The Best Charcoal Grill to Buy in 2020, According to Our Test Kitchen

There's no comparison to the smoky flavor of meat cooked over charcoal, and if you can't get enough, it might be time to invest in our pick for the best charcoal grill.

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In the grilling world, there are two camps of people: Those who like the convenience of gas grills, and those who can’t live without the delicious smoky flavor of a charcoal grill. If you’re in the latter group, chances are you’re willing to put in the extra effort to cook your food over charcoal, as there’s no other way to get the same moist, flavorful results. (New to the great world of grilling? You can learn more about the charcoal vs. gas debate here.)

When it comes time to purchase a new grill for your home, there are a lot of considerations to take into account, but no matter your needs, we think you’ll find your match in one of these amazing charcoal grills:

New to charcoal grills? Be sure to check out our guides on how to use a charcoal grill, as well as how to start a charcoal grill.

Key Features to Look For

There are so many charcoal grills available today that it can overwhelming to pick just one! As you narrow down your choices, use these important features to ultimately guide your decision:

  • Shape: Charcoal grills come in a variety of shapes, including kettle, barrel and kamado grills, which are shaped like eggs. “Instead of a standard round grill, go for a rectangular shape, similar to a gas grill,” recommends food stylist Josh Rink. “Many charcoal grills of this type have adjustable racks which allows you to move the charcoal embers closer or further away from the food smoker, giving the cook more control over the intensity of the heat.”
  • Cooking area: Another key feature to take into account is a grill’s cooking area, which is usually measured in square inches. This will give you an idea of how many servings of food can be cooked at one time. Barrel-shaped grills usually provide the most cooking space, whereas kamado grills often have small cooking surfaces.
  • Charcoal placement: “I look for models that features a grate for the charcoal to rest on, which creates air flow around charcoal,” says Rink. “If the charcoal rests directly on the bottom of the grill, this can affect how well the charcoal burns.” You may also want to assess how easy it is to add more charcoal to the grill while in use. Some newer models have access doors that let you add more fuel without disturbing your food.
  • Air vents: When cooking with charcoal, air vents will help you control the temperature of the flames by allowing more or less airflow into the grill. A good charcoal grill should have at least one or two easily-adjustable vents.
  • Clean up: One of the downsides of charcoal grills is that clean up is a little more labor-intensive, as you have to remove the charcoal ash. You’ll want to look for a model that makes clean up easy with a removable ash drawer or bucket.
  • Additional features: In general, charcoal grills don’t have as many bells and whistles as their gas counterparts, but some units comes with features like adjustable-height grates and built-in thermometers.

Our Recommended Charcoal Grills

Taking all these factors into account, the experts in our Test Kitchen have put together a list of the best charcoal grills you can buy today, including options for every budget.

Best Overall Charcoal Grill: Weber Original Kettle Charcoal Grill

  • Price: $109
  • Shape: Kettle/round
  • Cooking area: 363 sq. in.
  • Features: One-Touch cleaning system; lid hook

Weber is one of the most trusted names in the grill industry, and its Original Kettle Charcoal Grill is a worthwhile investment for any home. The circular grill has a convenient cleaning system that lets you sweep ash into the catcher below for easy disposal, and it features a heat shield that prevents the handle from getting too hot. There’s a large damper on the lid to control airflow, and the grill is mounted on two large wheels for increased portability.

“I have tried less expensive brands over the years. I’ve never had the same quality of heating or longevity that I get from a Weber,” says Catherine Ward, our prep kitchen manager, who owns four of these amazing charcoal grills.

Best Barrel Grill: Dyna-Glo X-Large Heavy-Duty Charcoal Grill

  • Price: $223
  • Shape: Barrel
  • Cooking area: 576 sq. in. primary cooking area + 240 sq. in. warming rack
  • Features: Height-adjustable charcoal tray; charcoal access door; built-in thermometer; smoke stack

You can cook for the whole neighborhood with this oversized barrel-style charcoal grill from Dyna-Glo, which can hold up to 30 hamburgers at a time! The grill has a crank-controlled adjustable charcoal tray, as well as an access door where you can easily add more briquettes, and its smoke stack features an adjustable flue for temperature control. When it’s time to clean up, the Dyna-Glo grill has a high-capacity ash pan that you can simply remove and empty, letting you get back to the party faster.

Best Kamado Grill: Broil King Keg 5000 Charcoal Kamado Grill

  • Price: $720
  • Shape: Kamado
  • Cooking area: 280 sq. in primary cooking area + 200 sq. in. secondary cooking grate
  • Features: Removable side shelves; included multi-tool

Kamado grills, which have a unique egg-shaped exterior, are better insulated than other grills, helping to keep moisture and smoke within the unit for more flavorful food. The Broil King Keg 5000 Kamado Grill is a versatile option that’s made from double-walled steel for superior insulation, and it features two removable side shelves for food prep. It has a draft damper system for temperature control, and its pull-out ash tray makes cleaning easy.

Want to see more options? Check out our complete list of the best grills, including both gas and charcoal options.

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