As it is with analog and digital cameras, the never-ending debate between gas and charcoal grills really comes down to style. Purists of charcoal champion its versatility: the temperature range, for example, is much larger — from zero to upwards of 1,200 degrees. Good gas grills, meanwhile, range from 200 to 600 degrees. The compromise, however, comes with maintenance. In other words, you can’t just turn on a charcoal grill and go mow the lawn; they need constant attention, and generally need to be re-stoked throughout the cooking process. But for those that prefer a more analog experience, one that allows total control over how the meat is cooked, charcoal grills are the only answer. These are the three for every budget and level of experience.
The Big Green Egg
Best All-Around: Constructed from high-fiber ceramic, the Big Green Egg (available in a myriad of different sizes) uses a patented air-flow system to control temperatures over long stretches, making it ideal for both high-heat grilling and slow, sustained smoking. Meanwhile, an accessory called the convEGGtor converts the chamber into an outdoor convection oven, capable of baking everything from bread to casseroles. To boot, the external surface area of the chamber stays relatively cool when in use, meaning it’s safe for outdoor gatherings with kids.
The PK Grill & Smoker
Best Value: The trusty, versatile, highly portable PK Grill and Smoker is a classic among classics. First debuted in the early 1950s, the brand name got its reboot in 1998, when an attorney-turned-grill-enthusiast from Little Rock, Arkansas, uncovered a vintage PK Grill at a yard sale, then bought the rights to the name and went on to produce nearly identical, thick-cast charcoal grills in the original castings. Each one, made by hand in the USA, is cast in aluminum, which not only efficiently conducts heat, but also naturally resists rust.
Korin Konro Grill
Best Table-Side: The Korin Konro is a hibachi-style grill that’s won the hearts of professional chefs like Jared Gadbaw at the two-Michelin-starred restaurant Marea in New York City. The body is made by hand from durable, heat-insulating diatomite bricks, and features a thin net top with smaller openings that’s better suited for bite-sized meat and vegetables. For those who are unwilling to make the financial commitment required for a premium grill, or just don’t have the backyard real estate, the Konro is an affordable solution — and a very solid one at that.