Best portable charcoal grills for BBQ, camping and tailgating in 2017

best portable charcoal grills

In our previous article, we listed some of the best portable gas grills available in the market. Gas grills are a convenient and comfortable way for outdoor cooking. And because of their design, they are safer to use for patio and backyard cooking. But what if you love smoking your meat on slow, steady fire or love a juicier, crisper meat flavor of charcoal?

For such types of cooking, getting a charcoal grill is the way to go. In this article, we look at some of the most popular portable charcoal grills available in the market. While our focus would be on portable tabletop options, we would also list out some grills that come with cart for transportation.

We will also cover out some of the factors to consider while picking the best grills for your needs and share our top picks. Finally, we would list out the fuel you can use with these grills, accessories you may be interested in and some of the things to remember while using such grills. Read on to check out the best portable charcoal grills!

List of the best tabletop charcoal grills

Some of the best portable tabletop charcoal grills available in the market are listed below:
PictureProductSize
Weight
Features 

Weber Jumbo Joe Portable GrillArea: 240 sq. in.
Weight: 17.6 lbs.
Grill Body: Made in the US grill, featuring a porcelain-enameled steel body and lid, non-stick steel grate with a heat-resistant GRN (glass reinforced nylon) handle. Also comes with high-quality Aluminum vents and ash catcher tray.

Features: 15” high, three-leg stable design with improved vent system for better flow of air and thus better heating and even cooking. Airtight design - closing the vents extinguishes the charcoal quickly. Parabolic lid maximizes the space for 18.5-inch diameter cooking surface. Features a lid retainer to keep the lid closed during transportation.

Warranty: Backed by a 10-year warranty on cooking surface and lid, 5 years on cleaning system and plastic parts and 2 years on the remaining parts.
Cuisinart CCG-190RB Portable Charcoal GrillArea: 150 sq. in.
Weight: 2.0 lbs.
Grill Body: Made in the China, featuring a porcelain-enameled body and lid, chrome-plated steel grate High-quality Aluminum vents and ash catcher tray.

Features: Ultralight 15-inch three legs design. 14-inch diameter cooking surface with a kettle/parabolic lid. Features three lid locks for superior locking while transporting. Dual venting system for even heating and temperature control. Ash catcher for mess-free operation.

Warranty: Backed by a 3-year warranty on parts and workmanship.
Weber Go-Anywhere Charcoal GrillArea: 160 sq. in.
Weight: 14 lbs.
Grill Body: Made in the US, porcelain-enameled steel body and lid with a triple plated nickel grate. Glass reinforced Nylon handle and two side handles for transportation. Comes fully assembled.

Features: Smart rectangular grill with two sturdy plated steel legs that fold to act as lid retainers. Has an assembled height of 15". The lid and bottom have dual dampers/vents for adjustable air flow. Grate height is fixed and not adjustable.

Warranty: Backed by a 10-year warranty on cooking surface and lid, 5 on plastic parts and 2 years on the remaining parts.
Old Smokey Charcoal GrillArea: 375 sq. in.
Weight: 19.5 lbs.
Grill Body: Made in Texas, tall-boy charcoal grill features an aluminum steel body with a silver finish and chrome-steel grate. Two-wooden handles on side for easy transportation.

Features: Traditional barrel-shaped grill with a 22” circular cooking surface, an overall height of 27" and a 12" clearance above grill surface. Dampers/Vents allow for temperature control. A smaller, 18” version is also available.

Warranty: Backed by a 2-year manufacturer warranty.
Char-Broil Portable Tabletop Charcoal GrillArea: 187 sq. in.
Weight: 7.5 lbs.
Grill Body: Made in China, porcelain-enameled body and lid with a chrome coated steel grill. Glass reinforced Nylon handle. The lid is detachable. Also, has two side handles for carrying around.

Features: Simple standard rectangular grill with aluminum legs that fold securely to act as lid retainers. Has an assembled height of 15". Does not have adjustable vents to control air flow and temperature. Competitively priced.

Warranty: Backed by a 90-day limited warranty.
Fox Outfitters Foldable Charcoal BBQ GrillArea: 210 sq. in.
Weight: 7.65 lbs.
Grill Body: Made in China, open Hibachi-style grill with a food grade stainless steel body and grill grate.

Features: Easy to fold and disassemble after use. When assembled, creates a height of 13 inches, folds down to 2 inches. Comes with a carry bag for easy transportation. All side legs create a stable grilling surface. Vent openings on two sides for air flow. Can also work with wood pellets.

Warranty: Backed by a one-year warranty on materials and workmanship.
Marsh Allen Cast Iron Hibachi GrillArea: 157 sq. in.
Weight: 18 lbs.
Grill Body: Standard, Hibachi style charcoal grill with a full cast-iron body and grates. Features two-side wooden handles and a handle for each of the two grates.

Features: Two 9" x 8" grates with 3 level of adjustable heights. The grates are curved up on the sides to keep food on the grill secure. Features two adjustable air vents for temperature and coal burn-rate control

Warranty: Backed by a 2-year manufacturer warranty.

Best charcoal grills with cart list

Some of the best portable charcoal grills that come with stand/cart are listed below:
PictureProductSize
Weight
Features 

PK Grills Original Charcoal Grill & SmokerArea: 301 sq. in.
Weight: 45 lbs.
Grill Body: Award Winning, made in the US, a masterpiece portable charcoal grill featuring a cast aluminum cooking body and lid. The legs and other body parts are also aluminum. Has a nickel-plated steel cooking grate. Features four legs, two with semi-pneumatic rubber wheels for easy transportation.

Features: Rectangular, box-shaped, vintage looking grill with a flat bottom. Has two adjustable vents on the top and two dampers on the bottom for superior temperature control. The hinged lid opens on the shorter side to provide better utilization of the cooking area. The grill oven is fully removable from the cart for easy transportation. Has an aluminum side table for storing tools and a full-sized rack on the bottom for storing charcoal bags.

Warranty: Backed by a 10-year warranty on cast aluminum body and parts.
Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal GrillArea: 363 sq. in.
Weight: 32.3 lbs.
Grill Body: Made in the US, kettle style grill with a porcelain-enameled body and lid, non-stick hinged steel grate with two heat-resistant GRN (glass reinforced nylon) handle. High-quality Aluminum damper and aluminized steel ash catcher tray. Three-legged cart with two wheels.

Features: 22-inch diameter cooking surface with aluminum dampers to control cooking temperature. Comes with factory assembled stainless steel one-touch cleaning system. Built-in thermometer in the lid. Lid handle has a heat shield to minimize heating up. Easy Push Pin/Spring clip system to move the grill.

Warranty: Backed by a 10-year warranty on cooking surface and lid, 5 years on cleaning system and plastic parts and 2 years on the remaining parts.
Char-Broil Kettleman Charcoal GrillArea: 360 sq. in.
Weight: 50 lbs.
Grill Body: Made in China, porcelain-enameled body and lid with a porcelain coated steel cooking grate. Aluminum ash catcher. Three-legged body with two wheels.

Features: Has lid and body vents/dampers. The lid dampers are adjustable for control on air flow and heating temperature. Has an adjustable charcoal grate that is designed to minimize flare-ups. Also, has a slide-in removable ash catcher. Features a chrome plated wire bottom shelf for storage and a lid-mounted temperature gauge.

Warranty: Backed by a 10-year warranty on the firebox and lid, 5-year warranty on the ash pan, and 2-year warranty on all other parts
Char-Griller Patio Pro Charcoal GrillArea: 250 sq. in.
Weight: 50 lbs.
Grill Body: Made in the US, compact grill with double-rolled steel body and cast iron cooking grates. Steel base with four legs and two wheels and wooden heat-resistant handle.

Features: Has a wooden side table for keeping tools while cooking. Comes with a side drawer for easy ash removal. Adjustable air vents on the side for heat control. Also, has a storage shelf on the bottom. Competitively priced. Heavy and does not fold well.

Warranty: Backed by a 5-year warranty on cooking surface and lid and 1 year on the remaining parts.
Kingsford Outdoor Charcoal Kettle GrillArea: 354 sq. in.
Weight: 19.8 lbs.
Grill Body: Made in China, with a porcelain-coated steel body and lid, with a porcelain coated wire grill. Four legs, two with rubber wheels for transportation.

Features: Standard, lightweight kettle grill. Decently sized ash catcher. Has an adjustable air vent on the top to manage cooking temperatures. Comes with a wire-bottom rack for extra storage. Competitively priced.

Warranty: Backed by a 1-year warranty on the grill.

Charcoal Grill vs. Gas Grill

One of the most common debates on outdoor grills is around the major differences between charcoal and gas grills. While we covered it in detail in our article on gas grills, let us summarize some of the important differences here as well:

CriteriaCharcoal grillsGas grills
Flavor and SmokingCharcoal can get hotter than standard gas grills, ensuring crispier meat on the outside and tender on the inside. Moreover, due to drippings, you get a more smoked flavor.Gas grills have lower thermal output and hence produce a tenderer, juicier meat all-around. They also work well with pizzas, veggies and bread. Gas grills do not work that well as smokers.
Temperature ControlOnce the charcoal has ignited and heated up, there is very little control you have on the thermal output. Moreover, you have to monitor the fuel bed for consistent thermal outputGas grills provide a better control over the ignition and thermal output as they have fire igniters and regulators to control the burners.
ConvenienceCharcoal takes time to burn, so such grills can take 12-15 minutes to heat up and are best for slow cooking.Gas grills heat up quicker than charcoal grills. The grill or grate is ready for cooking in 6-10 minutes.
Fire SafetyCharcoal fire produces smoke which can cause sparks and hot objects to escape and cause a fire. Moreover, the ash left after cookout needs to be properly disposed-off. Because of these reasons, charcoal grills are banned in many places.Even though gas is explosive, one can minimize the risks by following basic precautions. And there are no chances of escaping sparks and hot objects.
CleaningBecause of the residue, charcoal grills require more cleanup of residue after each use.Gas grills are relatively easier to clean and maintain as there is no residue. You only have to periodically clean the grate and drip pan.
CostCharcoal grills are considerably cheaper than gas grills. However, the fuel costs are higher than gas if you opt for charcoal briquettes.Because of their relatively complex design and parts, gas grills tend to be costlier than charcoal grills. But the overall fuel cost is lower than charcoal grills if you compute burn time per pound of fuel.

The bottom line is that while gas grills offer more control and convenience for cooking, charcoal grills offer a unique smoked flavor at a cheaper cost. If you are looking for a juicier, crisper meat or love the smoked barbeque flavor, charcoal grills are the way to go. If you are looking to only cook veggies, bread, and buns or chicken and fish, you are better off with a gas grill.

How to pick the best portable charcoal grill for your needs?

The first decision you have to make before picking the most suitable charcoal grill for your needs is to consider whether you want to go with a tabletop grill or a stand-alone grill with a cart. Tabletop grills work well on elevated concrete surfaces or the back of your truck, while the cart grills have a stand to elevate them. Moreover, some grills such as ones by Weber and Cuisinart have an advantage of getting a cart separately as an accessory so that you can also use the grill as a free-standing cart grill whenever required.
Irrespective of whether you decide to opt for a tabletop grill or a freestanding grill, there are some additional factors that you should consider, as summarized below:

  • Construction material of the grill
  • Design and thermal performance
  • Size and weight
  • Portability
  • Additional features and considerations

Construction material of the grill

The construction material of the grill body, the grilling/grate surface and lid is one of the most important factors to consider while picking up a suitable charcoal grill. These construction factors are listed below:

  • Grill body and lid: The body of the grill and the lid can be made from cast iron, steel or high-quality cast aluminum. Cast-iron body is rare these days and only found in Hibachi-style grills such as Lodge Pre-Seasoned Sportsman’s Charcoal Grill. For kettle grills, the lid and body (also called firebox) are generally stainless or porcelain-enameled steel coated with a heat-resistant paint to keep the efficiency of cooking high and keep the weight to a minimum. The gauge of the steel used for the grill varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. The exception is the PK Grills Original Charcoal Grill and Smoker which has a complete cast aluminum body. It is worthwhile to mention that irrespective of whether you have a cast-iron, steel or aluminum body, persistent exposure to heat would cause discoloration and you would need to reapply the paint after 3-4 years of use. Moreover, whether you are opting for a Kettle grill or a Hibachi-style grill, a seamless molded construction would ensure that there is minimal corrosion.
  • Grilling/Cooking surface: The grilling surface governs the cooking performance you would get out of your grill. Many grills have a nickel or chrome-plated steel grate which is lightweight but do not do that good a job at conducting heat when compared to cast iron grills. Porcelain-enameled steel and cast iron grills are better for even heat distribution. Cast iron is an excellent conductor of heat and a porcelain coating helps in creating a durable, rust-free, non-stick surface.
  • Dampers/Vents and Ash Catchers: Another important part of the charcoal grills are the ashtrays/catchers and vents for temperature control. Aluminum vents and ash catchers with aluminum dampers are the best options because of their rust-free properties. In case of ash catcher, make sure that it is coated or painted with a corrosion resistant material for durability.
  • Other parts: The construction material of other parts such as handles, side tables, stands etc. is also something to look for. Most of the options that we listed have Glass Reinforced Nylon (GRN) handles which are heat-resistant and better than standard thermal plastic handles, but can still get heated up. Similarly, for cart grills, the construction material of the cart/stand and transportation wheels is an important criterion. Semi-pneumatic rubberized wheels are the best, while cheaper options rely on castor plastic wheels for the legs.

Check out the construction material of the grilling surface, the grill body, and other parts to determine the suitability of the grill.

Design and Thermal Performance

There are quite a few design and thermal output related factors that you need to consider while picking a charcoal grill:

  • Type of grill: The type of the charcoal grill is probably the first design consideration to think about. You can opt for Hibachi-style or Kettle grills. Kettle grills have a lid and provide excellent smoking and indirect heating along with direct heating (25% of charcoal heating is from indirect infrared energy). Moreover, kettle grills, especially the one with dampers, provide more control over the temperature and heat in the grill oven. Hibachi-style grills are more suitable thin, quick-cooking foods such as kebabs or other skewer foods. However, Hibachi-style grills are generally smaller and easier to transport.
  • Cooking grates: In addition to the construction material of the cooking grate, a couple of design features are important for the grate. Check if the grate has an adjustable height, especially for Hibachi-style grills. Adjustable height provides you more control over the direct heat the food is exposed to. In addition, a grill with a hinged grate makes it easier to manage the fuel/ember bed without having to remove the grate or charcoal tray. Another factor to check out is if the grill comes with locks or retainers that can create an airtight chamber within the grill, making smoking more efficient.
  • Dampers and Vents: Vents and dampers provide a mechanism to manage the flow of air through the grill. In order to control the temperature and heat levels, having adjustable dampers is a great design feature to look for. While most grills would have vents, the best charcoal grills have dampers to adjust the opening and control the ventilation. Weber and PK grills are two example of grills that provide excellent vent system for temperature control within the grill.
  • Ash catcher: Burning of charcoal produces ash as residue. Having a smartly placed ash catcher (one that aligns perfectly with any bottom vents) attached to the bottom of the grill that can store the residue during a cookout is a must. Such an ash catcher can also act as a bottom vent for the grill. The shape of ash catcher is also important as a bowl-shaped ash catcher may not work that well in windy conditions. Look for a grill which has a decently sized ash catcher that does not require frequent cleanups during the cookout.
  • Base, Legs and Stand: In order to ensure that there is a stable cooking surface, having a grill with stable legs that elevate over the base and keep the grill stable during cookouts is imperative. Burning charcoal can be dangerous and can cause a fire in no time. So, make sure you pick a model that has sturdy, stable legs that can withstand the weight of the grill and food over it. In case of grills with cart, this also means having a cart with sturdy symmetrically-placed legs with locks for wheels.

Size and weight of the grill

The overall cooking area and the weight-to-size ratio are two closely related factors to consider. Generally, you need a larger cooking area for charcoal grills when compared with gas grills of the same size. Just remember the bigger a grill is the more charcoal it would need and more residue you would have to take care of.

In case of kettle grills, a grill with a total cooking area of 160-200 sq. inches would be sufficient for 2-3 people only. The Weber Jumbo Joe is the largest tabletop option that we have listed with a cooking area of 240 sq. inches, making it suitable for a larger group.

The Hibachi-style portable charcoal grills are generally smaller and the options that we listed are suitable for up to 4 people only.

You can generally get a larger cooking area with cart charcoal grills because you would not carry them around and instead use the wheels for transportation.

When it comes to the weight of the grill, while all the options that we listed are portable – meaning that they can be transported easily by a single person, some options are specifically heavy-duty. Among hibachi-style grills, the Lodge Pre-Seasoned Sportsman’s Charcoal Grill weighs as much as 27 lbs. inspire of a smallish cooking area of 155 sq. inch, because of its cast iron construction. All other grills have a reasonable size-to-weight ratio.

Check out the cooking surface area and the corresponding weight of the grill to decide upon the best option for your needs.

Portability

Closely related to the size and weight of the grill is the portability of the grill. For tabletop grills, it generally means having foldable legs, smartly placed top and side-handles, compact latched lids with locks and lid retainers that double up as grill support legs. Some of the options that we listed such as Fox Outfitters Foldable Charcoal BBQ Grill and Fire Sense Notebook Charcoal Grill are especially portable because of their unique design that folds to a minimal size for easy transportation.

Charcoal kettle grills are not as portable as the gas grills when it comes to cart grills. The PK Grills Original Charcoal Grill and Smoker grill is probably the most portable of cart grills because the grill box can be detached from the stand and transported separately, without having to reassemble it.

Depending on whether you are camping or just tailgating, you can look at how portable a particular model is before picking the best option.

Additional features and miscellaneous considerations
In addition to the major criteria discussed above, there are some other miscellaneous considerations that can make a particular purchase more suitable than others.

  • Assembly: How easy is to assemble the grill is another additional factor to consider. As in the case of gas grills, Weber grills score big here as they have one of the simplest assembly requirements. Moreover, the instructions are well-explained and easy to follow. Some other models may take a little more time to assemble and configure.
  • Color and Looks: The color and looks of the charcoal grill is not as big a factor as in the case of gas grills as most charcoal grills are painted with non-reflective black or other dark colors and only a few manufacturers offer different color options. This is of course not an issue with stainless steel grills or cast aluminum as they all have a silver metallic look. The looks of the grill can, however, vary from vintage to modern contemporary. The PK and Lodge grills have one of the most authentic traditional builds and looks, while the Cuisinart and Weber grills have a smart modern-day look.
  • Temperature Gauge: While it is not a deal-breaker, an Integrated temperature gauge/thermometer is an excellent addition to the grill. The temperature gauge in the lid allows you to determine the cooking level without having to open the lid and checking out, even though these readings may not always be 100% accurate. Temperature gauges are not very common on tabletop grills. Among grills with cart, the Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill and the Char-Broil Kettleman Charcoal Grill are two examples of cart grills with an integrated temperature gauge.
  • Side Tables and Storage Racks: The presence of a side table and storage rack, especially in case of cart grills is another item to check out. The presence of a side table makes it easier to manage the supplies while cooking. A storage rack provides space to store additional coal bags while cooking.
  • Accessories: The availability of accessories such as grill-carts, grill covers and grate-plates for a specific model are also important considerations. Grill cover is probably the most important of them. Thankfully, most of the options we listed have some excellent accessories available online. You just need to be sure to pick the right ones as per your grill make and model.
  • Warranty: The warranty and after-sale support are probably one of the most important additional considerations to look at. Even though a shorter warranty does not necessarily equate to bad quality, any grill with a warranty of 2+ years on body, lid and cooking surface means that you can expect a hassle-free operation for years. Most of the options that we have listed are manufactured by companies with a decent after-sale support, so you can pick any of them without too many worries. And if you ask us for favorites, our favorites are the Weber, Lodge and PK Grills because of their excellent after-sale support.

Look at all these additional factors to determine if they make a specific grill a better choice for your needs.

Which are the best charcoal grills and what our picks are?

Weber Jumbo Joe Portable Grill review – Editor’s pick for the best tabletop kettle charcoal grill

best tabletop kettle charcoal grill
Weber is a name that has long been synonymous with outdoor grilling and cooking, and the Weber Jumbo Joe is a worthy member of the family when it comes to portable kettle charcoal grills. It is bigger than the hugely popular Smokey Joe, but not big enough to affect the portability.

Like all Weber grills, the Jumbo Joe is made in the US and features a porcelain-enameled steel body and lid. It has a non-stick plated steel grate with a diameter of 18.5 inches, creating a 240 sq. in. of cooking surface. Because of the steel grates instead of cast iron, the weight of the grill is a manageable 17.6 pounds. It features a heat-resistant GRN (glass reinforced nylon) handle which reduces the temperatures on the handle but can still get hot. The parabolic lid maximizes the space for cooking and also helps a little in reflecting the infrared heat to the cooking surface for indirect heating (the actual benefits of parabolic reflection are disputed, but all experts agree that there is definitely some indirect heating improvement).

The Jumbo Joe has three stable aluminum legs which create an overall height of around 15 inches. The aluminized legs hold a shallow-bowl ash catcher dish which is reasonably deep, but because of the bowl shape may not secure all the residue in windy weather. There is a clearance of around 4.5 inches between the lid and the grill which means fitting a full chicken may be a challenge though there is enough space for roasts, chops and burger patties.

The best part of the Jumbo Joe is the rust-free aluminum vents with dampers to manage the temperature within the grill. The vents are adjustable and about 1 inch wide. The three bottom vents are located symmetrically to the kettle axis. The lid also has adjustable aluminum vents. The lid also has a lid retainer to hold the handle and create an airtight cooking chamber when the lid is closed. This is especially useful if you wish to smoke your meat. The retainer also helps in keeping the kettle closed during transportation.

The Jumbo Joe is designed to compete beyond its weight class when it comes to cooking efficiency. The presence of airtight design and smartly placed vents help it produce a cooking efficiency that rivals all portable kettle grills. And turning off is easier than most other grills – closing the vents extinguishes the charcoal quickly.

Like other Weber charcoal grills, the Weber Jumbo Joe is backed by a ten-year warranty on cooking surface and lid, five years on cleaning system and plastic parts and two years on the remaining parts. So, you can use it for years without worrying about durability. And assembling is easy and you would be good to go in about 30 minutes.

For its unmatched made in the US quality, excellent performance, and durability, the Weber Jumbo Joe Portable Grill is our Editor’s pick for the best tabletop charcoal kettle grill in the market. This high-quality kettle grill is a perfect grill to get for cooking and smoking food over charcoal.
Pros
  • High-quality porcelain-enameled steel body and lid with a plated steel grate.
  • High-quality rust-free adjustable aluminum vents provide superior control on ventilation and temperature while cooking and quick turn-off.
  • Parabolic lid, secure lid lock and a smartly-designed lid retainer create an air-tight cooking chamber for efficient smoking while cooking.
  • Stable and secure three-leg design.
  • Backed by a ten-year warranty on cooking surface and lid, five years on cleaning system and plastic parts and two years on the remaining parts.
Cons
  • Bowl-shaped aluminized ash catcher may not hold the residue in windy conditions.
  • Heavier and costlier than some other kettle grills, but you get what you pay for.

PK Grills Original Charcoal Grill & Smoker review – Editor’s pick for the best charcoal grill with cart

best charcoal grill with cart
Very few grills have managed to keep the tradition and design of yester-years than the award-winning Portable Kitchen Inc.’s PK Original Grill and Smoker. Originally designed and built in 1950’s and reborn in 1998, this cart charcoal grill is a handcrafted masterpiece and perfect grill to own if you can afford it.

The PK Original Grill features a body and lid made of pure cast aluminum which is hand-poured in Little Rock, Arkansas, the USA using the similar grill capsule cast as in 1950’s. It features a nickel-plated steel cooking grate. The grill has a rectangular, box-shaped cooking surface that is 35 inches long and 16.5 inches wide, with an aggregate cooking area of 301 sq.in. The grill weighs 45 lbs.

It features four cast aluminum legs, two with semi-pneumatic rubber wheels for easy transportation. The grill oven is fully removable from the cart for easy storage and transportation.

The lid of the grill is hinged and opens on the shorter side to provide better utilization of the cooking area. The grill has an aluminum side table for storing tools and supplies while cooking. It also has a full-sized solid bottom rack for storing coal bags.

The biggest exhibition of the quality of this grill is probably in the cooking efficiency. Its four-point venting system with two adjustable vents on the top and two dampers under the fire provide an excellent flow of air and hence help in complete temperature control over cooking. The cooking capsule can maintain a steady temperature of 180-700 F for long periods of time without a fuss.

The rectangular, flat bottom provides a uniform bed for coals or briquettes, helping in producing uniform flame across the meat and exceptional performance in both “hot and fast” grilling or “low and slow”(barbecue) cooking situations. No wonder it has been the choice of master grillers and steak contest champions (2015 and 2016).

Because of a total rust-free cast aluminum construction, this grill is extremely durable and can last for a generation. Some people have owned it for more than a couple of decades. And to back its quality, PK Grills are backed by a 10-year warranty on body and lid.

Finally, if you are looking for a newer design and can shell out more money, check out the 2017-designed PK360 Grill.

For its tradition, exceptional quality and unmatched performance, the PK Original Grill and Smoker is our Editor’s pick for the best cart charcoal grill in the market. It may be considerably costlier than most other grills, but it is designed to work for decades.
Pros
  • Traditional masterpiece, award-winning grill handcrafted in the US with cast aluminum body and lid and a hinged, nickel-plated steel grate.
  • Features a superior 4-point venting system that provides excellent temperature control.
  • Comes with a side table and bottom rack for extra storage.
  • Features a four-legged stable cart with two semi-pneumatic wheels. The grill can be removed from the stand for easy transportation.
  • Built to last for decades. Backed by a 10-year warranty on cast aluminum part.
Cons
  • Considerably costlier than other charcoal grills.

Fuel for charcoal grills

You can fire-up your charcoal grill with three primary types of fuel – Lump Charcoal, Hardwood briquettes, and Non-wood briquettes. The active ingredient in Lump charcoal and hardwood briquette fuel units is the same – wood burned with a restricted supply of oxygen to create coal. The wood used in making the charcoal includes oak, hickory, maple and some tropical Asian or South American woods, and you can even get options for specific flavoring. Non-wood briquettes use other ingredients than wood such as coconut shells.

Lump coal or charcoal is the regular coal or charcoal bag that you get from your nearby store. Lump charcoal is pretty cheap and gets broiling hot in 10-12 minutes. However, because of the irregular shape, you would have to arrange the coal bed diligently to get a uniform flame all around.

Some of the popular lump charcoal options available online are listed below (with free shipping):

Hardwood or “Natural” Briquettes are essentially made from lump charcoal by crushing the coal and re-binding it using a binder such as natural starch. Hardwood briquettes are uniformly shaped and easier to manage and burn almost as quickly as the charcoal. They, however, may not get as hot as the natural charcoal and produce more ash. Then there are Insta-light briquettes that have additional petroleum-based additives added to the hardwood charcoal to make them ignite faster and burn quicker. Because of the petroleum additives, some people complain that such briquettes produce an oily after-taste on the food. So, you should avoid Insta-light briquettes.

Some of the most popular natural charcoal briquette options available online are listed below:

  • Kingsford Original Natural Charcoal Briquettes
  • Fire & Flavor John Wayne Natural Briquette Charcoal
  • Original Natural Premium Charcoal Briquettes
  • Some manufacturers have developed briquettes using other natural products such as coconut shells. They claim that such briquettes are equally effective and the residue ash produced is a natural fertilizer. In case you want to check them out, consider the following options:

    Charcoal Grill Accessories

    Grills in general, and gas grills in particular have a lot of accessories associated with them. Most grill manufacturers have their own range of accessories such as grill covers, grates, smokers etc. The best option is to get such items from the same manufacturers to avoid any issues later. You can, however, opt for other options when it comes to things such as charcoal starters, grilling tools, thermometers and cleaning supplies.

    One of the major limitations associated with charcoal grills is to ensure proper ignition of the fuel-bed. You can use lighter fluid or check out some of the popular commercial options listed below. And if you would love to make your own fire starters, check out our article on some great do it yourself Fire starters:

    You can also consider getting a chimney starter to speed up the firing up your coal. A chimney starter has a steel cylinder with vents. The lump charcoal and briquettes can be stacked in the grate and a newspaper or placed below the grate to ignite the charcoal. Large holes around the circumference feed the air to the coals, leading to expedited burning of charcoal (you can even use chimney starters for high-temperature unconventional cooking such as searing fish and meat). Some of the best chimney starters to consider are listed below:

    Grilling requires some specific set of grilling tools. If you are looking for a basic 3 or 4-piece grilling tool set, you can consider the following options:

    Furthermore, if you are looking for some decent cleaning kits to clean up your grill after a cookout, you can check out the following popular options:

    Things to remember when using a charcoal grill

    You should follow some basic safety precautions while using a charcoal grill. These precautions are summarized below:

    • Always choose a safe, outdoor location for your grill. Ensure that you have a plane surface for your grill. For tabletop grills, ensure that you have a stable concrete or wooden base. For grills with stands, ensure that the stand is secured perfectly on a stable ground. This will ensure that the grill is properly balanced while cooking.
    • Never use a charcoal grill indoors or in enclosed space, even if it is well ventilated.
    • Keep the charcoal layers to only as much as required. The general norm is that you do not need a fuel-bed of more than 2 inches for a decent barbeque cooking.
    • The lighter starter fluid can produce Carbon Monoxide, especially when used over burning briquettes. If you are using a starter fluid, let the charcoal absorb the fluid for a few minutes before starting the fire.
    • Use the starter fluid only for starting the fire and not overburning flames, as the flames can follow the fluid trajectory and cause burns. Also, ensure that you keep the starter fluid at a safe distance while grilling.
    • Create a kids-free zone around the grill. Teach kids to stay at a safe distance from the grill while it is in operation.
    • Always use recommended fuel types and starter fluids with your grill or stove. Do not look at improvising and using non-standard mechanisms such as using gasoline as starter fluid as that may be hazardous.
    • Charcoal needs a cooling down period even after the cooking is over. Remove any unburnt charcoal briquettes or lumps, soak them in water if required (while staying away from hot steam) and let them dry completely before storing away. Before removing the ashes from the grill, make sure it has fully cooled down. Never store the ashes in paper or plastic bag after the cookout as it can start a fire.

    Following these principles would ensure that you and your family and friends will have an enjoyable time while cooking on the grill.

    Final thoughts on the best portable charcoal grills to buy

    Grilling has been one of the most popular processes for preparing food over the years. Whether you are RVing, camping, tailgating or having a beach or backyard party, portable charcoal grills offer a cheap, convenient way to get a juicier, smoked barbeque flavor for your meat and veggies.
    In this article, we looked at some of the best portable charcoal grills – both tabletop and grills with carts, available in the market. These portable grills can be conveniently transported by a single person, making them perfect for outings. We also looked at some of the factors to consider while picking the most suitable option for your needs and shared our favorite picks. Finally, we looked at the fuel choices to consider for such grills and some of the popular accessories that go with them and also shared some safety tips to follow while using these grills.
    We hope that this article would help you in picking your next portable charcoal grill for camping or tailgating. Do let us know your feedback and if you would want us to consider anything else by commenting below. Until next time, happy grilling!

    Image credits:Amazon.com

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