When you think of grilling, are charcoal grills the first thing that pops into your head? Or am I the only one who makes that connection instantly?
However, choosing the best charcoal grill can be tricky, even for the most experienced grill masters.
There’s a significant difference between finding the best grill feature-wise and finding the best grill for you.
That’s why the focus of today’s article will be on finding the perfect balance between the two. I’ll show you some of the best grills that the market has to offer and help you figure out what works for you, as well.
Let’s get to it!
Table of Contents
- Top 15 Best Charcoal Grills Of 2021
- #1. Weber 741001 Original Kettle 22-Inch Charcoal Grill – Best Charcoal Grill
- #2. Weber 15501001 Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill – Best High-End Option
- #3. Kamado Joe Jr. KJ13RH Charcoal Grill – Best Kamado Charcoal Grill
- #4. PK Grills PKO-SCAX-X Original PK Grill & Smoker – Best Grill and Smoker Combo
- #5. Weber 121020 Go-Anywhere Charcoal Grill – Best Budget-Friendly Charcoal Grill
- #6. Char-Griller E56720 AKORN Kamado Charcoal Grill - Best Insulation
- #7. Char-Griller E82424 Side Fire Box Charcoal Grill - Travel-friendly
- #8. Oklahoma Joe's 19402088 Rambler Portable Charcoal Grill - Best Ventilation System
- #9. Char-Broil TRU-Infrared Kettleman Charcoal Grill – Best for Basic Backyard BBQ
- #10. Expert Grill Heavy Duty 24-Inch Charcoal Grill – Convenience at Its Best
- #11. Royal Gourmet 30" BBQ Charcoal Grill and Offset Smoker – There’s Room for Improvements
- #12. Char-Griller 2137 Outlaw Charcoal Grill and Smoker – Best Extra-Large Cooking Surface
- #13. Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Sportsman’s Grill – Best Portable Charcoal Grill
- #14. Aiglam Portable Charcoal Grill - Best Versatility
- #15. Cuisinart CCG190RB Portable Charcoal Grill - Best Security
- How to Pick the Best Charcoal Grill: Buying Guide
- Final Thoughts & Recommendations
Gas and electric grills are way more straightforward to use. All you need to do is power it up, push a few buttons, wait for it to heat up, and you’re good to go.
And if that’s the case, why should you even consider buying a charcoal grill?
Because, no matter what you do, gas and electric grills can never give you that distinct, mouth-watering, authentic fire-grilled flavor that a charcoal grill can.
When you think about summer grilling, that’s the flavor you think of immediately!
That said, the unmatched, delicious aroma produced by the heat and smoke is only one of the reasons why getting a charcoal grill is something worth considering: The best charcoal grills are typically more portable, less expensive, and reach higher temperatures than electric or gas ones.
And even though charcoal grills aren’t regarded as “beginner-friendly,” look at it this way: Once you master the art of grilling on a charcoal grill, everything else will be a piece of cake.
Top 15 Best Charcoal Grills Of 2021
It’s time for my in-depth reviews of the market’s leading charcoal grills of all shapes, sizes, and price ranges. One of the following 15 models might turn out to be the best charcoal grill for you!
Weber is a force to reckon with when it comes to high-end charcoal grills – and easily a favorite among grilling enthusiasts not only in the USA but worldwide, too. On that note, the Original Kettle is an excellent choice in every regard – a simple grill that’s worth every penny.
The body of the Weber 741001 Original Kettle grill is constructed out of porcelain-enameled steel, so, it’s rust-resistant. Overall, the entire unit has a sturdy, well-made feel to it.
The durable, plated steel cooking grate offers 363 square inches of cooking space, which should be more than plenty for a family of four. It’s available in several different sizes, but I do believe that the 22-inch model offers the most versatility to the user.
Straightforward temperature control is ensured by incorporating two air vents into the design – one at the top, and one located at the bottom of the grill.
Also, it’s equipped with a removable ashtray, but here’s what makes it stand out – the One-Touch cleaning system. It pushes all the debris out into the ashtray, making the clean-up process fast, easy, and hassle-free.
If there’s one thing I didn’t like, it’s the lack of additional features. Even the basic additions, such as a thermometer, have to be bought separately.
As I pointed out previously, the Weber Original Kettle is easily one of the most popular charcoal grills on the market. However, if you don’t quite consider it the best charcoal grill for you, the Performer Deluxe version might be what you’re after here.
It’s still a Weber Kettle, and it performs like one, too, but it comes with an array of additional options, and it’s mounted on a portable table, as well!
Thanks to the electronic Touch-N-Go ignition system, this Weber 15501001 charcoal grill incorporates the ease-of-use that gas grills are known for – you can start the coals with a push of a button.
It’s equipped with a plethora of other handy features, too: A stand with plenty of prep space and hooks for all your tools, and the One-Touch cleaning system that makes clean-up effortless.
With the air dampers, a built-in thermometer, and an LCD timer included, precise temperature control shouldn’t be an issue, either.
The bolts for the lid holder stick out and mess with cooking grate removal, but that’s more an annoyance than an actual flaw. Other than that, it’s perfect!
No list of the best charcoal grills is complete without a Kamado-style grill. The Kamado Joe Jr. is a mini version of the Kamado Joe Classic – all the same features, functionality, and performance, but with the advantage of being space-efficient and portable.
The grill’s body is ceramic, which is more substantial compared to materials more commonly seen in charcoal grills. However, due to its compact size, it isn’t so hefty for it to be problematic. Plus, a ceramic construction has its benefits, including exceptional durability, heat retention, and locking moisture and flavor in your food.
The stainless steel grate offers 148.5 square inches of cooking space. While it’s on the smaller side, it’s perfect for picnics, camping trips, tailgating, and other outdoor activities.
It’s equipped with a sturdy, powder-coated cast iron stand which lends it some much-needed stability. Also, it comes with handy additions such as an ash catcher and an integrated thermometer that lets you keep an eye on the unit’s internal temperature.
However, ceramic grills are easily the most expensive variety of charcoal grills. Price-wise, it probably wouldn’t be a beginner’s first choice. They do offer exceptional construction quality and superior temperature control, though, and that’s something worth considering.
The PK Grills PKO-SCAX-X Original Grill and Smoker is the perfect example of the "don’t fix it if it isn’t broke" rule. It’s beyond loyal to the original design. Why? Because it hasn’t seen any drastic changes over the decades – even 60 years later, it still stands as an American classic.
And although the decades-long tradition behind this PK Grills PKO-SCAX-X grill may be a tremendous factor in its popularity, there’s a lot more that it has to offer to grill enthusiasts.
Firstly, there’s the durable, rust-proof cast aluminum construction with the signature capsule-shaped design. It’s made to last. Plus, the top detaches from the stand, so it’s portable, too.
Its main selling point, however, is the two-zone cooking system. The PK Grills PKO-SCAX-X grill allows you to choose between direct or indirect cooking, depending on how the air vents are set. That means that it serves as a grill, as well as a smoker.
The PK Grills PKO-SCAX-X grill employs a signature, four-point ventilation system, so precise temperature control within a 180 to 750 degrees Fahrenheit shouldn’t be an issue.
However, it doesn’t have an integrated ash catcher, so ash and bits of charcoal can fall through the bottom vents.
I wanted to show you another highly portable option that you can take with you wherever you go, and I’m not done with Weber yet:
As the name already implies, you can ‘Go-Anywhere’ with it.
The rectangular design of this durable, porcelain-coated unit is different than the rounded shape you’re used to seeing in Weber grills. It was designed with functionality and portability in mind, though.
The 160-square-inch cooking surface is relatively sizeable for the grill’s overall dimensions. It can prepare meals for up to three people, which is more than enough for weekend trips with family or friends.
It only has a handful of features, but they’re all about ease of use and convenience. The plated steel legs double as a locking mechanism, which is a nice touch for both storage and transportation. Also, it features a total of four air dampers, allowing for superior temperature control.
One of its most significant downsides is the plastic lid handle – it gets too hot to the touch. Also, I noticed that the grate isn’t adjustable. While I don’t think that’s a total deal-breaker, you’ll certainly have your work cut out for you when it comes to controlling the temperature.
The following Char-Griller E56720 AKORN charcoal grill is exciting since it offers 447 square inches of the entire cooking space - 314 square inches of the primary cooking area and 133 square inches of warming rack area. Thus you can put a massive pile of food at once and grill it as you like.
Moreover, the Char-Griller E56720 AKORN gill includes maximum insulation for juicy meat. How so? Well, the unit has an insulated design, meaning that the product uses less charcoal and airflow for more and uniform heat to retain the food's quality and juiciness.
The cooking area is the most suitable one, with twenty-two gauge steel construction, and the outer powdered-coated steel, while the inner part is porcelain-coated steel. Further, the cart contains tubular steel; the front part has a locking caster and rubber wheels. The indexed damper contains numbers to follow the drag effortlessly.
However, the construction also contains:
Thus, your grilling or cooking process will be the most convenient, and you maintain the grill effortlessly.
Due to the stainless steel design system, parts, and construction in general, the Char-Griller E56720 AKORN grill lasts for ample time and will serve you best for an extended period. Thus, you don't have to bother at all about the quality - it will remain indestructible.
Also, due to the temperature gauge device, you can moderate the desired temperature and find the proper solution not to burn your food and leave it under or overcooked.
Next off, this Char-Griller E82424 charcoal will WOW you as it offers multiple benefits!
Firstly, you will notice the huge cooking area, with 250 square inches. Therefore, you can get substantial amounts of food at once on the surface and prepare more food for a larger group of people.
Secondly, the Char-Griller E82424 grates contain cast-iron cooking grates, which means that your food will preserve its quality, full taste, and flavor during the design, and they won't destroy the quality of the food. They will provide uniform and even heat through the surface, and there won't be any undercooked, burned, or overcooked food.
For more durability, reliability, and sturdiness, the Char-Griller E82424 grill includes heavy-duty steel construction. Therefore, the unit will last for an extended time, and provide more excessive uses, regardless of the conditions. The solid design will resist the highest temperatures and provide the most convenient service.
You can add more charcoal in the firebox and create more space once you slide out the removable ash pan tray. Thus, the maintenance and cleanup process is a piece of cake and won't take too much energy or time to finish it effortlessly.
To achieve better airflow control, a more precise temperature, and better sheerness, you will notice two adjustable air dampers. Thus, you could regulate the cooking or grilling process without additional issues and moderate it according to your needs.
If you are family-on-the-go, you will love this unit, as it suits camping, tailgating, RV travels, and more outdoor adventures.
This Oklahoma Joe's 19402088 grill astonished us for multiple reasons, the design being one of them.
Namely, the unit provides heavy-duty stainless steel design construction and system technology for additional sturdiness and durability. Therefore, the design prolongs its lifespan, and you will have maximum reliability and solidity. Thus, nothing can harm the unit so quickly.
You will notice the sear you like, full taste, flavor, and best food quality. If you ask how, here's the answer - the cast-iron grates with thick design and finish. Thus, they will allow food to retain all benefits, and you can enjoy it as you like. It won't burn up or remain raw at some parts - it's impossible.
If you like to cook at a higher heat or prefer a low and slow cooking process, you can select a better option between the two easily. As you'll find, there's a removable height-adjustable charcoal tray, which allows you to grill as you like.
For better ventilation, airflow, and air circulation, you can observe larger air dampers. Thus, you can adjust the heat, temperature, and cooking process, in general, to prevent accidents and preserve the food quality. Also, ventilation is needed for flame, smoke, or temperature regulation.
To clean up the grill effortlessly, there is a removable ash pan tray, and you can slide it out to clean up the grease, dum, and ashes, and later add more charcoal for your grilling needs.
Next, I’d like to show you a model that can go neck and neck with the more popular Weber Kettle – the Char-Broil Kettleman.
What makes it so interesting is its unique grilling grate – the Kettleman grill’s 360 square-inch cooking surface features something called the TRU-Infrared technology. The porcelain-coated grates resemble a radiant sheet. It minimizes direct exposure to heat, reduces dry air circulation, eliminates flare-ups and hot spots, and ensures concentrated radiant heat.
As a result, whenever you cook on the Kettleman, you can expect your food to be seared to perfection and moist, with minimal burning.
Also, the temperature control on this thing is outstanding. First of all, the Kettleman grill comes with a large, 360-degree air inlet and a damper located on top of the hinged lid. However, it doesn’t stop there – it also features adjustable charcoal grates, and to top it all off, an integrated temperature gauge.
If there’s one thing I didn’t like, it’s that it lacks side tables. Overall, though, I think this is an excellent grill – and a serious competitor for Weber’s most popular model.
Another reliable option worth considering is the Expert Grill Heavy-Duty Charcoal Grill – it’s relatively simple in appearance, but for me, that’s an advantage and not a downside.
The grill’s design seems surprisingly well-thought-out, and the overall construction feels reliable and robust. It’s completed with the powder-coated lid that handles high temperatures and improves the grill’s energy efficiency.
And with a cooking surface of 372 square inches complemented by a 201-square-inch chrome-plated warming rack, you’ll be able to cook up to 20 burgers at once. Moreover, the rest of the food will remain warm until you’re done.
The Expert Grill grill sits on top of a wheeled cart, which, among other things, includes a side shelf that can be used as prep space.
Also, it has a bottom rack that could serve as storage space for coal and other equipment. Oh, and I’m sure that you’ll agree with me that the built-in bottle opener is a nice touch, too.
My main issue with this Expert Grill grill is that it has a few plastic parts, including the wheels and the handles. As you can imagine, high temperatures and plastic don’t mix well, so these components do have questionable durability. It’s not a total deal-breaker, but you’ll probably have to replace the handles in the future.
What does the phrase "best charcoal grill" mean for you? If it’s a model that offers all the functionality of a regular charcoal grill with the included option to use it as a smoker, this might be the answer to all your needs.
At first glance, the Royal Gourmet grill seems compact, and one might wonder how they managed to pack so much versatility in it – but they did. And don’t let its seemingly small size fool you.
Hidden inside the main cooking chamber is a large, 440-square-inch cooking surface, along with a 180-square-inch warming rack. Next to it is a side smoker, which features an extra 180 square inches of space. You’re getting a total of 800 square inches of cooking grates that are porcelain-coated.
The side smoker is connected to the main chamber seamlessly, and the adjustable dampers work together with the integrated temperature gauge to help you maintain the right cooking temperature.
However, the side smoker box, although handy in specific scenarios, is a bit too small to heat the main chamber effectively. Plus, the thin metal construction might result in warping at higher temperatures.
I already introduced you to a Char-Griller model. But since they’re so impressive lately, I decided to include one more grill in my round-up.
The Outlaw comes with a massive grilling area, a little over 1000 square inches when you count in both the main cooking surface and the warming rack. If that alone isn’t impressive enough for you, I don’t know what is.
If you’re searching for a grill that will allow you to cook for a large crowd, this is it.
It’s equipped with a few handy features, too, like the easy-dump ash catcher, plenty of prep space thanks to three integrated shelves, a built-in temperature gauge, and a wheeled cart for portability.
Also, the fire grate is adjustable, which allows for easy temperature control.
And while I do appreciate the powder-coated, heavy-gauge steel construction, I couldn’t help but notice that certain parts of it still feel flimsy, and even cheaply-made.
The warming rack, wheels, and the coal tray are a few good examples, and I wouldn’t be surprised to discover warps on some of these parts, either.
Buying any Lodge grill is usually a worthy investment, and this particular model is no exception – it’s compact, affordable, and very durable.
And as the name “Sportsman’s” implies, it’s perfect for all sorts of outdoor activities.
The design takes into account one of the main drawbacks of cooking with charcoal – the lack of precise temperature control. The issue is addressed by allowing the user to adjust the height of the cooking grate by choosing one of the two available positions. It's a feature that’s not often seen in the more compact charcoal grills.
Furthermore, besides the actual damper, the Sportsman’s grill is also equipped with a flip-down door. It not only allows for quick access to the charcoal but acts as a method of temperature control, too.
It’s a hibachi-style grill, so don’t expect it to come with a lid. What you’re getting here is charcoal grilling at its most basic form – a substantial cast iron body, fire, charcoal, and food. It’s doesn’t get much simpler than that, but I feel like that’s an advantage, not a drawback.
It does come with a limited amount of cooking space, though, so you’ll probably have to cook your food in several small batches.
Its design is unique due to foldability and portability. Namely, the Aiglam unit includes comfortable handles for easy movement, moderation, storage, and transport. You can place it into your garden, backyard or put it into your trunk for any outdoor adventure. The unit will provide you the ultimate BBQ experience.
Additionally, the Aiglam grill is perfect as it uses charcoal to preserve and keep meat's quality, juiciness, taste, and full flavor. So, if you want smoky and juicy food, select this product! Due to its versatility, you can take it for tailgating, indoor, outdoor parties, camping, etc. Due to dimensions, you can supply five to ten people at once.
You don't need extra tools and devices to install the Aiglam unit - you only need to follow the instructions manual. You can effortlessly open it and fold the legs for more convenience. You can also use the handles for better use.
As it provides air circulation and ventilation on both grill's ends, you can easily control the heat and distribute it evenly and uniformly throughout the grill. Thanks to the charcoal-holding grid at the bottom part, the Aiglam unit preserves the charcoal and doesn't allow it to extinguish with ashes it generates.
Due to the 430 grade of the stainless steel construction and parts, the Aiglam unit will provide healthy food and meals since it prevents rust, deformities, and quality damages. The product meets and exceeds all high and low temperatures and doesn't lose any of the qualities.
And our last grill is particular for its cooking area, including 150 square inches of cooking surface; therefore, you can feed a more incredible group of people at once, and the food will preserve its quality, full flavor, taste, and won't be under or overcooked.
The surface distributes even heat and maintains the correct temperature due to the design.
So, next, let's talk about the design. As you might observe, the Cuisinart CCG190RB unit has a double ventilation system that offers you the complete freedom to maintain temperature and heat evenly and efficiently. Also, you can support and moderate the use of charcoal hassle-free.
For maximum safety and security, most accessible transport and movement, you will notice the safety lock lid, with three security locks; therefore, there won't be any accidents, injuries and the unit will keep you safe.
Thanks to the proportions that measure 14. 5 x 14. 5 x 15 inches and a maximum weight of only two pounds, the Cuisinart CCG190RB grill is a versatile option and perfect for car travel, tailgating, camping, patios, decks, indoor and outdoor adventures. You can fully enjoy your experiences, as it will quickly adjust to all conditions.
You can easily clean it up and keep it ready for more robust use thanks to the mess-free ash catcher and durable & sturdy enamel-coated firebox for more convenient use and moderation. So, you won't bother with the service and operation.
So, will you try it? You won't regret it!
How to Pick the Best Charcoal Grill: Buying Guide
How are you supposed to pick the best charcoal grill when the market is flooded with so many different options?
I’m glad you asked; here’s what you need to consider before making that final choice!
1. Look for Solid Construction
Buying the best charcoal grill should, with proper maintenance, be a long-term investment. That’s why it’s so crucial that you pay attention to the grill’s construction, including the quality of the materials used and the warranty offered by the manufacturer.
You’ll need something that will be able to stand up to intense heat and heavy use. Materials such as cast iron, ceramic, and cast aluminum are durable enough to withstand intensive use for years to come. Porcelain-coated and chrome-plated options will do the job, too, but they’re generally not as long-lasting.
2. Size and Cooking Area
When it comes to size, you have two things to consider – the size of the grill itself and the size of the cooking area.
First of all, you have to be sure that the grill will fit in its dedicated space, especially if your backyard or patio is relatively small. There should be enough space to let you operate the grill comfortably and store it away when the time comes.
The size of the cooking surface is an equally important concern. You should have a general idea about how many people you’ll be cooking for on the grill. Most regular charcoal grills should be enough for three or four people. However, if your plan is to cook for a larger crowd, make sure that you have the grilling area for it.
3. Temperature Control
You can’t ever consider yourself a good cook if you don’t know your cooking temperatures and how to control them. Sure, using an indoor oven is a fool-proof way to control the heat, but outdoors?
If you’re not a barbecue pro who knows how to tame those flames and handle inconsistencies, you’ll need some assistance with maintaining a steady temperature. That’s where the following features come to play:
4. Additional Features and Accessories
Let’s face it; the extra features and accessories are always welcome. Charcoal grills are already challenging as is, which is why ease of use is one of the most important factors to consider. Having these additional features could bring your cooking experience to the next level.
I always recommend factoring in your habits, too.
For instance, if you hate making a mess, an ash catcher is a must. If you like having all your tools, condiments, and other supplies on hand, get a unit with integrated side tables. And if you struggle with maintaining the right temperature, a built-in thermometer will make things a lot easier for you.
Is charcoal BBQ better than gas?
Yes, it is, as it burns hotter. You don't need to dial down the heat, and you can control the temperature, leaving some parts cooler. Therefore, later you can soak the proteins and then cook in more excellent areas.
Also, many people love the smoky flavor charcoal models provide, unlike gas models.
Which is better: lump charcoal or briquettes?
It depends on you, as there are not many different points. However, the lump charcoal burns faster and hotter. They also impart the desirable food flavors and tastes.
However, briquettes are better for more extended cooks and burn more uniformly and consistently; however, they provide too much ash.
How much charcoal do you put in a grill?
The more charcoal, the hotter the fire. You can use 30 briquettes for smaller grills and 50 to 75 briquettes for more extensive and heavier grills.
When the weather is windy, cold, and during winter, you will need more charcoal.
How to light a charcoal grill?
Follow the following procedure:
How do you maintain a charcoal fire?
You can do so when following the next steps:
How to grill ribs on charcoal?
Place them on the far side of your grill, and cook at 225 to 250 degrees. Next off, if you use spareribs, cover the grill and cook for three hours. If you use baby back ribs, cook for two hours.
After three hours, you can wrap ribs in foil, add two spoons of preferable liquid, apple juice, for instance, and seal it tightly.
Final Thoughts & Recommendations
There’s one more question for me to answer today: Which one of these hits that perfect balance between functionality, convenience, and price?
And out of all the grills I’ve tested, my vote goes to the Weber 741001 Original Kettle 22-Inch Charcoal Grill. It’s the best charcoal grill out there, and one that I’d gladly recommend to you, too!
What made you choose charcoal over gas and electric grills? Share your grilling experiences with me by dropping a comment below!
- Stay true to the modern version of the kettle that started it all—the Original Kettle, invented by Weber’s founder, and loved around the world. Its ultra-durable, porcelain-enameled lid and bowl...
- Holds up to 13 burgers made with a Weber burger press
- One-Touch cleaning system provides hassle-free ash cleanup.Removable, aluminum ash catcher
- Porcelain-enameled lid and bowl Retain heat, and won’t rust or peel
- Use the lid hook to avoid placing the lid on the ground while grilling
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