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The 2015 AmazingRibs.com Top 10 Best Value Charcoal Grills

In 2015 Weber changed the names of several popular charcoal grills and added a few new features. Don't worry though, they are still the great iconic kettles you grew up with. You can't beat the quality and price of a Weber kettle for charcoal grilling, but each year there are more competitors to consider. Napoleon, from Canada, offers their own, souped up take on the classic design. The Portable Kitchen Grill, with an indestructible aluminum body and cult following (and we are among them), has been around just as long as Weber and is on our list for the third year in a row.

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. Click here to read more about the pros and cons of charcoal vs. gas.

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.

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 roasting and smoking than grilling and searing because they cannot easily be set up with two heat zones, so they are reviewed in the smoker category, not in the grill category. We expect your irate comments, and we 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. But go ahead and send us your flames anyway.

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 81 charcoal grills that won our gold medal, 16 silver medals, and 11 bronze medals.

Weber 22-inch kettle grill

Weber Original Kettle Premium 22" Charcoal Grill $159 - 3rd Year On Our List!

If 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. In 2015 Weber made a few tweaks to this classic kettle and changed the name from One-Touch Gold 22.5" to Premium 22". They maintain the actual size has not changed and the grate continues to provide 363 square inch cook surface. 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 Original Kettle Premium 22" Charcoal Grill.

Napoleon 22-inch charcoal grill

Napoleon NK22CK-L Charcoal Kettle Grill $189 - New

It's hard to beat a Weber kettle, but Napoleon holds its own and adds a few interesting wrinkles to the recipe like a removable, convex, steel heat diffuser that rests in the center of the coal grate to distribute heat away from the middle of the cooking grate. This evens temperature across the round cook surface. And for added stability, Napoleon throws in a fourth leg. Like Weber it has hinged, steel rod grates so you can replenish coal without removing food and a damper at the bottom that connects to a removable ash catcher. Click here to read our complete review of the Napoleon NK22CK-L Charcoal Kettle Grill.

PK Charcoal grill

Portable Kitchen Grill (a.k.a. PK Grill) $369 (shipping included) - 3rd Year On Our List!

Another basic, elegant model that was introduced in 1952, the same year as the Weber Kettle, is the Portable Kitchen Grill. Ownership changed over the years, and production stopped for a while, but when they came back recently the design and construction are pretty much the same. 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 cookingor even 3 zone cooking as well as smoking. They can be lifted out of the cart for cleaning, camping, or tailgating. PKs continue to win over fans who love the durability, versatility and shiny retro-cool appearance. Made in the USA. Click here to read our complete review of the Portable Kitchen Grill (a.k.a. PK Grill).


Char-Broil CB940X Charcoal Grill $399 - 3rd Year On Our List!

This 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 - 2nd Year On Our List!

This 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

Weber Performer Deluxe 22-inch grill

Weber Performer Deluxe 22" Charcoal Grill $499 - 3rd Year On Our List!

Weber's Performer Series is the same great kettle as the Original Kettle Premium 22" Grill mounted in a cart. Deluxe 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. In 2015 Weber made some changes to their line of classic charcoal kettles. Weber's Gourmet Barbecue System, a hinged grate with removable center that accepts inserts like woks and pizza stones, became standard for all Performers. A small propane burner under the charcoal grate makes firing up the Deluxe almost as easy as starting a gas grill. Made in the USA. Click here to read our complete review of the Weber Performer Deluxe 22" Charcoal Grill

meadow creek

Meadow Creek PR36 $755 - 3rd Year On Our List!

With 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 - 3rd Year On Our List!

If 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 - 3rd Year On Our List!

The 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 - 3rd Year On Our List!

The 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.

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

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