A good charcoal grill makes the best burgers and barbecue. Does it matter what you buy?
Published Nov. 27, 2023.
The best charcoal grills are easy to use and make it a cinch to grill, roast, and make barbecue. Our favorite is the Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill, 22-Inch. This durable, moderately priced model is an American classic, with all of the basic features that we value most, including a roomy removable ash catcher and a hinged grate that lets you add charcoal to your fire during long cooks.
If you want to save a little money, the Weber Original Kettle Charcoal Grill, 22-Inch is our favorite’s stripped-down sibling. It has a smaller open ash catcher, making cleanup a bit messier, and its cooking grate lacks a hinge, but it performs just as well otherwise and is just as durable.
Conversely, if you’d like a grill with a lot of useful extra features, we love the Weber Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill, 22-Inch. It takes our favorite model and surrounds it with a cart, making it especially stable and providing a handy side table for stashing trays or bowls of food. Better still, it has a built-in charcoal storage bin and a gas ignition system, so you’ll never have to fuss with a chimney starter to light your charcoal.
What You Need to Know
When it comes to grilling, there are two camps. Some people love gas grills, touting their convenience and ease of use: Just press the ignition button, set your grill to the temperature you want, and you’re ready to grill in just a short time. But others—perhaps the more rabid, fervent, and highly vocal fanbase—swear by charcoal grills. And for good reason: Charcoal makes great-tasting food, as it burns hotter than gas and produces lots of radiant heat, ensuring that everything you cook gets beautifully, deliciously browned. With the best charcoal grills, you can also throttle that heat and cook foods low and slow, roasting or smoking large cuts of meat with ease. Charcoal also produces some smoke of its own, so everything you cook on it tastes extra-savory, smoky, and “grilled.” Those who love charcoal grills say that gas grills just can’t compete, at least where flavor is concerned.
Charcoal grills have other advantages too. Fans like how much control over the cooking process you have with a charcoal grill. Using its vent system (see below), you can fine-tune exactly how much heat your food gets and direct the flow of smoke much more carefully when making barbecue than you can in a gas grill.
In addition, many charcoal grills are relatively simple machines, so they’re easy to assemble, clean, and maintain. And they generally tend to be less expensive than gas grills, though you can certainly find fancy high-end versions with lots of extra features (see below...
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Lisa is an executive editor for ATK Reviews, cohost of Gear Heads on YouTube, and gadget expert on TV's America's Test Kitchen.
Miye is a senior editor for ATK Reviews. She covers booze, blades, and gadgets of questionable value.