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The Best Portable Charcoal Grills for 2021

Can’t wait to spend sunny days on the beach, in the park or camping? Cooking food outside is difficult without a good portable charcoal grill.

There are dozens of different types of grills on the market coming from a wide price range. 

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.

Here are the best portable charcoal grills you can buy in 2021:

  1. Best Overall: Weber Jumbo Joe
  2. Best Budget Pick: Weber Smokey Joe
  3. Best Portable: Weber Go-Anywhere
  4. For Kamado Lovers: Char-Griller Akorn Jr
  5. Best Cast-Iron: Lodge L410

If you need a bigger, full size grill – please check out my buyers guide to the best charcoal grills.

The Best Portable Charcoal Grills for 2021

1. 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 Jumbo Joe 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.

Weber Jumbo Joe 18"

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

It has a lot of space under the lid (240 square inches), which makes it possible to prepare more ambitious meals if you use different cooking methods (Direct and Indirect).

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.

What I Like:

  • The price
  • The grilling area
  • Efficiency of a full-sized grill
  • Easy to assemble, you only need 15-30 minutes for that.

What I Don’t Like

  • 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.

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 portable.

In a nutshell, Weber Jumbo Joe combines the big cooking area of Weber Original Kettle 18 and the mobility of Smokey Joe.

2. Best Budget: Weber Smokey Joe

You wish to have an incredibly lightweight, small, convenient, and durable portable charcoal grill? Weber Smokey Joe is a grill made just for you.

It’s size and weight make it one of the best in this category, you can easily carry it around in one hand. A great choice for camping areas, beaches, parks, small 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

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.

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.

What I Like:

  • It’s worth noting that it is also one of the cheapest portable charcoal grills
  • The weight and size

What I Don’t Like

  • The lower air vent gets clogged with ash

3. Best Portable: Weber Go-Anywhere

As the name of the grill indicates, you can take it anywhere you want. Weber Go-Anywhere 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.

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.

Weber Go-Anywhere

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 charcoal grills.

One downside is the temperature control, which due to the grill’s construction is much more difficult 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.

What I Like:

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

What I Don’t Like

  • Small distance of the hot charcoal from the grates

The popularity of this model comes from combining all the most important features such as mobility, efficiency, reliability, price, weight and easy to use – it is simply the best portable charcoal grill. 

4. For Kamado Lovers: Char-Griller Akorn Jr.

Maybe there’s a fan of kamado style grills among us who is looking for a small, relatively low-size model.

Char-Griller Akorn Jr was designed for those with a very limited space 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.

Char-Griller Akorn Jr.

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.

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

The Kamado are characterized by great temperature control (the best among all kinds of grills), they give food a great rich smoke flavor and are perfect for searing or long and slow smoking.

It can reach very high temperatures, from 200 all the way to 700 degrees F.

One certain downside of them is big weight, the price and difficult use for beginners. It is a good grill for those who already have experience with full-sized kamado grills.

What I Like:

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

What I Don’t Like

  • The price
  • The weight

5. Best Cast-Iron: Lodge L410

Lodge L410 is a choice for those who want to have a very durable and reliable grill for many years. It 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.

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 height adjustments 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.

What I Like:

  • Very durable
  • Adjustable grate height

What I Don’t Like

  • The price
  • The weight

What to Look for in a portable charcoal grill

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 – 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 charcoal grills are supposed to be lightweight and easy to transport, which is why they are made of lightweight materials. Of course there are very durable grills that are made of cast iron, but their downside is heavy weight.

Air vents and air flow – Sadly, portable charcoal grills are not as easy and convenient as portable gas grills. 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.

The lid – 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 temperatures. Another advantage is the fact that the lid keeps most of the smoke inside the grill (smoke has a significant impact on the food’s flavor).

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. 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 atention to

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 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 charcoal chimney starter that will allow you to get a charcoal burning quickly, swiftly and in every conditions.

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).