You just ate. You’re not hungry. Food’s the last thing on your mind. And then you catch a whiff of charcoal grilling, all fired up with smoky goodness, working its magic on a rack of ribs, and suddenly you’re starving!
There’s not 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 especially because it takes time.
With charcoal grills, it’s all 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 OK, we all love charcoal grills. But are they all the same?
There’s nothing techy or complicated about a straight-up charcoal grill, after all. But you may be interested in learning that one grill is not the same as the next. And as with all things, there is a whole spectrum of prices, options, and features to choose from.
In this post, we’ll 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. We’ll point out some perceived negatives that you should always consider as you weigh up whether charcoal grilling is the right option for you.
We’ll go carefully over the specific things you should have in mind when shopping for a charcoal grill and finally we’ll walk you through our hand-selected top picks. In short, we’ve done the legwork for you, so sit back, relax and read on!
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Char-Griller Akorn Jr. Kamado Kooker
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The 5 Best Charcoal Grills For The Money
1. Best Mix of Price and Performance: Weber Original Kettle Grill
It’s a crime to go through life without ever 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 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. 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 well.
Overall, this little black beauty comes highly recommended. It may be your first foray into grill ownership, it may be one of many in your grilling arsenal, or perhaps after many years of gas grilling, you’ve returned to this classic as to an old and trusted friend.
Whatever your reason, you will not regret this purchase. We have a few more details in our Weber Original Kettle review, or to find more info with current pricing and delivery options, click here.
2. My Personal Favorite Grill and Smoker Combo: Kamado Joe Classic II
With its dazzling cherry-red body and sleek black wings, the KJ Classic II brings to mind an Angry Bird or a Mustang Fighter Plane! But it’s 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.
How much do I love it? Well, I actually own the original KJ classic, I love it, and it’s my most used grill and smoker. I will be upgrading to the version II…I’m just waiting for permission from ‘the boss’ (my wife) to spend more money on my obsession!
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 Classic II.
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 Kamado Joe Classic II rises gracefully above it all and delivers on every front. Find it here and get started!
3. Top of the Line: Weber Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill, 22-Inch
All that stuff I said about charcoal grills being tricky to light, maintain, control, clean up? Forget it! The Weber Performance is charcoal grilling at its easy-peasy best! There are so many built-in convenience features 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 is not a basic 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 grill, you can almost just sit back and let it happen!
You are home safe with Weber. Of the many grills they offer, you cannot go wrong. Their quality and durability is second to none. So it comes down to details, and if you like details, this grill has them in spades and could just be the one for you. Check here for where to find this product and pricing information.
4. Best Portable Travel Grill – Weber Go Anywhere
Think beach…camping…tailgate. You need a great grill that’s able to crank out for a crowd, but which is also reasonably small and light. Enter the Weber Go Anywhere.This one came out top in our research because it boasts features every bit as good as the big boys such as porcelain-enameled coating, adjustable dampers and a very respectable 160 sq inches of cooking area.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.
At this price point, this grill is a winner. It’s not your mega cookout grill, but it is simple, efficient and so 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.
Here’s where you can get more information and order it for your next road trip!
5. Dyna-Glo Dual Zone Premium Charcoal Grill
I was skeptical about this grill at first. Dyna-Glo? Sounds a bit like those luminous lite sticks my kid’s love! But hold up there because this grill has some really interesting and pretty unique features.It’s set up with two chambers (“charcoal basket adjustment tray systems”) with steel cranks that allow you to raise and lower the charcoal heat source according to your needs. Ok, that’s a first for me! 2 doors access the 2 charcoal chambers. Folks, this is 2-zone grilling at its very easiest!Don’t want 2-zone? Simply remove the steel firebox divider to create one huge cooking surface. And I mean huge, we’re talking 816 square inches of grilling area. That’s 30 burgers. Wow!Construction is a solid combination of porcelain-enameled cast iron and stainless steel and the Dyna-Glo has a ton of very cool and convenient extras such as a double-wall liner in the lid, stainless steel smoke stack with adjustable flu cap, side shelves, cook thermometer, huge ash pan, storage basket and even a built-in bottle opener. What more could you ask from your grill?!Check out more details about this industry behemoth with all the trimmings here.
What’s so Great About Charcoal Grills?
The truth is, switching on the gas or electric grill is a whole lot easier, right? But anyone who’s sampled the products of different types of grills will for sure agree that the purer, deeper, earthier and more authentic fire-grilled flavor of food cooked on charcoal beats everything else hands down.
The dry, white-hot heat of charcoal sears meat fast, creating a crackly, caramelized exterior, lush pink tender meat and a smokier flavor than can be reached with gas or electric grills.
This is mostly because you can achieve higher cooking temperatures with charcoal. Charcoal is pure carbon, and it burns crazy hot.
Also, when your meat heats up, it releases drippings – full of delicious fats, oils, proteins, and sugars that hit the screaming hot coals, combust, vaporize and rise to coat and be absorbed right back in the meat. Yes, it’s a kind of magic, and it’s what gives charcoal grilled meat the incredible flavors that make us crazy for more.
Charcoal grills are generally less expensive than gas models too and are highly portable. Many are easy to toss in the back of the car and take to the game or the beach.
Are There any Downsides to Charcoal Grills?
From setting up to venting, lighting to cooking, there’s a decent amount to learn using a charcoal grill before you even think about striking that first match. And learning the steps is just the beginning.
Grilling with charcoal is not a fix-it-and-forget-it. There’s the mastery of the flame, the heat, and the smoke, and learning all this takes time.
Of course, these are the very things that die-hard charcoal grillers, those who would cut off their right arm before turning on a gas grill, will say makes charcoal grilling sublime and unquestionably superior to other forms of grilling.
Unlike that big propane tank that can go strong and steady for weeks under your gas grill, charcoal is made from small pieces of combustible material. It burns. It expires. It needs arranging, adjusting and replenishing.
And even as you’re moving coals around, adding more, adjusting the spread, you need to be maintaining the correct temperature and conditions for cooking. No, it’s not as easy as pie, that’s for sure.
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.
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.