Reviews you can trust.

See why.

Charcoal Grills

We’ve happily made do with Weber’s basic kettle for years. But would newer, more tricked-out charcoal cookers be worth the upgrade?

UpdateNovember 2018

Weber updated both of our favorite charcoal grills. After buying and testing the new models, we found that the new features improve both winning grills.

Our winner, a 22-inch kettle grill embedded in a convenient rolling cart with a push-button gas ignition system, is now called the Weber Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill. The cart surface is now made of sturdier aluminized steel rather than plastic, and comes equipped with a well-designed removable timer, a metal shield built into the lid handle to protect hands from heat, and Weber’s Gourmet Barbecue System, a grill grate with removable center that allows grillers to insert several accessories (sold separately), such as a wok, griddle, or pizza stone. While we reviewed the Gourmet Barbecue System a few years ago and were lukewarm on its merits, we like that the included grill grate is now heavier-duty steel.

Our Best Buy has been renamed the Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill, 22-Inch. It features a new, sturdier leg attachment system with metal tabs that snap together more securely, as well as a thermometer built into the lid, a metal shield on the lid handle to protect hands from the heat, and tool hooks built into the nylon handles on both sides of the kettle.

Top Picks

Winner

Weber Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill

Best Buy

Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill, 22-Inch

See Everything We Tested

What We Learned

There’s a lot to be said for the basic Weber kettle. The company’s 22.5-inch One-Touch Gold model, the test kitchen’s longtime favorite charcoal grill, accommodates a full 6-quart chimney’s worth of charcoal and features a large enough cooking surface to grill burgers for a crowd. It also has a domed lid tall enough to house a whole turkey, and its well-designed venting system allows barbecue buffs to jury-rig the unit into a competent smoker. The sturdy ash catcher keeps cleanup to a minimum. Moving and storing the kettle’s small frame is easy, and the price tag is nice.

And yet it’s never been a perfect package. This model’s tripod base is notoriously wobbly and prone to lose a limb, and when we’re adding food to or removing it from the fire, we wish there was a place to set down a platter. Drawbacks like these led our eyes to wander back over the charcoal grill marketplace, where we discovered a vast array of competitors across an even more vast price scale—everything from simple, comparably priced designs to beefed up, luxe models fetching significantly more than $2,000. The Rolls-Royce of charcoal grills wasn’t our target, though. We wanted a well-engineered, user-friendly model that’s up to any outdoor cooking task—ribs, pork loin, fish, burgers, chicken—without having to take out a second mortgage. So we set an upper price limit of $400 and lined up seven promising grills, including our trusty Weber kettle. Our battery of cooking tests included both grilling and low, slow tasks: big batches of burgers, skewers of sticky glazed beef satay, and thick salmon fillets, as well as barbecued ribs. We ran a height check by shutting—or, in some cases, cramming—each grill’s lid over a whole turkey; we threaded thermocouple wires under the lids to monitor temperature retention; and we kept track of how easy the grills were to set up when new and to clean up after cooking.

Multitasking

The good news was that most of the grills did a decent job grilling, and several models also fared well with barbecued ribs. The problem was that even when a grill was capable of both grilling and slow-cooking food, some models had design flaws that limited how easy they were to use. Grilling requires, for example, regularly flipping and rearranging multiple pieces of food, so it’s crucial that the food be within easy reach—a glaring issue with one grill we tested. This long, horizontal tube, which is billed as both an all-purpose grill and a smoker, features a lid that only partially uncovers its generous cooking surface. As a result, the cook must reach underneath the covered area to access food—not a big deal when you’re infrequently reaching f...

Everything We Tested

Good Fair Poor 

Highly Recommended

Recommended

Recommended with reservations

Not Recommended

*All products reviewed by America’s Test Kitchen are independently chosen, researched, and reviewed by our editors. We buy products for testing at retail locations and do not accept unsolicited samples for testing. We list suggested sources for recommended products as a convenience to our readers but do not endorse specific retailers. When you choose to purchase our editorial recommendations from the links we provide, we may earn an affiliate commission. Prices are subject to change.

Reviews you can trust

The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing.

Lisa McManus

Lisa is a cast member of America’s Test Kitchen, co-host of Gear Heads on YouTube, and Executive Editor of ATK Reviews.

0 Comments

Try All-Access Membership to Unlock the Comments
Don't miss the conversation. Our test cooks and editors jump in to answer your questions, and our members are curious, opinionated, and respectful.
Membership includes instant access to everything on our sites:
  • 10,000+ foolproof recipes and why they work
  • Taste Tests of supermarket ingredients
  • Equipment Reviews save you money and time
  • Videos including full episodes and clips
  • Live Q&A with Test Kitchen experts
Start Free Trial
JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.