Over the years I’ve accumulated knowledge of buying a multitude of charcoal BBQs and accessories alongside all different types of charcoal. I’ve now learnt to recognize the best quality charcoal BBQs from the poorly designed ones. That’s why I’m here!
I’ve put together some guides and reviews to help take away all the heavy lifting to help you make an informed choice. If you’d much rather make your own decision elsewhere this page will help point you in the right direction, on what to look for.
What should you consider before buying a BBQ?
There are so many important facts to consider before buying a BBQ, you are more than likely investing a large amount of your hard-earned cash into a good quality charcoal grill. As my mum used to say ‘buy cheap buy twice’.
Generally, that is the rule to follow keep a lookout for a great useable design and stick to good build quality. Let the food being cooked speak for itself. Remember a Barbecue is a tool used to cook your food, a BBQ won’t flip your burgers for you.
There are some amazing value budget BBQs available and you don’t always need to spend hundreds.
How will you know it’s a great quality grill?
Well if you’re like me and find yourself examining the quality of anything I’m spending my hard-earned cash on, well certain things I look for in a BBQ:
- Will the BBQ leak like sieve?
A Charcoal BBQ needs holes in the base to allow oxygen in to keep the coals lit, but too many and any smoke I want to keep in the cooking area will leak. Also, Does the lid sit flush to the base?
- Does it feel sturdy?
I want something robust, that will not fall over in a gust of wind. I’m not going to be BBQing in gale force winds but if it wobbles like crazy on its legs then it’s not for me.
- What metal should it be made from?
Look your not going to be getting the microscope out, but the best charcoal BBQs are usually manufactured in porcelain enamel-coated steel. Take from that what you will.
- Attachments and accessories
Great, it comes with a huge amount of accessories to make your life easier. These usually mean the BBQ was a premium and that might be the reason you decide to purchase, but are they usable? I have found myself launching them straight in the B file halfway through the first use.
- Less is sometimes more
A lot of BBQs on the market require you to build the final product, if it’s a thousand pieces in the box, that turns me off. The less I need to build generally the better the finished article will be.
How much should you spend?
Well, I can’t tell you how much disposable income you have. But with that in mind, you can get completely consumed by the sheer amount of accessories (we’ve got buying guides for them) you may or may not need to start you off barbecuing and setting a budget to start you off can be difficult.
All I’m saying is just bear in mind don’t blow your whole budget on a charcoal BBQ and then not have anything left for decent charcoal. I have put together a guide for charcoal BBQs under 200 if you are on a tighter budget.
Before making your purchase on the BBQ which is a great one by the way take a look at some of the BBQ accessories available, I know of a few items you will want on day one.
How do you intend on using your charcoal BBQ?
If your intention is a typical family BBQ every other weekend in the summer then buy a good quality kettle-style BBQ or if you’re on a tighter budget take a look at charcoal BBQ under 200. In all honesty, just a great-designed BBQ that’s built to last will suit you perfectly with the added ability to add some attachments if you are looking to spice things up a little.
If you are like me and just get completely consumed by a hobby and can’t think of anything else but barbecued food. Then I’m going to suggest investing in something really special like a ceramic BBQ, a Kamado Joe for instance, what an absolute beast of a charcoal BBQ. There really isn’t much you can’t do with it. As you find yourself cooking outside more and less in the kitchen with the oven, it can be better to take the plunge straight away.
If you are just grilling for a party and will probably never use it again till next year or you just want to impress some friends/family then really this comes down to budget. How much do you want to spend? In all honesty, if this is you in my opinion it’s worth looking at something basic because charcoal grills can be a little temperamental if you don’t know how to use them or aren’t interested in it, it won’t end well. Again let the food do the talking not necessarily the equipment.
You may be a once-a-year griller when on holiday camping in which case a good portable BBQ will suit your needs better. Most premium BBQ brands have potable BBQs, brands like Weber have more than one available which suits both ends of the budget scale.
What will you use your grill for the most?
Now you may be new to some of the jargon and different ways to utilize a BBQ, we have guides on the website to explain some of the below in more depth.
If you think that you will most like be using your charcoal BBQ for burgers and sausages as a casual barbecue chef then stay clear of buying a charcoal BBQ intended as a smoker.
If you are completely new to the world of BBQs but want to get completely involved and try foods such as making pulled pork, then that requires smoking the meat. In which case you will want to buy a charcoal BBQ that can also be used as a smoker (generally a BBQ with a lid).
If you intend only to use your BBQ for the attachments such as a pizza oven or rotisserie. Then make sure you buy the BBQ that all these attachments are readily available for.
You would think I shouldn’t have to make it that obvious but honestly if you didn’t know the Weber rotisserie attachment won’t fit on the Weber 47 Compact Kettle, then how would you know?
Where do you intend on using your charcoal BBQ?
If you live in an accommodation without a garden but know you will want to BBQ on a camping trip or day at the beach, then consider a portable BBQ. By the way, some of the portable BBQs on the market are good enough for a small backyard or even just a quick cook if you haven’t got the need to get all the gear out. Weber makes two of the best portable charcoal BBQs on the market take a look here.
If space in your garden is an issue then don’t consider buying a great big drum barrel BBQ. There are many small BBQs that still have a great-sized cooking space such as a compact kettle style BBQ.
Where are you going to store your grill?
Leaving your charcoal BBQ open to the elements without proper protection and your BBQ will get destroyed in no time. So think about where you are going to store it when you’re not using it. If like most people you are a fair weather charcoal BBQ enthusiast then remember your charcoal grill could be stored away for 6 months of the year.
Are you storing your charcoal BBQ outdoors?
If you have an area that is partially sheltered or not open to the wind then take note of this space because this is now BBQ storage. If you are storing out in the elements then invest in a good quality BBQ cover.
Got a shed for storage?
Awesome, this is the best place to store any outdoor cooking-related equipment when it’s not in use, but again I strongly recommend you keep your BBQ covered for protection.
I also recommend you make sure you have the space to keep your charcoal BBQ in the shed without having to remove it every time someone wants to get a bike out. Take note of the space!
What about charcoal which should you buy?
The 2 most common forms of charcoal are briquette and lump wood, I always keep a bag of each stored ready.
Briquettes are usually used for smoking or longer cooks due to the lower temperatures produced by the charcoal. Briquettes don’t usually taint the flavor of the food.
Lumpwood is better for that fast and hot style of cooking (i.e burgers) due to the high heat and lower cooking time Lumpwood will give you. Lumpwood will flavor your food with a smoky taste.
What is lumpwood?
Lumpwood is pieces of hardwood that go through a manufacturing stage and turn into charcoal.
Lumpwood is made in a charcoal kiln, this process carbonises lumps of hardwood like oak, maple, cherry and many others. The process of carbonising hardwood is burning the wood for a long period of time in a zero oxygen environment.
Lumpwood has all of the harmful chemicals in the wood burnt out during carbonisation. However if you use easy light charcoal bags this has harmful chemicals added back in to speed up lighting process, want to know more see this article.
What are Briquettes?
Briquettes are reformed charcoal made into specific shapes. Briquettes burn a lot cooler than lump wood and due to the compact design burn a lot longer.
The process of making a briquette is the same as lumpwood however the lump wood is crushed after carbonization, and then compressed into molds with additives like a binding agent and allowed to dry.
What’s restaurant grade charcoal?
Restaurant grade charcoal is the largest pieces of lump wood charcoal.
Due to the long periods of cooking time required in a restaurant and the enhanced flavor required that comes from lump wood, only the largest individual pieces of lump wood qualify as restaurant quality. Briquettes are not very often considered in restaurants.
Why can’t you use any old bits of wood?
Well, when smoking a pork joint or a nice fat juicy brisket you use a few bits of seasoned hardwood alongside briquettes. The hardwood slow-burning and ‘smoking’ is what packs the smoky flavor into the meat.
The seasoning process is aging and drying the wood. You can season wood at home by keeping it outside under a cover but allowing the wood to breathe. This whole process will take around 6 months to a year depending on the climate.
Using wood that is still wet or fresh will give your food a really horrible taste.
The other thing of note is that you don’t just use any old bits of a tree but select choices of wood that compliment different foods.
What about charcoal BBQ accessories?
There are thousands of different accessories for grillers on the market. Some are worthwhile like charcoal trays and some are just gimmicks. Outdoor cooking has been my hobby for as long as I can remember and the postman has delivered “tools” to me daily. I had to justify to my partner what all these parcels were.
My knowledge of these “tools” is being passed to you through this website. I want to help you choose the right BBQ accessories that will compliment your BBQing experience rather than hinder it.
Why should you invest in BBQ tools?
Well, when I say invest I’m not meaning spend every penny you have. I’m talking about purchasing the right tools to make your BBQ life easier. There are charcoal grilling accessories that speed up the process of lighting the charcoal to a point. Tools even exist to tell you when to take your meat off the BBQ via an app on your smartphone, yes it’s a digital thermometer but not as you know them.
Do BBQ accessories give a better grilling experience?
100%. I’ve only come across a few accessories that were only fit for the trash. Making BBQ more convenient and accessible to all is the reason they exist. There are even accessories for the accessories, you will see.
I feel the experience is everything when cooking food on a BBQ and if anything makes it a better experience, then that leads to better tasting food.
Which BBQ essentials should everyone own?
Now some of the items below I strongly recommend on day one of acquiring a charcoal BBQ, now this small list below is exactly those. There are a few more that you may want but they aren’t what I would call critical on day one of barbecuing.
If you don’t know what a charcoal chimney is, in summary, it’s a big metal mug with some holes in it, you use it to speed up the igniting time of charcoal. As you may or may not know charcoal can take a long time to heat to a point where you can cook on it safely.
Heat resistant gloves are a must. Need I say more?
Sunny today raining all day tomorrow. Now your BBQ won’t melt away in the rain, but it will speed up the time needed to replace your investment if it’s constantly open to the elements. Not a single charcoal BBQ I have ever owned has felt a drop of rain.
Will BBQ accessories keep me safe when grilling?
I mean this just comes to common sense but some essential accessories will stop a journey to accident and emergency. There are a few household items that can help keep others safe too. For example, if you have young children running/crawling around the garden while trying to grill, then fireplace guards work well.
Again, I don’t need to spell this out but generally, a good set of BBQ gloves are heat resistant or offer some level of fireproofing. Generally, these are one of the cheaper purchases you will make when BBQing and one of the most vital to keeping you safe.
Not only do big leather aprons look cool, but they also stop all the hot fat spitting all over you and ruining your clothes.
Gloves for handling meat
The only reason I suggest gloves for handling raw meat when BBQing is instead of just washing your hands. Is it’s not always convenient to leave your grill unattended. I get extremely annoyed if these gloves rip as soon as I put them on. So I do look for durable gloves.
Why you cannot use kitchen utensils on a BBQ
Well, you can and a lot of the time, they are great for starting with. I would however recommend getting some purpose-built BBQ utensils. For example tongs, BBQ tongs are a hell of a lot bigger than your standard kitchen items meaning you won’t get burnt picking up chicken from the grill.
The good news is not all premium branded barbecues cost the earth. The best brands in the Charcoal BBQ world that you should look for are:
I always hope that I won’t have to use any warranty, but stuff goes wrong in transit or during the manufacturing stage. It happens. I want to know that when it does I’m covered. So I always pay attention to the length of the warranty.
Most BBQ manufacturers have impeccable customer service, I’ve only had to use Weber BBQ customer service once and it was one of the best customer service experiences I’ve had.