Kristen Hicks on July 12, 2016 0 Comments Table of Contents Why You Should Consider A Charcoal Grill Types of Charcoal Grills Factors to Consider While Shopping Grilling is a quintessential part of summer. From hot dogs to beer-can chicken to that perfectly cooked burger, nothing says summer like BBQ’ing among friends and family. No matter how many different types of BBQ grills or cooking methods come onto the scene, nothing quite adds the flavor like a charcoal grill. While gas and electric grills provide a certain amount of convenience, as well as have their own set of benefits and devoted fans, people for whom flavor is the top priority inevitably tend to stick with charcoal grills. Why You Should Consider a Charcoal Grill The smoky taste charcoal grilling provides is definitely the main reason customers typically go with charcoal grills over all the other grilling options. The smoke and heat produced by burning charcoal produces juicy meats with the kind of delicious, distinct flavor that many home chefs associate with summer grilling. However, the unmatched flavor is not the only reason to consider buying a charcoal grill. Here’s a few more reasons: They’re Affordable & Portable: If you want a backyard grill, but don’t have much of a budget to work with, then your cheapest option will be a small, portable charcoal grill. These will typically cost less than $100, with many portable grills costing as little as $30. They Get Hot: Charcoal grills can typically reach higher temperatures than gas or electric ones. That higher heat makes it possible to get meats that are crisp on the outside, yet remain juicy and flavorful on the inside. They’re Traditional: If you grew up eating burgers and steaks that your family made on a charcoal grill, there’s good chance that’s what you’ll want to stick with this method as an adult. Memories are powerful and recreating the delicious flavors of our youth is a popular pastime of human beings from all cultures. For many consumers, that means going with a charcoal grill. If you’re convinced that a charcoal grill is the best option for you, and you’re ready to start the buying process. There are a few things you should take into consideration before you make a purchase. Below we will layout all the important info, features, factors and brands, all to help you make the most informed decision and ensure that you get the best charcoal grill for your lifestyle. Types of Charcoal Grills There are three main types of charcoal grills you’ll come across in your search. All of these different types will be available in a variety of different sizes, ranging from small and portable to large and built-in. Kettle Grills Kettle grills are a popular option on account of being pretty simple and affordable. They are also extremely versatile, as you can find them in a wide variety of sizes. If you’re looking for a portable charcoal grill, this would be the style that would likely fit you best. If you want a BBQ grill, but you’re not prepared to make a big financial investment, you can find a decent selection of kettle grills for less than $200, with many of these in the $30 to $60 range. Keep in mind, like any other appliance in your home, the overall size and number of features will play a role in the total cost. Kettle grills are defined by their round shape and defined bowl that holds your coals. It’s this bowl-shape that allows this type of charcoal grill to retain much of their heat, which makes them especially good for simpler grilling tasks with shorter cook times. They usually have a fairly small cooking surface, which means that while they’re suitable for smaller gatherings or grilling for your immediate family, they may not be the best charcoal grill for large parties. If affordability is one of your top priorities and you just want a decent grill that gets the job done, then a kettle grill is a going to be a good fit for you. In Summary: Your most affordable option. Often the most portable type of grill, especially with smaller sizes. Better for meats that require a shorter cooking time. Good for grilling small quantities, but not ideal for large parties. Barrel Grills & Smokers Barrel grills are bigger and a bit more versatile than kettle grills. If you’re looking to go beyond basic grilling and want to try your hand at start slow cooking or smoking some of your meats, then you should consider going with a barrel grill. This type of grill provides a larger cooking surface, making it ideal for anyone who likes grilling for large groups of people. You will not only be able to make more food at once, but do so at a quicker rate with a barrel grill. Due to their larger size, they tend to cost a little more than kettle grills though. Barrel grills usually fall somewhere in the $100-$400 price range, with higher-end models with all the bells and whistles sometimes reaching over $1,000. A lot of barrel grills tend to have the barrel shape their name would suggest, but not all of them have a rounded top and bottom. In Summary: Offer a large cooking space. Good for slow cooking and smoking meats. Cost a little more than kettle grills. Typically have more features. Ceramic & Kamado Grills Ceramic grills are often referred to as kamado grills or egg-shaped grills. They’re built with a Japanese design that not only holds heat in effectively, but also regulates the temperature more efficiently than any other type of charcoal grill. Kamado grills are fantastic for a wide range of cooking tasks. They can be used for the same delicious juicy meats you’d make with other charcoal grills, but you can also use them for grilling things like pizzas, breads, and paella. You can even make many delicious desserts. With thick walls and egg-shaped design, kamado grills warm up faster than other types of charcoal grills and have a reputation of producing better flavors because the smoke and heat remain contained within the grill during cooking. Unlike other types of grills, these are extremely durable and can stay outside all year-round with little worries about how the weather will affect it. Of course, with all these extra benefits comes an extra cost. Ceramic grills usually range from $300 to $2,000, with most of the best-known brands starting around $700. If you do a lot of grilling, this is definitely a worthy investment. It’s quality, reputation and ease of use makes these one of the best charcoal grills available, but the question you need to ask yourself is whether it is the best grill for your lifestyle. In Summary: Great for a wide range of cooking types and recipes. Meats have a great flavor because the smoke and heat is better contained. Warms up quickly and retains its temperature in a very efficient manner. More expensive than other types of charcoal grills. Factors to Consider When Buying a Charcoal Grill Different buyers have different priorities when it comes to buying a charcoal grill. Here are some of the most important factors to consider to figure out the best charcoal grill for you. Cost For a certain sort of consumer, cost will always be top of mind. Even for most shoppers that don’t fall into that category, it has to be a concern. If affordability is your top priority when buying a charcoal grill, then a simple and basic kettle grill is likely to be your best bet. If you need a larger cooking surface, but aren’t prepared to pay a whole lot more for it, you can find barrel grills that don’t cost too much more than kettle grills and provide a larger surface area. While you can easily get a charcoal grill for less than $100, many consumers will want to go a bit higher for one reason or another. Spending more can get you a larger cooking surface, a more sturdy construction, or a grill that produces better flavor. Size You have two main considerations when it comes to size. First, how big is the grill itself? If you want a small grill that you can take with you camping or over to a friend’s house, you need one that’s relatively light and portable. If it will have one designated spot it lives in, then you just need to make sure the charcoal grill you buy fits in that spot. Kettle grills and ceramic grills are often on the smaller side, in terms of the space they take up, but ceramic grills get pretty heavy so don’t expect to be able to move them around as easily as other types of grills. Barrel grills vary a quite a bit in size, but most of these grills will be on the larger side. The second, and equally important concern, is cooking surface. If you typically won’t be grilling for more than three or four people at a time, than any size cooking surface should do. If you want to be able to throw big backyard BBQs, where you make burgers for 20 or 30 people at once, then you’ll want to find something larger. In that case, you’ll want to look for a charcoal grill with a relatively large cooking surface. Many manufacturers provide information on how many burgers you can fit on the surface of their grill in the marketing materials so you can get a clear picture of what to expect. Cooking Uses Burgers and hot dogs are one thing – they’re relatively easy to make on any type of grill. If you want to get a little more sophisticated or varied in how you cook your meats or what you’re able to cook on your charcoal grill, then going with a kamado grill may be the best fit for you. Bullet and barrel grills are better than kettle ones for meats you want to slow cook or smoke. But ceramic grills are your best bet all around for variety and flavor, if you’re willing to make the investment they entail. You can make all kinds of things in a ceramic grill, including baking bread or pizza. And people who own kamado grills are quick to rave about the quality of the flavor and texture of the meats they cook in them. Temperature Control Home grillers that care about precision will want to choose a grill that allows for some temperature control. The lid of your grill plays a big role in temperature control – a tight-fitting lid is important no matter the type or brand you go with. The other main factor that influences how much power you’ll have over the temperature are the dampers the grill offers. Any grill you buy should have at least two dampers, one for letting oxygen in and another for letting exhaust out. Additional dampers or vents give you a little more control, especially for larger grills. Some charcoal grills even come with an adjustable option that lets you move how far the coals are from the cooking surface, which makes it easy to increase and decrease the amount of heat your food is exposed to quickly and easily. Ultimately, kamado grills offer the best temperature control, due to their thick ceramic walls and egg-shaped design. But, you may notice a bit of a learning curve when it comes to regulating the internal temperatures and keeping them precisely where they want them. Ease of Use and Cleaning While charcoal grills provide a better flavor, one of the downsides of choosing charcoal over other options is that it takes more work. Any charcoal grill you go with is going to require a little effort to get the grill started and make sure you cook your food the way you want. For most home grillers though, you’ll get the hang of using your charcoal grill pretty quickly and won’t have much issue (other than occasional impatience at waiting for it to heat up when you’re already hungry). There are a few features you can look for that make using and cleaning charcoal grills easier. Some grills are designed with an extra door or hinged cooking grates that make it easier to add more charcoal when needed without removing the food or grates on the grill. Other grills have a removable ash catcher that will make it easy to remove the ash produced by coals. Some kind of tool or built-in mechanism for dumping the ash makes a big difference in how easy clean up is. If you can simply pull out a tray to dump ash, rather than having to scrape it out of the bottom of the grill or flip it over, you’ll appreciate the convenience. Durability The best charcoal grills, if properly maintained, can last for many summers of BBQs. Spending a little more on a brand that has a strong reputation can often mean not having to repeat the process of a buying a new grill again for many years (unless you just decide you’d like an extra, or to give one as a gift). The best things to look out for if you want to find a grill with solid durability are the quality of the materials and construction, the reviews, and the warranty offered. Customers usually aren’t shy about going online to complain about it if their charcoal grill doesn’t last long or easily falls apart, and a solid warranty will let you know the company stands by their product and doesn’t expect it to break on you, at least within a certain time period. Safety As with most types of cooking, safety is largely in the hands of the user. Make sure you understand how the grill works, read the instructions, and follow some basic safety tips for grilling with charcoal. Keep your exhaust damper open any time you’re cooking, and don’t dump the ashes until they’re fully extinguished. The main thing to look for in a charcoal grill in terms of safety is one that’s sturdy. You should feel confident it won’t tip over while you’re using it. This would pose a major fire hazard and can be quite dangerous for anyone near the grill if it tips over. Features and Accessories: Quality Grates: All charcoal grills come with grates, but how well made your grates are will make a difference in how long they last and how useful they are. Multiple Sections: Some grills with a larger cooking surface offer multiple sections so you can cook different items at different levels of heat at the same time, or just use one section when you’re cooking for a smaller number of people. Adjustable: Some charcoal grills include a feature that allows you to adjust how far the charcoals are from the cooking surface, allowing for better heat precision. Thermometer: For any type of cooking with heat you need to know the temperature to get the results right. Get a good thermometer so you can grill your foods just how you want them. V-rack: If you’re going to make ribs or poultry on your grill, a v-rack holds them into place to make the whole grilling process easier. Ash Catcher: A grill with a removable ash catcher will make cleaning the unit simple and convenient. These are common in many grills, but are definitely a design feature you will pay a little extra for. Conclusion Once you have your charcoal grill, you can start re-creating all those great grilling memories from your past. The smoky flavors are great, but the whole experience of grilling outside with family and friends is an important part of the equation. Find the right grill for you now, so you can take advantage of tasty backyard BBQs for the rest of the summer.