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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. Here are the best charcoal grills to have in your backyard.
Best Overall: Weber 22-Inch Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill
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, which measures 39.5 x 22.5 x 27 inches, features a porcelain-enameled lid and bowl to retain heat and make for easier cleaning. Its 363 square inches of cooking space is enough to make plenty of burgers 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.
Best Portable: Everdure Cube Grill
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 16.25 x 13.5 x 9 inches and 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! Literally, cool.
Best for the Beginner: Char-Broil TRU-Infrared Kettleman Charcoal Grill
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, and also retains heat nicely in the grill.
Sized at 29.9 x 27.4 x 14.8 inches, this Char-Broil grill has 360 square inches of cooking space, enough for 16 burgers, 10 chicken breasts, or 8 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.
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Best Budget: Char-Griller E1515 Patio Pro Charcoal Grill
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 30 x 23 x 42-inch grill allows you to easily add charcoal. Lastly, the cast-iron grates are great at transferring heat and easy to clean.
Best Grill/Smoker Combo: Kamado Joe Big Joe II Charcoal Grill
In theory, you can smoke in 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 18-inch cooking surface that allows for multi-level cooking. 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 250 pounds, but to make your life easier, they designed an airlift hinge so the dome can be opened with one finger.
Related: The 8 Best Smokers in 2021
Best Cart-Style: Weber Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill
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 the room in your budget, this is a nice upgrade for an iconic Weber!
Best for the Backyard Pro: Masterbuilt MB20041220 Gravity Series 1050 Digital Charcoal Grill + Smoker
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 so you don’t have to be constantly refilling 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 so it can hold a lot of grilled food, like 7 racks of ribs or 67 sausage links.
Related: The 9 Best Grills in 2021
Best for the Entertainer: Weber 37-Inch Ranch Kettle Charcoal Grill
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 a 37.5-inch diameter grill. 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!
What to Look for in a Charcoal Grill
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 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.
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.
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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