×

Help us help you

If we have helped you become a better cook, please become a Pitmaster Club member and help us become a better website. Benefits for members include:

(1) Seminars with famous Pitmaster Professors
(2) Access to The Pit forum
(3) An all new expanded Temperature Guide Magnet
(4) Gold Medal Giveaways of free grills and smokers
(5) Support for Operation BBQ Relief
(6) Support for AmazingRibs.com!

Learn more about the Pitmaster Club

Not ready to subscribe yet? Return to AmazingRibs.com

bbq grill and accessories ad
AmazingRibs.com BBQ Logo

message from meathead

Meathead the Barbecue & Grilling Lover Cartoon

Get Smoke Signals,
our FREE e-letter.
No spam. Guaranteed. Enter your email:

bbq ad

http://tinyurl.com/amazingribs

If you like AmazingRibs.com, please save this link and use it every time you go to Amazon. Amazon and many other websites pay us a small referral fee when you click our links and purchase from them. It works on everything from grills to diapers, Amazon never tells us what you bought, it has zero impact on the price you pay, but has a major impact on our ability to improve this site!

Digital Thermometers:
Stop Guessing!

thermopop bbq thermometer

Gold BBQ AwardA good digital thermometer keeps me from serving dry overcooked food or dangerously undercooked food. You can get a professional grade, fast and precise splashproof thermometer like the Thermopop (above) for about $24. The Thermapen (below), the Ferrari of instant reads, is about $96. It's the one you see all the TV chefs and all the top competition pitmasters using. Click here to read more about types of thermometer and our ratings and reviews.

bbq thermapen

GrillGrates Take You To
The Infrared Zone

BBQ_grill_grates

Gold BBQ AwardGrillGrates(TM) amplify heat, prevent flareups, make flipping foods easier, produce great grill marks, keep small foods from committing suicide, kill hotspots, are easier to clean, flip over to make a fine griddle, smolder wood right below the meat, and can be easily removed and moved from one grill to another. You can even throw wood chips or pellets or sawdust between the rails and deliver a quick burst of smoke to whatever is above. Every gas grill and pellet smoker needs them.

Click here to read more about what makes these grates so special and how they compare to other cooking surfaces.

The Smokenator:
A Necessity For All Weber Kettles

smokenator bbq system

Gold BBQ Award If you have a Weber Kettle, you need the amazing Smokenator and Hovergrill. The Smokenator turns your grill into a first class smoker, and the Hovergrill can add capacity or be used to create steakhouse steaks.

Click here to read more.

The Pit Barrel Cooker

pit barrel c ooker bbqAbsolutely positively without a doubt the best bargain on a smoker in the world.

This baby will cook circles around the cheap offset sideways barrel smokers in the hardware stores because temperature control is so much easier (and that's because smoke and heat go up, not sideways).

Gold BBQ AwardBest of all, it is only $289 delivered to your door!

Click here to read our detailed review and the raves from people who own them.

scissor tongs

Best. Tongs. Ever.

Gold BBQ AwardMade of rugged 1/8" thick aluminum, 20" long, with four serious rivets, mine show zero signs of weakness after years of abuse. I use them on meats, hot charcoal, burning logs, and with the mechanical advantage that the scissor design creates, I can easily pick up a whole packer brisket. Click here to read more.

Amp Up The Smoke

mo's smoking pouch

Gold BBQ AwardMo's Smoking Pouch is essential for gas grills. It is an envelope of mesh 304 stainless steel that holds wood chips or pellets. The airspaces in the mesh are small enough that they limit the amount of oxygen that gets in so the wood smokes and never bursts into flame. Put it on top of the cooking grate, on the burners, on the coals, or stand it on edge at the back of your grill. It holds enough wood for about 15 minutes for short cooks, so you need to refill it or buy a second pouch for long cooks like pork shoulder and brisket. Mine has survived more than 50 cooks. Click for more info.

steak knives for bbq

The Best Steakhouse Knives

Gold BBQ AwardThe same knives used at Peter Luger, Smith & Wollensky, and Morton's. Machine washable, high-carbon stainless steel, hardwood handle. And now they have the AmazingRibs.com imprimatur. Click for more info.

tailgater magazine
digg

The 2014 AmazingRibs.com Top 10 Best Value Charcoal Grills

By Max Good

dancook grillYou can't beat the price of the iconic, Weber kettle for charcoal grilling, but each year there are more flavors to choose from. The Portable Kitchen Grill, with an indestructible aluminum body and cult following, has been around just as long as Weber. Who knew Denmark is a BBQ mecca where Dancook manufactures shiny stainless steel futuristic kettles with clever innovations? The Good-One makes a very clever heavy metal grill with a smoke box spliced on top, and they recently managed to improve quality and reduce prices while keeping their manufacturing in the US.

Most charcoal grills are relatively inexpensive, usually have very few moving parts to break, and the best are versatile: They can sear steaks, roast turkeys, and smoke ribs. They just require a little more skill than gas because you have to control the temperature with airflow instead of a dial or touchpad. You may get your hands dirty with charcoal and you do have to clean the ash out, but we'll let you in on a secret: You're supposed to clean your gas grill too.

The first rule is to disregard the inaccurate thermometers installed on most grills. To really know the temperature of the cooking surface you absolutely need a good digital thermometer.

We love our gas grills, but the fact remains that most backyard gas grills just can't generate the direct radiant heat needed to sear steaks and burgers to an all over rich brown. On the other hand, a $20 charcoal hibachi can, and the subtle flavor from coal is an added bonus. Click here to read more about the pros and cons of charcoal vs. gas.

For searing with charcoal, all you need is a charcoal tray with a cooking grate. For most other cooking, you need a solid firebox, dampers for air control, a snug lid, and tight construction to prevent unwanted oxygen from leaking in and overriding the dampers. The most important feature is the ability to set it up so there is a hot direct heat side and a not-so-hot convection heat side, called a 2-zone setup.

We know a lot of readers are passionate about their pellet cookers and kamados, especially owners of Big Green Eggs who are religious in their devotion. We think they are better at smoking than grilling and searing, and because they cannot easily be set up with two heat zones, they are reviewed in the smoker category, not in the grill category. I expect your irate comments, and I know how angry Egg owners can get, but we believe fervently that 2-zone cooking is a technique essential for good grilling. We have extensive experience with a wide range of cookers and we are confident in this decision.

Some other key features are easy access to the charcoal and easy ash removal. Click here to read a checklist of things to look for when shopping for a charcoal grill.

Much has been made of the difference between popular charcoal briquets and lump charcoal. Before you spend $50 on 20 pounds of Thai lump charcoal made from coconut shells, read how charcoal is made and how it works. You'll be pleased to learn that we recommend inexpensive briquets because they are easy to count and by counting, you can control temperature. Furthermore, established brands like Kingsford produce a very consistent product.

At AmazingRibs.com we have created a huge equipment reviews section with a searchable database with reviews and ratings of hundreds of smokers and grills. Click here to see the 52 charcoal grills that won our gold medal, 7 silver medals, and 9 bronze medals.

How we select our Top 10 Best Values

We rate and review as objectively as possible, measuring temperatures, slamming lids, turning dials, studying warranties, and kicking casters, but inevitably intangibles such as look and feel have to be considered. All the selections have won an AmazingRibs.com Best Value Award, and we consider them among the best of breed in their price category. Although value is a primary concern, we have included one luxurious dream cooker in each category because value is relative to the size of your bank account. They are listed in order of manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP), but actual prices are often lower depending on the store and time of year. Please click the red links to read our complete detailed review and find links to suppliers, many of whom sell well below MSRP.

 

weber one touch

Weber One-Touch Gold 22.5" Charcoal Grill $159

Gold AwardIf you want a family sized charcoal grill for less than $200 that can cook anything and will last forever, this is it. When George Stephen, Sr. introduced the Weber Kettle in 1952 he set America's backyards on fire. Today's design is not far from the original and it is by far the most popular backyard grill in the world. One feature added in more recent years is a very useful removable ash catcher that slides under the kettle. The large arched lid is big enough to accommodate roasts and turkeys, but disregard the built in heat indicator, it can be waaaay off. Get a good digital thermometer that you can bank on. For searing, Weber Kettles put most backyard gas grills to shame. Add a Smokenator and turn your Weber into a damn good smoker for ribs, pork, brisket and fish. Made in the USA. Click here to read our complete review of the Weber One-Touch Gold 22.5" Charcoal Grill.


pk

Portable Kitchen Grill (a.k.a. PK Grill) $300

Gold AwardAnother basic, elegant model that was introduced in 1952, the same year as the Weber Kettle, is the Portable Kitchen Grill. Ownership of manufacturer changed over the years but design and construction did not. They still have the original, thick cast aluminum body which retains and radiates heat efficiently. PKs never rust and older models often show up at garage sales or get passed along from one generation to the next. The flat bottom, rectangular shape, and unique damper placement of two on the lid and two in corresponding locations under the coal make PK particularly well suited for 2-zone cooking. PKs never achieved Weber's popularity, but they're still around today and continue to win over fans who love the durability, versatility and shiny retro-cool appearance. They can be lifted out of the cart for cleaning, camping, or tailgating. Made in the USA. Click here to read our complete review of the Portable Kitchen Grill (a.k.a. PK Grill).


weber performer

Weber Performer Platinum Charcoal Grill $349

Gold AwardWeber's Performer Series is the same great kettle as the One-Touch (above) mounted in a cart. Platinum is the biggest and most sophisticated Performer with a large cart that provides a good sized work surface, lower shelf and a removable LCD timer. The timer's a nice touch, but we decide when food is done by its internal temperature with a digital thermometer, not a clock. A small propane burner under the charcoal grate makes firing up the Platinum almost as easy as starting a gas grill. Made in the USA. Click here to read our complete review of the Weber Performer Platinum Charcoal Grill.


char_broil_940

Char-Broil CB940X Charcoal Grill $399

Best in BBQ Silver MedalThis is the one model in our Top Ten that sticks out like a sore thumb. Construction isn't the greatest, it has uncoated cast iron grates that rust and require additional maintenance and one of the weakest warranties you'll find. But if you just need a large capacity charcoal grill (26 burger capacity) that will last a few years, the CB940X deserves your attention. It's has a couple of nice features we like: An adjustable charcoal tray brings the coal right up under the cook surface for fast searing and drops it down to the bottom for slow roasting. Bank the coals to one side for 2-zone cooking and drop it down for smoking. A large front door gives easy access to replenish coal, remove ash with a slide-out tray, and two big wooden side shelves provide ample work space. Don't pay list price! The link above takes you to our review. Scroll down to the "Where to Buy" section and you can find it for as little as $299. Click here to read our complete review of the Char-Broil CB940X Charcoal Grill.


dancook charcoal

Dancook 1900 Charcoal Grill $450

Gold AwardThis sharp looking Flying Saucer Grill is about the same size as a Weber 22.5" kettle. Instead of Weber's single wall bowl with a charcoal grate, Dancook has a double wall. A stainless steel "liner" floats inside the gray powder coated aluminum bowl shown above. After cooking one removes the inner liner to dump ash. Dancook has been made in Denmark since the early 1990s. Danes love cooking outdoors and have embraced American BBQ with a passion. In fact Denmark is Weber's #1 export market per capita. In 2011 Char-Broil bought Dancook and placed it under the care of their Saber division. Dancook's quality construction, great performance and appealing fit and finish are a match made in heaven for Saber's premium grill line. Still Made in Denmark. Click here to read our complete review of the Dancook 1900 Charcoal Grill.


meadow creek

Meadow Creek PR36 $725

Gold AwardWith superb construction and excellent design, Meadow Creek Grills and Smokers have been hand-made in New Holland, PA, by Amish craftsmen since 1980. These babies are built solidly with heavy gauge steel to last a lifetime. Meadow Creek is a favorite among BBQ competition teams for high quality and reasonable price. They make a variety of big trailer mounted smokers and some features from the pro models are present on this backyard cooker. You'll be grilling in no time flat with Meadow Creek and if you start to feel adventurous, the PR36 can be a great smoker as well if you bank the coals to one side. The 525 square inch stainless steel grate provides plenty of cooking surface and it comes with a second grate that can be placed above the main one, doubling capacity. It can even handle a small whole hog. Made in the USA. Click here to read our complete review of the Meadow Creek PR36.


napoleon mirage charcoal grill

Napoleon Mirage PRO605CSS Charcoal Grill $999

Gold AwardIf you're committed to charcoal, but envious of your neighbor's shiny gasser, Mirage may be the answer. Only a few premium and luxury brands offer stainless steel charcoal grills. Mirage is one of the more beautiful models we've seen in this price range. Canadian manufacturer, Napoleon produces high quality BBQ equipment that often has unique features like the rear charcoal rotisserie burner found on this model. The adjustable charcoal grate makes it easy to drop the fire low for smoking and roasting, or lift it right below the grates for a screaming hot sear on steaks. This is a good size grill that can handle 29 burgers at a pop, or be set up for 2-zone cooking with ample capacity for ribs or roasts on the indirect side. Click here to read our complete review of the Napoleon Mirage PRO605CSS Charcoal Grill.


the good one

The Good-One Open Range $1,099

Gold AwardThe Good-One Open Range is a charcoal grill with a smoke chamber attached. The grill sits low in front and doubles as a firebox for the smoke chamber which is spliced on above and behind so it can work like a horizontal offset smoker only better. By placing the heat source under the smokebox instead of off to the side, Open Range produces even temperature from left to right, something almost impossible to achieve with a standard barrel offset. The Open Range has 360 square inches of primary cooking surface in the lower chamber and another 360 square inches in the rear chamber. Made in the USA. Click here to read our complete review of The Good-One Open Range.


hasty bake gourmet

Hasty-Bake Gourmet 256 Dual Finish Charcoal Grill $1,399

Gold AwardThe first Hasty-Bakes were built in 1948 and the design remains much the same. No need to fix what ain't broken. The adjustable coal tray moves up and down with a crank on the left side. A large door on the right side gives complete access to the charcoal tray to easily add coal and move it around for 2-zone cooking. There is a removable heat deflector above the coal grate to improve indirect cooking. In addition to the 522 square inches of main cooking surface, it has an upper rack and a glass window to keep an eye on the food inside. Hasty-Bakes are made to last and many families hold onto them for generations. The company even offers restoration on old models. Our president, Meathead, says it is his favorite grill. Period. Made in the USA. Click here to read our complete review of the Hasty-Bake Gourmet 256 Dual Finish Charcoal Grill.


grillworks 36

BONUS MONEY IS NO OBJECT SELECTION:
Grillworks 36 $4,575

Gold AwardGrillworks creates a wide variety of vertical lift grills for residential and commercial use. Many of the new wood fired restaurants use their commercial units. The Grillworks 36 is their most popular backyard model. Cooking grates are suspended from a crankshaft above the fire tray. Heat is controlled by moving the grates closer to, or away from the fire with a large cast aluminum wheel. Many in the USA refer to this design as a Santa Maria Grill after the namesake California town where it became popular. Grillworks uses Argentine style V-shaped grates that collect juices from meat and divert them to a removable catch pan that runs across the front. Wine, herbs and oils may be added to the catch pan to mix with these juices for basting and sauces. Although you can use charcoal with Grillworks, wood fire is recommended for unbeatable flavor and aroma. Made in the USA. Click here to read our complete review of the Grillworks 36.

 


Please read this before posting a comment or question

grouchy?1) Please use the table of contents or the search box at the top of every page before you ask for help, then please post your question on the appropriate page.

2) Please tell us everything we need to know to answer your question such as the type of cooker and thermometer you are using. Dial thermometers are often off by as much as 50°F so if you are not using a good digital thermometer we probably can't help you. Please read this article about thermometers.

3) If you post a photo, wait a minute for a thumbnail to appear. It will happen even if you don't see it happen.

4) Click here to learn more about our comment system and our privacy promise. Remember, your login info for comments is probably different from your Pitmaster Club login info if you are a member.

Moderators

LeaderDog.org Ad on BBQ site

About this website. AmazingRibs.com is all about the science of barbecue, grilling, and outdoor cooking, with great BBQ recipes, tips on technique, and unbiased equipment reviews. Learn how to set up your grills and smokers properly, the thermodynamics of what happens when heat hits meat, as well as hundreds of excellent tested recipes including all the classics: Baby back ribs, spareribs, pulled pork, beef brisket, burgers, chicken, smoked turkey, lamb, steaks, barbecue sauces, spice rubs, and side dishes, with the world's best buying guide to barbecue smokers, grills, accessories, and thermometers, edited by Meathead.

This site is brought to you by readers like you who support us with their membership in our Pitmaster Club. Click here to learn more about benefits to membership.

Advertising on this site. AmazingRibs.com is by far the most popular barbecue website in the world and one of the 50 most popular food websites in the US according to comScore, Quantcast, Compete, and Alexa. Visitors and pageviews increase rapidly every year. Click here for analytics and advertising info.

© Copyright 2014 by AmazingRibs, Inc. AmazingRibs.com is published by AmazingRibs, Inc., a Florida Corporation. Unless otherwise noted, all text, recipes, photos, and computer code are owned by AmazingRibs, Inc. and fully protected by US copyright law. This means that unless you have written permission to publish or distribute anything on this website you have committed a Federal crime. But we're easy. To get reprint rights, just click here. You do not need permission to link to this website. Note. Some photos of commercial products such as grills were provided by the manufacturers and are under their copyright.