To the novice, charcoal grills can be a bit daunting. Mastering a charcoal grill requires patience and experience. They’re more difficult to operate than their gas-powered counterparts.
That’s because cooking with a charcoal grill is more an art than a science. There are no conveniently manufactured hot spots on a charcoal grill’s cooking surface. You won’t even have consistent set temperatures for cooking.
With charcoal grills, you need to wing it all the way. You go by instinct – and sometimes luck – throughout most of the cooking process. That means mistakes are easy to make and often impossible to correct.
The Best Charcoal Grills
Still, many backyard grillers prefer charcoal over gas and pellet grills. Charcoal is the cheapest grilling fuel out there. Charcoal grills also burn hotter, allowing you to get a beautifully charred crust on your food.
If all that sounds like an adventure you’d like to experience, then this buying guide should help. Below are our picks for the four best charcoal grills on Amazon right now.
To help you make a choice, we’ve included our take on each of the grills. We’ve also turned to the experts at Popular Mechanics, The Spruce, and Outdoor Gear Lab for further insights.
Best of the Best
Our first pick is a classic kettle grill with a surprise twist. The Weber kettle grill has been around since the early 1950s. Your parents probably ate a few burgers, hotdogs, and steaks cooked on one at one point or another.
The premium model upgrades the nearly 70-year-old design. The Weber Original Kettle Premium 22-Inch Charcoal Grill brims with first-class, top-of-the line features.
The build is certainly first-rate. The grill is made of premium-grade steel and coated with porcelain enamel inside and outside for sturdiness. Weighing 32 pounds out of the box, it’s reasonably lightweight, too.
Two large all-weather wheels and glass-reinforced side handles ensure easy portability. You should have no trouble moving the grill from site to site, depending on your preferred spot for barbecuing.
Weber went the extra mile to make grilling easy and simple for you with this premium model. The fold up grating allows quick access to the coals. The heavy-gauge steel grate is hinged so adding fuel is a breeze.
To control temperature, the Weber Original Premium has rustproofed aluminum dampers. These restrict or increase airflow, allowing you to attain the desired temperature without lifting the lid. The built-in analog lid thermometer lets you monitor the current readings so your food does not burn.
Ridding a charcoal grill of ash after cooking often involves a notoriously tedious process. That’s not the case with the Weber Original Premium’s one-touch cleaning system. The grill’s removable aluminum ash-catcher detaches easily for convenient cleaning.
Our verdict? Well-designed and solidly-built with high-grade material, it’s tough to find fault in the Weber Original Kettle Premium. But if we were forced to find one, we’d point to the snug lid, which limits the size of the meat you can cook.
That said, we’d argue that this is still easily the best charcoal grill out there. That’s why it takes first place in this roundup.
A Strong Runner Up
Second on our list is Oklahoma Joe’s Rambler Portable Charcoal Grill. This unassuming grill showed its real worth during our tests. We were dazzled by how easy it was to cook with this grill with either direct or indirect heat.
This charcoal grill has a heavy-duty steel construction. The thick cast-iron grates impart a wonderful sear on food. In all, the Rambler offers 218 square inches of cooking surface. This allowed us ample room to cook 10 burgers at once.
The Rambler’s charcoal tray is adjustable. The tray hangs from a ladder rack that can quickly raise or lower the coals as needed. This allows you to alter the distance between the heat of the coals and your food.
You can raise the tray close to cook at high heat. Or you can lower it in two stages to cook low and slow. Dampers on top and along the sides of the grill permit detailed management of the heat. Simply pull the handle to open three spacious slots at the base of each side of the grill. These will draw cool air from the outside.
That’s not all. The lid of this portable charcoal grill is fitted with a small smokestack. The little chimney is equipped with its own revolving lid. With it, you can control how much heat and smoke escapes from the grill.
Of course, there will be instances when you will want to check the heat while the lid is down. That’s not a problem with this grill. The Rambler comes with a large, easy-to-read thermometer. The gauge even glows in the dark.
Overall, we say Oklahoma Joe’s Rambler Charcoal Grill is an excellent product that offers great value for your money. In fact, it’s so good that it claims a strong runner-up position in this line-up.
Best Deluxe Option
That two of the grills in this roundup are from Weber is a testament to the company’s charcoal expertise. The fact is we could find no better premium charcoal grill than the Weber Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill. This is a grill that offers impressive perks.
The Performer Deluxe’s porcelain-enameled bowl is 22 inches in diameter. In all, the grill offers a total 363 square inches of cooking space – which is quite impressive.
This Weber grill is also equipped with a gas-ignition system that works with a push of a button. This means you never have to fuss with lighting charcoal. A standard disposable propane bottle fuels the ignition.
We liked how this grill allows you options at almost every turn while you cook. For instance, Weber’s Gourmet BBQ System is now standard feature on this model.
This is a two-part grate system that allows you to remove the center section of the steel-plated, hinged grate. Once it’s out of the way, you can replace it with a variety of additional cooking surfaces. These include a wok, pizza stone, or griddle.
The grill’s moveable charcoal baskets allow you to cook using direct and indirect heat zones, as well. You can cook multiple kinds of food at the same time and maintain control of different cooking temperatures. We were able to cook burgers and roast vegetables simultaneously with the grill.
Control is important with this grill as it does generate temperatures of over 243°C. That’s a lot of heat. Unfortunately, you can’t trust the accuracy of lid thermometer. For this reason, we recommend that you double-check your cooking temperatures with a digital thermometer.
Cleaning up the Performer Deluxe afterwards is quick and easy. The grill includes a rust-proofed aluminized ash-catcher. Some reviewers have reported difficulty removing the high-capacity bin. This was happily not the case with the unit we tested.
All in all, we say the Weber Performer Deluxe Grill is a top-quality product that’s well-worth its price tag. Despite a few minor issues, we’d recommend this grill to everyone, from the beginner through to the expert griller.
Best for Camping and Fishing
Just about every member of this website’s staff is a veteran grill afficionado. Rarely do we ever look at a grill and say, “Well, that’s new.” Because, frankly, when it comes to grills, not much hasn’t already been done by someone else. But then we came across the GoBQ Portable Grill.
The GoBQ is a transportable charcoal grill made of flame-resistant fabric that folds into a tubular carrying case. Once packed, the entire assembly – including the case – is small enough to fit in your backpack.
The tube is eight inches in diameter and 14 inches in length. You can easily carry it by the handle on top or with the included shoulder strap.
The GoBQ portable grill is made of silicone-coated fiberglass fabric with a collapsible metal frame. The manufacturers claim it can withstand extreme temperatures.
Intrigued by its concept, we were quite eager to test this grill. Setting it up was quite easy. We simply unclipped the two plated-steel buckles and expanded the collapsible charcoal basket.
We made sure the base was fully unfolded with no creases or folds touching the charcoal in the basket. From there, igniting the grill was just a matter of adding and lighting the starter cubes.
Once that was done, we placed the roll up grates atop the grate rests. GoBQ recommends that you cook with the lid on for best results. Of course, we did as the company recommended.
Once opened, the outside carrying case becomes a hood to cover the grill and contain heat. In testing the grill, we cooked burgers, then later rainbow trout. Both experiments culminated with delicious results.
Cleaning the GoBQ portable grill is a breeze. Just clean the grate with soap and water then dump the charcoal and ash. The fabric should be cool enough to touch within 30 seconds.
From then on, cleanup is just a simple matter of packing. Slip the cooking grate inside the cover with the tongs, fold the grill, and latch the cover. That’s it.
The GoBQ grill is a wonderful option for traveling, camping, or even for folks with small apartments. We liked how easy it was to pack, stow, and carry, and we enjoyed cooking on it. That’s why this grill gets our vote for best camping grill in the market.