What Should I Look For When Buying a Charcoal Grill?

Buying a grill? Let us help. Here's what to look for as you shop for a charcoal grill

If you're shopping for a new grill, here's what to look for

While gas grills offer touch of the dial convenience and easier clean-ups, many grill zealots will ardently argue that the thrill of the grill is in the delicious smoky flavor offered only by true charcoal or wood burning grills. Charcoal grills also allow more control over temperature; the more charcoal or briquettes you add the hotter the flames. While gas grills rose in popularity for a number of years, many consumers are now seeing the advantages of charcoal grills and returning to their old backyard favorite. In fact, 40 percent of grills sold are charcoal style grills. But what should we be looking for in a charcoal grill when it’s time to purchase one?

Types and Features of Charcoal Grills

It’s important to consider how you plan to use your grill. Are you looking for a large backyard grill for big family barbecue events? Are you hoping to be able to cook an entire rack of ribs on a Saturday? Or did you have in mind a small, easily portable grill for tailgate parties and picnics?

The size of your grill is probably the first thing to consider, and it all depends on how you plan to use it.

No matter the size, charcoal grills come in several popular styles. There is the hugely popular kettle-style grill, found in many backyards across the US. This grill resembles a round cauldron on legs, and has a domed lid, usually vented. They feature a good sized cooking surface that allows for grilling over flames, as well as roasting over indirect heat. The lid allows for meat smoking. Important features to look for in kettle grills are easily adjustable vents, user-friendly mechanisms for trapping and removing ashes, and sturdy, durable construction. It’s also handy to have castors or wheels on at least two legs of your grill for transportability.

Another popular charcoal grill is the barrel-style grill, originally handcrafted out of discarded oil drums. A typical barrel grill is made from a 55-gallon barrel. Airflow control is achieved through vents in the top and bottom of the grill. A hinged lid can be opened for surface cooking, or closed for smoking or retaining heat. They are versatile enough to cook nearly anything. Barrel grills have a larger cooking surface than kettle grills, so they are preferable for large events. Many barrel style grills contain an adjustable charcoal tray which can be raised or lowered to vary heat intensity.

A third type of charcoal grill is the ceramic grill. Ceramic grills are made of porcelain glazed ceramic and are more efficient than other grills at retaining consistent heat temperatures, thanks to dampers which can be adjusted open or closed to raise and lower temperatures.

Ceramic grills also retain moisture, so if you feel that grilling can typically dry out your meat, you may wish to try a ceramic option. Ceramic grills are versatile enough to even bake bread or pizzas.

Some disadvantages of a ceramic grill include their heavier weight, and the fact that they are recommended to be used only with pure lump charcoal and not briquettes. They are also generally much more expensive, and can crack or break if mishandled. You probably won’t be taking a ceramic grill to a tailgating party or a camping trip.

The Goods on Great Grilling

Ever since man first discovered that meat tasted better after being held over licking flames, barbecue zealots and grill masters have debated which types of grills best result in perfect, flame-kissed burgers, hotdogs, chicken and ribs. Independent grill features are also important to consider for good results and ease of grilling and clean-up. Lids, vents, dampers, grates, and ash removal systems, are all important considerations when shopping for a new grill.

Though the popularity of charcoal grills, has risen and declined periodically over the years when compared with the ease of gas and electric, many grill aficionados swear that the smoky flavor and traditional delicious results of charcoal grilling are worth any extra hassle with charcoal, briquettes, and messy ash clean-up.

Knowing what features to look for in a good barbecue grill will result in the best possible showcasing of your favorite grill recipes, and the masterful meats that make you, your family’s own King of the Grill.

Resources—AmazingRibs.com, thekitchn.com, Consumer Reports