Portable charcoal grills don’t just cook better food, they’re generally cheaper than gas grills!
We’ve tested a range of grills capable of packing up and grilling hot dogs, burgers and much more at the campground, park, or tailgate.
The Weber Jumbo Joe is our pick for best portable charcoal grill for most people thanks to its affordable price, capable size, and lid locking feature. If you can stretch your budget the PKTX is larger, has greater temperature control, and comes with an excellent foldable cart.
The 7 best portable charcoal grills you can buy in 2023
Our team of barbecue experts has put these grills to the test to see how well they perform, and how portable they really are.
While many of these grills are designed for grilling, we’ve also looked at if you can smoke on them as well.
1. Best Overall – Weber Jumbo Joe Charcoal Grill
Read our full Weber Jumbo Joe review.
With a name like “Jumbo Joe” at first glance this doesn’t exactly scream portable grill.
Thanks to some clever design touch from
You get the same amount of cooking space as the 18″ Kettle classic, but this grill only weighs 22 pounds and can easily be carried by one person.
It’s easy to clean and you can fit plenty of food on its 18″ grill rack.
The charcoal grate is made from heavy gauge steel, which is strong enough to withstand considerable weight and leave tasty looking sear marks on your meat.
Carrying this grill to various different cookout sites is easier than ever thanks to the Tuck-N-Carry lid lock.
This lets you carry the grill from the lid handle and prevents you from having to place the lid on the ground or on another table when you need to get at the cooking area.
Along with the larger size, this is the main difference compared to the Smokey Joe.
The Jumbo Joe got the pick for best charcoal grill in our guide to the best tailgate grills.
What We Like:
- Portable and Easy to Carry – It’s circular shape pairs well with its compact and lightweight design.
- Durable and Easy to Control Temperature – The lid and bowl are both porcelain-enameled, which is an excellent material for retaining heat and keeping temperatures at a high level. There are dampers in place to allow you to easily control the temperature inside the grill should you need to increase or decrease accordingly.
- Decent Size/Cooking Space Options – You can hold up to eight burgers on the cooking surface, which is about 18 inches across. There’s a 14-inch option available for this grill if you want an even more lightweight and portable variant of the same model.
- Long-Lasting – The porcelain enameled surface won’t rust or peel easily. This extends the life span of the grill and ensures that you’ll be able to use it for several years at least.
- Easy to Clean- There’s an aluminum ash catcher implemented beneath the charcoal bowl; this prevents you from having to endure long cleanup times after a lengthy cookout.
What We Don’t Like:
- Space Between Grate Wires – The spacing is a bit on the large size which results in pieces of burning charcoal falling through and being wasted.
- Ash catchment tray – The tray can be fiddly to remove and put back, and tends to make a bit of a mess.
Other than those relatively minor complaints we have no issue naming the
2. Runner Up – Weber Charcoal Go-Anywhere Grill
Read our full Weber Go-Anywhere grill review.
While the Jumbo Joe has more cooking space, the Go-Anywhere gets runner-up honors thanks to its excellent searing capability and portable design.
It’s extraordinarily easy to carry thanks to its three separate handles and light 14-pound design.
It’s easy to use and is relatively durable. It can still hold up to six regular-sized burgers and comes with standing legs for flexible mounting options.
It makes for an excellent tabletop grill.
The corners of rectangular grills have a tendency to collect ash and other residue, so you’ll probably have to spend a little more time than you like thoroughly cleaning this grill after each use.
It is pretty small, though, so total time cleaning shouldn’t be too excessive.
What We Like:
- Easy to Carry – The portable grill really lives up to the “Go-Anywhere” aspect of its title. It has two handles on the shorter sides of its rectangular surface and a handle on top of its lid, which can be locked to assist with transportation. The lid lock is also convenient because it lets you secure the heating surface and maintain a hot temperature.
- Attached Lid – For ease-of-use, the lid doesn’t need to be placed on the ground or adjacent table but can instead be folded up and rested perpendicularly to the cooking surface.
- Durable/Long-Lasting – The grill is made of porcelain enameled walls and lid; this material is not likely to rust or peel very easily, see you can expect the grill to last for a long time. The cooking grates are made from durable plated steel. This material is easy to clean since food and charcoal residue comes off quickly with a little scraping.
- Decent Cooking Space – The cooking area is moderately-high in terms of typical portable grill cooking areas, measuring in at 160 square inches. It’s enough for feeding a few people at the same time.
- Stable Base – Its shape is well-suited for its four curved feet. The legs are made of plated steel and aren’t likely to bend or break easily. They are also stable enough to be placed on most solid surfaces without sliding around and risking the food stored on the grates.
What We Don’t Like:
- No Cleaning Assistance – This portable charcoal grill doesn’t have any cleaning assistance, and its rectangular shape makes it automatically a little harder to clean than circular competitors.
- Short Space between Charcoal and Grates – There’s only a short amount of distance between the coals and the cooking grates, so you’ll probably have to adjust your cooking style to avoid accidentally burning your meat.
When it comes to cooking with this grill, we’d recommend using only a few coals at first during a handful of test cookouts to really get a sense of how the grill performs.
This will let you get used to the short space between the charcoal and grates.
3. Upgrade Pick – PKTX Folding Charcoal Grill
Read our full PKTX review.
If your budget can stretch way past the
The cart is one of the big upgrades over both the Jumbo Joe and the Go-Anywhere. With the PKTX you will be ready to grill, and there’s no need to find a safe surface.
In terms of size, you get 305 (305.3 to be exact) square inches of grill area, compared to just 160 on the Go-Anywhere.
One other area where we prefer the PKTX over portable options from
There are also some nice optional add-ons including Tel-Tru thermometer kit, cover and heavy-duty charcoal basket.
What we like:
- Size and vents makes this a versatile grill – Having a bit more size (and vertical height), as well as the 4 different vents allows you to create different zones and accurately manage temperature. All this means you can grill or smoke a variety of different meat types.
- Top quality folding cart – The TK has been designed for tailgating and camping. The cart feels rugged and has some of the best wheels we’ve ever tested
- Rugged aluminum design – Not only does this keep the weight down, it future-proofs your grill as it’s not going to rust
What we don’t like:
- Pricey – This is a lot to spend on a portable grill.
While the PKTX is advertised as a portable grill, it’s so good you’ll want to use it as your primary charcoal grill at home. The grill comes in silver, graphite or red.
4. Best Portable Kamado Grill – Char-Griller E06614 AKORN Jr
Kamado style grills are not normally known for their portability.
The Akorn Jr ditches the usual ceramic construction in favor of the far more portable steel.
At 37 pounds it does weigh quite a lot more than the
And the extra weight allows Char-Griller to pack in more features.
Controlling the heat inside the cooking area is possible thanks to dual air-flow dampers and a built-in heat gauge.
Kamado style grills promote even heating across their cooking surfaces, and this model is no exception.
You can make use of 153 square inches of cooking space and rest assured that everything across its surface will be cooked to the same degree. It’s great for cooking multiple burgers the same way, for this reason.
What We Like:
- Build Quality – Cast iron grates will last a long time .The walls are made with triple steel insulation to trap heat inside.
- Temperature Controls – The dual airflow dampers at the top and bottom give you more control compared to the other grills we’ve looked at.
- Easy to Clean- There’s a removable ashtray located right at the bottom of the egg shape.
- Easy to Carry/Store Lid- There are two handles, one on each side, to allow it ultimate portability. Its lid has a hinge to let it be raised up and held against the grates, meaning you don’t have to set it aside on a table to get at your food.
- Stable Legs- Finally, the tripod leg design ensures that stability is always ensured. You can rest this grill on most surfaces and expect an even balance, even such surfaces as sandy beaches or grassy backyards.
What We Don’t Like
- Difficult Front Handle Installation – In particular, the front handle of this grill is sometimes difficult to install based on the quality control of the manufacturer. This means that you may struggle during installation and may have to widen the holes yourself with a drill or other tool, which is not something most folks want to deal with right after taking the grill out of its box.
- A bit Pricey – Finally, new models of this grill tend to be a bit on the expensive side.
If you’re looking for the cheapest portable grill, this definitely isn’t it.
However the build quality and added features make for a bit more of a versatile grill.
Get the latest price on Amazon.
This is a larger portable charcoal grill that has 333 in.² of cooking space, pushing the absolute limit for what most portable charcoal grills get away with.
It’s a standalone unit that rests on thin steel feet that are relatively stable, although they aren’t quite as dependable as the tripod feet from the previous
It’s relatively easy to assemble and has two side handles for easy transportation.
The entire thing is made of durable steel, so it should last for quite some time against the heat and wear and tear many cookouts will bring upon it. However, this material isn’t very rust resistance on its own, so be sure to store the charcoal grill properly to extend its lifespan.
Inside the cooking space, there’s almost a foot of clearance to let smoke collect and flavor the meat.
There aren’t any events or dampers, however, so controlling the temperature is a little trickier than with competing models. In addition, there’s no easy clean-up ash catcher or similar function.
Overall, it’s a barebones but effective charcoal grill that will appeal to those who need a lot of cooking space.
It comes with a two-year limited warranty.
Get the latest price on Amazon.
This portable charcoal grill is much lighter and easier to carry than the previous model.
It weighs 30 pounds and has twin handles on the sides. It’s shaped like a traditional grill’s rectangular design, and its lid can be easily lifted back and rested on its hinges for easy access to the cooking space.
The lid is made of stainless steel, which is resistant to corrosion and helps extend the grill’s lifespan.
The cooking grates lift with the lid, giving you easy clearance to both the charcoal bed and the meat that you’re currently cooking. This is an excellent design and allows you to add more charcoal if you want to boost the cooking temperature in the middle of the cookout.
The cooking grate is 240 in.², too, so there’s plenty of space for food, and the grates are made from coated porcelain. This won’t rust or corrode easily.
It boasts a precision airflow system that lets you manage your temperature with great accuracy.
The temperature gauge is located right on the lid for easy access.
In addition, there’s an ash collection been beneath the charcoal bed to help keep cleaning simpler than it already is, given the small size of the model as a whole.
It’s a sturdy portable grill that rests on stable legs, perfect for placing on a table or bench. The biggest flaw is the thinness of its grates, which don’t allow for a ton of weight to be stacked upon them, and which sometimes results in the grate flipping if too much meat is placed on one side.
Other than that aspect, it’s a solid choice for a portable, easy-to-use charcoal grill.
Get the latest price on Amazon.
This is another
A vent at the bottom of the grill further helps you to control the temperature of the cooking space.
You get nearly 150 in.² of room to grill, and the grilling is aided by a thick-walled ceramic body that locks in heat and moisture very competently.
The charcoal bin is pretty deep, letting you stack a significant amount of the fuel to reach pretty high temperatures for a portable grill.
The grill is relatively portable with ringed handles that reach all around its egg shape. This narrow ring is also the stand upon which the grill rests. It’s relatively stable, but it is a little thin, so it isn’t suitable for uneven surfaces.
It’s a decent pick if you like Kamado style grills, but with a weight of nearly 70 pounds it’s not the most portable of the grills we’ve looked at.
What to look for in a Portable Charcoal Grill
When shopping for a new grill I usually recommend people consider the same 5 or 6 factors. You can find out more about this in our guide to the best charcoal grills.
While most of these factors are still important, obviously for a portable grill you need to consider size and weight most of all.
Then you should look at what portability features the manufacturer has included.
In general, you’ll find portable charcoal grills with 300 square inches or less of cooking surface.
Anything with more surface area won’t usually be considered portable and might be too unwieldy for your needs.
300 Square inches of cooking space is enough to feed around four people at once, with smaller surface areas obviously being better suited for feeding smaller groups.
Obviously, you need to be able to carry the grill regardless of its size. You don’t want anything to be so heavy that carrying it is impossible even if it can fit into your arms.
I wouldn’t recommend going over 40 pounds if you need one person to be able to carry the grill.
All portable grills should still have excellent features that allow them to cook effectively in comparison to traditional grills.
Check to make sure that your grill of choice has a snug-fitting lid, as this will allow you to control airflow. If it has vents or dampers you can control temperature and airflow even further, giving you greater control over the status and quality of your food.
The PKTX offers more temperature control than any other grill we tested with four air vents.
Being able to lock the lid also makes transportation easier. The Jumbo Joe handle doubles as a lid lock, making transport a lot safer.
Some grates extend away from the charcoal bin, making it easier for you to add charcoal if you want to raise the temperature inside the cooking space.
Some portable grills have removable or foldable legs that make them easy to pack up and transport.
Others have handles on their sides that also assist with transportation.
Having a foldable cart means you won’t have to worry about finding a safe and stable spot to place your grill at your destination.
Some of the best portable grills come with carrying bags as part of the cost, too. Look for grills that have these features, as they’re better suited for portable, spur-of-the-moment grilling adventures.
Portability is definately an important feature if you like taking your grill on a camping trip. We actually have a whole post covering the best camping grills, as well as some tips on how to pick the one that is right for you.
Cooking Grate Material
You’ll definitely want cooking grates that can stand up to some heavy weight; this allows you to put pans or other cooking implements right on the grates and widens your grilling options.
In addition, pay attention to the cooking grate material composition; some are made from stainless steel or plain cast-iron.
This is a good resource if you want to find out more about the different types of cooking grate material.
Clean up features
Some of the best portable grills will also be easy to clean. Look for ones that have an ash drawer or a similar receptacle to make cleaning after the cookout easier than ever.
In addition, certain grills will be easier to clean as a result of their shape or the depth of their charcoal bin. Shallow charcoal bins are, of course, easier than deep.
Why we love charcoal for portable grills
Now let’s look at why cooking with charcoal is an excellent choice for portable grilling.
- Cost: Charcoal grills are generally less expensive than gas grills.
- Burns hotter: Charcoal is better for searing meat at high temperatures.
- Smoky flavor: charcoal grills provide a signature smoky flavor that many people like on various different types of meats and other food products.
- No flaring flames: charcoal grills rely on the heat contained in the coals to cook the meat. This prevents sudden flareups of open flames like those which might occur with a gas grill.
However, there are certainly some downsides to using charcoal grills as opposed to other options.
- Messy: charcoal grills require a little more clean up time than gas grills as a result of their fuel source and waste product.
- Bad smell: if your charcoal is of the self-ignite variety, or you use charcoal fluid to start the fire, it might result in an unpleasant smell that can get into your food, ruining the smoky flavor you’re going for. Avoid this by using a charcoal chimney.
- Ash: due to the fuel source, it’s possible that small amounts of ash might get into your food while cooking with a charcoal grill. You can minimize this based on the kind of charcoal you buy, so higher quality fuel is definitely something to look for.
- Temperature control: it’s harder to control the temperature of a charcoal grill than it is with a gas grill. While it’s easy to make things hot inside a charcoal grill, it’s also hard to bring that temperature back down again without proper vents and good technique. Be careful about grilling with charcoal if your food items are delicate and require a lot of specific temperature tuning throughout the process.
- Must constantly add more: in order to cook for longer, you’ll constantly have to add more charcoal, which can be time-consuming or difficult in the middle of a cookout session. Learning the right amount of charcoal for various amounts of food takes time.
If those cons have you second-guessing yourself, you may want to look at our best portable pellet grill for another option.
If you want to really get into this age-old debate, we have a full guide to the differences between charcoal and gas grills.
To wrap it up
Portable charcoal grills are a great way to bring the joy of outdoor cooking to a campsite or sporting event.
The Weber Jumbo Joe Charcoal Grill 18-Inch in particular is super convenient and easy to use and is the perfect tool to feed a small group of friends, while the PKTX is the ultimate luxury portable charcoal grill.