There are lots of reasons to buy a charcoal grill instead of a gas grill. Many people prefer the smoky flavor of charcoal-grilled meats (and veggies). Some people like the traditionally lower price point associated with popular kettles and others actually find them easier to clean than their gas counterparts. (After all, you generally just have to dump some ashes.)
But Max Good, director of product reviews for barbecue and grilling site AmazingRibs.com, says the main reason to seriously consider a charcoal grill from your home (or road trip) is versatility.
“A good charcoal grill has a very wide temperature range,” he explains. While gas grills will cap out at a maximum temperature, you can get as hot as you want with charcoal. You can also get the temperature very low, meaning “you can make good smoked meat on charcoal grills,” Good says.
How to buy a charcoal grill
“The way you control charcoal grills is by controlling oxygen, so good charcoal grills will have tight construction,” Good says. Look for a solid, coated lid, usually made of some type of steel, cast-iron grates or steel rods, and tight air dampers (the plates or valves that regulate air flow and, subsequently, the grill’s temperature).
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You can usually gauge quality by the thickness of a grill’s parts, so, when shopping in stores, test the merchandise.
“If you lift up a lid and it’s light as a feather, that probably means it’s cheaply made,” Good says. He has more tips for finding the best charcoal grill for your needs in the video tutorial below.
Generally speaking, you can save on your purchase by setting up price alerts, negotiating with retailers and buying the grill at the right time.
The best charcoal grills
We incorporated Good’s recommendations as we identified some of the best charcoal grills on the market based on their components, warranties and reviews across major retailer’s websites. Note: The prices come from the manufacturer’s website and are accurate at the time this article was written.
1. Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill, 22-inch
Weber makes its classic kettle in a lot of different shapes and sizes, and almost, if not all, of them come well-constructed and, subsequently, well-reviewed. They feature porcelain-enameled bowls and lids, steel cooking grates, built-in thermometers and one-touch cleaning aluminum ash catchers. Each one is a safe bet if you’re in the market for a charcoal grill and the best one for you will ultimately hinge on how much grilling space you need and what bells and whistles you might be willing to pay for — a general rule of thumb to apply across grilling brands you’re considering.
We’re calling out the 22-inch Premium Original kettle for two reasons. The first is size; it offers 363 square inches (or about thirteen burgers worth) of cooking space. Secondly, it features an enclosed, removable ash pan to prevent excess mess.
Having said that, if you’re on a tighter budget, you can check out the 22-inch Original Weber Kettle, which skips the enclosed ash collector and retails for $109. Both Weber grills feature a ten-year warranty on the bowl and lid; a five-year warranty on the one-touch cleaning system and plastic components; and a two-year warranty on all remaining parts.
2. Original Kettle Grill by Slow ‘N Sear
AmazingRibs.com anointed this charcoal kettle as a “Best New Product of 2020” due to its quality materials and proven cooking capabilities. The grill features SnS’ signature “EasySpin” 304-grade stainless steel cooking grates, a lid cradle and a side shelf that provides prep space.
It also has a built-in thermometer, but, more importantly, incorporates a probe port so you can get more accurate temperature readings. (Good says charcoal grill built-in thermometers tend to provide inaccurate readings as they’re positioned too high up on the lid.)
The Slow ‘N Sear kettle also comes with the company’s patented cooking insert, which makes it easier to grill at two different temperatures simultaneously, a process known as two-zone cooking. SnS Grills offers a 10-year warranty on the bowl and lid; a five-year warranty on the no-touch ash removal system, side shelf and plastic components; and a two-year warranty on all other parts.
3. PRO605CSS Charcoal Grill by Napoleon
If you’re looking for a charcoal grill that looks like a gas grill, well, look no further than the Napoleon PRO605CSS. The large, stainless steel grill offers 605 square inches (or about 37 burgers worth) of primary cooking space along with two side shelves for extra prep space. It comes with porcelain-enameled cast-iron cooking grates, a built-in temperature gauge, adjustable venting and a slide-out ash and drip pan for easy cleanup. It also features a charcoal-powered rear rotisserie burner.
Users load the charcoal through a door on the front of the grill and adjust the charcoal bed without having to open its lid.
Napoleon offers a 15-year limited warranty on the grill’s aluminum castings, stainless steel base and stainless steel lid; a five-year full warranty on the cooking grates; and a two-year limited warranty on all other parts.
The best portable charcoal grills
1. Smokey Joe Portable Charcoal Grill by Weber
Weber fans can take the company’s classic kettle on the road with the Smokey Joe, the top-rated charcoal grill on Home Depot’s website. Like its bigger brothers, the grill features a porcelain-enameled lid and bowl, rust-resistant aluminum dampers and steel cooking grates.
The 14-inch Smokey Joe weighs about 9.5 pounds and can cook up to five burgers at a time. If you’re looking for a larger cooking area (and have the trunk space), Weber makes an 18-inch “Jumbo Joe.” It retails for $69.99. Both grills also come with a ten-year warranty on the bowl and lid, a five-year warranty on the one-touch cleaning system, and a two-year warranty on all other parts.
2. PKTX Outdoor Portable Aluminum Charcoal Grill and Smoker by PK Grills
Yes, the PKTX is pricey as far as portable charcoal grills go. However, it’s a purchase designed to pay off in the long-term, given the grill is made entirely from lightweight, rust-proof aluminum. The PKTX’s unique capsule design and patented four-point venting system allows it to function as both a grill and a smoker. It offers a little over 300 square inches of cooking space and comes with foldable legs that makes it easy to transport. (It folds into what looks like a rolling suitcase.)
PK Grills offers a 20-year warranty on the cast aluminum bowl and lid and a ten-year warranty against rust, burnout or breakage.
The best grills of 2021
Trying to assess all of your grilling options? We’ve also identified some of the best grills on sale across popular shopping categories.
- The best gas grills under $500
- The best Walmart grills of 2021
- The best Lowe’s grills of 2021
- The best Costco grills of 2021
This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.org.
Image Credit: kzenon / iStock