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Charcoal Grills

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Must-Know Details About Charcoal Grills Before You Buy

Backyard barbecuing is an art form all its own. Whether you're new to the practice or an experienced grilling enthusiast, one thing remains true: having the right grill makes all the difference. We gathered all the details you need to know before buying charcoal grills to make your shopping experience even easier.

Should I choose a charcoal grill or a gas grill?

For years now, there's been a raging debate among grilling aficionados: What's better, charcoal or gas? While gas grills offer unparalleled convenience and control over the flame and heat, purists argue that charcoal delivers big on flavor and searing capabilities. Charcoal grills produce more infrared heat than most gas grills do, giving them the ability to create a dark, crisp exterior that so many people crave. Additionally, as charcoal burns, it creates more smoke, which intensely flavors the food you're grilling.

What should I look for when buying a charcoal grill?

If you're ready to start shopping, you should keep a few important factors in mind before you buy. Consider the style, features, and size of the charcoal grills that catch your eye. Charcoal grills come in three main styles: kettle, ceramic, and barrel. Read on for a little more information on each of your options.

Types:

  • Kettles, typically the most affordable style, look like a round metal ball with legs. These are the traditional metal grill you're likely familiar with, and they're a great basic option if you're looking for something portable.
  • Ceramic charcoal grills offer versatility with the capability to grill, smoke and even bake pizzas at temperatures up to 500 F.
  • Barrel style grills look much like traditional gas grills. They provide extra cooking space, and are frequently used for larger-scale smoking.

Features:

Even if you're choosing a basic model, look for charcoal grills with a tight-fitting lid, adjustable vents and dampers to help you better control the cooking temperatures. Adjustable cooking grates give you the ability to sear food by placing it closer to the coals and finish it off over lower heat by raising the grates farther from the heat. Other handy extras include:

  • Propane-powered panels to light coals, which reduces the amount of time you need to spend tending and lighting the coals
  • A charcoal chimney, which is a metal cylinder that gets coals hotter faster before you transfer them to the lower section of the grill for cooking
  • Easy-access ash pan to make cleanup quick; simply pull the pan out and dump the cooled ash without needing to clean the entire grill after every use

Size:

There's a quick way to decide what size of grill to get: think about its surface area. In general, plan for each burger (or burger-sized item) to take up around 20 square inches of the grill's cooking surface. Then, think about how many people you typically cook for and everything you'd like to be able to make. If you want to grill four burgers and four corn cobs for dinner, you'll want a grill that has at least 160 square inches of cooking space, but ideally a bit more. Keep in mind that the coals can be hotter towards the center of the grill. It's helpful to get a grill that's a little larger to ensure there's a bigger heated area for evenly cooking your food. Plus, a bigger grill makes it easier to cook for larger groups when you're entertaining, too.

Choosing the right charcoal grill boils down to the style you like best, the features you need, and your overall budget. Keep in mind that the more control the grill gives you over the coals and grates, the more control you'll have over the food you're grilling.

More: Visit our Charcoal Grill Buying Guide for more advice when deciding which charcoal grill to buy!

Need to Know: How to Clean a Charcoal Grill