Make your next BBQ party fun and hassle-free with the best charcoal grills

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All prepared for backyard grilling
All prepared for backyard grilling

If you’re craving juicy, charcoal-flavored meat and want to get a budget-friendly, versatile cooking machine, then charcoal grills are what you should look for. Charcoal grilling requires more time and care than gas grilling, but the benefit is a great smoky taste that you just can't get with propane flames. The fuel source for charcoal grills is charcoal briquettes or natural lumps of charcoal. When burnt, it turns into embers that radiate the heat needed for preparing meals.

The smokey taste isn't the only benefit of using a charcoal grill. They enable improved-zone cooking for accurate grilling and smoking as well as comprehensive heat control. Direct infrared heat and indirect heat are both possible with charcoal grills. Although they are mostly used for slow cooking, there is no temperature limit. Steak, poultry, fish, and vegetables are wonderfully seared when cooked on a charcoal grill at high temperatures.

But with hundreds of charcoal grills on the market, which one is ideally suited to your needs? We have gathered and reviewed some of the finest charcoal grills of 2022 to help you make the right decision.

Top Picks

Best overall: Cuisinart CCG190RB Portable Charcoal Grill

Features a dual venting system, giving you the ultimate charcoal management and temperature control
Features a dual venting system, giving you the ultimate charcoal management and temperature control

This alloy-steel charcoal grill is the ideal option for all of your grilling needs. This compact option is lightweight and portable and still offers a great deal of cooking surface for preparing your favorite items almost anywhere. The enamel coating on the firebox adds strength and longevity, allowing it to withstand even extreme grilling temperatures. The dual-venting system helps manage the heat, allowing you to cook different types of food at different temperatures. Three robust latches also hold the lid for increased convenience, and the enamel-coated ashtray makes the interconnected legs more stable. The portability this product offers, as well as its dual-venting system, helped us judge it as the best overall on this list.

Key Features:

  • 150-square inch, chrome-plated rack

  • Measures 14 x 14 x 15 inches

  • Enamel-coated ash catcher and firebox

  • 3 secure-lid locks

Most storage: Royal Gourmet CC1830SC Charcoal Grill

The offset smoker is firmly attached to the grill to ensure good circulation of heat and smoke
The offset smoker is firmly attached to the grill to ensure good circulation of heat and smoke

This charcoal grill can handle almost any traditional grilling style, giving food a great charcoal taste. The side smoker box also has its own damper settings and is firmly affixed. It is designed to build a small charcoal, or wood chip fire, without using the main grilling chamber. Additionally, the strong cart with a metal bottom shelf helps everything stay stable and offers an increased cooking area. The greatest part is that the main grill grates are covered with a semi-stick porcelain coating. You can raise the flame with the help of an adjustable charcoal pan to get an awesome steakhouse sear or reduce it for indirect cooking. The manufacturer has also included a lid-mounted thermometer gauge, allowing you to easily monitor cooking temperatures.

Key Features:

  • 811-square inch grilling space

  • 2-level, height-adjustable charcoal pan

  • Lid-mounted thermometer gauge

  • Chrome-plated warming rack

Most portable: Weber Original Kettle 22-inch Charcoal Grill

Its ultra-durable, porcelain-enameled lid and bowl retain heat, while the dampers easily adjust for precise temperature control
Its ultra-durable, porcelain-enameled lid and bowl retain heat, while the dampers easily adjust for precise temperature control

This simple and minimalistic design of this charcoal grill takes less than half an hour to put together, allowing you to cook delicious food almost anywhere you want. This is a lightweight option with a decent amount of cooking surface. To put that into perspective, the cooking grate can hold up to thirteen burgers at a time, just perfect for outdoor parties with hungry guests. The enameled lid and bowl give you plenty of area to BBQ while retaining heat and avoiding rust. On top of the cover, there is a built-in thermometer for extra temperature management. When you remove the lid, you'll notice an angled-lid hook that lets you hang the top lid on the grill's side instead of having to put it on the ground. The manufacturer has also added a one-touch cleaning system and a removable ash catcher for hassle-free cleanup.

Key Features:

  • 7.5-inch-high, porcelain-enameled lid and bowl

  • One-touch cleaning system

  • Removable-aluminum ashtray

  • Dampers control temperature

  • 363-square-inch cooking surface

  • Weight: Approximately 32 pounds

Elite design: Char-Griller E16620 Charcoal Grill

Control the heat levels with ease using the indexed adjustable dual dampers and thermometer, and quickly clean up after grilling using the removable easy dump ash pan
Control the heat levels with ease using the indexed adjustable dual dampers and thermometer, and quickly clean up after grilling using the removable easy dump ash pan

Do you host parties often? If so, this option by Char-Griller is a great choice for avid BBQ chefs that need ample grilling space. The grates on the grill are made of solid cast iron, which is highly durable and heat resistant. The detachable-warming racks also make transferring food to a dish a breeze. And you can clean it in just a few minutes by dumping the ash from the removable tray and wiping it down with a damp cloth. With its triple-walled insulation, this option absorbs heat and maintains the temperature for perfect grilling. The top dampers maintain airflow with their built-in temperature gauge, while the bottom damper maintains a perfect balance for accurate temperature regulation. This product folds up into a compact size too, offering easy storage when you aren't using it. Two large front wheels make it easy to move around, this is great for repositioning the grill for different events.

Key Features:

  • 8-inch, locking-caster wheels

  • Cast-iron grates for even heat distribution

  • Triple-walled, steel-insulated design

  • Storage shelf at the bottom

  • 447-square-inch cooking space

Highest-quality materials: Dyna-Glo Dual Zone Charcoal Grill

Removable firebox divider for single or dual cooking zone
Removable firebox divider for single or dual cooking zone

Having a huge charcoal grill that can be converted into a smoker is a highly enticing proposition for many outdoor cooks. If you're done with lousy, low-quality charcoal grills, this dual-zone, premium option is here to fill the void. It has an enormous cooking area spread out over two distinct regions. With its adjustable wood-chip trays, you can quickly lower or raise the charcoal to the grates. You also get four separate pieces of enameled, cast-iron cooking grates for cooking different foods almost anywhere. This product has foldable shelves, providing two different cooking spaces for meat and vegetables. Each side of the grill has an airflow lever that you can adjust to control the temperature. The highly functional wheels can easily carry your charcoal grill to almost any location.

Key Features:

  • Porcelain, enamel-coated grill grates

  • Storage racks for utensils

  • Adjustable charcoal trays

  • Removable, steel-firebox divider

  • 816-square inch cooking space

How to find your next charcoal grill: A buyer’s guide

Buying an outdoor cooking machine is not an especially challenging task, but you should be careful in investing your money. Choosing the right one can be difficult with the various charcoal grills available. They come in a lot of different sizes and shapes and with different levels of functionality. We have compiled a comprehensive buyer’s guide to save you time and money when buying a charcoal grill. Let's dive in!

Advantages of using a charcoal grill

Charcoal grills are versatile and can easily withstand higher temperatures. Charcoal grills provide a superior taste by infusing smoke from hot coals, evaporated drippings, and wood chips added to the fire.

They're less expensive, ideal for dual-zone cooking, and have higher long-term value. These products provide a genuine feeling of becoming an accomplished chef. It can be challenging trying to choose from the various available designs, styles, colors, and sizes. So, we created a detailed guide about some of the finest charcoal grills to help you make an informed decision. Go through this guide to better understand the features and functionality that should come with a quality grill.

Charcoal grills cook hotter than gas versions. Higher temperatures provide more of a distinctive "grilled" taste, resulting in more delicious and memorable food. These machines provide dual-zone cooking for making various dishes, they also provide an all-in-one cooking machine. Charcoal grills are also far less expensive than gas-fired barbecues of the same level of quality. A quality charcoal barbecue is often a fraction of the cost of a top-of-the-line, gas-fired grill.

What are the different types of charcoal grills?

Ceramic, barrel, and kettle grills are the three basic types of charcoal grills. Although each has its own particular strengths, they are all capable of grilling, barbecuing, and smoking food. Let's explore each type to better understand grills and the distinctive features and functionality they offer.

Kettle

Kettle versions are compact, with a surface area of around 363 square inches. This allows you to cook 12 to 15 burgers without overcrowding. A kettle grill's almost spherical shape helps maintain and reflect heat, ensuring that food cooks evenly. They're fairly simple in terms of upkeep too.

Kettle grills are not only economical but also adaptable. Basic models start at under $100 (or sometimes even less). A kettle grill can handle whatever cooking style you want, from high-temperature grilling to low-temperature barbecuing and smoking.

Barrel

Barrel grills are considerably more extensive, with a primary cooking area of around 435 square inches, they are large enough to fit a lot of food at once. These versions are mainly built for smoking, grilling and barbecuing. There are also air vents and a chimney as well as a wheeled base for moving the cooker around.

These models consist of two warming racks, a primary and a secondary. If you're looking to grill or smoke a lot of food, a barrel grill provides a lot of capacity for a lot less money ($200 and up) than a ceramic grill.

Ceramic

Ceramic grills are the most costly charcoal grills, with mid-range models starting at around $700. Experts mainly use these versions. Their solid ceramic construction provides superior heat control and can cook at temperatures ranging from 200°F-500°F and sometimes even higher. In a nutshell, these can retain and absorb heat extremely well.

They also come in various sizes, and they are excellent for boosting the effectiveness of charcoal. You won't need as much charcoal to reach the same temperatures in a ceramic grill, and whatever you do use will burn for longer.

Things to consider when buying a charcoal grill

Before buying a charcoal grill, you should consider these factors to avoid any inconvenience down the road.

1. Price

Prices for charcoal grills can vary widely, so you’re sure to find something that lines up with your budget. The ultimate cost of a grill is determined by its size, grill materials, and extra features, so consider your choice based on what’s important to you and how you want to grill.

2. Shape and size

When determining the size of the grill you want, consider the size of your space and the number of people you'll generally feed at one time. You can choose a larger grill if you have large BBQ parties often, but if you are only providing for a few people at a time, a large grill will be inefficient and may take up room that could be used for something else.

Wider grills can cook more food at once using a thinner coal bed, making them ideal for burger and bratwurst cookouts. Kettle and kamado grills feature deeper coal beds, which may slow how quickly the coals burn, resulting in slow cooking.

3. Adjustable cooking grate or coal bed

Food cooked near the coals sears faster, but it is also more likely to burn before being fully cooked. To avoid this scenario, look for a grill with a cooking grate or coal bed that can be lowered or raised with an operating lever. This will provide another method for managing the heat and lowering the flames.

4. Airflow

Airflow controls the heat of charcoal grills. There should be two vents on your grill: one at the top and one at the bottom. For low-and-slow cooking, more air circulating over the coals allows the flames to burn hotter, controlling the flow keeps the coals slightly ignited. Look for a design with solid dampers or vents and a tight lid.

Tips for maintaining your charcoal grill

Make your charcoal grill last longer with these maintenance tips.

When the season begins

  • Before you have your first barbeque, clean the grate.

  • Dispose of any ashes from last season.

  • Wash the grill to remove any stains.

  • Restock your charcoal before having your first cookout.

While grilling

  • Clean the grate thoroughly.

  • Oil the grate to keep food from sticking.

At the end of the season

  • Remove the ashes.

  • To avoid the metal components rusting, don't wash your grill before the next season.

People also asked

Q: What is the best way to use a charcoal grill?

A: Place the lit coals on about half of the charcoal grate to cook using direct heat. Sear the meat over the embers, then transfer it to a relatively cool spot for indirect cooking. Place the cooking grate in the appropriate place and close the lid, regardless of how you placed the charcoal.

Q: After lighting the charcoal, should I close my grill?

A: Before adding any food to a grill, make sure it's nice and hot. Cover the grill with the lid after igniting it and let the charcoal heat up for at least 15 minutes.

Q: Can I cook with charcoal indoors?

A: Even with proper ventilation, charcoal should never be used indoors. It’s too dangerous.