While buying a charcoal grill, you should first ask yourself what type of cooking you wish to manage with it. If you are under and impression that you can manage to slow grill steaks with the equipment that you use for grilling up burgers, you are not thinking in the right direction. Charcoal grills are usually great for indirect grilling. However, there are many different types of charcoal grills which you should take into consideration before buying one. If you are on a budget, here are top five best charcoal grills under 200 dollars. We have reviewed them thoroughly and we thought you might want to check out the salient features of these top low-cost charcoal grills. Look below the fold to explore more.
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What is charcoal grill?
A charcoal grill uses lump charcoal or charcoal briquettes as its fuel source. The burnt charcoal gradually transforms into embers which emit the heat required for cooking food. Charcoal grills are often preferred by self-taught and self-styled grilling experts over barbeque grills. While users who are prefer charcoal briquettes as fuel source stress on the heat creation and heat quality of this fuel source, proponents of lump charcoal point out lack of fillers and subtle aromas as reasons why they choose this fuel. Some of the charcoal grills are square or rectangular while some others are round, some charcoal grills come with lids and some without lids, and some grills come with a ventilator system while some do not and so on. Charcoal grill, however, can be broadly categorized into the following.
Types of charcoal grill
This is perhaps the most basic and cheapest of all types of charcoal grills. This kind of grill is made of sheet metal and wire and you could easily locate a cooking grid right over the charcoal pan. This one also comes with legs that are attached to the charcoal pan beneath. There is no ventilator or lid and the heat can only be adjusted by pulling the grid up and down.
- Pellet grill:
Pellet grills collect the heat from highly compressed hardwood pellets or sawdust that are put into a funnel shaped receptacle and chucked into the fire box which lies beneath the grill with the help of an electrical auger. The pellets are ignited by an electric rod that sets the pellets burning and loads the burnt coal into the firebox.
- Square charcoal:
The square grill is basically a blend of a brazier charcoal grill and a kettle grill. It comes with a rather shallow pan just like the brazier and adjusting the heat should be pretty easy for you. A square charcoal grill comes with adjustable ventilators (basic types) and a lid. These grills are priced in the range of the most expensive brazier grills. A square charcoal comes with two wheels at the back and legs and you can easily tilt it back without any fear of fire hazards.
- Shichirin (hibachi):
Hibachi, in English context, is much different from traditional Japanese Hibachi which is not generally used for grilling or cooking. Shichirin or Hibachi is usually a relatively small charcoal grill made of cast iron and aluminum. In the US, Hibachi style grill also refers to traditional Japanese cooking style. However, in common man’s parlance, Hibachi is usually a low-cost grill made of cast iron.
This one is the classic American style of charcoal grill. This type of charcoal grill consists of a lid, a charcoal grid, a separate cooking grid, a lower chamber and a ventilator system. Some models also come with wheels and ash receptacle. The kettle draws its name from the kettle-shaped charcoal holding lower chamber.
The cart grill looks like a gas grill. It is usually rectangular in shape, comes with a lid, a cooking and a charcoal grid, side tables and wheels. Many cart charcoal grills allow users to adjust the heat. Cart charcoal grills often come with ash collection receptacles that help in collecting and removing the ash during cooking. The rectangular shape helps users in indirect grilling.
A barrel charcoal grill is a 55 gallons steel barrel sliced vertically. The top half of the barrel grill works as the lid and the bottom half of the same serves as the fuel chamber. Vents can be found in both the top half and the bottom half. You can also find a chimney in this type of charcoal grill.
- Ceramic cooker:
This is probably one of the oldest grilling equipment since ceramic cooker has been in use for more than 3000 years. Shichirin is a Japanese traditional grill with a ceramic construction and it has been in use in its current form ever since the days of Edo. This one is certainly handier than the kettle charcoal grills as the chamber beneath retains heat quite effectively.
- Tandoor oven:
This type of grilling equipment is mainly used for cooking quintessentially Irani, Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indian foods. In a tandoor oven, wood fire is used and the food is put on skewers and put into the oven. With a tandoor oven, you can both cook and grill as direct heat (more than 500°F) is used for grilling.
- Portable charcoal:
A portable charcoal grill is either a kettle grill or a brazier grill. These charcoal grills are usually super-compact and are easy to carry. This type of grill is natural choice for campers and hikers who love to grill and cook beside balefire. These portable grills come with vent systems, lids and legs.
Top 5 recommendations
Though the exterior of the Weber one-touch charcoal grill instantly caught our attention, we were not very sure about its performance at first. However, we tried to cook a basic burger and it performed like an oven. We later cooked whole cabbage, chicken and pizza using the charcoal and it performed fairly well. The 363 square inches cooking space is big enough for cooking and grilling. However, the one-touch cleaning feature is the best feature of this cleaner. We simply folded up the aluminum foil and chucked away the ash. The glass-reinforced handles are easy to grip and the rust-proof vents are other great features added by the manufacturer. Clearly, this one is the best charcoal grill for both indoor and outdoor usage at this moment.
- 5 inch diameter allows cooking of two of more items at the same time.
- Kettle is really hard-wearing (it didn’t crack even when we dropped it).
- The three aluminum legs provide little stability (especially if you are moving the entire unit).
- Charcoal grate and cooking grate need replacement after a few years.
The Volcano stove is not just a charcoal grill, but a three-fuel grill that can also be used with wood and propane. There’s a reason why this one is dubbed as one of the most versatile grills on the market at present. This portable grill is indeed a great option for camping and BBQ enthusiasts. The Volcano grill comes with a propane burner, collapsible grill, regulator, charcoal grate, diffuser plate, a complete user manual and a nice little storage bag. We were quite impressed to see the solid built. We could effortlessly set it up, used both wood and charcoal as fuel and it performs satisfactorily. However, the best part is that the entire unit can be collapsed down to 5”.
- The grill works fine using a very few charcoal briquettes.
- The grill quickly collapses.
- Works very well with Dutch oven cooking.
- The propane components need to be carried separately.
- Poor distribution of heat.
This is the only Hibachi style charcoal grill to have made it to the list of our top recommendations and for a reason. It cooks and grills a tad faster than the other charcoal grills we tested. We cooked hot dogs and chicken chops using the charcoal grill and the flat grilling surface of the cast iron made charcoal grill made cooking a lot of fun! The slots were so narrow that we never had to worry about the burger slipping through. The grill is quite durable and sturdy. It comes with two adjustable cooking speeds. The draft door is great for controlling the temperature. We absolutely loved this rugged charcoal grill.
- Simple no frills design.
- Subtle aroma makes cooking more fun.
- Easy to use and clean.
- Can be used as a fire pit when it’s cold outside.
- Too heavy as a charcoal grill.
- Comes with no lid.
- It looks ugly.
True to its name, the Dyna-Glo charcoal grill is a hardwearing grill that comes with a sophisticated heat adjustment system. The two cast iron cooking grates lock in the juices and retain adequate heat for grilling and cooking. 568 square inch cooking space of the cart charcoal grill is just enough to grill twenty or more burgers at a time. The porcelain enameled grates help in optimal heat transfer. The steel draft door allowed us to maintain fuel supply intermittently during cooking. Setting it up was a no-brainer. The charcoal rack could be raised and lowered quite effortlessly. The three-grate cooking surface is what we loved the most about this charcoal grill.
- Large cooking space.
- The crank handle comes handy when adjusting charcoal.
- Porcelain enameled cooking grate.
- Quite sturdy.
- Airflow control is not so good.
- Charcoal burns extremely fast, hence not a fuel-saver.
- Thin metal.
This is yet another charcoal grill from house of Weber to have won our hearts. The Master Touch charcoal grill is equipped with a two part grate system that can be used with the Weber Gourmet BBQ system. We had to remove the central grate to install the cookware. We used this one for traditional grilling and it lived up to our expectations. It has got pretty tall legs that help in raising the grill optimally and we could also locate an extra cover on the lid handle that protected our hands. The bowl has a diameter of 22 inch and the cooking space is as big as 363 square inches.
- Easy to assemble and easy to clean.
- Heavy-duty grates.
- Retains heat better than most other products in its category and price range.
- The secondary rack has a smaller diameter, which prevents it from rotating smoothly.
- The ash cleaner leaves a lot of ash behind.
What I look for a 200 dollars charcoal grill
- Temperature managing capacity:
For cooking well, you need to regulate your oven temperature. While it may seem quite easy indoors, controlling oven temperature outdoors is a completely different story. How easy it would be for you to control the temperature of a grill depends on the lid quality, the dampers and the distance between the charcoal and the food.
- Quality lid:
The lid in a charcoal grill helps in capturing the heat inside. The tighter the lid fits, the more heat is retained and the faster the food is grilled. Therefore, you should look for products that come with well-built and well-fitted lids and you should not compromise on the quality of the lid.
Charcoal grills usually need two dampers, one for intake and one for emitting the heat. The temperature is usually controlled using the intake dumper. This is where the oxygen gets in. While buying a charcoal grill, see if the dumper can be fitted tightly as it will help you in choking oxygen supply, which is important for minimizing the temperature.
- Digital thermometer:
Today’s top charcoal grills all come with digital thermometers that are needed for tracking the temperature. Therefore, if you a reading a cookbook and it says that you need to grill the chicken at a certain temperature for a certain time, digital thermometers have no better alternatives. Don’t go for the 19th century dial thermometers as these ones show incorrect data.
- Charcoal accessibility:
Adding charcoal should be easy enough so that you can fuel the grill at the right time. Modern day charcoal grills almost always come with a little door that allows the users to add more charcoal when needed. You can also move the charcoal around which is sometimes need for controlling the temperature inside.
- Ash removal:
Since ash is a natural insulator, removing ash at regular intervals is an absolute necessity for good grill. There are many different types of grills such as kettle grills and cart grills that come with ash receptacles that collect the ash and make it easier for users to remove it when needed.
- Easy clean:
You should also check to see if the charcoal grill you are buying is easy to clean and maintain. Many earlier models of grills were not easy to clean. However, you can easily get portable and easy-to-clean grills that are ideal for camping and travelling.
Some of the best and most durable charcoal grills are made of cast aluminum or cast iron, powder-coated steel or superior-quality stainless steel. You may also consider buying coated vitreous enamel grills that last long even after performing under extreme heat. However, these grills may just crack if you drop accidentally.
- Warranty and support:
If you are buying a gasser, you may get a separate warranty for the burner and another one for the rest of the grill. However, before buying charcoal grill, you need to check the dealer’s or manufacturer’s reputation. Manufacturer’s warranty is always preferable over dealer’s warranty as you will get complete assistance from their end.
Charcoal grills and wood burning tandoor ovens are much less expensive than the gasser ones. These grills also emit subtle aroma and smoke. These grills are great for grilling steaks and other types of food items that require either high-temperature heating or indirect heating. As there are many different types of charcoal grills and the price widely varies, you may take this guide with you while buying this type of grill.
You need to check out the safety features and the effectiveness of a charcoal grill before buying it. Keep in mind that very few dealers can scam an educated buyer.