AmazingRibs.com is supported by our Pitmaster Club. Also, when you buy with links on our site we may earn a finder’s fee. Click to see how we test and review products.

Charcoal Grills And Wood Burning Grills: Buying Guide, Reviews, And Ratings

charcoal

Click Here To Search Reviewed And Rated Charcoal And Wood Burning Grills

Charcoal grills and wood burning grills are less expensive than gas, produce more smoke and therefore better flavor, and, with the exception of gas grills with small sear burners, charcoal and wood burn hotter, so they are better for searing steaks.

Here are some of the things to look for when considering a charcoal grill and links to related articles that will inform your decision to help you make a choice that will suit your cooking needs and budget. At the bottom of the page is a link that will take you to all the all the charcoal grills and wood burning grills currently in our database.

Important features on charcoal grills

Start your shopping by doing some reading. How to Buy a Grill is a detailed checklist of things to look for and things to look out for on all grills. Then read my article pitting the pros and cons of charcoal grills vs. gas grills will help you decide which is best for you. Even if you think your mind is made up, this article exposes the strengths and weaknesses of both systems.

My article on the thermodynamics of cooking will explain the different types of heat and how they impact food and what is important to know about heat before you make a choice. It will also explain how charcoal grills cook.

You should also check out charcoal smokers because many of them are also good at grilling.

Temperature control. You cannot be a good cook unless you know your oven temp and can control it. Indoors, your oven can be set for a temp and it will stay pretty close to it. Outdoors? Good luck! Temperature control on charcoal grills depends on: A lid, dampers, the ability to adjust the distance between the coals and the food, thermometers, and practice.

Lid. You must have a lid to capture heat, and the tighter it fits, the better. Click here for an article about when to cook with the lid on or the lid off.

Dampers. Charcoal grills need at least two dampers, an intake and an exhaust. You control the temperature primarily with the intake damper. That’s how the oxygen gets in to feed or choke the fire. Make sure the damper fits tightly so you can accurately choke off oxygen when you want to lower the temp. Most of the time you will leave the exhaust damper wide open so smoke and gases can exhaust. Click here to read my article on using the dampers.

Adjustable. Another way to control temp is by raising and lowering the charcoal. Temperature drops off as the coals drop down. I love to start cooking burgers and many other meats on a low temperature and then at the end, raise the coals and sear the surface to create the deep complex flavors that occur with the Maillard reaction and caramelization. Click here to read my article on cooking temperatures.

Thermometers. Cooking without good digital thermometers is like driving at night without headlights. Dial thermometers are technology from the 1800s. Without good digital thermometers there’s a good chance you’ll be making lame excuses for overcooked meat, undercooked meat, or, worst of all, apologies in the hospital as your guests recover from food-borne illness. Thermometers pay for themselves in a hurry. Here’s what you need to know about thermometers for grills and smokers as well as food thermometers.

2-zone cooking capability. One of the most important techniques an outdoor cook must learn is how to create a 2-zone setup. This allows you to move the food off the flame into a cooler area where it roasts from convection and indirect heat. To do this you need to be able to push the coals to one side. So a good grill must have space to move the coals to one side. If your grill doesn’t allow 2-zone cooking, you will be handicapped. First read my article on 2-zone setup and then read my article on how to set up a charcoal grill for 2-zone cooking.

Access to charcoal. It is important to be able to easily add more charcoal or move the charcoal around. Some grills have a door that allows you to add charcoal or move it around. This is a very nice idea for helping you keep temp under control.

Ash removal. It is nice to have a good ash removal system. Ash is an excellent insulator, so if you don’t remove it, it will absorb heat and reduce performance.

Grates. You want a good cooking surface, and often the cheap wire grills are the best choice. Cast iron? A pain to maintain, and they mistreat the surface of meat. Yes, I know you’ve been told just the opposite and you really don’t want to have me bust the cast iron mystique, but they are rarely a good choice. You want something that doesn’t block radiant heat and airflow and doesn’t darken just parts of the meat. Grill marks are overrated. You want an all over even color. Click here to read my guide to grill grates. Click here to read my discussion of how to clean them.

Click here to see all the charcoal grills and wood burning grills in our database

Related articles

Published On: 11/14/2014 Last Modified: 4/21/2021

  • Meathead - Founder and publisher of AmazingRibs.com, Meathead is known as the site's Hedonism Evangelist and BBQ Whisperer. He is also the author of the New York Times Best Seller "Meathead, The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling", named one of the "100 Best Cookbooks of All Time" by Southern Living.


If you help us, we’ll pay you back bigtime with an ad-free experience and much more!

Millions come to AmazingRibs.com every month for quality tested recipes, tips on technique, science, mythbusting, product reviews, and inspiration. But it is expensive to run a website with more than 4,000 pages and we don’t have a big corporate partner like TV network or a magazine publisher to subsidize us.

Our most important source of sustenance is people who join our Pitmaster Club, but please don’t think of it as a donation. Members get 21 great benefits. We block all third-party ads, we give members free ebooks, magazines, interviews, webinars, more recipes, a monthly sweepstakes with prizes worth up to $2,000, discounts on products, and best of all a community of like-minded cooks free of flame wars. Click below to see all the benefits, take a free 30 day trial membership, and help keep this site alive.


Post comments and questions below

grouchy?

1) Please try the search box at the top of every page before you ask for help.

2) Try to post your question to the appropriate page.

3) Tell us everything we need to know to help such as the type of cooker and thermometer. 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 with time and temp questions. Please read this article about thermometers.

4) If you are a member of the Pitmaster Club, your comments login is probably different.

5) Posts with links in them may not appear immediately.

Moderators

  Max

Click for comments...

How to start a charcoal fire properly

One method is best, one method is worst, the others, meh. Click here to read my article on how to get your coal lit properly.

grill gloves

Accessories, toys, tools, gadgets

Once you have your new grill, you need heat resistant gloves, and other tools and toys that make you a better outdoor cook. Click here to read my recommended BBQ accessories and gadgets.

Giotti Ceramic Grill

The most beautiful grills ever?

While wandering the side streets of Florence, Italy, in fall 2008, I stumbled across Giotti Ceramiche, a store selling beautiful ceramics, among them were several magnificent ceramic grills. These may be the most beautiful grills I’ve ever seen. They ship to the US.

Spotlight

These are not ads or paid placements. These are some of our favorite tools and toys.

These are products we have tested, won our top awards, and are highly recommend. Click here to read how we test, about our medals, and what they mean.

Use Our Links To Help Keep Us Alive

A big part of this site is our unbiased equipment and product reviews. We love playing with toys and we have no problem calling them the way we see them. Some companies pay a finder’s fee if a reader clicks a link on AmazingRibs.com and buys a product. It has zero impact on our reviews, zero impact on the price you pay, and the sites never tell us what you bought, but it has a major impact on our ability to keep this site alive! So before you buy, please click our links. Here’s a link that takes you to a page on Amazon that has some of our favorite tools and toys: https://tinyurl.com/amazingribs


Grilla Pellet Smoker proves good things come in small packages

We always liked Grilla. The small 31.5″ x 29.5″ footprint makes it ideal for use where BBQ space is limited, as on a condo patio.
Click here for our review on this unique smoker


Compact Powerful Sear Machine For Your Next Tailgater


Char-Broil’s Grill2Go x200 is a super-portable, fun little sizzler made of heavy, rust-proof cast aluminum. The lid snaps shut. Grab the handle and you’re off to the party! Char-Broil’s TRU-Infrared design produces searing heat while reducing fuel consumption. A 16 ounce LP gas canister is enough to keep you flipping burgers for hours.

Click here to read our detailed review and to order


GrillGrates Take Gas Grills To The Infrared Zone


GrillGrates(TM) amplify heat, prevent flareups, make flipping foods easier, kill hotspots, flip over to make a fine griddle, and can be easily moved from one grill to another. You can even throw wood chips, pellets, or sawdust between the rails and deliver a quick burst of smoke.

Click here for more about what makes these grates so special


Masterbuilt MPS 340/G ThermoTemp XL Propane Smoker


This is the first propane smoker with a thermostat, making this baby foolproof. Set ThermoTemp’s dial from 175° to 350°F and the thermostat inside will adjust the burner just like an indoor kitchen oven. All you need to do is add wood to the tray above the burner to start smokin’.

Click here to read our detailed review


The Undisputed Champion!

Thermapen One Instant Read Thermometer

ThermoWorks’ Thermapen ONE provides an accurate reading in one second or less. The ONE also includes features that are common on high-end instruments: automatic backlight, rotating display, and water resistant seals. Don’t accept cheap substitutes.
Click here to read our comprehensive Platinum Medal review


Is This Superb Charcoal Grill A Kamado Killer?


The PK-360, with 360 square inches of cooking space, this rust free, cast aluminum charcoal grill is durable and easy to use. Four-way venting means it’s easy to set up for two zone cooking with more control than single vent Kamado grills. It is beautifully designed, completely portable, and much easier to set up for 2-zone cooking than any round kamado.

Click here to read our detailed review of the PK 360

Click here to order directly and get an exclusive AmazingRibs.com deal


Bring The Heat With Broil King Signet’s Dual Tube Burners

3 burner gas grill

The Broil King Signet 320 is a modestly priced, 3-burner gas grill that packs a lot of value and power under the hood. Broil King’s proprietary, dual-tube burners get hot fast and are able to achieve high, searing temps that rival most comparatively priced gas grills. The quality cast aluminum housing carries a Limited Lifetime Warranty.

Click here to read our complete review