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rilling isn’t only something that can be done in the backyard! You can use this cooking method for camping, tailgating and so many other great events. But that means that your charcoal grill needs to be portable.

By finding a good quality lightweight and compact grill you will be able to enjoy that char-grilled goodness anywhere you want. There are a lot of options available to you and choosing the right one may seem challenging.

Never fear, we have you covered. We have put together this guide to help you find the right portable charcoal grill for you.

We have even chosen five of these options as ones we feel are the best portable charcoal grills available today. So let’s fire it up and get to discussing just how to choose the right model for you and your BBQing needs.

Choosing the Right Portable Charcoal Grill

There are a lot of features and capabilities that are being included in the designs of portable grills. There can be so many that you forget to look at the key designing factors of the unit itself. That is why we have compiled this buyer’s guide.

The factors we chose to look at to make our selections will be able to help you with your decision-making process as well. So here are the key factors we feel should be considered when choosing the perfect portable charcoal grill.

Compactness and Ease of Packing Away

There are a few considerations when looking at how compact and easy to store a portable charcoal grill is. The first is the size of the grill itself. When you are looking for a grill that can easily be transported, the more compact the better. This will take up less room wherever you are storing it as well as at the site you are planning to grill up those delicious burgers.

Along with size, weight should also be a consideration. The heavier a unit is the harder it will be to find a place to store it (plus it will make it more difficult to transport). Now the last factor when it comes to storage is locking lids and things of such nature. You want to have an idea where you are going to store the unit and then choose the storage features, size and weight accordingly.

Durability

When looking for the best charcoal grill you want to find one that with a little upkeep can last you for years. This may mean spending a little more, but that is not always the case. When choosing a durable grill you want to look for premium materials and a solid construction. Most portable grills are made of thinner metals and that might lead to less durability.

So, concentrating on the construction will be helpful. You may also want to look for a grill that has an oven-baked enamel paint which will help protect against corrosion and natural wear and tear. This will greatly lengthen your grill’s life expectancy.

Cooking Grates

Grills come with grates, but the quality of hat grate can play a key role in the efficiency of the unit. You want to find grates that are made of good quality metal that is designed to hold heat. There are multiple materials that the grill grates can be made of from nickel coated to cast iron.

Here is a quick look at each of the three main types and the pros and cons of each:

Stainless Steel

Pros

  • Lightweight and easy to transport
  • Heats up fast
  • Corrosion-resistant
  • Budget-friendly

Cons

  • Cooking surface experiences wear
  • Issues with food sticking
  • Doesn’t retain eat well

Cast Iron

Pro

  • Retains heat well
  • Even cooking temperatures
  • Durable when maintained
  • Nice sera marks

Con

  • Weight
  • Rusts easy
  • Ned to be consistent maintained
  • Must season to be non-stick

Enamel Covered

Pro

  • Better heat retention than stainless steel
  • Doesn’t rust
  • Nonstick

Con

  • May chip if not cleaned right
  • Loses all benefits once damaged

Accessories

This is where your grill will set itself apart from its competition. Things like dampers, vents, charcoal drawers, and thermometers are all accessories that could be present in the design of your units. When choosing a grill, think about what your intentions are and choose accordingly.

For instance, if you’re just not someone who likes to clean up, an ash catcher (which we will discuss below further) may be a good option. If you like to cook organic then finding a portable grill that has a small table attached may be nice.

Other accessories you might want to consider:

  • Lid locks
  • Chimney starter
  • V-rack Adjustable cooking surface
  • Sections

Ash Catcher

As we said above, if you’re just not that into cleaning, buying a grill that comes with an ash catcher is a must. This is a tray that will sit under your grill that can be used to catch the ashes. Many portable charcoal grills will come with a removable ash catcher. This is not only good for cleaning up but a safety feature that will save you from starting that fire unknowingly.

Base, Stand or Legs

You should also look for a grill that has legs designed to optimize its stability so that you can put the grill anywhere that will work for you. Make sure to note what materials were used in the legs construction and for better portability look for ones that fold down. The best option would be a steel leg that is easy to fold up when done.

Best Portable Charcoal Grills

With this guide, we were able to find some of the best built and performing options on the market today. In the below reviews we take an in-depth look at five models that we are sure will deliver the desired results.

Weber 121020 Go-Anywhere Charcoal Grill

Weber is one of those brand names that is synonymous with grilling. They have many great models available in all kinds of grills but one of the best portable charcoal options is the Weber 121020 Go-Anywhere. Taking 20 years to come to fruition, it clearly shows that slow and steady could easily win the race.

Starting with the size and design, this unit is perfect for transportation and storage. Its build comes in at 12.2” x 21” x 14.5”. This is a very compact design and built to elevate the portability of the unit. The unit when fully assembled weighs in at 14.5 lbs.; this only adds to the ease of transport, and coupled with the large cooking space, this unit is quite the investment.

But that is just the beginning. When it comes to performance everything from the assembly to the cooking is quick and simple. The unit comes with foldable legs, so to get started all you have to do is unfold then and get to cooking.  The unit shines here as well. The cooking area measures 160 sq. in. which is a pretty large space for such a compact design. The cooking area is constructed of grates that retain heat, so they cook your food evenly.

There are of course a few issues that should be addressed before you make your final decision. The cooking grates may be large and retain heat, but they are not adjustable. That decreases the versatility of use, and the ability to move closer and further away from the coals.

There are some issues with the handle quality. There have been some reports of it breaking easily and getting a little too hot.

All in all this unit is one of the best and despite these few flaws we still feel that it is a good option for those looking for portability in their grill.

What Consumers are Saying About This Portable Charcoal Grill

  • Unit grills beautifully
  • Great compact option
  • Really easy to use
  • Doesn’t require a lot of charcoal
  • Nice balance of form and function
  • Nice temperature control system

Pros

  • Grill offers an optimal charcoal cooking experience
  • Designed with a large cooking area for a portable grill
  • Simple and easy to use design
  • Crafted with high-quality durable materials for extended use
  • Unit is small and compact making it easy to store and transport

Cons

  • The cooking grate is not adjustable
  • Handle quality is not up to the standard of many of its competitors

Weber 40020 Smokey Joe Portable Grill

Another model by Weber, this compact grill is small and very mighty. No matter what you are looking for in a portable grill, this grill will have you covered. The Weber Smokey Joe has been one of the most well-regarded models for years. This is because it is built with attention to details and high-grade materials.

The unit comes in two models — silver and gold. Though there are some differences for the most part, they use the same basic design. The grills have a 14.5” grate that is designed using triple nickel-plated metal. The unit, like all Weber grills, is built to last and comes with a 10-year warranty.

The unit comes with many different features — things like an enamel lid and bowl. The enamel is baked at high temperatures so that it is fused with the steel core. This helps with durability as it helps prevent rust as well as wear from consistent use. The dampers that the unit is fitted with are made of aluminum and are corrosion-resistant as well. The design allows for easy air circulation which allows for better temperature control.

This unit is amazing, but we would be remiss if we didn’t make you aware of some drawbacks that many have taken issue with. Though most serious grillers will have a thermometer of their own, having one built into the grill itself is quite handy. This is especially true if you’re looking for ease of transport. Having one less accessory to pack can free up a little space and make your journey that much easier.

There are also no handles built into the side of the grill. That means you need to make sure you have the grill in the location you want because once it’s hot there is no moving it — that is, unless you have some grill gloves.

The lack of these two features don’t detract from the performance, but they would certainly be a nice addition.

What Consumers are Saying About This Portable Charcoal Grill

  • Side vents are easy to adjust
  • Good level of portability
  • Nice size grill space
  • Assembly is very simple
  • Use very little charcoal
  • Coated with a nice baked-on enamel paint for durability

Pros

  • Grill is designed to stand the test of time
  • Unit is small and compact for enhanced portability
  • Easy to put together
  • Fitted with a nice ash catcher
  • Comes with a locked lid for easy transport

Cons

  • Lack of thermometer include in the design
  • No handles on the sides of the grill

Cuisinart CCG-100 GrateLifter Portable Charcoal Grill

The name may be a familiar but not often thought of when you say the word ‘grill.’ Cuisinart is a company that has made its name in blenders and processors, but they have a great line of grills as well. One of the best models they have to offer is the CCG- 100 otherwise known as the GrateLifter.

When looking at the dimensions of this grill the first thing that jumps out the cooking space. The overall unit measures 15.4” x 18.5” x 17.7 “ and only weighs a little over 2 lbs. The porcelain-coated grate that delivers the cooking space measures 240 sq. in. This is enough space to fit 10 burgers or 8 chicken breasts.

The grill is designed with top-notch materials and a design that elevates its performance well beyond what you may imagine for a company not rooted in BBQing. It is made of steel and constructed with sturdy, stable legs. The lid that covers the unit is coated with porcelain enamel which will ensure incredible durability. There is even an additional purchase of a stand that will allow this magnificent grill to be at standing level.

This grill offers an innovative design when it comes to the grate. The lid is fitted with five pins that you can attach the grate to. Then when lifting the lid, you have easy access to the coals bed. This allows for better control of coal placement and temp.

There is also an airflow system and thermometer set into the lid; this is also intended to help with temperature control. Cleaning up is easy as well with the large ash collector that the unit comes with.  On top of that, you get a 3-year warranty which goes to show you how confident the folks at Cuisinart are with their product.

This unit may be spectacular, but it is not perfect. In fact, there are a few issues that could deter you from choosing this model. The first is a lack of color selection. The unit only comes in green. This has no effect on the performance, but for those who are concerned with appearances, not having a choice may be a problem.

Other than that, there have been some issues with the tightness of the pins used to attach the grill to the lid. This is a minor issue as it is easily fixed with a screwdriver and a few seconds.

When it all boils down, this unit from Cuisinart is simply a well-built superior performing option that will make a great portable grill for darn near anyone.

What Consumers are Saying About This Portable Charcoal Grill

  • Price is nice for the value
  • Hardware is good quality
  • Instructions are easy to follow
  • Good sized grill space
  • Doesn’t require a lot of coals
  • Nice compact size
  • Units are quick to clean

Pros

  • Grill is lightweight and compact
  • Comes fitted with a large cooking surface
  • Charcoals are easy to get to
  • Unit is easy to clean and maintain
  • Ease of use is superior to many other grills

Cons

  • No variety of color choice
  • Issues with the tightness of grate lift pins

Cuisinart CCG-190RB Portable Charcoal Grill

Though portable grills may have at one time or another developed a bad rep, there are a lot of great models available today that will mend that broken reputation. One of them is the Cuisinart CCG-190RB.

This unit is compact and designed using premium materials. This ensures that it is durable and will perform at optimal levels. The metal is a thick gauge which makes it a sturdy unit and it is compact as well. It only measures 14.5” in diameter and is only 15” tall.

The grill is designed to sit on a four-legged base for better stability. Each leg is tied into the other through the ash catcher for even more stability. It takes very little effort to assemble. All you have to do is unbox, lock the legs and you will be good to go.

Most of the accessories and exterior components are coated with a special porcelain enamel. This includes the firebox, the lid, and the ash catcher. The ash catcher, by the way, is larger than most, which should help make that clean up even easier. With the coating on all of these surfaces, the unit is not likely to rust anytime soon.

The lid is constructed with clasps that help hold the firebox in place during transport. This keeps everything in place and allows you to move the grill by holding it by the handle. This also makes the unit even more compact, improving its storage. To round out the design, the firebox it is fitted with two dampers. This elevates the control of the air flow and allows you to maintain temperatures easier.

When it gets to the internal aspects, such as the cooking grill, the high quality continues. Made with durable 150 sq. in. chrome plate grates you will be ready to get your grill on. The size of these grates is ideal for a family or gathering of up to four people.

Choosing the perfect grill for you means knowing everything including where the grill is lacking; there are a few things that we think could be better. The first is the cleanup of the ashes. Though the ash catcher is larger than most it is also more difficult to remove, as it is intertwined with the legs of the unit.

There have also been some concerns about the leg stability itself. This particularly has to do with removing the ash catcher as well. When removed, the unit doesn’t have the stability as it does when the ash catcher is attached.

Even with these two drawbacks, when you take a hard look at this grill, it is easy to see why so many love it and highly recommend it to their friends and family.

What Consumers are Saying About This Portable Charcoal Grill

  • Well protected, doesn’t rust
  • Air vents work very well
  • Temp gauge is very accurate
  • Fire starts quickly
  • Really easy to put together
  • Cleanup is simple

Pros

  • Built with multiple lid locks
  • Handle doesn’t heat up
  • Shelf for cooking utensils
  • Multiple grates come with the unit
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Coated with a protective enamel paint

Cons

  • Ash catchers are difficult to clean
  • Issues with leg stability

Old Smokey Charcoal Grill #22

If you are looking for an iconic portable grill then look no further than the Old Smokey Charcoal Grill. This grill has been around for years and has developed a following that is loyal to its unique design and superior versatile performance. Since 1953, the company that produces the grill has been manufacturing high-quality products that offer performance and durability. In fact, there are even models that have been left outside in the elements and still last decades.

So, if you are looking for an easy-to-use quality option, this model should be on your list. The dimensions of this grill give you plenty of cooking space; it is also easy to clean up. The handles make it easy to transport from place to place. Plus it is lightweight coming in at just 22 lbs., which adds to the portability of the unit.

Taking a deeper look, we start with the grilling space. This unit allows the griller a full 21” of cooking area. This is the largest option on our list and perfect for those big family camping trips. Even if you have it set up, that doesn’t mean you are locked into that grilling location;

pick it up by the two heat-safe handles and move it to where the action is so that you don’t miss anything.

The unit is designed with two top dampers which are perfect for heat and smoke control. Plus when you are done grilling up dinner it’s easy to clean. All you have to do is pick it up and dump the coals out.

As for the durability of the unit, as we said above, this grill is a fighter. The grill is constructed using corrosion-resistant steel which has been aluminized to help improve the rust resistance. This will help your grill survive all the wear and tear you and Mother Nature put it through.

All of that, and it is versatile as well. Not only can you grill a good steak up, but you can smoke meat as well. This is one of the reasons that we love this portable charcoal grill.

Now with that all beings said, there are still some issues that deserve to be looked at. The first is with the grill grates; there have been some issues with them rusting. This is an issue that if not taken care of can lead to extra money spent or even serious health concerns. So when using this grill, make sure you are diligent with maintaining your grill grates.

The other issue is that the lightweight design can affect durability — not from the elements so much as from carelessness and human error. It is lightweight and therefore could be easy to bump and knock over which could leave dings and dents. These can turn into issues later so just be cautious of where you set your grill to ensure ultimate stability.

These issues are easily fixed and dealt with. So in the end, as long as you are careful and cautious this grill could be the perfect choice for your grilling needs.

What Consumers are Saying About This Portable Charcoal Grill

  • Heats up quickly and retains heat well
  • Cooks meat perfectly
  • Versatile in use – both grill and smoker
  • Grill is a good investment
  • Easy to transport
  • Large cooking space
  • Reliable thermometer

Pros

  • Lightweight and compact
  • Price versus value is amazing
  • Nice reliable temp control
  • Can also be used as a smoker
  • Easy to assemble

Cons

  • Issues with grates rusting
  • Lightweight construction may impact durability

FAQs

You have likely developed more questions as you read our guide. So we pulled together some questions together to help you out a bit more and answered them below.

How Much Surface Cooking Area Do I Need?

The cooking area of a grill is measured in square inches; this includes everything as well as the grate itself. You should at least start with a 14 sq. in. cooking area. This will give you room enough for several large steaks or half a dozen hamburgers. Then you can go on from there depending on the size of the crowd you are looking to feed.

What Quality of Construction Should I Look For?

You should look for the best quality your budget will allow you to purchase. One good way to tell the quality of a grill is to shake it. It should feel sturdy and solid. If it feels flimsy or loose then try another model. It should also sit even on the ground. If you are unable to look at it in person, make sure to check out reviews.

What Kind of Assembly Do Portable BBQ Grills Have?

Most portable grills have little to no assembly required. There may be some screws that need to be placed or components that need to be slid in but other than that you should be able to get grilling pretty quickly.

How Durable is a Portable Grill?

This depends on the model and quality of materials used in its construction. There are some models that because of this coupled with a few extra techniques (like baking the enamel paint into the steel) can last several years — that’s as long as you properly clean and maintain it.

What is the Best Type of Charcoal to Use?

The brand is preferential. However, you want to choose charcoal that burns hot and lasts a long time while not producing a ton of ashes.

Making a Choice

Who doesn’t love a good barbecue? With its intense flavors and beautiful sear marks, there is just something that seems to attract people. If you are looking for a good portable grill, you will want to make sure that it is fitted with grates that sizzle and a controls systems for temperature and airflow. These are what make working with charcoal so much different than gas.

There are tons of great grills out there and as long as you find the size and specs that are fit for your needs, you will be ready for whatever gets thrown at you.

We hope that this guide has really served to make the selection process just a little easier and less stressful. We carefully chose the models above so that there would be something or everyone.

There are options for large groups, small groups. People that like to grill and smoke their meat. Those that are dealing with limited space or have plenty of room but just want something that is easy to transport. So you see there really is something for everyone. So spark up the grill, get your coals hot and listen to the sweet sizzle of those delicious steaks or burgers while you enjoy the beauty of nature!

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