How to Choose Charcoal Grill

How To Choose A Good Charcoal Grill – Best Guide in 9 Steps

This is a buying guide of 9 steps of features, functions, & budgets to help you choose a Good Charcoal Grill for your home. So, whether it’s your first or if you’re replacing your old but good charcoal grill, this guide will help you. We list this in our “Complete Guide to Grilling on Charcoal” and it’s also a part of our Food Equipment & Tools category.

How To Choose A Good Charcoal Grill – Complete Guide

Use this complete guide to find your best choice for a good charcoal grill that fits your budget. It lists the most recommended freestanding charcoal grills. Also, see all the key functions and features to consider in several categories. Then, look at how to choose charcoal grill considerations for getting the best of the good charcoal grills that fit your budget. Since your grill will last for several years and they’re for different types of food, keep reading to see what’s new to take into consideration.

Now, here are the 9 steps and get the best charcoal grill.

  1. Know The Charcoal Grill Buying Commitment
  2. See The Best Charcoal Grill Brands
  3. What Size Charcoal Grill Do I Need
  4. Review Types of Charcoal Grills
  5. Look at Best Charcoal Grill Budget
  6. Best Charcoal Gas Grill Combo Consideration
  7. Features to Consider
  8. Know The Maintenance and Product Life
  9. Charcoal Grill Other Reviews
9 Steps How to Choose Best Charcoal Grills
9 Steps How to Choose Best Charcoal Grills

1. Good Charcoal Grill Buying Commitment (2-20 years)

Initially, you MUST realize you are committing to stay with your grill for several years. Some will last as long as a well-cared car and others for just 2-3 years. Regardless, in all cases, this is a long commitment.

2. The Best Charcoal Grill Brands

Below are some of the major, best charcoal grill brands. While there are many, these are extremely popular and well-established reliable names.

Best Charcoal Grill Brands
Some of Best Charcoal Grill Brands

3. What Size Charcoal Grill Do I Need?

The proper cooking area size of a good charcoal grill will depend on what you’re cooking and how many people you’re serving. So, the most popular sizes of grills are 18-inches and 22-inches. And, there are smaller and larger sizes, of course. Now, a popular way to help in deciding which grill size to get is to determine how many burgers you can grill at one time. So, here’s a grill sizing chart that shows the maximum estimated burgers at one time. Also, it’s similar to what’s in our article “Best Way to Cook Burgers on Weber Charcoal Grill“.

22 Inch Grilling Surface for Best Charcoal Grill
22 Inch Grilling Surface
  • 14-inch cooking surface (147 square inches): 6
  • 18-inch cooking surface (240 square inches): 9
  • 22-inch cooking surface (363 square inches): 13
  • 24-inch cooking surface (452 square inches): 17
  • 26-inch cooking surface (508 square inches): 19
  • 37-inch cooking surface (1,104 square inches): 41

Also, it’s very important to consider getting a larger grill than you think. Later, you can do indirect cooking much easier with the added grill space. Often, home and grilling experts get a bit larger grilling surface than usually needed. That way, they can better handle barbecuing, smoking, indirect grilling, and a few extra guests. In addition, it makes them capable of grilling all types of food. So, if your chosen good charcoal grill offers a few more square inches of cooking space, you can also handle a large amount of food.

Best Large Good Charcoal Grill

Below are some of the best, very popular large charcoal grills. Also, being large, they vary from about $600 to over $1,000. A key one is the Weber 24-inch Kamado Charcoal Grill Center. Also, there is the larger 37-inch grill. However, although the 37-inch accommodates the much larger size, it has significantly fewer features. So, definitely look at the others at least.

Best Large Charcoal Grill 22 Inch Performer Premium
Best Large Charcoal Grill Weber 22-inch Performer Premium

4. Review Types of Good Charcoal Grills

There are several types of charcoal grills. Also, they can be different shapes and built with different materials. In addition, they’re typically designed for specific types of grilling or smoking. Therefore, most work with either briquettes or lump charcoal. So, here are some discussed.

About Ceramic Grills and Kettle Grills

Kettle Grills are very popular. However, having a charcoal kettle grill doesn’t mean it will hold heat well. There are considerations of material and thickness of that material. A good kettle material is ceramic but still look at its thickness. That’s because I saw a few that claimed ceramic for great heat insulation but their thickness was more of a thinness that reviewers mentioned.

So, if you’re seeing the word “Kamado”, there are 2 significant marketing tricks to check. And here are those aspects to check.

1. Kamado Check – Kettle Warranty

First, check its guarantee and see if it offers several years for its warranty. If it doesn’t, there’s a high risk it won’t last long. There are a lot of “knock offs” that only reflect a familiar shape.

Kettle Grills for Best Charcoal Grills
Kettle Grills

2. Kamado Check – Quality

Check the quality of the materials used in the kettle compared with others and with what reviewers state. However, beyond that, the coating is also a huge factor. That’s because you’ll want to protect it from rusting in the early years.

Also, on a side note, an added feature of heat retention is usually only a part of the more expensive types that include a thick ceramic insulator. However, you can still have a very high quality Kamado grill without the added thick heat insulation. In other words, a thick ceramic insulator won’t make it last longer. But, it is a nice extra feature if you do a lot of long cooking sessions like pulled pork, smoking, or rotisserie cooking. As an example, I still can do all of those without any ceramic insulation on mine. But, I only do that kind of longer session cooking about once or twice a month.

About Charcoal Smoker Grills

Some of the better charcoal grills are designed to be refilled with charcoal several times during long cooking sessions. Because of this, they can also be used for smoking. However, it takes a good skill to maintain a lower temperature for long-term cooking on a grill, as compared to on a smoker.

Can I Use a Good Charcoal Grill for Smoking or Do I Need a Smoker?

If you want to smoke meats about every other week or once a month then, yes, you could use getting a smoker. However, if you prefer smoking only about once a month, you might consider getting a grill that can double as a smoker. But, with that said, you’ll want to be sure it has the capability of refilling its charcoal easily during the smoking process. Lastly, if you want to smoke about 2-3 times a year, then a regular, good charcoal grill may serve you well.

Smoking Pulled Pork on Weber Charcoal Grill Best Charcoal Grill
Smoking Pulled Pork on Weber Charcoal Grill

Charcoal Briquettes or Lump Charcoal

While nearly all charcoal grills can take both, some might not work well with lump charcoal. So, if you use lump charcoal, you might want to ensure it’s mentioned for working okay. Lump is good for burning at a high heat. So, be sure your grill can handle the hotter temp by seeing if its mentioned being okay for lump charcoal. Also, reviewers might comment on it. Finally, lump charcoal makes it better for searing steaks or baking pizzas, for example.

So, read our article on “Briquettes vs Lump Charcoal” to learn more about this topic on traditional charcoal compared with hardwood charcoal.

Hardwood Lump Charcoal for Best Charcoal Grill
Hardwood Lump Charcoal in Charcoal Trays

5. Good Charcoal Grill Budgets – Get The Best Match

Here are some common questions people ask when thinking of buying a grill to match their budget.

  • How much does an outdoor grill cost?
  • What is the best one of good charcoal grills under $300?
  • What is the best charcoal grill under $500?

The prices of charcoal grills tend to cost the least of all other types of heat sources. In other words, they’re usually cheaper than a gas grill, a pellet grill, and an electric grill. However, they do tend to cost more with more added conveniences. So, here are a few selected real good charcoal grills within various budget costs. And many will have some of those added conveniences that are later discussed.

Good Charcoal Grills under $300

The cheapest charcoal grills are in this very popular budget range for lots of people. While things will be very basic under $100, a lot happens above that price, but still being under $300. In other words, you can easily find some gems that have nifty features. For example, some features might be like an adjustable charcoal bin tray, side shelves, or vents in 3 areas.

Good Charcoal Grills Under $500

Good Charcoal Grills under $1000

You can think of this expensive type of price range similar to purchasing a kitchen appliance. You know you’re going to have it awhile, so you will want to get the most for your money.

Best Charcoal Grill Under 1000 Weber Performer Premium
Best Charcoal Grill Under $1000 Weber Performer Premium

6. Good Charcoal Combo Grills

There might be times where you want to have either a gas grill or a smoker grill, those are when you’ll wish you had a charcoal combo grill.  There are some good charcoal combo grills and they continue to be a strong competitive product across all brands.

Good Charcoal Gas Grill Combos

Good Charcoal Grill Smoker Combos

7. Good Charcoal Grill Features to Consider

Grill Features covers an important step that will help you find the best charcoal BBQ grill and have a greater grilling experience.  It might impact a change in the budget but it might make grilling easier or extend the life of the grill’s value to you.

Ventilation for Temperature Control and Heat Distribution

Air Vents are unique to all kinds of charcoal grills. There are vents for the bottom vent, the sides, the front, and the lid cover. I haven’t seen a grill that has all 4. This will also impact cook time.

Lid Cover Vent for Best Charcoal Grills
Lid Cover Vent
Bottom Vents in Weber Kettle for Best Charcoal Grills
Bottom Vents in Weber Kettle

Fast Adjustment of Grill to Coals Distance

There are some charcoal grills that have a wonderful charcoal bin shelf that can raise or lowerw to have some quick control over the heat during cooking. And, in others, there are some that can raise or lower the actual cooking surface.

Material and Construction

There are some charcoal grills that will hold the heat better, e.g., the dome or egg-shaped units, but only if made from a heat retention material such as ceramic or stone. Those are more discussed in the section on ceramic and kettle charcoal grills.

Built-in Thermometer

Many charcoal grills will have a built-in temperature gauge in the cover lid. While it doesn’t represent the meat temperature, it gives the overall temperature at the highest point regarding an oven-like baking temperature.

Temperature Gauge on Grill Lid for Best Charcoal Grills
Temperature Gauge on Grill Lid

Convenience of a Self-Ignitor

A gas self-ignitor is quite a treat if get this built-in charcoal lighting feature. The Weber grills have the more reliable ones based on reviews I’ve read of other brands. You don’t have to use any starter blocks, charcoal lighter fluid, or wadded up papers.

Gas Self Ignitor for Best Charcoal Grills
Gas Self Ignitor for a Charcoal Grill

Adding Charcoal

One of the most important features is if it is relatively easy to add charcoal. Whether you have a charcoal basket, bin, or tray, you’ll want to add more charcoal easily for those longer grilling sessions. Some will also have a hinged grate for lifting up or a center that can be removed for lifting out to add charcoal.

Weber Charcoal Holders for Best Charcoal Grills
Weber Charcoal Holders
Grate Center Removed to Add Charcoal for Best Charcoal Grills
Grate Center Removed to Add Charcoal

Charcoal Storage

Charcoal storage is nice if the grill has a place to put the bag of charcoal. It keeps it nearby and is very handy for refilling those longer sessions, like rotisserie cooking or smoking sessions.

Charcoal Bag Holder for Best Charcoal Grills
Charcoal Bag Holder Bin
Pulling Charcoal Bag from Charcoal Bag Bin for Best Charcoal Grills
Pulling Charcoal Bag from Charcoal Bag Bin

Built-in Work Space

A side shelf for working is great to have. And some will have a work area on both sides.

Work Area Side Shelf for Best Charcoal Grills
Work Area Side Shelf

Ease of Ash Removal

Some will have a removable ash collector. It might be a slide out shallow ash bin/tray and others might have a bucket on the bottom to empty. Also, some (like Weber) will have a sweeper (blades) that pushes the ashes out of the kettle into the ash catcher bucket.

Removing Weber Ash Catcher Bucket for Best Charcoal Grills
Removing Weber Ash Catcher Bucket to Empty

Charcoal Hopper (Gravity Feeder)

Some of the mid-range to higher end charcoal grills and smokers (like Masterbuilt) have a gravity fed charcoal hopper. With this hopper, it holds enough charcoal for several hours. Usually, it might hold up to 6 to 8 hours of charcoal. So, with that, you don’t have to tend to longer grilling or smoking sessions.

Ease of Moving Grill

Wheels vary but most have just 2. You lift one end and then move the grill around. Some nicer ones will have 4 wheels, so there’s no lifting involved. Also, usually 2 will be locking wheels to keep it in place while cooking. It’s also handy when you’re not grilling and bad weather like high winds take place.

Front Locking Wheels for Best Charcoal Grills
Front Locking Wheels for Charcoal Grill
Large Rear Wheels for Best Charcoal Grills
Large Rear Wheels for Charcoal Grill

Bottom Storage Shelf

Having a bottom shelf is always handy for storing those extra items you always have. These are great for tossing a few grill accessories like a grill cleaning brush.

Bottom Storage Shelf for Best Charcoal Grills
Bottom Storage Shelf for Charcoal Grill

Grilling Tools Hanger

A grilling tools hanger is great for keeping the cooking utensils handy, like the spatula and tongs.

Tool Holder for Best Charcoal Grills
Tool Holder for Charcoal Grill

Grill Lid Holder

Having a place to hold the grill’s lid cover is perfect for saving time. Grilling requires frequent opening and closing the lid so this can be a good timesaver in the long run. Also, rectangular grills will often have the cover lid hinged for easy opening and closing.

Grill Lid Holder for Best Charcoal Grills
Grill Lid Holder for Kettle Charcoal Grill

8. Good Charcoal Grill Maintenance and Product Life

Good Charcoal Grill Weather Cover

All grills will require similar protection from the natural elements like wind, rain, sleet, humidity, sun, and snow. So, depending on your outdoor environment, you’ll need to consider a protective covering when not in use.

Grill Weather Cover for Best Charcoal Grills
Grill Weather Cover for Charcoal Grill

Secure Your Good Charcoal Grill

Even going beyond just a weather protection cover for your grill, there are other factors of consideration to protect it. Think about the distance you want to keep it from your house. Also, securing it from high winds not only when you’re not using it but also while you’re grilling.

Lots of great outdoor backyard ideas are mentioned on exceptionally well. There were considerations to think about regarding the various ways of securing your grill from high winds, for example. And there are tons of other great articles, advice, and recipes on that site as well.

Gas System Maintenance for Combo Good Charcoal Grills

For long term, all grills will have components that will fail over time. If you have a combo Charcoal Gas grill, the gas side of the system will tend to have more issues.

Gas grills generally have more issues than charcoal grills. That’s partly because there are usually more components. Also, there are safety factors in ensuring there are no gas leaks while in storage, as well as during cooking. However, on the plus side, the gas grill won’t require loading of charcoal or emptying of any ash. And those are the 2 popular reasons people get gas grills.

For the combo gas side, the gas delivery system may have some components that will need occasional replacement. For example, you have to maintain or replace the burner assembly unit(s). Another example is the fuel gauge. If it has that option, it might need changing.

Gas Self-Ignitor Maintenance

Any grill that uses an ignitor, will have some components to be replaced, adjusted, or ports cleaned during the life of the grill. And yes, some charcoal grills have a feature of a self-ignitor.

Grill Self Ignitor Sparker Maintenance for Best Charcoal Grills
Grill Self Ignitor Sparker Maintenance for Charcoal Grills

Good Charcoal Grill Grates

For all grills, the grates themselves might need some replacement eventually. And some charcoal grills have an additional grate or two. One might be just for charcoal or maybe one as a warming shelf. Or, you might want to change the material your grates are made from, e.g., cast iron, stainless steel, cold rolled steel, carbon steel, porcelain enameled, etc.

2 Part Grilling Grate Maintenance for Best Charcoal Grills
2 Part Grilling Grate Maintenance for Best Charcoal Grill
Bottom Charcoal Grate Maintenance for Best Charcoal Grills
Bottom Charcoal Grate Maintenance for Charcoal Grill

Good Charcoal Grill Infrastructure

All grills have their own infrastructure components. For example, any shelf, shelf lift, drawer, ash/grill pan, charcoal bin or bin door, wheels, thermometer, or storage areas are among some of the normal components to maintain or replace over time.

Sometimes, these components can’t be replaced because of parts availability from the manufacturer. And, other times, you won’t want to invest in replacing some costly parts if the grill only has 1-2 years of life remaining.

Regardless, here are some things that your ultimate grill choice might have. And we’ll now discuss the anticipated life span of each component.

Good Charcoal Grill Product Life

Just like everything, there are a ton of factors will dictate its useful duration. While a lot will go into the quality of the product itself, I’ve seen people who had a budget basic grill for $50-$100 that lasted about 5 years. And others, I’ve seen the same type last typically just 2 years.

For basic grills, the number one reduction of its usefulness is rust. And it usually is caused either because of not always covering it or the location of living in an area with high humidity or salty air like on a coast.

There are, of course, the better quality grills that last 10-20 years or more. And those will tend to have some solid protections and resistance to some of those weather elements but, you still have to protect/cover them.

You’ll want to be cautious of assumptions about the quality and the product life of what grill you’re purchasing. For example, the Kamado type of grills developed quite a good reputation for a long life cycle. However, that’s only because of certain brands, makes, and models that gradually earned that reputation over a long period. However, it’s due to their high quality of materials used, coatings, and craftsmanship.

9. Good Charcoal Grill Reviews – See What Others Say

Narrow Down Your Good Charcoal Grill Choices By Other Reviews

Normally, when you are looking to buy a cooking appliance, reading through some reviews makes you think of some additional options you might want in an item.

Let’s say you might have narrowed down to maybe 3 different grills. One method is to read some reviews on the actual manufacturer’s site. And then you want to validate by looking for some recent reviews of that same grill on a reseller’s site like Walmart or Amazon.

Tip: When using Amazon, consider changing the default Amazon reviews sorting of “Top Reviews” to be “Most Recent“.

This is to avoid clouding the reviews with only the best ratings, instead of a common mix. Also, you can have more confidence in reviews if the quantity is higher.

What To Look For In Good Charcoal Grill Reviews

Since you’ll already have the grill’s specs, you’ll want to read the details of the reviews for pros and cons. So, look at of some features mentioned, the operation and use of the grill, and some insight regarding the product life or reliability of it.

Here are some example review comments that show how you might learn a lot about the true value of a grill you’re considering.

  • The grill cover doesn’t seal well enough to snuff out the charcoal for re-usage the next time.
  • Has a huge cooking surface. Love the tray lifting thing for immediate heat control. Also, I save charcoal because I sometimes only use 1/2 of the grill.
  • My charcoal shelf began to rust out after the first year.
  • The ceramic walls were thin compared to the higher priced Kamado grill. Didn’t hold the heat as good. I should have got the Kamado Joe or the Green Egg instead of this non-brand.
  • Love the gas controls on this combo grill. Worked great for heat distribution and even cooking. Had it for 3 years; everything still works like the day I bought it. 
  • Works great. I added a generic rotisserie and it fit perfectly.
  • I really like the way you can add more charcoal briquettes. The longest I can cook is about an hour if I don’t add any. So, when I’m doing slow cooked ribs on indirect heat, I have to add more about every 30-45 minutes and it works good on this grill.

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Conclusion of Finding Your Best of The Good Charcoal Grills

You’ve now seen the 9 feature steps and functions to guide you to choosing a good charcoal grill. So, you can now weigh them all to determine what you’ll be happiest with. Also, you know that the 2 areas most people decide are features vs budget cost. So, plan on getting your next (or first) good charcoal grill for your next cookout now!

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