The 10 Best Charcoal Grills
We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Anyone who's serious about grilling understands that, despite what Hank would tell you, charcoal is king of the hill. These models, designed specifically for briquettes, deliver all the smell and flavor you know and love, and some of them also incorporate a few handy, innovative features that bring old-school great taste into the 21st century. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best charcoal grill on Amazon.
Get Yourself A Great Grill
There are compact grills available that weigh less than four pounds, making them suitable even for backpacking trips.
When a unit is that small and portable, sacrificing square inches of cooking space for the ability to cookout at all is a fine trade indeed.
No one can resolve the great debate between the charcoal grill and the gas grill for you; it's a decision you have to make for yourself. But if you have settled on making your next grill a charcoal burning unit, you potentially stand to get a great grill for a pleasantly low price. While you can spend hundreds of dollars on a top of the line charcoal grill with an integrated smoker box and optional gas ignition systems, you can also get a perfectly decent unit for well under fifty dollars.
One of the most important factors in deciding which grill you should buy is simply the grill's size. That means two things, however: you need to account for the overall dimensions of a prospective grill, making sure it will fit the porch, patio, or deck on which you hope to do your cooking out, and you have to know the measurements of the physical grilling surface, too. Some smaller grills might seem like a good fit for your property, but if it turns out you can't simultaneously cook as many hamburgers, steaks, or sausages as you'd like, you will make a "penny wise, pound foolish" decision that will ultimately mean much more time standing around waiting for foods to cook. Therefore the grill's cooking surface area is the more important consideration when it comes to size.
The exception here comes when you are looking for a portable grill you can bring camping, to a picnic, or to the beach. There are compact grills available that weigh less than four pounds, making them suitable even for backpacking trips. When a unit is that small and portable, sacrificing square inches of cooking space for the ability to cookout at all is a fine trade indeed.
For the casual chef looking for a larger charcoal grill for his or her backyard, once minimum grill surface size has been factored in, the next consideration for which grill best suits you should be the type of cooking you prefer. If you just want a good grill for cooking up dogs and burgers in the summer, then a standard kettle style charcoal grill is a great idea. These grills tend to produce even heat all across their cooking surfaces (provided you used enough charcoal) and allow for easy 360 degree access which means easier flipping and monitoring of your foods.
For the decidedly more serious cook, a larger charcoal grill with a generously portioned rectangular cook surface is a good idea. This is true not only because these designs afford more cook space, but because they make it easier to create differing heat zones even when using charcoal (or hardwood) as the heat source, something most kettle grills can't do. (And an ability many assume is relegated to gas grills, in fact.) By keeping hotter coals to one side of the grill, an experienced chef can sear meats over flaming heat and then slow cook them to perfection, or can slowly roast vegetables even while cooking up a platter full of steak or salmon fillets nearby.
Charcoal, Hardwood, And More
The easiest way to cook in a charcoal grill is to use charcoal briquettes. That's all the more true if you opt for briquettes that are "self lighting," meaning they have been infused with lighter fluid. While most self-lighting charcoals are safe for human health -- contrary to common misconceptions -- the accelerant used to make them burn can impart unpleasant flavors to foods, therefore serving to be counterproductive. If you are going to use self-lighting charcoal, make sure all licking flames have died down and that the briquettes have taken on a uniform gray and orange coloration before you begin to cook.
Hardwood, not surprisingly, infuses meats with a subtle smoky flavor that most types of charcoal can't muster.
Using charcoal that is not pre-treated requires a bit of extra patience and, usually, extra tools. See below for information about charcoal chimneys, a must have for an efficient charcoal briquette grilling experience.
Hardwood barbecue cooking is becoming ever more popular and, when conducted properly, can yield delicious results. Hardwood, not surprisingly, infuses meats with a subtle smoky flavor that most types of charcoal can't muster. You can get so-called hardwood charcoal that consists of wooden lumps and/or briquets without the same fillers used in standard charcoal, but pre-packaged, pre-cut strips of simple hardwood is the way to go for ideal smoke flavoring.
Plan to light your hardwood in the same charcoal chimney you use with basic briquettes, or else plan to first build up base heat in your grill using charcoal. Then add the hardwood once the charcoal is well on its way to burning down.
Finally, you can always grill using the same wood you burn in a fire place. However, to avoid creating meats (or veggies or grilled fruits) that are overly smoky, make sure the wood has fully burned down to embers before you start cooking over it. One approach is to keep a crackling fire going in a nearby fire pit so you have a ready source of more hot wood coals.
Great Charcoal Grill Accessories
Getting a charcoal great grill is just the beginning of your outdoor culinary adventure. There are myriad tools and accessories to which you should treat yourself to ensure that you will have the most enjoyable, efficient, and safest grilling experience possible.
Using a meat thermometer means the difference between an overcooked steak, an undercooked chicken breast, or a pork chop prepared to perfection.
First and foremost, you need good barbecue tools. At the most basic, a set should have a large, sturdy spatula, a pair of tongs, and a good, long fork. Also often included is a basting brush, skewers, a long-handled knife, and a good case in which to store everything when you're not grilling.
If your grill tool set did not come with a meat thermometer (or if the included unit yields desultory results), then treat yourself to one of these affordable, essential items. Using a meat thermometer means the difference between an overcooked steak, an undercooked chicken breast, or a pork chop prepared to perfection. If you spend the money to get fine cuts of meat, you absolutely must make the modest investment in a meat thermometer.
Also wise to have on hand, as it were, are grilling gloves. Heat resistant gloves offer much more control and dexterity than the outmoded oven mitt, allowing you to maneuver, slice, baste, or simply flip your foods even when the flames are dancing high above the grill.
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