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Visions of tasty yard cookouts by no means stop it doesn’t matter what season it’s. It is at all times a good time to up your out of doors cooking sport through the use of the very best charcoal grill you will discover. A charcoal grill would possibly sound much less luxurious than a gas grill, however in relation to taste, the very best charcoal grills completely compete. 

Charcoal grills are additionally usually extra inexpensive than their gasoline counterparts, making them choice for tight budgets and newbie grillers. They’re usually simpler to arrange than a gasoline grill, too. All you want for charcoal grilling is a lighter, a bag of charcoal and your favourite substances. Very quickly you may be reaping the rewards of a simple meal with true smoky taste. 

From cart-style to kettle-style, feature-filled grills to ones that supply the naked minimal, we examined 9 charcoal grills with chicken, ribs and steak to seek out out that are the very best bets on your subsequent yard barbecue. We’ll replace this record periodically.

Finest charcoal grills

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At $139, Weber’s authentic, kettle-style charcoal grill continues to face the take a look at of time. In our high-heat searing assessments, Weber delivered the very best steadiness of seared exterior and medium-rare inside steak. The Weber kettle grill gave us tasty rooster too, with crispy rooster pores and skin. The Weber may also smoke low and gradual at a rock-steady cooking temperature. That translated to noticeably flavorful ribs. 

Easy development means there aren’t too many elements to assemble or too many options to deal with whereas cooking. A vent on the lid controls airflow and a well-designed ash tray beneath the Weber grill facilitates simple cleanup. 

We examined the 22-inch Weber charcoal grill in black, however Weber additionally gives an 18-inch model of its authentic kettle design. There are actually fancier and costlier grills to make use of for cooking, however for a steadiness of affordability and high quality, you possibly can’t go fallacious with this basic. That is the very best charcoal grill total.

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The Nexgrill Cart-Fashion Charcoal Grill is a compelling various to the Weber, particularly for those who favor a cart-style yard cooker. That design provides you a useful facet tray and extra cooking floor room. In actual fact, at 572 sq. inches, this up to date bigger grill has much more cooking house than the earlier model, which supplied 390 sq. inches. It is also so much in contrast with the Weber’s 363-square-inch cooking space.

The Nexgrill undoubtedly will get scorching sufficient to create a pleasant sear, however you do must work a bit of more durable than you do with the Weber to keep away from overcooking your meat. We suggest the reverse searing method for thicker cuts. You may as well elevate the Nexgrill’s adjustable charcoal tray basket to its highest place. That manner you may get a seared crust as rapidly as potential. 

In our medium, indirect-heat rooster assessments, the Nexgrill delivered flavorful, juicy meat as an in depth second to the Weber. Ribs had been tender, juicy and achieved in just below 5 hours. And this up to date mannequin, after we used the charcoal snake method, demonstrated temperature management nearly pretty much as good because the Weber. 

Cart-style grills aren’t for everybody. They’re bulkier, the meeting is extra concerned and you may seemingly want extra gasoline to maintain the bigger house at a excessive temperature. Our outcomes, nevertheless, had been nearly pretty much as good as with the kettle-style Weber, so for those who’re involved in a cart-style charcoal BBQ, that is your greatest wager.


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How we take a look at

Testing charcoal grills requires a variety of hands-on cooking, and your outcomes will clearly range primarily based in your approach and substances, amongst different elements. Relying on the season and the way your charcoal grill is ready up, your expertise cooking and grilling will seemingly be very completely different from ours. For instance, a kettle-style charcoal grill left within the July solar all day will run so much hotter than it’ll within the cooler spring months. 

Additionally, a be aware about grill thermometers. Not one of the hood thermometers constructed into these grills mirrored the temperatures recorded by our personal thermocouples and knowledge software program. It is not unusual for grill thermometers to learn excessive, so we suggest preserving an oven thermometer or Bluetooth thermometer useful whilst you’re grilling, both on your meat or for the grill’s temperature itself.

Excessive-heat searing with steak

To check excessive warmth, we seared two steaks on every grill. We measured charcoal in a chimney by grams, and in a ratio for that grill’s particular floor space. We lit the charcoal contained in the chimney, letting it burn till the smoke dissipated and the coals started to show grayish-white, then put the charcoal into the grill. After the grill was heated up for 10 minutes, the steaks had been able to hit the grill grate. 


As soon as the grates had been scorching, we put two steaks on every grill. 

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We positioned two steaks on every grilling grate close to the middle and seared them for 5 minutes earlier than flipping them over and searing for one more 5 minutes. With , dependable grill, this will provide you with a steak with a seared exterior and a medium uncommon to medium middle. If you happen to favor meat that is extra properly achieved, you possibly can prolong the cooking time, or sear and end cooking in an oven. 


Excessive-heat searing was our first grill take a look at. 

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The very best charcoal grill for steak searing in our lineup was the Weber Basic Kettle. The steak had good grill marks whereas preserving a medium doneness on the within. The worst was our Tacklife overview unit, which did not maintain a lot warmth and did not sear whereas cooking. The steak on that grill wanted a further 5 minutes to get to a temperature of 135 F, the minimal for medium uncommon. 

Rooster and oblique, medium warmth

Subsequent, we examined every grill’s medium warmth cooking functionality by roasting complete chickens. The trick right here is to maintain the grills at a scorching sufficient temperature to cook dinner a rooster for upwards of two hours. 

For our assessments, every grill will get a full chimney of lit charcoal and a 6-pound rooster reverse the coals for oblique warmth. 


Every grill obtained a chimney of scorching charcoal. 

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Cooking over charcoal takes longer than cooking with a gasoline grill, and we usually want so as to add extra gasoline throughout cooking to maintain our grills above 350 levels F for the total period. Our favourite fowl from this batch was the one cooked on the Weber, although it was a tricky name. The fowl cooked on the Nexgrill cart-style grill got here in proper behind, an in depth second by way of taste and texture.


We cooked rooster over oblique warmth till it reached an inner temperature of 165 levels F. 

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The distinction between the 2 was largely within the crispiness of the pores and skin, with the Weber producing the superior outcomes. Meat from the Nexgrill was scrumptious, with only a bit extra taste than the Weber. Between them, I might say it largely will depend on your finances and what model of grill you favor for different meats like burgers or steak. Weber actually had the superior sear in that class. 

Low-and-slow ribs

Our final take a look at is grilling barbecued ribs, particularly child again pork ribs. This model of cooking requires strict temperature management over a interval of a number of hours. Ideally, a high quality charcoal grill (or any smoker) will preserve its hearth buzzing alongside near 225 levels F for so long as potential. 


Stack your charcoal briquettes in two rows of two deep alongside the interior wall of the grill.

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First, we arrange every grill for a low-and-slow burn, utilizing the charcoal snake method. Within the case of kettle fashions, we prepare coals in a semicircle across the grill’s interior wall. The charcoal briquettes (Kingsford Blue) type a line two coals large and two coals deep. We additionally drop a number of chunks of smokewood on prime of the snake (aka fuse). On cart-style grills, we modify the snake to run in proper angles to match their rectangular-shaped fireboxes. 

Subsequent, we mild every grill’s snake at one finish of the chain with 5 lit briquettes (tumbleweed hearth starters work, too). We set all air vents on every grill (prime and backside) to the halfway-open place. Lastly, we place one rack of ribs on every grill for oblique cooking, with the meat not sitting immediately above the coals.

The basic Weber Kettle grill handled racks of ribs proper.

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The Weber was the undisputed king on this take a look at. No different grill on this group might match the rock-solid temperature management of this iconic cooker. Readings from our personal thermocouples, plus a digital pit thermometer, confirmed this. All through the Weber’s 6-hour, 32-minute cook dinner time, the grill’s inner warmth ranges by no means strayed past 25 levels of our goal, 225 levels F. In actual fact, more often than not the temperature hovered between 220 levels F and 230 levels F. In consequence, ribs cooked within the Weber got here out tender, juicy and filled with smoky taste.

Ribs cooked on the Napoleon grill got here out tasty, although with bark that was a bit of dry.

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The Napoleon grill was the second greatest on this take a look at. Inside temperatures had a larger swing, leaping as much as 300 levels F during times of cooking. Its rack of ribs was prepared in a brief 4 hours, half-hour. Whereas its ribs got here out tender and juicy total, the outside bark had a number of burnt spots. 

Ribs cooked on the Nexgrill had numerous bark however had been juicy and tender inside.

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We famous comparable temperature efficiency from the Nexgrill, together with comparable rib outcomes. Cooking ribs low and gradual on the Nexgrill required simply 4 hours, half-hour. Its rack got here out properly too, although just like the Napoleon, its bark was extra pronounced than what the Weber produced. 

Our rib expertise with a number of of the opposite grills was removed from ideally suited. The Tacklife was significantly dangerous. At occasions, the within of this grill hit temperatures as excessive as 400 levels F. And sadly, the ribs it produced got here out burned, charred and overdone.

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Other grills we’ve tested

The CNET Smart Home editors have been serving up grill data for a few years now. In addition to the models we recommend above, here are the other charcoal grills we’ve tested: 

  • KitchenAid Cart-Style Charcoal Grill: KitchenAid’s $239 cart-style charcoal grill has heavy-duty cast iron grates as well as two foldable side trays for extra workspace. It didn’t wow us in any of our tests, but wasn’t noticeably bad either.
  • Cuisinart Kettle Charcoal Grill: This 18-inch kettle-style grill costs $87 and includes all the basic features you’d expect. It couldn’t beat the Weber for classic kettle cooking, but it’s a solid second choice for an affordable kettle-style grill. 
  • Dyna-Glo Heavy Duty Charcoal Grill: This cart-style model from Dyna-Glo is pricier at $233, and has killer looks but only fair performance.
  • Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560: This $497 cart-style model from Masterbuilt is pricey but unique. It burns charcoal but controls its fire and heat levels electronically like a pellet smoker. It performs well too, though it could be more fuel-efficient. The Masterbuilt’s hardware isn’t weatherized against rain either. Read our full review.
  • Royal Gourmet CD1824A 24-inch Charcoal Grill: At $200, this cart-style BBQ grill is very affordable. It also offers a decent amount of cooking space when you count its upper warming rack. Apart from chicken that was nicely done, its performance was mediocre. It also burned through more charcoal than other grills. 
  • Expert Grill Heavy Duty 24-inch Charcoal Grill: Similar to the Royal Gourmet model, the $107 Expert Grill is an affordable cart-style outdoor cooker. However, with 372 square inches of cooking space, the Expert Grill offers a little less room to maneuver. And though it seared our test steaks nicely, it took over 2 hours to roast chicken. That’s much longer than the 1 hour, 20 minutes or so the typical charcoal grill takes.

Best charcoal grill FAQs

Is it worth buying a charcoal grill?

A quality charcoal grill is certainly worth the investment. Due to their comparably simple construction, they tend to cost less than a similarly sized gas or pellet grill. Another powerful draw of these grills is the intense smoky flavor they create in the food they cook. They’re versatile too since they can use either traditional charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal as fuel. 

Is it better to grill with charcoal or wood?

Each fuel type has its particular strengths and weaknesses. Charcoal briquettes and lump charcoal are easier to ignite and keep lit than ordinary firewood. That said, charcoal (especially in briquette form) produces a lot more ash than hardwood. And if you plan to cook low and slow we suggest adding a few chunks of hardwood to your charcoal pile. This brings about more smoke flavor in barbecue meat like pork ribs, pork butt and beef brisket.

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