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The Five Best Charcoal Grills
What Makes a Great Charcoal Grill
I love to bbq over wood and charcoal. For me, a great grill allows the cook to control the temperature, guards against flare-ups, and is versatile for cooking low and slow or searing over direct heat at high temperatures. Here is a rundown of five great charcoal grills from inexpensive to completely deluxe.
I've selected the best five charcoal grills for under $100, $300, $600, $2,000, and $5,000. As you can see, there is a tremendous difference in price. In my opinion, after the $600 price point the price is more about aesthetics than grilling functionality.
Weber One Touch Silver
Weber One-Touch Silver
This is the basic charcoal grill. Last weekend I smoked some asian style babybacks on one and I have to say the result was just as good as what my Kamado turns out. For the price, this is really hard to beat for someone interested in grilling over charcoal. New, they cost about $80 and they are readily available on Craigslist for about $50 used. There is no harm in purchasing a used one, plus when you are ready to upgrade it's easy to sell.
- Great Price
- Works great for indirect grilling
- Fits easily in the back of most SUVs to take tailgaiting
- Costs under $100
- Largest grill diameter is 22 inches (a little small for large cooks)
- Charcoal burns quickly compared to ceramic grills for low and slow cooks
- Grill height causes flare-ups when grilling fatty meats (Chicken with skin, rib-eye steaks) over direct heat
Since it's a beginner grill, there are some limitations. First, is its size. The largest is a 22 inch grill diameter. Second, if you're primarily interested in smoking or low and slow style cooking it won't be nearly as efficient as a ceramic insulated bbq. Lastly, when it comes to fatty pieces of meat and direct grilling, the grill height is fixed which makes it prone to flare-ups. To me, the sweet spot for this grill is indirect grilling. Just pile the charcoal to the sides of the grill and place an aluminum pan in the middle for drippings and you're off.
Weber One Touch Gold 26.5
Weber One-Touch Gold 26.5
The Weber One-Touch Gold is a pretty big step up over the Silver. It's a very good grill for intermediate to advanced grillers that really know how to work a grill. It's still not as efficient at smoking or low and slow cooking as the ceramic grills, but for a charcoal grill enthusiast with a budget, this is where I would land.
- 26.5 Grill diameter has plenty of room for grilling for good sized groups
- It's easy to clean with a removable ash bucket
- Works great for indirect grilling
- Deeper lid allows to grill whole pieces of meat (whole turkey, Prime Rib)
- The grill height is fixed like the silver, but it is deeper (manageable, but not ideal for direct grilling)
- Not as efficient with charcoal as ceramic BBQs for low and slow cooking
- Uses more charcoal when grilling for small numbers of people
This grill is hard to find used since it appeals to people that are really in to indirect grilling or that cook for large groups. I personally think this is an outstanding grill for the price. It's available for about $300.
Big Green Egg
The Big Green Egg is the best known ceramic egg grill on the market. Like the Weber charcoal grills, there are many accessories available from things like custom lighters to pizza stones and heat deflector plates.
- Efficient with charcoal for low and slow cooks
- Adequate grill height for direct grilling and searing
- Range of sizes to get one that fits your needs
- Available in Costco stores (Gets Costco's return policy)
- It's a green egg (not the most attractive)
- Large step up in price (Generally over $500) from Weber Charcoal grills
This is the most popular ceramic grill on the market. I think the fact that you can get it Costco (during the Spring) makes it very appealing because of the warranty that Costco offers. I only have one major knock on this grill and that is how it looks. If aesthetics aren't important to you, then this is the price point for quality, low and slow, versatile grilling to make a purchase. There are lots of other brands at this price point (Kamado Joe, Vision Grills), but I'd recommend that if you want a solid ceramic grill, this is the grill to get (from Costco).
I've done several rounds of cooking on small and large BGEs and from a quality of cooking, controlling the heat, and using various accessories, this grill performs great.
Primo Oval XL
Primo Oval XL
Where the Big Green Egg leaves off, the Primo steps in. I'd consider this grill the BMW and the BGE the Honda. For the extra money you only get a little more in my opinion. I've written extensively about the Primo Oval XL for a full review.
- Nice styling
- Efficient for low and slow
- Built in internal divider for indirect grilling
- Oval shape aids in cooking racks of ribs
I really like this grill and I do think it looks better than the BGE, but if you outfit the grill with a nice table to hold it, the grill is over $2,000 in most places. That's quite a bit more than the BGE. I find the people that purchase this grill are less price sensitive and they want a specific look for their grill for their backyard.
I love this grill. I've had the opportunity to do a few cooks on it, and if money wasn't an issue, I'd have two of them. This is the grandaddy of Kamado style cookers. It has all the excessories a serious griller wants, but it's beyond a grill, it's a piece of art.
- Multi level grilling options
- Range in sizes (Check out the Big Bad 32 for people that want a really large charcoal grill)
- Most efficient with charcoal (I'm not sure how much I'd have to grill on a weber to justify the charcoal cost savings for this baby!)
- It's HEAVY (Over 500lbs)
- Expensive (About $5K)
This is an outstanding quality grill. If you haven't heard of them, check out the reviews on Amazon. This is a 5 star grill. The absolute best charcoal grill on the market for those that want an incredible decorative grill.
Lastly, the thing I love about Komodo, is when you contact them, the owner gets back to you (Dennis). I've been on the verge of purchasing one of these for about a year, but each time I get close some unexpected large expense comes up. As soon as I'm flush, I'll get mine ordered (Makes me happy just thinking about it!).
Update: I got one. Boy, is it fantastic. Read the full review of the Komodo Kamado Ultimate 23.