Best Budget Charcoal Grills of 2020 – Buyer’s Guide

Charcoal grills are perfect for an authentic summer barbecue, but sometimes the prices can be too expensive. However, there are a select few charcoal grills out there that are great quality for the fraction of the price.

In this article we will be going over what makes a charcoal grill so great, things to be cautious for when shopping for one, and finally reviewing the best of the budget grills of 2018.

Comparison Chart of the Best Budget Charcoal Grills 

PRODUCT DETAILS
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Weber Smokey Joe

  • Best Budget Charcoal Grill
  • Can cook 5 burgers at one time
  • Lightweight, compact size for easy transport
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Weber Original Kettle

  • Best Charcoal Grill Under $100
  • Large capacity - can cook 13 burgers at one time
  • Hassle-free cleaning with One-Touch cleaning feature
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Char-Broil Charcoal Grill

  • Best Charcoal Grill Under $200
  • Large air dampers give smoke and air control
  • Versatile thanks to height adjustment controls
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Dyna-Glo Heavy Duty Charcoal Grill

  • Best Charcoal Grill Under $300
  • Cook up to 24 burgers at a time
  • Storage basket and side shelves for added functionality
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Char-Griller 16620 Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Barbecue Grill and Smoker

  • Best Charcoal Grill Under $500
  • Strong 22 guage steel construction
  • Cooking temperature range of 200-700°F
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What Makes a Great Charcoal Grill?

When it comes to finding the best Charcoal Grill while still budgeting, there are a few key factors to keep in mind when making your purchase. Here are some of the things that make a great charcoal grill.

Size

One of the key things you want in your charcoal grill is to make sure that it has more than enough space for you to cook.

The best charcoal grills tend to have more than one cooking rack or at the very least have a heating rack to keep your food warm after it’s done cooking.

If you plan on cooking a lot of food then this is an essential factor when making your choice.

Material

The very best material you can find for your charcoal grill is cast-iron grates. Cast-iron is great at retaining heat, searing meat, and locking in juicy flavors.

Other materials like steel might give you trouble with cooking, but with cast-iron you know you’re going to have a great turn out with your meal.

Heat Control

When purchasing your grill you want to make sure it has good air ventilation, heat control, and heat dissemination.

This will all affect how your meat turns out, especially if you want your meat juicy and seared. So be sure to check what vents come with your grill, and what material the bowl and lid are made out of.

Features to Be Cautious of When Shopping For a New Charcoal Grill

It’s always easy to be swayed by cheap prices, but there are always a couple of things for you to be cautious for when looking for your budget charcoal grill.

No Warranty

Sometimes cheaper charcoal grills will come without a warranty. You definitely don’t want to purchase a grill without one. Sometimes during shipping your grill can come damaged, and without a warranty you won’t get your money back.

There also may come a time you can get a defected grill or it could get stolen, but without that warranty you’ll have to save up for a new one.

Weber 10020 Smokey Joe 14-Inch Portable Grill

Price

Low prices don’t always equal bad quality, but they don’t mean good quality either. The same can be said for more expensive grills too. Sometimes it’s easy to get swayed by prices, but the biggest thing you have to remember is that the price is just a number. Sometimes the best grills are the cheaper ones.  

Shipping

Always check the reviews before you order a grill online. Unfortunately, grills can get damaged, but luckily with reviews you can tell which manufacturers will make sure your grill gets to your house in one piece, or will give you a full refund.

Willy's Top Picks - Best Budget Charcoal Grills

Review of the Best Budget Charcoal Grills

In this next part of the article we will be breaking down the best charcoal grill choices based on your budget.

Best Budget Charcoal Grill:
Weber Smokey Joe

Pros

  • Great price
  • 10-year limited warranty
  • 147 square inch cooking area
  • Excellent air ventilation and top vent
  • Portable, perfect for camping and storing in your car

Cons

  • Flimsy Legs
  • Bottom vent can become clogged
  • Steel grates instead of iron grates, meaning slower cooking

What Recent Buyers Report 

People have been using this grill for years without complaints. The adjustable temperature feature is a great help. When you open both vents completely, the charcoal heats up fast and maintains good heat throughout. Most people found that it doesn’t require a lot of maintenance. It is used outdoors quite a lot and handles all kinds of weather well.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This grill has a lightweight and compact design that you can carry with you in your car for picnics. It has a porcelain-coated bowl and lid to keep the heat inside and resist any tearing or rust. The legs, vents, and ash-try are made of aluminum that can handle higher temperatures and does not corrode as easily as steel. You can also adjust the temperature using dampers.

There is a reason this is our top charcoal grill choice for when you’re on a budget. This grill is super light-weight, making it easily portable for camping and tailgating. Despite it’s affordable price, it’s perfect for camp-out cooking and gets the job done.

It measures 15.6" x 15.6", giving you plenty of room to cook a variety of different foods. Unfortunately, it’s not very tall and the legs have been reported to be a bit flimsy. The bowl luckily is the same design Weber has used on other, and more expensive grills.

This is basically just a budget version of Weber’s Kettle Grill, but instead of aluminum they used triple wrapped nickel. The nickel doesn’t affect the taste in anyway, so you won’t have to worry about that.

While The Smokey Joe gives more than enough space for cooking, the grates are made out of steel instead of iron-grates which won’t cook food as quickly - just plan accordingly.

The Smokey Joe also has an ash catcher, meaning you won’t have to do much cleanup after. It also has a top vent on the grill, but the top vent can sometimes become clogged. Finally, this grill comes with a 10-year limited warranty.

Who Will Use This Most

Owing to its small size and low weight, this grill is perfect for picnics, beachside grills, road trips, and tailgate parties. It has enough room to handle five burgers at once. So, even a medium-sized party can use this and get food from the grill to the plate pretty fast.

Bottom Line

This is our top pick for charcoal grills that are within a short budget. You can cook meat, steaks, and vegetables on it. Its construction is very simple, and it’s easy to use and clean up afterward. It is very light yet sturdy because of its aluminum construction. For the price that it comes with, the results are indeed exceptional. 

This grill has a lot of room for cooking and a 10-year limited warranty. However, it has steel grates and the bottom vent can often get clogged.

Best Charcoal Grill Under $100:
Weber Original Kettle

Pros

  • Hinged grates
  • Comes with a damper system
  • Almost completely assembled on arrival
  • Steel lid and bowl making for great air circulation

Cons

  • Only great for a closed cooking system
  • Some customers have reported trouble with assembling the lid
  • Customers have reported being dissatisfied with the quality of the wheels

What Recent Buyers Report

The grill provides great value for money. People have also used it for smoking because the lid closes pretty tightly, and the vents are adjustable. It is also of pristine quality. People generally prefer Weber Grills primarily because it stands true to its promise. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

This 22-inch grill can handle 13 to 15 burgers at a time. What more do you need? You can feed your entire family and more. Being able to control the temperature of your grill is important. This unit gives you that control with adjustable dampers. It has a lid-hook that lets you hang the lid on the side of the grill instead of placing it on the ground and getting it dirty. Plus, the legs have wheels so you can easily move the grill around rather than carry it. The plated steel grates ensure even heat throughout the food you’re cooking.

The great thing about this grill is that it comes practically assembled for you. All you need to connect is the bowl and the lid and you are ready to get grilling. The grates are hinged and made of steel plates.

The hinged grates will allow you to easily put more charcoal in the grill without lifting the grates, and the steel won’t burn or rust. However, the steel grates aren’t great at retaining heat, they’ll also cause parts of the meat not to cook as well as others.

Luckily this grill comes with a great air ventilation system, so the grates won’t be too much of a problem. The bowl and lid are made out of steel, being perfectly designed for air circulation within your grill.

The grill also comes with a damper system, allowing you to better control the heat inside the bowl. However, if you don’t like having this closed cooking system then you might find this grill a lot harder to cook with.

Finally, this grill provides a lot of space for cooking with a 363 square inch cooking area. The wheels attached to the Original Kettle also make it easy to move around.

However, some customers have reported the wheels don’t work very well depending on the environment. Luckily, the grill does come with a limited 10-year warranty.

Who Will Use This Most

This grill is the right size for large gatherings. It is too big perhaps to carry with you for picnics. You should use it in your backyard or balcony and invite friends and family over. It is very easy to use and clean so you can relax and enjoy your day.

Bottom Line

This is a very low-priced grill that can easily serve large groups. Its porcelain coating and plated grill make it durable, resistant to rust as well as a good heat retainer. Removing the ash is as simple as rotating the handle given at the bottom of the grill. The ash falls into the tray, which you can then clean.

The Weber 741001 Original Kettle comes with a 10-year warranty, has great ventilation and hinged grates. However, the grates are made out of the steel and if you aren’t comfortable with cooking with the closed system then this grill won’t be a good fit for you.

Best Charcoal Grill Under $200:
Char-Broil Charcoal Grill

Pros

  • Iron grates
  • Crank height fire pan
  • Includes thermometer
  • Secondary cooking surface

Cons

  • Learning curves vary with assembly

What Recent Buyers Report

Assembling the grill takes some time for most users, but once you get that out of the way, it gives a nice grilling experience. People mostly use it for burgers and steaks. It does not take up a lot of fuel if you know how to adjust the heat. It is reported to be durable and easy to use as well.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This grill is the right size for cooking up a meal for the entire family. It has attached countertops where you can prepare the food. If you want, you can choose the option with a side burner, so you can cook small, side dishes along with the grilled meat. It has two grills, a bigger one and a smaller one. It also has a unique charcoal pan to control and direct the flow of heat. It has a handle on the side to adjust the height of the charcoal pan and four dampers. This lets you change the temperate as you wish. The door to the fuel area is also separate, so heat loss is minimum. The charcoal pan is removable for better cleaning.

Not only is this Char-Broil Charcoal Grill large and has tons of cooking space, but it also comes with iron grates, which will cook your food faster and conduct more heat.

The Char-Broil grill also comes with a secondary porcelain-coated cooking surface. So you can get all your cooking done in one easy go.

To top it all off this grill comes with a thermometer so you can better control the heat, and an adjustable charcoal tray to get the right smokiness and temperature.

However, one of the downsides of this charcoal grill is you’ll have to assemble it yourself, unless you want to pay a large sum of money for it to come assembled. Many customers report having problems with assembling this product and the directions are not very clear.

This grill does come with a warranty; however, it only applies if the grill comes broken. With that said though, the positives of this grill definitely outweigh the negatives.

This charcoal grills adjustable crank height fire pan allows you to easily heat your food to the perfect temperature, so you can be sure you’re getting that great smoky flavor.

Who Will Use This Most

This is not a grill for road trips. However, it is ideal for home barbecues. The side burner and shelves let you prepare and cook the food in one place. It is like a small kitchen. If you host big lunches, then buying it would serve you quite a lot.

Bottom Line

This is really an all-in-one grill. Char-Boil has been in business since 1948 and has proven its worth by producing good quality products. This one is no different. It gives you complete control over the temperature to get the right kind of food, grilled as per your preference. 

Overall, this grill has tons of cooking space and iron grates perfect for grilling meat. However, the warranty is confusing and it can take hours for you assemble your grill.

Best Charcoal Grill Under $300:
Dyna-Glo Heavy Duty Charcoal Grill

Pros

  • Cast-Iron grates
  • Great customer service
  • Storage basket and side shelves
  • Charcoal tray adjustment system

Cons

  • Thin grates
  • Difficult to assemble
  • No clear warranty policy

What Recent Buyers Report

For the price that it comes in, the performance of this grill is amazing. Given its low price, the customers expected some problems, but they were hardly too much to handle. The customer support for the product helped fix any issues the users might have been having. Overall, it’s a great outdoor grill used for home cooking.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This grill is bigger in size as compared to many other options available on the market and can cook up to 24 burgers at once. It lets you fully control the temperature by adding features like an adjustable charcoal tray, adjustable flue, and sliding side dampers. It has two access points for charcoal: side door and sliding cooking grates. There are two surfaces on which you can cook your food: the primary surface and the smaller secondary surface. The grates are made of cast iron and are coated with porcelain. This helps in better heat transfer to the food. It also has two side counters for food preparation and storage basket at the bottom.

The Dyan-Glo is a great grill for when you’re on a budget. This grill comes with a charcoal tray adjustment system, so you can have the perfect heat control and cooking flexibility.

It comes with 3 heavy-duty cast-iron porcelain enameled cooking grates, which will retain more heat, sear your food, and allow for tasty natural juices to lock in. This grill also comes with side shelves, a storage basket, and a total of 686 square inches of cooking space.

One of the biggest complaints about this grill seems to be that it takes over an hour to assemble, and it often arrives damaged. Some customers also don’t like how far apart and thin the grates are, making it harder to cook certain foods like hot dogs. The charcoal basket that comes with the grill is also a bit flimsy.

Luckily, if you have problems with this grill, customer service is quick at responding and fixing any problems you might have. However, it is not clear if this product comes with a warranty.

Who Will Use This Most

This grill is primarily for home use, given its large size when compared to other models. This one has a higher capacity and more food storage area as well. The rest of the design and functionalities are the same. Which one you choose depends on your needs and how many people you normally entertain in your home. If you have a big party over all the time, then this is a good option. 

Bottom Line

With its black powder coating and stainless-steel elements, this grill not only cooks great food but also has a stylish finishing. In addition to control over the heat, it also has a temperature gauge to help you monitor the temperature. If you want room for a little extra food, then spare the extra dollar and buy this grill. 

This grill comes with cast-iron grates, has tons of cooking space, and you can rely on customer service. However, the grates are thin and the grill is hard to assemble yourself.

What Recent Buyers Report

People who have been using this grill for years are still getting good results. The smoking option also works. The insulation on this grill helps maintain high temperatures throughout. The small extra grill above the main one is also a plus and was much appreciated by users.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This grill has a rounded construction. It can be used for both grilling and smoking purposes. It makes use of triple-walled insulation for better heat retention. The two dampers on the top and bottom let you control the heat. Its cooking grates are made of high-quality cast iron steel, and the inside surface is coated with porcelain. It is very easy to use with the two front wheels, removable ash-tray, and the folding side shelves. The shelves let you store your equipment and prepare your food. 

The Akorn Kamado Kooker is one of the best budget charcoal grills for many reasons. This grill has a total of 447 square inches of cooking space with both the primary cooking space, and the warming rack it comes with.

The grates are cast-iron and the body is made out of 22 gauge steel. The Char-Griller comes with indexed damper that is numbered so you can easily note its position.

However, all these extra features may be a problem when constructing this grill. You can of course get it expertly assembled, but that’s going to add an extra cost to your purchase.

Unfortunately, some customers have reported that after only having their grill for a short time the grates start to give out and break. However, this grill does come with a warranty so long as you keep your receipt and owner’s manual.

Despite all this, many customers rave about how well insulated the grill is, making it perfect for slow cooking and quick grilling.

Who Will Use This Most

Why buy a separate smoker and grill if you enjoy both? This Char-Griller is a two-in-one product. It is small enough to be handled easily, so you can use it on your porch or backyard and move it inside afterward. Its size is big enough for an entire average-sized family.

Bottom Line

This grill is a little different than the last two in its construction. It is smaller in size, which is preferred by most people and has a rounded shape. It is still easy to use and clean. With the high rounded top, you can grill vegetables on it as well. It is a good medium-sized grill.

The Akorn Kamado Kooker has tons of cooking space, and has high-quality grates and body. However, some customers have reported problems with the grates and it costs extra to have it assembled.

How to Light a Charcoal Grill

Using charcoal grills can be difficult for some people. If you are new to grilling and not sure how to get the most out of your grill, then you are not alone. The first step is properly lighting the fuel and ensuring a steady temperature throughout the food. To start a grill or heat it up using charcoal, you can follow these steps:

  1. Properly clean the grill before using it.
  2. Decide how much charcoal you will need: one layer for burgers, two layers for steaks, and a cone-shaped stack for perfect grilling
  3. Remove the top grill and add charcoal to the charcoal tray at the bottom.
  4. Add lighter fluid to the charcoal (1/4 cup per pound of charcoal).
  5. Let it sit for about half a minute.
  6. Using a lighter, light the coal from the bottom on two sides.
  7. Let them burn until they are completely white.
  8. Add your food to the grill, and enjoy it.
  9. For more detailed instructions, refer to the video below.

How to Use a Charcoal Grill

Grilling and smoking meat is an art. Controlling the temperature, maintaining steady heat can be tricky, but no need to worry. For properly using a charcoal grill and some tips and tricks, you can follow the given steps:

Arranging Charcoal

  • Make sure you arrange your charcoal in a thick manner for longer lasting heat.
  • If you want direct heat, then after lighting the coal, spread them evenly across the grate.
  • For indirect heating, put the lit coal on one side of the grate, leaving the other empty.

Smoking and Grilling

  • Cook the food on top of the coal first, then move it to the empty grill side for slow cooking.
  • If you love juicy and tender meat, then you can add a water tray next to your coal.
  • Before adding your meat to the grill, close the lid and let it heat up for 10-15 minutes.
  • For a smoky flavor, put wood chips in water for 30 minutes and then put them on top of the lit coal.

Temperature Control

For a detailed version of these steps, watch the video given below.

How to Clean a Charcoal Grill

The thing we all forget or choose to forget is the cleaning part. This is the most tedious part of the whole thing. Cleaning grills can be difficult, which is why it is always great when manufacturers add some additional features to make it easy.

If you want to know how to clean your grill properly without damaging it, you can follow these steps:

  1. After every cook, while the grill is still warm, clean the grates before the meat and fat become hard.
  2. Use a long-handled stiff wire brush to clean the cooking grates before using it.
  3. Alternatively, use a ball of aluminum foil held by tongs to clean the grates.
  4. Afterward, put some oil on paper towels or rags.
  5. Use paper towels to cover the grates in oil; this helps food to not stick to the grate.
  6. Remove the charcoal tray from the bottom and dump the ash out.
  7. Using a brush soaked in dish soap thoroughly clean the inside of the grill.
  8. Place the charcoal tray back.
  9. Using a grill-cleaning spray or soapy water, clean the exterior of the grill as well.
  10. Cover the grill to prevent rust and damage.
  11. Make sure to replace your cleaning brush if it has worn out.

Conclusion

Each one of these charcoal grills are perfect for whatever budget you’re on. All of them will do a great job at giving you the most satisfying meal.

Whether your budget is from $30 - $500 you can be sure that one of these grills will fit all of your barbecuing needs.

If you’re on a tight budget and going for simplistic grilling, then we definitely recommend the: Weber 10020 Smokey Joe.

But if you have a bit more money to spend then you’re going to want to make the investment on any of the other grills we listed above.

People Also Ask

If you still have any questions regarding charcoal grills, don’t worry, we have you covered. You can read some of the most asked questions below for better understanding.

How to Put Out a Charcoal Grill

There are different ways to put out a charcoal grill. If you are not in a hurry, then you can close the lid and the vents and wait for the ash to cool down completely. This takes hours that you might not have. For faster results, pour water on the coal and stir them.

How to Cool Down a Charcoal Grill

If you want to reduce the temperature while cooking, you can open the top damper of the grill. If you have finished cooking, then remove the grate from the top. Then stir the coals to let some heat out then close the lid and vents. After a few minutes, open the lid and spray them with water.

How Long Do You Let Charcoal Burn Before Cooking?

After lighting the coals, the need to burn for 10 to 20 minutes or more until they are white on the surface. Your coals should be glowing and ready to cook.

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