The Best Charcoal Grills Buying Guide of 2015 & 2016

Charcoal Grill Features To Look For

Charcoal grill design

There are three designs for charcoal grills: kettle, hibachi, and the traditional barrel. Kettle grills are essentially metal balls on legs with a lid. The round shape helps contain all the heat and with the option of opening the lid, you can have both direct and indirect heat control. Hibachi grills are usually small, cast-iron tabletop grills that are very portable and create direct heat. They do not have lids, so your grilling is limited to foods that cook very quickly. The traditional barrel grill, which were originally steel oil barrels cut in half and transformed into a cooking surface, are great for smoking meat. You can grill at lower temperatures for hours at a time when you close the lid.

Cooking space

Before purchasing a grill, you should think about how many people you plan on cooking for and where you plan on grilling. Grills with 360-square inches or so are ideal for families of four, while larger grills (500-square inches and above) are better if you love to throw big gatherings. Be sure you are looking at measurements for the “cooking space,” and not just the overall grill size or measurements that include side tables or work stations. Be sure that your planned grill location is the right size; you don’t want the grill to be cramped or too close to where people hang out, because it will be easier for someone to get burned. Also, think about where you plan on storing your grill in the winter months (assuming you can’t grill all year-round) and if you need to get a smaller grill based on your garage/shed space.

Cooking grates

The durability of cooking grates is very important since your food comes into direct contact with them. You also want grates that are not too difficult to clean. Grates made of materials like heavy-duty plated steel are good, because they resist warping and can handle very high heat. Porcelain enamels on steel is common, and provide a smooth surface that is easier to wipe clean. Cast-iron is also a great choice for grates, since cast-iron is the best material for retaining heat and adding flavor to cooking meats. When you get cast-iron, you should be sure to look at the maintenance requirements, since cast-iron without a non-stick surface needs to be seasoned. A versatile grate system will also be hinged and adjustable, so you can access the charcoal or adjust the height for temperature control without disturbing your food.

Temperature monitoring

Being able to monitor the temperature of your grill is crucial. Certain foods can get ruined if you cook them on the wrong temperature, and you want every grilled meal to be the best it can be. Very high temperatures are ideal for fast searing, while lower temperatures roast and smoke for longer periods of time. Most charcoal grills have built-in heat gauges and thermometers so you can always know what’s going on underneath the hood. Grills without lids also typically include some kind of thermometer, but you do sometimes have to test the food temperature with a separate gauge.


Nearly all basic charcoal grills (with lids) include dampers. These vent-like systems allow you to control the grill’s heat without opening the lid. By adjusting the damper’s angle, you can lower the temperature for smoking and roasting, or increase the heat for faster cooking. Many grills have adjustable or sliding side dampers, which provide superior control.

Charcoal access

Most charcoal grills (of all types) have heavy-duty cast iron doors where you can feed charcoal into the grill. You can also access the charcoal by lifting the cooking grates. Many grates are either hinged or slide back and forth for easier charcoal access. Accessing and adding your charcoal should be easy, so you have total control over your grilling experience.

Accessory workspace

Having space for accessories and prep makes grilling very convenient. You do not have to run back and forth between a table and the grill. Many charcoal grills include side tables or shelves that are foldable, so you choose to flip them down for more workspace, and then fold them back up for easier storage. Other accessories include utensil hooks, wire condiment baskets, and even bottle openers. You can get a lot more done right by your grill, and save time and energy.

Ash cleanup

Keeping a charcoal grill clean is very important since the build-up of ash can taint your food and make the grill less efficient by smothering the fire. Charcoal grills typically have some kind of adjustable or removable ash pan where the ash falls. To dispose of the ashes, you simply take out the pan and empty it out. If you grill a lot, you will want an ash pan (also called an ash catcher) that can hold a lot of ashes, so you are not constantly emptying it out. Totally enclosed ash catchers are ideal, so the ash does not blow around.


Hibachi grills are the most convenient grill in terms of mobility. They are small and have handles, so you can just carry it around and store it in a cupboard. The larger kettle and barrel grills typically have wheels or even tables where the grill rests. These tables fold down for more compact storage and transport when you are not grilling. Locking casters with sturdy tires are important, so the grill is not at risk for moving around when you are grilling, and you can use the grill on rougher surfaces without worrying about the tires giving out. Grills typically have two wheels, though larger ones may have as many as four.


Since charcoal grills get so hot, construction needs to be durable and reliable. Steel plates, rust-resistant metal, and cast-iron are all great materials. Many of these metals include porcelain enamel or powder-coats for extra strength and heat resistance. Durable grill construction means you can use the grill frequently and for a long period of time. It is better to spend a little extra money on quality materials, rather than cheaping out and having to replace a fragile grill much faster.

Best Charcoal Grill Brands


The Weber brand began in 1952 when George Stephen Sr. imagined a domed grill with a lid that would seal in heat. He continued to explore designs and eventually created the Weber Genesis, a gas grill with angled metal bars, fewer flare-ups, and easy clean-up. As the years went by, Weber designed more innovative grills, such as a portable gas grill and electric grills. Current Weber products also include charcoal kettle grills, which is the officially name of the domed grill that George Stephen Sr. envisioned over half a century ago.


Established in Georgia and still family-owned, the Char-Griller brand produces barrel-style charcoal grills that are affordable and extremely efficient. They also make smokers for serious barbeque-lovers and a wide range of attachable tabletop grills, fireboxes, and dual-fuel grills, where you can use either charcoal or gas.


In 1948, Char-Broil introduced the first charcoal grill and America fell in love with outdoor grilling. Before this grill, there were not really any practical ways to cook outside unless you took the effort to build a fire. With a grill, you got significantly more control over temperature, and could cook a lot more food. Since then, Char-Broil has also created portable grills, smokers, roasters, electric grills, gas grills with easy electric ignitions, and the TRU-Infrared grill. As the creator of the first-ever charcoal grill, Char-Broil knows what it’s doing, so you can trust their grills will be durable and reliable.

Features of Professional & Commercial Charcoal Grills

Smoke stack

If you love slow-cooked, smoked meats, there are some charcoal grills (which are larger and more expensive) that have smoke stakes. They are often made of stainless steel and have adjustable flue caps for increased heat control. Charcoal grills with this feature are a good investment and you save money by not having to buy a separate smoker.

Extra cooking space

In addition to the main cooking area, larger charcoal grills often have a second cooking space, like a firebox. Fireboxes are almost like little grills attached to your main grill that you can control separately. You get around 250-300 extra square inches where you can cook smoked meats and other dishes independently from the primary cooking area. You can grill more versatile dishes and more food for bigger crowds.

Ignition system

Unlike most charcoal grills where you have to carefully light the goals, some charcoal brands (like Weber) have an easy gas ignition system that lights the briquettes. This Touch-N-Go system requires only the touch of a button, and you’ve lit your grill and are ready to go. These type of ignition systems are safe as well as convenient.

One-Touch cleaning system

All charcoal grills have some kind of ash disposal drawer or tray, but more advanced and pricier grills have superior cleaning systems, like the One-Touch. This system consists of three blades within the bowl of a kettle grill. You turn a handle, and the blades sift through the ashes so they fall into the ash catcher. The ash catcher is fully-enclosed, so there are not ashes blowing everywhere when you use the One-Touch. Simply pop out the catcher and throw out the ashes. Cleaning your grill this way is extremely easy, and you are more likely to clean it more often, which results in less ash build-up.

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