Charcoal grills are a special breed of what we consider to be an essential piece of summertime equipment — here are the models we love the most.
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Grilling is one of the great pastimes of outdoor cooking, and one you don’t want to miss out on. Think about all the delicious meals you can whip up, all while basking in the fresh air and spending some time with your family and friends.
It’s time to get with the program and get yourself a grill — a charcoal grill, specifically (we’ll tell you why they’re so great in just a bit). And thankfully, we’re here to help you pick out the perfect one for your outdoor space. You’re welcome.
What to consider
Charcoal grills come in many different forms, which means that you have plenty of options when picking one out for your home — which, let’s be honest, can do more harm than good at times. With more choices, comes more stressing over choosing the wrong one.
Try to stay grounded while you shop, remember one thing: Just because it’s the most expensive, doesn’t mean it’s the best grill for you. It’s all about matching your personal needs and space, and that super pricey grill with all the fun gadgets attached to it might not make you as happy as the budget grill that gets the job done just as well.
What to consider when shopping for your new charcoal grill
Size: Not just the amount of physical space it takes up (which is still important), but also take note of the amount of total cooking space. How much food do you normally cook at once? Are you regularly feeding a whole family? The more food, the more surface area you’ll want.
Shape: Seriously, the shape of your charcoal grill matters. Normally, charcoal grills come in a more rounded shape, which helps center the coals and direct heat to a concentrated point on the grate. But that’s the classic way of doing it — lots of charcoal grills now come in shapes and sizes that more closely mirror their gas-powered counterparts, allowing for more surface area and heat points. There’s also a bit of familiarity with these types of grills for those who are used to using a gas version. Both are good, but are used differently, so consider your cooking skills as well.
Versatility and extra features: This can range anywhere from temperature regulation vents, to side shelves, to warming racks, to built-in rotisseries, to equipment storage, and more. It’ll all come down to what you see as necessary, and what you see as superfluous.
Get those three priorities in check, and you’ve already done most of the work when it comes to finding your forever grill.
Charcoal grills vs. gas grills
The debate over which grill you should buy — either gas or charcoal — is never-ending, and one that has no definitive answer.
The “answer” to that question will depend on where your priorities lie — convenience or flavor? Gas grills are all about the former (as well as helpful features that many charcoal grills just don’t have). You can light them immediately, and they’re normally ready to cook on within minutes. With a charcoal grill, it’s a different story. These generally take 20 to 30 minutes to start up, which can be frustrating if patience isn’t your strong suit.
If you’re willing to wait, you’ll be rewarded. Many pro grillers say that cooking with a charcoal grill helps you retain a smoky flavor, resulting in a better tasting final result. Gas grills usually end up vaporizing a lot of that flavor, even though it gets the job done more quickly.
Gas grills are naturally more versatile and easier to operate, but that’s not to say that charcoal grills don’t have their helpful perks as well. Gas grills allow you to more meticulously control the temperature of your cooking surface with numbered knobs, while charcoal grills employ an adjustable vent that requires a little bit of finesse. You’ll end up paying more for a gas grill, and buying charcoal is a whole lot easier than refilling your propane tank in terms of availability.
You can’t really go wrong, though. Consider your cooking style, budget, and taste preference, then make an informed decision. Don’t stress over it — it’s just food after all — and both will give you the opportunity to be outside and get grilling.
So, what’s the best charcoal grill?
We’re happy to help answer that for you — below are our top picks for the very best charcoal grills you can order online.
Not overly complicated to use or set up • Airflow vent on lid • Detachable ash collector • Hinged grate and handle shields
Not the best at smoking food
The Weber Original Kettle is the best charcoal grill you’re going to find in terms of price, performance, and ease of use.
1. Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill
The Weber Original Kettle grill is a classic and a favorite among grillers for a reason — it performs great, is simple to use, and isn’t all that expensive.
Total cooking space:
363 square inches
This probably doesn’t come as a surprise, but Weber is taking our top spot. They took the crown in our gas grills roundup, too — they just make really good grills.
Weber’s Original Kettle Premium charcoal grill has stood the test of time and is the number one choice for grillers everywhere due to its ideal mixture of performance and price. This grill in particular is also a model of simplicity, not bogging you down with difficult usage or an overly complicated setup (assembly is a breeze).
The Kettle is known mostly for its adjustable lid vent that helps control airflow, allowing the coals inside to heat up further or cool down when closed. The Premium model also has a better ash collector, making cleanup much easier. Other features include a hinged grate that allows you to add coals as you grill, heat shields on the lid’s handle, and a hook for your grilling tools.
When you take that killer price, ease of use, stellar performance, and put them all together, it’s easy to see why the Weber Original Kettle grill is the best of the best.
All the great features of the Weber Kettle • More workspace • Touch-and-go lighter • Charcoal storage • Built-in thermometer and digital timer
Still doesn’t fix the smoking issue from the Weber Kettle
The Weber Performer Deluxe is the logical upgrade to the Original Kettle for those who have bigger outdoor spaces and more mouths to feed.
2. Weber Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill
If you have a big backyard or are used to feeding a crowd, the Weber Performer Deluxe is a great upgrade to the Original Kettle for its added workspace and premium features.
Total cooking space:
363 square inches
If you want to upgrade from the normal Weber Kettle grill to better accommodate your larger outdoor space, the
Performer Deluxe takes that winning design and adds some useful features for those who have more than one or two mouths to feed.
You’ll recognize the Kettle design within the Performer Deluxe — it’s basically the same thing. Some distinguishing upgrades include an external thermometer, a touch-and-go lighter to set those coals ablaze, an extended workspace with a built-in digital timer, and a bin to store your to-be-used charcoal. You’ll get that nifty airflow vent and ash collector from the Kettle, too.
It’s going to cost you more than the regular Kettle model, but if you’re feeding a family or have some square footage to fill in your backyard, the Weber Performer Deluxe is well worth the extra cost.
Adjustable grates • Effortlessly portable • Airflow hatch • Cast iron has great heat retention, gets a better sear, and can be seasoned for fuller flavors
The cast iron gets extremely hot, and can be dangerous in a limited space
If you’re a grilling beginner, have a small outdoor space, or just like to have a grill you can take anywhere, the Lodge Sportsman’s grill will suit you well.
3. Lodge Cast Iron Sportsman’s Grill
Who knows when you’ll have to whip out the grill? The Lodge Sportsman’s grill is effortlessly portable, and is well-suited for beginners and those with limited outdoor space.
Total cooking space:
150 square inches
New to grilling? Outdoor space limited? Enjoy portability? All those questions are addressed by the
Lodge Sportsman’s charcoal grill due to its small size and low skill floor.
If you know anything about Lodge’s popular cast iron skillets, you’ll be happy to know that this hibachi style grill is also built to last and seasonable from the jump for better flavor retention. The adjustable grates hold heat better than that of non-cast-iron grills, so it naturally requires less charcoal get hot enough for use.
The pint-sized grill also has a sliding hatch to control airflow (not as simple to use as the Weber Kettle, but still useful), and a door for coals to be added whenever you need. Plus, that cast iron construction gets you a better sear on your food.
Whether you have little to no space outdoors or you just like taking your grill along with you wherever you go (who knows when you’re going to need it?), the Lodge Sportsman’s charcoal grill won’t disappoint.
Can be converted into a smoker • Lots of cooking space • Ash pan and dual dampers • Crank-adjustable charcoal tray
Some reviewers reported a warping issue with the charcoal tray over time
If you want a lot of cooking space and a cart-style design like that of a gas grill, the Char-Griller Legacy model should do the trick.
4. Char-Griller Legacy Charcoal Grill
If you like the cart-style design of most gas grills but the flavor of charcoal, the Char-Griller Legacy will probably be your best bet.
Total cooking space:
840 square inches
If you like the look and feel of your usual gas grill setup, this cart-style charcoal grill from
Char-Griller will give you that, plus the benefits that gas grills
don’t bring to the table.
The Legacy is defined by its bountiful cooking space as well as its versatility. It’s great for temperature control, making use of a front charcoal access door, crank-adjustable charcoal tray, and dual dampers. It also has a removable ash pan for quick cleanup, as well as two side shelves for food prep.
Perhaps the coolest feature is the ability to convert the griller into a horizontal smoker, even though the
piece you need to do that is sold separately — but hey, the option is nice.
Oh, and there’s a built-in bottle opener. Yay beer!
Durable construction with one-year warranty • Large cooking space with warming rack • Grid-lifting tool
Assembly requires a lot of effort
The KitchenAid charcoal grill is another great cart-style option that doesn’t have the versatility of the Char-Griller, but is more durable.
5. KitchenAid Cart-Style Charcoal Grill
If you’re okay with giving up the features of the Char-Griller in exchange for the durability of the KitchenAid, this cart-style option is another great choice.
Total cooking space:
851 square inches
We’d be remiss to not include another cart-style option for good measure, especially when
KitchenAid offers such a great one.
This KitchenAid charcoal grill includes that massive cooking space that lots of gas grills boast, as well as an included warming rack for toasting buns or keeping finished food fresh. The grill also has a helpful grid-lifting tool that enables you to safely add more coals into the basin, which is nice for clumsy grillers with the propensity to burn their fingers. It’s got a slide-out ash drawer, a height-adjustable charcoal tray, heat control dampers, an accurate temperature gauge, and foldable side shelves.
A lot of reviewers claim that the KitchenAid grill has a super durable construction, so if that’s one of your priorities, it may outweigh the Char-Griller’s versatility for you. It’s a preference game, though, and you won’t really go wrong with either one.
Built-in adjustable rotisserie • Fast ignition system • Ready to use in 10 minutes
Not as portable as other grills
If you can swing it, the Everdure Fusion grill is the best charcoal grill you’re going to find with a built-in rotisserie.
6. Everdure Fusion Charcoal Grill
If you have the patience and passion for rotisserie cooking, the Everdure Fusion charcoal grill is worth your consideration.
Total cooking space:
580 square inches
Did somebody say
We think the
Everdure Fusion grill is an ideal choice for anyone who regularly engages in the art of rotisserie or anyone who wants to make an investment in a device that will up their cooking game.
The Fusion’s built-in rotisserie has three adjustable heights for you to play around with to get your food cooked to perfection, and has jaw-like clamps to keep everything in place. With the grill’s fast ignition system, you can light up your coals electronically and have the surface ready to cook in as little as 10 minutes. The grill is also removable from the free-standing pedestal for cooking on different surfaces, giving you some more freedom when it comes to portability. It’s still pretty big, though, so we wouldn’t recommend it as your go-to on-the-go grill.
If you have the patience and passion for rotisserie cooking, as well as $1,000 to burn, the Everdure Fusion charcoal grill is a high-tech (and high-end) machine that will deliver.
Great price for what you get • Side table • Warming rack and ventilation control
Plastic wheels aren’t going to last you forever
For such a low price, the Nexgrill impresses with its array of features and overall good performance.
This is yet
another cart-style grill, but we wanted to make sure we had a good wallet-friendly pick for those who don’t necessarily want to drop a ton of cash just to cook some burgers.
Nexgrill cart-style charcoal grill is our favorite non-bank-breaking choice, and actually has a lot of similar features to the aforementioned KitchenAid pick (albeit at a slightly lower quality). It’s a smaller cooking space, but you’ll get a warming rack, a single side shelf, an adjustable charcoal tray, ventilation control, a removable ash collector, and a temperature gauge.
If you don’t mind going the cheaper route (both in price and quality), the Nexgrill should satisfy your budget grilling needs, with one reviewer calling it an “overachiever.”