Charcoal Grill Comparison
Charcoal Grill Buying Guide
What is a Charcoal Grill?
A charcoal grill works by having charcoal loaded into the bowl just under the grate. Charcoal is the fuel source for a charcoal grill. When the charcoal is burned, it will turn into embers that radiate heat up toward the top vent. The temperature is controlled by adjusting the vents to allow more or less oxygen into the charcoal grill.
When you decide you want to get a charcoal grill, you need to understand the type of cooking you will be doing with it. There’s a difference between cooking hot dogs or burgers and slow cooking ribs. Think about how you will be using your grill and think about the questions below before you start your search.
Considerations before Purchase
- What size meals will are you cooking? – If you will be cooking for a large family or you have a lot of friends that come over on a regular basis, you will want a larger charcoal grill than you would need if you were just cooking for a couple of people. You want to be sure that there is enough room to cook as much as possible at one time so people don’t have to eat in shifts whenever you have a cookout.
- Can I Control the Temperature Easily? – Make sure that the charcoal grill you are considering has top and bottom vents. These vents will help you control the temperature your food is cooked at. Some grills will have the ability to adjust the placement of the charcoal, raising or lowering it away from the grate.
- Easy to Clean – If the charcoal grill is super hard to clean, you’re not going to want to use it. Look for an easy to clean mechanism. Whether it’s an ash tool or ash bins underneath with a removal method, you want to find a grill that offers simple removal of the ashes and easy cleaning.
Why Cook with a Charcoal Grill?
There are many reasons people love using a charcoal grill over a gas grill. We have outlined the most popular reasons below.
- Flavor of the Food – Charcoal grilled foods typically have a smokier, richer flavor than foods cooked on a gas grill. Lump charcoal gives off stronger smoke aromas and flavors that get into the food.
- Easy to Move Around – Most charcoal grills have wheels that make them easy to move around if needed. They are also nit very heavy so moving from one place to another or even taking to the park is relatively easy.
- Temperature Range – You can increase the cooking temperature by adjusting the air vents on the top and/or bottom of the grill. You can put a rack of ribs on the grill at 225 degrees and cook it slowly over four hours or cook a pizza at 500 degrees for only 20 minutes. The range is very versatile.
- Easy to Maintain – The mechanisms used for grills makes them easy to maintain. There is typically a grill grate, the compartment where the charcoal goes, and the chamber below that where the ashes are deposited to be cleaned out later. You can remove the ashes when completely cool with a shop vacuum, or by hand.
- Traditional Cooking – Many people love old school grilling which does not involve using a gas grill. Charcoal grills provide all the flavor along with the nostalgia that comes with old fashioned charcoal grilling.
What to Look for in a Charcoal Grill
- A good cooking system – a well designed charcoal grill has sturdy, heavy-duty steel or cast iron cooking grates and a charcoal grate to put the charcoal on. There should also be a lid with vents. Look for an efficient ash removal system as well.
- Construction – Check reviews to see what customers have to say about the sturdiness of the grill you are considering. Does it feel flimsy to the customers that have purchased it? Are there complaints about the sturdiness? Make sure that the reviews are favorable for sturdiness and strong.
- Easy Assembly – Easy to assemble is a big priority when it comes to a good quality charcoal grill. You don’t want to have to fight with putting together your grill so look for designs that state they are easy to put together.
- Service/Warranties – You want to have great customer service from the manufacturer that you purchase your charcoal grill from. In the event you need them for something, knowing that customer service is important to them is a relief to know. Look for good warranties as well. When a company has a good warranty backing up their products, you know they stand behind their quality.
Types of Charcoal Grills
There are a few different types of charcoal grills on the market. Some have heat controls, are round, rectangular or square, some have wheels and some had lids. We have listed several of the types of charcoal grills below so you can see which ones appeal to you.
- Ceramic – This is the most effective and flexible type of charcoal grill available. The ceramic chamber retains heat and moisture better than any other type of charcoal grill. They can be used for grilling, smoking and even baking pizza right on the grill. Thanks to the heat retention, you can cook things on a ceramic grill that you may not be able to on others. Some ceramic charcoal grills can produce temperatures of up to 750 degrees.
- Barrel – Barrel charcoal grills look like a steel barrel cut in half and stuck on its side. The hinges are on the top half that forms a lid and the bottom half is where the charcoal goes. The vents that control temperature are in the top and bottom of the barrel. Barrel charcoal grills have a chimney to control the smoke escaping that is attached to the lid.
- Kettle – The kettle charcoal grill has a lid, cooking grid, charcoal grid, lower chamber, venting system and legs too. Some Kettle charcoal grills have ash catcher pans and wheels for easy mobility. The bottom part of the grill that holds the charcoal is shaped like a kettle, giving this popular grill its name. The kettle design distributes heat evenly, producing well cooked food.
Types of Charcoal
There are two types of charcoal that is used to cook in a charcoal grill: Lump charcoal and charcoal briquettes. Each one has their advantages.
Lump Charcoal – Lump charcoal is in its natural form and is easy to light. It produces less ash than regular briquettes do and provides a natural smoke flavor that creates delicious foods. Lump charcoal responds well to oxygen which makes it much easier to control temperature while cooking. It has no fillers or chemicals that help it light up or burn longer. It is a cleaner option than other charcoal.
Charcoal Briquettes – Some people have referred to charcoal briquettes as the fast food of charcoal because it lights easy and has a lot of uniformity in size and the length of time it will burn. There are chemicals involved in the creation of charcoal briquettes that can make it hazardous to your health when it first starts burning so do you best not to breathe it in or put the food on the grill until you see ash on top of the briquettes.
Charcoal Grill Features
The features listed below are some of the most common features a charcoal grill can have. They add convenience and ease to your grilling experience.
- Lights – Some grills have attached grill lights that make cooking in the dark or low light conditions much easier. If your grill doesn’t have one, they can be purchased separately. You will love having a grill light and will wish you have gotten one sooner.
- Cast Iron Cooking Grates – Cast iron is heavy duty, provides a great sear on your food and is super easy to clean. They can rust so you will need to be sure they don’t get wet.
- V- Racks – These racks are used to hold racks of ribs upright. You can also flip the rack upside down and to hold the roast or poultry.
- Wheels – Wheels are on most charcoal grills unless they are meant to be stationary. The wheels allow the grill to be moved from one place to the next much easier.
Common Charcoal Grill Accessories
There are many accessories that you can purchase that upgrade the grill’s performance and make the whole grilling experience even better. None of them are mandatory, but they will make your grilling experience much better.
- Meat claws
- Basting Brushes
- Magnetic Grill Lights
- Sauce Mops
- Grill Rings
There are many different types of charcoal grills that you can choose from. Knowing a little bit about charcoal grills can help you choose the right model for your grilling needs. This buyer’s guide has provided the information you need to sort through the different models and types of charcoal grills on the market and will make choosing one much easier.
With grilling being so popular, having a great charcoal grill that has plenty of room to cook for your friends and family can transform your warm weather days and nights into something truly enjoyable.