2016 Top 10 Best Value Charcoal Grills
Once again that good old affordable Weber Kettle that BBQ lovers around the world have known and loved for generations retains a solid slot for 2016 on our Best Value Charcoal Grills List. This year Char-Broil's Kettleman breaks into our Top Ten with an interesting and effective grill that borrows some design elements from their Danish Dancook Grills, (also on this list) at a much lower price point. Canadian manufacturer, Napoleon, returns for the second year with their own, souped-up takes on classic Weber Kettle designs. The Portable Kitchen Grill, with an indestructible aluminum body and cult following (we are among them), has been around just as long as Weber and is on our list for the fourth year in a row.
Weber's new Summit Charcoal Grills are poised to shake up the residential market but despite the name, they are not on this list. They appear on our new 2016 Top 10 Multifunction Grills And Smokers list because they do both equally well. While you definitely should check out our review and see why we're so excited about this bold new Summit, the premium pricing in line with Weber's Summit Gas Grills will place it beyond the budget of many. We have also removed two excellent grills from this list and moved them to our new multifunction list: The Good-One Open Range and the Hasty-Bake Gourmet 256 Dual Finish Charcoal Grill.
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, 21 silver medals, and 10 bronze medals.
Forget about hot spots and flare-ups with Char-Broil's Kettleman Charcoal Grill. You can cover the 22.5" round grate with greasy burgers and never see a lick of flame from the red hot coals below. Priced just under Weber's iconic Premium 22" grill, Kettleman doesn't succeed in knocking the King from the throne, but offers an easy to use alternative with a couple appealing extras. Kettleman hasn't been around long, but early adaptors seem uniformly pleased with their decision to buy it. While we prefer the superior air control and open architecture cooking grate of Weber, those who struggle with charcoal will find relief with Kettlman's radiant design. It works as advertised; easy to use, no flare-ups, even heat, retains moisture in foods, and the unique air intake holes that surround the coal grate turn Kettleman into a pretty decent smoker without the need for add-on devices. Click here to read our complete review of the Char-Broil Kettleman TRU-Infrared 22.5" Charcoal Grill.
Weber Original Kettle Premium 22" Charcoal Grill $159 – 4th 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 2016 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 Slow 'N Sear 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 NK22CK-L Charcoal Kettle Grill $189 - 2nd Year On Our List!
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.
Portable Kitchen Grill (a.k.a. PK Grill) $369 (shipping included) - 4th 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 cooking or 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 - 4th 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. Click here to read our complete review of the Char-Broil CB940X Charcoal Grill.
The Napoleon NK22CK-C Charcoal Kettle Grill pays homage once again to the classic 22 inch Weber Kettle, while putting some fresh touches on the familiar and popular design. Lid, cooking grates and coal grates are the most notable differences. The NK22CK-C uses hinged, coated cast iron grates with three-level height adjustments, allowing you to move the cook surface right down above the fire for searing or up high for lower temp cooking. The lid is also hinged with a handle on the front, and spins in a rotary motion 180 degrees. Charcoal sits on a steel grate with a removable stainless steel heat diffuser and stainless charcoal baskets for indirect cooking. The NK22CK-C sits on a small steel cart with a fold out stainless steel shelf and four casters. Click here to read our complete review of the Napoleon NK22CK-L Charcoal Kettle Grill.
Dancook 1900 Charcoal Grill $450 - 3rd 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" Charcoal Grill $499 - 4th 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 PR36 $755 - 4th 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 PRO605CSS Charcoal Grill $1,299 - 4th 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.