Best Charcoal Grill: (Our Top 10 Picks and Overall Favorite)
Grilling is one of those classic American summer hobbies. Everyone loves a good cookout. Even vegans. Have you ever had grilled corn on the cob? It's the best way to cook it! There's a lot to consider when it comes to grilling, especially charcoal grilling. In this article, we'll explore the best charcoal grills, and how to make the most of them.
10 Charcoal Grills That Would Make Hank Hill Jealous
In the chart below, you will find my top 10 rated charcoal grills. For a more in-depth review of each model, please click on "Read Review."
Double Camping Hammocks
Char-Griller Patio Pro Charcoal Grill
4.3 out of 5
4.7 out of 5
Char-Broil American Gourmet Offset Smoker
3.5 out of 5
Dyna-Glo Charcoal Grill
4.0 out of 5
Royal Gourmet Charcoal Grill
3.6 out of 5
Miady Foldable Charcoal Barbecue Grill
4.4 out of 5
Blackstone 3-in-1 Charcoal Grill
3.5 out of 5
Cuisinart Portable Charcoal Grill
3.8 out of 5
Smoke Hollow Gas-Charcoal-Smoker Combination Grill with Side Burner
3.4 out of 5
Kingsford Barrel Charcoal Grill
4.0 out of 5
Top Ten Rated Charcoal Grills of 2018
- Char-Griller Patio Pro Charcoal Grill
- Weber Original Kettle Charcoal Grill
- Char-Broil American Gourmet Offset Smoker
- Dyna-Glo Charcoal Grill
- Royal Gourmet Charcoal Grill
- Miady Foldable Charcoal Barbecue Grill
- Blackstone 3-in- 1 Charcoal Grill
- Cuisinart Portable Charcoal Grill
- Smoke Hollow Gas-Charcoal- Smoker Combination Grill with Side Burner
- Kingsford Barrel Charcoal Grill
How to Choose a Charcoal Grill
First, you need to know whether or not you have an appropriate area to grill. Grilling on a wooden deck or lawn might not be the best idea since hot ash can easily cause a fire. If you are planning on grilling on the balcony of your third floor apartment, you might want to reconsider. The ideal place should be a concrete deck or stone. It all boils down to common sense. You're cooking with an open fire and hot coals. It's not as simple as shutting off the gas supply. If you've never used charcoal before, they get HOT. And they stay hot. After California has just experienced one of the worst wildfires in their history, you can never be too safe or stress how important it is to be aware of your surroundings.
The Ceramic Grill
You'll need to consider the different styles of grills available. First, there's the ceramic grill. This one's unique design keeps in heat and moisture much better than other styles. These grills can reach temperatures of around 750 degrees. They are equipped with a vent at the top and bottom to control temperature so you'll need to pay close attention to them. They can be used to cook anything that you can fit in it with perfect heat distribution.
The Barrel Grill
Then there's the barrel grill. This one is the most common kind you'll find at a hardware store. They are typically more portable than other styles. The barrel grill is just that. A barrel. It's cut in half lengthwise and both halves are hinged. When the lid is closed, the temperature can be controlled with an air vent. The vent is typically located on the lid.
The Kettle Grill
Lastly, is the kettle grill. This is your smaller, more compact grill. In a kettle grill you'll find a lid, a cooking grid, a charcoal grid, a ventilation system and legs. Other models can also include wheels and an ash catcher. The kettle is designed to distribute heat evenly throughout the grill. With the hood down, it's easier to control flare-ups from grease by controlling oxygen levels and allows the heat to circulate around the food.
Lump Charcoal, Charcoal Briquettes and Which One Is Best
You'll hear a lot of arguments from different people about which kind of charcoal is best. You'd never think there would be charcoal snobs, but there are. The differences, however, are minimal.
Lump charcoal is easier to light and doesn't make as much ash as briquettes do. It is also more sensitive to oxygen which makes it easier to control the temperature. Lump charcoal is basically charcoal in it's most natural form so there's no added chemicals or cheap fillers to it. That makes for a longer and cleaner burn than briquettes. Since lump is more pure, it also gives your food a smokier flavor when it's finished.
Briquettes are usually cheaper but have added chemicals to help it light easier and burn longer. Some of those chemicals though can be dangerous to your health in the early stages of burning. When using briquettes it's very important to make sure you don't put any food on the grill until you see ash on the briquettes.
Lighting a Charcoal Grill
Method One: The Chimney
This easy device uses paper, commonly newspaper, to light the coals, which are held within the metal cylinder. The coals sit above the flames, so the edges light quickly and help ignite neighboring coals. First, you'll need to fill the chimney with your charcoal. The common chimney holds about 100 briquettes but you might not need that many depending on the size of your grill.
Second, add one or two sheets of newspaper to the chimney. Light the newspaper in several spots. As the newspaper burns in the chamber below, the flames light the edges of the charcoal. Peer through the vents of the chimney to check if the coals have started and the edges of the coals have turned gray. If the coals have not started, burn another piece of newspaper. After about 10 minutes, you will see the coals starting to shine through the vents and flames starting to come up over the top layer of coals.
Third, pour them out into a pile and wait until the coals are mostly covered in ash. Then spread the coals out. The entire process takes approximately 15 minutes.
Method Two: Lighter Fluid
To start this off, you'll need to arrange the charcoal in a nice little mountain. Piling charcoal together in a mound or pyramid helps with coal to coal contact allowing the flames to spread quicker.
Secondly, you'll need to squirt lighter fluid on the top and the sides of the mound. You'll have to light the charcoal immediately after squirting so the fluid doesn't dry out. This next tip goes without saying, but I'm going to say it anyway. NEVER squirt lighter fluid on an open flame. This is common sense. This stuff is very flammable, obviously, and can do some serious damage to your body if you're not careful. SO BE CAREFUL!
Thirdly, wait until the fluid burns off. Once the charcoal turns gray and ashy, you're good to go. As I said earlier, if you're using briquettes, it's crucial not to begin grilling until you see the ashy charcoal.
Method Three: Lighter Fluid Infused Charcoal
There are a few major brands of charcoal that offer lighter fluid infused charcoal. To start off, you'll need to arrange the charcoal in a mound or a pyramid. It's very important that you do not skip this step. Arranging the coals into a mound or a pyramid crates coal to coal contact and allows the flame to spread quickly and even. Since the work is basically already finished for you, this method will take you about ten minutes.
Charcoal Grills are very easy to maintain due to their simple design. There is a grill grate, a chamber where charcoal is placed and a chamber bellow that collects ash. Ash can be easily removed with a shop vacuum or you can dump the ash after it's cooled into a plastic bag and throw it away. The grill grate gets scraped clean, and VIOLA! You're done!
Grill temps can be controlled by adjusting the air vent on the top and bottom of the grill. Temperatures range from 225 degrees to over 500! I would advise the use of a meat thermometer. They are simple and easy to use. Just be sure you know the cooking temperature you need for what you're cooking. Under cooked poultry and pork can really mess you up quick! Be sure you don't overcook your meat, too. You want to taste the meat, not the heat!
Ease of Portability
Many charcoal grills come already equipped with wheels or carts and can easily be lifted by two people. Throw a bag of charcoal along and you're ready to tailgate or go wherever the night takes you!
Handy Charcoal Grilling Accessories
An expansion rack is a secondary rack that sits on top of the primary grill rack. I wouldn't recommend cooking on this rack since it's not getting direct heat from the charcoal, but it can be very useful as a heating rack for keeping your food warm while waiting for more to be finished.
This handy little guy is perfect for arranging lit charcoals. They come in many different lengths so use your best judgement when it comes to deciding how long you need to go.
Protect your little grill from the elements with a nice, all weather cover. Make sure it's water and UV resistant so it doesn't rust.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying a Grill
Think about why you want to buy a charcoal grill in the first place. Then ask yourself these questions:
Do I have an area where I can grill safely?
Like I mentioned before, if you plan on grilling on the balcony of your third floor apartment, you might want to reconsider.
Which grill is best for me?
Where will I be doing most of your grilling? How much on average will I be grilling each time? Do I need something more portable? Will I be taking my grill camping? Take some time and seriously consider the different kinds of grills covered in this article. See how much room you have to work with and what your budget is. There's plenty of options out there when it comes to charcoal grills. You don't have to settle for anything second best.
Do I have what it takes to man a charcoal grill?
Grilling with charcoal is an art. It takes time to figure out how to regulate the temperature. It's not something that will happen overnight. It requires a lot of attention to detail and isn't a "set it and forget it" way to grill.
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Grilling is one of my favorite things to do in the summer. There's nothing better than cracking beers, throwing some burgers on the grill and hanging out with your friends and family. Food is, after all, the great equalizer. If you can master a grill, you can master a tailgate, a camping trip or a graduation party.
I covered a lot in this article. So take your time and really weigh your options and what you're looking for to best meet your needs. Good luck and happy grilling!