charcoal grill
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The 8 Best Charcoal Grills for Smoky Meats

We recommend the Weber’s Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill, which has an impressive cooking area, despite its compact size.
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Grilling is a beloved summer pastime for good reason—there's nothing like a good sear on a steak, piece of fish, or vegetable to bring a bit of extra flavor to your meal. And whether you're not interested in dealing with a propane tank or you just prefer to flavor of a meal cooked over charcoal, there's no denying there's a benefit to the classic grill style.

"The flavor from charcoal is so much better than gas," says Pete Kindem, co-owner of the grilling site Original Grills. He explains that by including different types of wood chunks in with your coals, you can create distinct wood-y flavors and truly up your grill game. And because the food drippings "instantly vaporize," adds Kindem, the smoke produced as a result enhances food flavors even more. 

For our top charcoal grill pick, we went with Weber's Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill, due to the unit's classic design, large cooking space, and low price for a grill of its size and quality.

Below, we've rounded up the best charcoal grills you can buy right now, organized by price range, size, and much more.

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Charcoal Grill
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Overall: Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill 

View at Amazon (from $219)

Also available at Weber.

Why You Should Get It: Despite its small footprint, this grill has plenty of space to cook dinner for your family, making it a solid pick for smaller backyards.

Keep in Mind: The grill has less storage space than similar models, so you'll need to store your accessories indoors.

The Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill, which comes in three colors, is widely considered the best charcoal model available. For one thing, it's relatively compact in size, weighing just over 30 pounds—but it's still big enough to cook a couple of burgers and a few ears of corn. For another, it has a two-hinged cooking grate that lets you add more charcoal while there's food on the grates. The lid comes with a hook, too, so you can attach it to the side of the grill, rather than having to put it on the ground whenever you take it off.

The grill even includes a built-in thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature, as well as multiple tool holders on the side handles (which helps make up for the fairly minimal storage space underneath the grill) and rust-resistant aluminum dampers. Cleaning up after cooking is simple due to the handy enclosed ashtray plate. 

Since the grill doesn't come with too many parts, assembly is pretty quick, too. If you need a hand putting things together, though, Weber has a free app that includes 3D interactive instructions.

Product Details:

  • Dimensions: 39.5 x 22.5 x 27 inches
  • Cooking area: 363 square inches
  • Weight: 32.3 pounds
  • Material: Porcelain-enameled alloy steel
Charcoal Grill
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Budget: Weber Original Kettle 18-Inch Charcoal Grill

View at Amazon ($109)

Also available at Home Depot and Weber.

Why You Should Get It: If you're usually just grilling for two, this smaller version of our best overall pick is a solid choice. 

Keep in Mind: This model doesn't have a built-in thermometer, so you'll need to buy your own to know how hot your grill has gotten. 

This model from Weber is significantly smaller than the brand's Premium Charcoal Grill, with about throw-thirds of the cooking area. Still, your burgers will be cooked evenly and consistently thanks to the grill's porcelain-enameled lid (which is rust- and crack-resistant) and easily-controlled precision heat control. The grill also makes up for its tiny size with its low cost, among many other appealing factors such as its durable and heat-retaining steel cooking grates and rust-resistant aluminum dampers. 

Weber's one-touch cleaning system swipes charcoal ash and other debris right into the rust-resistant ash catcher to make cleaning up between meals easier, although it's not as seamless as a removable ash pan. 

If you don't leave your grill outside year-round, you'll like that the legs can be removed during storage, so it will take up less room in your garage or shed. And, like with the Premium version, you can access helpful 3D assembly instructions through Weber's free app, not that assembly should be too complicated given the grill's small size.

Product Details:

  • Dimensions: 18 x 23 x 35 inches
  • Cooking area: 240 square inches
  • Weight: 24.3 pounds
  • Material: Porcelain-enameled alloy steel
Charcoal Grill
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Splurge: Napoleon PRO605CSS Professional Charcoal Grill

View at Amazon (from $1,599)

Also available at BBQ Guys.

Why You Should Get It: This enormous grill is known for its excellent heat retention, massive cooking space, and rotisserie capabilities.

Keep in Mind: At such a big size, the unit is not exactly transportable, and assembly takes significant time.

This striking luxury model is, first and foremost, huge, coming in at over 230 pounds and featuring a whopping 603 square inches of cooking space—enough to feed a whole party! There's also an adjustable-height charcoal bed that allows for precise temperature control with six different positions to choose from and sliding air vents to increase heat control even further. Additionally, the grill comes with a double-lined hood to better retain heat, while the cast iron cooking grates will help with searing and with flavor.

What's most notable about this grill, though, is its rear rotisserie burner, which is powered by charcoal but meant specifically to create rotissed meals alongside regular grilled options. If outdoor cooking is your passion, you'll appreciate the multiple cooking options available in just one grill.

Additionally, the grill features sizable side shelves (that helpfully come with tool hooks) to store your accessories and give you space to prep, plus an easy-access front loading door through which you add more charcoal without needing to fully open the lid and allow heat to escape. Last but not least, there's a built-in temperature gauge and adjustable venting, plus ash and drip pans that easily slide out to avoid mess when you're ready to clean your grill

Product Details:

  • Dimensions: 49.25 x 24.75 x 67.5 inches
  • Cooking area: 603 square inches
  • Weight: 232 pounds
  • Material: Stainless Steel
Charcoal Grill
Credit: Courtesy of Home Depot

Best Gas/Charcoal Combo: Char-Griller 5050 Duo Gas-and-Charcoal Grill

Also available at Lowe's.

Why You Should Get It: This dual-use grill has a large cooking space and a double-insulated base, and you get the best of both cooking fuels.

Keep in Mind: Half of the cooking space is dedicated to each fuel type, so if you're cooking a lot, you'll need to use both charcoal and propane in one session.

If you can't decide between charcoal and gas grills (who can blame you?), check out this high-rated combo option made by Char-Griller. The all-in-one unit has a whopping 1,260 square inches of grilling space, divided between two sides—one powered by propane, the other heated with charcoal. 

When you're ready to use the gas part of the grill, just push one button to fire up the electronic ignition, and then you'll be good to go. The gas side has three porcelain-coated stainless steel burners as well as a smaller side burner that can be used for sauces and side dishes but can be covered up if you want more prep space. 

On the other side, you can adjust the height of the charcoal grates to skillfully control temperatures and customize the sear, and the easy-dump ash pan makes cleaning up after cooking as simple as it gets. There's a grate lifter, too, to let you add and replace charcoal during cooking as needed. 

The grill's double-insulated base expertly retains heat and increases efficiency, and there's also a stainless-steel heat gauge and convenient warming rack for both sides, among other helpful features.And if you somehow run out of storage space, don't forget to make use of the grill's underside, which contains both a condiment basket and storage shelf. Plus, the grill's wheels allow it to be moved around your backyard as needed despite its hefty size.

Product Details:

  • Dimensions: 65 x 28 x 49 inches
  • Cooking area: 1,260 square inches
  • Weight: 160 pounds
  • Material: Alloy Steel

Related: The 9 Best Grill Covers for Year-Round Protection, According to Customer Reviews

Charcoal Grill
Credit: Courtesy of Ace Hardware

Best Smoker Hybrid: Large Big Green Egg

View at Ace Hardware ($1,030)

Why You Should Get It: This model lets you do everything from smoking ribs to grilling veggies to making pizzas—and comes in different sizes based on your needs.

Keep in Mind: Most accessories, like stands, prep areas, and cleaning tools, don't come standard and must be purchased separately.

If you love the flavor that charcoal imparts on grilled food, you might also be interested in trying your hand at smoking—and this grill can handle both! The Big Green Egg (which comes in a few different sizes) is a kamado-style grill, which has a distinct egg shape. The longer shape makes it excellent at both grilling and smoking, and the built-in thermometer monitors the air inside of the grill to make sure it stays within the range appropriate for whatever you're cooking. 

The grates on the Big Green Egg are made of stainless steel, so they can be scrubbed once you've finished your meal. The rest of the grill is made of ceramic, rather than metal like most charcoal grills. Because of the ceramic material, grease and food residue burn off with regular use, so all you need to do is sweep out the ashes once the grill is cooled and wipe down the exterior once in awhile. 

The grill itself doesn't come standard with a stand, side shelves, or other accessories, but they are available for an additional fee or sometimes can be bundled from a retailer. The benefit of this is that you can go as all-out as you'd like, with a simple rolling stand or a teak tabletop. However, the cost of the accessories can add up fast, and they can only be purchased through certified retailers.

Product Details:

  • Dimensions: 22 x 31 x 27 inches
  • Cooking area: 262 square inches
  • Weight: 162 pounds
  • Material: Ceramic

Related: The 10 Best Grills to Up Your Backyard Barbecue Game

Charcoal Grill
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Small: Weber Jumbo Joe Charcoal Grill

View at Amazon ($89)

Also available at Ace Hardware.

Why You Should Get It: Despite its tiny size, this grill can still has a sizeable cooking area that's on par with larger grills.

Keep in Mind: There's no built-in thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature inside of the grill.

Another great option from Weber, this compact grill weighs a mere 18 pounds, but despite its tiny size, its cooking area is comparable to some of the more expensive picks on our list. Its minimal weight makes it easily transportable, ideal for trips to the beach or camping where you want to bring a grill on the go, or for taking it in and out of storage when you want to use it in your backyard. That unique convenience is enhanced by the grill's included Tuck-N-Carry lid lock, which lets you keep the top and bottom attached while you carry the entire grill by the lid handle.

In addition to its distinct size, the grill has a durable and sleek porcelain-enameled surface, precise temperature controls and strong heat retention, and steel cooking grates. The lid and bowl are both rust- and peel-resistant, with a heat shield on the lid to keep the lid cool to the touch, and an aluminum ash catcher that lives right underneath the bowl and makes everything super easy to clean after use. 

Product Details:

  • Dimensions: 19.75 x 20.5 x 19.75 inches
  • Cooking area: 240 square inches
  • Weight: 18 pounds
  • Material: Porcelain-enameled alloy steel
Charcoal Grill
Credit: Courtesy of Walmart

Best Large: Dyna-Glo X-Large Heavy-Duty Charcoal Grill

View at Walmart ($280)

Why You Should Get It: This model comes with a crank that adjusts the space between the cooking grates and the charcoal for more or less direct heat.

Keep in Mind: The charcoal tray has wide openings that may occasionally let larger pieces of charcoal fall through to the ash pan.

This large grill will take up a lot of space on your patio, but it will definitely look great doing it. Our pick for the best large grill boasts a massive 816 square inches of cooking space, allowing for tons of food to be cooked at once—great for parties or big families. The porcelain-enameled cast-iron cooking grates that can be slide to the side to access the charcoal below, but it can also be accessed through a door below during cooking. To adjust whether you're grilling with direct or indirect heat, the charcoal tray can get raised and lowered via a crank on the front of the grill. 

Other handy features of this unit include its two side shelves for storage and prep space, an additional bottom storage rack, a warming rack, temperature gauge, and a removable ash tray that covers the entire bottom of the grill. The smoke stack comes with an adjustable flue, increasing temperature control even further, and both the lid and front firebox are double-walled to retain heat. And while it won't make your food cook any faster, you might also appreciate the built-in bottle opener as well.

Product Details:

  • Dimensions: 28.4 x 50.98 x 60.79 inches
  • Cooking area: 816 square inches
  • Weight: 112 pounds
  • Materials: Stainless Steel

Related: The 13 Best Portable Fire Pits for Patios, Backyards, Camping, and More

Charcoal Grill
Credit: Courtesy of Home Depot

Best Portable: Weber Go-Anywhere Portable Charcoal Grill

View at Home Depot ($71)

Also available at Amazon.

Why You Should Get It: This lightweight, durable grill is as compact and convenient as it gets for taking with you camping, to the park, and more.

Keep in Mind: The small cooking space means group grilling sessions may take awhile, and the inexpensive unit isn't quite as long-lasting as other charcoal models.

In the market for a great grill that produces high-quality meats but is small enough that you can easily take it on the go to camping trips, picnics, and more? Get yourself the Weber Go-Anywhere, which is a lightweight and transportable model that comes in at just under 15 pounds. What makes it stand out is its plated steel legs, which can swing up and over the grill when not in use to secure the lid in place, making the unit even more compact and storable after a cooking session. 

Even at such a small size, though, this grill can still impressively hold up to seven burgers on its 160 square inches of cooking space. It features a porcelain-enameled bowl and lid that are both durable, rust-resistant, and heat-retaining, plus two adjustable dampers with three vent holes each that efficiently regulate air flow on each side of the grill. The lid of the grill also has a glass-reinforced nylon handle to keep it from getting too hot while you're cooking (you should still use a grill mitt, though!). 

Assembly is extremely easy since it's such a small unit, but like with all Weber grills, you can access 3D set-up instructions through the brand's free app when you're ready to put the model together. Just be aware that because of its small size and price, the grill isn't quite as durable and long-lasting as other Weber units.

Product Details:

  • Dimensions: 12.2 x 14.5 x 21 inches
  • Cooking area: 160 square inches
  • Weight: 14.5 pounds
  • Material: Porcelain-enameled steel alloy

Related: The Best Outdoor Pizza Ovens for Restaurant-Quality Results in Your Own Backyard

The Bottom Line

Weber's Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill is the best for most people, great for newbies and experienced grillers alike and far more inexpensive than similar models.

What to Know About Charcoal Grills Before Shopping

Grill size

Bigger isn't better if you're not going to be filling the grill when you cook. The important thing to look for in a charcoal grill's size is the ratio of airflow to burn, says Pete Kindem. "Too big a grill for the size of meat can create dryness," while "lots of meat in a small space with good convection of heat can yield tenderness," he explains.

Cook surface size

On average, charcoal grills have around 200 to 300 square inches of cooking space (enough to fit 10 to 12 burgers), but if you typically cook for large gatherings, you may want a grill with a far greater cooking area. Keep in mind, though, that the "larger the grill, the more coals needed to warm up the grill," says Paul Kindem.

Materials

Grills made out of powder coated steel are more prone to rust, says Paul Kindem, while those made of cast aluminum are less likely to rust and also more durable (even more so than steel). The benefit of steel, however, is that they tend to be larger and well-insulated. Some kamado grills are made out of ceramic instead of metal, which won't rust at all, but also means you can't use lighter fluid to start your charcoal.

Your Questions, Answered

Is a charcoal or gas grill better?

It completely depends on your needs and preferences. Charcoal grills may produce better sears and flavor, but they're more complicated to use than gas grills and take longer to heat up. In other words, "gas is convenient. Charcoal requires more finesse," says Pete Kindem. As a solution, some people who grill often go for both types of grills so they can go back and forth between options.

How do you clean a charcoal grill?

Focus on the cooking grates, ash bin, and vents, advises Paul Kindem. "Most of the grease and food drippings fall onto the coals," he explains, meaning that it's crucial to remove both the ash and food drippings from the grill after use. Clean out the fire bin and ashbin prior to cooking, using a scraper or shovel to get everything out.

How does a charcoal grill impact the flavor of food compared to gas grills?

Charcoal grills produce more smoke and, often, stronger flavors than gas grills, due to the wood smoke being "a flavor by itself" and like "another level of seasoning," says Pete Kindem. Different types of wood create different flavors, so you can pick the ones that you're most interested in experiencing.

Who We Are

Rachel Simon is a writer for Better Homes & Gardens, The New York Times, Real Simple, and many other publications. She frequently covers home products and did significant research on grills to create this list, including speaking with Paul and Pete Kindem, co-owners of the grilling site Original Grills.