The big news is that an exciting new charcoal grill from Portable Kitchen breaks into our Best Value Charcoal Grills List for 2017. We're in love with the new Portable Kitchen PK360 which grabs the considerable charms of their original cast aluminum model from 1952 to shape a bigger, better and more beautiful grill. Scroll down to take a look at both models. Also from 1952 and returning to our list in 2017 are two Weber Kettles. No Best Charcoal Grills list would be complete without these iconic affordable grills that BBQ aficionados around the world have known and loved for generations. Char-Broil's Kettleman is an interesting and effective grill that borrows some design elements from their Danish Dancook Grills at a much lower price point and both are back for 2017. Canadian manufacturer, Napoleon, also owns three spots with their own, souped-up take on Weber's Kettle design and their shiny stainless steel Mirage Charcoal Grill that looks like a gasser in an outdoor kitchen.
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.
For searing with charcoal, all you need is a charcoal tray with a cooking grate. Hibachis do just fine. For quality 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.
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 with fewer unexpected flavors.
What's missing from this list
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 Top 10 Best Value 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 flaming emails if you want.
Also, there are some superb charcoal grills in our Top 10 Best Value Multifunction Grills and Smokers category. They do it all.
How we review and rate grills and smokers
I am the only person in the world whose full time job is testing, researching, reviewing, and rating grills and smokers. Not a bad gig! I measure temperatures, slam lids, turn dials, study warranties, kick casters, and cook a lot of food, and consider look, feel, and price. I try to select devices that cover a range of prices, endeavoring to offer you a winner at whatever you can afford. We think these selections are Best Values in their price category. The thumbnail reviews in our Top 10 Lists are in order of manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP), but actual prices can differ significantly, especially since many of these items can be highly customized. Please click the red links to read our complete detailed reviews and find links to suppliers, many of whom sell well below MSRP. In addition to our Top 10 Lists, we have a huge searchable Ratings & Reviews database with hundreds of smokers and grills.
It is a disappointment that so many manufacturers continue to include cheap bimetal dial heat indicators (we can't bring ourselves to call them thermometers). They are usually in the lid, far from where the cooking actually takes place and are frequently off by more than 50°F! Good cooking is all about temperature control. Without accurate thermometers you're asking for wasted money, overdone embarrassment, and food borne illness from underdone food. Please budget for a good digital oven thermometer and a separate rapid read digital food thermometer. For more info, we also have a database of reviews for more than 100 thermometers.
Char-Broil Kettleman TRU-Infrared 22.5" Charcoal Grill $150 - 2nd Year On Our List!
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 less than 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 heat 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 Premium 22" Charcoal Grill $159 – 5th 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". The actual size has not changed and the grate continues to provide a 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. 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. Click here to read our complete review of the Weber Premium 22" Charcoal Grill.
Napoleon NK22CK-L Charcoal Kettle Grill $189 - 3rd 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) - 5th 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 were 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. Sound good? Take a look at the new 2017 PK360 below. Costs more, but wait 'til you see it! Click here to read our complete review of the Portable Kitchen Grill (a.k.a. PK Grill).
Char-Broil CB940X Charcoal Grill $350 - 5th 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 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. We'd love it even more if they'd spiff it up a bit. Click here to read our complete review of the Char-Broil CB940X Charcoal Grill.
The Napoleon NK22CK-C Charcoal Kettle Grill is another that pays homage to the classic 22" 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 steel cart with a fold out stainless steel shelf and four casters. Click here to read our complete review of the Napoleon NK22CK-C Charcoal Kettle Grill.
Dancook 1900 Charcoal Grill $450 - 4th Year On Our List!
This sharp looking Flying Saucer Grill is about the same size as a Weber 22" 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. Click here to read our complete review of the Dancook 1900 Charcoal Grill
Weber Performer Deluxe 22" Charcoal Grill $499 - 5th Year On Our List!
Weber's Performer Series is the same great kettle as the Original Kettle Premium 22" Grill mounted in a cart and with some important convenience features. Deluxe is the biggest and most sophisticated Performer with a large cart that provides a good sized work surface, lower shelf, a removable LCD timer, an easy ash removal system that keeps your hands clean, a propane ignition system, tool hooks, a lid holder, and a bin to hold your charcoal bag and keep it dry. 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. Click here to read our complete review of the Weber Performer Deluxe 22" Charcoal Grill.
The Portable Kitchen PK360 Grill and Smoker takes all the great elements of the classic 1952 PK Grill (above), tweaks and improves the design, beefs up construction and delivers one of the more cosmetically beautiful charcoal grills we've seen. With 360 square inches primary cook surface the grill box is larger than the 300 square inch Classic model above, but retains the characteristic flat bottom and rectangular shape with the unique configuration of bottom left and right adjustable air intake dampers and corresponding top left and right exhaust dampers, a set up that has always made Portable Kitchen king of the two zones. Click here to read more about the importance of 2-zone cooking.The heavy cast aluminum construction and marine grade stainless steel cooking and charcoal grates provide superior performance and should last forever. Click here to read our complete review of the Portable Kitchen PK360 Grill and Smoker.
Napoleon Mirage PRO605CSS Charcoal Grill $1,299 - 5th 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.