Grilling with charcoal offers an authentic smoky flavor and the tell-tale grill marks of a real BBQ. Check out our picks for the best charcoal grills of 2018.
Nothing beats the mouth-watering smell of meat and veggies on a grill on a warm summer evening -- except, of course, the delicious taste when you finally sit down with your friends and family to enjoy the barbecue.
While modern technology has given us many different ways to barbecue, going back to the basics and cooking with charcoal can sometimes offer a superior flavor. After all, charcoal gives you an authentic smoky flavor even if you aren't smoking your meat. And, on top of that, charcoal grills are the best way to get the tell-tale grill marks from a real barbecue.
Read on below to get our picks for the best charcoal grills of 2018.
One of the reasons that charcoal grills are a classic and a common favorite for experienced barbecuers is that these grills are powered by a real fire. While learning to control the temperature of a charcoal fire can be difficult at first, using a real fire provides many benefits.
For starters, a real flame means that there is real smoke inside the body of the grill. The smoke that builds up on the inside, even if you release it through a vent, gives your barbecue an authentic smokey flavor that simply cannot be replicated by gas or electric grills.
A charcoal flame can also be maintained at several temperature levels. This means that you will be able to do long, low temperature cooking for melting fat and tenderizing tough pieces of meat, or you can do short, high temperature cooking for hot dogs and hamburgers. Furthermore, inside the grill's body, you'll be able to maintain spots that are hotter and cooler so that you can cook several kinds of foods at once. That way, you can cook your burgers at the same time that you toast your buns.
And, of course, the added bonus for using this kind of flame versus a propane or a wood flame is that charcoal is cheap. You'll be able to get a lot more use out of a bag of charcoal than a bag of wood pellets.
Charcoal grills are generally made from aluminum, meaning that they are lightweight, and you probably will be able to move it on your own. They also tend to have a compact, round shape that is easy to fit in the back of a small car or in the back of a truck. This means that you'll be able to take your grill with you just about anywhere you go.
On top of that, charcoal grills obviously do not require electricity. As a result, you don't have to worry if you take your home grill along for a camping trip or for tailgating -- everything you need to start and maintain the fire can be used on its own.
The only thing to be careful with when using a charcoal grill is that you have a safe distance between the grill and anything flammable. Charcoal grills should never be used on small patios in apartment complexes or in yards with lots of trees and plants. Make sure that you give the grill and its fire plenty of space, and be sure to clear the area around your grill of any debris.
Most charcoal grills have a cooking mechanism that is more or less the same. You fill the bottom of the grill with charcoal, and then using tinder like old newspapers, you start a flame that can feed off this bed of charcoal for several hours. You can adjust the temperature of the flame by moving around the charcoals to expose more of the fire to air, or you can quench it by placing a fresh piece of charcoal on top of an already burning flame. Check out our article on the easiest way to light a charcoal grill.
The difference between charcoal grills comes from other factors: the size and shape, the way that you start and control the fire inside the grill, and the portability of the grill.
Charcoal grills, like any kind of grill, come in many different sizes. For most people, 22 to 23 inches is a sufficient diameter for your grill. This equates to about 450 square inches of cooking space, and it is the most common size grill you'll find. However, if you are planning on cooking for a large crowd, you'll need a grill with at least 500 square inches, or a 25-inch diameter, to accommodate groups of twelve or more.
Typically, charcoal grills are circular with a domed bottom and top that are separated by the grates. You'll fill the bottom half of the grill with your charcoals, and you'll add your food by removing the top half.
However, you'll also find grill bodies that are cylindrical. In this case, there is often a door that you can use to add charcoals or to remove the ash as it builds up. The added benefit for this kind of shape is that you can sometimes attach it to a larger smoker as a fire box. This is great for maintaining the temperature inside the smoker, as you can adjust the internal temperature of the smoker with the fire box instead of opening the body and losing heat.
Finally, you'll want to think about where you'll use the grill. If it is going to be a stay-at-home piece of equipment, you can consider stationary models that don't have wheels.
But, if you're looking for a traveling model, be sure to consider the aspects that make the grill portable. A charcoal grill that travels with you on camping trips or to tailgates should be lightweight with wheels and handles. You might also consider a table-top model that can sit in the back of your truck as you're cooking.
While the grill you choose will ultimately reflect your own needs, the Weber Original Kettle 22-Inch Charcoal Grill probably falls exactly in line with what most people want. This grill is durable, and it comes with a 10-year warranty. Part of the reason it can last so long is that it has a built-in cleaning mechanism to help you maintain it.
On top of that, this grill can travel with you, with wheels and a handle, so you can bring it with you camping, tailgating, or you can easily move it around to different parts of your backyard during cookouts. The only real disadvantage of this compact size and portability is that it the 22 inches of cooking space is not enough for parties of eight or more, but for your typical family gathering, it should be more than enough to get food on the table for everybody.
Above all, the Weber Original Kettle 22-Inch Charcoal Grill is reliable, portable, and it is easy to use and maintain. For most people, this grill can serve as a long-term grilling companion, helping you to be the master of barbecues for years to come.
We hope you enjoyed our review of the best charcoal grills of 2018 and feel free to leave feedback below!