Best Portable Charcoal Grills for 2018 – Buyer’s Guide

Can’t wait to spend sunny days on the beach, at the park or camping? We cook outside very often, which is why you’ll probably agree with me when I tell you that

Cooking food outside is difficult these days without a good portable charcoal grill. I perfectly understand everyone who likes the smoky flavor of meat straight from a charcoal grill, I have made this article especially for you.

To continue my sentence, I suppose you have a problem. Why? Because there are dozens of different types of grills on the market coming from a wide price range. Each manufacturer claims that their model is the best, but what is the truth?

How to make the right choice that will live up to your expectations?

Well it turns out that finding the right grill takes a lot of time and requires at least a little experience, without it you can waste a lot of money buying an overrated grill. That’s why I invite you to check out my suggestions.

I have spend a whole lot of time preparing a list of the best portable charcoal grills in 2018. It took me plenty of tedious hours to analyze the most popular models. That way I have chosen several different portable charcoal grills, I’m sure you’ll find the right one for yourself.

Very Important! All the reviews are objective and based on my experience. My goal is to help you pick the right portable charcoal grill, which is why I present to you several models that differ from one another.

What are the characteristics of a good portable charcoal grill ? It certainly has to be small and lightweight, it would also be nice for it to be durable but that depends on your budget. Overall you need to know that portable charcoal grills are among the cheap ones, which is why it’s a good idea to spend a little more money on a better model.

Before you make the decision on which grill to buy, you should definitely check out my list and analyze your choice taking your needs into account. If you need a bigger, full size charcoal grill - please check out my guide to charcoal grills.

In my reviews, you’ll find different kinds of portable charcoal grills. When analyzing a particular grill, I took many aspects into account, the most important being mobility, efficiency, durability and price.

I performed the tests under different conditions and that way I have chosen several grills that differ from one another significantly. No matter if you need it to the beach, to the park or for camping – this article has a grill for everyone.


Best Portable Charcoal Grills for 2018

The range of prices and features is diverse, which is why I’m more than sure that you will easily find the right portable charcoal grill that will live up to your expectations. I’ve chosen the best of the best in different regards, giving you the ability to find the right grill matching you and your way of living and cooking.

MODEL

Cooking Space

Weight (pounds)

PRICE

Top 5 Pick 

Weber Smokey Joe 14 inch

Budget Pick

Weber Smokey Joe

147 sq. in.

9.5

Weber Jumbo Joe

Best Overall

Weber Jumbo Joe

240 sq. in.

18~

weber go anywhere

Best Portable

Weber Go-Anywhere

160 sq. in.

14.5

Char-Griller Akorn Jr Kamado Kooker

Upgrade Pick / Kamado

Char-Griller Akorn Jr.

153 sq. in.

37

Quick Grill Medium Original Folding Charcoal BBQ Grill

Lightest Pick

Quick Grill Medium: Original Folding

140~ sq. in.

4.75

Competition

Char-Griller Table Top Charcoal Grill and Side Fire Box

Char-Griller Table Top

250 sq. in.

41

Char-Broil Portable Tabletop

Char-Broil Portable Tabletop

190 sq. in.

7.5


How did I make the choice?

How I pick best ones

The market offers dozens of different grills, it is a very tedious work to pick and analyze the best portable charcoal grills. I have a lot of experience when it comes to BBQ, it is my passion and I’m in touch with plenty of people who are also heavily into the topic. Still, I had to devote plenty of time to approach the subject in a truly professional manner.

When testing different grills, it was my goal to find out what are the characteristics of a very good portable charcoal grill. They differ a lot in terms of features, size, weight, the cooking area and of course the price.

So what are those characteristics? It should have enough cooking area to fit a meal for two, it has to be relatively lightweight and be good at keeping the heat.

Of course I am aware that everyone’s needs are different. One person needs more cooking area to feed their friends on a camping trip, whereas another will need something smaller, lighter and more handy to easily prepare food for themselves and their pal when fishing, for example.

You need to know that a portable bbq grill works well for cooking outside in many different places such as a beach, a park or a camping ground. As well as doing things like fishing, road trips or any other kinds of traveling.

A portable charcoal bbq grill is also a good choice for those who cook occasionally and have a small backyard or patio. After you’re done cooking you can fold it quickly and keep it in a place like the garage.

It is definitely a very good choice for those who love the smoky flavor of meat and want to enjoy it while far away from home.

The last critical criterion is the price. I know how important it is how much you pay for something. That’s why it was my attempt to only choose the kind of grills that maintain a good value to price ratio.


What was my testing like?

how I test

For testing, I used all the good grills that I had selected. I cooked different kinds of food in order to evaluate how each grill handles keeping heat and the temperature control.

After many hours of different tests I proceeded to write reviews. I evaluated the functionality as well as all the aspects that matter when cooking on a portable charcoal grill (cooking, assembly, starting the fire, efficiency and cleaning).

Taking plenty of different factors and features into account, I have selected the grills I found good enough that will live up to your expectations. The selection is big which is why I decided to expand the list of suggestions in order to fulfill the buyer’s expectations. That way you can choose out of different kinds of portable charcoal grills ( small, medium and big ones ) at different prices that maintain their high efficiency.


Best Overall: Weber Jumbo Joe 18-Inch

A great portable charcoal grill for a decent price. I believe that it’s the best choice in this category. Lightweight and with a big cooking area, handy and very solidly built. Weber perfectly shows how to make good portable grills for decent prices.

This grill isn’t among the smallest ones, but despite its slick construction and low weight I still believe that it is lightweight and easy to transport. It will work great in many places outside home such as camping areas, parks or beaches. It is also a good solution for those with limited space in the backyard or balcony as well as those who only cook food on a grill occasionally.

The Weber Kettle is the most popular and the best selling grill in the world, there’s also been a smaller portable version of it designed that I’m writing about right now ( Jumbo Joe ).

It has plenty of interesting and useful features that make it a convenient and efficient portable charcoal grill.

Despite its size Weber Jumbo Joe offers a quality of cooking similar to the full-sized Weber Performer. Large cooking area ( 240 square inches ) allows us to achieve very good results when cooking. It is fully efficient for a bigger number of people.

Under the grill’s cover you will find a lot of space for a portable grill. It means that it’s a grill that makes it possible to cook in many areas. For example, it is able to slowly sear meat if you use cooking with the indirect method.

It achieves high temperatures that are perfect for frying burgers or steaks.

One big advantage is certainly the ash catcher, it isn’t particularly perfected but still, it does its job which is preventing hot embers from falling out of the grill and allows for easy ash removal.

Tuck-N-Carry – you don’t have to worry about the lid falling off when transporting your grill. Such approach guarantees that the lid stays put.

Easy to assemble, you only need 15-30 minutes for that.

One downside is the shallow space under the lid, it is vertically tight which means you may have a problem cooking a whole chicken or turkey.

PROS

  • The price
  • The grilling area
  • Efficiency of a full-sized grill

CONS

  • Vertically tight (shallow space inside the grill)

To sum it up, it’s a great grill for everyone in every regard. Lightweight, convenient and portable, to a high degree as good as the full-sized Weber. It has a lot of space under the lid, which makes it possible to prepare more ambitious meals if you use different cooking methods ( Direct and Indirect ).

That’s why I believe that if you only cook hamburgers or wieners you should choose Weber Smokey Joe, which is smaller, lighter, more mobile and much cheaper. It will definitely live up to your expectations, especially if you want a small and very lightweight grill.

But if you wish to have a grill that is largely as efficient as a full-sized kettle then you should buy Weber Jumbo Joe. Large cooking area makes it a versatile grill, whereas its lightweight and small construction makes it mobile. Let me remind about the price here, which is low and fully adequate to the quality of the grill.

In a nutshell, Jumbo Joe is a combination that combines the big cooking area of Original Kettle 18 and the mobility of Smokey Joe. The result is a big as well as convenient and mobile charcoal grill.


Best Budget: Weber Smokey Joe

You wish to have an incredibly lightweight, convenient, durable and small portable charcoal grill ? Smokey Joe is a grill made just for you. Its size and weight make it one of the best portable grills (at least for this price), you can easily carry it around in one hand. It will come in handy in all the places where size and weight are crucial as well as in places with limited space.

A great choice for camping areas, beaches, parks, small balconies in the city or patios.

The cooking area is 147 square inches, which is pretty decent for cooking food. It is absolutely enough to prepare food for 1-2 people.

Weber Smokey Joe just like the full-sized Weber Kettle has a lid that allows for a better temperature control. At this price and category it’s a very competitive feature.

It also has air vents that also help with good temperature control.

On a side note, if you wish to achieve a high temperature, open the air vents all the way. If you still believe that the temperature is too low, take off the grill’s lid and that way you will create an upper air flow.

Obviously, due to its size, this grill has plenty of limitations. Still, it will work great for cooking small chunks of meat such as hamburgers, wieners, chicken wings, or even steaks.

One of the other downsides is the lower air vent, which often gets clogged with ash. But with such a small construction of the grill, it is completely understandable. All one has to do is clean the air vents during cooking once in a while.

The construction, just like when it comes to full-sized charcoal grills, is high-level in terms of quality. Such grill, when stored properly, can last for many, many years.

PROS

  • The price
  • The weight and size

CONS

  • The lower air vent gets clogged with ash

In conclusion, it’s a very good portable charcoal grill for this kind of money. One of the least heavy grills, very lightweight, portable and small. Perfect for trips and cooking outside as well as a good solution for those who only cook for themselves or two people tops.

It's worth noting that it is also one of the cheapest portable grills. Which of course maintains high workmanship. I believe it’s a good idea to have it regardless of whether you use it very rarely. It is very cheap, and it will come in handy every time you want to cook outside, like at the park, on the beach or when camping.


Best for Camping & Tailgating: Char-Griller Akorn Jr. Kamado Kooker

Kamado Style Grill, this time a significantly different kind of grill, maybe there’s a fan of those grills among us who is looking for a small, relatively low-size model. Akorn Jr was designed for those with a very limited space ( like the backyard or balcony ) or those traveling for whom the weight doesn’t matter too much.

It is probably the smallest grill of this type, yet it still weights quite a lot which is why I recommend it to those who cook occasionally and don’t have much space in the backyard or for those spending time camping where one can pack the grill in their car.

Sadly, it is not one of those portable charcoal grills that you can easily carry around in one hand. Someone else’s help will be useful in carrying it around to different places easily.

The cooking area is 153 square inches, which is absolutely enough to cook food for few people.

The Kamado grills are characterized by  great temperature maintenance ( the best among all kinds of grills ), they give food a great rich smoke flavor and are perfect for long, slow meat searing. It is also worth noting that they are very durable.

It can reach very high temperatures, from 200 all the way to 700 degrees F. It is good for frying meat at high temperatures and for long, slow meat searing at low temperatures.

One certain downside of them is big weight, the price and difficult use for beginners.

On the top and the bottom of the grill you will find air vents.

PROS

  • Reaches high temperatures
  • Temperature Control
  • Very rich smoke flavor of meat
  • check-circle
    Grill and Smoker in one

CONS

  • The price
  • The weight

Conclusions: It’s a grill the construction of which makes it possible to easily cook and sear meat. The heat and smoke are very well contained inside the grill which has a significant impact on the food’s flavor. Sadly, Kamado grills are very heavy, this model is in the category of portable charcoal grills. But you have to know that the weight of this grill is 37 pounds which is quite a lot. Another downside is the price, which is the highest compared to other charcoal grills.

It is a good grill for those who already have experience with full-sized kamado grills.


Best Portable Weber Go-Anywhere

If you ask me, it’s the best portable charcoal grill in terms of mobility, why? It is incredibly convenient, lightweight and efficient. I like how it can be folded and carried around with one hand by the handle. Perfect not only when traveling but also in the city and places with very limited spaces such as a balcony, patio or terrace. Then there’s also the low price, fully adequate to the high quality grill.

It is completely enough for about two people, it will fit 2 medium size steaks, 6 hamburgers or about 6-8 chicken wings depending on the size. The grill offers 160 square inches of cooking area on cast-iron grates.

As the name of the grill indicates, you can take it anywhere you want. I love that grill for its convenience and versatility. No matter where I go, I can always bring it along. It’s all thanks to the well thought-out construction. The foldable legs wrap around the grill and fold into the shape of a rectangular toolbox. Such construction only weights 14 pounds and makes it one of the best and most convenient portable grills.

One downside is the temperature control, which due to the grill’s construction is much more difficult and inferior than, for example, in the round smokey joe or jumbo joe.

Another downside to many is the fact that hot charcoal is too close to the food which might contribute to the food getting burned fast and easily. I think that a good solution to this problem is to simply use less charcoal.

PROS

  • Incredibly easy to carry along
  • Easy to use and assemble
  • The weight

CONS

  • Small distance of the hot charcoal from the grates

I have presented several other good grills, but this one is the best in this category when it comes to mobility. The popularity of this model comes from combining all the most important traits such as mobility, efficiency, reliability and it is really inexpensive, lightweight and easy to use.


Char-Griller Table Top Charcoal Grill and Side Fire Box

First of all, the interesting and well-built stable construction reminiscent of a full-sized classic smoker. The entire thigh weights about 40 pounds so in terms of portable grills it is kind of heavy. A good grill for a trip to the park, to go camping, for the balcony or backyard if you don’t have enough space for a full-sized grill or only cook occasionally.

Inside the grill you will find cast-iron grates with the area of 250 square inches. You will certainly fit a lot of food on this grill, it is easily enough for a group of few people.

It certainly has a lot of advantages and few less significant disadvantages. First of all, it lacks a lid lock which is important when transporting it. Secondly, the side handles to carry the grill are not exactly the most comfortable.

Unlike most portable charcoal grills, in this case the problem of cleaning the ash has been solved decently. The shape of the grill made it possible to place an ash bowl that you can take out of the side of the grill any time. I think it’s one of the best and most convenient solutions in charcoal grills. Each of us knows that feeling when after being done cooking we have to clean up and remove the ash from the grill. Here it’s easy, fast and enjoyable.

One big advantage is ability to plug this small grill to a full-sized grill as a side fire box ( it can only be combined with Char-Griller Barrel Charcoal Grills ). That way you get extra 250 square inches of cooking area for your main grill. You can disassemble it any time to bring it along for a trip somewhere, like when going camping.

The construction is made in a way that keeps heat and smoke inside, which gives the food a great smoke flavor. On the side you’ll find air vents that you can use to freely control the temperature inside the grill.

PROS

  • Removable ash bowl
  • Large cooking area
  • Great for searing meat / smoker

CONS

  • Poor paint job
  • Heavy

Char-Griller Table Top is a good choice, I like the ash cleaning approach, large cooking area and the construction with an opening lid that is great at holding heat and smoke inside the grill, giving food a very tasty characteristic smoke flavor.

A slight downside is the weight being a little high for a portable grill and a little less perfected details such as the handles or lack of a lid lock. I have noticed that there’s plenty of instances of buyers complaining about a very poor quality of the paint work, after a short period of using the paint is very likely to simply peel off.

Despite all that, it’s a good grill for this price and I recommend it to barrel grills enthusiasts.


Quick Grill Medium Original Folding Charcoal BBQ Grill

The lightest one

You’re looking for an incredibly lightweight grill that you can pack in the backpack and not feel its weight? That’s the exact reason why I present to you this very lightweight grill which only weights 4.75 pounds! Yes, you read it right, it’s a great choice especially if you have no space or are going hiking.

You can pack it in the backpack or carry it in a dedicated small bag. Let me remind here that plenty of other portable charcoal grills usually weights from 10+ to as many as 40 pounds.

This grill was made to give you a chance to prepare simple food somewhere outside for few people ( preferably two ). There’s enough place on the grates for 4 hamburgers, two medium sized steaks, 6+ chicken wings, a fish, few hot dogs or vegetables.

It will work great for camping, fishing, at the park, on the beach, when driving or going on a trip.

Decent grills with a lid etc weight much more which means it is not always possible to bring them along if you don’t have a car. When it comes to this grill the key is easy assembly and weight, which makes it possible to bring it anywhere you want. Its weight which is 4.75 is pretty much unnoticeable for a normal person when going hiking.

PROS

  • The weight
  • The assembly
  • Incredibly mobile

CONS

  • The price

In conclusion, do the weight and size matter to you? Do you want your portable charcoal grill to really be very lightweight, nearly unnoticeable when it comes to weight? These are the exact reasons why I have placed this grill on my list of the best portable charcoal grills, the temperature control may be pathetic without a lid. But thanks to its side and weight ( 4.75 pounds ), it’s a grill you can take literally anywhere.


Char-Broil Portable Tabletop

One of the poorest on my list, but I suggest it as an alternative to other grills of similar weight and size. The cooking area is 190 square inches, which is enough to make food for two people. It only weights 7,5 pounds which makes it very lightweight.

It has legs that fold up in a way that keeps the lid in its place. A grill folded this way is easy to transport.

It has plenty of holes that make temperature control difficult.

To be honest, when looking at this grill up-close, it is almost the same construction as Weber Go-Anywhere. Let me emphasize the „Almost”, as Weber is much better built and perfected. But to a large degree the quality differs due to the price. Weber costs almost twice as much, but it is still completely worth its money due to the quality of workmanship.

If for some reason you want to save some money and buy one of the cheaper portable charcoal grills then you should choose this model. It should live up to your expectations, but you have to accept that it’s not a grill to last for years.

However, it would be a much wiser choice to buy Weber Go-Anywhere, the price of which isn’t high, whereas the quality is on a complete different level ( a higher one ).

PROS

  • The price
  • The weight and size

CONS

  • The workmanship

Overall, the quality of workmanship is on a lower level, but for this kind of price it’s still a decent grill. You simply get what you pay for, don’t expect a lot for that kind of money. A simple portable charcoal grill for a low price that will allow you to prepare simple food.


Lodge L410

The last suggestion is a portable charcoal grill made entirely of cast-iron hibachi. It is definitely a grill for many years to come, the cast-iron construction guarantees years of durability. Lodge L410 has plenty of advantages as well as disadvantages.

First of all, the cooking area is about 150 square inches. Is it a lot? I think it’s enough for 2-3 people. But judging by the size of this grill I have to present its greatest downside right away.

It is not among the biggest portable charcoal grills, its main area is 150 square inches. Still, the entire thing weights over 30 pounds which is a whole lot for this size. The reason is obviously the material the grill was made of ( cast-iron ).

Lodge L410

Cast-iron is good at holding heat, which is why after you’re done cooking you have to wait for a while until your grill cools down. That’s another small downside.

It lacks a lid, which is what allows for better temperature control. There’s an advantage, however, in the two-level adjustable distance between the food and hot charcoal.

Maintenance – it is something you have to always remember about. The cast-iron is rust resistant, but the lack of proper maintenance will lead to rust appearing on the surface of the cast-iron. That’s why after each cooking you have to make sure the grill is clean and well preserved.

PROS

  • Very durable
  • Adjustable grate height

CONS

  • The price
  • The weight

Lodge L410 is a choice for those who want to have a very durable and reliable grill for many years. The construction is made of cast-iron which means that with proper maintenance this grill should serve you for many years. One downside is large weight compared to the small cooking area, another downside is the price when compared to other portable charcoal grills.


Buyers Guide

portable charcoal grill buyers guide

What you should know about a portable charcoal grill

They are very easy to use and not too complicated, they don’t require much time for assembly. They are usually made of a small number of parts which means that they are less prone to malfunction than gas grills for instance, as well as easier to assemble. The main element that needs to be replaced every few years depending on the material used and how worn it is is the grates, which isn’t a high cost.

A portable charcoal grill is small and lightweight which makes it perfect for cooking outside. Depending on the size of the grill you bought, you can bring it along wherever you need it. To the park, to the beach, to go camping, tailgating, to a picnic, to a road trip or simply for some other type of traveling.

The main advantage of portable charcoal grills is the smoky flavor they add to the meat. To many people, the smoky flavor and the scent of burning briquette is the trademark of cooking food outside. Other types of grills, such as the gas or electric ones, don’t make smoke which is why the food cooked with them has a slightly different flavor.

Another advantage is the ability to reach high temperatures, which is useful when cooking chicken wings, hamburgers or steaks.

One downside is of course the ash removal. It’s a boring, tedious and time-consuming task that has to be performed after every use of the grill. There are plenty of interesting solutions these days that make plenty of activities related to charcoal grill maintenance easier.


What to pay attention to before the purchase?

If you already know where you are going to bring your portable charcoal grill along as well as how often and for how many people you’re going to cook, it is time to take a closer look on the below criteria in order to find a grill that will match your expectations.

The cooking area – You’ll find different sizes of the cooking area, think about what situations you’ll be using your grill in and for how many people you’ll be cooking food. If you only need a  portable charcoal grill when going fishing with your pal, one of the smallest models will be definitely enough, being very handy and efficient for two people. If you’re going camping with a big family, I suggest considering buying a bigger grill, preferably one with 200+ square inches of the cooking area.

The quality of elements and durability? – The quality of materials will be much poorer whether you like it or not, why? Because portable grills are supposed to be lightweight and easy to transport, which is why they are made of lightweight materials. It also significantly influences the price, which is simply lower.

Of course there are very durable grills that are made of cast iron, but their downside is heavy weight and necessity of frequent maintenance in order to prevent the surface of the cast iron from rusting.

If you have enough space for a bigger grill you should definitely check out my guide to big charcoal grills.

Air vents and air flow – Sadly, portable charcoal grills are not as easy and convenient as gas grills as there’s no dedicated knob here. You have to use the air vents for temperature control. Pay attention to what air vents a grill has, it is the best when they are rotating and easily accessible for faster and more efficient temperature control.

The lid – Pay attention to whether the grill has a lid, it is not necessary but having a lid has its advantages. A lid allows for an oven effect, which means that food cooked on a grill with a closed lid is evenly heated from all sides. Another advantage is easier temperature control, the heat is kept inside the grill which allows to reach higher or fixed temperatures for a specific time. Another advantage is the fact that the lid keeps most of the smoke inside the grill. You need to know that smoke has a significant impact on the food’s flavor, giving it a specific smoke flavor.

Burning area – A bigger burning area is characterized by bigger distance between the grates and the briquette – it lowers the risk of burning the food. One upside of a bigger burning area is the ability to add more charcoal which makes it possible to extend the cooking time. A bigger area also allows to use different cooking methods, such as the indirect method or the 50/50 ( Read more about those methods ).

Weight and Size – Of course, depending on where and for how many people you’re planning to cook your grill should be lightweight enough to be easy to transport. It is obvious that the bigger the grill the more it weights. Which is why you should pay attention to how big is the cooking area you really need. There are models that you can carry with one hand, and there are those that require someone else’s help to properly carry them around.


Useful features worth paying attention to

useful features

Ash cleaning – different grills deal with this problem in different ways. If removing ash from the grill is ultra annoying to you, check out portable charcoal grills that are equipped with a special ash catcher. It can be a tray under the grill, or a removable bowl on the side of the grill. This type of solution makes the process of removing ash from the grill significantly shorter and easier.

Fitting lid with a lock – A grill equipped with a fitting lid not only makes temperature control easier, but it is also easier to transport. Make sure that the lid lock is solid so that the lid doesn’t open on its own when transporting the grill.

Charcoal Chimney Starter – Some of the full-sized charcoal grills are equipped with a special propane-fueled burner that makes it fast and easy to get the charcoal burning. Sadly, when it comes to smaller portable charcoal grills, such solutions are hard to come by. That’s why I suggest to separately buy a ( inexpensive ) charcoal chimney starter that will allow you to get a charcoal grill burning quickly, swiftly and in every conditions. More on how it works can be read in a guide I have prepared.

Stand / Legs – It’s a good thing if your grill is equipped with special legs that make it stable so that you don’t need a separate table to put the grill on. If a grill has legs, check out what material they are made of and if they fold. It is best when they are made of thick steel and are easy to fold ( it matters during transport ).


Ending notes

The portable charcoal grill market is very broad, and choosing the right one isn’t easy. That’s why I made my list in which I considered the client’s most important needs and how much money they are planning to spend on purchasing a new grill.

I hope that you will find the best portable charcoal grill for yourself here, one that will fit your budget. Remember! There is no grill that is completely perfect, it all depends on your needs. Each of the grills presented stands out with something else. Here you will find grills for those with a limited budget, very lightweight ones for the park or hiking, for a small backyard or balcony and for many other uses.

Leave a Comment