Best Charcoal Grills

Last updated: October 31, 2019
Best Value
Durable, Preseasoned and Adjustable
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Best Portable
Perfectly Sized and Easy to Use
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Best Grill And Smoker Combination
Convenient, Durable and Powerful
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Premium Pick
Large, Durable and Enjoyable
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Your guide

Buying the first grill you see let’s you start cooking quickly, but it may not be the right choice.  Before you rush out and get a grill, you need to research and understand what each offers.

It’s a clear day and you take the chance to relax outside.  😎

As you enjoy a peaceful day, a scent carries on the air.  The irresistible smell of a charcoal grill with meat sizzling its way to perfection. You may have just eaten.  You may not be hungry at all, but the smell from a charcoal grill will change that. Now, all you can think is that your relaxing day would be better with some smokey, charcoal-grilled food.  If only you had a charcoal grill.

Buying a charcoal grill ensures you never envy your neighbors again.  You will be the one producing the hunger-inducing scent and get to eat the fruits of your labor.  All you have to do is choose the right one.

There are a lot of charcoal grills out there and they are all calling your name.  Not all of these grills will offer you want you need. There is more to a good charcoal grill than its ability to hold charcoal and shelter a fire.

While the basics are the same, there are options and features that make one stand out.  The price range also varies greater with some grills costing less than $100 while others are more than $200.

If you find researching charcoal grills confusing, you are not alone.  That is why we have done the hard work for you. We have looked at the top charcoal grills on the market and chosen the best for this list. All you need to do is sit back, relax and see which charcoal grill you should be getting.

1. Best Value - Lodge Cast Iron Sportsman’s Grill

Specifications

  • Dimensions → 10.25” x 8.25” x 19”
  • Weight →  27 pounds
  • Style → Hibachi
  • Tabletop safe → Yes

Key Features

  • Portable
  • Extremely durable
  • Adjustable grill grate and draft door
  • Made in the USA

The small size of the Lodge Cast Iron Sportsman’s Grill can be deceiving, but you should not give in.  This little grill packs a flavor punch and is extremely durable. Lodge has been making quality grills since 1896 and put all their knowledge into this one.

With dimensions of only 10.25” x 8.25” x 19”, it is easy to dismiss this grill in favor of some larger option.  This is a mistake because it is one of the best hibachi-style grills on the market.  While it is small, the cast iron packs a weight of 27 pounds.

The weight can be daunting if you want to move around with it.  However, the aluminum handle makes it easy to carry. The only problem with the handle is the lack of padding.

Pre-Seasoned Grill For Great Flavor 🧂

When it comes to cooking, the real value of this grill shines.  The grill is pre-seasoned meaning the cooking grill has been heat-treated with vegetable oil.  This prevents rusting and adds more flavor to the food.

After putting your coals into the bowl, you can adjust how much air they get.  The sliding draft door can be used as you cook to vary the temperature.  The wider you open the door, the hotter the coals get.  If the coals are too hot, you slide the door closed.

If you do not want to change the airflow, you can also adjust the grill grate.  This is height-adjustable with 2 preset adjustable heights.

Adjusting the coals while cooking is also very easy.  Unlike other grills, you do not have to remove the cooking grill to do this.  There is a fire door in the bowl that you open and reach in with your tongs to adjust the coals.

The way the heat is distributed by the grill cooks food evenly.  It is not only the part of the food touching the grill that cooks.  The parts that touch the grill will get the traditional sear grill marks, but will not cook at a faster rate.  The heat retention of cast iron reduces the amount of coal you need.

If you are worried about food sticking to the grill, the preseasoning takes care of this.  This is true for vegetables and all kinds of meat. While the grill is preseasoned, you do have to add sauce and seasoning to your food for additional flavor.

If you have pets and children, you do need to be careful with this grill.  There is no lid so small hands could be tempted to touch the cooking grill.  As the entire grill is made from cast iron, the whole thing heats up and could cause burns if you are not careful.

The maintenance of this grill is just as easy as the rest of the use.  Being made of cast iron, you should not use any detergents on it. While the grill is still a bit warm, you should rub a light layer of vegetable oil to keep it seasoned.

Made In The USA 🇺🇸

All Lodge grills are made in the USA.  The company has over 120 years of experience in making cast iron cookware. The company is still owned by the Lodge family who started it in Tennessee in 1896.

If you are looking for more bang for your buck, the Lodge Cast Iron Sportsman’s Grill is the best option.  It is affordable and made from American cast iron. The grill is portable, offers adjustable temperatures and cooks like a dream.

Pros
  • Preseasoned American cast iron
  • Very durable
  • Easy to clean
Cons
  • Heavy
  • No lid

2. Best Portable - Weber 10020 Smokey Joe

Specifications

  • Dimensions → 14.2” x 14.5” x 17”
  • Weight →  9.5 pounds
  • Dampers → Aluminum
  • Tabletop safe → Yes

Key Features

  • Portable
  • 10-year warranty
  • 14.5-inch cooking grill
  • Porcelain-embedded bowl and lid

When it comes to charcoal grills, you cannot get away from Weber.  The company has long been the frontrunner in all things charcoal grill and continue to produce the best grills.  The Weber 10020 Smokey Joe is no exception and the king of portable grills.

Small Body Equals Great Portability 📦

The body of the grill is a slightly smaller version of the original Weber kettle grill.  With dimensions of 14.2” x 14.5” x 17”, it is the perfect reusable portable grill.  Weighing only 9.5 pounds also makes it easier to take out and about.

While you can’t strap the grill to your backpack, you can easily fit it into your car when you go camping or to an outdoor party.  The only problem with portability is the lack of side handles. The top does not lock into the bottom of the kettle so you cannot move it once a fire is lit.

The small size of the grill should not put you off because the cooking grate is large enough.  At 14.5 inches, you can easily cook 6 burger patties or 3 steaks at once.  This makes it ideal for groups of 2 to 4 people.

Getting the grill going is very easy as you slot the cooking grate into place and add some charcoal.  Light the fire and wait for the coal to settle before putting your food on the grate. The grate itself is made from plated steel for durability and easy cleaning.

To get the full benefit of kettle grill cooking, you need to put the lid on.  The nylon handle keeps your hand safe from the heat. The lid also has the usual aluminum dampers to vary the airflow in the grill.

Looking beyond the ease of use and portability, this little grill is extremely durable.  The bowl and lid are porcelain-embedded.  The porcelain will prevent rust and distribute the heat from cooking more evenly.  The rest of the body is made from aluminum.

The only major problem with the grill is the legs.  While they are aluminum, they are quite thin. This makes them easy to bend and you have to be careful when storing the grill.

The Super Weber Warranty 🔟

The durability of the grill is backed up by a 10-year warranty.  The fact that it is a Weber also adds to your peace of mind.

When cooking with any charcoal grill, you have a lot of ash.  Some grills have a closed ash catchment system, but the Smokey Joe is different.  The rust-free ash catcher is open and rests under the grill.

Some people do not like the open ash catcher.  The closed systems prevent ash blowing around, but are harder to clean.  Closed systems require the coals and charcoal rack to be removed before the ashes can be cleaned.

The ability to have a grill anywhere, any time is wonderful and this is what the Weber 10020 Smokey Joe offers.  This little grill is portable, large enough for families and a joy to use. Based on the warranty, the grill should last at least 10 years.

Pros
  • Large cooking area for the size
  • Durable materials
  • Portable
Cons
  • Thin legs
  • No side handles

3. Best Grill And Smoker - Char-Griller E06614

Specifications

  • Dimensions → 20.5” x 21.5” x 25.3”
  • Weight →  37 pounds
  • Style → Kamado
  • Dampers → Top and bottom

Key Features

  • Cast iron grates
  • 2 dampers
  • Smoker capabilities
  • Wide temperature range

Charcoal grilling and smoking go hand-in-hand with the Char-Griller E06614 Akorn Jr grill.  This smaller version of the Akorn offers the same features with a lower price tag. If you do not have much space in your yard, but want a blowout grill, this is the best option.

The Akorn Jr is a Kamado grill bringing the benefits of this grilling style.  The design is the same as the larger counterparts on the market.  The importance of this is the mimicking of the internal cooking environment of clay ovens.

Looking past the design, the grill is made from 22 gauge steel.  The red exterior of the grill is powder-coated and the interior is porcelain-coated.  The porcelain coating helps distribute the heat more effectively within the egg-shaped grill.

The durability of the materials is backed by two warranties.  The first is a 1-year warranty covering defective thermometers and broken welds.  The second is a 5-year warranty covering the bottom half of the grill from complete rust throughs.

Powerful Convection Cooking 🔥

When it comes to cooking, you can start minutes after getting the grill.  There is a bit of assembly before you start using the grill, but it should not take more than 15 minutes.  Most of the grill is pre-assembled.

As the Akorn Jr is smaller than the original Akorn, the grill surface is smaller as well.  However, at 153 square inches, it is large enough for any family.  The cooking grates are made from cast iron for better heat distribution and even cooking.

The egg-shape of the grill creates a type of convection heat.  The heat from the bottom of the grill heats the air which moves through the food.  The cooled air in the top will sink and be heated by the coals repeating the process.

The triple-walled design of the grill allows it to maintain temperatures of 200°F to 700°F.  The thermometer will help you keep track of the temperature. However, there are some concerns about the accuracy of the included thermometer and you might want to buy a separate ambient thermometer.

While the thermometer tells you what the heat is, there are 2 dampers that help you control the heat.  The top and bottom damper work together to regulate the heat and create the perfect cooking environment.  The grill also comes with a handy damper adjustment chart to help you get the best temperatures.

To smoke any food, you will need the lowest possible temperature.  If you want to sear steaks, you need the highest temperature. Opening the dampers will increase the heat and closing them reduces the heat.

Easy To Use, Easy To Clean 🧽

After cooking up a smokey storm, you can easily clean the grill.  All the parts come apart easily so you can reach every area of the grill.  To clean the cooking grate, you should use a wire brush while it is still warm.

The ash pan at the bottom of the grill is easy to use and clean.  Almost all the ash generated by the grill will catch in the pan. The pan is closed, unlike the Smokey Joe, so you need to wait for the grill to cool before you remove it.

Looking at the Akorn Jr, it does not appear very portable.  The grill is larger than the Weber Smokey Joe and the Lodge Sportsman’s Grill at 20.5” x 21.5” x 25.3”.  It is also heavier at 37 pounds making it harder to move around.

The complete lack of wheels also makes it hard to move.  There are handles that can be used to move the grill, but they are not as sturdy as the rest of the grill.  This makes the grill a poor choice for anyone looking for pure portability.

If you want to do more than simply grill your food, the Char-Griller E06614 Akorn Jr is the best choice.  This kamado-style grill works as a smoker and grill while being very easy to handle. There are two dampers to control the temperature and a cast iron cooking grill.

Pros
  • Can be used as a smoker
  • Low maintenance
  • Reasonable size
Cons
  • Flimsy handles
  • Inaccurate thermometer

4. Premium Pick - Weber Original Kettle

Specifications

  • Dimensions → 24.4” x 32” x 42.3”
  • Weight →  60 pounds
  • Style → Kettle
  • Thermometer → Built-in

Key Features

  • 508 square inch grill grate
  • One-Touch cleaning system
  • Lid holder
  • 10-year warranty

If you are looking for a large grill that has the backing of one of the best brands in the grill market, look no further.  The Weber Original Kettle Premium 26 Inch is on the more expensive side, but what you get makes it worth the price. The grill is also a variation of the original but keeps all the benefits with some extras added in.

The Traditional Weber Design 📐

The design of the grill is iconic and what you expect from Weber.  The bowl is porcelain-enameled to retain heat.  The finish of the kettle prevents it from rusting or cracking.  It will not peel as it was designed to withstand the grilling temperatures you achieve.

There are other little benefits in the design that make this grill a premium choice.  The handle on the lid has a shield. This protects your hand from the heat retained in the lid.

When you take the lid off, you never have to search for somewhere to store it again.  The side of the bowl has a side grill you can easily slide the lid into. This is not only convenient, but it also stops you from placing the lid on the ground while grilling.

If you constantly struggle to find somewhere to store your grilling tools, Weber has you covered.  On the side of the handles, there are hooks for hanging your grilling tools.  This organizes the space and keeps everything in easy reach.

The design of the grill is backed with the 10-year warranty Weber is known for.  This is a limited warranty that covers the lid, bowl, and grate.  There is a separate 2-year warranty for all remaining parts.

Big Grill For Big Cooking 👨‍🍳

While these little features make using the grill easier, how does it cook?  This is a big grill which means a lot of food can be cooked at once. The grill grate measures 508 square inches and holds 19 burger patties.

The grill grate is hinged which makes it easy to add charcoal while you cook.  All you have to do is flip one of the hinged sides up and add the charcoal.  This also makes adjusting the coal much easier as you do not have to remove the whole grate.

As with other Weber grills, the lid has a damper to help control the internal temperature.  The built-in thermometer makes it easier to keep track of the temperature as well.  When you want to increase the heat all you need is to open the damper and let some air in.

The inclusion of the thermometer is handy, but there are some issues.  The placement on the lid is high which registers a much higher heat than the grill grate.  To ensure your grill at the right temperature, you need to adjust your reading of the thermometer.

Introducing The One-Touch Cleaning System 🧹

After cooking, it is easy to clean and maintain the grill.  Unlike the Smokey Joe, this grill has a closed ash catcher. To make this easier to use, there is a one-touch cleaning system.

The one-touch system includes fins that draw ash from the bowl into the catcher.  The catcher can be removed so you can get rid of the ash. Once you are done, the ash catcher is locked back into place for your next use.

With dimensions of 24.4” x 32” x 42.3”, this is not a very portable grill.  It is not recommended for camping or leaving your yard. The weight of 60 pounds does not help.  However, the 8-inch rubber-molded wheels make it easy to move the grill around your yard.

If you are looking for the ultimate grilling experience and are willing to pay for it, the Weber Original Kettle Premium 26-Inch grill is the best option.  If the size seems too great, you can also get a 22-inch which is the real original size. This larger grill has a lot of features that make it a pleasure to use including a hinged grill grate and one-touch cleaning system.

Pros
  • Hinged grill grate
  • One-touch cleaning system
  • Large size
Cons
  • Inaccurate thermometer

Are charcoal grills better than gas grills?

There is a lot of debate about this. The simplest answer is that it depends on what you want from the grill. Gas and charcoal each offer pros and cons that you have to consider before you make any decisions.

Gas grills are faster to use and will cost less in terms of resources. A 20-pound propane cylinder works for 25 days while the same amount of charcoal is good for 3 to 4 grilling sessions on average. On the other hand, charcoal grills have a lower initial cost and can reach higher temperatures.

Charcoal grills also produce more smoke. This can be good and bad. If you are grilling steaks and other foods that take a while, the smoke will add flavor. If you are grilling fast foods like hot dogs, the smoke will not make any difference.

What is the best charcoal grill for camping?

The best charcoal grill for camping is a portable one. There are some disposable models on the market that use aluminum foil for the bowl. These are not the best for the environment and a reusable portable grill is better.

Some of the grills to consider when camping include the Weber Smokey Joe. If you are not going to carry the grill very far, you can look at heavier options like the Lodge Cast Iron Sportsman’s Grill.

What type of charcoal should I use?

There is no best type of charcoal to get for your grill. It depends on your grilling style and personal preference. Most people buy charcoal briquettes, but there are a lot of types on the market.

The even shape and size of briquettes is a major benefit. This helps you get even heat and they burn very hot. The only problem is that they burn out quickly so you need to replace them as you grill.

Lump charcoal is a good alternative to briquettes and gets hot quickly. The problem is that the charcoal loses heat quickly after the hottest point has been reached. If you want to maintain temperature with this charcoal, you need to add more as you grill.

Should I get a charcoal grill smoker combo?

This is a personal choice and depends on what you want from your grill. Charcoal grills will cook food quickly and, depending on the size, in large batches. Smokers provide a fuller flavor while increasing the cooking time.

If you want the full taste of a smoker with faster cooking times, you should look at getting a charcoal grill smoker combo. If you are unsure about smoking food or do not like the taste it brings, these grills are a bad idea.

Which charcoal grill is best for steaks?

There is no one charcoal grill that is best for steaks. However, there are some features that you need to get the best steak while grilling.

The primary feature is temperature control. To sear your steak, you need high temperatures. To cook it through, you will need to lower the temperature after it has been seared. Most good-quality charcoal grills have dampers that control temperature, but many cheaper options do not.

Do I need a grill with a lid?

You do not have to get a grill with a lid, but it is useful. The lid helps control the temperature of the grill and create convection heat. Convection heat on a grill mimics an oven to cook food evenly.

If you do not have a lid, the charcoal grill will cook like a campfire. You will need to turn everything on the grill regularly to avoid burning and ensure even cooking. The charcoal will also burn hotter because of the unlimited supply of oxygen.

Best Charcoal Grills of 2019 — EHome