13 Best Charcoal Grills for Beginners (2023)

Backyard grilling allows barbecue lovers the best way to enjoy their favorite BBQ throughout the year. And when it comes to the best outdoor grilling for flavor and fun, a simple charcoal grill is king. I’ve put together the definitive list of the best charcoal grills for beginners to kick off summer. I hope you enjoy it!

heavy duty charcoal grill steak

What is a charcoal grill?

It is a type of grill that uses charcoal (lumps or briquettes) as a heating source to cook food. The charcoal is placed under the grill grates and is started using lighter fluid. Wood chips from a variety of tree sources are added to hot charcoal to impart additional flavor to the cooked food.

Top Pick – Best Charcoal Grills For Beginners

Weber Original Kettle 22-Inch Charcoal Grill

Weber Original Kettle 22-Inch Charcoal Grill

Shop Weber: Weber Original Kettle 22-Inch

  • #1 Choice for Outdoor Grilling by Good Housekeeping and Food Network
  • Most popular charcoal grill in the US
  • Versatile
  • Cooking area – 443 square inches
  • Durable and long-lasting
  • Lid and base vents for optimum heat control
  • Cost

What are the benefits of cooking with charcoal?

There a several types of outdoor grills to choose from, such as gas grills, electric grills, and pellet grills. However, nothing comes close to the taste you can achieve with a high-quality charcoal grill.

Benefits

Taste

Charcoal grilling gives food a smokier flavor, which many people enjoy. As drippings land on the hot coals, the juices are vaporized and transferred to the food being cooked.

Optimum Heat Control

Low and slow is the key to a great BBQ. When cooking your favorite recipes and any other meats or vegetables, charcoal grills give cooks the best heat control. By slowly adding charcoal fuel when and where it is needed, you end up with unrivaled results.

Cost

They cost much less than other outdoor grills. While you can find exceptions, overall you will find the average charcoal grill is the more affordable choice.

Versatility

The beauty of a charcoal grill is its versatility. You can use a variety of hardwoods or charcoal briquets to change to flavor of your barbecue.

Hotter

Charcoal burns hotter than other grilling sources. There are occasions when you need to sear at a high temperature, then move to a lower temperature area of the grill. Charcoal grills are perfect for this.

Lower Maintenance Costs

If you have ever owned a gas grill, you understand the short life span they have. If you choose to extend the life of the gas or electric grill, you are often forced to pay high prices for repairs. In many cases, it makes sense to just buy a new one.

Charcoal grills have very few parts, and the ones they do have are quite inexpensive.

List of 13 Best Charcoal Grills for Beginners

At FitFab50, I’ve tested and reviewed dozens of top-rated charcoal grills over the years. My recommended picks are based on test findings for sturdy construction, size, ease of use, and cleaning as well as cost. Here are the best charcoal grills you can buy in 2023 based on my findings:

1 – Best Overall Charcoal Grill

Review of Weber Original Kettle 22-Inch

This is the classic kettle charcoal grill for beginners and experienced barbecuers alike. The Weber grill contains very few parts and is super easy to set up and be cooking in no time.

What I love about it
– It is easy to use
– The perfect beginner grill
– Cost
– Durable
– Portable

Things to be aware of
– This classic Weber grill has a small ash collection pan underneath the grill. It can get a bit messy if you let the ashes build up. This is definitely not a deal-breaker. However, if this is a concern for you the Weber Master-Touch may be a better choice. It’s basically the same grill but comes with a large ash collection can, and has a few additional features like a built-in lid thermometer, heat shield for the handle, and a warming rack.


2 – Best Budget Smoker

Review of Royal Gourmet Charcoal Smoker and Grill

The best part about smoking meats is that it involves a lot of time, story-telling, cold beverages (optional), and patience. Low heat and slow cooking are the keys to a great barbecue.

So, whether you are grilling hot dogs or hamburgers for a simple outdoor gathering, or preparing your family’s favorite smoked brisket, the versatile Royal Gourmet CC1830S Charcoal Grill with Offset Smoker has you covered.

What I like about it
– Versatility
– Smoker and Griller combo
– Large cooking capacity
– Off-set smoker vessel
– Steel construction
– Cost
– Great overall value

Things to consider
– Durability


3 – Best Aluminum Charcoal Grill

Review of PK Grills PKI-SCAX-X

The PK Grills feature amazing styling and top-notch construction. The retro design will look great in any backyard or outdoor event. The unique capsule design allows you to grill with high heat or smoke low and slow, thanks to its 4 vent system.

What I like about it
– Classic styling
– Unique capsule design
– Aluminum construction for long life
– Produces good results for grilling and smoking

Things to be aware of
– Smaller than other grills in this range
– Cost
– No exterior ash-cathing container
– The cooking grate is flush with the cooker. No backstop to prevent food from rolling off the grill


4 – Best Mid-Range Smoker and Grill Combo

Review of Char-Griller E56720 AKORN Kamado

When it comes to top-of-the-line grill and smoker combination cookers, Kamado BBQ grills clearly one of the best on the market.

Kamado grills feature excellent construction, great design, and solid durability, and yes, they allow you to produce incredible barbecue.

This versatile grill and smoker is built to last with triple-walled 22 gauge steel and will easily maintain cooking temperatures ranging from 200-700 degrees Fahrenheit.

This is a great entry point into the Kamado grill family and a large saving over the popular Kamado Joe Classic Joe II.

What I like about it
– Great styling
– Triple-walled design traps heat in the grill
– Solid cart construction with locking wheels
– Folding shelf space
– Adjustable top damper for heat control

Things to be aware of
– Cost


5 – Stainless Steel Smoker

Review of Dyna-Glow Dual Zone

This Dyna-Glo can easily handle all of your family barbecuing needs, and then some. This grill features a handy divider that can separate cooking areas. , Also features two adjustable charcoal trays that allow the temperature to be controlled separately. The smokestack can be adjusted for temperature and smoke control.

What I like about it
– Large primary cooking area – 576 sq in
– Secondary cooking area – 240 square inches
– Steel construction
– Excellent temperature control
– Locking wheels

Things to be aware of
– Construction
– Durability


6 – Portable Charcoal Grill

Review of Weber Smokey Joe

What’s not to love about the Smokey Joe Premium portable charcoal grill? This 14″ grill is perfect for a small gathering or picnic, or tailgate party. The lightweight design comes complete with a carry handle for those grab-and-go occasions. Able to cook 5 hamburgers at one time.

What I like about it
– Simple
– Cost
– Portable
– Steel construction
– Durability


7 – Park Style Charcoal Grill

Review of Pilot Rock Heavy-Duty Park Style

Do you enjoy occasionally grilling outdoors but don’t want the hassle, maintenance, and cleaning of a traditional grill? This sturdy construction charcoal grill is perfect for those of you that appreciate the simplicity of park-style cooking.

What I like about it
– Functionality
– Easy to clean
– Easy to maintain
– Steel construction
– Durability

Things to be aware of
– No temperature control
– No smoking feature


8 – Small Charcoal Smoker

Review of Old Smokey

This rust-resistant aluminum smoker is the size you’ll want to cook for 4 – 6 people. It’s an Old Smokey best-seller! It’s the perfect smoker for the back patio, camping trip, or gathering.

What I like about it
– Cost
– Lightweight
– Compact
– Durable
– Produces great smoked BBQ


9 – Portable Charcoal Grill

Review of Cuisinart CCG-190 Portable

The Cuisinart 14″ Portable Charcoal grill offers the perfect grilling solution for those on-the-good occasions. This compact grill is super lightweight & easy to transport. It provides over 150 square inches of grilling space. The dual venting system opens to help control the heat so you can cook slow & low or up at searing hot temperatures.

Things I like about it
– Cost
– Convenience
– Portability
– Take anywhere

Things to be aware of
– Construction
– Ease of assembly


10 – Mid-range Charcoal Grill

Review of Weber Performer

The powerful performance and well-designed features of the Performer charcoal grill is your excuse to fire up the coals every day. Features a handy table for food prep, and 343 square inches of cooking area. Weber Performer is an expansion on the classic design with added touches to improve the cooking experience.

What I like about it
– Simplicity in design
– Built on the shoulder of their classic model
– Sturdy steel construction
– Added features to improve the cooking experience

Things to be aware of
– Cost is twice as much as the classic grill but includes an improved cart/stand, food prep table, built-in thermometer, better ash containment, and heat shield for the handle.


11 – Compact Portable Charcoal Grill

Review of Oklahoma Joe’s Portable

The Oklahoma Joe’s Rambler has all the capabilities to be your at-home grill, yet is compact enough to be your travel companion. Features solid steel construction, adjustable trays, and air vents to give you supreme temperature control.

When it comes to ease of clean-up the Oklahoma Joe offers a full-size, removable ash pan with front access.

What I like about it
– Sturdy steel construction
– Well designed
– Side handles for improved portable
– Large air dampers for temperature control
– Built-in thermometer
– 218 square inches of cooking area
– Adjustable charcoal tray to heat source control


12 – Folding Barbecue Charcoal Grill

Review of Cowekai Folding Grill

This portable grill features folding legs and handles. The folded size is 23.4″x 4.7″ x15″ and weighs 14.33 pounds. Can comfortably cook 6 hamburgers at a time. Perfect for camping and tailgates.

What I like about it
– Easy to clean
– Portable
– Comes with a carrying case
– Perfect for cooking for a small gathering

Things to be aware of
– Heat containment is not the best


13 – Hibachi Grill

Review of Gaintex Charcoal Hibachi Grill

This portable grill is perfect for family meals or friend gatherings on the beach or in the backyard. This classic charcoal grill is designed to provide convenient grilling while still being a portable option.

Cooking grates can be adjusted to suit your cooking needs. Constructed of high heat-resistant cast iron, the charcoal grill serves to last for years. 

What I like about it
– Construction
– Easy to use and clean
– Portable
– Fun to use
– Cost
– Built upon a classic design

Things to be aware of
– Small cooking surface (12.5″ x 8.5″)


Charcoal Grill vs Gas Grill

Charcoal vs gas grills. Can someone please decide which is best once and for all?

Unfortunately, the question will not be decided today. But if this is any help, here is a list of the pros and cons for both types of grills.

CharcoalGas
Price
Ease of use
Maintenance
Flavor
Temperature control
Convenience of use
park style charcoal grills

Types of Charcoal Grills

Charcoal grills normally fall into 3 main categories; kettle grills, barrel grills, and ceramic or kamado grills. From these main categories, there are several different types of grills that have their own unique features.

  • Pellet grills
  • Hibachi grills
  • Cart grills
  • Tandoor ovens
  • Brazier grills

What to Look for When Purchasing a Charcoal Grill

If you’re considering purchasing a charcoal grill, especially if you’ve never owned one before, think about what you’ll use it for first. Are you mostly interested in burgers, steaks, and hot dogs? Do you want to grill racks of ribs or perhaps a turkey? How about smoking, for example?

If you’re just getting started, your objectives may be limited to successfully grilling a meal. Of course, your budget as well as the amount of room you have will play a role. To help you understand your options, here’s a great article on the topic from our friends at The Spruce Eats.

What Is the Difference Between a Propane Grill and a Charcoal Grill?

A ceramic or metal slab hides the flame on a propane grill, but a direct open space on a charcoal barbecue allows the flame to come into direct contact with the food.

The open design of the charcoal grills lends a smokier flavor to the meal. In addition, normal propane tanks may last up to 25 days, while regular charcoal bags can last up to three grill sessions.

You should pick a propane or charcoal grill to suit your needs, depending on the sort of taste and heating source you desire.

How does a digital charcoal grill work?

The charcoal burns in the bottom of the hopper, fed by gravity. A fan forces flames and heat horizontally into the grill, where they enter a big diffuser and provide an even heat that rises to the grates. To regulate the temperature, a digital thermostat controls the blower that feeds air to the fire.

What is unique about the grill Weber makes?

Starting in 1952, George Stephen was working at Weber Brothers Metal Works manufacturing marine buoys. He had an idea of cutting a buoy in half and placing it over top of a grill to prevent grill flare-ups and to allow outdoor grilling in any weather.

This dome lid was also key to locking in flavors. He added some air vents for temperature control and legs and created the Weber grill that would spark a backyard revolution. [1]https://www.weber.com/US/en/blog/behind-the-grill/the-evolution-of-the-charcoal-grill/weber-29921.html

Today, Weber has expanded its line of grills but the original kettle grill is still one of the most popular charcoal grills sold. The Weber original kettle premium is also a very popular option.

What is the best charcoal grill style?

There are 3 main types of charcoal grills

  • Kettle grills
  • Barrel grills
  • Ceramic grills

Each is capable of grilling, barbecuing, and smoking. You’ll want to decide between a pedestal or cart for housing your grill.

Kettle Grills

kettle grill tends to be the less expensive and the smaller type of charcoal grill of the three. The shape is round with a defined bowl designed for optimum heat retention. It is the most portable style grill.

Barrel Grills

barrel grill, as you may have guessed, has a barrel-shaped design that provides a larger cooking surface area than most kettle grills. This makes it suitable when cooking for large groups. These tend to be the best grills for smoking and slow cooking. 

Barrell grills can vary greatly in price depending on the brand you choose.

This is also a very popular style of DIY build your own smoker!

Ceramic grills

When searching for a ceramic grill, you will often see kamado grills listed, which are Japanese-style stoves. These grills have a familiar egg shape. This design provides for efficient heat retention and good control. They are excellent for cooking everything from pizzas to normal grilling and smoking fare.

Because of their unique design and ceramic construction, you will find them to be the most expensive type of grill. Ceramic grills are very durable and weather-resistant, however, not very portable.

What style of grill to choose?

When it comes to deciding what is the best grill for you, it really depends on your preferences and how you plan to use them. There is no single charcoal grill that is right for everyone. Understanding how you like to grill and also, what types of food you plan to cook with your grill or smoker are big factors in the decision-making process.

What is the easiest type of grill to use?

Charcoal grills have long been a top favorite of outdoor cooks and bbq aficionados alike. A charcoal grill is super easy to use, and foodies love the smoky, really rich flavor that charcoal imparts. Maintenance is also easier than their gas grill counterparts.

What is the easiest charcoal to use?

Briquettes burn a little cooler than lump charcoal, so they’re best for dishes that require less time to cook, such as steak or fish. Building a mixed fire using some briquettes and some lump charcoal is one way to maximize some of the many benefits of lump charcoal.

What are the best grilling accessories?

Using the correct grill accessories will substantially improve your grilling experience. Whether you’re gathered with friends and family around an outdoor grill or preparing your favorite smoked brisket for a neighborhood party, you’ll want to make sure you have these grill essentials:

The key to preparing the best food on charcoal grills is closely monitoring the internal temperature. Overcooked or undercooked meat can be avoided with this precision easy-to-read thermometer.

RAPICCA BBQ Grill Oven Gloves 14 Inches,932℉,Heat Resistant-Smoker, Cooking Barbecue Gloves, for Handling Heat Food Right on Your Fryer,Grill, Waterproof, Fireproof, Oil Resistant Neoprene Coating

These fire and heat-resistant gloves allow you to easily manage wet or greasy meat on your grill.

Kabob Skewers, 16.8" Metal Kebab Skewers Flat Long Stainless Steel Wide Reusable BBQ Barbecue Shish Kabob Sticks Skewers for Grilling Meat Shrimp Chicken Vegetable, 12 Pack Including Bonus 14" Skewers

The kabob skewers are made of premium stainless steel which is food grade, rust-proof, and heat-resistant. The bbq kabob sticks are thick enough, allowing you to put more weight on each skewer without getting bent or twisted.

ORDORA Grill Basket, Fish Grill Basket, Rustproof 304 Stainless Steel BBQ Grilling Basket for Meat,Steak, Shrimp, Vegetables, Chops, Heavy Duty Grill Basket Outdoor Grill Accessories

You can cook meats and vegetables at the same time without mixing the flavor with this grilling basket. Heat-resistant wooden handle with a detachable design that is easy to hold.

Favorite grilling recipes

When it comes to the best barbecue or grilling recipes, there is no shortage of good suggestions or opinions. Listed below are recipes I tend to prepare the most, and some of my family’s favorite recipes as well.

Delmarva Chicken Recipe

Crispy Smoked Chicken Wings

Easy Smoked Brisket Recipe

Barbecue Pork Butt Recipe

Smoked Beef Back Ribs Recipe

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