Best Charcoal Grills For 2018 – Guide From BBQ & Outdoor Cooking Expert!
Best charcoal grills are a staple of family BBQs, summer get together, and outdoor cooking (be it on fishing trip, hiking or camping!). This grills use either charcoal briquettes or charcoal in lump form to produce heat to cook meats and other foods.
Different cooks and grill masters often have a strong preference for either lump or briquette style charcoal, but no matter which you prefer, a charcoal grill is a great way to cook up some delicious eats. Compared to gas and electric grills, charcoal grills can take a little more skill to operate well.
However, advocates of charcoal cooking swear that the smoky flavor and unique heat provided by charcoal is the best way to cook, and once you learn how to grill on a charcoal grill set-up, you may never want to go back to a gas or electric model.
What is the best charcoal grill on the market today?
In this guide, I’ll share some considerations to keep in mind when choosing the right charcoal grill for your cooking habits and needs. I’ll also review five of the best and most popular charcoal grills on the market to help you find the right model for your needs.
Table of Contents
- 5 Best Charcoal Grills - Comparisons
- The 5 Best Charcoal Grills - In-Depth Reviews
- How to Choose The Best Charcoal Grill
- Final Verdict
5 Best Charcoal Grills - Comparisons
The 5 Best Charcoal Grills - In-Depth Reviews
I keep all of these considerations and others in mind in my reviews of the five best charcoal grills on the market below:
1. Portable Kitchen PK 99740 Aluminum Grill
This “portable kitchen” lives up to it’s name, providing multiple cooking functions and a ton of grill space in a grill that is hand made in the USA.
If you are looking for a combination grill/smoker combination that can add a whole ton of flavor to your food, this is a great choice.
Here are some of the PK 99740’s coolest features:
Retro Style Aluminum Design
The modern PK 99740 was modeled directly off of its 1950’s era ancestor, and has all of the vintage charm to fit right in with Elvis, sock hops, and drive in movie theaters.
In addition to just looking downright cool, the aluminum body of the Portable Kitchen does provide some great benefits.
The cast aluminum is specifically designed to radiate heat evenly, making it easy to fill the grill all the way up with food and still know that everything will cook at the same temperature.
Plus, the aluminum material is rust proof and will last years.
Huge Amount of Grill Space
The superior grill area of the Portable Kitchen PK 99740 is what has made it a favorite of restaurant owners and competitive steak grillers alike.
The grill’s shape is more like a rounded rectangle than the typical circular grills that you will find on Weber style charcoal grills, adding extra grilling space and providing ample room to cook for a large family or group of people.
Ultra-Portable Design for Its Size
Despite the large grilling capacity of the PK 99740, it is still a very portable grill that you can easily take with you on camping trips or tailgating excursions.
The PK 99740 is equipped with two high quality rubber wheels to make it easy to roll and move quickly. And the grill area detaches from the aluminum base for easier storage and moving, making it easy to load the PK 99740 into the back of a truck or car.
Lots of “Kitchen Style” Cooking Space
They don’t call it a “portable kitchen” for nothing. In addition to it’s large grill, the PK 99740 has a lot of shelf space and room that simulates your kitchen, making it easy to prepare and cook full meals without relying on anything else.
The base part of the PK 99740 has an aluminum shelf to hold cooking accessories, and there is an additional cutting and prep style shelf attached right alongside the grill.
- Adjustable vents and dampers for precise temperature control
- Very Thick cast aluminum construction for maximum heat radiation
- Aluminum side and bottom trays
- Hinged cooking grid for easy refueling
It’s no surprise that there is more than one entry from Weber on this list, and the Original Kettle Premium lives up the the brand’s storied name and legacy.
While it looks similar to the Original Kettle, the premium version of this grill does come with some unique and powerful features.
Here are a few of the best things about the Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill.
Same Great Weber Engineering
Many of the features of this grill are similar to the standard original kettle. Here are a few of the things that carry over.
- One touch cleaning system, to easily scrape and push ash out of the grill’s main bowl area.
- Porcelain enameled bowl and lid for long lasting quality.
- High quality all weather wheels for easy movability.
Since the Original Kettle is such a classic, it’s no surprise that Weber’s premium version would contain many of the same design elements.
All of the carry over design features above contain the same great quality that Weber is known for.
Sturdy Hinged Grate
The premium version of the Original Kettle comes with a high quality, super sturdy hinged grate to make it easier to cook large items on your charcoal grill.
The hinged grate can be easily lifted while food is still on the Original Kettle Premium, giving chefs the ability to add more charcoal to maintain even heat for longer grilling times.
Better Temperature Control
The lid of the Original Kettle Premium has a built in thermometer to help you monitor the interior temperature of the grill, a great feature to help you determine when it’s time to throw on your favorite meats.
In addition to a thermometer for temperature tracking, the Original Kettle Premium has a built in four vent damper.
This feature makes it easy to control airflow and therefore heart, giving cooks the power to boost their grill’s heat up quickly and cool down the grill’s interior based on cooking needs.
Large Capacity Ash Catcher
The Premium Original Kettle comes with an even better ash removal system, with it’s large capacity ash catcher that makes it easy to remove ash without causing a mess on your deck or around your grill.
Combined with the one touch cleaning tool, this high capacity ash catcher makes cleanup a breeze.
- Two glass-reinforced nylon handles with tool hooks
- Rust-resistant aluminum damper
- Assemble Dimension 38.5 x 22.5 x 27 inchs
- Weight 38.3 Pound
- Plated steel hinged cooking grate
3. Weber 741001 Original Kettle Charcoal Grill
Weber is an iconic name in grilling, and the Original Kettle has been their flagship model for decades. When you think of “charcoal grill,” this is probably the model you are picturing, as the Original Kettle is a fixture of backyards all across the globe.
Here are some of this grill’s best features.
Long Lasting Quality
There is a reason that Weber has become so well known in the grilling industry, and it all boils down to long lasting quality. The Original Kettle features Weber’s tried and true porcelain enameled bowl and lid finish, which is actually baked into the grill’s steel and designed to help the Weber Original Kettle last for years.
Easy to Move
The Original Kettle comes equipped with two large, durable, all weather wheels to make the grill easier to move around your deck or backyard.
While the Original Kettle does have quite a bit of grilling space to feed the whole family, it’s minimalist design means it is very compact, and isn’t too heavy or hard to move around.
Easy Cleanup With The “One Touch” Cleaning System
Every Original Kettle comes equipped with a great “one touch” cleaning technology that makes it easy to clean the ash out of your grill’s bowl. Just by moving one lever from side to side, a three pronged stainless steel bladed cleaning tool pushes and scrapes ash out of the Original Kettle.
It is then caught by the easy to remove ash catcher, which you can detach from this grill for easy ash disposal.
With such an easy cleanup system, you will want to use your Weber Original Kettle as often as possible. It’s a simple technology, but one that has served Weber well for decades, and continues to provide an easy and quality cleaning experience.
Ample Cooking Space
The Weber Original Kettle features over 300 square inches of grill space, which is more than enough for medium to large sized families. Plus thanks to the domed shape of the Original Kettle’s lid, you can easily fit pot roasts, turkeys, and other large items inside of the Weber to cook up a whole meal in one grilling session.
You may want to pick up two of the Original Kettles if you are cooking for a very large group, but one offers plenty of space for most barbecues.
- Product Dimensions: 25 x 20.5 x 38.5 inch
- Weber 741001 has Aluminum ash catcher
- Porcelain-enameled bowl and lid
- Kettle grill with 363 square inches of total cooking space
4. Weber 10020 Smokey Joe Portable Grill
If you want Weber quality in an ultra-portable, super affordable package, the Smokey Joe Portable Grill is a great charcoal grill choice for you.
The third entry from Weber on our list lives up to the brand’s reputation, with quality engineering in a smaller size.
High Quality, Long Lasting Engineering
Like the other Weber grills on this list, the Smokey Joe Portable Grill is designed to last, with high quality engineering that will keep you grilling for years to come. The bowl and lid are coated with Weber’s trademark porcelain enamel, giving this smaller grill all of the durability of its bigger cousins.
This porcelain coating prevents rust and fading, which is especially important in a portable grill that will see a lot of travel time. Just like the other Weber grills on this list.
Just because it has a smaller size doesn’t mean that Weber cut any corners on quality..
Surprising Spacious 14-inch Grill Space
While this grill is designed to be portable and doesn’t have anywhere close to the same grill space as the Original Kettle, it does get the job done and offers a surprising amount of cooking room for its size.
The 14-inch grill is big enough to fit three full sized steaks or six burgers easily, which should be enough to feed smaller families. This grill isn’t just for travelling, and can help you grill up some delicious treats on your patio or backyard if you are short on space.
Ultra-Portable Adventure Friendly Design
The coolest feature of the Smokey Joe Portable Grill is its awesome portability, which makes this tool a perfect thing to bring along on camping trips, beach adventures, or any other recreational outing.
If you want a great smoky flavor without the dangers of starting a campfire, this grill is the perfect companion for all of your outdoor adventures.
This ultra-portability can’t be emphasized enough. The Smokey Joe is light, compact, durable, and easy to bring with you wherever you go for a great grilling experience.
Super Budget Friendly
Due to its smaller size, this grill is a very budget friendly alternative to the larger Original Kettle Weber grills. If you are on a tight budget but want the distinct flavor of a charcoal grill combined with trusted Weber quality, this is your best choice.
- Porcelain enameled coating prevents rust and fading
- Portable grill for cookouts, tailgate parties, and car camping
- Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 15.6 x 9 inchs
5. Char-Broil CB940X Charcoal Grill
If you are feeding a huge family, or like to fire up the charcoal grill for company picnics or other large groups outings, this huge charcoal grill is a great choice to meet your needs.
This one is one of the top selections of our best charcoal bbq grill list because of the features it offers.
The Char-Broil CB940X is built to feed an army, and has some features that make preparing a massive quantity of food easy.
Here’s its best features:
Superior Temperature Control
The CB940X comes with a built in temperature gauge to help you monitor just how hot the inside of this grill is cooking, and help you know when it’s time to throw on your favorite grilled foods.
It also features a seven level adjustable grate, which makes it easier to move your foods closer or further from the charcoal heat source depending on your cooking needs.
Finally, the CB940X comes with two adjustable dampers that give you a lot of control over airflow, to help you boost or lower heat levels as needed.
Lots of Grill and Cooking Space
The grill section of the CB940X itself is massive, with 540 square inches of cast iron cooking space. That’s enough to feed very large groups easily, and keep pumping out burgers and hot dogs at a restaurant pace.
In addition to the grill itself, the CB940X features a lot of great cooking space too. It comes equipped with two side shelves where you can set your grill tools, hold food that’s about to hit the grill, and prepare food to cook on the spot.
There is also a lower storage shelf below the base for more storage space. All of this grilling real estate makes it easy to prepare and cook huge meals on the CB940X very conveniently.
Easy Front Access Door
Since it has so much grill space to offer, you will likely want to be using the CB940X for longer than one batch of charcoal will last.
Luckily, it comes equipped with easy front access doors that let you add charcoal without losing any heat in the grilling area. As long as keep adding new charcoal, it’s a breeze to keep this grill evenly heated and cooking at full capacity.
Heavy Duty Cast Iron Design
This massive grill is a bit heavy and hard to move, but you probably won’t ever want to move it further than your back patio, and all that bulk is for good reason.
The CB940X is made with incredibly durable cast iron that will last you years. This grill can take a beating without getting damaged at all, making it a perfect outdoor cooking station that’s built to last.
- Removable ash pan for easy cleaning
- Heavy-gauge construction
- Cast iron cooking grates
- 180 square inch of secondary cooking area on chrome-plated swingaway
How to Choose The Best Charcoal Grill
What is the best charcoal grill, and how to get it?
In this guide, I have reviewed five of the most popular charcoal grills you can buy today. But if you are keen to know what to look for when choosing the best charcoal grill, here you go:
Our friends from America's Test Kitchen have a detailed video on selecting the best Charcoal Grill, before reading our own guideline, just have a look what they got to say:
Depending on how large of groups you are grilling for, you may need a grill with more surface area to accommodate your grilling needs.
Buying a grill that doesn’t have enough surface area for your family or whoever you grill for most often means that you will be leaving people hungry and won’t be able to keep a good grilling pace going.
Smaller, traditional dome style charcoal grills are usually fine for small to medium sized families. But if you are grilling for your office, a big group of friends, or a large family, I recommend getting a larger grill than you think you need just to be safe.
Grill Surface Material
The grates of a charcoal grill where your food will actually be cooking come in several different materials. The most common materials that grill surfaces are made out of are porcelain-coated cast iron, stainless steel, and plain cast iron.
Stainless steel is the least likely to corrode, but some grillmasters find that their food sticks to the grates more often with a steel grill surface. Cast iron distributes heat nice and evenly and are naturally non-stick, but they will need to be seasoned from time to time.
Porcelain-coated cast iron is easy to clean, lasts longer than stainless steel, and doesn’t need to be seasoned, providing the best of both worlds in my opinion.
Ease of Cleaning
The easier it is to clean your grill, the more likely you will be to use it often and enjoy your grilling sessions when you do. Grill surfaces are an important element of how easy it is to clean your grill, and porcelain-coated cast iron are usually the easiest. There’s more involved in cleaning your grill than just the grill surface.
You want to a grill that makes it easy for you to remove ash, and has an easily removable ash pan. You also probably want a grill that is designed to be easy to take apart so that you can clean every corner of your charcoal grill if need be.
In addition to standard grill surfaces, many charcoal grills have some cool extra features that may make them a more attractive buy for some grill enthusiasts.
Here are a few of the more common special features you can find in common charcoal grills.
- Rotisseries, which are a great tool for cooking chicken and other meat and add a unique function to your charcoal grilling experience.
- Thermometers can be a great built in feature for charcoal grills, letting you see how hot the inside of your grill is getting to help you make sure food is cooking as it should.
- Wheels can help make your grill more mobile, and can be a feature that helps you use your grill more often if you aren’t always wanting to grill in the same place.
In addition to the considerations above, there are a few other things you should keep in mind when purchasing a charcoal grill, like your budget, the grill’s brand, warranty information, your experience using a charcoal grill, and the time you have available to learn to use one well.
Many grill enthusiasts will tell you that once you’ve had a charcoal cooked steak or hamburger, there’s no going back. Each of the best charcoal grills above offers the most quality you can find in each class for your dollar, and will help you deliver the perfect charcoal grilled meals for your family and friends.
Think of each of these grills as an investment: they are all built to last, and can provide you a great way to cook for years to come. Any grill from this list delivers a ton of great charcoal flavor, a quality build design that you can rely on, and a whole lot of value that will help you create a lifetime of outdoor cooking memories.