Although the advancement of technology brought gas as a simple alternative to fuel grills, many people still prefer charcoal. The unique flavor it gives to food is listed as the primary reason why coal is the better alternative for the best barbecue. It’s true; you can’t help but start mouthwatering when you see the perfectly-cooked steak over a charcoal grill. However, there are other reasons why you should choose coal grilling systems, and we will try to cover them in this article along with the crucial features that you should consider when purchasing one. We will also offer recommendations for the best charcoal grills in several categories, including the most affordable ones and those that delighted the users throughout the globe.
Why You Should Choose a Charcoal Grill
Charcoal grills are primarily intended for slow cooking or barbecuing. While you are preparing a steak over a coal barbecue, you make sure that the food keeps all the moist and remains tender. You also get that distinct smoky flavor that you just have to love. Perhaps it has to do something with biology, too, considering that that is how our ancestors prepared meat. However, you can’t neglect that gathering around a grill with your friends and eating like a cave dweller is an incredible delight.
Taste and personal satisfaction are the benefits of charcoal grills, but they also have health advantages. The fact that you secure constant exposure to high temperature over an extended period even allows all the fat in burgers or steaks you are cooking to liquefy. That way, all the excess fat is removed from the food you are grilling. That means fewer calories! However, you shouldn’t neglect that slow cooking also enables meat to keep all the nutrients. That means that you use the maximum of vitamins, minerals, and proteins from the food you eat.
Now, those that prefer gas grills usually argue that they are much more convenient than charcoal. While it’s true that coal grilling systems might get a bit messy (if you are not careful), the convenience is considerably upgraded compared to several years ago. That especially applies to starting the grill because that is what used to take the most time when you want to barbecue over a charcoal grilling system. Today, coal grills come in so-called hybrid versions. These products use gas as a way to ignite the fire and get the cooking process going. After that, the charcoal takes command in grilling your food to retain that unique taste.
Among other advantages of charcoal grills, we need to mention the fact that they can achieve higher temperature than the gas counterparts (even up to 700F). Aside from that, they provide much more control over the heat, and they offer options for simultaneous direct and indirect cooking. If you are looking for indirect heat to sauté some onions, just push all the coals to one side and place the veggies on the other.
Finally, coal grilling systems are significantly cheaper than their gas alternatives. Of course, it all depends on the model and features you choose, but overall their price is lower. In most cases, they are also more comfortable for transport and have extended portability.
Best Charcoal Grills for the Money
In a world where the price of the coal grilling systems varies from a dozen to thousands of dollars, it’s hard to find the best charcoal grills for the money. However, after writing off all the budget options and focusing on mid-range and high-end products, we came up with a couple of them you need to check out. For starters, Weber Performer Deluxe is a grill that all expert reviewers agree is among the highest-quality specimens on the market. It’s a hybrid grill that uses gas to make the ignition a piece of cake, which means that it is an incredible timesaver. It also has an ash management system, as well as other cool features such as a thermometer mounted on the lid and LCD cooking timer. Combine that with high-quality materials that secure durability, and you get a product that is worth every cent of $400.
Char-Broil CB940X is a product you need to consider if you are after large grills that can serve bigger crowds. It has over 400 square inches of the primary grilling area, as well as additional 180 square inches of the secondary cooking surface spread on the sides. There is also a convenient storage space to add up to the impression that you get a small outdoor kitchen worth the cash. The last product we recommend in the best charcoal grills for the money section is the Char-Griller 0620 Akorn Kamado Kooker. If you are a fan of kamado grills, you will undoubtedly enjoy this product that has a total cooking area of 450 square inches, which includes a warming rack. The quality of materials used is commendable. For example, the cast-iron cooking surface and tubular-steel cart are a guarantee of the product’s durability. Ash pan, locking lid, built-in thermometer and other useful features are all there for about $300, which looks and feels like a good deal.
Top-Rated Charcoal Grills
If there was ever a category where we didn’t debate which products to include, it’s this one. After all, we had little to discuss because it was only the users’ votes that counted. We conducted extensive research, and we got several top-rated charcoal grills to recommend for your needs.
First, if you are a traditionalist and you believe that everyone should grill just like our fathers did then PK Grills The Original Grill & Smoker is the perfect product for you. The rectangular retro design is a real homage to the 50, but this grilling system also has incredible performance as its selling point. In fact, it was even used to win numerous accolades across various competitions.
The next one on our list is the Weber 441001 Original Kettle. The entire series of this manufacturer’s kettle charcoal grills is incredible, and we will mention a bigger model later in the article. Hundreds of customers posted on Amazon thrilled with this version that features 240 inches of the grilling surface and a cooking grated from plated-steel. Weber’s ash management system is famous for its excellent results, and the smooth maintenance makes the overall impression of the product even better.
Napoleon NK22CK-C comes from the company that knows how to make high-end grilling systems. Their top-rated charcoal grill is a kettle with 365 square inches of the cooking surface and a hinged lid for users’ convenience. You can adjust the height to choose the perfect sear for your steaks, and the product comes with extra preparation space in the form of a side shelf from stainless steel. It is priced at $380.
Best Portable Charcoal Grills
The advantage of the charcoal grills is that almost the significant majority of them technically fall into the portable category. Thanks to their compact design and the fact that they are lightweight, they aren’t hard to move around and pack for the road. However, some products are advertised as best portable charcoal grills, so let’s take a look at some of them.
For starters, take a look at the Char-Broil Tabletop. It’s the perfect charcoal grill for camping with your family or a day out at the beach. It has a modest cooking surface, but you can find six burgers on it without any problem. Pinty Folding Tabletop BBQ Grill is a bit bigger with 250 inches of grilling area, as well as porcelain-enameled cooking grates. It is very stable and entirely foldable to ensure that you can take him anywhere. Considering that the price is priced around $60, you can also get the Weber Jumbo Joe Portable Grill for the same cost. It has similar features, except for the fact that it is a kettle and not a tabletop product. It also has around 20 pounds, which makes it the heaviest of the three products recommended. However, you will get a durable product with reliable performance, and if the weight of the grill is your primary concern, it might be the best bet in this category of products.
Best Charcoal Grills Under $300
You can go to your local hypermarket and probably find a charcoal grill for under $30. If you keep that into account, you might think that we are out of our minds to recommend $100 product as a budget-friendly one. However, if you did purchase an unbranded grill, you know that durability is non-existent. In fact, you will probably have to buy a new one after using it a couple of times.
Our logic is to recommend you a product from a renowned manufacturer that you can get at an affordable price. That is why Weber 741001 Original Kettle is our pick among the best charcoal grills under $300. Aside from considerable cooking space, you also get a reliable ash catcher that makes maintaining the product a piece of cake. You can even consider the B&G Black Charcoal Grill that is priced around $100, just like Weber, although you can get a sweet discount on Amazon. The assembly is easy and barbecuing shouldn’t turn out to be difficult either, even if you are a beginner. And if you are not satisfied with its performance, you can use a 30-day money back guarantee.
How to Choose the Right Charcoal Grill
Now that you know about some of the best charcoal grills available in the market, perhaps it’s the right time to analyze how to choose the right product for you. We will try to cover critical features and aspects you need to consider before making the purchase. Not all of us have the same requirements. For example, the beginners will favor ease of use, but the professionals will appreciate a product that needs some effort for excellent results. Let’s see what you should keep in mind when buying a charcoal grill:
How Large Should It Be?
The size also needs to be considered in combination with the way you intend to use the product. For example, if you need a grill that you can take camping with your family or bring to your friend’s, you should check out the lightweight models that are the easiest for moving around. However, if you have a specific spot in your backyard that is already designated to fit in a barbecue device, you should consider the models that will fit there.
Aside from the size of the grill itself, you should also keep into account the available grilling area. In general, up to 300 square inches of the cooking surface should be enough to serve a family of four at once. However, if you often host barbecue parties for the entire neighborhood, you would want a product that has a cooking are of at least 500 square inches. You would also want to look for extra features such as a warming rack and additional storage and prep spaces. Our advice is to check out the reviews on this website and also analyze the specifications provided by the manufacturer on products’ pages to make sure you gather all the info you need on the desired grill.
Impress Your Neighborhood with Your Cooking Skills
When it comes to versatility, all charcoal grills deliver excellent results. They can achieve the high heat of up to 700F, which makes them perfect for both grilling a burger quickly and smoking a steak to give it that distinct flavor. Side areas that double as warming racks add the possibility of sautéing the vegetables while you are barbecuing meat. But did you know that you can also bake a pizza or bread on your grill? If you genuinely want to impress your neighborhood with your skills and knowledge around a BBQ, consider purchasing a kamado ceramic grill. You can cook virtually anything in it without years of expertise or experience in grilling.
Consider the Budget
Not many potential buyers have the privilege to overlook the price of the grilling system that they would like to purchase. After all, it’s only common sense to consider the cost of the desired product and analyze whether it’s worth the money. Once again, this depends on the intentions you have with a grill. Are you planning to use it every day? If that is the case, then you should consider paying a bit more upfront to secure the durability of the product. It’s simple; picking a high-end grill with quality construction guarantees that it will last for years to come.
On the other hand, if you will only be barbecuing a couple of times during the summer, feel free to buy a low-cost option. It might not last for more than a season, but you will get a sweet deal for the amount of money you are paying. Of course, make sure to keep in mind that more cash tends to mean better performance and longevity of the product.
Is it Easy to Use and Clean?
We already discussed that charcoal grills aren’t exactly the most convenient products on the market. While they do require a bit of work, the results they deliver are worth it. When it comes to barbecuing over a coal grill, it shouldn’t take much time to get used to it even if you are a beginner. The primary thing to keep in mind is that you should be patient with it, especially while you are waiting for it to achieve proper heat.
Cleaning, however, is an entirely different issue. Even if you are careful, charcoal grills will require a bit of work when it comes to maintenance. A convenient feature is when the manufacturer uses hinged cooking grates or adds a separate door that you can use to add more coal. You should also consider that has an ash management system such as the Weber Performer Deluxe. Individual aluminum pans that can catch the ash and prevent it from flying around are a feature you just need to look for when purchasing a charcoal grill. You don’t want to have to scrape your grill every little bit. Trust us; it will make your life easier if the only thing you need to do is to remove the tray and throw out the waste collected.
Can You Control the Heat?
Experienced grillers say that making the perfect steak; it’s all about controlling the heat that your grill provides. The first thing you need to ensure is that the lid is a tight fit (you can also consider a locking cover). Also, a hinged lid might be extremely convenient because it makes operating the grill easier. You won’t have to waste seconds placing the cap on the floor or on the side table, which is a considerable time and nerve saver.
When it comes to controlling the heat, the best charcoal grills use at least two vents. These adjustment dampers are made for letting the exhaust out and the oxygen in the cook box. That way you can lower the temperature on the grill quickly. Of course, if you are using a more significant grilling system, you might even need three or four vents to make the process easier. Some products come with a built-in thermometer, and you might consider looking for that feature if you are a newbie.
Do You Need a Product That Will Last for Years?
If you are looking for a reliable grilling system, you want to analyze the materials used carefully. Plated steel is always a safe material when it comes to grills, but there is another indicator that might give you an insight into the quality of construction. We are talking about the user reviews. The consumers know how, to be honest about the product, and they won’t hesitate to complain if the components start to rust quickly. That is why one of the crucial factors in our reviews is the feedback from the users, and we always make sure to include their opinion when reviewing.
The other excellent indicator of the product’s quality is the warranty that the manufacturer offers. If the company is willing to provide multiple-year warranties on (most of) the components, you know that they have trust in their product and they are confident that they made a high-quality grill. Of course, nothing lasts eternally, but that is something that can show you the way in buying a product that will last for years.
Make Sure to Stay Safe
Just like in some other areas of life, you need to make sure to stay safe when using charcoal grills. Each of the products comes with an instruction manual. The first thing to ensure is to carefully follow the assembly directions and double check that you set up everything correctly. Before you start grilling, check out these essential safety tips:
- Pick a safe area for grilling – first of all, never place a charcoal grill in an enclosed space, such as a tent, vehicle, or garage. Aside from the fact that you can cause a fire, you also risk carbon monoxide levels to rise, which may lead to breathing issues
- Keep kids away – children safety can never be underestimated. Make sure to keep all the kids at least five feet away from the grill and the area that’s used as prep space
- Beware when lighting the charcoal – take special precaution with this one. First of all, buy proper fluid for igniting the coal. Next, make sure NEVER to add the starter fluid once you see that you already got the fire started. That can quickly lead to flash fire and cause problems. If the spark is inadequate, try dry kindling or place some more coal if required
- It stays hot for a long time – a charcoal grill takes hours to cool down. That is why you shouldn’t set it near wooded areas or other burnable objects, and you should make sure not to move it until it cools down completely
That concludes our overview of the best charcoal grills. We hope that you learned a thing or two and that we made your decision-making process more manageable. Happy grilling!