10 Best Charcoal Grills: Reviews and Buying Guide

There’s nothing like barbecuing with a charcoal grill. Only he exudes such a wonderful mixture of different flavors in connection with crackling fire noise. The charcoal grill, an unmistakable original, favorite of all barbecue lovers and the basis of many beautiful garden parties or family celebrations.

Top 10 Charcoal Grills

The spoils of choice – how to find the right charcoal grill

If you are planning to buy a charcoal grill, you should first think carefully about which model is best for you and your needs. Need a space-saving grill for a small garden or balcony? Or a barbecue with a particularly large grill area? Are you a fan of indirect grilling or would you like to smoke occasionally? Should your barbecue already have built-in ventilation or would you prefer to use the classic bellows? In order to make your decision easier, we take a detailed look at the various types of grills in this guide, give you tips on choosing the right charcoal and answer the most frequently asked questions about grilling with a charcoal grill.

How does the charcoal grill work?

The functioning of a charcoal grill is really easy to explain. They place charcoal (briquettes on some models) in the grill of the grill, drape some grill lighters in between, and kindle the fire. The grille lighters should be evenly distributed over the entire charcoal and inserted in a sensible way. As an alternative to the grill lighter in solid form, you can also use a liquid grill lighter. The flames then go over to the charcoal and this slowly begins to glow. If it does not work out so well, you should help out with some oxygen to get going too early outgoing flames. Either you blow gently, use classic bellows or a modern grill foehn.

Only when the entire charcoal glows evenly, you can distribute your grilled food on the overlying grate. There is also the possibility to put it directly in the coal, but only if it is wrapped in aluminum foil. Otherwise, it would become inedible due to direct contact with the coal. Of course, there are many tricks and tricks that turn your grilled food into a, particularly tasteful highlight. For example, marinating or sprinkling with certain flavors. In addition, each grill food has its own cooking time, which is why some better in the hot middle and other better on the slightly cooler edge garden. However, with a little practice, you will find that out quickly.

What types of charcoal grill are there?

Almost all of us know the classic campfire variant, in which a grate with grilled food hangs over the glowing campfire and you tell all sorts of stories in a relaxed atmosphere. But for the barbecue at home, of course, completely unsuitable. On campsites, you will often find permanently installed grills made of stone, which can also be realized in your own garden. Much more practical and popular are, of course, portable barbecues, as each of us knows. They come from different manufacturers, such as Weber or Landmann, and in different versions.

The barbecue

A barbeque is the classic variant of a charcoal grill. It consists of a rectangular, robust grill bowl, which is usually made of stainless steel. It is attached to four feet in the appropriate height so that you can grill relaxed standing. On the shell, there are brackets for the rust, which you can usually attach at different heights. Either closer to the glow or farther away from it.

The kettle grill

In the meantime, you find the kettle grill more and more often, because it not only saves space and looks nice, but also has many other advantages. It was invented in 1952 by George Stephen from Chicago because he wanted to improve the conventional barbeque. A good and profitable idea. It consists of a mostly mobile pedestal with two hemispheres. A lower, in which you put the coal and the grill grate and an upper, which acts as a cover and windbreak. Due to its compact, round shape, the charcoal heats up much faster and more evenly. Just as the food, which is why he enjoys so much popularity. Some models have a drip tray under the grill so that no grease or other liquids drip into the coal and cause unpleasant smoke. This drip tray can also be wonderfully filled with water or a little beer. This increases the humidity in the grill, the meat is particularly delicate and receives an incomparable aroma.

The Smoker

Smoker is much more complex in their construction and therefore larger. They consist of a cooking chamber and a separate fire chamber, which can be fired either with charcoal or even wood. As the name suggests, the food is cooked not directly over the fire, but by the resulting smoke of the fire chamber. The meat or grilled food is therefore not directly, but indirectly grilled, which takes much longer. Nevertheless, many barbecue fans swear by this way of preparation.

The swing grill

The swing grill is a bit like the romantic campfire variant, only in a smaller version. This is around grill grate, which is suspended by means of a metal chain on a three-legged construction. This is advantageous because you can swing the grill back and forth and achieve a more uniform cooking result in this way.

Use of the charcoal grill: Indoor, balcony, garden or on the go?

Barbecuing is more than just preparing food and then eating. It is a ritual that is celebrated extensively with friends or family. Mostly everyone contributes something to it. Fresh salads, vegetables, drinks, home-made sauces and, of course, meat or, to-day, vegetarian meat substitutes. It is talked, laughed, discussed and when everything is cooked, of course, delicious eaten. Provided you have done everything right because many a barbecue ended with hungry stomachs. Because the coal did not burn or the grill smoked too much. That’s why it’s so important to make the right decisions in advance. This includes the choice of the right grill.

The balcony grill – space saving and convenient

Not everyone has a suitable garden for the barbecue, but maybe a balcony. Provided your landlord or the property management allows the barbecue on the balcony, there are various ways to pursue your barbecue pleasure. Either you decide on a small barbecue, a kettle grill or directly for a balcony grill. A barbecue may not be optimal due to the smoke. With a kettle grill, you can use the lid and control or reduce the smoke. Or you buy a balcony grill.

These are similar to a flower box and can be attached to the balcony railing just like these. The practical thing is that the smoke now pulls directly upwards and does not catch on your balcony. However, the use is quite limited. On the one hand, the rust can often not be adjusted in height, on the other hand, it does not take up much space. Nevertheless a meaningful and above all space-saving alternative.

The indoor grill for rainy or cold days

If you do not want to do without the popular and delicious barbecue on cold or wet days, you can switch to an indoor barbecue. There is this as an electric grill, but also as an indoor charcoal grill. They work much like a regular charcoal grill. In the interior of the grill, an insulated container is installed, is filled in the coal. An internal air supply causes it to glow after ignition. Above it is a drip tray for the grease and then the grill grate. The advantage of having an indoor grill is that it produces virtually no smoke so you can use it easily in your 4 walls.

The garden grill – a true classic

If you have a garden, you can choose between many variants. We already described some of them. The classic charcoal grill, the ball grill, the swing grill, and the smoker. They are all available in different sizes and different designs. For example, some models have shelves for plates or the grill cutlery or different grates. Almost all of the rust can be mounted at different heights so that they can lower it with decreasing embers to use the residual heat for your food.

Once a barbecue to take away please – Mini Grill on the go

It is summer and you enjoy a nice bike ride with family or friends in the great outdoors. Of course, at some point, the small hunger, but no restaurant far and wide. Of course, you already knew that and have prepared yourself accordingly. In your picnic basket are all sorts of goodies and a practical grill for traveling. Either a small and handy table grill or a practical disposable grill. This is already complete with coal, for single use, packaged to buy. They are very practical and can be disposed of stress-free after the cozy barbecue afternoon. It is a small aluminum bowl, which does not allow a real barbecue ritual with fancy locks, but offers enough space for a few sausages or two pieces of meat.

Are there smoke-free charcoal grills?

Yes, they exist. At least they are relatively low smoke to smoke-free. They operate via built-in ventilation, which “actively” supplies oxygen to the coal. Mostly a built-in fan, which can be regulated in its strength. You will find this principle mostly at indoor grills. But even with the kettle grill, the smoke development is limited if you close the lid when cooking. Another important factor is so-called drip trays under the grill. They prevent fat or meat juice from dripping into the embers, which is a factor in unpleasant smoke development.

A charcoal grill with active ventilation – what is it?

More and more often you will find in the product description the term “charcoal grill with active ventilation”. It is a grill with built-in ventilation to supply the coal with oxygen. Mostly a built-in fan, which supplies oxygen depending on the set intensity at regular intervals. This ensures a shorter heating phase of the charcoal and you save yourself the bellows or a Grillföhn. You also have a slightly better influence on the temperature.

What to look for when buying a charcoal grill

Now that you know the different types of grills, here are some things to keep in mind when choosing the model.

  • The possible preparation types
  • The size of the grill
  • The size or the diameter of the grill surface
  • What material the grill was made from
  • What material is the grill grate
  • Is there an active ventilation?
  • How to clean the grill
  • Can you roll the grill or not
  • Is it a smoke-free grill (if needed)
  • Is there a storage area?

The best and best-known grill manufacturers at a glance

weaver compatriot Outdoorchef
Dancook Char-Broil El Fuego
Berndes Tepro barbecue

The choice of coal – you should pay attention to these points

Choosing coal for your wood grill can either be easy or a challenge. Depending on how you approach the topic. Hardcore barbeque professionals believe that the choice of coal has a significant impact on taste, while others say it’s the opposite. Ultimately, you need to find out for yourself by testing different brands. However, there are some points that you should actually consider regardless of flavor. Because the charcoal is poor, the best barbecue is useless.

The production method of charcoal

Especially in our time, we should pay more attention to sustainably produced goods in order to protect our environment and to act responsibly. Even when you buy charcoal for your grill, this is possible because it is made of wood. Therefore, you should refrain from products whose origin is not traceable. Instead, buy charcoal that is completely free of tropical timber and best from sustainable forestry. For your own protection, it should also be completely free of other pollutants. You recognize this by special seals. The wood seals FSC and PEFCBoth stand for sustainable forest management. The FSC seal even says that small-sized firewood is left behind in the forest, as it serves as a habitat for animals and also returns important nutrients to the soil.

Since charcoal is produced in various production processes, it may also be that it is contaminated with pollutants, or are released during the burning process harmful pollutants. For example, by wood preservatives, rust, metal splinters, adhesives or slags. Especially for cheap products without labeling, it can not be ruled out. Because of this, a European test method has been developed and only products that are perfectly consumer friendly and free from all these hazards receive the appropriate seal. If you find this information on the coal: European standard DIN EN 1860-2, you can safely access. It means that the charcoal can be safely used, no alien additives (wood preservatives, slags, rust, and Co) are included and corresponding consumer information can be found on the packaging. Particularly high-quality premium charcoal with a low content of dust or ash and very good burning properties even receives the DINplusquality mark.

The burning power of charcoal

Another very important point is, of course, the charcoal burning ability. The practical experience has shown that some brands burn faster, better and longer than others. But how can one recognize this?

We had mentioned in the production that certified premium charcoal is characterized by a low dust content and better burns. Surely you also know the situation that when you open the bag already a large cloud of dust escapes. This is an indication of excessive dust. Unfortunately, commercial charcoal is not characterized according to whether it has a low or high dust content. Either you go for the just mentioned DINplus logo or try to feel it. Really good coal should have a maximum dust content of 1-3%.

The annealing time of the charcoal

The annealing time is also a decisive criterion. Mostly charcoal burns out after an average of one hour and if you do not refill in time, it is over with the barbecue pleasure. This is the case with almost all varieties. But especially cheap products only reach an annealing time of 30 minutes, higher quality products can even reach 90 minutes.

The right storage of charcoal

Once the right charcoal is found, the barbecue season can begin. But at some point, this time is over and the cool autumn returns. But not only at the end of the season, but after each use, charcoal must be properly stored. If you are too careless on this point, the coal is useless. For example, during a rain shower. If the charcoal is not safe and protected from moisture, it loses its burning properties. Moist coal burns badly or not at all.

As long as the season continues and you want to have quick access to the charcoal, again and again, we recommend a dry garden shed, a garage or another dry room for storing garden tools and Co. If the coal is not used up at the end of the season, it must be winterized become. Be careful not to store the charcoal in rooms that are damp. So no damp cellar, damp garden shed and not outside. Some store them in the storeroom or boiler room.

How to grill with a charcoal grill – frequently asked questions

How much coal do you have to use?

The amount of coal depends on the size of your grill. Cover the area sufficiently with coal and leave about 5 cm between coal and grill grate free.

How to properly light a charcoal grill?

To light the charcoal you need a grill lighter. These are available in either solid or liquid form. Alternatively, you can also use small pieces of split wood.

How long does it take to preheat a charcoal grill?

An average of 30 to 60 minutes elapses before the entire charcoal glows. Depending on the amount and type of charcoal. But it is important that you wait until it is really completely annealed and only then put your food on the grid. If you start too early, your meat must be left on the grill for too long and it may become tough.

The classic mistakes when grilling with a charcoal grill

Almost everyone who has ever grilled knows it. Something unforeseen goes wrong and the beautiful barbecue is teeming with mishaps. Either the charcoal does not want to burn, the meat cannot be cooked or you suddenly stand in the middle of a thick smoke. Often it is due to avoidable, though typical grill errors. Real classics, so to speak. Now see what it can be if the barbecue does not succeed.

  1. Instead of grill lighter paper or cardboard are used, which leads to strong smoke. In addition, cardboard and paper contain pollutants that are released during combustion and are harmful to health. This also applies to self-collected wood, pine cones or pines.
  2. The charcoal is still from the previous year and may have become damp.
  3. Alcohol is used as a barbecue lighter, which is not only dangerous but also completely unsuitable.
  4. The charcoal will not be heated for long enough, which will cause you to put the food on the grill too soon. As a result, it is exposed to strong initial heat and must be too long on the grill until it is cooked. So the meat can become chewy and lose flavor, which would be a great pity.
  5. They do not use heat-resistant oil to rust your grill, so it drips into the embers and causes unpleasant smoke.
  6. No aluminum foil on the grill grate (below the food to be grilled) causes fat and meat juice to drip into the charcoal and produce heavy smoke.
  7. Pouring meat with beer is a trend in the taste and makes the meat more crispy, but it should not be made when the food is over the embers and the beer can run into the embers. This leads to extreme, harmful smoke development. Either they fill the beer in a drip tray so that the aromas of beer fumes penetrate into the meat or you bathe the meat before grilling in the beer.
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