This definitive guide to the best charcoal grills of 2022 explores everything you need to know to find a charcoal grill best suited to your needs, including features to look for, materials and price. Charcoal grill not for you? Check out our guides to pellet and gas grills.
Beyond BTUs, max temperatures and fuel cost, the fundamental difference between charcoal grills and its 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 something called a Yoder Smoker, these are the best you can buy right now.
- Best Overall Charcoal Grill: Weber Kettle Premium Grill
- Best Upgrade Charcoal Grill: PK360 Charcoal Grill
- Best Budget Charcoal Grill: Weber Original Kettle Grill
- Best Portable Charcoal Grill: Weber Go-Anywhere Grill
- Best Freestanding Charcoal Grill: Napoleon Charcoal Professional Grill
- Best Entry-Level Charcoal Grill: Nexgrill Cart Grill
- Best Computer-Operated Charcoal Grill: Masterbuilt Gravity Series Grill
- Best Cast-Aluminum Charcoal Grill: Broilmaster C3PK1
- Best Professional Charcoal Grill: Hasty Bake Legacy 131 Charcoal Grill
- Best Charcoal Grill for Smoking: Yoder Smoker Abilene
- Best Flex Charcoal Grill: Everdure Hub
- Best Wood-Compatible Charcoal Grill: Texas Original Pits Corsicana
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 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.
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.
Temperature: 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.
Price: 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.
Flavor: 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.
The Best Charcoal Grills of 2022
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