Best Charcoal Grill for 2021 – Buyers Guide

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Everyone wants to find the best charcoal grill for their backyard. Charcoal grills allow for more control during the cooking process to help make delicious meals the way you want them to be. You change the temperature and control it by using different amounts of coals and placing them where you want to create various cooking zones. When you want a charred outside, cook right over the coals. Move the meat to a cool spot for a smokier taste and gentle cooking.

Even the best gas grills can’t compete with charcoal grills, but it is essential that you find the best charcoal grill to buy. This can be hard to do if you’ve never shopped for one before. In a sense, you need to read reviews of the best grills of 2020 to help you decide. This review is full of helpful information about what to consider when buying and how to choose the best charcoal grills out there. Plus, we also include FAQs and talk about each charcoal grill. For example, you have the cart-style charcoal grill, tabletop-style charcoal grill, and even the kamado-style charcoal grill. All of these options are ideal and suitable, but it’s important to know which is right for your house. Let’s get started to find out which grill you might like best.

Short on Time? Here are Our Top Three Charcoal Grills

9.5
Weber-Original-Kettle-Premium-Grill1

Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill Best Overall

The Weber Premium Charcoal Grill is a 22-inch charcoal grill that could be the best out there. In fact, we think it's the best overall grill for various reasons. Just one of them is the one-touch cleaning system, but we also like that it's portable and on wheels.
9.5
Weber Charcoal Go-Anywhere Grill

Weber Charcoal Go-Anywhere Grill Best for Portability

The best charcoal grill is one that can go anywhere. We like the Weber Go-Anywhere Grill for that particular reason. Charcoal grills that can be taken on camping trips are the best.
9.5
Weber Smokey Joe 14-inch Charcoal Grill

Weber Smokey Joe 14-inch Charcoal Grill Best for Smallness

We like the Smokey Joe from Weber as one of the best charcoal grills out there. This grill doesn't weigh a lot and is ideal for camping and RV cooking outside.
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Buyer’s Guide

When looking for the best grill, there are plenty of things to consider. You already know that you want it to use charcoal, but that’s not all you’ve got to focus on. Think about how easy the grill is to clean, its size, and what it’s made of to ensure that you’re going to like it.

Construction

You’re going to want sturdy materials for your charcoal grill because you want it to retain its heat and withstand the elements. Typically, stainless steel is the best option, but aluminum is also durable. We like cast iron the most for the cooking space. They are often coated in porcelain, and we appreciate this feature. That way, the food doesn’t stick onto the cooking grate.

The lid needs to have a good seal because that keeps the smoke inside. However, ventilation is also key so that the meat doesn’t just taste like smoke.

Most people like the idea of being able to move the grill. Portability is a key concern here and something that we’ve taken into account. Though we’ve included full-size grills on the list, most of them are small and portable.

Easy to Clean

The bonus of using charcoal for cooking is that it’s easy when you get the hang of it. However, one downside is the clean-up factor. There is always going to be a mixture of grease and ash that accumulates in the bottom of your grill, making everything stick together and become a mess. Therefore, it’s important that the grill you choose has a bottom that drops out, making it easy to clean.

Size

The size of the grill you choose must be considered, too. One way to do this is to decide how many people you often cook for regularly. If you’re always hosting parties and cooking for big groups, you want a bigger cooking surface. Most people like something that is still easy to maneuver. Look for grills that have wheels at the base or that are small enough to pick up by a single person. This way, it is easy to shift around the grill and move it around. Larger grills aren’t as easy to carry and can be nearly impossible to transport in a car or truck.

Shape

Most charcoal grills have a round shape because this encourages the coals to center on the bottom right below the cooking grate to create a more indirect cooking surface along the outer edge. However, we have included some rectangular grills, as well. They can be easy to use because they create clearer cooking zones and are similar to a gas grill. Many people like rectangular grills better and feel that they are easy to clean and use when compared to others. This is a personal preference, and you’ve got both options to consider.

Versatility

If you like to cook a fast dinner on your charcoal grill, you probably don’t need one that’s fancy. The basic model is going to be great for you and easy to use. However, if you want to smoke or use it for big groups, you may want something that’s a bit bigger and offers a smoking option, as well.

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Comparison Table of the Best Charcoal Grills of 2020

Charcoal GrillCooking spaceWeightDimensionsReview
Best Overall – Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill363 square inches32.3 pounds39.5×22.5×27 inchesCheck Price
Weber Charcoal Go-Anywhere Grill160 square inches14 pounds12.2x21x14.5 inchesCheck Price
Weber Smokey Joe 14-inch Charcoal Grill153 square inches9.5 pounds14.2×14.5×17 inchesCheck Price
Dyna-Glo Signature Series DGSS730CBO-D Barrel Charcoal Grill730 square inches123.2 pounds52×33.9×59.8 inchesCheck Price
Weber Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill363 square inches91 pounds30x48x43.5 inchesCheck Price
Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Grill and Smoker447 square inches 90 pounds26.6×24.8×21.6 inchesCheck Price
Lodge Cast Iron Sportsman’s Grill142 square inches30.6 pounds19×8.2×10.2 inchesCheck Price
Char-Griller Patio Pro Charcoal Grill250 square inches 51.7 pounds31x21x44 inchesCheck Price
Royal Gourmet Charcoal Grill393 square inches64 pounds50x22x48.8 inchesCheck Price
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The Best Charcoal Grills of 2020

1. Weber Original Kettle Premium Grill – Best Overall

The Weber Original Kettle Premium Grill is everything you want with a grill and nothing you don’t. Even though it doesn’t have a smoker or side tables, it’s still an excellent product.

We like the one-touch cleaning system the most because the ash catcher is easy to remove. You can dump and clean it without having to take apart the grill or move the entire thing.

You’re going to like the built-in thermometer on the lid because it helps you see what the temperature is without having to open the grill and release all the heat from inside it.

The Weber Original Kettle also comes as an 18-inch charcoal grill, so you can choose the one that fits in your space best. However, we prefer the 22-inch charcoal grill because it has a hinged cooking grate at one end to make it easier to add coal. You no longer have to lift the entire grate to get the job done.

9.5Expert Score
Takeaway

If you've got a small space and want a top-of-the-line grill, the Weber Kettle is an ideal option. Though it might not be suitable for big cuts of meat and can't smoke, it does the grilling like a pro.

Pros
  • One-touch cleaning system
  • Great heat retention
  • Tripod design
Cons
  • Requires a table or other storage areas – not an all-in-one station
  • Lid fits too snugly
  • Indoor storage preferred

2. Weber Charcoal Go-Anywhere Grill – Best for Portability

If you want the best portable charcoal grill, then the Weber Go-Anywhere is the top choice. It’s convenient and quick to cook on and can be taken on camping trips, tailgating, and anywhere else. We like that it’s only 15 pounds or so, so you can easily carry it anywhere.

It comes with a hamburger press, so you can form six perfect patties, and they all fit on the cast iron grates. Plus, the cooking grate is made of plated steel, giving you more durability and making it quite easy to keep the grill clean.

The lid locks, so you can use it in different ways. Locking the lid helps with heat retention to cook the meat faster. Plus, you can lock it when it’s not in use to keep everything together. However, there’s no hinge, so you’ve got to remove it entirely to check the food.

9.5Expert Score
Takeaway

If you like sitting on the ground or have a table, this small grill from Weber is an excellent choice for tailgating and many other things. You're sure to appreciate the lid lock feature and its portability.

Pros
  • Easy to clean
  • Lid-lock feature for easy transport
  • Portable and durable
Cons
  • Can be wobbly and must be anchored properly
  • Doesn’t have fold-out tables

3. Weber Smokey Joe 14-inch Charcoal Grill – Best for Smallness

When you want the best, you probably turn to a charcoal grill. Weber has a variety of styles and options, most of which are listed in this review. With the Smokey Joe version, you can use it on a deck or patio. Though this is the best portable charcoal barbecue grill, the small size doesn’t limit how much you can cool. There is tons of room for chicken breasts, six burgers, or pork chops.

We like that this 14-inch portable grill has a single damper for proper temperature control. There’s also a handle at the top so you can check the food. However, you should always use an oven mitt to do so because it’s not a cool-touch handle.

You’re going to like the stainless steel exterior because it means you can leave it outside in all types of weather. It’s not going to rust as easily as other materials and is easy to keep clean.

9.5Expert Score
Takeaway

Those who want a grill that sits on a table are sure to appreciate the Smokey Joe from Weber. It doesn't have side tables, but it is small and practical for tailgating and other uses.

Positive
  • Easy to clean
  • Steady and sturdy tripod design
  • Lightweight
  • Wide cooking area
Negatives
  • Hard to clean ash catcher
  • No side handles or table

4. Dyna-Glo Signature Series DGSS730CBO-D Barrel Charcoal Grill -Best Combo

If you want a barbecue grill and smoker, the Dyna-Glo Signature Series Grill is the best choice. You don’t have to spend more for two different pieces of equipment. This product can handle various cooking methods. We like that the steel construction keeps the inside hotter. Plus, the metal regulates the temperature to prevent hot spots, as well.

You’re going to appreciate the large cooking surface of the Dyna-Glo brand. There’s plenty of primary space, but indirect cooking is also possible for slow cooking or warming needs.

It includes the firebox, which turns it into a smoker for seafood and other meat. The temperature gauge at the top helps you monitor the heat. Plus, there are large wheels at the bottom to maneuver it around the patio or yard. We like the cool-touch handle, as well.

9Expert Score
Takeaway

If you want a smoker and grill without the high price, the Dyna-Glo brand has you covered. It can cook multiple ways, which means you don't have to buy another product to smoke meat.

Pros
  • Grill and smoker combination
  • Cool-to-the touch handle
  • Wheels for portability
Cons
  • Hard to clean ash box
  • Can be a challenge to move with only a top handle

5. Weber Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill – Best Full Size

It seems that everyone prefers a charcoal grill. Weber just happens to be one of the best brands on the market. Plus, you don’t need a large budget because this has a small price point. Still, you get 363 square inches of space for cooking. We like the 22-inch copper bowl because it’s got plenty of room for chicken, burgers, and whatever else you want to make.

This open-cart style charcoal grill includes an attached table. That way, you can prep and have storage for the tools. There’s also storage space underneath. While the ash catcher takes some of that space, there is still plenty of room for your supplies. You’re going to like that the base has large and small wheels to make it easy to maneuver around the patio.

Two of the top features are the LCD timer and thermometer. The timer helps remind you when to remove food or flip it, while the thermometer tells the inside temperature. Everyone is going to enjoy the Touch-N-Go ignition system, which helps you light it with the push of a button.

9Expert Score
Takeaway

Those who want the bells and whistles without overspending are sure to appreciate the Weber Performance grill. It's got plenty of space to cook food, includes a side table, and has the open-cart design.

Pros
  • Built-in thermometer
  • Touch-n-Go ignition system
  • Timer included
Cons
  • Ash catcher takes a lot of space
  • Much larger than the Weber Kettle Grill

6. Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Grill and Smoker

If your price point is low, but you want a quality grill, the Akorn Kooker is an excellent choice. It’s an egg-shaped grill that mimics the design of the Big Green Egg but has a lower cost. The insulation along the edges ensures the best heat retention.

We like the cast iron grates because they are durable and have a bigger cooking surface. However, the best part is you can use direct heat or indirect heat, depending on how you set up the briquettes.

If you want warming racks, you can appreciate this smoker and grill. The warming rack is 130 square inches but often gets in the way and can lower the overall space for grilling.

Still, this grill offers great temperature control. There’s also storage space under it, wheels to move it, and a lid that locks into place.

9Expert Score
Takeaway

Those who want a kamado-style grill are sure to appreciate the Akorn Kamado Kooker. It doesn't cost a lot and gives you the option of smoking or grilling.

Pros
  • Warming rack included
  • Numbered damper
  • Sturdy construction
Cons
  • Stronger wheels needed
  • Must sacrifice space for grilling to use warming rack

7. Lodge Cast Iron Sportsman’s Grill

Those who prefer something extremely durable are sure to appreciate the cast-iron charcoal grill from Lodge. It might not be as lightweight, but it’s a high-performance 18-inch portable grill that gets the job done for you.

We like the cast iron charcoal grill for many reasons. It can sear, bake, and saute, as well as grill. Plus, cast-iron is naturally nonstick, though it needs to be seasoned correctly. This is done by the manufacturer of the cast iron charcoal grill before it arrives on your doorstep.

The Lodge brand makes the best products, and its experience shows through prominently with this grill. There are thick and clean lines, and you can adjust the height as needed. Plus, you can add more coals by flipping down the front hatch.

8.5Expert Score
Takeaway

Cast-iron is the top choice for those who want a grill that is going to last a lifetime. Though it's much heavier than others we've talked about, it's still portable for short distances. You may not want to take it on a hike, however.

Pros
  • Great performance
  • High-quality construction
  • Still portable
Cons
  • Heavier than other portable grills
  • Small grilling space

8. Char-Griller Patio Pro Grill

If you’re interested in a cast iron charcoal grill, this brand has you covered. This is a larger grill but is designed to be more similar to a compact version. In fact, the brand has shrunk its classic barrel grill, so it’s more manageable for back porches, patios, and decks.

The smallness also makes it ideal for tailgating because you can load it easily onto the back of a truck. We like that it’s lightweight and is quite durable, though a bit top-heavy. With its low cost and workable grilling area, it’s a great choice for those who want the best without a lot of hassles.

8.5Expert Score
Takeaway

Those who want something compact in the traditional grill design are sure to appreciate the Patio Pro from Char-Griller. Though it can be a little wobbly and should be anchored, it features a side table and a beautiful barrel design.

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • More grilling space when compared to other compact grills
  • Ideal for porches and patios
Cons
  • Top-heavy design
  • Can easily tip over if bumped

9. Royal Gourmet Charcoal Grill

Do you prefer those large grills but hate the high price? Royal Gourmet offers a budget-friendly option and has tons of great features. It’s a full-size grill and comes with an offset smoker box.

You’re going to appreciate the porcelain cooking grate that makes it nonstick and easier to clean than other materials. Plus, there’s a warming rack to help keep food hot as it gets done cooking. It’s also possible to use this area to warm up side dishes.

8Expert Score
Takeaway

If you've always wanted an offset smoker, the Royal Gourmet brand is right for you. It's got a small footprint but is still large enough to cook for a big gathering. It might not be as transportable as others, but it's a great option for a backyard grill.

Pros
  • Large interior
  • High-quality construction
  • Small construction for full-size grill
Cons
  • Awkward shape
  • Considered an offset smoker/grill
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FAQs

What Is the Best Way to Light the Charcoal?

When cooking on a charcoal grill, we think it is easy to use charcoal chimneys or electric starters. The chimney is like an oversized mug. You fill it with charcoal and then light it from underneath using tinder. Once it is finished and hot enough, you dump it into the grill. They are a great starting point when you’re lighting a bigger load of coal.

Most people like electric starters best because they don’t use lighter fluid, which prevents that chemical taste from permeating the grill and meat. With it, you load up the grill, light the coals at a few strategic points, and wait. The fuel included does the rest.

Both methods are easy, but they aren’t the only options. If you have something you like to do better, that’s the one to consider.

How Much Charcoal Should Be Used?

Grills vary significantly, so the amount of coal to use is based on time, type of grill, and temperature. You want to hit the target temperature, which depends on fuel levels. The more heat you want, the more coal you have to use. Airflow also plays a part. Oxygen availability can determine how hot the coal burns, and this is where the grill type matters. A standard grill is designed for air exchange to provide hotter heat. Ceramic grills reduce airflow, so they require less charcoal and can last longer.

Our recommendation is to make it easy on yourself by starting with a small amount. Keep extra fuel available and use it as necessary. Consider grills with a temperature gauge and monitor it constantly to find out if you need to add more coal to the fire.

How Do You Dispose of Used Charcoal?

You shouldn’t dump out the used coal on the ground because the lye inside can burn your child’s or pet’s feet. Coal shouldn’t be allowed in the water supply, either. Consider wrapping the briquette ashes in aluminum foil and throw it into the trash. You can also compost lump charcoal ash, but don’t add it straight to the garden bed.

When Should the Charcoal Grill Be Cleaned?

Every time you use the grill, it needs to be cleaned. Let it cool down and remove the ashes and leftover coal. If you let it become moist, the ash turns to lye. This is a burning mixture that eats through steel and other metals. Though most grills use an anti-rust coating to help with this, moist ash can still cause rust, especially if the grill is older.

If the grill features an ash collection system, use that each time. Otherwise, consider an ash tool or a vacuum cleaner designed specifically for ash.

How to Handle Temperature Control for a Charcoal Grill?

There are two methods available, and they’re both similar. It’s possible just to adjust the fuel amounts and add more charcoal to get a higher heat. You could also change the airflow from the air damper system. When the vents are wider, there is more airflow and more oxygen, which is fuel, too. Usually, the airflow method is the go-to and standard because it’s easy to adjust things while you’re cooking.

What Are the Differences Between a Gas Grill and a Charcoal Grill Smoker?

A charcoal grill provides a more typical and traditional flavor of barbecue. The charcoal grill smoker also does the same, but it can smoke with wood chips to give a smokier taste.

However, gas grills have an advantage over charcoal because it produces more heat and steam than coal, which gives the meat more moisture. Plus, it takes longer to heat up a charcoal grill.

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Conclusion

The best gas grills aren’t going to provide the smoky flavor you want. For that, you’re going to have to choose the best charcoal grills. This list of the best grills of 2020 has shown that there are countless options available.

We’ve tried to focus on different styles and options, such as the grill smoker version, best portable charcoal grill, and others. That way, you can pick the one that best fits your needs. There isn’t a one-grill-fits-all winner here because each household is different. Everyone is sure to like or need something different. Though it isn’t always easy to find what you need, it is possible.

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