Which charcoal grill is best?
Few things are as satisfying as grilling up dinner in the waning rays of the sun on a long summer day. Charcoal adds a unique smokiness to your favorite foods, giving them a distinctive flavor that’s hard to reproduce indoors or even on gas grills. If you’re looking for an easy-to-clean, full-feature charcoal grill, the Weber Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill is the top choice.
What to know before you buy a charcoal grill
The amount of space available
Charcoal grills make food tasty, and they benefit grillers because they come in compact sizes that don’t require a lot of room to spread out. While gas grills need to accommodate a large propane tank and often have prep surfaces attached, a good charcoal grill can fit on a small patio or deck.
When deciding on a grill, measure the amount of space you have available. Be mindful that you’ll need to leave enough room to keep the heat source far away from flammable structures, including your home. Buy a grill that fits your space while providing ample room around it for movement and dining.
Charcoal grills are cheaper
If cost is a factor in your decision to buy a grill, you’ll definitely want to take a look at the charcoal options. Charcoal-burning grills tend to be much more cost-effective than gas grills, both in initial investment and the cost of replacing the fuel.
The smoky flavor is easier to achieve on charcoal
Adding a smoky taste to grilled food requires a sealed environment that lets smoky vapor linger around the food as it cooks. Gas grills don’t seal tightly, and that’s by design as a safety measure. On the other hand, charcoal grills are meant to be closed to retain flavors. If you like a smoky taste on your barbecue, a charcoal grill is the way to go.
What to look for in a quality charcoal grill
Some people are surprised to learn that charcoal grills can also be powered by propane. While gas grills typically only use propane for fuel, charcoal grills have a propane ignition that can help light charcoal uniformly.
Charcoal grills without propane ignition require other methods for lighting charcoal. While everyone has their preferred technique, this often involves starting the charcoal in a separate chimney starter, using lighter fluid or investing in self-lighting charcoal.
The right materials
Because charcoal grills get very hot, you’ll want to be sure that the one you’re considering is made of stainless steel or cast aluminum to ensure its longevity. Look for useful grilling racks and unibody construction. Also, investigate how easy cleanup will be. This goes hand in hand with materials because hard-to-reach areas where ash can accumulate will cause weaker materials to degrade more quickly.
Charcoal grills range from compact table-top designs that are perfect for small patios to large grills that are 34 inches or wider. If you cook for one or two people, you’ll have all the grill you need with a compact model. If you regularly host larger gatherings, purchase a grill with enough room to cook a lot of food at once.
How much you can expect to spend on a charcoal grill
You can get a sturdy, compact charcoal grill for as little as $25-$100. A larger grill with a propane starter can cost upward of $500.
Charcoal grill FAQ
What accessories do I need to extend the life of my grill?
A. The most useful item you can get to keep your grill in good condition is a well-fitting grill cover that will protect it from the elements when it’s not in use. You’ll also need a good grill cleaning agent and brush to thoroughly remove any food residue that can erode the grill’s materials over time. Clean your grill thoroughly after each use, and cover it once it’s cooled down.
What else do I need for charcoal grilling?
A. A great grill brush is perhaps the most necessary tool among your tongs and spatulas. A chimney charcoal starter saves time and cuts down on the use of starter fluid. A good charcoal ash tool helps distribute the charcoal evenly and is handy during cleanup. An ash vacuum can be a smart purchase for frequent grillers.
Do I need a separate smoker, or can I smoke food on a charcoal grill?
A. This depends on personal preference, but most smoking can be done effectively on a charcoal grill. You’ll need one with enough room to add a pan of water near the charcoal, plus time to get the coals to the right temperature before adding your wood chips or chunks.
What’s the best charcoal grill to buy?
Top charcoal grill
What you need to know: This well-known grill manufacturer produces sturdy grills that last.
What you’ll love: With its ample grilling surface and handy temperature display, you will get reliable performance from this workhorse of a grill. The extra workspace comes in handy for prep.
What you should consider: Some users reported difficulty removing the ash catcher.
Top charcoal grill for the money
What you need to know: The Weber grill that started it all is still a favorite for its simplicity and ease of use.
What you’ll love: The wheels help you move it exactly where it needs to go, and the simple operation and cleanup make this a perennial favorite.
What you should consider: At 22 inches, this is a good grill when cooking for a small family, but it will be strained for larger gatherings.
Worth checking out
What you need to know: A heavy-duty, steel body construction makes this a durable choice.
What you’ll love: The collapsible front workstation makes storing this grill a breeze. Maintain ideal cooking temperatures by monitoring the included temperature gauge.
What you should consider: Some users report that the stationary legs can be somewhat wobbly, so be sure to place this one on an even surface.
Where to buy: Sold by Home Depot
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Maria Andreu writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
Copyright 2022 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.