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: January 25, 2021
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While gas grills have gained more popularity in the last decade due to their portability, convenience, and ease-of-use, they still can’t quite measure up to the best portable charcoal grill in terms of grilling performance and raw food quality. In truth, nothing beats the classic, smoky flavor of charcoal-grilled-produced meat, and we perfectly understand why many BBQ enthusiasts are often reluctant to switch to the newer and more convenient gas grill. Of course, charcoal grills are most often used in the backyard, but you might like to take it on the road sometimes, which is usually where portable charcoal grills come into the equation.
With adequate care and maintenance, a charcoal grill can last for many years. Since they usually have no electrical components, you only need a flame and charcoal and you’re good to go. Due to these, they are ideal for different types of settings, including camping, tailgating, and more. But despite the fact that charcoal grills have been existing for decades, buying them can still be fairly testing, except you’re extremely experienced. In order to identify the ideal model for your needs, you must consider some important factors like cooking area, materials used, weight and dimensions of the grill.
If you’re in the market for a great portable charcoal grill and you don’t know how to go about it, you’re not alone. We understand that there’re many people like you in this dilemma, and that is why we have designed this guide to help untangle everything that might seem complicated to you. With our comparison table, the in-depth reviews of our ten recommendations, our buying guide, and our answers to the most common questions asked by buyers, we trust that this guide will be able to serve the purpose for which it was written – enlighten buyers and help them choose the right portable charcoal grill.
If you’re looking for a portable charcoal grill that offers almost the performance of bigger ones while coming at only a fraction of the price, look no further. With its 250 square-inch cooking area, you can easily invite five to seven friends or family members for a BBQ party at once. The product comes with a silicon handle which won’t cause damage over the painting of the grill or burnt hands so that you can have a wonderful and safe party without needing to worry about anything.
Apart from not having to worry about safety, you also don’t need to worry about cleaning since this unit has a porcelain-enameled and heat-resistant grate and a dust-proof surface. Coupled with its compact size, this product is also completely foldable, which means you can effortlessly put it in the trunk of your car and take it wherever you like. Moving on, the grill is outfitted with seven vents for both dust discharge and ventilation, which helps it add better taste to your food.
The product can serve you for many years with proper care and maintenance, but keep an eye on the legs especially since the material it is made from is not that sturdy. Also, the assembly instructions are rather difficult to understand at first. Once you get a hang of it though, you will realize it’s actually simpler than it seems.
With a primary cooking area that measures 580 square inches plus a 270-square inch warming rack, the total 850 square inches delivered by this unit is enough to handle any kind of party or get-together. In fact, the grill can be used as both a cooker and a defroster at the same time, thanks to the incredibly large total cooking surface. Moving on, the unit also comes with cast iron grates in four lift-able sections for easy access to the coals, thereby providing the user with optimum comfort. And considering the product has a powder-coated finish on it, users have no reason to bother whatsoever.
Furthermore, this product is equipped with an adjustable charcoal grate and an easy-dump ash pan. The grill’s cart is also made using tubular steel, whilst its body is built with heavy-duty steel, making it an incredibly durable unit. Besides its durability, it is also portable – it features large eight-inch wheels, which is why it is extremely easy to transport. The unit also includes other useful features like condiment basket, wooden side shelf with utensil hooks, a large base wire shelf, and a temperature gauge.
The grill’s construction is designed to keep smoke and heat inside, thereby giving the food an excellent smoke flavor. There are air vents on the side of the grill to allow for easy temperature control. Generally, this is a great product with only a few drawbacks. In fact, the most prominent complaint is the difficult-to-understand instructions.
If the Weber 10020 Smokey Joe Portable Grill doesn’t impress you, we doubt any charcoal grill will ever get you impressed. It features everything you might want to see in a charcoal grill while being affordable at that. For optimum rust resistance, the grill has a porcelain-enameled coating, a bottom and top air vent, a triple nickel-plated grate, and a glass reinforced nylon handle. While it’s not the biggest model you’ll find out there, it can easily make food for two to three individuals, fitting three steaks or six burgers at a time.
However, it takes a little learning to be able to cook with this unit. In fact, the temperature controls may take you a few times to master perfectly. Generally, every meal made is delicious, and since there is a ten-year warranty on the unit, you can rest easy knowing you’re covered. The only few downsides we noticed is the lack of a locking mechanism and the fact that the grill has no handles. Consequently, transportation may be a bit difficult.
The Weber 10020 is also very portable and super light, which may somewhat make up for the lack of handles and a locking mechanism. Also, considering the very affordable price of this model, we think it delivers a lot of value for the investment. If you’re on a budget and looking for a portable charcoal grill for your on-the-road cooking, you might want to check this one out.
What we liked:
Portable and lightweight
Delivers a lot of value for money
Easy to get the coals burning
Great temperature control
Long ten-year warranty
What could be better:
Takes some learning to use
No handles and doesn’t feature a locking mechanism for the lid
Weber is an incredibly reputable grill company, and having released a lot of high-quality grills in the past, it is only impressive rather than surprising that their Weber 15507001 Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill performs amazingly well. For a portable charcoal grill, the 363-square-inch cooking area on this one is super remarkable. It’s large enough to accommodate all of your home cooking needs and help you grill conveniently for every member of your family.
The unit comes with an inbuilt lid thermometer which shows the grill’s internal temperature to allow you to know when to regulate the heat. Besides that, the unit also features a one-touch cleaning system which offers easy cleanup by swiping debris and charcoal ash into a detachable ash catcher. And in case you’re wondering if a charcoal grill will be as simple to use as a gas grill, the electronic ignition system helps you to ignite the charcoal effortlessly, which should tell you something about the ease of use of this product. It even has a mounted timer so that you will be able to set timers for grilling sessions and preheat.
When it comes to controls, keeping an eye on the temperature of this grill is super easy as well – you only need to adjust the dampers as completely closing the them will stop the flow of oxygen to help douse coals. The charcoal container incorporated offers convenient storage for your charcoal, allowing you to easily take it whenever you need it. The only con users could find is the seemingly low-quality material which corrodes quickly and makes it unsuitable for uncovered outdoor storag
Lightweight and portable, the Char-Griller Table Top Grill is another high-quality product on our list and the fact that it’s priced so low despite its many features is an incredible act of generosity of Char-Griller. Just like most Char-Griller’s products, this one too can be utilized for different grilling purposes, which include long-haul smoking, lower temperature, and fast barbecue grilling. Despite being a portable grill, it has a 250-square-inch cooking space, which is perfect for small areas such as balconies or patios, or for camping and picnicking.
Going further, this portable grill from Char-Grill is produced using durable, heavy-duty steel, which allows it to serve you well even under severe weather conditions. Apart from that, the grill also comes with a detachable ash catcher that makes it easy to clean. The design also allows for simple access to every area. Moreover, the cast iron grate enables even temperature all across the cooking area and won’t tarnish even when exposed to a lot of heat.
However, the grates are too close to coals, which may affect the durability of the grate in the long run. Besides, the grill only measures 16 inches in height, and that may be inconvenient, especially if you’re a fairly tall person. But it comes completely assembled, which makes it perfect for tailgating or trips. It’s smaller construction makes it more suitable for people with limited space, and its fuel economy prevents too much smoke production as well.
Like Weber and Char-Griller, Megamaster is also one of the leading manufacturers of charcoal grills in the world, and with high-performing products like the Megamaster 810-0026 Kettle Premium charcoal grill, they don’t seem to be ready to relinquish their spot at the top of the game. Easy to assemble and even easier to use and maintain, the Megamaster 810-0026 is engineered to improve any get-together or gathering. Apart from being easy to use and maintain, this unit delivers a level of performance that makes it comparable with models in the higher end.
For maximum heat protection, easy cleaning, and optimum heat retention, this unit is outfitted with silicone handles, detachable ash catcher, and a porcelain-enameled lid and bowl. Its 379 square inch-cooking area is actually one of the largest for portable charcoal grills, and the fairly wide cooking surface means this unit can easily handle most of your get-togethers, meetings, and small parties. It also has an incorporated temperature gauge, which apart from being easy to read, offers precise temperature control.
With all the excellent features it boasts, this charcoal grill has been perfectly designed to help you achieve flawlessly cooked foods. However, there is not enough distance between the brick grate and the cooking grate, which might cause too much heat and subsequently cause your food to burn if not controlled properly. Apart from that though, there aren’t many issues you will encounter on this grill.
What we liked:
Easy to assemble
Easy to use and maintain
Excellent heat retention
Fairly large cooking area
Functional temperature gauge
Great temperature control
What could be better:
Insufficient distance between the cooking grate and the brick grate
Engineered for both lengthy smoking and easy grilling, the Char-Griller E06614 Akorn Jr. Kamado Kooker Charcoal Grill makes it incredibly easy to cook any food. For maximum temperature control, the grill offers a temperature range between 200 and 700 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, the design is fuel-efficient, which allows for less fuel consumption. By and large, this is a great charcoal grill that you just can’t go wrong with.
On both sides of the Char-Griller E06614 Akorn Jr are adjustable dampers to guarantee even air circulation, thereby allowing for extraordinary temperature control. But despite being quite portable at 25 x 14 inches, this charcoal grill from Char-Griller isn’t really lightweight, weighing in at almost 40 pounds. Considering the fairly heavy weight of this grill, it might not really be the perfect model for campers and tailgaters who are looking for something transportable for their trips. To make up for the heavy weight though, the manufacturers incorporated carrying handles on this one, which allows you to carry it easily.
This grill is also produced using durable and high-quality materials, which allows it to stand strong against a severe level of heat. It is, however, worth mentioning that this unit requires assembly which is super easy. Anyone with the most basic skills can assemble it – all you need is a screwdriver and some patience.
Of course, the Beau Jardin Portable Charcoal Grill isn’t the most compact grill around, but the wheels it comes with help simplify its transportation. Compact, portable, durable, and functional, this unit from Beau Jardin is simply exceptional. Measuring 18 x 28 inches and featuring a lid, this charcoal grill offers adequate space for grilling. Apart from that, the unit also has perfect heat control and retention since it is produced using rust-resistant aluminum that allows for easy control of heat without lifting the lid necessarily as you cook.
Furthermore, this grill is made with heavy-duty material, which means it lasts longer and is capable of withstanding the charcoal’s severe heat. With the round porcelain-enamel bowl, the grill is able to retain the heat within, and it easily flows to the meal being cooked. The lid it comes with is easy to lift, which enables you to easily remove the remaining charcoal for proper cleaning. Therefore, it is also effortless to clean after usage.
However, while this charcoal grill has a fairly large grilling space, it might be too small if you are hosting a party. It is a compact unit, so it is absolutely understandable and you might need to look at other models if a larger grill is what you need. Apart from the small grilling area, this model is almost flawless.
What we liked:
Made of durable and high-quality materials
Retains heat excellently
Great temperature control
Easy to clean
What could be better:
Not that compact, needs to be reassembled before transportation
With small and non-reputable companies like BonNoces producing high-quality grills all the time, maybe it’s high time BBQ enthusiasts started paying attention to less popular companies. Portable, lightweight, foldable, compact, and easy to use, the BonNoces Portable Foldable Charcoal Grill is the ideal grilling option for the on-the-road BBQ enthusiasts. It also comes with a handy carry bag, so there is no doubt that this model is the ultimate portable charcoal grill.
It is produced using high-quality food-grade stainless steel, which makes it durable, reusable, safe, rust- and wear-resistant. This is the kind of grill you use for many years without encountering any design or construction problems. Also, this grill has outstanding wind resistance, which allows it to deliver high-efficiency heat collection. The grill is also engineered with several vents so that charcoal can fully burn and heat can be distributed evenly across the grill. And you don’t need to worry about encountering any clean-up difficulty since the unit comes with a detachable, mess-free ash catcher.
However, despite the many upsides it has, this unit isn’t without some flaws. First of all, the distance between the top mesh and coal is too much, which means the heat transferred to your food might be low and the cooking may be slow. Also, there’s no cover to increase the temperature produced.
While the Sougem Portable Charcoal Grill comes with great features just like the other models reviewed earlier, it isn’t as popular because it’s a new release. The fact that it’s a new model spoils nothing though, and we’re confident this grill will rapidly become one of the most popular charcoal grills in a few years. With its stylish design, perfect temperature regulating capability, and easy temperature control, you won’t find many better options at this price point.
Regardless of what you want to grill, this grill will provide the perfect temperature to cook your meal effectively. But while it is seemingly too small or compact for a large family or a party, the lightweight design and portability make it the ideal option for outdoor usage. When folded, the grill looks like a small briefcase which is so ideal to take along wherever you go. It can be used for an extensive range of purposes, which include camping patio, picnics, tailgating, and outdoor parties.
Durability is always one of the key features you must consider when purchasing a grill, and this one is remarkable on that front as well since it is produced using sturdy stainless steel material. With such a durable design, you can sleep better at nights knowing that your grill is sure to serve you for many years to come.
What we liked:
Strong stainless steel construction
Lightweight and portable design
Great heat retention capacity
Useful for many purposes
Easy to assemble and use
What could be better:
May be too small for large tasks
Things to Consider
If you want to buy a portable charcoal grill that you will be satisfied with, you must be very meticulous when weighing your options. In that case, there are many things you must know apart from the specifications of the most popular grills, some of which we will discuss below.
Advantages of having a charcoal grill
As we said earlier, nothing beats the classic, smoky flavor of charcoal grills, and this is one of the primary reasons why BBQ lovers have a tendency of preferring this grill type. While some people believe that you only need to use wood in order to add flavor to the smoke of a gas grill, it can’t just be the same (though gas and charcoal grill combos often provide the best of both worlds). The flavor may not be a big deal when you are cooking burgers and hot dogs, but it adds a whole lot of difference when you are slow roasting ribs, turkey, chicken, and the likes. Searing is another thing that brings flavor to whatever you’re cooking.
If you’re looking to achieve a really great searing, you will require grill that is capable of delivering a 900 degrees Fahrenheit high temperature – and other grills may not be able to perform as well as a charcoal grill in this condition. Sometimes, some gas grills are capable of reaching about 500 degrees Fahrenheit but that’s pretty much the highest they can go. Some gas grills also come with sear burners that will give them the heat required for searing, but charcoal is the ideal option if you are looking to do lots of steaks simultaneously.
There is something really special that comes along with getting your charcoal grill ready alongside your friends. Added to that, trying to ignite a fire in a charcoal grill is very thrilling. Also, learning the art of smoking and grilling perfectly seared and seasoned meat takes a little practice, and the learning comes along with a lot of fun and excitement.
The majority of charcoal grills come outfitted with wheels that improve their portability and transportability. In addition, it isn’t really difficult to load a bag of charcoal, although that is not to say that gas grills aren’t portable as well.
Charcoal grills usually burn a lot hotter compared to regular gas grills with no infrared burners, and that is the exact thing you require when you intend to make the external part of your meat crisp while the inside stays tender and pink like steaks and lamb chops.
By and large, charcoal grills usually don’t have lots of moving parts so they are often less expensive to buy and maintain when compared to high-quality gas grills. You can effortlessly get a high-quality charcoal grill such as the Weber 10020 Smokey Joe 14-Inch Portable Grill for less than a hundred dollars (also check out our top picks of the best grills under $100 if you’re on a tight budget!). As a result of the less expensive maintenance as well, charcoal grills tend to last longer. You don’t have to change its parts or your grill anytime soon.
Features to consider while choosing a portable charcoal grill
When choosing a portable charcoal grill, you must familiarize yourself with the proper specifications, sizes, functionality, and your preferred choice when it comes to shape, color, and more. Regardless of the amount of experience you have when it comes to charcoal, you need a couple of tips in order to get the best portable charcoal grill for your needs.
Cooking area/cooking grate diameter
If you are only looking for a portable charcoal grill to take on a romantic getaway with your partner, then the grill’s cooking area or size may not make much difference, since most BBQs come with enough grilling space for two. However, the grilling area or the cooking grate diameter will become much more important if the number of individuals you are cooking for rises. Therefore, think about what you intend to be using the BBQ for before buying as a couple of extra inches can make a huge difference. With a total cooking area of 850 square inches, the Char-Griller E2828 Pro Deluxe Charcoal Grill has the largest cooking space on this list.
Another key factor you must look into when shopping is the material used to manufacture the cooking surface of your grill. You must make sure that the cooking surface’s material of your selected model is sufficiently durable and easy to clean and maintain. Besides, the material must be capable of withstanding high temperature, so ensure you select a strong material such as stainless steel.
You should, however, avoid utilizing materials that are produced using aluminum. Of course, aluminum is an alloy, which means it is very lightweight. You must remember that aluminum won’t be able to withstand much heat.
You also need to check if your charcoal grill is outfitted with legs for stability so that you won’t have to buy a table separately to set it on. You don’t have to check if there are legs alone, you must also check if the legs are made with strong materials and if they are foldable. For durability, the legs must be made of sturdy and thick steel.
Based on the number of people you are intending to be cooking for and where you are planning to be using it, your charcoal grill must be very lightweight for easy transportation. Of course, the larger the BBQ, the more it weighs, which is why you must determine the amount of grilling space you really require. Fortunately, all the models featured here are portable in this or that way, and if you’re looking for something lightweight enough to be carried on picnics, any of them should be suitable. Weighing less than three pounds, the BonNoces Portable Foldable Charcoal Grill.
Wheels and handles
Wheels and handles are also very important if you’re looking for a portable model. While the wheels will enable you to easily move the grill from one place to another, the handles mean you can easily carry it as well. The Beau Jardin Portable Charcoal Grill and the Char-Griller E2828 Pro Deluxe Charcoal Grill are examples of models that are equipped with great wheels for easy transportability.
As with every other purchase you make, you will want a unit that is actually backed up by the company as well. When it comes to portable charcoal grills, the average warranty usually ranges from three to five years for most models. This will afford you a lot of confidence and peace of mind, as these products are often expensive investments.
While the extra features may not automatically affect your cooking, they just increase the convenience with which you use your grill. Great examples are temperature gauges and ashtrays, which look unimportant until you actually need them. Make sure you read through the user’s manual and ensure that the product you are looking at won’t give you much of a problem during assembly.
How to cook a mouth-watering meal on a charcoal grill
Clean the cooking grates and get rid of the ashes generated the last time you used the unit.
Figure out the amount of charcoal you actually need. If you are cooking burgers and steaks, one layer of charcoal should be sufficient. However, if you are cooking something like chicken or roast that usually takes a longer time to cook, then you will require two layers.
Heat the charcoal up very well. There are many options such as organic fire starter, chimney starter, and electric charcoal barbecue starter.
Ensure that the coals are maximally hot before you put your meal on the grill. While lump charcoals look like hard coals with a bit of smoke, briquettes will begin turning white and grey. The coals will evenly spread throughout the grill box when you use long-handled tongs.
Oil the charcoal grill lightly with the aid of a brush and cooking oil.
Set the temperature desired if you are using a grill that features temperature control. Otherwise, adjust the temperature of the cooking surface by opening and closing the air vents. And if your unit features a lid, open or close it to increase or dampen the fire.
Close all the air vents as soon as you are done with the cooking and scrub the whole unit with the aid of a brush whilst they’re still hot. Then, close the grill’s lid and enable the coals to extinguish slowly.
Measuring 11.8 x 11.8 x 3 inches in dimensions and weighing less than three pounds, the BonNoces Portable Foldable Charcoal Grill is the most portable charcoal grill on this list. Due to its compactness, it is very suitable for camping trips and picnics, since you want something you can easily put away in the bottom of your camping bag.
Ordinarily, a 200-square inch cooking area (or 16-inch cooing grate diameter) should be sufficient for a family of four. If you, however, don’t want to leave anything to chance, you might want to look at a model with a 300-square inch cooking area at least. We are definitely sure that such a model will offer adequate grilling space for the needs of four family members.
Pinty is one of the fastest-growing companies in the grill industry and the Pinty Portable Folding Charcoal Grill is a substantial testament of the company’s high ambitions. Despite being reasonably priced, this unit has everything you could want from a small grill. Apart from the high grilling performance it delivers, it is also very portable, thanks to the incorporated handle and foldable construction.
Our second-placed model is the Char-Griller E2828 Pro Deluxe Charcoal Grill, and featuring a total grilling area of 850 square inches, this selection is totally justified. While the large grilling space is enough to earn it a spot here, it’s incredibility doesn’t stop at that – the unit also features large wheels for easy transportation and a temperature gauge for ultimate control while cooking your favorite dishes.
Our third choice is also our Budget Pick, and that’s a very rare occurrence. In truth, the Weber 10020 Smokey Joe Portable Grill totally merits its spot on this list. Besides its superb grilling performance, the ten-year warranty it comes with is absolutely impressive, and that alone might be enough to attract some buyers.