In this article we embark on a deep dive look for the best charcoal grill, taking into account the mix of features, pros and cons, and price, to find what we consider the top models to suit different people and needs.
We walk you through our hand-selected top picks for best overall charcoal grills in a few categories, then go over the specific things you should have in mind when shopping for a charcoal grill.
We’ll then take a quick look at why we have a long-time love affair with charcoal grilling despite the fact there are easier and quicker ways to cook.
In short, we’ve done the legwork for you, so sit back, relax, and read on!
At a Glance: The Best Charcoal Grills Reviewed in this Guide
- Top Pick: Napoleon 22 Inch Pro Charcoal Grill PRO22K-LEG-2
- Runner-Up: Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill, 22-Inch
- Best High-End: Hasty Bake Gourmet Pro 258
- High-End Runner-Up: Napoleon PRO605CSS Professional Charcoal Grill
- Best Mid-Range: PK Grills PK360
- Mid-Range Runner-Up: Weber Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill, 22-Inch
- Budget Pick: Char-Griller E1515 Patio Pro Charcoal Grill
- Luxury Pick: Hasty Bake 357 Pro
- Best Kamado Style: Kamado Joe Big Joe III 24-inch Charcoal Grill
- Best Grill and Smoker: Masterbuilt Gravity Series Digital Charcoal Grill and Smoker
- Grill and Smoker Runner-Up: Slow N Sear Deluxe Kettle Grill
- Best Portable: Weber Go-Anywhere Charcoal Grill
- Best Hibachi Style: Lodge Sportsmans Pro Cast Iron Grill
Contents (Jump to Topic)
- 1 At a Glance: The Best Charcoal Grills Reviewed in this Guide
- 2 Reviews of Our Charcoal Grill Recommendations
- 2.1 Napoleon 22 Inch Pro Charcoal Grill PRO22K-LEG-2
- 2.2 Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill, 22-Inch
- 2.3 Hasty Bake Gourmet Pro 258
- 2.4 Napoleon PRO605CSS Professional Charcoal Grill
- 2.5 PK Grills PK360
- 2.6 Weber Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill, 22-Inch, Touch-N-Go Gas Ignition System
- 2.7 Char-Griller E1515 Patio Pro Charcoal Grill
- 2.8 Hasty Bake 357 Pro
- 2.9 Kamado Joe Big Joe III 24-inch Charcoal Grill
- 2.10 Masterbuilt Gravity Series Digital Charcoal Grill and Smoker
- 2.11 Slow N Sear Deluxe Kettle Grill
- 2.12 Weber Go-Anywhere Charcoal Grill
- 2.13 Lodge Sportsmans Pro Cast Iron Grill
- 3 What to Consider When Buying a Charcoal Grill
- 4 Charcoal Grilling Tools and Accessories You’ll Also Need
- 5 Final Thoughts
Reviews of Our Charcoal Grill Recommendations
There aren’t many of us who can resist the lure of a charcoal grill, the incredible aromas, and the knockout flavors it produces. There’s something primal about cooking with fire in this way, even when it takes a little time. Or perhaps because it takes time.
With charcoal grills, it’s about process, and it’s the art, skill, and technique involved as much as the delicious results that keep us coming back for more.
So for your ultimate grilling pleasure, here is our shortlist compiled after years of grilling and weeks of research, looking for the best charcoal grills in different categories.
Napoleon 22 Inch Pro Charcoal Grill PRO22K-LEG-2
As charcoal grills go, there’s not much simpler and more trustworthy than a classic kettle grill. But Napoleon decided there was room for improvement, bringing us the charcoal grill we didn’t realize we needed — but now we’re not sure how we lived without it!
I have owned numerous Weber kettle grills, and still own an Original and Mastertouch models as we speak. But when I want to outright grill over charcoal, I always reach for my Napoleon Pro now. For me, it is the best kettle grill available on the market today.
At first glance, the 22” Pro Charcoal looks like most any kettle grill. You’ve got the signature marine buoy shape, classic black exterior, ash-catcher protrusion at the bottom, plus legs, a lower grid-style shelf, and a pair of wheels for trundling about the yard.
But, wait — what’s with that wide band of stainless steel around the midsection? And why is the handle at the front and not on the top? What’s going on here?
Let’s start with the handle. Unlike many kettle grills on the market, this one has a hinged lid. That means you can flip it up and out of the way rather than needing to lift it off completely and find somewhere to hang it or set it down. Additionally, it’s offset from the center, so your hand doesn’t cross the heat zone as you open it. It’s safer and far more convenient.
Now for the stainless steel belt. This additional piece creates more separation between the charcoal and the upper rim. To take advantage of it, Napoleon fitted the bowl with three sets of brackets to support the cooking grate, each at a different height. For low and slow cooking, keep the grate at the top. Drop it to the bottom, right above the charcoal, for high-temperature searing. And for something in-between, well, use the in-between position.
Another innovative feature is the stainless steel heat diffuser. It looks like a small hubcap with a series of holes punched around the circumference. The diffuser rests on the charcoal grate, and you pile the charcoal over and around it. Not only does it help channel air from the bottom vent into your charcoal, but it also helps force the heat up toward your food.
But wait, there’s more! The cooking grate is a genuine Napoleon WAVE, made of porcelain-enameled cast iron.
It’s a single piece, but it’s split into three by a pair of hinges. These allow you to add more coal without disturbing your food.
- Hinged lid is safe and convenient
- Improved heat distribution thanks to the diffuser
- Innovative 3-position cooking grate for different styles of barbecuing
- Hinged grate for easy access to charcoal
- Built to last; 10-year warranty on most parts
- The bottom vent handle is also used to remove ash catch — don’t turn it too far, or you’ll have a mess
Napoleon also offers this grill with a full cart. The cart features a solid bottom shelf, two wheels, two swiveling and locking casters, and a large fold-out work shelf.
The Napoleon 22” Pro Charcoal Grill takes everything we love about kettle grills and makes it even better. This is an upgraded experience that charcoal fans will appreciate every time they cook on it.
Please check out our hands on review and testing of the Napoleon Pro 22 Inch Charcoal Grill for more details.
It’s a crime to go through life without having owned a Weber Original Kettle. This all-American backyard icon boasts simplicity of design (think: easy-to-assemble), reliability and consistently scores big with users on a delicious end product. Yup, it grills up a great burger and then some!
Thanks to this grill’s excellent temperature control, it can even be used as a smoker.
And the famous spherical shape of the Weber kettle allows for unparalleled heat convection, which is why the design hasn’t changed much in all these years!
There’s something about the Weber Original’s sleek classic black design which is comfortingly timeless, and the premium upgrade adds features that improve its ease of use and enjoyment when cooking on it.
Right out of the box, it seems like a pretty basic grill design, but you know it’s stood the test of time precisely because it does the job, and does it incredibly well.
This 22 inch diameter, durable and capable grill offers 363 square inches of cooking area, and comes with a 10-year limited warranty
There’s not much you can’t do on these charcoal grills from cooking with high direct or low indirect heat and smoking.
I love that the hinged cooking grate allows you access to the coals (adjust, add more, etc) without having to remove the entire grate or the food.
Two wheels make the Weber kettle easily movable around the yard too which I like because sometimes I’m looking to get out of the wind or the sun, and this allows me to move it wherever I need it.
Easy to clean. Once the grill is cool, simply work the One-Touch Cleaning lever back and forth to shake ash into the ash catcher, and you can use left-over coals for next time.
Excellent airflow and temperature control with lid vents, allowing you to adjust the heat up and down as needed. When done, just close the vents to kill the fire, and this will also stop remaining coals from continued burning, so you can use them for your next cook.
- versatile…you can do a lot on this grill!
- Hinged cooking grate allows access to the coals without having to remove the grate or food.
- Two wheels make it easily movable.
- Easy to clean and empty ash with the built-in one-touch cleaning system.
- Excellent airflow and temperature control.
- 3-legged design (one fixed, two on wheels) can be unsteady on an uneven surface
- Thermometer on opposite side of the lid to the vents can lead to measuring the hot side over the coals, not what’s over the meat. (Use a good digital thermometer to overcome this.)
Overall, this little black beauty comes highly recommended and is in our mind the best charcoal grill for a mix of price and performance.
You will not regret this purchase as it surely is one of the very best charcoal grills. We have a few more details in our Weber Original Kettle review if you wish to dig deeper.
Hasty Bake Gourmet Pro 258
While this grill may not win any beauty contests, it just might win some barbecuing contests! Thanks to its superior design and construction, the Hasty Bake Gourmet Pro 258 deserves to be in any conversation about the best charcoal grill on the market.
There are so many remarkable features it’s hard to know where to begin. So, we’ll arbitrarily start with the 3-position charcoal grate. A large crank handle on the left side of the grill allows you to raise or lower the charcoal. There’s an indicator on the front to help you choose the right setting: Sear, Bake, and Smoke. Sear is closest to the grate to help hit the highest temperatures possible. Smoke is furthest away to facilitate low-end heat for low and slow cooking.
We also can’t get over the unique lid. The two-piece hinges make the lid slide up instead of swing back. This exposes the entire cooking area but allows for zero clearance at the back. When closed, the gasket and latch seal the lid tightly. Between the gasket and the double-wall construction, heat retention is remarkable.
Access to the cart interior is through a side door. From here, you can access the slide-out ash pan, the firebox, and the heat deflector. Adding charcoal or wood mid-cook is easy, with minimal heat loss, and you won’t disturb your food.
The primary cooking surface measures 523 square inches, and the upper rack adds another 280. You might think your cooking grates arrived dented, but that’s an intentional feature. The grate slope towards the middle to channel more grease into the catch pan and reduce flare-ups.
Materials used include 20-gauge stainless steel for the hood and 18-gauge powder-coated steel for the base. The firebox is a mix of 18- and 12-gauge steel. It’s exceptionally well built (handmade in the US) and carries a 10-year warranty on the stainless steel bits and 5 years on the other stuff.
- Made of durable stainless and powder-coated steel
- Unique lift-style door seals tightly to hold in heat
- Rugged cart with enclosed storage
- Front and side work tables
- Capacity to run two rotisseries at once (not included)
- 3-position charcoal grate for searing, smoking, and baking
- Side access hatch may not be optimal for all yard configurations
- Nickel-plated steel wire cooking grates seem cheap compared to cast iron on other models
This is one of those cases when “Pro” in the name is more than just a marketing gimmick. The Hasty Bake Gourmet Pro 258 is a competition-grade grill and smoker you can enjoy at home. Big price tag? Sure. Even bigger payoff? You bet.
Napoleon PRO605CSS Professional Charcoal Grill
There’s no question this is a dazzling-looking barbecue. Made of 304 stainless steel from head to toe and with beautiful clean lines, you’ll impress your guests and yourself before you even light it up. But how well does it function?
Well, if you’re seriously into charcoal grilling, this could be your dream grill. You’ll have ultimate control over every aspect of your charcoal. That’s amazing if you love the whole experience of building your charcoal bed just the way you want it and where you want it, adjusting vents, tending to your fire, and so on. Control freaks, take note; you’ve never seen anything like it.
There are three separate charcoal trays. That makes it easy to set up for multi-zone cooking, with your charcoal all to one side or half on one side and half on the other with an indirect zone in the center.
The right-side work table has a handle sticking out of it, adjustable between six positions. Amazingly, it’s for raising and lowering the charcoal tray. Searing some steaks? Raise the charcoal to the highest position for screaming-hot temperatures. Roasting or smoking? Drop it down to the lowest setting to help reach the low and slow temperature range.
For even more control, there’s a vent with five openings running across the front of the grill and tucked up underneath for enhanced weather protection. A single slider at the front allows you to open and close the vents as required.
At the back of the cook chamber, you’ll find what looks like an infrared burner, the kind some premium gas grills feature. This one, however, is made for charcoal. If you purchase the optional rotisserie, you can fill this hanging basket with hot coals and cook food on the spit in front of it. Be sure and wear your heat-proof gloves when loading the basket!
Under the lid, you’ll find almost 600 square inches of Napoleon’s signature WAVE cooking grids. They’re made of porcelain enameled cast iron, so they’re rust-resistant, offer excellent heat distribution, and will last for many years with proper maintenance. A small upper rack is available for warming.
Convenience features include dual side shelves, four tool hooks, enclosed storage, a slide-out ashtray, and a charcoal access hatch for loading more fuel without lifting the lid.
- Offers incredible control over every aspect of your charcoal
- All-stainless steel construction
- Easy to set up for multiple styles of cooking
- Rotisserie zone for more cooking options
- 15-year warranty on base and lid
- Steep learning curve, especially if you’re not used to charcoal
- Lid doesn’t seal, making temperature/smoke control more challenging
The Napoleon PRO605CSS has set the bar for precision charcoal grilling. It is definitely not a charcoal grill for everyone. But, if you relish the process of cooking over charcoal, fine-tuning every factor for the perfect cook, you’ll think you’ve died and gone to BBQ heaven.
PK Grills PK360
PK Grills (the PK stands for Portable Kitchen, FYI) lists the PK360 as “The Flagship” on their website. That’s saying something, considering the PK line-up also includes the Original PK and “The All New Original PK” grills. So it’s not the original (clearly), but they do consider it their top model. Here’s why.
The firebox and lid are made of cast aluminum. It’s rock-solid, and the heat retention and distribution properties are phenomenal. Oh, and it’s rust-proof, too. Take care of your PK360, and it may outlive you. (This depends slightly on how well you take care of yourself, too.)
It’s a fairly compact grill (360 square inches of cooking space), but thanks to the four-point venting system, it’s incredibly versatile. There are twin radial vents on the lid to help direct airflow; they’re easy to use and very precise.
You’ll also find a pair of cylindrical vents at the bottom of the grill. These you operate with a pair of knobs at the front, and they work very much like burner controls on a gas grill. Once you get on to how they work together, you’ll be amazed at how finely you can tune the temperature.
Check out this video to see how they work:
PK Grills is known for their capsule-style barbecues. Part of what makes this design so great is the volume of space they allow under the lid. The PK360 takes that to the next level, boasting 5374 cubic inches under the lid. For comparison, the Original PK Grill has 4080 cubic inches; that’s a huge difference, especially considering the difference of just 50 square inches on the grate.
Of course, function is about more than just how a grill cooks. The PK360 comes with a detachable stand, so it’s easy to break down and pack up to take on the road. There’s a pair of wheels to help you move it around, and you get twin side shelves that fold down when you don’t need them.
- Compact design but enough volume to cook an entire turkey
- Precise temperature control with 4 vents
- Cast aluminum body and lid are durable and rust-proof
- Excellent heat retention
- Hinged cooking grate for easy access to charcoal while cooking
- Many convenience features, including side shelves and detachable stand
- Small main cooking grate
- No upper warming rack
There are so many reasons to love this stylish grill. The PK Grills PK360 is perfect for small yards with some potential for grilling on the go. You might also love it as a second grill, perhaps to complement a gas BBQ, or as a smaller charcoal alternative to firing up a big smoker or pellet grill.
Weber Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill, 22-Inch, Touch-N-Go Gas Ignition System
All that stuff you hear about charcoal grills being tricky to light, maintain, control, clean up? Forget it!
The Weber Performer charcoal grill is charcoal grilling at its easy-peasy best! There are so many built-in features for convenience on this grill that I’m kind of surprised there isn’t a button that marinates and flips the meat for you too!
Right out of the box, you can see this isn’t basic, but is a very feature filled modern charcoal grill.
The grill body is there, but it’s nestled in an array of extras that do all the work for you, from a handy charcoal storage bin to a unique Touch-N-Go electronic coal ignition button (and I thought I’d seen it all!) to a removable LCD timer.
With this truly premium, top of the line charcoal grill, you can almost just sit back and let it happen!
If you have a bunch of people to feed, you should be enjoying the crowd, not worrying where the bag of charcoal is, fussing with coal-lighting, or panicking that you forgot to set a timer. This grill has that covered.
Also, the handy painted metal (not plastic) side table that’s attached. It’s super-convenient for doing a quick foil wrap, lifting burgers on to plates, storing basting stuff at hand and other essential grill details.
This Weber kettle charcoal grill is also very easy to clean. The One-Touch cleaning system makes clean-up a breeze, and the ash pan is large enough to catch all the cooks’ debris, so you can dispose of it with minimal mess.
The hinged cooking grates, and central removable section make filling up with charcoal or adding flavor wood for smoke a cinch.
The built-in thermometer, adjustable dampers, easy-to-read LCD timer and charcoal storage all make for an ultra-easy grill experience.
But the Touch-N-Go gas ignition…totally new to me…really won my heart. Sure, I take pride in lighting and maintaining my coals just the way I like it; but one and done? Got to love that!
- Charcoal storage, gas ignition and timer cover small annoyances people often have with charcoal grills.
- Sturdy metal side table to keep items close at hand.
- Very easy to clean.
- Easy access to coal without having to remove the grates.
- Built in thermometer and timer.
- A hook on the domed lid (standard with many charcoal grills) would be nice. Not included with this model.
- Markings on the bottom vent slider to help you know how open it is would also have been a good idea. You kind of have to learn or even mark this up yourself. A small gripe, but a gripe nonetheless.
- Not very portable…it’s made for the backyard and there it will stay!
If you’re a purist, do-it-from-scratch the “real” way kind of person, the Weber Performance may not be for you. But its built-in features act like a kind of safety net to smooth over some trickier aspects of charcoal grilling.
So it comes down to details, and if you like details, this is one of the best charcoal grills that has them in spades, and could just be the one for you.
Char-Griller E1515 Patio Pro Charcoal Grill
This grill has a very pleasing classic shape and despite a generous 250 square inch cooking surface, will work well for small gardens and patios or other places where space is a premium.
Dimensions are just 31 × 21 × 44 inches but with heavy steel construction and cast-iron cooking grates, don’t be thinking this little guy is a light-weight. The Char-Griller 1515 can easily handle a tri-tip or whole roast chicken.
Clean-up is made easy with a removable ash pan and storage is a cinch with a nice-looking wooden side shelf. This grill may be a small package, but it’s got the looks and performance of some of the big players in the field.
- Small but good height, so suitable for small patios and spaces
- Pull out drawer for easy fuel loading, and easy clean up of ashes
- Wheels for easy portability
- Side table as a work surface or for tools
- Low cost, so economical
- A bit leaky, so will want to use gasket tape to help seal it
- Thin construction materials (but expected at this price point)
Hasty Bake 357 Pro
If money is no object and you really must have the best charcoal grill on the block, we’ve got you. Or, rather, Hasty Bake has you with this extraordinary cooker. Let’s look at why it ranks among the very elite in the world of charcoal cooking.
First of all, it’s a study in stainless steel. The entire unit is made of double-walled 304 stainless steel. The double walls act as insulation, helping to keep temperatures steady and reduce your fuel consumption. You’ll find it especially effective if you live somewhere that gets cold in the winter.
There’s a door on the right side of the cart to access all the internal components: water pan, heat deflectors (there are two; you can use one or both as needed), ash pan, and a charcoal tray. Each piece slides in and out on a set of rails; they’re easy to insert and remove, and you’ll never fumble around with finicky hooks or brackets.
The Easy-glide hood lifts nearly straight up rather than back. It’s easy to operate and provides complete access to the cooking chamber without adding depth.
Under the lid is a 522 square inch stainless steel wire cooking grate. It dips in the middle to help channel grease into the narrow channel just below the grate. This drains into a disposable pan on the exterior of the barbecue. Above the main great is a laser-cut 280 square inch warming rack. It’s perfect for toasting buns, holding cooked food, or increasing your smoking capacity.
Versatility is the name of the game with the Hasty Bake Pro 357. With just a few turns of the crank handle, you can raise or lower the charcoal tray between three key positions, one for searing, one for baking, and one for smoking. There’s enough space under the lid to fit huge cuts of meat or whole turkeys. It’s also designed to accommodate an optional rotisserie and a griddle.
Though it weighs 245 pounds, thanks to the four wheels, it’s no big deal to roll it around your patio.
The workmanship is absolutely top-notch, but Hasty Bake includes a 10-year warranty, just to be sure. Honestly, though, it’s difficult to imagine this grill not lasting many times that long.
- Double-walled 304 stainless steel construction for fantastic heat retention
- Charcoal basket raises and lowers for different types of cooking
- Slide components in and out with ease
- Folding front shelf and fixed side shelf
- Unique zero-clearance lifting lid
- Very expensive
- At this price point, a built-in light for night cooks should be a given
Very few charcoal cookers on the market can compare to the Hasty Bake 357 Pro. In fact, it may be in a league of its own, and if you demand the best, you won’t be let down.
Kamado Joe Big Joe III 24-inch Charcoal Grill
With its dazzling cherry-red body and sleek black wings, the KJ Big Joe III brings to mind an ‘Angry Bird’ or a Mustang Fighter Plane!
But its purpose is much more appealing… ground-breaking design innovation and a thick-walled ceramic shell give this baby grilling AND smoking mastery like you’ve never seen before!
You may already be a BGE fan (join the thousands) and be wondering how that cornerstone of grilling could possibly be improved?
Well, Kamado Joe has combined innovation and craftsmanship to take ceramic grill design to a new level.
With features like the Airlift Hinge for effortless opening and closing, the ‘Divide and Conquer Flexible Cooking System’ that gives you unparalleled versatility to cook with different grate configurations, and the ‘Kontrol Tower Top Vent’ for maximum control and precision when managing temperature.
And new in the version 3 kamado grills is the Harvard science engineered, hyperbolic smoke chamber insert called the ‘Slo-Roller.’
This accessory is designed to perfect the circulation of heat and smoke more evenly throughout the cooking chamber, eliminating hot spots and making sure all food is equally exposed to heat and smoke, cooking more evenly and absorbing those lush smoky flavors.
You can click here to learn more about the Slo-Roller, it’s an incredible addition to what was already a fantastic piece of kit.
I personally own the Kamado Joe classic version 1, and the Kamado Joe ‘Big Joe’ version 3. They are my favorite grills by far. The version 3 is simply fantastic to cook with, producing amazing food and being real fun and easy-to-use.
I’m recommending the Big Joe 24″ version 3 here, and not the smaller Classic Joe 18″ version 3, because they are all but the same except for size. BUT, the extra size allows you to have a slightly hotter fire to fill the increased space, which results in a cleaner ‘blue smoke‘ when smoking, and hence ultimately better food.
And to be perfectly honest, having the extra space of a Big Joe, to be able to cook for a good-sized crowd, is worth the extra cost and versatility.
This is an out and charcoal grill, but also an out-and-out smoker! Pretty much the Swiss army knife of charcoal cookers, you can grill, smoke, bake and roast…there’s little you cannot do on this unit.
And I have to confess to a certain gluttonous love of upgrades and extras. I love the grills I own but can’t help keeping a greedy watch on whatever clever new stuff is coming down the pipeline. Well, Kamado Joe has plenty, and they’ve definitely produced a Mercedes-Benz with the Classic III.
The Divide and Conquer multi-level grate system is a feature I think would be hard to grill without once you’ve had the luxury of it. Flexible and versatile, it really helps you control exactly what foods are receiving different levels of heat.
I love the Airlift Hinge because I nearly always have something else in my hands and to be able to lift that otherwise heavy lid with one finger and have it stay in any position, well, it just about defies physics! It would certainly make the business of grilling a lot easier.
I love the stainless-steel latch and wire mesh fiberglass gasket because these are the things that ensure a dead tight seal, so when I’m smoking I know all that goodness is staying under the hood and not escaping, as well as keeping temperatures locked down.
Finally, the Slo-Roller really does remove hot spots and seems to give a better, deeper, more rounded and consistent smoky flavor to foods. Definitely an upgrade and helps to achieve consistency during cooks.
- You can grill, smoke, bake and roast.
- Multi-level grate system is flexible and versatile.
- The ‘Airlift Hinge’ so you can lift the lid with one finger and have it stay in any position.
- It has a dead tight seal, leading to fuel efficiency (cost saving) and keeping temperatures locked down.
- The Slo-Roller removes hot spots and seems to give a better smoky flavor to foods.
- This is a heavy unit at 487 lbs! (Though we actually like this, because it shows quality in material used, thermal mass and translates to temperature stability.)
- Well, it would be great if it cost less, sure, but this is definitely an example of you get what you pay for.
How much do I love this grill and smoker?
In my opinion, if you’re looking for a truly remarkable piece of heavy-duty engineering with top quality materials and building excellence, you’ve found it in the Kamado Joe Big Joe III. Without doubt, it is one of the best charcoal grills for sale on the market today, one that has just as fine a pedigree for smoking as it does for grilling.
This is a design ahead of the others, and a lot of thought has gone into clever ways to beat the goblins of grilling (cracked fireboxes, peeling paint, rusting bolts). The Big Joe III rises gracefully above it all and delivers on every front.
Head on over to our Kamado Joe Big Joe III review for hands on testing and more details.
Masterbuilt Gravity Series Digital Charcoal Grill and Smoker
Pellet grills seem to have been put on this Earth to render charcoal grills obsolete. The Masterbuilt Gravity Series has something to say about that. Combining most of the best elements of pellet and charcoal grills, this is clearly meant to be a game-changer in the field.
Traditional charcoal grills require you to load up with charcoal, arrange it properly under your grate, light it, and then monitor your temperature throughout the cook, possibly adjusting vents for airflow.
With this grill, you pour the charcoal into the side-mounted hopper, light it, and then let the onboard digital thermometer and fan take care of the hard part while you cook. The Masterbuilt Gravity Fed grill and smoker automatically holds the temperature at your chosen setting; no further work is required by you.
The thermometer supports up to four probes, and you can control it all from a smartphone app on your smart device via WiFi or Bluetooth. Now you’re ready to smoke, roast, or grill.
By the way, this is not just a grill! Low and slow smoking is easy; just add a couple of chunks directly into the hopper among the briquettes, or place them in the ash hopper below, set your temperature to a low 225 °F to 275 °F, and you are ready to create some authentic smoked BBQ.
Under the lid, there’s a reversible grate, with one side optimized for long cooks and smoking, and one for grilling and searing, as well as warming racks.
Unfortunately, you can’t cook over direct heat, but you can still crank it up to 700°F+ for those burgers, steaks, and more.
It’s solidly built and features a front and side shelf, a small storage compartment, tool hooks, a bottom shelf, and four wheels, including two locking casters.
You do have to keep it plugged in to operate, but it’s not like you’re going to be traveling with this 200-pound monster.
There are 3 different sizes of this grill, with slightly different features. The one you see in the images is my 1050 version, there are also 560 and 800 versions available. Here’s a quick comparison table of the three.
The medium sized 800 version is possibly the best value, as it comes with a reversible flat top griddle insert as standard.
- Gravity-fed charcoal reduces mess and makes top-ups easy
- Digital controller and auto-fan makes it as easy to use as your kitchen oven
- Built-in digital thermometer for monitoring up to four probes
- Plenty of convenience features, including shelves and hooks
- Easy to add wood for more flavorful smoke
- No direct-flame cooking available
- Charcoal has to be manually lit
These are not inexpensive barbecues, especially for competing charcoal models. But what they bring to the charcoal grilling and smoking experience is exceptional.
If you love your charcoal but crave the simplicity of a set and forget combination grill and smoker, you need to check this out.
For more details, check out our hands-on Masterbuilt Gravity Fed Series testing and review.
Slow N Sear Deluxe Kettle Grill
We’ve previously reviewed the Slow ‘N Sear insert as an accessory for kettle grills. Now, you can purchase the accessory plus a high-quality kettle in one shot from SNS Grills. And it’s just as cool and functional as ever.
Let’s start with the 22” kettle itself. The basic premise here is, “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke.” This is a typical kettle grill but with some stand-out features. Notably, we like the no-touch ash removal system, which uses a propeller to sweep ash out of the five vents.
There’s a probe port for your digital probe thermometer and a lid cradle to keep the lid out of harm’s way when it’s off.
The side shelf is a nice plus you don’t always get with a kettle grill. It swings down and out of the way when not needed. When in position, it will hold up to twenty pounds. So, don’t worry about that brisket ending up on the patio!
What sets the Slow ‘N Sear Deluxe Kettle Grill apart from the competitors, though, is the Slow ‘N Sear insert. Made of 16-gauge 430 stainless steel, it’s part charcoal basket and part water reservoir.
The semi-circular insert rests on the standard charcoal grate at the bottom of the kettle. Fill the basket with lit coals, and voila — you’ve got a two-zone set-up just like that. You can use the water reservoir to add additional moisture to the air, and it also works as a heat barrier. You can now cook over direct or indirect heat on the main grate or even beside the Slow ‘N Sear on the empty half of the charcoal grate, assuming it’s clean.
And this ‘two-zone set-up’ handily turns this kettle grill into a bonafide smoker without you having to learn the ins and out of fire management with a charcoal snake set-up. Simply insert the ‘Slow n Sear’, fill the water reservoir, fill one side with charcoal, choke down your vents to limit airflow, and light the charcoal in one small area only. Job done, you’re smoking!
So this is a true smoker great for beginners, capable of easily producing low and slow ribs, pulled pork, or brisket, and not just a charcoal grill.
The Slow ‘N Sear Deluxe Kettle Grill also features a 304 stainless steel EasySpin grate. Not only is it hinged to provide access to the charcoal without moving your food, but it also rotates 360 degrees. That means you can move your food from direct to indirect heat without lifting it from the grill.
- Slow ‘N Sear insert makes two-zone cooking and low n slow smoking simple
- A side shelf is a nice bonus many kettles lack
- Easy, no-touch clean-out system
- Cooking grate is hinged and rotates 360 degrees
- All port holes have swinging covers
- The real “plus” is the Slow ‘N Sear insert; if you own a kettle already, this is not an upgrade
The star of the show here is the Slow ‘N Sear charcoal basket. If you already own a kettle grill that you like, you’re better off buying the basket separately. But, if you’re in the market for a new kettle, the combination of features and the attractive price make this a worthy choice.
Weber Go-Anywhere Charcoal Grill
Think beach…camping…tailgate. You need a portable charcoal grill with enough square inches of cooking space able to crank out food for a crowd, but which is also reasonably small and light. Enter the Weber Go Anywhere.
This one came out top in our research when looking for the best portable charcoal grills because it boasts features every bit as good as the big boys such as porcelain-enameled coating, adjustable dampers and a very respectable 160 square inches of cooking space.
All this at just 14 pounds means you can “Go Anywhere” with it…carrying it with just one hand. It’s the grill I own and use myself for when I’m camping and short staycations. I also added a carry bag to make transporting it around even easier.
With the Weber Go Anywhere, you get all the quality construction and support of this renowned manufacturer, but in a clever, compact and manageable size.
Plated-steel legs that flip up to lock the lid closed and 3 handles to grab and go makes this the perfect grill for tossing in the back of your car.
It also has an impressive cook area that can handle four sizable steaks at a time, so you aren’t overly compromising on space.
I also love the efficiency of this model. The pivoting legs double as the lid lock so that when you are carrying it, all is safely secured with no rattling or falling apart.
The lid handle with a heat deflector is great, staying cool to the touch during cooking.
And the two dampers enable you to control heat and cook time in a way that is rare to see in such a compact grill.
The built-in lid hangers are super-useful if there’s wind because you can rest the lid on the side to create a wind barrier.
And the porcelain-enameled coating prevents rusting and fading keeping your game looking good!
Because of its size, it is a budget choice when it comes to charcoal usage too, which is nice. Oh, and the no-assembly required is pretty sweet too!
- Square shape and locking lid are ideal for packing and travel.
- Can cook up to 4 steaks, despite its compact size.
- 2 bottom and 2 top lid dampers allow accurate temperature control.
- Built in lid hanger acts as a wind barrier.
- It’s JUST large enough for some indirect cooking and even smoking!
- It is rather small — but then, it must be to be portable.
- A little unstable on it’s thin legs, so keep away from children and pets!
- No system for emptying. You must let it cool, then tip it out.
At this price point, this grill is a winner. It’s not your mega cookout grill, but it is simple, efficient and so easy to take with you when you travel.
If you’re not looking for upgrades and fancy-schmancy, and you are looking for portable, compact and the top-notch grill quality expected from Weber, you’ve found it in the Go Anywhere.
Check out our full review of the Weber Go Anywhere charcoal grill for more details.
Lodge Sportsmans Pro Cast Iron Grill
This rugged little worker is tough for its size. 100% all cast iron construction means it will keep trucking on for you, year after year.
The cooking grate comes naturally pre-seasoned (AKA non-stick) with no chemicals, and the grill features a flip-down door to access the charcoal, a draft door to regulate heat and a slide out ash drawer for cleaning out when you’ve finished cooking.
The hibachi design makes it perfect for tossing in the car before heading to the tailgate or the beach, and it comes with a set of steel hook carry handles for easier carrying, solving a problem the older version used to have where you’d have to use small cast iron handles.
This grill comes highly recommended in many peoples lists of charcoal grill reviews, particularly those for camping and tailgating, and is our number one pick in our best hibachi grills guide.
It doesn’t have a lid — no Hibachi style grills do, they are ‘open flame’ — but there are carrying handles built-in and as discussed, separate steel hook handles.
Its fuel efficiency is excellent because of its superior heat retention, but since there is no lid or dampers to kill the fire, you would have to scoop out hot coals into a metal bin after cooking if you wanted to save them.
Plus, like all cast iron, it loves a little pampering between uses…a light oiling to maintain the seasoning goes a long way.
- Black color is a natural carbon patina, not paint
- Temperature control via airflow, just like a full-size charcoal grill
- Durable, high-quality cast iron
- Heavy for a portable grill
What to Consider When Buying a Charcoal Grill
So let’s talk about what to look for in a good charcoal grill that’s going to stand up to repeated blasts of intense heat over the years.
Here is a comprehensive checklist of all the features and considerations you should keep in mind as you shop around for the best charcoal grill.
The materials used, and how they stand up to heavy use and intense heat will determine the quality of a charcoal grill. Thick materials like cast aluminum, cast iron or heavy ceramic grills are pro-choices for a top-of-the-line grill.
Not looking for high-end at a high price? Porcelain-coated and chrome-plated will do the job for less, but these thinner materials will not necessarily stand up to intensive use over time.
Size and Cooking Area
Who or how many are you grilling for?
Think about how much cooking space you need on the grill and also how much space you have to store and operate a grill.
If you but too small, you might occasionally struggle to feed large numbers. But if you buy too big unnecessarily, you will use more fuel unnecessarily.
Temperature Control and Stability
If you’re already a pro at taming the flame, great. You can handle quirks and inconsistencies with temperature. But for many, assurance that the grill will respond to your touch and maintain steady heat when necessary is a huge bonus.
The design of some grills will give you more assistance with this than others. And many models feature a built-in thermometer.
Overall Ease of Use
The best charcoal grills have vents that open easily, grill racks that sit steadily, hoods that hang conveniently on the side — It’s the small stuff that can make the difference between a smooth and pleasant grilling experience, and frustration or even burnt fingers!
So make sure to look for a grill that’s known for its thoughtful design and ease of use.
Ease of Cleaning and Maintenance
Nobody likes this job, so while it’s rarely top-of-mind when you’re grill-shopping, it’s important to think about how easily the grill can be taken apart, cleaned and maintained.
If this is important to you, look for good-sized ash pans and handy levers to work back and forth that will empty ash from the grill body.
Again, think about your own use.
If you grill infrequently, a mid-range to budget choice may work for you because the cheaper building materials will not be constantly tested.
If however, you grill regularly, go for tough build materials — cast iron and heavy-gauge steel — and Fort-Knox durability.
This is your insurance on your purchase — don’t skimp!
A solid 10-year warranty will back up heavy usage, providing you with easy replacement parts should they wear out.
Check out also what other owners say about Customer Service.
Current Owners Opinions
This is pretty much where I start with any purchase, from dish soap to dishwasher, the first thing I need to know is what everyone else thinks about it!
Unbiased and honest, most reviewers can really help you sift through your buying options to make the right choice for you. Plus, online forums and social media communities are great places to share opinions, questions, recipes, and tips.
With a range from $50 to $2,000+, there’s going to be a charcoal grill out there that fits your budget. But do set a budget, otherwise creep sets in, you desire the slightly better one, and then the next one up is only fractionally more expensive, and before you know it…
We’ve all been there.
How often you plan to grill and what features and level of durability you require will drive your decision and the price point, but do set a budget, and stick to it.
Accessories and Additional Features
Dampers, vents, drawers for charcoal, cover, side tables, temperature probe holes, ash catchers and more are the bells and whistles of charcoal grills. There are tons of grilling accessories available. Some you won’t need, some you won’t want to live without.
Think about your own habits. Hate mess? Get an ash catcher. A little OCD about temperature? Be sure if there’s a temperature probe hole. Like everything at hand? Pick a model with a built-in side table. Let’s look at some of the accessories we at FoodFireFriends recommend for charcoal grilling before you go.
Charcoal Grilling Tools and Accessories You’ll Also Need
When you cook with charcoal grills, there are some essential accessories you’re going to need. Items to make the cooking experience easier, more enjoyable and safer.
Check out some of the recommended equipment below before you go!
A Way to Light Your Charcoal
Unlike with gas grills, there’s no push-button starter for a charcoal grill. You need to get the coals lit yourself. And whether using lump charcoal or briquettes, a charcoal chimney starter is the tool of choice for getting a charcoal fire going quickly and easily.
You simply ball up some newspaper or place a firelighter or two under a full chimney of coal, then light it.
Within 15 minutes or so, you will have glowing red coals, ready to be poured into your grill for cooking over. Simple, effective and a huge time saver.
You always have to be conscious of hot surfaces with any type of grill, but there is even more handling of hot stuff when using a charcoal grill.
There’s the handling of the chimney full of hot coals to get started. You may need to move the grates around to top up with more charcoal mid-cook. The lid and fire chamber can get very hot, and your hand is very close to the flames when adding, turning or removing food. It can be easy to get burned.
Therefore, it’s highly recommended getting yourself a pair of heat-resistant grilling gloves. Always think safety first! A pair of suitable grilling gloves is essential.
Whatever you’re cooking, you need to be able to add, turn over and reposition, and finally remove items from the grill. To do this, you need, at minimum, a good spatula and some BBQ tongs.
It can make sense to buy individual BBQ tools, though there are some fantastic grilling tool sets available too. However you choose to buy them, they are essential.
You will hear me repeatedly say throughout this site that we cook to temperature and feel, not to time. And the only way to know the temperature of your food is to use an instant-read thermometer. If you don’t yet have one, check out our instant read thermometer reviews.
But that’s not all. The inside your charcoal grill can be at any temperature between 200 and 750 degrees Fahrenheit! To follow a recipe correctly and to get the best results, you need to be able to control the temperatures in your grill, and this means also knowing them.
The built-in lid thermometers are almost always sub-par and not to be relied on. Therefore, you want to get yourself a good dual probe smoker and grill thermometer.
With this one unit, you can monitor the temperature of your grill and the internal temperature of your food. Indispensable and one of the best tools to own if you want to master the grill.
A Good Grill Brush
Finally, regardless of the types of grills you own, you will need to clean down your grates after cooking. The best item for this is a good grill brush.
Aim for a bristle free version, as I’m sure we’ve all heard the horror stories by now of people who have consumed a wire bristle from a grill brush? It can be wise to avoid bristles altogether, to take away that worry.
If you buy a wired brush though, make sure to inspect your grates thoroughly after every single cleaning, to make sure if there are no wires that have come loose, stuck to the grates, and could make their way into food.
Inspecting takes seconds, not doing so could last a lifetime!
To help, we review some in our guide to the best grill brushes.
Intense smoky flavor. Screaming hot grates. Absolute control over the elements of fire and air. These are the things we all love about charcoal grilling. And you can see that there are many ways to enjoy this with a dazzling selection of different models, sizes and specs.
We hope in this post we’ve helped outline some of the pros and cons of charcoal grilling and if you’ve decided now to get a charcoal grill (woohoo!), we trust our round-up of the best charcoal grills out there today has made clear some of the differences between different models, both in construction, performance and price. Your next step should be to check out our ultimate guide on how to cook on a charcoal grill.
Let us know what you ended up choosing. How did it work out for you? We’d love to hear about your experience, and we’re always appreciative when you share our post with the wider grilling community! Thanks, for stopping by.