3 Best Charcoal Grills for Smoking: Get That Perfect Smoky Flavor Every Time

top charcoal grills for smoking

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As the saying goes, ‘The proof of the pudding is in the eating,’ and nowhere does this ring truer than in the realm of smoked barbecue.

I’ve spent countless hours fanning flames and studying the subtleties of smoke infusion, and I can tell you that the secret to that perfect, mouthwatering smoky flavor lies not just in the technique, but also in the choice of grill.

Throughout my culinary journey, I’ve come across many contenders, but three charcoal grills have consistently stood out: the King-Griller Gambler Portable Charcoal Grill, the Royal Gourmet CD1824AC, and the Weber Master-Touch 22.

Each of these grills has its own unique set of features that could be the deciding factor in achieving the pinnacle of smoky perfection. I’m here to share with you the nuances that can elevate your smoking game from the merely good to the truly exceptional.

So, if you’re eager to know what sets these grills apart and how they can transform your barbecue experience, stay with me as we explore the finer points that make these models the top contenders for any smoking aficionado.

King-Griller Gambler Portable Charcoal Grill (E1816)

For the barbecue enthusiast who demands both the convenience of portability and the quality of a traditional smoking experience, the King-Griller E1816 Gambler Portable Charcoal Grill emerges as a versatile and robust choice. This barrel-style grill offers a substantial 320 square inches of cooking surface, perfect for achieving that smoked meat perfection. With its cast iron grates, it ensures even heat distribution and superior flavor – a must for any serious griller. The built-in stainless steel thermometer allows for precise temperature control, a critical factor in smoking meat to tender, flavorful excellence. Its foldable design, combined with a locking leg and lid system, and integrated handle with wheels, ensures this grill is as mobile as it’s reliable. The King-Griller E1816 isn’t only easy to assemble and clean but also brings the power of a full-size smoker to any outdoor setting with grace and durability.

Best For: Outdoor cooking enthusiasts who need a portable grill that doesn’t compromise on cooking surface or quality.


  • Large 320 sq. in. cooking area suitable for various grilling needs.
  • Cast iron cooking grates for even heating and enhanced flavor.
  • Easy to transport with foldable construction and wheels.


  • Some customers report stability issues with the grill falling or stand bending.

Royal Gourmet CD1824AC 24 Inch Charcoal Grill with Cover (Outdoor BBQ)

The Royal Gourmet CD1824AC 24 Inch Charcoal Grill is an ideal choice for barbecue enthusiasts seeking to infuse authentic smoky flavors into their culinary creations. With its spacious 393 square inches of porcelain enamel cooking grates, this grill provides plenty of room for cooking. Crafted from durable steel and finished with stainless steel accents, it exhibits both robustness and elegance. The heavy-duty lid comes with a built-in temperature gauge, ensuring precise heat control for a perfectly smoked brisket or succulent ribs.

The easy-lift charcoal pan adjustment system allows for seamless heat management, while the pull-out ash drawer simplifies clean-up, making the post-barbecue experience as enjoyable as the feast itself. The grill also features a warming rack, side shelves, and a convenient bottle opener, adding to its practical functionality.

Outdoor cooking enthusiasts who value a spacious cooking area, precise temperature control, and convenient cleanup features will find the Royal Gourmet CD1824AC to be the best choice in a charcoal grill. Some customers have reported difficulties with assembly and unclear instructions as a potential downside.

Weber Master-Touch 22 Charcoal Grill, Smoke

Enthusiasts of authentic barbecue flavors will find the Weber Master-Touch 22 Charcoal Grill to be an excellent choice. Its Gourmet BBQ System and superior heat retention promise a classic smoking experience with the convenience of modern features.

The hinged cooking grate is ingeniously designed to accommodate Gourmet BBQ System inserts, allowing for various cooking styles while facilitating the addition of charcoal mid-grill. This feature offers versatility and convenience for grilling enthusiasts.

Moreover, the One-Touch Cleaning System significantly simplifies post-cookout cleanups. It channels ash into a sizable, removable catcher, making it easy to dispose of ash and keep the grill clean.

The Tuck-Away lid holder exemplifies thoughtful design, preventing ground contact and ensuring seamless access. It provides easy access to the grill and prevents the lid from getting dirty.

With the capacity to grill 13 burgers and a warming rack for toasting buns or keeping food warm, this grill offers ample space for a family feast. It is designed to accommodate a large amount of food, making it ideal for gatherings and parties.

The porcelain-enameled lid and bowl ensure consistent temperature and even cooking, while resisting the elements. This feature enhances the durability of the grill and ensures that it can withstand different weather conditions.

In addition, the Master-Touch 22 offers the convenience of Char-Basket fuel holders for precise heat control and tool hooks for essential utensils. These features make it easy to control the temperature and have all the necessary tools within reach.

Overall, the Weber Master-Touch 22 Charcoal Grill stands out as a paragon of charcoal grilling excellence. It combines classic flavors with modern conveniences, making it a great choice for outdoor cooking enthusiasts.

Best For: Outdoor cooking enthusiasts who appreciate the classic taste of charcoal-grilled food and desire a grill with modern conveniences for easy use and cleaning.


  • Gourmet BBQ System allows for versatile cooking styles and easy charcoal addition during grilling.
  • The One-Touch Cleaning System and high-capacity ash catcher make for easy and quick cleanup.
  • Porcelain-enameled lid and bowl offer excellent heat retention for even cooking and durability.


  • Some customers found assembly, particularly attaching the legs, to be challenging.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Charcoal Grills for Smoking

choosing charcoal grills wisely

When I’m on the hunt for the perfect charcoal grill for smoking, the first thing I zero in on is heat retention quality; a grill that can’t maintain a steady temp will leave your brisket tough and your shoulders frustrated.

I’m adamant that temperature control features are non-negotiable – the precision they grant is the secret to that fall-off-the-bone tenderness we all crave.

And let’s not forget size and capacity; there’s no point in a grill that can’t handle the grandeur of your smoky ambitions or the size of your gatherings.

Heat Retention Quality

Understanding the nuances of heat retention is critical for selecting a charcoal grill that guarantees succulent, evenly smoked meats every time. I’ve learned through experience that grills with porcelain-enameled lids and bowls are the real deal. Their superior heat retention isn’t just a marketing gimmick—it’s a game-changer.

I always look for features like insulated lids and robust construction; these aren’t just for show. They ensure the heat stays right where it’s needed, enveloping the meat in a consistent, smoky hug.

High heat retention is the secret weapon for efficient charcoal use and impeccable cooking results. When smoking, the ability to maintain the heat for hours on end is non-negotiable. It’s the difference between an average meal and a memorable feast.

Temperature Control Features

Mastering temperature control is essential in smoking, as it allows for the fine-tuning of heat levels that can make or break the flavor of your meats.

When I’m choosing a charcoal grill for smoking, I zero in on those with adjustable dampers or vents. These features are vital for regulating airflow and managing the temperature with precision. A grill that includes an ash removal system is a game-changer—it maintains a consistent heat by preventing ash buildup, which could otherwise smother the coals.

I also look for heat diffusers or plates to ensure the heat envelops the meat evenly. Grills constructed with insulated materials are my go-to for long smoking sessions; they lock in the heat, ensuring that the temperature remains steady throughout the cooking process. These features are non-negotiable for me to achieve that perfect smoky flavor.

Grill Size & Capacity

Selecting the right size and capacity of a charcoal grill is a crucial step in ensuring a seamless smoking experience that caters to your culinary ambitions and spatial constraints. As someone who’s passionate about grilling, I’ve learned that not just any grill will do. You’ve got to consider who you’re cooking for and what’s on the menu.

A small gathering or a couple of steaks? A compact grill could be your ally. But for a sizeable feast, you’ll want a grill with a generous cooking area and maybe some side shelves to keep things organized.

Don’t forget to measure your outdoor space; the grill’s got to fit! And for those who love to take their grilling skills on the road, portability can’t be overlooked. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself for choosing wisely.

Build Material Durability

When it comes to choosing a charcoal grill for smoking, I pay close attention to the build material’s durability. High-quality stainless or heavy-duty steel is not just a preference, it’s a necessity for withstanding the rigors of intense heat and variable weather. In my experience, the thickness and quality of these materials are critical indicators of a grill’s resilience.

A robust construction not only promises longevity but also ensures consistent performance, which is paramount for achieving that perfect smoky flavor. I always recommend selecting a grill that’s built to resist rust, corrosion, and wear—traits that are essential for any smoker’s arsenal, especially if it’s going to battle the elements outdoors.

Investing in durability means investing in countless successful smoke-outs.

Cleaning & Maintenance

Having emphasized the importance of durable build materials for charcoal grills, it’s equally crucial to consider the ease of cleaning and maintenance, as these factors significantly influence the grill’s performance and lifespan.

I’m passionate about ensuring my grill stays in peak condition, and that means being diligent about cleaning. After every smoke session, I’m out there with my grill brush and warm soapy water, scrubbing down the grates to remove any lingering food particles. It’s not just about appearances; it’s about maintaining the integrity of the flavors I’m so dedicated to perfecting.

And don’t get me started on ash buildup; it’s the enemy of consistent heat distribution. That’s why I regularly empty the ash catcher, keeping everything running smoothly.

And when the grill’s not in use, it’s under cover, shielded from the harshness of the elements. A well-maintained grill is the secret to those perfect smoky flavors, time and time again.

Accessory Compatibility

As a seasoned smoker, I can’t stress enough the importance of checking for accessory compatibility when scouting for the ideal charcoal grill. Ensuring it can accommodate all the grilling gadgets that elevate my smoking game is crucial.

It’s crucial to consider if your grill can mesh with essential add-ons like specific grates for those perfect sear marks, or smoker boxes for that deep, penetrating smoky flavor.

I always look for a grill that supports rotisserie attachments and welcomes aftermarket upgrades. This allows me to tailor my setup for any culinary challenge.

And, let’s not forget the integration of precision tools like temperature control devices or thermometers. These are game-changers for maintaining the exact low-and-slow heat necessary for impeccable smoking.

Always verify, because the right accessories can transform a good grill into a great one.


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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