- 1 Why Charcoal Grills Are Unrivaled & Unmatched
- 2 What to Consider before Buying a Charcoal Grill
- 3 Reviews Of The Best Charcoal Grills in 2020
- 3.1 1. Lodge Cast Iron Sportsman’s Charcoal Grill – Best to Buy of 2020
- 3.2 2. Weber Jumbo Joe 1211001 Charcoal Grill – Best Portable
- 3.3 3. Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill – Best Weber
- 3.4 4. Char-Griller Akorn® Kamado Charcoal Grill Smoker – Best Combo
- 3.5 5. Marsh Allan 30052AMZ Hibachi Charcoal Grill – Best Tabletop
- 4 A Comparison Table of the Top-Performance Charcoal Grills
- 5 Best Charcoal Grill Brands
- 6 Conclusion
When it comes to grilling meat, there’s no beating charcoal. It’s just as simple as that. In its truest essence, charcoal grilling is an all-time classic for BBQ parties. You don’t have to be a Michelin star chef to grill good food: everyone can do it, as long as you have the best charcoal grill at hand.
In this article, we’ll show you how the charcoal grill retains its reputation as the ultimate grilling method. We’ll then shed light on how to pick a grill that best matches your needs, followed by an in-depth review of our picks. And before wrapping the whole thing up, we’ll go through some grill brands and manufacturers.
Why Charcoal Grills Are Unrivaled & Unmatched
Grilling over an open fire has always been more than just a way of cooking food, it’s a tradition and lifestyle deeply embedded in the American culture. Since then, we have witnessed innumerable revolutionary innovations and groundbreaking designs that have raised cooking standards to new heights. Furthermore, with the use of electricity and gas, grilling is becoming more fuel-efficient and enjoyable.
Then, how come charcoal grilling is still preferred over other methods?
For starters, charcoal grills rank second to none when it comes to firepower. The more coal you add, the hotter the grill gets. Its superior heating ability lets grillers diversify their cooking options— low-and-slow for ribs, medium heat for grilling, and high heat for searing steaks.
Some charcoal grills incorporate a smoking chamber, which creates a smokey flavor in the food that no other grill can replicate. Even without a smoking chamber, you can still add damp wood chips or even wood chunks to create flavorful food.
Charcoal grills offer emotional and spiritual values, to boot. Rarely do you find a lone griller, because you simply don’t grill for yourself— you’re grilling for good company. Since grilling is deeply rooted in the American lifestyle and culture— with over 75% of US residents owning a grill or a smoker, 53% of which is charcoal-fed grill, as surveyed by HPBA— it’s not hard to spot a sizzling charcoal grill on the patio at a reunion party, at a camping ground in the summer, or in the backyard at every Fourth of July party.
What to Consider before Buying a Charcoal Grill
The clearer your standards, the more likely it is you can find the grill that best matches your needs. Below are our criteria for choosing the right charcoal grill.
Charcoal grills are available for purchase at a diverse range of price points, depending on certain factors.Generally, the brand and the grill’s interior capacity drive the price.
Charcoal grills are relatively inexpensive. Most of them cost less than $100, and could be even cheaper during sales around big holidays, like the Fourth of July. The grills come with a weather-shield body and high rust-resistant grates, since they are exclusively for outdoor cook fests. You can cook for a small family up to six or seven people on medium-sized grills.
However, if you’re grilling for a larger party, or looking to add more conveniences for the chef— side tables, a bottom shelf, tool hooks, or all-terrain casters, just to name a few— you may have to be a little bit more generous with your budget. Grills with extra features can go from $150 to $300. Anything above $300 isn’t really worth spending on, unless you’re seriously considering investing in one of those ceramic cookers, also known as kamado grills.
Planning what you’re going to cook, how many people you’re serving, and how often you’re cooking using the grill will help determine the right grill size.
Someone who regularly hosts neighborhood parties or family reunions would require a grill that’s large enough to cook for a dozen or more people. Otherwise, if it’s just you and your family, a medium grill should suffice.
If you often find yourself grilling large items like ribs or whole chickens, then a medium-large grill is in order. If burgers and hot dogs are the main courses on the menu, a small to medium grill is a better choice.
For huge items like briskets, turkeys, and ribs, a grill with a wide and curved bottom— characteristics found in a kettle-style charcoal grill or a kamado-style grill— is the perfect choice, suitable for slow cooking and indirect grilling. These grills can also sear nice steaks, provided the grates can be adjusted at will.
Speaking of the grate, it’s usually either stainless steel, coated steel, or cast iron. If you have a specific preference, then this is a detail you should pay attention to.
During cooking, there has to be times when you need to add or remove coal chunks. Such adjustments may disrupt the cooking process because you have to take out the food grate to access the coal bed. Therefore, for your convenience, it is well-advised to buy a grill with an easy-access coal bed, either through a door or a foldable cooking grate, so you can easily tend to the coal without having to lift the sizzling hot grate.
Unlike gas grills and electric grills, there’s no way to fine-tune the temperature on charcoal grills to a precision. All you can do is control the airflow into the coal bed and the exhaust from the top of the grill. That said, many manufacturers include easy-control dampers and with enough practice, you’ll eventually get the hang of it in no time.
While no one denies a charcoal grill’s immense cooking prowess, its cleaning trade-off can be overwhelming.
Since the grate is too big to fit inside a dishwasher, it has to be hand washed. While stainless steel, coated steel, and coated cast iron grates are easy to clean, it isn’t the same case for uncoated cast iron grates, which require not only gentle hand washing but also meticulous maintenance.
As for the charred pieces, gunk, and ash collected at the bottom of the grill, it’s a bother to clean, so make sure to get a grill with a removable ash pan.
An outdoor cook fest is at the mercy of the weather, so a grill with all-terrain wheels and casters, or a sturdy cart is much appreciated.
If you’re a picnic enthusiast, then a small, portable charcoal grill will come in handy, especially wherever space is a premium, like the trunk of your car when you’re traveling with the grill.
Charcoal grillers are also subjected to inevitable flare-ups— sudden and violent bursts of flame when the fire below the grate burns droplets of grease and fat falling through the bars. To prevent this from happening, you ought to trim off the fat on the meat before cooking.
Other safety measures include well-insulated handles and tightly fit lid with lock.
Manning the grill is a demanding but rewarding task. Grillers should maximize their performance by getting a grill with some of these features:
- Tool hooks
- Side tables or bottom shelf
- Temperature gauge
Reviews Of The Best Charcoal Grills in 2020
If you’re a repeat buyer who just want to know which grill to buy, this list will cut to the chase. These are the best charcoal grills to buy in 2020.
- Lodge Cast Iron Sportsman’s Charcoal Grill – Editor’s Best to Buy
- Weber Jumbo Joe 1211001 Charcoal Grill – Best Portable
- Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill – Best Weber
- Char-Griller Akorn® Kamado Charcoal Grill Smoker – Best Combo
- Marsh Allan 30052AMZ Hibachi Charcoal Grill – Best Tabletop
To find out more about our selections, the in-depth reviews follow.
1. Lodge Cast Iron Sportsman’s Charcoal Grill – Best to Buy of 2020
We’ll start off the feast with the Lodge Cast Iron Sportsman’s, a hibachi-style, rustic grill that possesses immense heating power. Not many people find this grill attractive or eye-catching, but they’d very well be impressed with its performance and features. And did you know that this grill is featured in our compiled list of best grills to buy this year? Be sure to drop by, and who knows, maybe you’ll find a grill that would better match your needs.
The Sportsman’s measures 20.7 inches long by 12 inches wide by 10 inches tall. The cooking surface offers 142 square inches, enough to place two or three steaks, according to home grillers.
A fine specimen made by Lodge, all parts of this grill are cast iron and are coated with 100% natural vegetable oil, so you can use it right after purchase without having to season the grate first. The Sportsman’s gives off a sense of sturdiness, and it’s a great fit for long road trips to the wilderness. Beside cooking directly on the grate, one can reheat kettles of coffee and tea on this grill, to boot.
The one feature that we love about the Sportsman is the easy-access draft door. You can tend to the coal right on the spot and adjust the airflow with ease, but remember to use a pair of heavy-duty tongs and wear mitts to avoid burning yourself. Since this door is also removable, you can also add or remove coal chunks through it without interfering with the food on the grate.
Since the cast iron grate comes pre-coated with natural vegetable oil, the non-stick surface keeps the food from overstaying its welcome after cooking. Furthermore, its heat retention property makes sure that your food will always be ready for consumption. That said, Lodge still advises applying oil, butter, or fat on the surface before preheating the grill.
Since the grate has two adjustable heights, one can choose between a quick searing or a slow roast, depending on what you’re cooking.
Since the grate is cast iron, dishwasher is definitely a no-no. You can scrub lightly using a soft-bristle brush in warm water for three to five minutes. For stubborn stains, you can use dish soap— provided that the solution is mild and in minimal amount, as instructed by Lodge.
Once you’ve rinsed the grate, you wouldn’t want it to air-dry by itself. Use a wad of paper towel or a piece of lint-free cloth to thoroughly dry the grate. Per Lodge’s instruction, the final step is to rub a thin layer of cooking oil on the surface, and wipe with a paper towel until no residue is left before storage. This will improve the nonstick quality of the grate for even better nonstick cooking in the future.
To clean the bottom of the grill, you should remove the unburnt coal chunks with a pair of tongs— discarding or keeping them until the next cook is entirely up to you. For the remaining ash, you can use a vacuum cleaner, but make sure the debris is completely cool. Once done, you can wipe the interior with a rag or paper towels.
If you’re planning on keeping the grill outside, we suggest using a small, breathable grill cover to protect it from the weather and condensation that could eventually cause rusting. Otherwise, storing the grill indoors is probably the best option when it won’t be used regularly.
Weighing nearly 31 pounds, the Sportsman’s can be quite heavy to carry by its handle. Still, it’s a compact grill that can fit nicely in any vehicle and can even sit on a picnic table in the backyard. Campers and picnickers would definitely love this grill.
What we find concerning is the grill’s lack of proper insulation. As if the non-existence of sides handles isn’t enough, the carry handle isn’t well-insulated either. So when you’re done cooking, unless you carry the grill with a pair of mitts, it would take quite a long time for the grill to completely cool down before you can move it.
The Lodge Sportsman’s is a well-rounded grill that does the job well. Its toughness and durability are a true testament of the American quality: it is built to last for generations to come, if it’s properly cared for and well-maintained.
2. Weber Jumbo Joe 1211001 Charcoal Grill – Best Portable
If you’re planning on going camping or on a picnic, the Weber Jumbo Joe is a definite must-have. It’s an inexpensive grill that delivers gourmet results on a regular basis.
The Jumbo Joe measures 20.5 inches long by 19.7 inches wide by 19.7 inches tall with the lid closed. Its cooking surface measures 18 inches in diameter, providing 240 square inches of grilling space, which can serve six famished diners according to Weber. That said, this grill is small enough to fit in the trunk of a car.
The body and lid are porcelain-enameled steel, and are under warranty up to 10 years. The cooking grate is plated steel, while the charcoal grate is heavy gauge steel. The Jumbo Joe also has an aluminum ash catcher, which is under warranty for five years.
If you’re a fan of seared steaks, then the Slow ‘N Sear accessory is something you should consider. It’s a grill divider that can help stack coal chunks so the flames can reach closer to the grate above.
It’s quite a shame that there’s no easy access coal bed to tend the coals. If you want to make adjustments, you have to take out the cooking grate first.
To adjust the temperature, there are two dampers— one on the lid, and the other at the bottom of the body. These aluminum vents won’t rust and are easy to use: you open all the dampers during igniting and preheating. Once lit, you can make adjustments by partially closing them. And when the party’s over, you simply close both of them completely to snuff the flame.
The grate is relatively easy to scrub using a grill brush and dish soap, even though there isn’t any non-stick coating.
At the bottom of the grill, there’s a rotatable door that will release the ash, dust and charred pieces down into the awaiting ash catcher right beneath it. While we appreciate Weber’s attempt to make it easier to clean the grill, the ash catcher is not a well-designed feature: wind can blow the ash around and if it’s still warm, it can lead to fire and safety hazards.
Compact and lightweight, Weber’s Jumbo Joe is the ultimate companion when people go camping or they host a tailgate party. The grill comes with a lid lock to prevent the contents from spilling during transportation. While the grill itself isn’t heavy, we feel the handle could be better reinforced.
The glass-reinforced nylon handle on the lid is well-insulated, and it has a heat shield, to boot.
If the Jumbo Joe feels bulky for you, then you may want to take a look at this Weber mini grill. You’ll be surprised how such a compact grill can cook as well as its larger cousins in the same category.
The Weber Jumbo Joe is an inexpensive, functional, and reliable grill that has earned the trust from many users. With this grill, every outdoor cook fest will be an unforgettable dining experience. It is a perfect balance between compactness and practicality. This grill is great for picnic trips, camping, trekking, and road trips.
3. Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill – Best Weber
Weber has so many well-made products, it is almost impossible to pick out just one. With so many fine charcoal grills, it wouldn’t do this brand much justice if there is only one representative. But if we’re hard-pressed to do it, we recommend the Original Kettle Premium 14401001, a well-rounded, convenient charcoal grill that cooks incredibly well.
The Original Kettle Premium measures 27 inches long by 22.5 inches wide by 39.5 inches tall with the lid closed. Its cooking surface measures 22 inches in diameter, providing 363 square inches of grilling space. Weber claims the grill can fit up to 13 burgers patties.
Much like its Jumbo Joe brother, the Original Kettle Premium has a porcelain-enameled bowl and lid, which are also under warranty up to 10 years. Similarly, the charcoal grate is heavy gauge steel. The cooking grate is plated steel, but what we like about it is that you can fold it to access the coal bed without removing the whole grate. Now you don’t have to stop cooking midway, just lift half of the food grate to tend to the coal right below. The removable ash catcher is aluminum, and is under warranty up to five years.
The grate is relatively easy to hand wash, since it would be too large to fit a dishwasher. A grill brush soaked with warm soapy water should remove most of the gunks and grease. Specialized degreasers and cleaners can come in handy for more stubborn stains, but only as a last resort.
Weber has addressed the open ash catcher design in the Jumbo Joe, and has made significant modifications. The aluminum ash catcher below the bowl— dubbed the One-Touch cleaning system— has a pan that will hold the falling ash, cinder and charred pieces. The pan is tightly secured but can be easily detached for ash disposal and cleaning, keeping the ash from being blown or scattered around by winds.
The Original Kettle Premium sits tightly on a sturdy cart with two all-terrain wheels, allowing you to freely move your grill around.
The grill has thee glass-reinforced handles— one on the lid, with the addition of a heat shield, and two on the sides— eliminating the need for mitts.
We should also mention that the wheels on the cart don’t lock into a stationary position, so you’d have to choose the location wisely, or the grill would roll away.
The grill features a lid-mounted thermometer. It gives a good indication of the interior temperature, as long as you’re not lifting the lid too often. That said, if you need to monitor the food temperature as it cooks we suggest getting a grill thermometer. They are particularly useful when cooking large roasts over a long period of time.
When the cook needs to take a break from manning the grill, the tool hooks come in handy. The lid also has its own hook on the side as well so you don’t have to hold it. Just perch it on the side and you can use both hands for tending food on the grill.If you want to focus solely on cooking sans the extra features, then this Weber Original Kettle grill may pique your interest. It’s similar to the Premium version, except that the ash catcher is open and there are no utensil hooks.
The Weber Original Kettle Premium is a well-made grill that not only delivers gourmet-quality results, but also offers an abundance of convenience for grillers.
4. Char-Griller Akorn® Kamado Charcoal Grill Smoker – Best Combo
Next on our list is the Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Cooker, a grill-smoker hybrid that combines the best of both worlds into one single unit.
The Akorn Kamado measures 45 inches long by 31 inches wide by 47 inches tall when fully assembled, while its cooking surface measures 20 inches in diameter. With the main cooking area of 314 square inches—plus an additional 133 square inches from the warming rack— the grill offers a maximum of 447 square inches, enough to cook for a party of more than 10 diners. This grill is perfect for large items like brisket, racks of ribs, or several whole chickens.
The body is 22-gauge steel with a triple-wall construction, which retains heat extremely well within the cooking chamber, making the most out of the coal. Of course, ceramic is the ultimate heat-retaining material, but the Akorn does a good job at a much lower cost.
While the exterior is powder coated, the interior is porcelain coated. The grill’s tight-shut design is perfect for smoking, a slow cooking process at a low temperature. This grill will keep your food moist and juicy without sucking everything bone dry.
The grates are uncoated cast iron, so you need to apply a layer of oil before using, also known as “seasoning.” Besides the regular grate, there is an additional removable warming rack. What we like about the grate is that there’s a removable ring in the middle of the grate, which lets you access the coal bed below without having to lift the grate.
To adjust the temperature, there are two dampers— one on the lid, the other at the bottom near the coal bed. They are designed to work in tandem by allowing or restricting the amount of air inside the cooking chamber. One thing that we should remind you is that the adjustment is not immediate: it can take from five to twenty minutes for the temperature to settle at a final number, so we’d advise you to be patient and not overcompensate by over-adjusting the dampers.
Since the grate is cast iron, hand washing is a given. Just scrub it with a sturdy brush with soft bristles while the grates are hot and the heat will dry the racks immediately. If the grates aren’t completely seasoned, you can apply a thin layer of oil after cleaning. Careful cleaning and maintenance will keep the grate from rusting.
The ash pan is tightly attached to the grill with latches. Once unlatched, the pan pulls out easily for cleaning, and it’s deep enough to hold plenty of ash until you empty it.
The Akorn weighs 97 pounds, but is surprisingly mobile thanks to the cart with all-terrain wheels that can handle rough ground. Although it has wheels rather than casters, it turns easily, and its weight keeps it from moving if it’s bumped. Still, it’s wise to park the grill on a flat surface.
For kamado-style grills, back-draft can be a safety hazard. This phenomenon happens when the sudden influx of oxygen feeds the flame too quickly, causing an outburst. To prevent this, open the lid slowly, and let the grill “burp” a few times before completely opening it.
This grill has two fold-down side tables for extra working space. But since they’re plastic, you cannot place too many heavy food trays or condiment containers on top of them. If you need more storage space, there’s a bottom shelf that will come in handy.
The Akorn features a lid-mounted thermometer that lets you know whether you’ve reached the proper temperature or you need to make adjustments. The Akorn also has utensil hooks for cooking tools and a lid lock that should always be latched before moving the grill.
The Char-Griller Akorn is a good start for those who want to practice and improve their cooking game, particularly if they don’t want to commit to a heavy, expensive ceramic kamado cooker. It’s a nice blend of a charcoal grill and a smoker. This is the grill to get if you want those pinkish smoke rings and the irresistible smokey flavor on your meat.
5. Marsh Allan 30052AMZ Hibachi Charcoal Grill – Best Tabletop
Before wrapping up this article, we present the Marsh Allan, a rustic hibachi-style tabletop grill.
The two cast iron cooking grates combine for 157 square inches of grilling space. While unfit for large items, the grates can cook smaller items like burger patties, skewers, and kebabs.
The grill has a small and shallow bottom, which is a very nice design if you’re a fan of searing— since the heat will be more focused and intense. It takes the grill a while to preheat, but once it gets hot, it retains heat extremely well.
The curved-up grates are uncoated cast iron, which will make the food stick to the cooking surfaces before they are completely seasoned, but this can be easily avoided if you apply oil or butter before preheating. On the other hand, you can set the grates at three different heights to cook at different temperatures.
The two adjustable air vents are supposed to adjust the airflow inside the coal bed. However, there are consumer complaints about them being more decorative than practical.
The grates require manual washing— a nylon grill brush should remove most grease. Remember to dry the grates thoroughly and give them a coat of vegetable oil, or they will succumb to rust.
As for the coal bed, you can vacuum it once the ash is completely cool. The unburnt coal chunks can either be discarded or kept for future use, but make sure to use a pair of heavy duty tongs to remove them if they’re still hot.
The Marsh Allen is very lightweight and compact. It won’t eat up much space on the table or in the back of your vehicle when you’re going camping.
The handles are well-insulated, so you don’t need mitts.
If you’re planning on getting a tabletop grill, then the Marsh Allen is the way to go. Its value for the money is unmatched by any other grills, and you’ll be surprised how well this small grill works.
A Comparison Table of the Top-Performance Charcoal Grills
|Model||Size (LxWxH)||Cooking Area|
|Lodge Cast Iron Sportsman’s (L410)||20.7” x 12” x 10”||142||---||No written warranty, but will reply upon request|
|Weber Jumbo Joe Charcoal Grill 18” 1211001||20.5" x 19.7" x 19.7"||240||Ash catcher,|
Heat shield for handle
|Bowl & Lid: 10 years, no rust through / burn through
One-Touch Cleaning System: 5 years, no rust through / burn through
Plastic Components: 5 years, excluding fading or discoloration
All Remaining Parts: 2 years
|Weber Original Kettle Premium 22” (14401001)||27” x 22.5” x 39.5”||363||One-Touch cleaning system,|
Heat shield for handle ,
Tool & lid hooks
|Bowl & Lid: 10 years, no rust through / burn through
One-Touch Cleaning System: 5 years, no rust through / burn through
Plastic Components: 5 years, excluding fading or discoloration
All Remaining Parts: 2 years
|Char-GrillerAkorn® Kamado Charcoal Grill E16620||45” x 31” x 47”||314 from the main grate + 133 from warming rack = 447 in total||Side tables,|
|Grill’s Hood & Bottom (Excluding Removable Ash Pan): 5 years for rust through / burn through
Ash Pan & Defective Parts: 1 year
|Kay Home Products Marsh Allan 30052AMZ Hibachi Charcoal Grill||22” x 15” x 8”||157||Height-adjustable grates||1 year|
Best Charcoal Grill Brands
In this section, we’ll go through a few grill manufacturers and suppliers in the field. Some brands are iconic and instantly recognized, while others are trying to make themselves known. Let’s see how many you can identify.
Type the key phrase “best charcoal grill,” and you’ll find yourself in Weber wonderland. This is one of the most prominent names in the grill manufacturing industry. We wish we could do a full article exclusively for Weber grills, but until we can get around to doing that, here’s a full page dedicated to to the brand.
Founded in 1952 by George Stephen, Weber has gone through countless innovations and drastic transformation, but its excellent quality has remained unchanged. That’s probably one of the many reasons why this beloved black-white-red logo is instantly recognized by almost all grill enthusiasts
Char-Griller prides themselves on making top-quality grills, smokers, and accessories that everyone can afford. From connoisseurs to home cooks, and from five-star eateries to your home’s kitchen, Char-Griller has made its presence known.
Making its debut decades ago, Char-Griller has constantly strived for improvement. The company introduced us to the unique charcoal barrel-style grill, and have since broadened their range even further, to Dual Fuel, Kamados, Kettles series and more. Their grills and smokers are trusted as dependable appliances in millions of homes around the world.
After more than a quarter of a century, Char-Griller has gained in-depth industry knowledge, and has perfected the art of making top-quality, innovative grills.
Founded in 1896 and based in Tennessee, the Lodge family has been making top-quality cast iron cookware and accessories for over a century.
All Lodge seasoned cast iron cookware is proudly made in the United States. So, when you buy a Lodge griller you’re buying craftsmanship that has been passed from generation to generation. Lodge cast iron cookware is also well-known for its premium-quality design, lifetime durability, and cooking versatility.
Unmatched for over a century for its timelessness and durability, Lodge will continue this time-honored tradition into the foreseeable future.
Kay Home Products
Founded in 1989 and based in Antioch, Illinois, Kay Home Products offers a wide range of consumer products, notably the complete line of Marsh Allan and Vortex barbecue grills, in a wide variety of sizes and models to suit different consumer needs.
All Marsh Allan grills— whose slogan goes “Marsh Allan grills, Anytime – Anywhere”— feature adjustable cooking grates, and they range in size from a modest 95 square inches to an astounding 484 square inches of cooking freedom.
Charcoal grills now face fierce competition—with the arrival of gas and electric grills— but they remain the most popular form of grilling. Like a pair of jeans, they’ll never go out of style.
We hope that our reviews of the best charcoal grills— along with the buying guide— will help you make the best choice among countless options on the market. If you feel like sharing your grilling experience, and tips, or if there’s anything that we can do to improve this article, your comments are always warmly welcomed and appreciated.