Here at the Strategist, we like to think of ourselves as crazy (in the good way) about the stuff we buy, but as much as we’d like to, we can’t try everything. Which is why we have People’s Choice, in which we find the best-reviewed products and single out the most convincing ones. (You can learn more about our rating system and how we pick each item here.)
And while we’ve covered a best-in-class smoker and every kind of barbecue contraption and grillingg accessory imaginable, here we’ve delved into the best charcoal grills, as praised by the most enthusiastic reviewers on Amazon.
Best-rated (and least expensive) charcoal grill
Weber’s most-reviewed model on Amazon — “a classic for a reason,” according to one happy customer — also happens to be its most affordable. Or, as another reviewer puts it, “At a cost of around $35 for a grill that will pretty much last a lifetime, there’s not much negative to say. [It’s] easy to assemble, [and the] materials and coating are top notch.” A part-time propane user is even more effusive about this grill’s cost-effective capabilities, admitting, “I have a $1,700 stainless gas grill/smoker [and the] $29.99 Smokey Joe is 10 times better than that garbage.” Another reviewer describes the Weber kettle as “an icon, sort of like how a KitchenAir stand mixer is an icon. Both are stout, sturdy and straightforward pieces that last and last.” And despite its small footprint, it can still grill just about anything. “Small enough to be easily portable but still be able to grill a whole chicken or a rack of ribs,” one reviewer raves, adding, “I have done both with excellent results.”
And now, some micro-picks for every type of charcoal grill you might be looking for.
Best charcoal grill with ash catcher
Many of the more than 1,200 reviewers who splurged on a Premium Weber grill describe it as easy to clean, in large part because of the included ash catcher, with one reviewer citing it as a must-have feature: “As for choosing which charcoal grill to get, I chose this model over the less expensive model because of the ash catcher, and I’m glad I did.” Another customer explains, “Back in the day, the ash catchers on charcoal grills were messy, and difficult to empty without getting covered in soot. Not so with the new design, which does a better job of containing the ashes and makes clean up a breeze.” With this Weber grill, one reviewer was even able to convince the die-hard gas devotees in her family that charcoal ain’t so bad after all. “The best compliment was dad and others asking me how I grilled these thick burgers so well without burning them to dust,” she writes, concluding, “It’s all in the vents! And I think investing in an awesome grill helped, too.”
Best charcoal grill with side table
“I researched charcoal grills for a month and kept coming back to the Webers,” writes one reviewer, who goes on to explain why this model stood out. “They are in every top 5 or top 10 charcoal grill lists all over the internet because of their iconic patented dome design. It holds heat extremely well and having the side table is a must.” And there’s lots of reviewers who bought this grill specifically for the side table, like one who writes, “I really just need a table for a plate and a drink, and the Performer Silver provides that perfectly at a fair price. The grill is stable as a rock.” It’s also “super simple to put together,” according to a third reviewer, who says it took “45 minutes of beer drinking and tinkering” to complete what they call “Hank Hill’s worst nightmare.” They add, “The benefit of going with this version is that you get the lid holder on the side, the updated ash can, and the gourmet grill grate system with the hole in the middle so you can pop in a sear grate.”
Best gas-ignited charcoal grill
While a gas-powered charcoal grill may sound like an oxymoron, many reviewers say Weber’s Performer Premium is a best-of-both-worlds situation. “There are two camps when it comes to BBQ, charcoal or gas,” explains one person. “We all agree gas is hands down easier, but IMO charcoal just tastes better. This grill gives me the advantages of both.” The convenience of its “quick and easy” fuel system, as one reviewer describes it, also comes up repeatedly. “After 50 years I’m done using starter fluid,” says a five-star fan. Another reviewer, who’s “shooting for at least 20 years of service out of this one,” appreciates that there’s “no lighter fluid or blocks to worry about burning off before you cook and no mess from the paper when using a chimney starter.” They also praise its cooking performance, saying it’s “exactly what you’d expect from a Weber grill — fantastic!”
Best portable charcoal grill
Reviewers who live in apartment complexes or lack backyards seem to prefer Weber’s Go-Anywhere grill for its “smaller footprint” and striking a “balance with form and function,” as one describes it. One “urban family” says “this is the best purchase we made last year,” describing it as the perfect size for “languid afternoons in the park” and “rest areas for lunch while on tedious drives.” Another reviewer is happy with the Go-Anywhere’s performance at home. They started off by searing four chicken thighs, a duck breast, and a flatiron steak, and found it has “plenty of grill space, even heat, and best of all, easy cleanup…. Eight thumbs up for myself and my guests. Bravísimo!”
Best compact charcoal grill
A “heavy, cast iron barrel and cooking grates,” as one reviewer describes it, is why dozens of reviewers describe it as “sturdy.” “This grill is brilliantly designed and built like a tank,” explains another satisfied reviewer. “It takes most of the mess out of charbroiling, heats rapidly, and stays hot for a long time due to the heavy steel construction.” Anyone worried about this compact grill’s capacity should heed the words of the reviewer who says, “Don’t let the size fool you; it grills a good amount of food. [I] was able to grill three giant-sized stuffed pork chops and a whole cut-up chicken at the same time with no problem. If you’re looking for a smaller grill to save space with great smoking ability this is the one.”
Best charcoal grill for camping
A slightly larger riff on Weber’s well-reviewed Smokey Joe option, the Jumbo Joe has earned hundreds of positive reviews for a surprisingly large grilling surface. As one reviewer puts it, “I realize most people use the Smokey Joes for a couple of hamburgers or some dogs (and for that, they work perfectly) but I’m rather ambitious when it comes to my camping cuisine. This grill gives you substantially more space, closer to what you get on the full 22.5-inch’ grill, yet feels nearly as compact as its smaller predecessor.” Another person adds, “This little big man grill can do a LOT of stuff. I have loaded it up with a full-length salmon with some olive oil and light spice on top, and acorn squash [with] olive oil and brown sugar and cinnamon while camping and we ate like friggin kings! Some of the best I’ve ever had in my entire life.”
Best charcoal grill for a small family
Many reviewers who typically cook for two or three people seem to be pleased with Weber’s 18-inch Kettle for several reasons, starting with its simplicity. “[I] had a fancier and larger charcoal grill before,” explains one convert, “but for just me and the wife this is plenty. Easy to move, easy to maintain. No fancy shelving to place the food so know what your getting and will need some kind of countertop nearby to place your cooked and to-be-cooked items.” Another person “bought it as a wedding present for my buddy and his new bride. I chose this one because they needed something small and low profile since they’re in an apartment, but big enough to do real cooking. They love it.” A lack of bells and whistles doesn’t seem to bother any five-star reviewers of this Weber, either. “If you need a more advanced grill,” writes a matter-of-fact reviewer, “you probably shouldn’t be the grillmaster at your next event.”
Best charcoal grill for a crowd
Reviewers looking for a logical upgrade from Weber’s 22-inch Kettle gravitated toward the 26-inch for its ability to feed large families — in some cases, for crowds of more than 25 people. One reviewer fit 18 “good-sized burgers,” while another was able to cook a “full 17-pound brisket.” Another reviewer had three Webers before buying this model, and calls the 26-inch “the best grill I ever had.” Another says, “The main kettle itself is huge. and pictures couldn’t do it justice. It’s simple and solid. Everything has a purpose on it. With this bad boy you get what you pay for.” A third reviewer concludes, “Once you get the 26.75 there is no going back.”
Best kamado-style charcoal grill
Big Green Egg fans have embraced the Akorn Jr. as a budget-friendly alternative for beginners, with one calling it “the bomb.com!” Another describes it as a “little red hottie … The nicest grill and smoker I have ever had.” A reviewer who’s tried several different ceramic grills insists, “If you are considering buying a kamado, buy this; you won’t regret it. I recommend starting at this size, and then moving up to the bigger Akorn or a BGE if you like the experience.” A second person says, “The fit and finish is actually quite remarkable and precise; I didn’t expect this level of quality in a relatively inexpensive grill. As far as cooking goes — all I can say is ‘WOW’! From a slow smoke/roast to a searing heat, this little guy does it all extremely well.”
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