7 Best Charcoal Grills of 2024 According to Our Grillmasters

lineup of best charcoal grills including image of weber kettle, and pk360

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There’s something about cooking with charcoal that can’t be beaten.

Maybe it’s the authentic taste of food cooked outdoors over hot coals, or the interactive cooking experience that brings you back to simpler times.

While charcoal grilling does take a little more skill than gas, with a bit of knowledge you’ll be impressing your friends and family with your new-found grillmaster abilities.

To help you choose the right grill, we’ve pulled together a list of the best charcoal grills available across a variety of price points.

For most people, the Weber Original Kettle Premium 22″ is the best charcoal grill thanks to its timeless quality and versatility at a great price point.

Our Top 7 Choices For The Best Charcoal Grills in 2024

These are the best charcoal grills you can buy. Our team of grillmasters has tested charcoal grills across various budgets and styles, including Kettles, ceramic (Kamado) carts, and built-in grills.

With one exception, we’ve looked at full-sized grills, so if you want a grill you can take on the go check out our best portable charcoal grills guide.

1. Best Overall – Weber Original Kettle Premium 22”

Read our full Weber Original Kettle Premium review.

Unless you are new to the grilling and barbecuing world, Weber needs no introduction.

Generations of grilling enthusiasts have trusted Weber, and the Original 22″ Kettle Premium is no exception and earns our top spot for the best overall charcoal grill.

Still made in the USA and with a 10-year warranty on the bowl, lid, and center ring, you won’t need to upgrade or replace this grill for many years.

Other smaller components of the grill are also covered by 3 and 5-year warranties.

The porcelain-coated bowl and lid have had the coating baked on at around 1500°F, in other words, it is essentially fused to the metal. This means the coating of the grill is extremely durable and will not rust through or burn off.

Weber has included some handy features on this unit:

  • The handle has a heat shield to help prevent burnt knuckles. A tool hook on the side of the unit lets you keep all the tools you need close by.
  • Two large wheels make the grill easy to move about.
  • A removable ash catcher removes some messy clean-up associated with charcoal grills.

Although small touches, they tell of years of barbecuing experience which have gone into the design of these cookers.

The grill is big enough to cook around 13 burger patties in one hit, with 363 square inches of cooking area available.

For such a versatile, well-built unit, the asking price is reasonable. There are loads of accessories and third-party additions you can purchase, including GrillGrates and the Slow n’ Sear, a rotisserie kit, and a warming rack which I’ve had great results with.

What we like:

  • Outstanding value grill – The Premium Kettle hits the sweet spot between price, size, and quality.
  • Can be versatile – With the right know-how, the Kettle can be turned into an excellent smoker, and the hinged stainless grill grates make it easy to add wood chunks during the cook for an extra smoky flavor.
  • Ease of use features – The One Touch cleaning system alone is worth it and the built-in thermometer comes in handy.

What we don’t like:

  • Lid holder – This is a minor nitpick, but the system for holding the lid on the side could be better. The lid still blocks a large portion of the grill, making reaching things tricky.

The Weber Kettle is often marketed as a “beginners” charcoal grill but that shouldn’t put you off.

It’s easily the best grill under $300, and so a lot of people buy it as their first grill. But thanks to the clever design and build quality, this grill will serve you well for years to come. You can save money and get the Weber Original Kettle, but we think the extra money is well worth it for the Weber Premium.

2. Best for Grilling & Smoking – Slow ‘N Sear® Deluxe Kettle Grill

The Slow’N Sear (SNS) grill is a kettle style charcoal grill, just like the Weber, but with a lot more bells and whistles.

The SNS grill includes the Slow N Sear accessory that allows you to easily cook low and slow.

Upon assembling the grill, I immediately noticed how well made the grill was.  Everything felt durable and well thought out.

Compared to the Weber Kettle, the SNS Grill offers a lot more features. It has a folding side shelf, a lid cradle to hold your lid in place, better vents, a probe port for digital thermometers, and a better ash clean-out system.

The SNS grill feels like the old school kettle just got a much needed upgrade. 

The slow ‘n sear is a unique accessory designed for low and slow cooking. On a traditional kettle, one of the hardest things to do is to smoke low and slow. The temperatures fluctuate too much.

Even with clever tricks like the Snake method, you have limited space and there is no protection from the heat source for the meat.

The slow ‘n  sear is an insert that fits right into the grill which holds all of the charcoal off to one side. It also has a steel wall with a water reservoir that helps regulate the heat to keep temps down and steady. 

The insert was originally designed for Weber kettle grills, but now SNS bundle it with its kettle grill.

Cooking on the SNS Grill was like any kettle grill I’ve used. The difference again is the Slow ‘N Sear accessory for low and slow cooking. I tested it out by smoking a ribeye steak which worked great. I could keep the temperature down during the smoking process and then got a nice sear when I was ready. 

I also made some chicken drumsticks without the slow-and-sear accessory, dumping the charcoal into the grill and just cooking them old school, flipping back and forth until they were cooked. 

What I liked

  • Built solid: Made with high quality materials and great design features 
  • Slow and sear: Is a must for low and slow cooking. 
  • Great features: Side shelf, lid cradle, vent port, ash clean out system, and big sturdy wheels to name a few. 

What I didn’t like 

  • Bottom Vent: The design could be a little smoother. Feels a bit clunky 
  • Assembly: Lots of little parts to assemble that took longer than expected 

If you’re looking for a high end kettle grill with tons of features, a sleek design, and the ability to cook low and slow as well as hot and fast, this is the grill for you. It has everything a kettle grill should have and more. It’s easy to use, built well and cooks great food. I highly recommend it.

Slow 'N Sear Deluxe Kettle Grill | SnS Grills
4.4
Pros:
  • Solid build quality
  • Smoking attachment included
  • Lots of great features
Cons:
  • Assembly
  • Bottom vent
Check Latest Price

3. Best Splurge – PK Grills PK360

The PK360 may look basic, but I can tell you, after cooking on it for several months now, I’ve come to appreciate its simple yet clever design.

PK Grills call the 360 an “evolution” of the original PK300 Grill. It’s taller, has more grill surface, more headroom for smoking large proteins, and improved vents for better temp control.

This grill can do everything from grilling, smoking, searing, baking, and more. It is built like a tank, and I’ve been very happy with the results, cook after cook.

The chamber is made entirely out of aluminum. That provides for excellent heat conduction, and boy, can you feel it. The PK grill comes up to temperature quickly. I’m talking within minutes. 

The aluminum construction is not cheap, though.

It gets super hot and is a searing machine. That’s probably why so many competition steak guys like using this grill.

The aluminum construction will also not rust or deteriorate, even in harsh weather conditions.  It’s built rock solid and will undoubtedly outlast any grill I own. 

PK360 Specifications

External materialRust-proof cast aluminum construction
Grate materialMarine stainless steel cooking surface and charcoal grate.
Height From Ground42.9 inches
Total Width With Shelves On54.2 inches
Total Depth With Shelves On26.9 inches
Cooking Surface Dimensions / Total Grilling Area24.8 x 15.8 inches (W X D):
PriceCheck the latest price

One of the best features of this grill is the temperature control. The aluminum body of the grill helps to evenly distribute heat and the two top and bottom vents work well to control airflow.

The grill is very responsive when using the vents to either raise or drop the temp of the grill. Once you get the vents where you want, the temperature seems to lock in and does not fluctuate. When done cooking, close all the vents, and you will see how quickly this grill cools down. 

Cooking on the PK grill is really enjoyable. When I’m cooking something low and slow, I dump about a half chimney full of lit charcoal onto one side and adjust the vents down, and I can keep the temperature running around 250 for hours without issues. The grill grate hinges on one side, allowing you to add more fuel or wood if necessary. 

For hot and fast cooks like making burgers or searing steak, I spread my lit charcoal across the grill and get great grill marks and delicious food. You don’t need much charcoal because the grill does such a good job of conducting heat. 

What I like: 

  • Build quality – Built like a tank, high-quality parts will last you a lifetime. 
  • Precise temperature control – Easy-to-use vents help you dial in precise temperatures that rarely fluctuate. 
  • Ease of use – Easy to use, nothing fancy, but it just gets the job done. 

What I don’t like: 

  • Smaller cooking space – Harder to cook larger items like ribs or brisket, and limited space if you need to cook for a lot of people. 

Overall this is a fantastic charcoal grill that is extremely versatile and easy to use. What really sets it apart is the aluminum cook chamber that helps with precise temperature control and fuel efficiency.

The PK360 acts as a grill or smoker and seems to have no issues with either. If you are looking for a no fuss, straight forward grill that will last you a lifetime, this is a great one to consider.

4. Best Portable Charcoal Grill – Weber Jumbo Joe 18”

Read our full Weber Jumbo Joe review.

Weber Jumbo Joe Review

If you enjoy camping, you would probably agree that one of the best parts of the whole experience is the smell of food cooked over charcoal.

You actually have a couple of great portable charcoal grill options. Even if you just look at Weber, they offer three great choices.

The best portable charcoal grill for us comes down to the Weber Jumbo Joe or the smaller Smokey Joe.

We went for the Jumbo Joe, which gives you the full 18″ grilling area you would get on a regular Kettle, but in a portable package.

This portable grill weighs in at 18 pounds and sits at 19.8 x 20.5 x 19.8 inches, making it the perfect size to chuck in the trunk.

If you don’t need that much space and want to go extra portable, the Smokey Joe comes in at only 9.5 pounds!

While it has been shrunk down to be portable, the quality is just the same as any other offering from Weber. It has a porcelain enamel-coated bowl and lid just like its bigger siblings, and the aluminum dampers on the lid and bowl also will not rust.

The grill comes with a limited 10-year warranty. That is a lot of camping trips. In fact, this unit is such high quality that you could set it up on your deck and use it like a bigger grill, and host a (small) dinner party successfully.

You might want to sit it on a table, though.

What we like:

  • Easy to assemble – It should only take minutes to put this grill together.
  • Budget price – It is small and has no bells and whistles, but it is still Weber quality. It will produce the same consistent results as any other Weber grill on a smaller scale.

What we don’t like:

  • No side handles – So moving while it is hot is virtually impossible. It is true; moving a grill while it is hot is not recommended. However, the fact that this grill is made for use in the outdoors means that a situation might arise where you have to move it.
  • Bottom vent position – The latest model has the bottom vent in the center underneath the cooking grate. This is problematic, as anything that drops down clogs the vent and blocks the airflow.

Of course, this little charcoal grill is not going to cook enough steaks to feed a football team. But for a small family of up to 5 people (at a push) it is just the right size.

A smaller grill also means less to clean up. Even if you don’t take this little Weber on the road with you, it might be just right to whip up a small meal for 2 or 3 if you couldn’t be bothered firing up a bigger grill.

5. Best Mid-Range Charcoal Grill – Weber Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill

Read our full review.

If you take all the good bits from the Weber Original Kettle Premium 22” grill and then add a bucket load of features, you end up with the Performer Deluxe charcoal grill.

The body of the grill itself is 22” porcelain coated, just like the Original Premium, so you still get 363 square inches of cooking space. However, it is housed in a workbench which gives you a similar experience to the side tables found on some more expensive grills.

You could perform the entire cook, from preparation to a presentation from that workstation.

It boasts a wire rack below and an LCD cook timer which can either be left with the grill or be removed and taken with you.

Perfect if you need to watch things while you pop inside to grab a drink.

The CharBin storage container is a handy way to store your coals in a protected spot, right there with the grill when you need them.

The Performer Deluxe boasts the One Touch cleaning system with an ash catcher, just like the Original Premium, as well as Touch-N-Go gas ignition system.

The Touch-N-Go gas ignition system makes lighting your coals really easy.

Place the coals in the two char basket fuel holders (or a charcoal chimney starter).

Place these over the ignitor and then simply push the ignition button. Once some of the coals are burning white, move the fuel holders to the sides of the cooker under the cooking grate.

This video shows it in action.

Using the Weber Performer Grill with Touch & Go Starter

The gas usually takes about 4 or 5 minutes to get the coals hot enough.

The gas cylinders for this system do not come with the grill, so you will need to purchase these separately.

Like the Weber Original Kettle Premium, you get 363 square inches of cooking area. The height of the lid is 7.5”.

As you may have figured by now, everything about this unit is about convenience and ease of use. If you regularly fire up the barbecue and have a dedicated barbecuing location in your yard or on your deck, this unit will likely hold much appeal.

What we like:

  • Functional workbench – You get a huge painted metal work surface that feels very sturdy. This also makes the Kettle much more stable than the regular Kettle which is especially good if you have kids running around.
  • Push button ignition – is a real plus if you find lighting coals a hassle. It is also worth remembering that you can also use this system with a chimney. Simply place the chimney over the igniter to light it up nice and fast.
  • Weber is renowned for its great customer service and it’s good to know that you can call the company and get any issues you have attended to.

What We don’t like:

  • Removing cooking grate could be better – There’s a convenient grate holder for when you need to remove it, but it doesn’t hold the two piece grate very well.

As the cooking area is the same size as the Weber Original, you can purchase additions such as the Slow-N-Sear as well.

This grill makes cooking with charcoal almost as easy as cooking with gas.

Thanks to the built-in cabinet and the quick ignition system, you have a complete outdoor kitchen in a compact, attractive looking package.

6. Best Kamado – Kamado Joe Classic II 18″ Charcoal Grill

If you want a versatile charcoal grill that can do it all, and your budget can stretch, you should seriously consider a Kamado Joe.

Don’t get me wrong, the Weber Kettle style grills above can make excellent smokers with the right setup.

Most people refer to this style of cooker as a Kamado grill, but they are really more of a grill, smoker, and outdoor oven hybrid.

Thanks to the thick-walled, heat-resistant ceramic shell, you get outstanding insulation and temp control.

Thanks to the “divide & conquer” cooking system, you can position different food items at different levels on the 406 square inches of cooking area.

Being able to maintain different heat zones is key for a lot of different recipes.

What we like:

  • Super versatile grill – Whether you’re using the multi level grill racks to grill different types of food at the same time, or setting up for a long low and slow smoke, the Kamado Joe II excels at everything.
  • Airlift hinge makes opening the lid simple – If you’ve used a smoker like the Weber Smokey Mountain you’ll know how annoying it is to have to find somewhere to place the lid on the ground every time you open it. The hinge on the Joe slides open easily and stays in position while you position food on the grill.
  • Ash clean-up system – Makes one of the worst parts of using a charcoal grill (ash cleanup), as easy as we’ve seen it.

What we don’t like:

  • Price for amount of grill space – If you need to cook for a lot of people at once, the 406 square inches of cooking area may be a bit restrictive.

The price is high when you compare the Joe to other charcoal grills. But if you were to buy a similar sized Big Green Egg, you would be paying even more and that wouldn’t include some of the accessories the Joe Classic II comes with.

It’s definitely an investment, but with proper care this grill will last you a life time.

7. Best high-end charcoal grill – Blaze 32-Inch Freestanding Charcoal Grill

Read our full Blaze 32″ Freestanding Charcoal Grill review.

If you want something high-end but don’t want to go down the Kamado path, the 32 Inch Blaze could be the best charcoal grill for you.

This is not a unit where you will find gimmicks or tinny components that look good from afar but flimsy up close (except for the built-in thermometer, but that goes for just about any grill or smoker you buy).

The entire exterior of the unit is made of heavy-duty 304 stainless steel. This is high-quality steel that will look good for years and years. If you look nice and close, the finish on the unit is clean.

This grill is also available as a built-in model.

Major components come with a lifetime warranty.

The adjustable charcoal tray means you can move the coals closer to the grill grates for searing or drop them lower when you don’t need such intense heat.

The rear vents are also fully adjustable. All of these features make temperature control nice and easy.

The unit offers 550 square inches of cooking area. In other words, you can cook around 20 burger patties in one go!

Other handy features include side tables and stainless steel cooking grate rods with a matte finish. This allows the oil you season with will stick on the rods, and your food won’t.

The charcoal grate is removable, so cleaning up is nice and easy. You can also remove the full-length ash pan.

Blaze has also included hooks that correspond with the cooking grates. This means that you can easily “hang” the cooking grate from the lid while it is open and easily replace coals.

What we like:

  • It is hard to go past this unit’s sturdy, quality construction. The finishes are clean, look great and inspire great confidence that one of these grills will last practically forever.
  • There is consistent temperature across the entire surface of this grill.

What we don’t like:

  • There are no lights in this unit – at all. Not inside or on the controls. If you are not expecting this surprising “un-feature”, you may be bumbling around looking for a torch if you don’t have good lighting on hand when you go to get dinner out of the grill in the dark.

In the manufacturer’s defense, there is a reason for this. After listening to the most common complaints from customers about components that break down the most, the answer was consistently electrics. So Blaze has none.

The Blaze is a high-quality, gimmick-free, commercial-grade grill.

Charcoal vs. gas

The debate over whether gas or charcoal grills are better is often heated. And as time passes and technology improves, it has become harder and harder to discern a clear winner. There really isn’t one, to be honest.

The truth is that whether you should buy a gas grill or a charcoal one depends on how much time you have and what you cook most of the time.

Let’s have a look at the pros and cons of both these types of charcoal grills to help you decide:

Charcoal Pros:

  • Meat just tastes better cooked over charcoal, thanks to the characteristic smoky flavor from fat hitting hot coals while it cooks.
    Unless you have a high-end gas grill with an infrared burner, charcoal grills will be better at searing your meat.
  • Lots of charcoal grills also make excellent smokers.

Gas Pros:

  • Cooking with gas is fast and convenient. The grill will be up to temp in 5-10 minutes, and cleanup is a simple affair compared to charcoal.
  • Temperature control on a gas grill is far more straightforward than charcoal.
  • Some smoky flavor can be introduced by burning wood lumps or chips. However, low and slow is much more difficult.

It is also worth noting that when cooking fatty, marbled cuts, charcoal can be prone to flare-ups if the fat drips onto the hot coals. All in all, you will have to keep a closer eye on your food when cooking over charcoal.

But that distinctive flavor is the payoff.

In short, if you have a little more time to spare and a passion for the traditional smoky flavors that charcoal imparts, then you might be up for the slightly higher level of time and commitment involved in grilling over charcoal.

On the other hand, if you are time-poor, but don’t want to give up on grilling, then gas will still produce tasty results fast, with less maintenance required.

Adam Perry Lang, a New York Barbeque chef sums it up nicely when he says:

“I love everything about wood and charcoal, but not at the expense of people stepping away from grilling altogether because it’s complicated to light and tend a fire,”

Asses your lifestyle, and make the choice that will mean you can keep grilling all year round!

What are the different types of charcoal grills?

The decisions you must make when buying a grill don’t just stop at charcoal or gas. If you decide to go with a charcoal grill, you have to drill down even further and decide what type you would like.

Let’s have a look at the main types available:

Kettle grills:

The name “kettle grill” springs from the kettle shape of the charcoal grill chamber.

Kettle grills have a straightforward design. A lid, the lower chamber, a grill grate that you sit the food on, a grate below that where the charcoal sits, vents for oxygen and temperature control, and, of course, legs.

weber kettle charcoal grill with a closed lid

There may be a few small differences between the different models available on the market, such as an ash catcher, wheels to make the unit more mobile, a workbench to the side, or tiny legs for more portable models.

We think kettles grills are one of the best types of charcoal grill for the majority of grillers.

Ceramic / Kamado grills:

The body of these grills is made out of ceramic. Thanks to the properties of ceramic, these grills retain heat, and moisture is retained throughout the cooking process. Kamados make the best charcoal grill for people who want versatility.

These grills have a deeper chamber than a kettle grill and could roughly be described as “cylindrical” or even “egg-like” in appearance.

marrow bone on tray in big green egg
Making smoked Bone Marrow on the Big Green Egg

The two most popular brands are Big Green Egg and Kamado Joe.

Due to the outstanding heat retention of these grills, you can not only grill on these cookers, but also smoke low and slow or even use the grill like a pizza oven.

The real key to mastering a ceramic grill is getting a handle on temperature control. There are vents at the top and the bottom of the unit. By learning how much you need to have each of these vents open to achieve the temperature you need, you are well on your way to barbecuing success.

Freestanding / hood grill:

Freestanding charcoal grills might take up more room on your deck than the other types we have described but will offer the most square inches of cooking space.

The door is more like a hood and is lifted, with the hinges at the back of the grill. About half of the unit makes up the lid, and the other half holds the grill grates and the chamber in which the charcoal sits.

As with the other types of grill we have described, vents at the top and bottom control the airflow and temperature.

There will also be a chimney that will control how much smoke stays in the barrel and how much escapes. Some models may also come with the option of smoke boxes.

You can fit a lot of food in these units, and some models come with extra food racks, workbenches, and trays underneath the cooker, which can make them like an outdoor kitchen.

What to consider when buying a charcoal grill

The best charcoal grill for you will come down to a few factors.

You can then decide how important each factor is to you personally, and then use that information to inform your purchase decision.

1. Temperature control

Unlike gas grills, you don’t have a knob that can make things hotter or colder, so the temp control features are among the most important to consider when buying a charcoal grill.

The way to manage temperatures will vary by the grill but will include a combination of adjustable dampers (aka air vents) to limit oxygen, adjusting the distance between the coals and the food, thermometers, and lid.

weber kettle charcoal grill with a closed lid
The Weber Kettle has a vent at the bottom and one on the lid for controlling temperature.

Most quality charcoal grills these days include a built-in thermometer. While you might think a thermometer is essential, it’s preferable to buy a third-party grill thermometer.

For most charcoal grills learning to use the dampers is the best way to master temperature control, so look out for this feature.

2. Grill surface area

You always want to plan for how many people you expect to cook for, and then buy the next size up.

Charcoal grills tend to be smaller compared to gas grills.

Grill Grate
Too much is always better than not enough when it comes to grill grate size

It’s much better to have space and not use it than the alternative. Most manufacturers include the surface area in square inches to make it easy to compare.

3. Grill grate material

You should always consider what material the grill grate is made out of when you are considering a new grill.

There are three main times of grill grate:

  • Cast iron grates – This heavy type of grate holds heat well and gives good sear marks, but can rust and needs extra care.
  • Steel grates – Tend to be more common on cheaper grills, can wear over time and stainless steel can lose it’s non stick properties.
  • Porcelain grates – Some manufacturers coat their cast iron grates with porcelain to make them easier to care for.

Most of the negatives of each type of grill grate can be minimized by properly cleaning your grill, and using a grill cover.

4. Clean up

When you cook on a charcoal grill you have the added annoyance of ash and charcoal dust to clean up.

Ash catcher on the Kettle Premium makes it easy to dump out ash every few cooks.

Look for a grill with a smart system for handling this. Most quality charcoal grills will have a convenient system for catching and disposing of ash.

5. Accessories and features

Charcoal grills tend to be a little more primitive than gas regarding bells and whistles.

But there are still lots of features available for you to consider.

If you know you will be doing a lot of prep work outside I would recommend a grill with a cabinet and or side tables like the SNS Kettle or the Weber Performer.

I also like to see somewhere convenient to hang grill tools.

6. Portability

Charcoal grills range in portability, with simpler options like the Original Kettle easily fitting in the back of a truck.

Kamado grills, on the other hand, are not at all portable.

Then you have grills designed specifically to be portable, like the Weber Smokey Joe or Jumbo Joe

7. Cost

Luckily charcoal grills are generally cheaper than gas. There are lots of good options under $200, and if you can stretch your budget up to $500-1000 you can start to get some more luxurious grills.

8. Warranty and customer service

Most of the charcoal grills in this guide all come with outstanding warranty periods. The advantages of buying off a company like Weber is that you know they will be there in case you ever run into problems.

While it can be tempting to pick up a cheap grill on sale, always double check the manufacturer is reputable first.

What’s the best type of charcoal to use?

There are a few types of charcoal out there, some of which are bit exotic. Let’s have a look at the two types you are most likely to come across and weigh up their pros and cons, and then have a quick look at a couple of exotic types as well.

Lump Charcoal

lump charcoal in a chimney stasrter

This is natural charcoal made completely from wood that has been burnt in a kiln, cave, or underground. Jealous Devil makes an excellent quality lump charcoal.

Pro’s:

  • Lump charcoal burns hotter and cleaner, producing less ash, making cleaning your charcoal grill a little easier.
  • Because it is pure wood, it will not have any chemical fumes come off it when it is first lit.

Con’s:

  • Lump charcoal burns fast, so you will find yourself needing to add more after about 40 mins.
  • Lump charcoal will burn hotter at the start of the cook, and cooler at the end. If you are cooking for a while, you will need to keep an eye on the temperature and regulate it.

Briquettes

charcoal briquettes in smokey mountain

These are the most popular choice for cooking on charcoal grills.

Briquettes are made with wood scraps and sawdust along with some petroleum based binders and borax.

There are lots of brands available, our favorite to grill with is Kingsford Original.

Pro’s:

  • Briquettes burn for about an hour at an even temperature. They have been designed to stick at around 600°F, which is roughly broiling temperature.
    Instant light briquettes add another level of convenience in that they light up quickly (as the name suggests).
  • There are natural briquettes available which are made with wood scraps and starch binders. So if the convenience of briquettes appeals to you, but the thought of cooking over petroleum binders does not, these might be a good option for you.

Con’s:

  • Briquettes are made with some petrol based products, so some fumes will come off them when they are first lit. However, the “petroleum-y” smoke that comes off them does stop after a couple of minutes burning.
  • Instant light briquettes do light up super fast, but that is because they have been saturated in lighter fluid. Needless to say, that nasty smelling smoke that comes off briquettes when they are first lit is stronger again when you use instant light briquettes.

More exotic types of charcoal you might hear of around the traps are binchotan and coconut charcoal.

Binchotan hails from Japan. It burns hot, clean and for a long time, with little smoke smell. It takes about 30 minutes to light however, and will also burn a hole in your pocket, costing dollars per chunk.

Another exotic charcoal is coconut charcoal. Used in South East Asia by street vendors, it lights quickly and burns hot. This charcoal comes in little pieces, so if you plan on trying to use it for an American style grill, you will need a lot. It is also hard to come by in the States.

Controlling temperature on your charcoal grill

Buying a charcoal grill is just the first step on your journey. Now that you’ve got it home, it’s time to learn how to use it!

The most common way to set up a charcoal grill is called the 2-zone method. Essentially pilling most of the coals to one side creates a hot zone. This area can be used for high-heat cooking and searing.

Then you use the cool part of the grill for lower-temperature cooking or to manage flare-ups. This video shows you how to set up a charcoal grill.

A Beginners Guide to Using a Charcoal Grill
  • Flip your charcoal chimney over and scrunch up a couple of pieces of paper in the bottom. Flip the chimney back over and fill it ¾ full with the charcoal you plan to use
  • Light the paper in the bottom and wait for the charcoal to light
  • The charcoal should start to ash over in 15 to 20 mins. Once this happens, take out the cooking rack and pour the charcoal on one side of the charcoal rack
  • Replace the cooking rack, and replace the lid, leaving the vent open. Let the cooker heat up for about 5 minutes. This heats up the rack and sterilizes the cooking surface.
    Clean off the grill grate with your brush.

The 2 zone technique gives you two options while cooking. If you need to cook or sear your meat at high temperatures, you can place it on the grill grate directly above the hot coals.

If you want to prevent flare-ups, or if you need to cook your food at lower temperatures for some time, you can move it onto the other side of the grate. This is the indirect heat zone.

Meathead goes into more detail about the benefits of setting up your grill into two zones.

Meathead-Goldwyn

Meathead Goldwyn, How to Control Temperature with Indirect Cooking and The 2-Zone Setup for BBQ

“The most common mistake we make is using too much direct heat. That’s how we make hockey pucks.

If meat is exposed to very high heat for too long the proteins get their undies in a bunch and shrink, squeezing out the liquids, and the result is tough dry meat.

Using a 2-zone setup allows us to control the temp applied to the food. We can gently heat a turkey in the indirect zone, get it cooked to juicy, tender, smoky perfection, and be the heroes of Thanksgiving.

Using a 2-zone setup we can slowly gently bring a big prime rib to bumper to bumper medium rare with no gray meat, and a perfect crunchy crust, and be the heroes of New Year’s Eve.”

When you get a new charcoal grill, you must experiment a little to reach ideal temperatures. But by understanding the basics of how to control temp you should avoid a few “burnt offerings” to the grill gods.

In the indirect zone, 225°F is the temperature you should aim for. This cooking temperature can be achieved by pushing your charcoal to one side and placing your meat on the other, as described above.

If you are smoking with your grill, the addition of a water pan is one way to introduce moisture to the air and take up some of the excess heat. This will prevent your meat from drying out and overcooking.

Cleaning and maintaining your charcoal grill

Maintaining your charcoal grill is vital if you want it to last the distance. The good news is, this is not a complicated job if you are consistent.

  • Clean the grates before cooking. After you light your coals, replace the lid for 5 minutes or so with the vents open and let the grates get hot. Once they are hot, scrub the grates with a good bristle free grill brush. It is also a good idea to oil the grates before you start cooking as it will help stop the food from sticking.
  • Empty the ash pan after each cook. Be careful to wait until everything has cooled down. It is especially important to make sure that your ash is completely cool before you dump it in the bin, as this could result in a fire. It can take up to 12 hours for your grill and coals to cool down to a safe temperature.
  • Don’t let your grill sit out in the rain. The combination of water and ash will lead to corrosion. It is best if you can keep your grill in the garage or at least covered up under an awning when not in use. A note of warning, however. While it is idea to store your grill inside, never ever cook with it in an enclosed space. The smoke that comes off the grill can kill, so always make sure you are in a open area where these fumes will dissipate and cause no harm.
  • Regularly wipe down the outside and inside of your grill with a mix of mild detergent and water when it is cool. Similarly, if you notice any chunky debris building up inside your grill, brush it off and give the surface a wash.

Wrapping it up

For most people, we think the Weber Original Premium 22″ Kettle is the best charcoal grill. You can’t beat the quality and versatility at that price point.

There’s a reason you can see these Kettles in backyards all around the world.

If you can increase your budget a little, the SNS Kettle gives you a lot more features like the folding side table and the smoking insert.

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