are looking for
If you are looking for one of the most heavy-duty grills you can buy on a budget then this could be an option well worth exploring. The Expert Grill Heavy Duty 24-Inch Charcoal Grill is not overly portable, nor does it have a huge amount of fancy features like infrared, but what this does offer is a very hard-wearing grill with plenty of grilling space. It will last many years if it is treated correctly and kept clean.
Sturdiness is probably the best selling point of this grill. If you are looking for something that doesn’t cost the earth but can sit in your garden and provide hundreds of days of grilling over its life, then this could be for you.
A generous 573 sq. in. of grilling space is plenty for even large families and the iron grilling grates are designed to give many years of use. They’re not too hard to clean, either. It has an adjustable warming rack which can be good for keeping foods warm without burning them.
One aspect a lot of people don’t think about is the chance of the wind affecting their cookout. With this grill, the chances of it toppling even in high winds are very low. In spite of that, you can also move it around as it has wheels on one side.
It isn’t the easiest grill to put together just because of the fact that it is heavy, so make sure you have some help when it comes to constructing your grill.
Extremely durable and built to last many years
Won’t topple in even heavy wind
Slide out ashtray and also a serving tray on the side
Some people are looking for simple and portable when it comes to their charcoal grill, and the Megamaster 810-0026 Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill is small and portable and has a claim to being the best charcoal grill for the money. Don’t expect to cook for hundreds on this grill, but for family camping trips and taking to the beach this can be a good option.
At just 29.3 lbs. in weight, this is one of the lighter choices. Often, light can also mean flimsy, but the Megamaster does a good job of still keeping a lot of durability. This is backed up by the truly impressive warranty which gives ten years of protection should anything go wrong with your grill. The porcelain-coated lid and base helps give a pretty sturdy feel in spite of the light and portable design.
At 22 inches in diameter, this gives the user 353 sq. In of grilling space, which is enough for small to medium groups to enjoy grilling. Something that this does offer that not many of the cheaper, smaller grills have is a built-in thermometer which can help you a lot with temperature control.
The grill has two hinged areas to allow you to add more charcoal if needed during cooking, this can save a lot of hassle! Other well-thought-out features include the oversized handles, designed for heat protection and meaning you can move the grill during use or while it is still hot (as long as you do so with caution).
Small and portable
Rust-resistant legs designed for many years of use
Affordable, offering great value for money at under $100
Oversized handles make transporting this around much easier and add to portability even more
Not very good for larger groups due to the smaller size
The Weber Jumbo Joe is the best portable grill we’ve got on our list. It is very small and though it won’t be the best option if you are looking for something to keep permanently in your backyard, if you regularly go camping or want to take a grill to the beach with you then this small grill can be a great choice.
As well as being small, it is built to last. Weber offers a 10-year warranty on most of their products and this is not an exception even though it is tiny compared to most of their other grills. It has a porcelain coated bowl which should give a very long lifespan and stand up to the beating it can take when taking the grill out and about with you.
The lid lock also acts as a holder for the lid. This has been done with portable use in mind, and means you don’t have to put the lid on the ground where it can get dirty. The lid also contains the holder which can allow you to pick it up and take this around with you with ease, at just 18 lbs it isn’t too heavy either.
There is not always a lot of control on smaller grills, but this Weber option has dampers to allow airflow control which can impact the temperature a great deal and make for far easier control so you shouldn’t accidentally burn your food. The grilling size this offers naturally isn’t as much as a lot of the other grills due to the 18-inch diameter, but it is still big enough for eight burgers.
If you are looking for the best charcoal grill smoker combo which offers a separate, offset smoker to go with the main grill, then the Giantex can be a good choice for you. Having an offset smoker means that while the main grill can cook things at a high temperature very quickly, the smoker can be slowly cooking a joint of meat or potatoes in a more traditional “low and slow” BBQ method.
The thermometer on top, combined with the smoke controlling chimney, give you a lot of control over the temperature and mean that the chances of overcooking are much reduced.
This product is made of steel, and has wooden handles which are heat resistant to allow you to move it around with ease. This is combined with a wheeled bottom for ease of movement.
The dimensions are quite interesting, as this is quite a large product but still weighs in at only 30 lbs. This means that if you need a large grill that is still quite portable, the weight and the handles mean that this is a good choice. Naturally, if you lower the weight then there is some compromise when it comes to durability and this is not quite as durable as some of the other choices from Weber or other brands. The manufacturer does not specify a warranty, and when you consider the fact that some products on this list have a full decade of warranty you will see why this can be an issue! Most of us are looking for as much protection on our purchase as possible.
The lighter weight also means that assembly is pretty straightforward and can be done by one person.
Are you looking for a grill which can go in your camping gear, take up a tiny amount of space and provide the option to grill for two or three people on a trip? Weber manufacture loads of different grills and some of them are designed purely to be small and portable. This is one of the few products you can buy which could even come out trekking with you as it is easy to put in a backpack or in the trunk of your car.
This has a very clever design. The steel feet which hold this in place on the ground (or another surface) also tuck around after use to keep the grill sealed, this also means that the grill becomes even smaller and more portable with no legs to worry about.
The handle on the top is heat resistant, so shortly after use you should be ready to grab it and go once more.
The trade-off of having such portability is the cooking size. You only get 160 square inches for grilling. This is roughly the same as eight burgers, which sounds like quite a lot, but if you’re planning to grill other items too space can run out.
Not many grills which are this small have much of an option to control temperature, but Weber have managed to give exactly this with the two separate dampers on the top.
Cleaning after use is relatively easy, and though there aren’t as many options due to the fact that it is small, this may be right up your street if you need something to take on trips.
Tiny, lightweight and portable
Dampers to control temperature
Covered by a 10-year warranty
Not much space for more than a few burgers or other foods
This is a very good product for simply putting on the deck or patio and getting ready to grill with a small family! The Char-Griller E1515 Patio Pro Charcoal Grill is around the right size to grill for four or five people and though it is not as large as some of the other products, and doesn’t have any way to separate the grill for different temperatures, it is good for simple grilling needs.
On top of this, the fact that this is such an affordable model makes it a good budget pick for someone that still needs enough space in their grill for food for a whole family.
It weighs 50 lbs, which mainly comes from the cast iron cooking grates and sturdy shell. This means it is portable in terms of moving around the garden, but probably isn’t something you would want to put in the car and take on trips with you. The wheels further assist if you want to move it around your yard.
One great feature of the Char-Griller is the fact that the fuel tray comes out and allows you to simply and easily add more charcoal. On top of this, the cleanup is made easier by an ashtray. There is also a great side air vent for controlling temperature, and a shelf which is detachable and can be used for serving once the cooking is done. For a relatively compact and nice-looking grill which can suit a family, this could be worth a look.
Easy to clean with a tray to catch the ash
Convenient shelf under the grilling area and a serving tray on the side
Great value for money
No inbuilt thermometer
No option for multiple grilling areas or a warming rack
Not a huge grilling space for use at home for large families
Even a quick scan of the products on this list will show you that there is a huge level of variation when it comes to buying a charcoal grill. Some of the products are vastly different to others. Some people are looking for the best cheap charcoal grill, others are looking for the best small charcoal grill, some people need a huge grill to suit cooking for dozens. The best chance you have of finding the right grill for you is to do a bit of research beforehand and fully understand the options on the market as well as the terminology relating to grills and all of the pros and cons of the different types. The fact that this market is so big and full of options means that you are bound to be able to find something best for you, and our buying guide is designed to help you to do just that.
Advantages of getting a great charcoal grill
If you go to any grilling and BBQ forum or website you will probably see that there is a lot of debate out there for people who are into grilling. One of the key things that gets debated time and time again is whether charcoal grills or gas grills are better.
Many people think that gas grills are more convenient. This is debatable. Gas grilling means that you will need to maintain and carry with you a gas bottle for you fuel, whereas a charcoal grill can be used with fuel that can be easily carried with you. You don’t need to lug around a huge bottle of gas with you, so portability can be one of the benefits of charcoal. Gas may be easier to control for beginners, but it comes with downsides and doesn’t have a fraction of the flavor of charcoal grills!
The smoky flavor that is created by grilling with charcoal is trademark of BBQs. If you go to a pitmaster competition, you will see the top competitors using coal, wood or a combination of both. This is because the trademark BBQ taste comes from meat (and other foods) being sealed quickly by the heat of hot coals and also the smoke and ‘char’ effect on the food. This is something that gas grills make it really hard to replicate. You may, however, find the best of both worlds in a gas and charcoal grill combo!
Features to consider when choosing a charcoal grill
The following is a list of features you should think about when you are making you choice of charcoal grill and what each of these features means. There are different types, sizes, materials and even cool extra features to think about, which we’ve explored in detail below.
Type of grill
Within the charcoal grill category there are lots of different subcategories based on the type of grill and the way they cook, as well as their shape and distinguishing features.
Kamado style grills and ceramic grills are extremely popular. These grills resemble the ‘egg’ shape that a lot of people turn to for grills. They can sometimes include smoking features and multiple cooking layers to allow you to cook more food. They’re convenient and this is the reason for their popularity. Larger Kamado grills are not very portable.
Kettle grills are hugely popular, too. This is especially true when it comes to portable options. The kettle style allows for small and compact grill surfaces. They sometimes have warming racks and similar features but don’t have multiple grilling spaces or as much control over multiple temperatures for direct and indirect cooking.
Barrel grills and smokers are more likely to be found within the home. Models like the Char-Griller E1515 Patio Pro Charcoal Grill are technically barrel grills, though this is marketed as a ‘patio’ grill. As this form of grill is not usually designed to be portable they can sometimes be designed with multiple compartments and dividers.
Bowl diameter and total cooking area
With a charcoal grill, the size is important not just based on how much room it is going to take up in your backyard, but also how much food you can prepare. Each of the products on our list has a cooking area specified by the manufacturer which is measured in square inches. This means that you can work out roughly how much food you can cook on the grill before you go ahead and make your purchase.
The total cooking area is related to the diameter of the bowl (or the dimensions of a barrel-shaped grill) but the two aren’t totally the same thing as many grills have multiple areas. For instance, some grills such as the KamadoJoe KJ23RHC Classic II have multiple levels of cooking surface, which obviously creates a far higher cooking area for you to use.
How will you be using it?
I know, you’re using it to cook food! However, there are a lot more questions you should ask yourself regarding the use of your charcoal grill before you match up which is the best model for your needs. The way the grill is used is the main thing that will determine whether the features are good for you.
For instance, consider if you need a huge amount of space for cooking for large groups. If you plan to cook for a party or get-together, then doing so on a tiny little grill isn’t going to be good enough for your needs.
Alternatively, think about whether you want to take your grill out and about on trips. For instance, if you want to take it camping, then you won’t want to buy a huge 100-pound grill which is virtually impossible to transport.
There are plenty of portable options such as the Weber Jumbo Joe Charcoal Grill, which can be easily put in your car to take to the beach or a campsite for an easy cookout under the stars.
Some products are suitable for both home use and taking out with you, but there is usually some compromise to be made here, for instance you might have to put up with having a slightly smaller home grill than you would have wished so that you can take it on trips when you want to, as well.
Materials used and durability
Durability and materials used in the construction play a big part in the sturdiness, ease of use and durability of the grill. Though we tend to think of sturdiness in terms of how many years the grill can last, it is also important to remember that the grill will be used outside. This means that it can be susceptible to blowing other or to issues stemming from poor weather such as rust.
Commonly, a lot of the Kamado grills are made out of very strong ceramic materials. The Megamaster Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill is an example of a kettle grill which is made of numerous metals but with a porcelain coating, this is also popular for providing long-term durability and stability. It is not unusual for the more portable products to be made mainly of aluminum but with porcelain-enameled surfaces to provide an extra level of protection and let you use them more long-term without fear of it breaking or rusting. Naturally, this is tied to the warranty. Often the better materials, the longer the warranty offered.
Dimensions and weight
This is one of the more self-explanatory features, if you are looking to buy a grill you need to make sure that it fits the space you have earmarked for it. This might mean the backyard, your patio or even the back of an SUV when you are going on a trip!
The weight is another thing which has a big impact on how portable a product is. Even if a grill is small, it is very hard to take it to remote places and on camping trips if it is heavy, as you will probably already have enough to carry anyway. A lighter grill is preferable for portability, but sometimes this can sacrifice some of the durability.
Ease of use
Features that can make your grill easy to use include spaces for the collection of ash and grease, which can make it far easier to clean the grill after use. Other features include hinged grills which allow you to add fuel, areas to put your BBQ tools and even things like heat-resistant handles to allow you to hold and move your grill more easily.
A grill which is tough to use and tough to clean will probably mean you use it a lot less, which defeats the purpose of buying a charcoal grill in the first place!
As many different grills try to gain their own unique selling point in a marketplace which is full of rival products, you may find many offering some other extra features to make their products stand out.
These extra features may include:
Wheels to allow you to move the grill around easily in your yard.
Multiple grates to provide extra warming and cooling spaces.
Safety-handles for carrying portable grills, also handles which are heat resistant to reduce the risk of injury.
Thermometer to let you monitor the temperature within the grill.
More luxurious additional features may include added areas such as stick burners alongside the rest of the grills.
Though the warranty is one of the simplest things to describe, as most new products come with some form of warranty. The interesting thing about the warranties when it comes to charcoal grills is that there is an absolutely huge level of variation. Some of the products on our list don’t specify a warranty, some have an incredible 10 years, such as the Weber products. Weber’s Jumbo Joe Grill is one of the products with such a generous warranty, in spite of the fact that it is quite small and lightweight.
How to get the most out of your charcoal grill
There are numerous ways to work with charcoal to ensure you get the most out of the grill. Both maintenance tips and different techniques that can be used in order to maximize the taste and texture of your food. The following tips are worth keeping in mind once you have purchased your grill:
Always ensure you can monitor the temperature. If you haven’t opted for a product with a built-in thermometer, then it is worth getting one separately. One of the best ways to monitor your cooking and ensure that you aren’t overcooking or undercooking is to monitor the temperature closely, much like you would if cooking in an oven.
Clean thoroughly after use, don’t wait until the next time you plan to use the grill as bacteria can build up and make using your grill dangerous.
Accessorize! People make all sorts of products to make grilling easier, make sure you have a good collection of accessories, both for cleaning and for cooking.
Experiment with different rubs and even adding things like liquids within the food or within the gill to create a different smoky taste.
You may think that for longer cooking you need more coals. This is not true. You need less in the way of charcoal but you may have to add some during cooking. More charcoal means more heat, so a lot of charcoal will not help you if you are looking to slow cook things on your grill.
Our highest rated product, and the best charcoal grill is the KamadoJoe KJ23RHC Classic II, which has a rating of 9.8/10. Some of the elements of this grill have a lifetime warranty, and it is certainly an exceptionally well-made product. On top of this, it has multiple levels of grilling and is suitable for both grilling and smoking.
At 9.6/10, the PK Grills Outdoor Charcoal Portable Grill & Smoker Combination is another great option. It has two different grill segments to allow you to cook at different heats, and it is easy to keep the heat level consistent with both of these grills. A 10-year warranty makes this a great long-term option.
The hefty Char-Griller E16620 Akorn Kamado Kooker gets a rating of 9.5. It is a hefty product and certainly isn’t portable, but it is very durable and can be used to smoke, with a huge range of temperatures.