Straight To The Point
We have several recommendations for charcoal grills, at a host of price points. However, for under $200, we think a lot grillers will be happy with the Weber Original 22-Inch Kettle Grill, which performs incredibly well and will last forever. If you want a grill as well as a smoker, consider the Slow ‘N Sear Kettle Grill.
For a long while, charcoal grills were the primary tool of backyard grillers. Hasty-Bake introduced its wonderful cooker with a crank that raises and lowers the charcoal rack in 1948, and it remains one of our favorite brands to this day. When Weber-Stephen rolled out its now iconic charcoal kettles in 1952, they lit a fire in backyards coast to coast and barbecue grew into a national pastime. In the early 1960s, gas grills entered the market and gained popularity, and gas eventually became the fuel of choice for most residential grillers. However, charcoal still runs a close second, and lately we’ve seen an uptick in its popularity.
Many folks strongly believe charcoal produces better flavor than gas. Lets just say different fuels have different characteristicsand we won’t even get into all the different types of charcoal available today. Is one fuel better than the other? That’s a loooong debate. To each their own.
Why You Should Trust Us
I’ve been reviewing grills and smokers full time since 2012. To my knowledge, nobody else does this full time, and nobody else has cooked on as many grills and smokers as I have. I assemble products, measure temperatures, slam lids, turn dials, kick casters, study warranties, take pictures, and cook a lot of food.
I also consider look, feel, functionality, durability, and price. Given the enormous variety of products and designs, there is no one-size-fits-all test.
With charcoal grills, I test for effective air control by smoking low and slow at 225°F, roasting in the mid-range around 350°F, and letting ‘er rip with a blazing, red hot fire. Leaky grills are harder to control and get rated accordingly. To dial in my target cooking temperatures accurately, I use multi-channel digital thermometers with temperature probes clipped to the cooking surface. Charcoal grills usually don’t have as many bells and whistles as gassers, but I assess whatever goodies are included, particularly ash removal systems.
Hasty Bake Gourmet 256 Dual Finish Charcoal Grill Review
THIS MODEL IS DISCONTINUED AND REPLACED BY THE HASTY BAKE GOURMET PRO 258.
Bottom line: I have never worked with a finer charcoal grill. They may be out there, but Ive never encountered them.
Please do not confuse this superb cooker with the Easy-Bake Oven toy for kids! This is a real grownup serious charcoal cooker. There is nothing you cant do with this grill and it deserves a place in the back yard of every serious outdoor BBQ cook. A friend calls it the Swiss Army knife of grills.
Bi-Metal Thermometer, Hood, The cooking grates are angled towards the center, and a V-shaped channel ducts much of the grease to a disposable cup on the outside, A large side door that allows you access to the charcoal during the cook, A removable heat deflector that goes between the coals and the cooking grates for better indirect cooking, large, easy to remove charcoal tray, Crank to raise and lower the coal tray, Adjustable Damper, Slide out ash pan for rapid cleanup.
A removable stainless steel work table runs the full length of the front. Gourmet models have an upper rack for cooking or keeping food warm, and a glass window so you can see your food without lifting the bi-fold door on the fixed hood.
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How Do You Clean A Charcoal Grill
Make grilling season easier on yourself and clean your grill at the start of each grilling session, not at the end. Start by lighting your coals and letting your grill heat up for about 10 minutes. This should heat the grates enough that any crusted-on food can be easily removed with a grill brush. After you clean the grates, oil them using a paper towel dipped in oil and held in tongs. When you’re done cooking for the day, give the grates a good once-over with the grill brush, but don’t worry about getting them spotlessly cleana thin layer of grease will actually help protect the grates from the elements and prevent rust from forming. Finally, make sure to empty your ashes, and keep that grill covered when not in use. Read more about how to keep your grill clean right here.
The Benefit Of Grilling With Charcoal
Versatility is the highlight of cooking with a charcoal BBQ grill. The ability to cook with as much heat as you need, create multiple cooking zones by adjusting where you place the coals and enjoy juicier, more flavorful meals makes a charcoal grill a must-have. Charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal provide the fuel, high heat and delicious, smoky flavor that this kind of grilling is known for. Nothing beats the taste of meat cooked on a charcoal grill.
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The Best Luxury Charcoal Grill And Smoker Combo: Hasty
Our new favorite charcoal grill is the Hasty-Bake 357 PRO. It is just about the perfect charcoal grill/smoker combo. The core concepts of the design go back to 1948. Since then, Hasty-Bake has refined and polished off the rough edges. The new spring-loaded hood design is a significant improvement over earlier models. It lifts up almost vertically and glides fairly easily.
The 357 PRO wouldn’t be a Hasty-Bake without their classic adjustable-height charcoal tray that can be raised and lowered with a crank. The coals can move from 14.5 inches to 2.5 inches away from the cooking surface for serious direct infrared searing, a lot like a classic Santa Maria-style grill. Energy at the food level reduces rapidly as the coals move away, so this is a very effective temperature controller. And if you want that great dark mahogany steakhouse sear, crank the coals to right below your steak. This arrangement is better than the Santa Maria-style grill where the food moves up and down and the coals are stationary because the head room above the food isnt reduced.
Perfection doesnt come cheap. The $3,600 price tag will be a non-starter for many, but talk about getting what you paid for: PRO is made of heavy, top quality stainless steel from head to toe and loaded with excellent, unique features.
Serious Eats / Courtesy of Hasty-Bake
The Best Affordable Charcoal Grill With Smoker Upgrade: Slow ‘n Sear Kettle Grill
Speaking of Slow ‘N Sear, this company was built on their innovative charcoal insert, mentioned above. It’s a high quality, stainless steel accessory that instantly upgrades Weber kettles and many other round, charcoal-burning cookers by enhancing two-zone separation and intensifying sear power. Toss in some wood chunks and smoke ribs low and slow on the opposite side over smokey, indirect heat. In addition to the enhanced performance for low-and-slow smoking, Slow ‘N Sear creates a super sear zone when filled with red hot charcoal.
Recently, they changed the company name to SnS Grills and introduced their very own Slow ‘N Sear Kettle Grill. Aside from the Slow ‘N Sear insert, their kettle is similar to Weber’s cart-mounted Performer Charcoal Grill with a few noteworthy upgrades, like a high quality stainless steel cooking grate and covered port for threading a digital temperature probe onto the cook surface. If you add the cost of a Slow ‘N Sear insert to a Weber Performer the Slow ‘N Sear Kettle is about the same price. This makes it a solid package deal that’s definitely worth the consideration of folks on the lookout for a new charcoal burner.
Serious Eats / Courtesy of SnS Grills
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The Swiss Army Knife Of Charcoal Grills
We love Hasty Bake. The clever and unique design features enable you to easily grill, smoke or roast whatever you like. The crank on the lower left side in this picture operates a mechanism which lifts or lowers the fire box, giving you the ability to instantly change the temperature under the cooking grate. The large door on the right provides full access to the firebox with no real effort. Just swing it open.
Here you see the firebox and ash pan pulled out.
To fire up Legacy, just load the fire box with charcoal and place a fire starter or two on the ash pan underneath. This setup makes tending the charcoal fire a breeze. Replenish charcoal or wood chunks and dump ashes as needed.
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Hasty Bakes famous crank on the left side raises or lowers the fire box, putting you in the drivers seat.
Crank Legacy down low for smoking ribs and brisket.
Or up high for sizzling steaks and veggies.
An included heat deflector fits over the charcoal fire for low-and-slow smoking sessions.
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Hasty Bake Legacy 131 Reviewed And Rated
The Hasty Bake Legacy 131 is their most popular model. This full-size charcoal grill is essentially the same as their first models that appeared in 1948, pre-dating Webers charcoal kettle which hit backyards in 1952. It features Hasty Bakes signature adjustable height fire box and a generous 523 square inch cook surface at an affordable price. The adjustable fire box allows you to move the charcoal up and down, closer or further away from the food, and this gives this grill excellent temperature control.
Dimensions are 30x21x42, and the weight is 163 pounds. The hood and base are powder coated heavy duty 18 gauge steel. The adjustable height lift mechanism and fire box are 18 and 12 gauge galvannealed steel. Hasty Bakes unusual V-shaped cooking grates are nickel-plated. Legacy comes with a removable, stainless steel front work table.
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Innovative And Efficient Charcoal Grills
Since 1948, Hasty-Bake has mastered the skill of creating an innovative and efficient charcoal grill. Hasty-Bake gives you the unique ability to grill, smoke, and bake all on the same unit.
Patented lift mechanism gives unmatched versatility
Grill, bake, and smoke on the same unit
Ventless hoods for perfectly consistent temperatures
Made in the USA
Flaws But Not Dealbreakers
The 22-inch Weber Original Kettle Premium is short. The grates are just 27 inches from the ground. Compare that against the standard kitchen-counter height of 36 inches, and you quickly grasp the reality we experienced: Its a literal, if passing, pain in the ass to spend a lot of time working over the grates. Granted, you spend 90 percent of your grilling time standing around waiting for stuff to cook, not leaning over the coals. But the Napoleon, which we otherwise didnt love, is a generous 34 inches in height at the grate, and that made it a pleasure to work on. Given Webers attention to engineering details, we suspect the low height is by design. For the same reason, we believe Weber could do things differentlyand better.
The Weber grill has three legsan inherently stable design, because having three points of contact means the legs will automatically find their level even on bumpy ground. That said, the Napoleon models four legs felt just as stable, and more stiff, on a garden-variety concrete patioand also allowed Napoleon to install a big, square shelf underneath the grill. The Weber grill has a smaller, triangular shelf, but its far less useful.
Finally, the Weber model doesnt come with a grill cover. We think every grill should, even though most dont. Weber sells one for its 22-inch kettle for about $40, usually.
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How To Safely Fire Up The Grill
Safety comes first, so learn how to light your charcoal grill safely using an electric lighter, lighter fluid or a chimney starter with tips and advice from Ace. We offer gas-charcoal combo grills that use a quick-lighting gas ignition to fire up your coals quickly. Combo grills provide the tradition and flavor of a charcoal grill, with the easy start-up of a gas grill, so you can handle grilling for any occasion.
Were Bbq Game Changers
Were just like you. People who love trying new things, working with our hands, and experimenting with flavors. We had an idea to create a new kind of BBQ grill smoker: one that uses premium, sustainably sourced wood pellets, is made with high-quality materials, and utilizes brand-new, innovative technology to change the way people think about grilling and barbecuing. Learn More
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Our Pick: Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill
*At the time of publishing, the price was $240.
The Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill 22 is our pick as the best charcoal grill for most people. Its a classic for good reason. In our tests it outperformed the other grills in cooking, ease of assembly, and user-friendly details. We got good results in one or another respect with the other models, but they didnt perform consistently great on everything the way the Weber did. From 12 well-seared burgers to an entire cut-up barbecue chicken to a perfectly cooked whole chicken and a killer rack of apricot-wood-smoked baby-back ribs, the Weber produced beautiful mealsand needed no expertise and no fussing on our part to do so. Its compact yet big enough to cook an entire elaborate meal for a family, a simple spread for a party, or even a whole Thanksgiving turkey.
In cooking performance, the Weber was the best and most hassle-free grill in our tests.
Its construction is simple and solid, and the materialsrust-proof aluminum legs, porcelain-coated steel for the body, and a nickel-plated steel grillare designed to last. And while the basic design has barely changed since 1952, Weber has added helpful new details over the yearsthis latest iteration has convenient tool hooks on the side handles, for example. Add that to its solid warranty and well-regarded customer service, and its hard to see a better value.
The Best Charcoal Grill That Doubles As A Fire Pit: Burch Barrel
Been on the hunt for a sturdy camping grill that doubles as a firepit?The Burch Barrel is a combination camping grill and firepit that hangs from a tripod. This is not your grandpas cowboy cooker: It blends an open-fire camp grill with a vertical lift Argentine-style mechanism like a Santa Maria grill. The bottom accommodates charcoal, wood, or both for fuel. The unique, adjustable height charcoal and cooking grates can also be set in multiple positions for different heat levels. When youre not busy cooking, you can raise the lid via a locking cable and use the Burch Barrel as a fire pit. This grill is made by and for lovers of the great outdoors who enjoy hunting and camping, but Burch Barrel reports residential sales are on the rise.
Serous Eats / Courtesy of Burch Barrel
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Different Types Of Charcoal Grill Models
At Ace, you’ll be sure to find the perfect charcoal barbeque grill that will take your outdoor grilling adventures to new culinary heights. Learn about the differences among the major charcoal outdoor grill types to find the right option for you:
- Kettle: A classic grill design, kettle grills are spherical and typically smaller than ceramic or barrel grills. This allows them to maintain high heat with less fuel. They feature round lids, metal cooking grates and multiple vents for safe cooking.
- Ceramic: Ceramic grills are defined by their traditional egg-shaped body, which helps retain heat and allows for quick, even cooking.
- Barrel: Large and resembling barrels, these charcoal BBQ grills offer lots of cooking space to help easily prepare meals for large groups. They are also effective smokers but require lots of fuel.
And with features like digital control panels, built-in thermometers, one-touch cleaning systems and much more, it is easier than ever to find the charcoal grill that works for you.
Hasty Bake Gourmet Pro 258
While this grill may not win any beauty contests, it just might win some barbecuing contests! Thanks to its superior design and construction, the Hasty Bake Gourmet Pro 258 deserves to be in any conversation about the best charcoal grill on the market.
There are so many remarkable features its hard to know where to begin. So, well arbitrarily start with the 3-position charcoal grate. A large crank handle on the left side of the grill allows you to raise or lower the charcoal. Theres an indicator on the front to help you choose the right setting: Sear, Bake, and Smoke. Sear is closest to the grate to help hit the highest temperatures possible. Smoke is furthest away to facilitate low-end heat for low and slow cooking.
We also cant get over the unique lid. The two-piece hinges make the lid slide up instead of swing back. This exposes the entire cooking area but allows for zero clearance at the back. When closed, the gasket and latch seal the lid tightly. Between the gasket and the double-wall construction, heat retention is remarkable.
Access to the cart interior is through a side door. From here, you can access the slide-out ash pan, the firebox, and the heat deflector. Adding charcoal or wood mid-cook is easy, with minimal heat loss, and you wont disturb your food.
Check out this video to see how they work:
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