No matter how hard you try to convince a traditionalist BBQ aficionado, you will likely never persuade them that they should switch to a gas BBQ. They will tell you that there is nothing like the joy of waiting while the meat infuses with the smoke and flavors that charcoal fires deliver. So, when the sun comes out and the garden beckons, which type of BBQ is the best?

In recent years, with the rise in popularity of gas BBQs, the charcoal variety has been a little neglected as a cookout choice. Fear not: in this article we intend to focus on the best charcoal BBQs to see which is the standout model.

  • Hold up to 13 burgers
  • High-capacity ash catcher
  • Porcelain enameled lid
  • 363 sq inches of cooking space
  • 10-year warranty

  • 153 sq inches of cooking space
  • Top and bottom air dampers
  • Great for tailgating and camping
  • Easy to empty ash pan
  • 1-year warranty

  • 160 sq inches of cooking space
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Porcelain enameled lid for greater heat retention
  • Locking lid for portability
  • 10-year warranty

  • Ideal for tailgating and camping
  • Cast iron grate
  • Super durable
  • 153 sq inches of grilling space
  • 1-year warranty


1

Quick Navigation

Weber Kettle Grill

Weber lays claim to being the inventor of the kettle grill; regardless of whether this statement is true, we know for a fact that this company makes quality BBQs. This particular model is available in three colors; copper, black, and green, and it has an easy to empty ash can that makes doing the dirty work better.

With 363 square inches of cooking space, it’s no slouch when it comes to capacity as well, and the precision heat control mechanism makes sure that all that lovely food is cooked at the right temperature. It has a hinged grill to add more charcoal if needed, large, durable wheels, and a porcelain enameled inner lid to retain the heat and bring the food to temperature more quickly. The idea behind the design is that it creates a space where the heat and the smoke can circulate for both maximum flavor and even cooking.

On the downside, compared to similar models made by other manufacturers, this kettle BBQ is quite expensive, and the coals can be a challenge to get out even though Weber claims it is a simple one-touch operation.

Pros

  • The original kettle BBQ
  • Precision heat control
  • 363 sq inches of cooking space
  • Stylish design

Cons

  • Expensive 
  • Tricky to access the ash can

This Kamado grill is such a striking design that we think you’ll fall in love with it straight away. The advantage of the design is that the grill gets to temperature quickly, and with the top and bottom dampers, all you have to do is control that process by opening and closing them. The idea is that it creates an almost convection-type cooking environment, with the dampers circulating the heat around the food for a better and more even cook. It also means that you won’t have to wait too long before you can enjoy tasty BBQ food. 

Since this model holds heat like a more expensive ceramic BBQ, it will use less charcoal than the competition to create the same results. There is also an easy to empty ashtray at the base, so getting this BBQ clean after a cookout should be a breeze. This Kamado grill has an impressive 153 square inches of grate space, and the large lid handle feels sturdy, as does the overall construction.

On the downside, this grill comes with a cast iron grate rather than a ceramic coated one, so even after a couple of uses it starts to rust, and many report issues getting the ash plate to fit correctly, even when following the assembly instructions carefully.

Pros

  • Great design
  • Uses less charcoal
  • Circulates the heat more efficiently
  • Gets to temperature quickly

Cons

  • Ill-fitting ashtray
  • Grate rusts after short time


This is the second Weber BBQ to feature but the first travel version on the list. It has 160 square inches of cooking grate, so even though it can’t compete with the Weber Kettle Grill, it still should have enough capacity for tailgate barbecues and camping.

The best feature about this Go Anywhere BBQ is the fact that it is lightweight and compact, meaning it will take up little space in your RV, or your garage at home, unlike some of the larger charcoal BBQs.

Even though this is the travel version, Weber hasn’t scrimped on quality; it has an enameled inner lid just like its bigger brothers, so retaining the heat from the coals should be easier. It also means that when the lid is closed, the food cooks more evenly and faster.

On the downside, the charcoal tray is extremely close to the cooking grate, meaning that when the coals get hot, it can be difficult to reduce the heat. This can result in burnt food, and some have reported that the inner enamel coating on the lid chips off after time.

Pros

  • Portable and lightweight
  • Enamel coated inner lid
  • Folding legs
  • Great for RV’s and camping

Cons

  • Charcoal tray too near to the cooking grate
  • Enamel chips off the inner lid over time

This Lodge Sportsman grill is durable and made from cast iron, so it should last longer than the average user. It has a folding door in the front to regulate the cooking times and the temperature, and the unfussy design means it is simple to use and easy to store.

This really is BBQ design stripped back to an age when all that mattered was that it was sturdy and that you got a decent flame. 

The cooking grill comes in at 153 square inches, which for a travel / personal BBQ, isn’t as big as the Weber Go Anywhere Grill, but it has a pedigree and a 120-year tradition behind it. The Sportsman grill is the ultimate in small-batch cooking al fresco, whether with loved ones, friends and family, or during a big game with a couple of beers.

On the downside, for a travel BBQ, this thing is weighty: it tips the scales at almost 30 lbs, far surpassing the Weber Go Anywhere Grill that weighs just over half at 13.98 lbs. The cast iron, being a brittle metal, can crack in extreme heat or if the bolts are over-tightened. The warranty is also pretty weak.

Pros

  • Durable cast iron construction
  • Just need seasoning straight out of the box
  • Simple design
  • Temperature control door in the side

Cons

  • Extremely heavy
  • Brittle cast iron can crack in extreme heat and cooling situations
  • Short warranty

Comparison Chart

FEATURESWeber Kettle GrillChar-Griller Kamado GrillWeber Go Anywhere GrillLodge Cast Iron Sportsman Grill
Grill capacity363 sq inches153 sq inches160 sq inches153 sq inches
Vents 
Enameled lidXX
Portable XX
Price $$$$$$$
Dimensions 35.8 x 22.5 x 2720.5 x 21.5 x 25.312.2 x 21 x 14.519 x 8.2 x 10.2
Weight32.3 lbs37 lbs13.98 lbs27 lbs
Warranty 10-year1-year10-year1-year

Buyer’s Guide:

Charcoal BBQs

So, the family is due round any minute, the garden has been spruced up, and you’ve yet to light the BBQ. This is a scenario that is played out in homes across the land, and in some of those cases, grillmasters will simply light up their gas grill; for others, they settle in to light up their charcoal BBQ. Often, the coals can take over an hour to reach temperature, so knowing when to time the lighting is an art in itself. Also, a gas BBQ puts you in greater control, with adjustable burners, so it’s a bit like cooking on your stovetop outdoors. With a charcoal BBQ, you have to use vents and learn where the hottest spots on the grill are. Then you need to master the art of rotation because rotating the food around the grill area is the best way to ensure an even cook.

Pros
  • Cheaper to buy – Charcoal BBQs are excellent choices for beginners and those on a budget
  • Maintenance – Given that they have no moving parts, charcoal BBQs are easier to maintain
  • Less chance of things going wrong – Charcoal BBQs are simple in design and construction, so fewer things go wrong
  • Durability – Charcoal BBQs require little maintenance and yet are more durable
  • Flavor – Grilling food over charcoal will give it a very specific taste that many love
Cons
  • Take longer – You are going to have to accept that charcoal BBQs take longer to light
  • Less control – The control comes from vents and rotation cooking, which isn’t an exact science
  • Messy to clean up – Charcoal is dirty
  • Fire risk – Charcoal fires are not like controlled gas fires where they can be switched off and on.
Charcoal BBQ

Pros

  • Cheaper to buy
  • Easier to maintain
  • Less chance of malfunction
  • More durable
  • Flavor

Cons

  • Take longer to light
  • Harder to control
  • Messy to clean up
  • More of a fire risk

  • Can I add flavored wood chips to my charcoal BBQ?
  • Certainly: many different flavors are available from whiskey to sherry, and apple, and beer flavors. In fact, if you can think of a flavor, they’ve probably made one to suit your tastes. Typically, you buy them by the bag and then simply sprinkle a handful into the hot coals just before you add the meat to the grill. All that lovely flavor infuses with the smoke to give you the best-tasting ribs and steaks you’ve ever eaten.

  • Are Charcoal BBQs more durable?
  • Yes and no. We would always recommend storing your BBQ indoors or purchasing a weatherproof cover to prolong its life regardless of what variety it is. Gas BBQs are more prone to damage and breakdown, however, because they have more delicate moving parts. With a charcoal BBQ, you are still going to suffer damage, but it is more likely to be superficial, and less about the inner workings of the BBQ.

Final Thoughts

So, you’ve decided that the traditionalist method of a cookout is the way to go, but which BBQ do you select? Our HowToHome pick is the Weber Kettle Grill because it is the original and still the best. It comes in a variety of attractive colors, and the overall square inches of the cooking grate means that it offers the highest capacity.

Another excellent choice for your charcoal BBQ is the Char-Griller Kamado Grill, thanks to the design and the clever way it cooks like a convection oven by circulating the heat so you get a quicker cook while also using less charcoal. 

If you want to consider a less expensive option, then the Weber Go Anywhere Grill is a great pick because it is portable, so when you go away it comes with you, it has a decent grill space, and best of all, it comes with a 10-year warranty.

Whichever BBQ is the one for you, be happy you are joining the ranks of time-honored charcoal BBQ community.

Further Reading