Which portable charcoal grills are best?
Spending time in the great outdoors is a wonderful way to relax and let go of the stresses of your daily life. It’s even better if you can make yourself a hot and delicious meal while doing it. Portable charcoal grills allow you to do just that. They come in several sizes, but all of them are lightweight for easy portability.
There are many things to consider when choosing a portable grill, but one of the most important is the cooking space — make sure whichever grill you choose can accommodate enough food at one time that everyone in your group can eat together. After that, consider various other features that can make a grill more convenient to use or travel with. For example, the Weber Jumbo Joe is equipped with a hinged lid that can double as a wind blocker as well as a heat shield to protect your hand.
What to know before you buy a portable charcoal grill
Charcoal vs. propane
The debate between charcoal and propane is heated, no pun intended, with proponents of each offering many reasons why one is better than the other. When it comes to charcoal, it’s hard to deny it imparts a more smoky flavor to foods, which is something most people look for when eating grilled foods. You can enhance this by adding wood chips to your charcoal or purchasing a flavored charcoal.
Additionally, it’s not uncommon to run out of propane midway through a grilling session, because most portable propane grills don’t have any kind of gauge that lets you know how much or how little gas is left. This is never a concern with charcoal, as you can easily look inside your bag to see how much you have left.
There are two things to take into account when determining the portability of a charcoal grill — weight and size. These two properties are not always directly correlated. Depending on the build materials, it’s possible to find a bigger grill that actually weighs less than a smaller one.
You’ll want to balance these two properties based on your needs. For example, someone who wants to cook for a group of people and who plans on driving right up to (or at least relatively close to) their cooking site can opt for a larger or heavier model. Conversely, someone who may be hiking to a campsite and only needs to cook for two or three people will be better served by a lighter and smaller model.
The cooking space on a grill determines how much food you can cook at one time. The majority of portable charcoal grills have 100-180 square inches of cooking space. Those on the low end may only be able to accommodate two or three burgers, while those at the upper end of this range can accommodate eight.
What to look for in a quality portable charcoal grill
The majority of portable charcoal grills include a lid that essentially allows you to turn your grill into a mini convection oven. This is helpful for ensuring thicker cuts of meat cook through fully before the exterior burns.
There are several features to look for in a lid for a portable charcoal grill. First and foremost, it needs a good handle that will remain cool during the entire cooking process. A hinge on the lid is helpful for keeping it off the ground when not using it or turning it into a wind blocker. Alternatively, some models may feature a lid holder of some kind that can serve the same purpose. Another great feature to look for is some kind of locks that secure the lid in place during transport.
Dampers allow you to adjust the amount of air circulating through your grill. This helps you regulate the temperature inside the cooking chamber. Ideally, it’s best if there are two dampers, one in the lid and one in the base. These should be placed in a location that’s easy to access without burning your hands.
The legs of a portable grill should be stable enough to prevent the grill from tipping when moving food around on the grates. You may also want to take their height into consideration. If you place your grill on the ground, taller legs will make it more comfortable to use, though they may increase its instability.
While not common, some portable charcoal grills feature a temperature gauge that helps with precision cooking. This will usually be mounted somewhere on the lid.
How much you can expect to spend on a portable charcoal grill
Portable charcoal grills cost $15-$100.
Portable charcoal grill FAQ
How do I clean the grate on my portable grill?
A. You should clean the grate on your grill after each use. To do so, wait until it has cooled down a bit but is still warm, and scrub it with a good BBQ grill brush until all the bits of food are removed. If there are burnt-on bits that don’t come off with the brush, you can use a metal scraper to get those off. Afterward, wipe it down with a damp cloth.
What should I do with my charcoal after grilling?
A. If you’re in a public campsite, park or other location, they may have specific requirements for where and how to dispose of your charcoal. If not, wait until they fully cool off and then scoop them into a plastic garbage bag or wrap them with aluminum foil and dump them into a non-combustible outdoor trash receptacle.
What’s the best portable charcoal grill to buy?
Top portable charcoal grill
What you need to know: This classic eight-ball charcoal grill has been a staple at campsites, picnics and tailgating events for decades because of its perfect balance of cooking space and portability.
What you’ll love: It’s equipped with a hinged lid that can be used as a wind blocker, and there’s a heat shield to protect your hand when adjusting the lid during use.
What you should consider: The assembly instructions are confusing and the damper tends to scratch the enamel on the lid over time.
Top portable charcoal grill for the money
What you need to know: It’s hard to beat this well-made 14-inch Cuisinart grill when it comes to value for the money.
What you’ll love: It offers 150 square inches of cooking space, which is enough for six burgers, and the long legs raise it up higher off the ground or a table than most other portable options.
What you should consider: It feels a little flimsy, so you’ll need to be careful when transporting it.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: Thanks to a lightweight build and a secure locking lid, it’s easy to take this aptly named grill to any outdoor event.
What you’ll love: Its rectangular shape lets you get the most out of its 160 square inches of cooking space. Plus, most foods don’t stick to the nickel-coated steel grate.
What you should consider: The thin legs aren’t super stable, so you’ll need to be careful not to accidentally knock it over when in use.
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Brett Dvoretz writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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