Are you one of those grilling enthusiasts that are captivated by the flavorful taste and appetizing aroma? There is no better way to do so than go the classical way using charcoal-generated heat to get the meatpiece cooking.
Having a charcoal grill in your home can turn an ordinary cooking day into a culinary adventure. You’ll have the option of creating scrumptious grilled or smoked dishes. And you don’t even need to spend a fortune on a good charcoal grill.
Here’s a curated list of some top-quality charcoal grills under $500 in 2021.
At a Glance: Best Charcoal Grills Under $500 in 2021
|Weber Performer Deluxe Grill|
|363 sq. in.||91 lbs||4.9|
|Kamado Joe Jr. Grill|
(Best for Small Family)
|148 sq. in.||68 lbs||4.9|
|Weber Original Kettle Grill|
|363 sq. in.||37.3 lbs||4.7|
|PK Grills PKO-SCAX-X|
(Best with Smoker)
|300 sq. in.||45 lbs||4.8|
|Char-Griller E16620 Akorn Kamado Grill|
(Best for Apartments)
|447 sq. in.||97 lbs||4.8|
Best Overall: Weber 15501001 Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill
One of the best charcoal grills in the market today, Weber’s Performer Deluxe charcoal grill is the pinnacle of its empire. The tabletop version is very convenient and easy to use.
The Weber provides you a 363-inch cooking area with a 22-inch porcelain lid. The porcelain-coated steel used to construct this grill also makes it extremely durable. This grill also features a swanky LCD screen that displays the details about the item you’re cooking.
The huge space allows you to cook a multitude of foods like briskets, ribs, and pork butts. The grill can approximately fit in 13 burgers at once, making it an extremely efficient grill for backyard barbecues and family lunches.
The Weber deluxe grill is equipped with Weber’s patented Touch-N-Go gas-powered charcoal ignition system, that almost works like a gas grill. You don’t have to get your hands dirty.
The Weber Deluxe Grill sports an aluminum steel One-Touch cleaning mechanism that has a removable aluminum ash catcher. This system makes your life easy as it swipes debris and ash into the catcher, leaving you with little clean-up to do.
With wheels attached to its legs, the grill can be easily moved around and is quite portable. However, it may not be an ideal choice for camping and other similar activities as it’s quite heavy.
The grill is perfect for small families as well as large crowds if you have guests over.
One impeccable feature of the Weber is the weather-proof CharBin container. This container allows you to store pieces of charcoal that you can use whenever the need arises.
What we like:
- 363 sq. in. of decent cooking area with work table
- Electronic ignition system
- One-Touch ash-catcher system
- Dedicated charcoal storage space
What we didn’t like:
- Propane tank capacity is small – only 5lbs
Best for Small Family: Kamado Joe Jr. KJ13RH Charcoal Grill
Primarily made of ceramic, the Kamado Joe Jr. is close to 1.25-inches thick and porous. This porosity and thickness allow the grill to maintain the same temperature for a prolonged period. It also allows you to save money because you don’t burn as much charcoal. Moreover, the heat-resistant coating on the exterior of the ceramic protects the grill for many years.
Consumers have often wondered if the Kamado Jr. might be a little too small. But that’s not the case. You have close to 148 square inches of cooking space, which is more than enough to grill a lot of your favorite meats and veggies for a couple. The cooking space allows you to fit beef ribs or brisket on a stick and pork shoulders in there.
Unfortunately, cooking an entire brisket will not be possible. However, If you’re planning to host a party, we recommend buying up to the Kamado Joe Classic II which boasts 256 square inches of primary cooking space and that also can be expanded up to 660 sq. in. with the help of a grill expander, which is enough to accommodate 4 to 6 people without much issue.
The Joe Jr. has been designed specifically with portability in mind and can easily fit in your backyard or even your apartment. It has two handles on the sides, making moving the grill around quite easy. It’s also a great camping companion.
Cleaning and maintaining the Kamado Jr. is quite simple as the cooking grate is made from stainless steel. All you need to do is scrape off the extra food and ash using the ash tool. Make sure you wipe the grill with a damp towel to keep it nice and clean.
The Kamado Jr. is a perfect grill for an everyday barbecue for a couple. It’s also great for tailgating and camping.
What we like:
- It’s portable – perfect for camping and tailgating
- Excellent heat retention due to ceramic walls
- Perfect for searing steaks – temperature can go upto 750°F
- Weighs only 68lbs
What we didn’t like:
- A bit pricey than it’s competitors, but worth it
Best Budget: Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill
The Weber Original is a classic for a reason. Their design has stayed relatively the same since 1952, but they’ve added necessary accessories over the years to enhance your cooking experience.
This charcoal grill is made of durable materials like porcelain-enameled steel, which may not exactly be “heavy-duty” but it stands the test of time. The lid and bowl are also made with porcelain-enameled steel.
This 22-inch grill lets you cook several pieces of meat simultaneously. While perfect for smaller gatherings, the cooking space in the Weber may not be enough for larger groups of people.
You can grill close to 13 burgers at once if you have guests over, making the grill extremely efficient and less time-consuming. You could also grill an entire chicken or a turkey in the Weber Original Kettle.
Much to our liking, Weber’s lightweight construction and wheels on two of its legs make the grill extremely easy to move and reposition. The wheels could have been slightly bigger, but that is a minor issue.
Cleaning the Weber is an easy task because of the ash catcher. Its deep bowl-like construction allows you to easily pour the ash into the trash without extra spillage. As for cleaning the grates, start a fire, heat the grill, and take a bristle-free brush and scrub the grates.
This grill is perfect for small families or couples. While not ideal for large gatherings, it can still be used as a backup grill.
This premium model adds some much-needed upgrades to its 70-year-old design. It now features an in-built thermometer on the lid that lets you control the temperature of the grill.
What we like:
- Best-performing charcoal grill
- Suitable for camping and tailgating
- Parabolic shape reflects heat efficiently
- Budget friendly
What we didn’t like:
- Medium cooking space
Best with Smoker: PK Grills PKO-SCAX-X
The PKO-SCAX-X has a retro and stylish design and sports a capsule shape inspired by the grills in the ’50s. It’s crafted with a 0.25-inch thick but light-cast aluminum. This material is not only rust-resistant and durable but can also conduct heat more efficiently than steel-cast grills.
The grill features a large 300 square inch cooking area and is more than enough for small as well as larger families. The cooking space allows you to grill multiple types of meats and veggies at once. This charcoal grill has been designed to handle almost any kind of meat. You can grill burgers to ribs and even a Thanksgiving turkey!
Cleaning the PK grill after cooking is an absolute breeze – The fuel grates and grill can be easily removed from the grill capsule and cleaned in a jiffy. You can even clean the grill capsule in your kitchen sink with dish soap and a sponge.
The PKO’s best feature is probably its portability. The cart has two wheels on one side, making it almost effortless to move around. You can wheel the grill in and out of its storage area with ease.
The capsule can be lifted easily and swiftly from the cart and is perfect for a tailgate or camping trip. It is also an ideal choice for small families and backyard barbecues.
The PK Grills sports two in-built storage systems. One is a large aluminum shelf that sits underneath the capsule and the other is a small side-table built with aluminum that can hold a bowl or plate of food prepared for the grill. It can also hold additional grilling equipment, if there is any.
What we like:
- Unique capsule shape
- Portable for camping
- Built-in side table
- Can be used as a smoker
What we didn’t like:
- Wheels are small, but decent
Best for Apartments: Char-Griller E16620 Akorn Kamado Charcoal Grill
The Akorn Kamado is constructed with a porcelain layer on the inside while the exterior is made of three coatings of stainless steel. This triple-layered design allows equal distribution of heat throughout the grill. The insulation also ensures that changes in the weather don’t fluctuate the temperature inside the grill.
The cart is made from tubular steel and has rubber wheels on two of its legs, and the cooking surface is constructed with cast iron, followed by the body made of 22 gauge steel, and an exterior that has a powder-coated steel finish.
The Akorn Kamado offers a 314 square inch cooking space and a warming rack measuring 133 square inches. So the total cooking area you get is 447 square inches.
The grill is perfect for making pizzas, burgers, thick steaks, hot dogs, and other meats. It also allows you to slow cook ribs! And as it’s similar to a traditional oven, you can even bake bread in it.
Originally, Kamado grills were built to be self-cleaning but you may need to use some elbow grease for the newer models. To clean the grill, all you need to do is heat it up to 700℉ and keep it burning for thirty minutes. Allow the grill to cool down completely and remove the ash, firebox, and grate. Cleaning becomes extremely easy after this because the heat breaks down leftover food, grime, and grease.
With the set of wheels under its legs, you can easily move around this grill. Wheel it into the shed or garage after you’re done with your barbecue.
This grill is perfect for residential uses, like small families or couples. The cooking space does not facilitate larger gatherings.
One of the best features of the Akorn Kamado is that you have total control of the airflow. This means you can adjust the temperature inside the grill, allowing your entire grill to receive equal heat. You no longer need to fret about hot or cold spots.
What we like:
- Durable 22 gauge steel construction
- Cast iron cooking surface (makes cleaning easy)
- Cleanup is breeze, thanks to easy dump ash pan
- Lighter than Ceramic Kamados
What we didn’t like:
- Steel does a good job at retaining heat, but not as good as Ceramic models
What is a Charcoal Grill?
As the name suggests, a charcoal grill is meant for cooking outdoors using charcoal as the main source of fuel. Although charcoal grills require more time and effort to heat, cook and clean, the resulting food provides an exquisitely rich and smoky flavor that you simply can’t get with gas grills.
There are primarily three types of charcoal grills: kettle, barrel, and ceramic or kamado.
Kettle grills are quite compact and primarily meant for grilling, whereas barrel grills are larger and can facilitate both smoking and grilling. Ceramic or Kamado grills are the most popular versions of charcoal grills and allow you to cook various foods like briskets, turkey, and pork butts. However, they’re pricey, tough to maintain, and heavy.
If you’re someone who enjoys the entire process of grilling, and not just the eating part, you should consider investing in a charcoal grill.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Big Of A Charcoal Grill Do I Need?
If you’re just starting with your grilling journey, then you could check out kettle grills. These are relatively small and measure close to 22-inches in diameter. You can cook 13-15 burgers on it quite comfortably. Kettle grills are also easy to clean and maintain.
There are bigger sizes available such as barrel grills that measure close to 36-inches long and are perfect for smoking, grilling, and barbecuing. These are much bigger than kettle grills and can cook larger quantities of food. But this may not be a good option if you’ve just started grilling and aren’t looking to host large parties.
What is Better: A Charcoal or Gas Grill?
This has been a long-standing debate. A charcoal grill is more traditional and gives a smokier, more distinct flavor of wood chips. Whereas gas grills usually give flavors similar to that of bacon. An advantage of gas grills is that it gives the meat more moisture but doesn’t give off a smoky flavor like the charcoal grill.
With gas grills, you can easily control the temperature and it takes less time to heat. Cleaning gas grills is also easier. Moreover, gas grills usually come with more accessories and are much safer to use compared to charcoal grills. However, gas grills are slightly more expensive.
What you find better is entirely dependent on your taste, but in terms of optimal safety and better benefits, the gas grill is undoubtedly the winner.
Is Propane Cheaper Than Charcoal?
Filling your gas grill with propane may cost more but it gives you longevity, which charcoal grills don’t offer. Charcoal may seem cheaper at first, but it doesn’t give you nearly as many cookouts as propane grills do. If you grill frequently, then a more economical strategy would be to select propane over charcoal.
Can You Put Wood Chips Directly On Charcoal?
You can place smoking chunks over charcoal, but you should never put wood chips on charcoal. Wood chips are similar to wood chunks; the only difference is that chips are thinner and smaller. This means they’ll burn a lot faster when exposed to heat. Placing wood chips on charcoal may emit some smoke but it won’t be enough to create that rich and smoky flavor of traditional charcoal grills.
If you love a great weekend barbecue with the family or enjoy having friends over for beer and burgers, then you should consider buying charcoal grills. Picking the right kind of grill for you may get a little tricky, but this list should guide you in the right direction. Figure out your grilling needs to make the right choice and revolutionize your backyard barbecues!