Thinking about buying a charcoal grill? Well, it’s a worthy choice. There’s a reason why charcoal grills are so classic. Ever since George Stephen invented the Weber grill in 1951 with its kettle shape and lid, revolutionizing grilling as we know it, backyard grilling has been a staple of American cooking traditions, a classic, beloved national pastime for many of us (whether it is the cooking or the eating).
No matter what kind of fancy or newfangled grilling inventions we come up with, the Weber kettle charcoal grill with its round shape and dome lid remains one of the most popular grills on the market today. Sure; a gas grill may be more convenient for frequent use and heat up much more quickly, but for many people, nothing beats the high heat, time-tested design, proven value, and classic smoky flavor offered by a charcoal grill. (You usually can’t get that smokiness from a gas grill.)
But which charcoal grill should you buy? In this article, our editors break down the five best charcoal grills available in 2020, with detailed reviews and recommendations for each one.
Our Charcoal Grill Picks of 2020
Lets Drill down into the Grills
When it comes to grilling, Weber is king. The original Weber kettle charcoal grill, invented nearly 70 years ago, is still one of the best grills available (especially if your budget is one of your foremost considerations), but this 22 inch Weber 15502001 Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill steps it up by several notches, combining the superior cooking and flavor achieved by charcoal with much of the ease, convenience, and practicality of a gas grill.
On the Weber Performer Deluxe, the cooking apparatus itself is essentially the same as that of the Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill 22 inch, having the same shape, size, features, and cooking surface area as that venerated model. The Performer Deluxe even features the same cleanup system as that time-tested kettle model, with its One-Touch cleaning system that offers a high capacity ash catcher to contain all the charcoal debris and ash from your cooking. At the touch of a lever, all of the ash and debris is swept into the ash catcher, which can then be easily removed to provide cleanup that is relatively free of hassle.
The major and most obvious difference between the Original and the Performer Deluxe is the sturdy and durable wheeled work table into which the cooking apparatus fits. This work table includes extra work space for all your food prepping needs and to keep seasonings, tools, and platters within your reach. Underneath the work surface is a weather protected CharBin storage container which provides you a convenient way to store your charcoal so that you have easy access to it whenever you need it. Furthermore, the work table features a removable backlit LCD timer mounted on its side which allows for you to set timers easily for your preheating and cooking sessions. Next to the timer are three tool hooks which allow for easy access to and storage of your grilling tools. A sturdy wire bottom shelf and durable, all weather wheels (along with two swivel locking casters) complete the sturdy, convenient design of the work table.
But another huge difference between the Performer Deluxe and the Original Kettle Premium is the addition of the electronic Touch-n-Go gas ignition system, which allows you to ignite your charcoal at the mere press of a button, making this charcoal grill nearly as fast and convenient as a gas grill. No longer will you have to fumble around with lighter fluid and the like to get your charcoal burning and achieve that classic, smoky flavor. With this one button press Touch-n-Go ignition system and the premium work table setup, the Performer Deluxe takes the superior cooking and smoky flavor achievable only by charcoal (which burns hotter than gas) and combines it with much of the convenience, speed, ease of use, and practicality of a gas grill to create a superb product.
Like the Weber Original Kettle Premium, the Performer Deluxe also includes a built in lid thermometer so you can see the inside temperature without removing the lid and slowing down the cooking or heating process. Furthermore, dampers on the lid which can be opened or closed completely allow for precision heat control by adjusting the amount of oxygen flow to help to extinguish the coals within and control the grill temperature. The lid includes hooks for easy hanging, and the cooking grate is hinged so you can easily add more charcoal.
In short, the Weber Performer Deluxe features all the time-tested cooking performance, durability, and quality of the classic Weber charcoal kettle grill while adding to it much of the speed and convenience of a propane gas-powered grill with its work table, one touch ignition system and other useful features. You can’t go wrong with this one.
Including a dual grill that uses both gas and charcoal as fuel may feel a bit like cheating, but we feel that the Royal Gourmet ZH3003 Dual 3-Burner Gas and Charcoal Grill Combo is a worthy inclusion in our list of best charcoal grills due to its flawless execution, solid, durable construction, and ease of use. Basically, it does all things well, making it a strong entry on our charcoal grill list.
This grill is perfect for any grilling enthusiasts who cannot bring themselves to decide between a gas grill and a charcoal grill. The two heavy duty heat resistant fireboxes (one for gas and the other for charcoal) offer you an overall cooking area of 600 square inches, while the two warming racks offer you a combined warming surface area of 209 square inches. This gives you enough space for large parties which need to cater to a lot of guests. The cooking grates are coated with porcelain, making them easy to clean, and are able to withstand high temperatures. For the gas grill, the automatic ignition system and its three stainless steel tube burners output a total of 27000 BTUs with the press of a button and distribute heat evenly through their porcelain coated flame tamers. The grease tray and cup for the collection of oil residue provides a convenient, easy to clean oil management system.
The charcoal grill comes with an adjustable charcoal pan that can be raised or lowered by rotating a cool touch spring handle, allowing you to control the distance from the heat to your food. Also, you can stoke the fire instantly by sliding the vent open or by adjusting the dampers on the hood, allowing for efficient circulation of air without having to raise the lid. The ash and debris can be easily cleaned through its collection in an ash tray, which is easily removed for cleanup.
The cart’s bottom shelf offers ample storage space, allowing you to keep your grill accessories properly organized. The cart comes with two sturdy wheels and two casters which can be locked or unlocked to keep the grill in place or make it easily movable. Also, the bracket and support base on the side of the cart provide a secure and stable location for you to store your LP fuel tank.
The two double layered lids each include an integrated temperature gauge, so you can see the exact temperatures of both the gas side and the charcoal side and make adjustments accordingly, allowing you to keep any temperature fluctuations under control without even opening the lids.
This Royal Gourmet dual grill, which is essentially two grills in one at a superb price, provides you with the best of both worlds, combining the convenience and speed of a gas grill with the authentic flavor of a charcoal grill. You can use one, the other, or both at the same time. If you’re in a rush and you don’t have time to wait for the charcoal to get to the right temperature, the gas side will provide you with instant and consistent heat which is easy to control. And if you have a bit more time, the charcoal side will offer you that classic smoky flavor (that is otherwise hard to achieve) and that ideal sear on your food, since charcoal burns much hotter than gas. The Royal Gourmet makes life easy for you by eliminating the need to choose between gas and charcoal, and it does so with aplomb at a very reasonable price.
This barrel charcoal grill with its side firebox from Dyna-Glo makes our list of best charcoal grills thanks to its well thought out design, its versatility, its features, its durable construction, and the superior barbecue flavor we were able to achieve with it.
This charcoal grill is essentially shaped like two Texas-style barrels attached to one another, with one of them (the side firebox) offset below the main grilling apparatus. The primary cooking area is 443 square inches, and the offset cooking area (which can be used for smoking or for more grilling space) is 287 square inches, which adds up to a total surface area of 730 square inches, which is more than enough for large outdoor parties with plenty of people.
The body of the grill is constructed with heavy gauge steel, enhancing its durability and quality. Even the oversized wheels are made from steel. A large front workstation which may be folded down for easy storage offers you a convenient space for your platters, seasonings, or grilling tools. The cool touch spring handle provides you with a safe way to access your food without the risk of burning yourself. The cooking grates are enameled with porcelain in order to help with heat retention and make them easy to clean.
The analog temperature gauge integrated into the lid of the grill includes both ‘Smoke Zone” and ‘Grill Zone’ range indicators so you can easily keep track of and maintain the ideal cooking temperature.
The offset side firebox includes a removable charcoal grate as well as an ash pan which provides easy access to your fuel and allows for easy and quick disposal of ash and debris.
The best thing about this heavy duty double barreled charcoal grill is the fact that you can achieve not only classic charcoal grilled taste but also smokehouse flavor as well using the attached side firebox. Using this smoker, meats can be smoked low and slow, and you can of course add the wood of your choice as fuel for the smoker in order to achieve that perfect wood smoked flavor.
The superior design, versatility, huge cooking surface, sturdy construction, and multi-faceted use of this Dyna-Glo barrel charcoal grill make it one of our top choices for charcoal grills. With it, you can achieve not only faster classic charcoal-cooked flavor but also hours-long smokehouse barbecue flavor, allowing you to diversify your options for cooking and expand your culinary horizons.
Another winning entry from Dyna-Glo, this large heavy duty charcoal grill offers performance, quality, and versatility, all for a highly reasonable price.
The total cooking space on this grill comes to 686 square inches, allowing you to grill up to 24 hamburgers at the same time. This makes it ideal for large outdoor parties with plenty of people. The high gloss heavy duty cast iron porcelain enameled cooking grates provide an easy to clean surface and excellent heat retention so you can get the perfect sear on your food and lock in those natural juices to achieve optimal flavor. Also, the adjustable charcoal tray system allows for cooking flexibility as well as finely tuned heat control through the raising and lowering of the tray with the crank lever. You can further control the temperature using the steel smoke stack with its adjustable flue. There is a sliding side damper on either side of the grill to enable additional control of the temperature and the air flow. The lid comes with an integrated stainless steel temperature gauge to help you to determine the perfect temperature for all your grilling needs.
The grill comes with a heavy duty steel charcoal access door on its front so you can easily add or stoke your fuel, and the cooking grates can also be slid open for additional access to your charcoal. The warming rack is automatically elevated whenever you open the grill lid, offering you easy access to the primary grilling surface, but when the lid is closed, that warming rack is repositioned directly over the heat so it can easily serve as an additional cooking surface. The ash pan is high capacity and can be easily removed to provide quick, hassle free, easy cleanup. The double layered grill lid helps to minimize any heat loss and to improve the burn efficiency of the charcoal that you add.
This grill comes on a heavy duty, durable care that features two side shelves which will aid you in preparing, holding, and serving your food, as well as a bottom storage basket as well as 8 inch resin wheels to provide you with maximum maneuverability. If you would like to protect your grill from the elements, you can separately purchase a premium Dyna-Glo cover which will be custom fit to your grill. The grill cover which matches this Dyna-Glo grill model is model # DG576 cc.
This charcoal grill model from Dyna-Glo provides you with a well-designed, fully featured charcoal cooking experience with a very large amount of grilling space and a durable, sturdy construction, and a number of necessary and convenient features, all for a great price.
A unique but altogether worthy entry on our list is this charcoal grill from Kamado Joe. This is a Kamado grill (kamado is the Japanese word for “cooking range” or for “stove”). Most kamado grills possess much thicker walls than traditional grills and thus offer better and more effective heat retention. Also, the vast majority of kamado grills are made from heavy duty ceramic compounds, allowing them to retain heat much better and be more fuel efficient, thus necessitating much less oxygen and charcoal than a regular grill. This makes kamado grills ideal for long, slow cooking processes or for those who love grilling even in the dead of winter. Kamado grills often have the appearance of an egg and are a highly portable type of grill, due to their sturdy, compact construction. Unfortunately, the superior cooking experience offered by a kamado grill oftentimes comes with a steep price, literally (kamado grills are much more expensive on average than traditional charcoal grills).
The best kamado grill we have found for overall use is the Kamado Joe KJ13RH Joe Jr Charcoal Grill, winning the day with its versatility, myriad cooking options, functionality, portability, and somewhat affordable price point. With the Joe Jr, you get to experience all the wonders of kamado cooking without breaking the bank.
With the Joe Jr, you will be able to smoke, slow roast, sear, grill, or bake, all from the same place. This is, in the words of the manufacturer, a “bold, new generation of fire.” This premium 13.5 inch grill, which comes with a cast iron stand, is perfect for easy transportation to far-off locales, so you can achieve that perfect smoke or sear even while camping, tailgating, or cooking in remote locations. The heat resistant thick walled shell of this kamado grill locks in smoke as well as moisture no matter what the temperature may be. The Kamado Joe Jr also features an air vent made out of cast iron so you can better control the temperature and the air flow. The cooking grate of the Joe Jr is constructed out of 304 stainless steel, and the built in temperature gauge has been integrated into the lid so that you can easily keep track of the temperature of your food without ever opening the lid. And the lifetime warranty that the Joe Jr comes with is yet another plus.
The combination of premium cooking versatility, fuel efficiency, relative affordability, and amazing portability of the Joe Jr from Kamado Joe make it a clear winner in our book when it comes to charcoal grills. If budget is not a constraint for you, you may of course choose to upgrade to one of the pricier options from Kamado Joe, such as the Classic II or the Big Joe II, which will offer you a larger cooking surface and some other useful features, but in terms of sheer kamado cooking quality and versatility for the price, the Joe Jr is hard to beat.
For classic, time-tested taste, build, and quality, you can’t go wrong with the Weber Performer Deluxe (or any other charcoal grill from Weber, frankly). It combines the timeless quality and superior flavor achieved by the Weber original kettle grill with much of the convenience and speed of a gas grill.
But if you want more versatility and really can’t decide between gas and charcoal, why not go with both? The Royal Gourmet allows you to do precisely that.
For huge cooking surfaces and decent features at reasonable prices, look to the Dyna-Glo models (pick the side firebox option for the added ability to smoke your meats). And for an excellent entry into the revolutionary world of kamado grilling, look no further than the Joe Jr from Kamado Joe, which provides the incredible quality and amazing versatility of kamado cooking at an affordable price and allows you to experience the wonders of kamado grilling basically anywhere, thanks to its portability.