5 Top Portable Charcoal Grill Review Guide For This Year
5 Top Portable Charcoal Grill Review Guide For This Year – ‘Good things come in small packages’ has never been truer than it is with the superb line of grills in our hand-picked list of the 5 top portable charcoal grills. In this report, we’re going to take a deep dive look into the world of the best portable charcoal grills. We are a pack-it-and-go society. Books, toys, music, computing devices, games – it’s all about packing along the things that make life fun.
And from tailgating to bypassing gnarly public grills, there are so many good things about being able to carry along your own grill that you really should consider getting a nice portable one. Below, we’re going to help you in your search for the right travel charcoal grill, to suit your specific needs and budget.
We’ll consider the desired features of the most suitable models, then take a close look at the components, pros, cons, and experience of previous owners, so you can make the most informed buying decision when it comes to getting your own. By the end of this review guide, we expect you’ll be fully outfitted to get your grill for the road. To see our picks keep reading our 5 Top Portable Charcoal Grill Review Guide For This Year.
Top Pick: Weber Go Anywhere Charcoal Grill – Amazon’s Choice
Foldability comes to mind when thinking portable. Better to collapse than take apart. The Go Anywhere grill makes fold-and-go a reality, featuring plated steel legs which swivel out and up to secure the lid.
A glass-reinforced nylon handle on the lid provides a cool grip for transport. It weighs just under 15 pounds and measures 12.2 x 21 x 14.5 inches, about a breadbox’s size.
The lid features two 3-hole vent dampers close enough to cut off the air completely, smothering coals, and saving them for future grilling sessions.
The grill is coated inside and out with porcelain enamel to protect it from rust and wear. The enamel also helps with heat management by reflecting radiating heat back to the food.
An ash pan is not included, but the unit is small and light enough to turn it over and dump the ashes out simply. Less than 3 inches separate the charcoal grate and cooking grate, making it hard to place a pan to catch drippings.
A simple remedy is to line the grill’s bottom with heavy-duty foil for a quick clean-up of ash and grease.
The 160-square inch plated steel grate allows cooking two large Porterhouse steaks or 6 to 8 pieces of chicken at one time.
- While spending most days on your way to somewhere else, the Go-Anywhere portable charcoal grill brings a taste of home wherever you go. The lid locks for easy portability, and its rectangular shape fits perfectly in the back of most cars.
- Holds up to six burgers made with a Weber burger press
- Compact and lightweight for grilling on the go
- Porcelain-enameled lid and base retain heat, and won’t rust or peel
- The lid locks for easy portability and dampers allow you to easily control the temperature inside your grill
- Durable plated steel cooking grate retains heat and is easy to clean.Primary cooking area (square inches):160
- 3D interactive assembly instructions for this product are available through the free BILT app.
- One owner transports the grill from car trunk to the cooking site in a 2-wheeled shopping cart; another carries it with a small charcoal bag in a large gym bag. Personally, I bought the official carrying bag to go with it so I can sling it over my shoulder.
- Tall enough for a foil-covered 13” x 9” baking pan to keep warm underneath, it’s base it high enough to be able to stand it on a tabletop, though I would advise against putting it on a plastic one.
- Some dislike how the bottom rack sits so close to the charcoal, making it hard to regulate cooking time. But it’s also large enough for two zone cooking negating this gripe.
- Some have experienced problems with some of the featured designs
- Wire legs were hard on one owner’s fingers when attempting to use them to secure the lid. For another, folding the legs down and securely locking them seemed impossible, and they resorted to using small bungee cords to secure the lid because at least one leg popped off when attempting to secure the lid.
- Vents were sometimes hard to manage during the cooking process after getting hot.
- I own this BBQ, though, and honestly, I do not struggle at all. Clipping the legs together CAN be a little fiddly, but once you’ve done it a couple of times, it becomes second nature.
- And when it comes to moving the vents, they do stick a little when the grill is very hot, but while wearing insulated bbq gloves, I find they are easy enough to adjust.
- Folds compactly for storage and travel
- easy to set up
- holds and diffuses heat well
- quick cool down
- Cooking grate sits close to the grill
- Securing the lid with the legs may present a challenge to some, causing pinched fingers
This grill’s wire legs may not seem sturdy, but they are more than sufficient and they fold up to make a nice and easily packable rectangular shape that fits in with other items in your trunk or roof box.
Most owners are highly enthusiastic about this grill. If you like folding things and quickly cooking a lot of food in a little space, bring this small portable charcoal grill home.
Great Value: Weber Smokey Joe Premium 14-inch Portable Grill – Amazon’s Choice
Being a Weber, durability is expected; one owner ‘lamented’ they ‘only’ had theirs for 18 years, haha. Anyhow, for peace of mind, it carries a 10-year limited warranty.
The carrying handle folds down to rest on a side clip, providing a convenient place to hold the lid. The lid has a glass-reinforced nylon handle and a single large 4-hole aluminum vent. The 14½-inch diameter triple nickel-plated grate can easily cook three steaks or six burgers at one time.
Also known as Weber Smokey Joe Gold, the 40020 weighs 9.8 pounds and measures 9 x 15.5 x 15.5 inches. Unlike its near-twin Smokey Joe Silver, it lacks a bottom damper which doubles as an ash catcher. But on the other hand, having the dampers up on the sides eliminates the problem found in the Silver of ash clogging the dampers.
Inside and out, the grill and lid are coated with porcelain enamel to prevent rust and encourage heat distribution. Weber provides cooking tips and recipes in a 31-page owner’s guide.
- Grab the handle of your Smokey Joe Premium portable charcoal grill and throw a BBQ, tailgate, or grill lunch anywhere you go. Its lightweight design and carry handle make it easy to pack up your charcoal and grill wherever the day takes you.
- Holds up to five burgers made with a Weber burger press
- Compact and lightweight for grilling on the go
- Porcelain-enameled lid and bowl retain heat, and won’t rust or peel
- The Tuck-N-Carry lid lock doubles as a lid holder to avoid placing lid on the ground
- Dampers allow you to easily control the temperature inside your grill
- 3D interactive assembly instructions for this product are available through the free BILT app.
- Personally, as noted in my Weber Smokey Joe review, I’ve found the models with the vent at the bottom – rather than the side – do a better job of roasting and smoking, so I would recommend buying a Gold rather than the Silver I bought.
- Besides the usual meat, vegetables, and fish, another owner enjoys cooking skewers of shrimp or squid.
- Many users recommend using the Weber mini charcoal chimney along with this grill, for fast lighting and reaching cooking temps quicker.
- Easy assembly
- Side vents improve heat control
- Locking carry handle
- Easy to clean
- Truthfully couldn’t find any
It was enough for most reviewers to say what a great grill this is, and they’re glad to have it. That speaks volumes.
It’s easy to carry, heats fast, has a removable lid, a convenient lid holder, a generous cooking space, and comes with a recipe book.
Premium Pick: Kamado Joe Junior Charcoal Grill
You know how there are always exceptions to the rules? The KJ13RH is the exception to the rule which says a good portable grill should be easy to carry.
But Kamado rolled out their Joe Jr, especially for tailgating and other away-from-home grilling adventures, despite it weighing 68 pounds.
Since its rollout three years ago, grill-to-go enthusiasts aren’t daunted by the weight; Joe Jr’s red is often seen at outdoor events. And it is much lighter than its 208-pound big brother; in comparison, yes, it is portable.
It sports built-in HDPE coated handles which make it easy for two – or one really strong person who likes to show off – to carry. Perhaps wheels would be a nice addition.
The ceramic and steel materials are solid; all ceramic parts have a lifetime warranty. Yeah, I have to say it – that’s huge!
Thick walls lock in moisture and heat, enhancing flavor and making high temperatures and lots of charcoal unnecessary. The ceramic heat deflector plate makes cooking with indirect heat easy and facilitates smoking on a portable charcoal bbq.
Junior is promoted as self-cleaning, important because an improperly stored grill can become moldy or mildewy. The 30- to 40-minute process runs the grill at 600° F with the bottom vent closed for the last half of time. Plates and grate are also cleaned of unwanted residue during this process.
Joe Jr. measures 16w x 22h x 20.75d and stands 22” high, is given a 5-inch lift by the cast iron stand which also adds four inches to the 16” width. The cooking surface is a generous 148.5 square inches, sufficient for four large steaks, a 6-lb. roast, turkey breast, or ribs.
Junior is accessorized with an ash tool, grate gripper, and heat deflector.
- Premium 13.5″ Ceramic Grill with Cast Iron Stand
- Thick-walled, heat-resistant shell that locks in smoke and moisture at any temperature
- Cast-iron air vent for temperature control
- 304 Stainless Steel Cooking Grate
- Built-In Temp Gauge
- Everybody finds this grill extremely versatile, being able to grill, smoke, bake, and roast, all on the same unit.
- Owners report great pizza and beer can chicken. One has slow-smoked a pork butt at 225° F and seared steaks at 650° F. It’s a great all-rounder that can do it all!
- Wide temperature range (225 – 650)
- Built-in thermometer
- 304 stainless steel hinged cooking grate
- Grills, smokes, sears, and bakes
- Deflector simplifies indirect grilling
- Beautiful red ceramic finish
- Lack of wheels
The consistent complaint of Joe Jr is its weight.
Sure it’s hefty. But no one goes to a tailgate party to be alone. Recruit a buddy, haul Joe Jr to the next game, and enjoy kamado-style grilling on the go.
Old Smokey Charcoal Grill 22”
If you like ‘local son makes good’ stories, you’re going to like this grill. Old Smokey is made in the USA by Burkhead Manufacturing and was primarily sold in the South until the advent of Amazon and other online marketplaces.
The 22 stands for the width; there are also 18 and 14-inch models. The 22 measures 22.5 x 22.5 x 13 inches and weighs a hefty 19 pounds.
Made of aluminized steel and featuring chrome hardware, wooden handles, and aluminum grates, and legs, the OS22 can be put together with just a screwdriver in 15 minutes.
As far as looks go, it sort of looks like two washtubs clasped together with metal strips for legs. But looks aren’t everything, and some may find it’s clunky appearance appealing.
The barrel design holds heat and smoke around food, enhancing the flavor. The tall design also means the grate sits high above the fire, reducing burn risk, and making this one of the only grills in the list on which it’s possible to roast beer-can chicken and grill turkeys.
Because of its ability to hold heat and moisture, the OS22 also does well as a smoker.
- Made of rust-resistant aluminized steel
- #22 model has two side handles
- Easy to assemble and use
- Made in USA from domestic and imported parts
- It works well for grilling and smoking using the indirect method.
- Although the single grill is not adjustable, some owners bring the fire closer to the grate by stacking the charcoal high or putting a brick or two under the charcoal pan.
- One owner notes that the grill’s low center of gravity makes it safe and easier to use on windy days.
- Another likes to prepare two meals at a time to save on charcoal use. They can cook two hams or shoulders, four Boston butts, or six chickens.
- inexpensive, light
- well-designed top and bottom vents
- Not space efficient
- Temperature gauge not included
Not much on looks but delivers on the important thing – well grilled or smoked foods.
If you’re looking for a grill that travels well and is easy enough to use daily, consider this classic Old Smokey.
Char-Griller Table Top Charcoal Grill and Side Fire Box
It’s good to have choices, even when you don’t choose to exercise them. The 2424 can attach to various brands of grills as a side firebox. But because of the need to open up holes for fitting it as a firebox, converting this tabletop grill to a firebox is a one-way journey.
As a standalone, portable charcoal bbq, it is a fair competitor for others with less potential. For this review, we’ll focus on its ability as a pick-up and go wherever grill.
It grills and smokes well, helped by the positioning of the vents – one below the charcoal box and one on the opposite side near the top – which provides great cross-ventilation, ensuring smoke is drawn across the food.
The sliding charcoal drawer, ash pan, and Stay-Cool hood handle make adding and emptying charcoal safe and easy. The grates are cast iron, requiring repeated seasoning along with cleaning for a long and healthy life.
The Char-Griller 2424 measures 18.5” x 17” x 16” inches and, at 40 pounds, it’s one of the heavier models in our review.
It offers 250 square inches of cooking space which can hold a 12-pound turkey, brisket, or ribs. Food for up to 4 people can easily be cooked at one time, and it also appears highly in our search for the best tabletop grill.
A cover can also be purchased separately.
- Removable ash pan for easy coal clean up
- Offset for Texas style smoking
- Attaches to all Char-Griller barrel grills (#2123, #2828, #2137 and the #5050 Duo Gas and Charcoal Grill)
- Use as a table top grill or horizontal Texas style smoker
- You can go from a grill to a side fire box, once done you cannot go back to the grill
- Fits the Chargriller Pro Deluxe, Wrangler, Outlaw and Duo as a Side Fire Box
- Heavy steel construction, Cast iron cooking grates, 250 -square inch of primary cooking space
- Sliding drawer for easy access to coals and ashes, Easy dump ash pan and Stay Cool hood handle
- One owner who’d attached this to his large grill as a smoke box found a small fire at +250° F was sufficient to fill the larger cooking chamber with smoke and keep it at stable temps.
- Numerous people have bought it to use as a tailgate grill, or as a portable grill for camping, on the beach and so on. Most praise it for it’s sturdy construction and great cooking ability.
- Many owners have also praised it as large enough for direct and indirect grilling, essential if you want to cook more than just burgers and hotdogs!
- Finally, it’s said that the side vents are easy to use, are great for controlling temp and one being high, the other low, is great for fueling the fire and venting AFTER smoke and heat has risen over and enveloped the food.
- Small amount of charcoal required
- Assembly instructions in English and Spanish
- Heats evenly
- Holds heat well
- Grates are close to coals
- Some reports of door sticking shut during cooking (probably user error – grease from prior cooks!)
The lion’s share of reviews found were for the This Year as a side firebox but those who choose to use it as a standalone grill are happy with its performance.
If you’re good with aftermarket fixes, you can easily add a thermometer or realign hinges and bolts for a more secure fit. And repaint it as it peels, if so inclined.
5 Top Portable Charcoal Grill Buyers Guide For This Year
What to Look for In a Portable Charcoal Grill:
To truly be satisfied with your purchase, you know it’s not enough to grab something because it’s inexpensive and/or has a brand name you’ve heard about. Consider what will work best for your needs among the following
A 300-square inch cooking surface is considered the maximum for a portable grill. This is sufficient for preparing food for up to 4 people at one time.
The grill’s overall size should be considered, based on how many serving portions you’ll need – a cozy twosome or a generous party of friends and family.
But also, let’s not forget, we’re looking at PORTABLE grills. So we don’t want a huge 600 square inch cooking surface grill. That’s just not portable, it’s a full-size grill.
Compactness and Ease of Packing Away:
Obviously, we want a portable grill to be small and compact, otherwise we’d have gone for a full sized charcoal grill.
Does it fold down and is easy to pack? Does it require removing legs or handles?
Because we want to travel with it, we want it to be easy to pack up and move around. We want it to be portable. So It shouldn’t require lengthy assembly / disassembly each time we use it or pack it away.
The more compact it is, the better it can travel in car trunks, canoes, backpacks or RVs. It shouldn’t take up a lot of storage space.
Is it Easy to Clean?
Some feel a round design is easier to clean than a rectangular one, but the depth of the charcoal bin, the weight of the grill, and the presence of charcoal or ash drawers can also make a difference when it comes to cleaning.
Design and Features:
Dampers, vents, drawers for charcoal, and trays for grease can distinguish one grill from another. Just because it’s a smaller, portable grill, doesn’t mean it should be void of the features you need to be able to cook decently.
Vents or dampers are a must, because only with vents allowing you to control airflow can you dial into different cooking temperatures. Without vents, you are limited to screaming hot grilling only.
Want to cook large pieces of meat or chicken slowly? Maybe do the odd bit of smoking? Then you MUST have vents or dampers.
The sturdiness of legs and handles (top and sides) can also impact where it can be used and how easy it is to carry and move around.
If the legs are flimsy then it may fall over, not only ruining the food you’re cooking, but can also be a potential fire hazard. Similarly, you want a sturdy carrying handle, because it’s a portable grill. You don’t want to drop and cause damage if you need to move it.
Solidly built but not a solid weight is ideal. A portable grill doesn’t have to mean a disposable, tin-foil, weakly made and limited use one.
Generally made of cast iron or steel, the grade of material and what it takes to maintain it (cleaning, seasoning, and storage) can spell a long- or short-term relationship with your grill.
How well they stand up to weight – can it hold a Dutch oven or another cooking pan?
The material can vary from stainless steel, to plain cast iron or porcelain enameled to delicately coated aluminum.
How well the grates rest on the grill, allow the addition of charcoal, hold food, and clean up are things to consider. Another important consideration is whether they can be height adjusted, especially during the cooking process.
A Snug Fitting Lid:
When cooking indirect, or even smoking on your grill, a tight-fitting lid is essential.
If the lid doesn’t fit snug, then it’s impossible to control airflow, and it’s airflow you control with the vents to set the temperature inside the grill. So you really want a tight-fitting lid to be able to take advantage of different cooking temperatures.
Also, when not in use and being transported, having the ability to lock the lid in place is a real benefit. It makes traveling with the grill so much easier and allows you to store some items inside the cooking chamber, such as fuel, charcoal chimney, and grilling tools.
Ease of Storage:
How much space will it take up when not in use? Will it fit on a shelf, in a closet, or garage cabinet?
Also, square or rectangular ones – when packed away and handles and legs are out the way – are easier to pack and travel with in roof boxes, trunks or backpacks, than round ones which do not pack quite so well with other things you need to pack (boxes, cases, etc.)
Accessories or Bonuses:
Some manufacturers make available covers, tables or tools at an extra cost, but the generous ones will provide carry bags or recipe/tip books free of charge (or at least, hidden in the cost.)
Many grilling accessories, such as tools, charcoal chimney, heat resistant BBQ gloves and more are generic and can be used with any grill. But do look for tables and covers specifically designed for the grill you’re considering if you wish to have such things, as 3rd party ones aren’t always as well suited.
Of the top 5 grills we’ve reviewed, most miss the portability test of weight. Most enthusiasts don’t mind hauling a grill over 20 pounds, but there are some great choices for those who like to travel light.
And here is where your personal needs come into play.
Are you looking for something to toss in the kayak or haul on a motorcycle? Will you be cooking for a few or many? Is there limited space for storage, like an RV or small apartment? Are you looking to simply grill or would you like to smoke foods as well?
We like the serious folding ability of the Quick Grill – imagine storing it on the shelf next to your barbecue cookbook! Its stainless-steel body can hold up to a lot of wear, is easy to clean, and carry. It looks kind of cool, too.
There’s a lot to like about Kamado Joe Jr, with its ceramic body that can deliver everything from a fast grill to a low-and-slow smoke. It takes a while to come up to cooking temperature so if you’re aiming to serve at a certain time, you’ll have to factor in the preheat time. And it has a generous cooking surface.
All in all, for durability, ease of use and clean-up, compactness, and spacious cooking area, while we’re tempted by the brilliant green and sturdy base of the Cuisinart CCG-100, our favorite grill of this lot is the Weber Go Anywhere, and it takes spot as our pick for the best portable charcoal grill.
Now that you’ve had a chance to consider all things portable, hopefully you’ll be ready to choose from the grills in our roundup review or use what you’ve learned to go exploring further.
Enjoy your’ grilling on the go’ experience! Thanks for taking the time to read our 5 Top Portable Charcoal Grill Review Guide For This Year.
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