The Top 10 Best Charcoal Grills of 2015 & 2016

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Charcoal Grills: Questions & Answers

What are the benefits of grilling with charcoal?

Grilling with charcoal gives your meat more flavor because it releases more smoke; it’s also more eco-friendly than cooking with gas, and many say it gives your food a more natural taste. Cooking with a charcoal grill also gives you the ability to cook at very high, searing temperatures.

How much surface area do I need?

How much surface area you need depends on the type of grilling you plan on doing. If you generally just grill for your family, you can get a smaller grill with 400 square inches of space. Large families or people who plan on hosting a lot of big BBQ parties would want a larger grill that has 1200 or more square inches of cooking space. A good rule of thumb to use when considering what size grill to buy is to allot 72 square inches of space for each person you will be cooking for.

What materials should I look for in the grill’s construction?

Grills are made of many different materials. Some grills have ceramic lids, others have aluminum, stainless steel, or chrome-plated lids. Ceramic generally withstands heat better, while stainless steel lids are the most weather-resistant. For the grating, you can get steel, titanium, or cast iron. Cast iron grates will require more upkeep than steel or titanium grates, and require seasoning as well. However, they leave the best “sear marks” and offer a good, quality, even heating surface.

Do I need a push button ignition system?

Some higher-end grills feature a push-button propane ignition, saving you from having to try and light the charcoal yourself. This can be handy if you generally don’t like trying to start charcoal with a lighter and matches, but they can be unreliable and don’t improve the actual grilling experience itself. Lighting a charcoal grill is also fairly easy once you know how to do it, so even if you’re nervous the first few times you will find yourself “firing up” the grill like a pro in no time.

Should I buy a larger grill that has attached surfaces and storage options?

Lots of higher-end Weber and Dyna-Glo grills offer attached shelves, charcoal storage, and even storage space underneath the grill. While these aren’t necessary, and may be hard to manage if you don’t have much space, they can save you a lot of time and effort because they allow you to have all your condiments, seasonings, meats, utensils, and other items in easy reach at all times. Charcoal storage is especially nice because it can keep your charcoal safe from weather damage. If you have the space and budget for these additions, they can go a long way towards making your grilling experience better.

What are some good features to look for when purchasing a grill?

You’ll want to invest in a grill that gives you easy access to the charcoal, has a thermometer, has multiple heat control options, and a locking lid.

What types of grills offer easy access to the charcoal?

Some less-expensive grills require you to lift the grate in order to add charcoal, which can make it difficult if you are in the middle of cooking. Other grills, such as many in the Char-Griller and Char-Broil line, offer doors or removable charcoal trays that allow you to add charcoal at any time without having to worry about lifting the grate. This is good for any long-time cooking you plan on doing where moving the food every time you need to add more charcoal would be a hassle. These side-mounted charcoal access grills also reduce the risk of having dust and ash fly into your face and eyes when adding more fuel.

What are the benefits of a thermometer?

Without a thermometer, you will have to lift the lid often to make sure that the temperature remains high enough for cooking, or to check if the temperature is too high. With a thermometer, you don’t need to worry about getting smoke in your face or burning your hand checking the heat. Be wary, though, as some thermometers are better than others; some shoddily-made grills will only tell you the temperature of the lid, and not the temperature inside the grill.

What sorts of heat control options are there?

Typically, you will adjust the temperature in your grill using vents, dampers, and flues. The more of these options your grill comes with, the more versatility you have in choosing the temperature at which you want to cook. All of these options involve controlling airflow to the inside of the grill and charcoal.

What are the benefits of a locking lid?

A locking lid will keep the lid up without you having to hold it, making it easier to adjust the position of food on the grill, flip burgers, or adjust the amount of charcoal because you have both hands free, instead of one hand constantly supporting the lid.

What if I am interested in smoking meats?

Many charcoal grills offer dedicated smokers that are attached to the main grill. These fireboxes allow you to smoke some of your meat while still grilling dinner. Depending on the construction of your grill, you may be able to get a smoky flavor without needing an additional smoker. Many Char-Griller models offer dedicated fireboxes that are attached to the larger grill.

How can I clean my charcoal grill?

You will want to keep your grill clean in order to keep it running properly. Weber offers a “one touch” cleaning system, where by rotating a handle you can dump all the ash and debris into the ash tray, then dispose of it all at once. Some grills will require you to manually shovel ash and debris out of the grill. Most grills will contain a tray or ash catcher of some sort that can be easily removed, dumped, and replaced. For the grates, you will want to scrub them regularly with a steel wool or similarly hard nylon brush, making sure to get any residue off.

How much space does a charcoal grill take up?

Charcoal grills come in many sizes and shapes. Weber make a line of very compact, rounded charcoal grills, and hibachi-style Lodge grills can be very short and tiny. If you have a lot of space, you can buy a much larger grill that has attached tables and storage space, as well as more surface area for grilling.

How hard are charcoal grills to assemble?

Most charcoal grills are fairly easy to assemble. They are a lot like putting furniture together and should come with all the necessary instructions and parts you need to get the job done.

What other tools should I buy to get the most out of my grill?

A chimney can be a great investment for grilling. A chimney makes it easy to start a charcoal grill, get it to high heats faster, and spread the heat evenly across the cooking surface by collecting all the charcoal in one area then distributing the heat and smoke. You will also want to get a pair of heat gloves to keep your hands safe when lifting or closing the lid during use. You can also buy a dedicate grill cleaning brush that will make keeping your grates clean very easy.

What can I cook on my charcoal grill?

You can cook just about anything on a charcoal grill. Hamburgers and hot dogs work great, as do veggies and kabobs. You can grill steaks, chicken, or mushrooms. You can even get a smoky flavor in your meat by letting it sit in the grill for longer at a low temperature. Anything from corn to turkey can be cooked to perfection on a charcoal grill.

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