5 Best Charcoal Grills for That Perfect Smoky Flavor (2024 Edition)

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choosing the best charcoal grill

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As the hunt for the holy grail of grills heats up, we’ve sifted through the coals to bring you the crème de la crème of charcoal grills for 2024. Our passion for that perfect smoky flavor has led us to consider everything from portability to durability, and of course, the ability to deliver mouthwatering results. We’re not just blowing smoke when we say that the King-Griller Gambler, Weber Jumbo Joe, Char-Griller Patio Pro, Royal Gourmet, and Fire Sense Notebook are the contenders that have made our cut this year.

Each has its own unique features that could be the perfect match for your backyard barbecues or your adventurous camping trips. As we lay out the pros and cons, remember that the best grill for you is the one that fits your specific needs—and we’re here to help you find it.

Let’s fire up the conversation with what to look for in a charcoal grill, but before we reveal our top picks, let’s consider what really makes a grill stand out from the rest.

King-Griller Gambler Portable Charcoal Grill (E1816)

For enthusiasts seeking a blend of convenience and quality in their outdoor cooking, the King-Griller E1816 Gambler Portable Charcoal Grill offers a substantial 320 sq. in. cooking area combined with the ease of portability. This barrel-style grill isn’t just designed for stationary use; its folding construction, locking legs and lid, integrated handle, and wheels make it an ideal companion for on-the-go grilling experiences.

The cast iron cooking grates ensure even heating and premium flavor, while the stainless steel thermometer enables precise temperature monitoring. Complete with a workstation and tool storage hooks, this grill is as practical as it’s portable. Its painted black finish, stainless steel frame, and free-standing installation type round out the design, making it a reliable and attractive choice for any grill master.

Best For: Outdoor cooking enthusiasts who need a portable, durable charcoal grill with a decent cooking surface for on-the-go grilling and home use.

Pros

  • Large 320 sq. in. cooking area accommodates numerous food items at once.
  • Portable design with folding construction and wheels for easy transportation.
  • Cast iron cooking grates and stainless steel thermometer for even cooking and temperature control.

Cons

  • Some customers report instability with the stand bending after use.

Weber Jumbo Joe Charcoal Grill 18 Inch Black

Whether you’re a seasoned pitmaster or a novice griller, the Weber Jumbo Joe Charcoal Grill 18 Inch Black offers a compact and portable option without compromising on the grilling area, making it an ideal choice for those seeking that authentic smoky flavor in their outdoor cooking experiences. This grill features a porcelain-enameled lid and bowl that efficiently retain heat, while the lid lock doubles as a lid holder, adding to its convenience. Temperature control is made easy with adjustable dampers, and the convenient carry handle enhances its portability. Assembly is straightforward with instructions available through the BILT app. With its durable construction and positive customer feedback highlighting its performance and versatility, the Weber Jumbo Joe stands out as a reliable option for charcoal grilling enthusiasts.

Best For: Outdoor enthusiasts and tailgaters who need a portable, efficient charcoal grill with ample cooking space.

NOMAD Portable Grill & Smoker

Pros

  • Large grilling area in a compact, easily transportable design with a convenient carry handle.
  • Porcelain-enameled lid and bowl for superior heat retention and durability.
  • Easy temperature control with adjustable dampers and helpful lid lock that also serves as a lid holder.

Cons

  • Some users may find the grill’s height to be lower than ideal, requiring an additional stand or table.

Char-Griller E1515 Patio Pro Charcoal Grill, Black

Ideal for barbecue enthusiasts with limited outdoor space, the Char-Griller E1515 Patio Pro Charcoal Grill, Black offers a substantial 250 square inches of cooking area, combined with durable steel construction and convenient features for a seamless grilling experience. The barrel-style BBQ grill’s thick cast iron cooking grates and powder-coated finish highlight its quality and longevity. Practical design elements include a bottom storage rack, side air vent, and stay-cool wood handle. Mobility is effortless with wheels, and the side shelf workstation with tool storage hooks adds to its efficiency. Its easy dump ash pan simplifies cleaning, ensuring more time is spent enjoying the barbecue. Measuring 21”L x 31”W x 44”H and weighing 50 lbs, this grill is a compact powerhouse, enhancing the charm of charcoal grilling for any patio or backyard setting.

Best For: Individuals with small outdoor spaces looking for a quality charcoal grilling experience.

Pros

  • Compact size with a large 250 square inch cooking area suitable for small patios and decks.
  • Durable heavy duty steel construction with a convenient easy dump ash pan for simple cleaning.
  • Features such as a side shelf workstation, tool hooks, wheels, and stay-cool handle enhance user convenience.

Cons

  • Assembly instructions may be difficult to follow, potentially complicating the setup process.

Royal Gourmet CD1824M 24-Inch Charcoal Grill with Smoker & Folding Table

The Royal Gourmet CD1824M 24-Inch Charcoal Grill is a popular choice for barbecue enthusiasts who appreciate the authentic smoky flavor. It comes equipped with a smoker and a folding table for added convenience. With a total cooking space of 490 square inches, it includes a 384 square-inch porcelain-enameled steel wire cooking grate and a 106 square-inch stainless steel warming rack. The height-adjustable charcoal pan can hold up to 4.5 pounds of charcoal, making it suitable for serving up to 10 people. Notable features of this grill include a built-in thermometer, two adjustable air vents for temperature control, and a handy access door for adding charcoal.

Users of the Royal Gourmet CD1824M praise its ease of use and cleaning. However, some users have reported difficulties with assembly and maintaining consistent low temperatures for slow cooking.

Best For: Grilling enthusiasts who enjoy a traditional smoky barbecue flavor and need a grill with a decent cooking space for small to medium gatherings.

Pros

  • Spacious cooking area with a warming rack to cater to multiple guests.
  • Features like the adjustable charcoal pan and built-in thermometer enhance cooking precision.
  • The convenience of a folding table and easy access door for charcoal addition.

Cons

  • Some users have reported difficulty with assembly and missing instructions.

Fire Sense Notebook Charcoal BBQ Grill (60508)

For outdoor enthusiasts and tailgaters seeking a portable and efficient grilling experience, the Fire Sense Notebook Charcoal BBQ Grill (60508) offers a compact and foldable design that transitions from flat to fully assembled in seconds. Utilizing charcoal as its fuel source, this grill stands 13 inches high when in use and impressively folds down to one inch flat, facilitating effortless storage and transport. Constructed with high-heat-resistant painted steel, it includes both a charcoal and grill rack, ensuring durability and ease of cleaning.

The patented fold-open design and lightweight structure, weighing only 8 pounds, make this grill an ideal choice for camping and picnics. Despite some reports of rust and warping after use, the overall user feedback highlights its sturdy build and even cooking capabilities. While the manufacturer’s warranty is available upon request, the product’s sleek design and quick setup are consistently praised.

Best For: Outdoor cooking enthusiasts and tailgaters who need a portable, space-efficient charcoal grill.

Pros

  • Patented design that folds from flat to fully assembled in seconds for ease of transport
  • Compact and lightweight, making it ideal for camping, picnics, and tailgating
  • Includes both a charcoal and a grill rack, providing a complete grilling solution

Cons

  • Some users report rust and warping after multiple uses, questioning long-term durability

Factors to Consider When Choosing Charcoal Grills

top charcoal grills for smoky flavor

As we consider which charcoal grill will best suit our needs, it’s crucial to assess the size and space it’ll occupy.

We must also evaluate how portable the design is and whether the cooking surface area matches our entertaining style.

Lastly, we can’t overlook the importance of durability and temperature control features to ensure our grill stands the test of time and cooking precision.

Grill Size & Space

When choosing a charcoal grill, it’s crucial to consider the size that best fits your outdoor space and meets your cooking needs. We’ve got to think about the area we’ve available to make sure the grill doesn’t cramp our style.

Let’s not forget to assess how much cooking space we’ll need. If we’re feeding a crowd regularly, a larger grill makes sense. But, we must also weigh in the portability and storage side of things—especially if we’re tight on space or love to take our grill on adventures.

Maneuverability is another factor; if we’re going to move it often, let’s opt for a grill that’s easy to wheel around.

It’s all about finding that sweet spot between a generous cooking surface and a grill that won’t dominate our backyard when it’s burger time.

Portability & Design

Considering the ease of taking your grill from backyard to beach, the grill’s portability and design features are paramount to a seamless experience. We’ve got to keep an eye on the grill’s size and weight, ensuring it’s not a burden during transport or when tucking it away. Features like folding construction, locking legs, integrated handles, and wheels can be game-changers for moving around easily.

NOMAD Portable Grill & Smoker

We also look at the design for extra workspace and tool storage, which can make grilling more convenient. It’s important that the grill is made from sturdy materials to withstand the elements outdoors. And let’s not forget, we want a grill that’s a breeze to assemble and clean, particularly when we’re out and about.

Cooking Surface Area

Selecting the right charcoal grill often hinges on the cooking surface area, which determines how much food you can prepare at once. If we’re planning on hosting sizeable outdoor gatherings, we’ll need a grill like the Weber Jumbo Joe or the Royal Gourmet CD1824M, both offering generous cooking spaces. The former is particularly handy for larger groups, while the latter can serve up to 10 people comfortably.

For those of us with tighter spaces or smaller crowds, the Char-Griller E1515 Patio Pro is a great fit due to its compact cooking area. And let’s not overlook the King-Griller E1816 Gambler and the Fire Sense 60508 Notebook grills, both providing ample space for grilling while being perfect for camping and picnics.

Durability & Materials

To ensure your charcoal grill withstands the test of time, it’s crucial to pay attention to the materials used in its construction, from the body to the cooking grates. We’re looking for grills made of stainless steel, porcelain, aluminum, or painted steel, which are known for their durability and heat retention. Heavy-duty construction with powder-coating finishes is essential, especially for outdoor use.

The cooking grates should be made of cast iron or porcelain-enameled steel for durability and to enhance grilling performance. We must check the thickness and quality of the charcoal pan, handles, and other components for longevity. We’ll also look for additional features like integrated handles, mobility wheels, and bottom storage racks that contribute to the grill’s sturdiness.

Temperature Control Features

When choosing a charcoal grill, the ability to control temperature is critical for mastering the art of grilling. We’re looking for features that allow for precise adjustments of heat levels to ensure our food is cooked just right.

Efficient air vents or dampers are a must, as they regulate airflow and heat intensity inside the grill. It’s also essential to have built-in thermometer gauges or temperature indicators for real-time monitoring.

We can’t ignore the importance of adjustable charcoal pans or racks, which let’s control the distance between the charcoal and the cooking surface, perfect for indirect heat cooking.

Lastly, heat-resistant materials and insulation are key to maintaining consistent temperatures and minimizing heat loss. These features combined give us the control we need for that perfect smoky flavor.

NOMAD Portable Grill & Smoker

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About Jack Thornborn

Jack Thornborn
My name is Jack Thornborn, and I'm an enthusiastic grillmaster with a passion for all things barbecue. I've been grilling and smoking meats for as long as I can remember, and I'm always looking for new ways to elevate my cooking game. What fascinates me most about grilling and smoking is the endless possibilities for creativity and experimentation. From choosing the perfect cuts of meat, to selecting the right wood chips or seasonings, to adjusting cooking times and temperatures, every aspect of the process offers an opportunity to explore and innovate. I love the feeling of being outside by my grill or smoker, surrounded by the savory aromas of cooking meat and the sound of sizzling juices. Whether I'm cooking up classic barbecue dishes like ribs and brisket, or trying out new recipes and flavor combinations, I find the process of grilling and smoking to be deeply satisfying and rewarding.

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