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What is the Best Portable Charcoal Grill? For BBQ, Camping and More (2021)

by Outdoor Cooking Pros March 30, 2021

fish being grilled

If you're always on the move, like when you're up and about camping, or traveling for work, a portable charcoal grill is your trusty sidekick for every BBQ or charcoal-inspired adventure!

Picking from so many options may be overwhelming, so here are 5 of the best portable charcoal grills to get those grills rolling!

Review of the Best Portable Charcoal Grills

1. Weber Jumbo Joe

Weber Jumbo Joe

With a diameter of about 18 inches, this portable charcoal grill's cooking capacity rivals that of full-sized grills. At only 18 pounds, that's quite impressive.

Not to mention, the Weber Jumbo can fill your bellies a lot more than the Weber 121020 by holding up to 8 4-inch burgers!

Or... you might wanna mix it up and have 3 burgers and 3 steaks to satisfy your meaty, carnivorous appetite!

Be sure to use those dampers too as it provides an easier and even control of temperature!

Now take a look at all the other great benefits it offers:

  • Porcelain-enameled lid and bowl retain heat, and won’t rust or peel
  • Locking lid makes for easier transport
  • Ample distance between coals and meat for indirect heating
  • Aluminum ash catcher implemented beneath the charcoal bowl for easy cleaning

2. Char-Griller E06614

Char-Griller E06614

Although this Kamado-style grill weighs 37 pounds, don't let size push you back.

It surely doesn't disappoint as it boasts a high cooking capacity with a 153 Square-inch primary cooking area.

Grilling alongside friends? Stocked up on meat and steaks? That's what a high capacity is for!

And what is capacity without flavor, right? The Kamado-style grilling design promises even heating for ease of use and enhancing flavor.

That's not all. Check out all it offers!

  • Easy dump ash pan for fast and simple cleanup
  • Precise control of temperature thanks to top and bottom air dampers
  • High-quality materials like cast-iron grates and triple steel insulation walls make the grill very durable
  • Convenient handles for portability and grilling on the go

3. Weber 121020 Go-Anywhere Charcoal Grill

Weber 121020 Go-Anywhere Charcoal Grill

Weighing in at only 4 kg, the Weber 121020 Go-Anywhere Charcoal Grill lives up to its name and truly can go anywhere due to its portability.

Now, let's talk capacity.

Did you say...SIX 4-INCH BURGERS?!

That's how much you can expect to fill for its primary cooking area! Who needs sausages when you can have 4-inch burgers!

The best part? The great value in its features:

  • Lightweight, compact rectangular shape and additional lid locks provide great portability
  • High durability from quality materials like
  • Cooking grates made from double plated steel
  • Porcelain-enameled lid that won’t rust or peel
  • High heat retention from the porcelain-enamel lid and the additional lid locks

4. Cuisinart CCG190RB

Cuisinart CCG190RB

Weighing at only 2 pounds, this lightweight grill packs a lot of features for its weight:

  • High cooking capacity with 150 Square inch primary cooking area
  • Dual venting system helps in great charcoal management and temperature control.
  • Great portability from its lightweight plus compact size, and three secure lid locks for easy transport
  • Durable enamel coated firebox and convenient mess-free ash catcher for safety and ease in cleaning up

Some of these features may already sound familiar, but what caught us by surprise was thedual-venting system!

It's all about flavor guys.

And when you're out camping after a long hike, you'd want to bite into juicy, meaty goodness. That's what the venting system guarantees you'll get.

5. Fire Sense Black Notebook Charcoal Grill

Fire Sense Black Notebook Charcoal Grill

Despite weighing only 8 pounds, this grill can cook up a lot for only a small fraction of the price of most competitors.

The top-notch selling point?

Superior. Portability.

You can fold it up to a thickness of 1 inch in an instant for easy transport or even on your backpack!

Additional features include:

  • High cooking capacity with 150 Square inch primary cooking area
  • High durability from quality materials like high heat resistant painted steel.
  • Sturdy design allows for easy to set up
  • Very capable of cooking at high heat

Portable Charcoal Grill Buyer's Guide

Buying portable charcoal grills can be overwhelming.

With a lot of options to choose from and all manufacturers claim that they produce the best portable charcoal grills, it's easy to go crazy and buy the first thing you see that you can afford.

Don't worry, this guide will help you methodically pick your ideal product according to your priority.

You can also check our guide for starting charcoal grills.

Build and Design

Gas grills? Fire pit grill, anyone?

Among charcoal grills, there are 2 main design configurations to watch out for:

  1. Standard Charcoal Grills
  2. Kamado-style Grills

Standard Charcoal Grills

For standard grills, the faster rate of air flow results in more fuel per cooking session.

This means that for the same type of cooking session,a standard grill would use more charcoal than a Kamado would.

Another main difference is the material of construction.

A high-quality standard grill is usually made of commercial-grade stainless steel while a low-quality standard grill would usually be made from inexpensive, painted metal.

As stainless steel is a great conductor of heat, charcoal grills are ideal to achieve thatnice sear on your burgers and steaks.

Kamado-style Grills

As opposed to the standard grill, a kamado would have less airflow. Apart from just greater fuel efficiency, kamados retain more moisture in the meat because there is no dry air passing over food.

The result? Juicy and tender cooking and take note: it's one of the largest selling points of the kamado grill.

The Kamado's material construction is usually ceramic, giving EXCELLENT insulation capabilities. However, unlike steel though, ceramic takes a lot longer to get heat up, but it also retains and emits heat toward food for a long time.

Kamados are the best portable charcoal grill types for cooking exceptionally tender and juicy meat, and also for those who prefer unique, indirect cooking styles.

Size and Weight

The best portable charcoal grill must also have the appropriate size.

What is good is a portable grill with the best specifications, but you can't bring it along anywhere or barely drag it along a few feet?

We recommend buying one based on the trunk of your car or wherever you plan to put your grill when traveling.

tomatoes on black tray grill

If you have a large trunk space like a pickup truck, then you can choose larger and heavier models for bigger cookouts with more people.

You can even sneak in your picnic table with the biggest portable models in most pickup trucks.

However, if you are going to use public transportation, like the bus, or maybe an Uber, then you should buy a lightweight, compact model so you can just carry your portable grill by hand with no problems.

Cooking Area

Essentially, the single most important question you have to answer to determine your cooking space is: "How many people am I going to cook for?"

Don't overlook cooking space.

If you're grilling for 8 buddies for a viewing of a sporting event in your friend's backyard, then you may want to opt for a grill that can handle 8 burgers at the same time to shorten wait times.

Serving food hot [1] at the same time creates that special feeling especially when you're in the backyard bonding, and enjoying food all at the same time.

This special feeling of bonding with family and friends over food is essentially why your cooking space is probably one of the most important factors in choosing your grill.

Cleaning

Big cookouts come with especially big messes.

The more food you cook, the more ash and other dirt you accumulate.

This is why for most people, ease of cleaning is a non-negotiable benefit. Some grills have an easy dump ash pan for an easy cleanup experience. Others have steel-plated grill grates, making it easier to clean versus other traditional portable grills.

If it doesn't have any cleaning assistance, you may have a difficult time cleaning up for even the smallest cookouts.

Extra Features

On the surface, you may be able to determine whether or not the product want is an option for you. However, a few of the products may be quite similar for you to even decide between them.

One option doesn't mean it's right for you.

So here's what you should do:

Examine beneath the surface. Dive deep into your needs. For example, one of the products might not have a lid while the others have.

meat and wiener being barbecued

It may sound like a small thing, but lids are important in retaining moisture in your meat so they can stay juicy and tender.

Are you willing to buy a gas grill, for example, and an extra lid to rack up costs?

Other extra features include:

  • A single, double, or even triple lid lock for better stability and heat retention.
  • A lid and its lid handle can be lined with enamel for added heat retention and durability.
  • Air flow dampers for better control of temperature inside the grill.

Durability

Durability is also a key factor IF YOU WANTbetter value for money. What good is a grill with a cooking surface you love, but doesn't last a long time?

One thing to look out for in terms of durability is the material of construction. For a cooking grate, a cast iron grate would be ideal and lasts a long time.

A cooking grate made of cast iron is not only known for its searing power, but will last many years when properly maintained.

A few even come with a porcelain coating to reduce the maintenance required.

man grilling crabs

On the other hand, the outer shell or body of the grill can also be made of double or triple plated steel surface to enhance durability.

But first, check for reviews for particular parts such as screws on the grill, or the legs or stands of the unit.

More often than not, complaints come from these areas as these parts often wear out relatively quickly over time. These are the best indicators it may not be durable in the long run.

Storage

Although a high-quality grill can still be used in the winter, people generally store it during this season.

The best portable charcoal grill SHOULD be easy to clean, while also being compact enough when packed up.

When storing your grill, you should thoroughly clean it to avoid growths like mold during the warmer spring, or being a temporary shelter and food storage for small animals.

This is where ease of cleaning comes into play. First, for easy cleaning, you must have easy access to all parts like the cooking surface.

vegan food and meat on grill

Ideally, you should be able to disassemble all of the parts so you can scrub each part clean, especially the cooking surface with a lot of food residue.

You wouldn't want mold on leftover burgers, right?

Look out for the following:

  • Ash catchers speed up cleaning as they don't just collect ash, but also other residue attractive to small critters.
  • Look for parts lined with non-stick coating on its surface. These help out a ton in cleaning out persistent charred meat from your parts like your charcoal grate.
  • Lastly, in storage, you'll want a compact grill so it doesn't stick out like that one sore thumb. Foldable units may be an advantage here as they can take up even less space when packed up.

However, if you have a large storage space, then you can still afford to store bigger units at your place.

Price and Warranty

We tend to be limited by our budget. Well...50 to 60% of the time, we are.

No matter how much we would love it if we could cook 8 burgers at the same time, if it's not within our budget, then it's a no-go.

Just go with the products that have the specifications that you want that are still within your budget.Yes - there are many options available!

Preferably, buy items with a warranty included. That way, you can test out the product for as long as the warranty period allows you.

It is even more important to have a warranty so you can test, and further test out again the product when you're not familiar with the manufacturer.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best charcoal grill on the market?

The short answer is, it depends on what you need. There is no one perfect choice out there in the market for everyone.

  • If you want a grill with a very big cooking surface, then go with the Weber Jumbo Joe.
  • If you want a grill that's as light as possible without compromising on other specifications such as the cooking surface, then go with Cuisinart CCG190RB.
  • If you want a compact heavy-duty grill that still has great heat retention and superior control of temperature, then go with Weber 121020 Go-Anywhere.

Again, the perfect grill for you will depend on your grilling needs.

How much charcoal do you put in a portable grill?

In general, the more coal you use, the higher the cooking temperature.

A good rule of thumb is to put around 30 BRIQUETTES for portable grills. Add coal for large models, and add less for smaller models. (Looking for the best small gas grills?)

However, the type of coal also affects how much to put in. Briquettes burn consistently compared to lump coal, BUT they containadditives and generate additional ash.

Lump charcoal on the other hand can burn hotter and will generally use less coal for the same amount of heat you want to achieve.

grilled meat on hanging grill

The kind of meat you are grilling also affects the amount you should put in:

  • When grilling food like burgers, and hot dogs, you don't need a lot of coal since a burger or hotdog is ideally cooked in lower heat.
  • When searing steak, you need a hotter fire, so you SHOULD use double the amount of coal.

When dealing with replenishing your coals, I recommend having a spare charcoal tray ready so that you can replenish coals while grilling.

Also, if you're having difficulty starting your grill, then you may want to use a charcoal chimney so you can easily start and stop your fire.

Our Top Pick For a Portable Charcoal Grill: Weber Jumbo Joe Charcoal Grill

Weber Jumbo Joe

The runner-up was close, but if we had to choose a grill in the first place, that would be the Weber Jumbo Joe.

For most people, this would be the best option since cookouts are all about family, friends, and basically just good company.

Just the ENORMOUS cooking space alone rivals most full-sized grills and gives you an excellent run for your money.

This product is best for the biggest camping trip you can imagine. You can cook 8 large burgers simultaneously thanks to its enormous cooking surface. (We also have a dedicated list for the best camping grills here.)

Additionally, its workmanship and build quality is amazing, and will definitely last a long time. This product is our number one pick, and it surely won't disappoint you.

Outdoor Cooking Pros
Outdoor Cooking Pros


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