The Best Charcoal Grills for Flavorful Backyard BBQ

The classic Weber's Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill is our top choice

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Charcoal Grills

Simply Recipes / Chloe Jeong

Beginners to grilling might usually think first of the backyard gas grills you had growing up, but charcoal grills can be very economical and are made in a variety of sizes and forms, suitable for almost any situation. Of course, if you find a love for grilling, it’s easy to upgrade your charcoal grill for bigger and better models. The charcoal grilling hobby grows with you!

Since a charcoal grill can be a larger purchase, it’s a great idea to do your research before buying. The good news is we did the research for you. Based on user reviews, product information, an expert source, and key features like size and construction, we awarded Weber's Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill the top spot. For its size, construction, and cooking surface area, it's quite affordable and boasts the classic look and performance you'd expect from a Weber grill.

Here are the rest of our picks for the best charcoal grills to have in your backyard.

Best Overall: Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill (22-Inch)

4.2
weber-original-kettle-premium-charcoal-grill

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Love: Doesn't take up too much space, simple and effective design

What We Don't Love: Assembly may be difficult

This classic Weber is the perfect middle-of-the-road grill that will perform fantastically for 95 percent of grillers. While Weber does have a more premium model, I think the real value and overall performance of its standard premium 22-inch model can’t be beaten.

This Weber grill features a porcelain-enameled lid and bowl to retain heat and make for easier cleaning. Its cooking space is enough to make up to 18 4-inch burgers (or 13 large ones) without being massive and rust-resistant dampers to achieve the perfect smoky conditions. The hinged steel grate makes it easy to add charcoal and a nice ash catcher is perfect for cleanup. Weber offers a general 2-year warranty, with a 10-year no-rust warranty on the bowl and lid.

"I love the simplicity of the Weber Kettle grill. No frills—just a classic shape that doesn't take up too much space. The porcelain-enameled bowl and lid maintain a consistent temperature, and you can't beat the price." Taysha Murtaugh, Commerce Editorial Director

Dimensions (LxWxH): 27 x 22.5 x 39.5 inches | Cooking Area: 363 square inches | Weight: 37 pounds

Best Portable: Everdure CUBE Portable Charcoal BBQ

everdure-cube

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Love: Lightweight and compact, beautiful design

What We Don't Love: Pricey

The problem with many portable grills is they are hard to move. Add in that sometimes, to make them lighter, they’re not made sturdy enough to retain heat, and you end up with less-than-stellar BBQ. The Everdure Cube grill, though, is a stunner of a product made with a porcelain-enameled firebox that gets your food cooked.

Available in four colors, the Cube grill is just beautiful, for starters. But also, at only 15 pounds, it’s the perfect size to carry on a camping trip or to set up for a casual park afternoon grill out. The smart design of the Cube includes built-in space for the bamboo prep tray and a separate storage compartment for charcoal or cutlery.

The grill also features heat protection exterior handles that remain cool to the touch even while cooking!

Dimensions (LxWxH): 16.7 x 13.7 x 9.1 inches | Cooking Area: 103.9 square inches | Weight: 15.4 pounds

Best for Beginners: Char-Broil TRU-Infrared Kettleman Charcoal Grill

4.3
Char-Broil Charcoal Grill

Courtesy of Walmart

What We Love: Solid and lasting quality, heats evenly

What We Don't Love: Grate can be hard to clean

The Char-Broil version of a kettle charcoal grill was the first charcoal grill I ever personally had, and I used it with much success for years and years. Its infrared technology reduces flare-ups, which is good for starter cooks; it also retains heat nicely in the grill. 

With a 22.5-inch diameter, this Char-Broil grill offers 360 square inches of cooking space, enough for 16 burgers, 10 chicken breasts, or eight steaks at once. The porcelain-coated cooking grate is known for not letting food drop through onto your charcoal. And a large air damper system makes controlling the temperature very easy. 

The grill also features a hinged lid for easy access to cooking food without having to place a hot lid on the ground and a large ashtray for simple cleanup. It comes with a two-year warranty, with a 10-year warranty on the lid and firebox.

Dimensions (LxWxH): 26 x 26 x 29 inches | Cooking Area: 360 square inches | Weight: 36 pounds

Related: The Best Grill Brushes

Best Grill/Smoker Combo: Kamado Joe Big Joe Grill, Series II

big-joe-charcoal-grill
Courtesy of Home Depot.

What We Love: Unique look, powerful and efficient, sturdy quality

What We Don't Love: Expensive, heavy

In theory, you can smoke on almost all charcoal grills. Add some wood chips to the charcoal, and boom, you’re smoking! But the key to good smoking is temperature control, and it can be very hard to control temperature and maintain temperature with many charcoal grills. 

The Kamado Joe is a beast of a grill, though, that offers incredible temperature control, and it retains heat so well. It comes with an adjustable 24-inch cooking surface that allows for multi-level cooking. If you're looking for more cooking space, this is expandable up to 1,000 square inches. The top vent controls smoke and temperature, which can handle anything from 225 to 750 degrees. You can easily grill steaks on this grill, but also set it low and slow for an all-day pork butt!

Since kamado grills are made of ceramic, they’re often incredibly heavy. This Kamado Joe weighs in at more than 350 pounds. But to make your life easier, they designed an airlift hinge so the dome can be opened with one finger.

Dimensions (LxWxH): 58 x 35.75 x 53 inches | Cooking Area: 452 square inches | Weight: 372 pounds

Best Budget: Char-Griller E1515 Patio Pro Grill

char-griller-charcoal-grill

Amazon

What We Love: Beginner-friendly, compact and convenient design

What We Don't Love: Can rust easily

The Char-Griller Patio Pro charcoal grill is an excellent smaller grill at a very manageable price point. It’s a great entry-level grill for someone looking to get started with charcoal grills or if you don’t have a lot of space. This is due to the design; barrel grills can be a little easier to navigate than a kettle or dome design. 

That doesn’t mean it skimps on flavor though. The side vents on this Char-Griller allow for good temperature and smoke control, while the durable steel exterior retains heat nicely. A side drawer on this grill allows you to easily add charcoal. Lastly, the cast-iron grates are great at transferring heat and easy to clean.

Dimensions (LxWxH): 31 x 21 x 44 inches | Cooking Area: 250 square inches | Weight: 50 pounds

Related: The Best Cheap Gas Grills

Best Cart-Style: Weber Performer Deluxe 22-Inch Charcoal Grill

4.5
Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill

Amazon

What We Love: Great value, includes timer, extra surface room for prep

What We Don't Love: Not for small spaces

Cart-style charcoal grills are nice if you might need to occasionally move your grill, and also they offer some flat surfaces for prep as well. It’s a nice mix of features if you have the space for it. 

This Weber version is essentially the same kettle base as the classic grill but also includes a handy cart with wheels and storage space for your charcoal. That cart allows for a propane gas tank, which ignites your charcoal with the push of a button. All you have to do is wait for the right temperature reading on the built-in lid thermometer and start cooking on the porcelain-coated stainless-steel grates.

The cart also includes a removable LCD clock with time and hooks for your BBQ tools. If you have the room in your backyard and room in your budget, this is a nice upgrade for an iconic Weber!

Dimensions (LxWxH): 48 x 30 x 43.5 inches | Cooking Area: 363 square inches | Weight: 96 pounds

Related: The Best Weber Grills

Best for the Backyard Pro: Masterbuilt Gravity Series 1050 Digital Charcoal Grill + Smoker

masterbuilt-1050-gravity-smoker

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Love: Large capacity, heats up quickly

What We Don't Love: App can be buggy

This Masterbuilt grill is a gem of a cooker, for sure. It has all the bells and whistles that a backyard grilling pro might want, including digital temperature monitoring and control via an app. A feature I love is a gravity-fed charcoal hopper, which holds 10 pounds of lump charcoal or 16 pounds of briquettes, so you don’t have to constantly refill the grill with charcoal—great for longer cooks, but also just for convenience. 

A cool feature that I haven’t seen on any other grill is a digital fan that will pump air where you need it, allowing you to precisely heat or cool off the chamber. It’s excellent for temperature control! This Masterbuilt design gets it up to 700 degrees in 15 minutes. The grill also features a massive 1,050 square cooking inches when you add in the two warming and smoking racks, so it can hold a lot of grilled food, like seven racks of ribs or 67 sausage links.

Dimensions (LxWxH): 61.1 x 33.1 x 52.2 inches | Cooking Area: 1,050 square inches | Weight: 231 pounds

Related: The Best Grilling Tools

Best for the Entertainer: Weber Ranch Kettle Charcoal Grill, 37-Inch

weber-ranch-charcoal-grill

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Love: Plenty of cooking space, rust-resistant exterior, strong performance

What We Don't Love: Difficult to clean grate

Regularly cater for big parties? This is the Weber grill for you! Its massive surface area allows you to grill almost anything. This grill features all the goods of a Weber grill but is just bigger. Much bigger! 

A 1,104-square inch cooking surface translates to 55 4-ounce burgers being cooked at once. It still features Weber’s stainless-steel premium hinged grates and porcelain-enameled lid. This lid does slide to the back, so you don’t have to lay on the ground or quickly find the hook to attach it to your grill. There are tool hooks on the side of the grill for your convenience, though.

The porcelain-enameled steel ash catcher is removable for easy cleanup, and the durable wheels can stand up to any type of weather. If you are a dedicated backyard entertainer, it might be just the one for you!

Dimensions (LxWxH): 44.7 x 37.7 x 42 inches | Cooking Area: 1,104 square inches | Weight: 148 pounds

Related: The Best Grill Thermometers

Final Verdict

The Weber 22-Inch Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill is our best overall for a reason. It's simply still the best, all these decades later. If you're looking for a truly portable charcoal grill, the Everdure Cube Grill is a surefire bet.

How We Selected

We had Nick, a recipe developer and food blogger, comb through scores of best-selling, highly rated charcoal grills, using user reviews and available manufacturer information to select his top picks. He took this information and his own experience to assess each charcoal grill's size, construction, performance, features, and more. Nick also interviewed Chef Adrian de Leon of Tarbell's in Phoenix on the best ways to use and maintain a charcoal grill and some of the features to look for depending on your grilling needs. He used this information to make his selections and inform his reporting around what to look for when buying charcoal grills, as well as his answers to frequently asked questions.

What to Look for in a Charcoal Grill

Size

There are a few different items to look for when choosing a charcoal grill. Before you even get into price and features, it’s important to think about where you are putting a grill. If you live in a small apartment, you might want a portable grill you can take to the park. If you have a spacious home with a backyard, you can designate space to your grill and never have to move it around. Also, consider how many people you regularly cook for. A family of four who grills regularly will probably need about 300 to 400 square inches of space.

Features

Features are very important. Vents and dampers control the temperature and smoke, and you definitely don’t want them rusting. Manufacturers also add on smart technology features. Think about whether or not you want to walk away while the food is cooking, and have your phone alert you when it’s done. You might want hooks and shelves for easy storage and prep area.

Materials

Steel is great for heat retention and can handle being outdoors year-round. But kamado grills are often made from ceramic, which has other benefits. Also, consider the grate construction. Stainless steel can get to a very high temperature, but can also rust. Cast iron retains heat but takes longer to warm up. Both can handle the post-cooking cleanup with a grill brush but any porcelain coating needs to be handled with care.

FAQs

Can you start a charcoal grill without lighter fluid? 

Yes, you can. Chef Adrian de Leon of Tarbell's in Phoenix instructs us to light a grill by first making a pile of charcoal, then placing a piece of paper or cardboard into the pile, and lighting that. Be sure to blow on the fire since the flames need oxygen. "To make it easier, they sell quick starter charcoal that doesn't need lighter fluid or paper/cardboard," says de Leon.

How do you clean a charcoal grill?

First, make sure it’s fully cooled. "Pull the tray from the bottom of the grill, and dump it," says de Leon. "Clean the grill with a metal scrub and soapy water. Rinse it and let it dry."

Why Trust Simply Recipes?

Nick Evans has been developing recipes for the home cook for over a decade both on Simply Recipes and his personal blog, Macheesmo. He’s used and tested a huge range of both indoor and outdoor cooking equipment over the years. For the last few years, he’s tested a variety of grills and outdoor cookers.

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