Beyond BTUs, max temperatures and fuel cost, the fundamental difference between charcoal grills and their competitors is convenience. Charcoal grills are inconvenient in every way that a gas, pellet or electric grill is not. This is the fundamental appeal. In the same way, many driving enthusiasts prefer manuals to automatics, there is carnal satisfaction in direct control, higher failure rates and sky-high potential. Yes, charcoal grills can do things the others can’t, but it’s the no-handlebars process that makes it great. From the most iconic backyard toy of the 20th century to a briefcase that cooks and smokes food, these are the best you can buy right now.
Best Overall Charcoal GrillWeber Original Kettle Premium Read More
Best Upgrade Charcoal GrillPK Grills PK360 Grill & Smoker Read More
Best Budget Charcoal GrillWeber Original Kettle Charcoal Grill Read More
Best Smart Charcoal GrillKamado Joe Konnected Joe Read More
Best Charcoal Grill for EntertainingBurch Barrel Read More
What to Look for in a Charcoal Grill
Whether you’re shopping online or in person, seek out construction information. Does the listing have two dozen bullets touting all the ceramic, heavy-gauge stainless steel, cast aluminum and enameled iron (or steel)? That’s a good sign. If it’s not flexing its construction, it’s more likely to have rust spots, fail at retaining heat and generally come apart earlier than you’d want.
Buying a grill that’s a few hundred dollars and it has a one-year parts warranty? Don’t buy it. Something that costs that much should be guaranteed, in part at least, for three to five years. Some of the grills on this guide come with lifetime part warranties.
Adjustable (and Customizable) Grates
Look for a wheel or lever that lets you move the grates or the coal bed up and down — preferably both. This allows for more cooking methods. As an added bonus, some companies offer upgraded grates (or there are aftermarket grates you can buy). We prefer stainless steel for ease of cleaning and more balanced heat distribution.
Vents! Vents! Vents!
In the making of a single meal, airflow determines quality more than great grates, coal quality and construction. It allows for you to feed a fire to sear like you want, keep a medium heat to roast a chicken or smoke ribs nice and slow. The more vents to play with, the better.
Delivery and Setup
This is a simple one. Some grills come fully assembled, others take a full day to set up. Look at this before shipping a 500-pound piece of metal to your house.
How We Tested
Our testers spent weeks with their grills, using them to grill various meats and vegetables and experimenting with more advanced techniques like smoking and two-zone cooking. Our testers made sure to note how easy their grills were to set up, what was required to clean and maintain them and, perhaps most importantly, what the grilling process was like when it came to things like adjusting the temperature or checking on their cooks.
Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill
- Sizes: 18 inches, 22 inches, 26 inches
- Materials: Porcelain-enameled steel housing, steel grates
When you talk about charcoal grilling, you start with Weber’s kettle. The brand continues to represent the ideal mix of performance and price. Its customary porcelain-enameled steel body is sturdy enough to lock heat in and light enough to tow around without throwing out your back. Its construction is such that moving parts, screws and levers are kept to a bare minimum, which means it lasts much, much longer than other grills under $200.
This is the slightly souped-up version of the classic Weber kettle, and if you're going to be charcoal grilling often, the one you want. The biggest difference between the original and the premium versions is the latter's ash catch, which makes cleanup significantly quicker and tidier. Another bonus of investing in Weber kettles is the vast collection of aftermarket accessories you can get for one.
Using the grill, the ovoid shape is immediately useful. Using a rectangular grill, the edges of the grill are usually off-limits to most food, because when you close the angled lid it brushes up against the food, and the edges are typically cooler. The Weber's dome lid doesn't have these issues. The shape also allows you to get creative with your coal placement and with what you're cooking. Consider the snake charcoal placement method for low-and-slow smoking or a more traditional two-zone setup.
PK Grills PK360 Grill & Smoker
- Size: 24.8 inches
- Materials: Aluminum housing, stainless steel grates
Let’s get this out of the way: almost any charcoal grill can be a smoker, too. It comes down to having enough space to create two-zone cooking areas (explained superbly by Amazing Ribs here). This is what PK (short for Portable Kitchen) grills are known for — they’re small enough to toss in the bed of a pickup with other tailgate gear, yet, thanks to four very smartly placed vents, functional enough to grill and smoke at high levels.
The PK grill is outfitted with vents on the top right, top left, bottom right and bottom left of the cast-aluminum grill body. When you want to sear steaks, chops or chicken, you open the fuel-side vents and let the fire rip. When you want to smoke ribs or a small pork butt, place the coals on one side of the grill and the meat on the opposite side of the grates. Then open the vent under the coals and over the meat — this feeds the fire and smokes the meat indirectly. The entire thing is rust-proof, too.
Weber Original Kettle Charcoal Grill
- Sizes: 18 inches, 22 inches
- Materials: Porcelain-enameled steel housing, steel grates
Materials, manufacturing and brand legacy all considered, it’s shocking the original Weber is still this affordable. The 22-inch staple is made with the same enameled steel as the Premium version and offers the same 363-inch cooking space (between 15 and 20 burgers worth of space), but it lacks the easier-to-clean ash catch. It’s not a huge issue, given the competition for a charcoal grill of this size is mostly rinky-dink Amazon brands that don’t have customer service lines, strong warranties or any real reputation. If you’re dead set on a cheap grill and go for something other than the Weber original you’re doing so in an effort to be different, not have a better grill.
Kamado Joe Konnected Joe
- Size: 18 inches
- Materials: Ceramic housing, stainless steel grates
The Konnected Joe keeps the charm of cooking on a ceramic charcoal grill. But it makes the process simpler and more precise, eliminating a lot of the rigmarole. It uses an automatic starter coil, which eliminates the need for lighter fluid or a lighter. In our testing, the grill heated from an ambient 68ºF to above 400ºF in about 10 minutes. A smart system adjusts the ventilation to keep the temperature there (or wherever you set it). The ash also burns through and neatly falls down into a removable tray for easy clean-up.
Precise temperature management led to — in our tester's opinion — better cooking. He was able to cook sausages through and impart a bit of smokey taste without burning them. Heat deflectors and a range of accessories allow you to customize the grill easily to what you are cooking. Plus, since this grill is "Konnected," you can use the Kamado Joe app to adjust your temperature and cook times, as well as monitor your meat probes.
One drawback of the Konnected Joe is that it's heavy. And instructions to drop it into the stand you've constructed with small holes aligned make assembly a two (or potentially more) person job.
- Size: 18 inches
- Materials: Cold-rolled steel housing, stainless steel grates
The Burch Barrel delivers a unique grilling experience thanks to its suspended firepit design. Our tester hosted many grill-outs at her house and she says the Burch Barrel made the experience a lot more fun compared to using a standard grill. One reason for this is the tripod design that allows for a 360° approach to grilling — our tester's favorite feature — which made the grilling experience much more social (compared to having your back turned to your guests with a traditional grill). The design also made it much easier for sous chefs to assist with adding/taking things off the grill. As a host, our tester felt more connected with her guests and had a much better evening because of that design.
The Burch Barrel can also grill with any type of wood or charcoal, and our tester says any fuel is super easy to add. She also described the grill's venting as very efficient and cautioned going with a "less is more" approach when adding charcoal since it heats up easily. Our tester also liked how the tripod legs allow for level cooking on uneven surfaces, like a backyard or stone patio, as well as the fact that it doubles as a fire pit (albeit a tall one) — post-grill coals are ideal for marshmallow roasting and/or standing around the fire with a beer. The temperature is easy to control, either by moving the coal pan up and down within the drum or by raising and lowering the grill plate itself via a pistol grip slider after locking it into the lid.
On the downside, the grill does take up a ton of space, and while it does come apart, it's still on the heavy side so moving it can be a chore. Our tester also notes that the cooking process tends to be a bit more involved than with a traditional charcoal grill.
Big Green Egg
- Sizes: 10 inches, 13 inches, 15 inches, 18.25 inches, 24 inches, 29 inches
- Materials: Ceramic housing, stainless steel grates
No charcoal grill in existence is guaranteed to make your neighbors green with envy quite like a Big Green Egg (pun intended). The poster boy for premium charcoal grills for nearly 50 years, this legendary egg-shaped hunk of ceramic lives up to the hype. It reaches temperature in minutes, and with its outstanding insulation, patented air vents and built-in thermometer, you're able to control your cooking temperatures with the utmost precision. Its exterior doesn't get hot like metal grills (thanks again, insulation), and it's easy to clean too.
Perhaps the biggest negative on the BGE is the lid. It's big and heavy, and while its opening is assisted, it's still kind of a pain to deal with.
Napoleon Charcoal Professional Grill
- Size: 33.75 inches
- Materials: Stainless steel housing, porcelainized cast-iron grates
If you’re committed to charcoal but want that shiny gas grill vibe, Napoleon is probably your safest bet. Napoleon is primarily a gas grill maker, but its glossy stainless steel charcoal grill is exceptional, and it’s one of very few high-end charcoal grills that have that new look. Other than its highly durable build, the grill ticks all the boxes: variable coal bed height, sturdy grates and (relatively) easy cleaning. Some will be fond of Napoleon’s staple “wave” grate design.
Yoder Smokers Abilene
- Size: 20 inches
- Materials: Steel housing, steel grates
A 375-pound charcoal grill with more than 700 square inches of cooking space and perfectly placed vents make the near-perfect party grill. Removable cooking grates are standard fare, but being able to remove the charcoal grate is a huge help with cleaning a grill this size. One last thing: the wagon-style wheels are made of the same heavy-as-shit stainless steel as the grill body, meaning they won’t casually crack or break down like many others.
PK Grills OriginalPK PK300
- Size: 22.35 inches
- Materials: Aluminum housing, nickel-plated steel grates
In 2022, PK Grills unveiled a new version of its OriginalPK Grill and Smoker — so naturally, we tested it out. In our tester's words, after using this grill for a few weeks she went from a rookie charcoal griller who had only flipped burgers and cooked veggies in tin foil to being confident in "using two-zone cooking, indirect, and direct heat to make smoky, juicy pork ribs." If that isn't an endorsement, we don't know what is.
Our tester loved the compact size of this grill. That obviously translated to a slightly smaller cooking area than what you might be used to, but if you have a small space where you're looking to do your grilling then you'll be happy with the grill's compactness. Its size also makes it easy to transport, and our tester appreciated the durability of the grill. Its capsule is rustproof and PK backs it with a 20-year warranty, so you can count on the grill looking great for years to come.
As far as the cooking experience, this grill offers four adjustable vents, a hinged lid and a hinged cooking surface — all of which aided our novice tester, making it easier to adjust the temperature, add fuel and tend to her meals. Really the only thing our tester didn't care for about this grill was the lengthy and complex setup (you'll want help).
Read our full review of the PK Grills OriginalPK PK300.
Hasty Bake Legacy 131 Charcoal Grill
- Sizes: 21 inches, 28 inches
- Materials: Powder-coated steel housing, nickel-plated steel grates
Lauded by professional chefs, Hasty Bake charcoal grills ride the line between commercial and residential use in their functionality and no-bullshit aesthetic. The company made its first grill — then called a charcoal oven — in 1948 and has been making them non-stop since. From a construction perspective, the grill is a beast. Loads of 18-gauge powder-coated stainless steel make up the body, and the grates are nickel-plated steel. Parts come with a five-year warranty, too. A quirk: the grill has a ventless hood, which changes … a lot. Instead of smoke and heat flowing up through the coal bed and out the top of the grill, heat rises to the top of the lid, where it meets a heat deflector, which recirculates the heat. This means hotspots are a rarity and creates what amounts to a charcoal convection oven.
Everdure by Heston Blumenthal HUB
- Size: 54 inches
- Materials: Titanium-coated steel body, chrome grates
The new-ish Everdure brand is the brainchild of Michelin-starred UK chef Heston Blumenthal. Its Hub grill targets pain points in the charcoal grilling process and addresses them with features like electric charcoal ignition and chrome grates that are easy to clean. It’s also got a built-in rotisserie over the grates, which few charcoal grills offer as a standard. This is the grill you get to show off a bit and keeps your hands clean. A downside: compared to most brands in this guide, Everdure has very few stockists, which means it may be tough to get hands-on with one before dropping two grand.
Texas Original Pits Corsicana
- Sizes: 36 inches, 42 inches
- Materials: Painted steel housing, expanded steel grates
Texas Original is known for its smoking pits and sturdy built quality. Naturally, that lends itself to the brand making just-as-good charcoal grills. With its generously sized 750-square inches of cooking surface, the Corsicana offers up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit of wood-fired or charcoal-powered grilling. Its side-mounted exhaust tank is a helpful addition, while cleanup is a breeze with-a two-inch grease drain pipe and a contoured ash clean-out tool.
Weber Go-Anywhere Portable Grill
- Size: 19.5 inches
- Materials: Porcelain-enameled steel housing, plated steel grates
The Go-Anywhere grill weighs 14.5 pounds, which is a featherweight in charcoal grilling terms. It’s large enough for six to eight burgers, two regular-sized steaks or one whole chicken. It is not a grill you’ll be able to effectively smoke or slow cook on consistently, but it offers a huge upgrade to camp dining. Because most of the places you’ll use this grill will necessitate packing light and thus not carrying a charcoal chimney, we recommend bringing a pack of lighter cubes with it wherever it goes.
Nomad Grill & Smoker
- Size: 27.5 inches
- Materials: Anodized aluminum housing, stainless steel grates
Is it a briefcase? Is it a grill? It's both! Nomad's unique cooking gadget just might revolutionize how you grill when on the road. Weighing in at just 28lb and featuring a convenient carrying handle, the Nomad somehow packs in 425 square inches of total cooking space across its two diecast cookboxes. The anodized aluminum exterior stays cool enough to the touch to be used on a wooden picnic table, and the grill is packed with innovative features like domed stainless steel grates that offer improved durability and sliding magnetic vents.
While there's a lot of innovation going on with the Nomad, there are still some areas where it's lacking. Namely, you'll need a chimney coal starter to heat your fuel before putting it in the grill. Nomad doesn't include one with the grill, nor do they even sell one.
Nexgrill Cart Grill
- Size: 36 inches
- Materials: Powder-coated steel housing, porcelainized cast-iron grates
A $139 grill (that frequently goes on sale) that’s built of powder-coated steel, has porcelain-coated grates, comes with a trio of vents for controlled airflow and looks kind of decent? Sure enough. Nexgrill’s compact cart grill isn’t going to last forever and won’t be suited for large grill gatherings, but it’s got all the features needed for good grilling and entry-level smoking. Plus, it’s available at Home Depot.
Masterbuilt Gravity Series Grill
- Size: 54 inches
- Materials: Painted steel housing, cast-iron grates
Masterbuilt’s charcoal take on a wood pellet grill is the most controversial charcoal grill on the list. Load coals in the hopper and play with the grill’s onboard computer — which controls temperature levels and airflow — to grill with precision without any experience. That functionality, which also enables the cook to go more hands-off (which means more time with the people you’re cooking for), is likely the future of grilling. The pain points are temperature maximum and construction. The former is significantly lower than your standard charcoal grill (just 700 degrees), and the latter is questionable at best, with some plastic and painted stainless steel that chips rather easily. Looking for something you can turn on in the morning and not come back to until dinnertime? This is it.
Broilmaster C3PK1 Charcoal Grill
- Size: 26.75 inches
- Materials: Powder-coated aluminum housing, stainless steel grates
Broilmaster is one of grilling’s old guards. Founded in 1966, the company has iterated its design into a unique, highly functional and ultra-durable charcoal grill. A cast-aluminum body was one of the founding principles which has lasted to today, where it is still the gold standard for even heat distribution and weather resistance. And though its grates can’t be cycled up or down, it does have a unique split-grate setup that allows for cooking nearer or further from the flame. The pull-out ashtray and vent count are the icings on top.
Why Buy a Charcoal Grill?
Pros of Charcoal Grilling
Ultra-high heat: other than commercial salamander burners (like this one), no grill type will reach the heat levels charcoal and wood-fired grills will. Expect maximum temperatures over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, reaching up to 1,250 depending on your setup.
Versatility: It gets hotter than hell, but it works just as well for low-and-slow cooks. When airflow is handled well and the fire is tended evenly, charcoal grills can hold a steady temperature for days.
Fuel Variety: unlike gas or electric (not so much pellet), charcoal grills can cook with affordable Kingsford coals, more premium lump coal, binchotan or even coconut shells.
Cons of Charcoal Grilling
Learning curve: Learning how to properly stack coals, light a fire, hold a steady temperature and control airflow takes time.
A big mess: Expect your hands, your grill and everything in the general vicinity of the grill to have a slight tinge of charcoal dust for the foreseeable future.
Semi-weather dependent: Where gas, pellet and electric grills can operate in windy and even rainy conditions, charcoal can struggle. The wind can choke out or puff up a fire to unmanageable levels.
Time sink: Lighting coals takes more time than clicking the go button on a gas grill. Cleaning the grill takes time. If you’re looking to grill multiple times a week, a nice gas grill may be a better option.
Charcoal vs. Gas Grills
There is an ongoing debate on which is better: charcoal grills or gas grills. We hate to sound cliche, but there is no better grill and it truly depends on which one is right for you.
Both charcoal and gas grills will get hot, but charcoal grills will get significantly hotter. You'll be able to get excellent sears on steaks (or vegetables) on both types of grills, but the range of temperatures on a charcoal grill is greater than its gas counterpart. Gas grills also take much longer to heat up.
Ease of Use
With a gas grill, you can easily get a fire going. Plus, it's super easy to adjust the heat and temperature for targeted grilling. Charcoal grills require a lot of attention, and most amateurs will need to take the time to learn how to properly adjust the temperature.
Because of what they are, charcoal grills are generally cheaper than gas grills. Charcoal grills require little more than a body, a place to throw charcoal, a grill and a lid. On the other hand, gas grills have a few more bells and whistles, all of which add to their higher price tag.
Charcoal grills are excellent for smoking meats, infusing smokey flavor into everything. You miss out on that smoke flavor when using a gas grill. On the other hand, charcoal grills are harder on the environment than gas grills. Gas produces far fewer carbon emissions than charcoal, so if you want to reduce your carbon footprint, gas might be the way to go.