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The Ultimate Charcoal Grill Buying Guide

The Ultimate Charcoal Grill Buying Guide

When buying a high-tech digital device like a smartphone or tablet, you understand the importance of choosing and picking out the slight differences that exist between selected devices. It only makes sense since these small nuances are what set them apart.

With charcoal grills, however, you might be tempted to brush over this process and go with any model that looks like it can get the job done. Sure, any grill can barbecue meat, but unless you’re planning to buy a new grill every other day, there are significant differences between them that set them apart from each other.

Related: The Best Charcoal Grills for 2021

You also need to consider what your end goal is when it comes to grilling and if there’s any wiggle room in your budget. Here’s the ultimate charcoal grill buying guide to help you better understand your options.

Gas vs. Charcoal Grill: Which One Is Better

The history of grilling dates back thousands of years ago, and while you might believe that you can duplicate the process with any grill, the cooking results you get from each are vastly different. Right off the bat, if convenience matters a great deal to you and you don’t have any cost constraints to think about, then a gas grill might seem like a no-brainer.

They offer a great deal of control since there’s a knob for everything you need to get the job done. You get to control the precise temperature of the grill with one touch, not to mention the fact that the ignition process is quick and easy.

Gas grills are complex and come with lots of bells and whistles that may need to be replaced over time as these parts wear out. This is partly why they are so expensive. They also come with lots of safety concerns. Anyone with a gas grill can attest to waking up in the middle of the night at least once in their life trying to recall if they tightened the propane valve all the way or just to confirm there isn’t a gas leak.

With charcoal grills, on the other hand, a spontaneous explosion is the least of your worries. Their set up is simple, and this is partly why they are so affordable. There’s also the question of taste. The smoke-infused flavor in meat and other foods that comes from barbecuing them using a charcoal or wood burner cannot be duplicated using any other grill, much less one that’s powered by natural gas or propane.

Grilling is an art. If you want to master it and become a barbecue connoisseur, you have to perfect the craft of grilling over a charcoal burner before you can even consider using a gas grill. That way, you know the standard to expect in terms of taste, texture, and consistency when looking to buy one.

Charcoal Grill Buying Guide: How to Choose the Best Charcoal Grill

There are three main categories of charcoal grills. While all of them are perfectly capable of grilling, barbecuing, and smoking, they each excel in different aspects.

Kettle Grills

A kettle grill is the quintessential American classic that you’ll find in the majority of backyards across the country – and with good reason. It may not look fancy, but boy oh boy, when you put it to work, there’s virtually nothing it can’t do.

The average kettle is spherical-shaped and measures around 22 inches in diameter, which translates to a cooking area of a little over 380 square inches. If you want something a little bigger, there are 26- and 36-inch models available. They also have a dome-shaped lid with air-vents that make it ideal for smoking, as well as trapping heat inside to ensure that the food cooks evenly.

Kettle grills are perfect for high-heat grilling over direct heat but can also be used to barbecue meat and veggies over low heat. They are pretty easy to clean and maintain, especially if you get one that has a removable ash receptacle.

If you’re dipping your toe into the barbecuing pool, this is the best grill to start with, especially if all you're planning to do with it is grill food. The price-point for the best kettle grills ranges anywhere between $90 and $330 depending on the size and model.

Barrel Smokers

Have you come across grills that look like steel drums? The kind used for shipping bulk cargo? If you have, then that’s exactly what a barrel grill looks like. They are typically designed for smoking and are essentially modified steel drums that are retrofitted with a charcoal basket, grilling racks, meat hooks, air-vents, and a chimney.

They maintain a steady temperature quite well and are suited for cooking and smoking a large amount of food, particularly if it requires long cooking times. Because of how bulky they are, they typically come with wheeled stands to make it easier to move them around.

They cost drastically more than kettles and generally cost upwards of $300. If you are a more experienced griller, smoke massive quantities of food, or regularly barbecue for a large number of people, then this beast will come in handy for just that purpose.

Ceramic Grills

A ceramic or Kamado grill, as it is commonly called, has earned its rightful place as the mother of all charcoal grills. It’s the kind of grill that says, “I am a master-griller, and I understand all that grilling has to offer.” It’s the kind of grill that will give you a restaurant-quality sear that is difficult to replicate using any other grill. They are the most expensive of the bunch, with prices ranging anywhere from $300 and up.

These types of charcoal grills are designed with thick ceramic walls that make them perfect for high-heat grilling even in low-temperature weather like winter. How hot can they get? Try 500 °F! They can retain heat for hours, which makes for effortless smoking with unmatched temperature control. If you’re looking for the best in charcoal grilling, then ceramic grills are the holy grail of barbecuing.

Oldie but Goodie

Nothing beats the smell of a charcoal grill being fired up except, of course, the mouthwatering flavor of a steak that has been cooked on it. Charcoal grills are simple, affordable, and certainly a timeless classic that deserves a place in your backyard. You simply can’t go wrong with it. Use this charcoal grill buying guide to help you get started.

Is the thought of cleaning your charcoal grill giving you sleepless nights? Check out our blog to find out the best way to clean a charcoal grill.