We love the round design of the Weber Original Kettle 22-inch charcoal grill … and so did our parents and grandparents. Why? Because this design has been around for decades with no significant changes. When you think of a charcoal grill, the Weber Original is almost certainly the one you picture in your head.
As The Spruce discusses in its review of the Weber Original Kettle, the circular shape works so well because it creates a convection heating system. The round kettle also can grill with direct heat and smoke vegetables or meat, although larger grills tend to perform better when smoking than this Weber model. The grill is available in three sizes — 18, 22, and 26 inches in diameter — so you can pick the perfect size for your needs. The 22-inch model offers 363 square inches of grilling space, which is ideal.
The Weber Original Kettle is easy to move from location to location, as it has two wheels and one peg leg in its tripod design. However, this unit is too large to be considered a portable charcoal grill.
The Charcoal Grill World review says the Weber Original is easy to clean, thanks to its three blade ash sweeper and its removable ash catcher. We can attest to that, having used the Weber Original Kettle grill in the courtyard of our apartment building. It's easy to pop out the ash catcher and safely dispose of the ashes without creating a huge mess.
Finally, this is the best overall charcoal grill because of its reasonable price. Customer reviewers on Amazon appreciate the value the Weber Original provides, while also offering a variety of grilling options.
Pros: Classic round design works great for distributing heat, strong price point, easy to clean ash, works well for all types of grilling, large grilling space, optional rotisserie kit available
Cons: Not meant as a portable grill, other units are better at smoking
Char-Griller based this grill's design on the Kamado cooking technique, which originated in Japan roughly 3,000 years ago. According to the Busted Wallet review, the Char-Griller Akorn Kamado grill's design allows it to work equally well as both a smoker and direct heat grill. The Amazing Ribs review points out the good value and performance level of this unit, although its narrow bottom doesn't allow for using the indirect grilling technique.
The Char-Griller Kamado grill has 314 square inches of primary cooking space with another 133 square inches on a warming rack (447 square inches of cooking space in total), so this charcoal grill is a nice option for those who need to grill a lot of meat for parties. Its tripod design has two wheels with a third peg leg for stability.
The top-notch construction of the impressive Broil King Keg 5000 means it's a good investment that'll last many years.
As we mentioned with the Akorn Kamado Kooker grill, the keg-shaped design for a grilling device has been a popular option for centuries, offering the ability to smoke meat, as well as cook it over direct heat. This design shape has made its way to the top of the list of modern charcoal grills, and the best high-end unit we've found is the Broil King Keg 5000 charcoal grill.
As The Spruce discusses in its review, the construction of the Keg 5000 is impressive, offering double-walled steel with an insulation layer in between. This design keeps the heat inside the grill more efficiently than other designs, while allowing the exterior of the unit to remain cool to the touch.
Even though the Keg 5000 has a price point that's near the top of the charcoal grill market, an Amazon customer review says this unit is a good value versus some other keg-shaped designs.
We appreciate the total of 480 square inches of cooking surface available with the Broil King Keg 5000. Some 280 square inches are in the primary cooking grate and 200 square inches are in the secondary cooking grate. This Broil King model's base is sturdy with two wheels on one side and a two-legged base on the other side. With a little reconfiguring, you can mount this unit to your vehicle's trailer hitch and tow it anywhere.
Pros: Holds heat inside efficiently, insulation keeps the exterior cool to the touch, uses less charcoal than other grills because of efficient design, mounts to a trailer hitch for towing, large grilling surface
Cons: High price point, maintaining consistent smoking temperature can be tricky
Most charcoal grills are designed for large cooking jobs, offering a few hundred square inches of cooking space. Big grills are a bit difficult to take with you for tailgating or camping, though, so we'd recommend the Lodge Cast Iron Sportsman's Grill as the best portable charcoal grill option.
You will have to sacrifice some cooking space, but for the right situation, it's a fair trade-off to gain the portability the Lodge grill offers. The Lodge Cast Iron Sportsman's Grill measures only 19 by 10.25 by 8.25 inches. It makes the most of its small size, providing a grate with 155 square inches of cooking space.
When it comes to backyard grilling, sometimes bigger is just better. If you're someone with a huge family or if you love to host barbecues, having a big grilling surface is a must.
The Char-Broil American Gourmet Charcoal Grill 840 is our favorite large capacity grill, offering a horizontal barrel design that increases the available cooking space over some of the keg designs we discussed earlier. One Amazon reviewer was aware that this grill was large, but experiencing the huge cooking surface in person was a pleasant surprise, as it was even bigger than expected.
You'll have 840 total square inches of cooking surface with this unit, including a whopping 568 square inches on the primary grilling grate and 272 square inches on the secondary warming grate. Putting these two cooking surfaces to work by direct heating dozens of burgers while slow roasting a pork loin on the warming grate is a great idea, according to Foodal.
Although Amazing Ribs says the horizontal barrel design of this Char-Broil series is understandably popular, it prefers the round Weber kettle design we listed earlier. Reviews collected by Wal-Mart, many of which come from Char-Broil's website, average out to an encouraging 4.6 out of 5 stars. Some buyers complained about dry rot early on, though it's hard to say whether they cleaned their grills regularly enough.
A grill this large isn't really designed for portability, but Char-Broil's designers did place two wheels on one end of this unit with two peg legs on the other end, so you can roll it to a new location in your backyard relatively easily.
Pros: Reasonable price point, huge amount of cooking surface, sturdy four-legged base, interesting horizontal barrel design, works perfectly for indirect grilling technique
Cons: Requires a lot of charcoal to fill base, doesn't function as a smoker well
I was a charcoal man for many a year. In fact, it wasn't until we had kids and there were simply fewer hours in the day that I made the switch to gas, because the extra twenty or thirty minutes of getting the coals to the perfect heat just weren't worth spending. Within a few months of switching to gas, I was glad I did, the difference in flavor being so much less pronounced than ever I expected.
But I still love cooking with charcoal now and then, an itch I scratch with a tiny little half-dome Weber grill. Before I got my current gas grill, I used a big old Char-Griller charcoal grill, and I still think of it fondly from time to time. Having used that Char-Griller for the better part of a decade, I can tell you that it was one damn fine piece of hardware.
But seeing as I'm now semi-converted to gas grilling, the next Char-Griller grill I own will be this one, the Char-Griller Double Play 3 Burner Gas and Charcoal Grill, a unit that gives you the best of both worlds. For indeed, neither the charcoal nor the gas side of this grill is an afterthought. Both are large, well-made, fully functional grills.
The charcoal half has ample room for briquettes and it can even be fixed up with an added smoker box. The gas side has three powerful primary burners and a side burner that can be used for pots and pans. Each half has its own built-in thermometer and controllable ventilation chimneys, and all together, this grill gives you a whopping 1,260 square inches of cooking space.
Hundreds of Home Depot buyers have rated and reviewed this gas/charcoal grill, and it currently enjoys a shining 4.4-star average rating. One reviewer hits the nail on the head for all of us when he says it's "perfect for gas grilling during the week when [he's] busy coming home from work [then he] busts out the charcoal for the weekends!"
A writer with AmazingRibs calls this dual-function grill a "capacious grill" that offers a huge cook surface and calls it ideal for any al fresco chef "with a tight budget." — Steven John
Pros: Gas and charcoal cooking with one grill, great low price, huge cooking surface
CasusGrill Instant Biodegradable Grill is small, sturdy, easy to use, and costs little (if any) more than a bag of charcoal. Forget those flimsy reusable tin foil grills with their bird-wire-like mesh and toxic fumes, this grill — ironically built out of cardboard and repurposed chopsticks — is sturdy and clean as can be.
The CasusGrill is definitely designed with mother nature in mind, and when you're all done, you can either toss it into the bonfire or find a nice, safe, out-of-the-way grave for it. All you'll be burying is lava stone, cardboard, and bamboo because even the charcoal itself is made from bamboo.
You'll get just enough time to cook for about 60-80 minutes, and you can probably still sneak a couple of rounds of s'mores after that, which is just right for a party of four, and at 2.2 pounds, the CasusGrill won't break your back on your way to the beach. You can read our full review of the grill on Insider Picks.
Popular Mechanics loves the grill and the design, too, and so does Huckberry, where you can buy it for roughly the price of a bag of charcoal, give or take. — Owen Burke
Pros: Affordable, tidy, easy to set up, sturdy, eco-friendly, and an interesting conversation piece
Cons: Coals only stay hot for 60-80 minutes (though there's still time to slow-cook something light afterward, especially s'mores)
A charcoal grill is a metal/ceramic container that can hold burning charcoal in the bottom. You'll place the food you want to be cooked on a metal grate in the center of the container, above the charcoal. This is the cooking surface. Closing the metal container's lid when cooking will hold in the heat. The direct heat from the charcoal sears the bottom of the food, while the indirect heat circulating throughout the grill cooks the food. Leave the lid off the grill if you only want to use direct heat.
When it comes to techniques for lighting charcoal and for understanding how charcoal works, Kingsford is the expert. Charcoal is a great fuel for grilling because it burns hot for searing, but it also burns for a long time, creating plenty of indirect heat for slow cooking. You can add smoking flavors with charcoal grilling, too.
Charcoal grills differ from propane or gas grills in that charcoal doesn't produce a continuous flame. Cooking on a propane grill involves an actual, continuous flame. Charcoal leaves a gray ash after the flame consumes it, while a propane grill leaves no ash.
Key differences in charcoal grills
Here are some of the biggest differences to consider when shopping for the best charcoal grills, as gleaned from The Spruce, Amazing Ribs, and BBQ Guys.
Grilling versus smoking: Some charcoal grills can double as smokers, meaning they cook meat very slowly, using more indirect heat than direct heat. You'll need a charcoal grill with an especially large interior to smoke meat.
Large versus small: A large charcoal grill will offer a big cooking surface, making it good for someone who wants to cook for several people at once. If you want more of a portable grill to take to tailgates or camping, though, you'll have to sacrifice cooking surface for portability.
Using indirect grilling: If you are looking to cook meat slowly without searing, but you don't have the time for smoking, indirect grilling is the technique to use. You'll place the lit charcoal on one side of the charcoal grill and the meat on the opposite side. You need a large charcoal grill to make use of this method, though.
Controlling cooking temperatures: Achieving precise temperatures with a charcoal grill is difficult. However, if you want a bit more control over the temperature inside the charcoal grill, the unit should have air vents on both the top and bottom. Additionally, you should be able to adjust the height of the grate over the charcoal.
Head room: If you plan to cook poultry or beef roasts — any food with some height to it — make sure the charcoal grill is tall enough to accommodate the food with the lid attached.
Although you may think that one bag of charcoal is almost identical to another, there are actually many different types and styles of charcoal to choose from. Here are our top picks for the best grilling charcoal you can buy:
There's nothing like food cooked up al fresco and served hot off the grill. But only a thoroughly cleaned grill can properly cook smoky, savory meats and veggies that diners will devour. The Kona 360° Grill Brush is our top choice because its triple coil design allows it to scour large swathes of the grill with each pass, cleaning the surface on top and bottom.