Can’t wait to spend sunny days on the beach, at 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. Each manufacturer claims that their model is the best, but what is the truth?
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.
Here are the best portable charcoal grills you can buy in 2020:
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 grill - please check out my best charcoal grills buying guide.
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.
Weber Jumbo Joe
240 sq. in.
Weber Smokey Joe
147 sq. in.
160 sq. in.
Upgrade Pick / Kamado
Char-Griller Akorn Jr.
153 sq. in.
Quick Grill Medium
140~ sq. in.
The Best Portable Charcoal Grills of 2020
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.
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 perfectly shows how to make good portable charcoal grills for decent prices.
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.
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.
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.
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 combines the big cooking area of 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.
Its size and weight make it one of the best portable charcoal grill (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.
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.
It's worth noting that it is also one of the cheapest portable charcoal grills.
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.
3. Best Portable: Weber Go-Anywhere
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 such as a balcony, patio or terrace.
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.
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 charcoal 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
5. Best Lightweight: Quick Grill Medium
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 this Quick Grill 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.
Do the weight and size matter to you?
This is the exact reason why I have placed this grill on my list.
6. Lodge L410
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 ).
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.
Lodge L410 is a choice for those who want to have a very durable and reliable grill for many years.
The construction of this hibachi grill 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.
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.
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 charcoal 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 ?
Do you 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 – 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. 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.
Air vents and air flow – Sadly, portable charcoal grills are not as easy and convenient as portable 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 hot charcoal – 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.
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 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 ( inexpensive ) charcoal chimney starter that will allow you to get a charcoal grill 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 ).
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 right portable charcoal grill for yourself, 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.
BBQ and grilling are my biggest passions.