For the purist griller, nothing beats charcoal. Fortunately, charcoal grills come in a wide range of styles, so there is something for everyone. You can spend less than $40USD on a charcoal grill (though I don’t recommend it) or several thousand dollars. There are even charcoal grills that can cost over ten thousand, but I don’t address those here. This list reflects the versatility and ease of use that charcoal grills can offer. Certainly charcoal isn’t as convenient as gas, but nothing can produce the authentic flavor that a real fire does. Some of these grills are straight-up, direct-fire cookers, while others can grill and smoke. Choose wisely and you can buy a charcoal grill that will outlast any gas grill and provide hundreds of great cookout experiences.
Weber Kettle Original 22
Weber is synonymous with charcoal cooking. This is the grill that launched the company, the biggest grill maker in the world. While Weber offers many varieties of this grill, this version is simple and relatively inexpensive, making it the perfect choice for the charcoal grill beginner. The efficiency of the design of this grill makes it easy to use and control and because of its superior temperature control, this grill makes a very good smoker as well. A little practice and you just might find that this is the only backyard cooker you need.
PK Grill & Smoker
If this charcoal grill looks primitive, it is because it hasn’t changed since it was first introduced in the 1950s. The reason for this is that it is practically perfect in design. The cast aluminum body holds heat, making this a very efficient charcoal grill. The airflow control allows it to grill hot and fast as well as low and slow, so this grill is also a good smoker. While relatively small in size, this incredibly durable grill (there are models in use today that are over 60 years old) can fill the needs of most any backyard cook. Also, consider the larger and more functional PK360 Charcoal Grill
Big Green Egg – Large
There is a reason that this is the best-selling Kamado grill in the world. Big Green Egg has become the standard by which all other Kamado grills are measured. At around $850USD and with an 18-inch diameter cooking surface, this is the Kamado to beat. Certainly, it is a basic unit, but with a huge line of accessories to back it up and excellent attention to quality, this is the first grill to look at when shopping for this style of charcoal grill.
Also see the Best Kamado Grills
Old Smokey #22
Another of the venerable charcoal grills, the Old Smokey is simple, easy to use, and small enough to fit most anywhere while large enough to meet the needs of most families. This company has existed for decades and while not as well known as other brands, has always managed to put quality above everything else. This charcoal grill is also a great portable unit. It is lightweight and can be taken anywhere. It is also very durable provided that it is cared for.
Hasty-Bake Legacy 131 Powder Coated Charcoal Grill
It might seem that this list favors products from the past. Haste Bake is yet another company that has been around for decades. There is a reason that grills like this one remain popular. They are built very well. To be honest, a charcoal grill doesn’t need a lot of technology or innovation. These are simple grills and this model makes the most of the power of charcoal. The cooking grate is adjustable so food can be put inches from the fire or pulled away for a slower roast. The airflow and lid design makes this a great smoker as well as a great grill. While more expensive than most charcoal grills, it is built to last and perform.
Broil King Keg 5000
It is true that the traditional Kamado grill is ceramic. But by switching to a metal body, Broil King has made a kamado that can be taken on the road. This is one of the most efficient Kamado grills on the market thanks to the innovative insulation between the metal shells. It is so efficient that you will find it saves money on charcoal over the long run. With all the benefits of Kamado cooking, this is the perfect grill and smoker combination and it can be hitched up and taken places that most Kamado grills can’t. For the person that wants it all, I highly recommend this versatile charcoal grill.
Napoleon Pro 22-Inch Freestanding Charcoal Grill
Napoleon is sometimes called the Weber of Canada. They produce great products and are known for their innovative designs. While this is a basic kettle-style charcoal grill, the cooking grate can be adjusted for greater versatility and the cart design gives it stability and added features. The lid is hinged, so no worries about where to put it and the airflow design makes for more even cooking. This truly is the improved kettle grill.
The Puma by Nuke
Read the Full Review of The Puma by Nuke
Made in Argentina, the Nuke Puma is a very traditional example of the Gaucho Grill. You get everything you need to do some serious grilling. This unit has a large, 500-square-inch cooking surface of V-shaped stainless steel. There is a basket to the left for burning whole logs down to coals (though, of course, you can use charcoal). The cooking surface moves from 4 inches to 19 inches above the fire. At around $2,600USD, this grill is an investment but taken care of, it should last you for many years of pure grilling enjoyment.
Weber Performer Deluxe 22
Yes, there is a Weber at the top of this list already, but the Performer series adds some incredible features. This charcoal grill has all the benefits of the basic Weber kettle, but comes on a large, stable cart and has a gas-assisted ignition system. All you have to do is pour in charcoal, turn a knob, push a button, and the coals will be hot and ready to grill in ten minutes. This is Weber’s answer to gas convenience with charcoal flavor. Also, all Weber charcoal accessories work with this grill.
Lodge is the maker of some of the best-cast iron cookware on the market. This little hibachi grill reflects its superior quality. This is a charcoal grill at its most basic best. The cast iron body holds and reflects heat and the open grilling design makes for some of the highest temperature cooking possible. As an added bonus, this little grill does all that in a portable design (though rather heavy).