We Compared The Best Charcoal Grills in 2023
March 10, 2023 by Sea Island Forge
Charcoal grilling is a great way to get a good sear and that unmistakable smokey flavor. The true flavor is unlocked when the meat drippings come in contact with hot charcoal and produce that unique blend of smoke and steam.
Our grill experts assessed the performance, capabilities, durability, and price of the top charcoal grills in 2023, so you won’t have to. Whether you're a tailgater or a backyard chef, we’ve laid out the perfect products to help you level up your grilling experience.
Best Charcoal Grill for Tailgaters: Broil King Keg 5000
- Price: $1,049
- Grill Dimensions: 47” H x 41” L x 27.5” W
- Total Cooking Area: 3.3 sq. ft.
- Weight: 126 lbs
The Broil King Keg 5000 grill is an ideal choice for the superfan grillmaster. Its durability and large plastic wheels allow easy transport, letting you take the smokey flavor anywhere you need. The manufacturer calls it “the ultimate tailgate grill” due to an available trailer hitch adaptor.
Sometimes you want to get your charcoal grill to maximum temperature and get a quick sear on your meat, and sometimes you want to cook low and slow. Broil King’s Keg 5000 grill is very effective at both. The Keg’s insulated double-walled steel body makes it more efficient than ceramic grills that require more charcoal to maintain temperature.
The grill also features 2.2 sq. ft. of removable resin shelf space with tool hooks to make prep and cooking a breeze. Coated cast iron grates make for predictable cooking and easy cleanup. The top vent has incremental temperature guides, allowing the outdoor chef to dial in the perfect level of heat, whether slow-smoking a pork shoulder or using their grill as a pizza oven.
While the multi-level cooking of egg-shaped grills is nice, the narrow shape does present the issue of space. The Broil King Keg 5000 is only 19” in diameter. This is three inches smaller than the traditional backyard Weber Original Kettle. Technically, you could fill this grill with burgers, but you must stack them vertically throughout the grill. Some burgers will be close to the flame and impossible to flip, while others will be further away and very accessible. If you grill for a large crowd, this may not be a good fit.
One reviewer summed up the grill's versatility: "I thought I’d only use it for slow cooking stuff occasionally, but I basically use it for everything now. The way that the Keg holds the juices from the meat in really means that the taste is just on a different level.”
- Best Grill Features: Portability and versatility stand out, but it is also important to note that the steel composition of the Keg will prevent the absorption of odors ceramic grills are known for. This means the fish you enjoyed on the smoke last week will not transfer its flavor to this week’s chicken.
- Things to Consider: The durability of the Keg’s body is highly regarded; however, reviewers have shared concerns about some of the grill’s hardware, including the gasket seals and the screws that hold the grill plate in place. If you are more of a griller than a smoker, space is limited, so consider a product with a wider surface area.
Best Charcoal Grill for Entertaining: Sea Island Forge 30-Gallon Grilling System
- Price: Starting at $3,700
- Grill Dimensions: 42” W x 42” D x 19” H with boot rail stand (32” W x 32” D x 8” H of Fire Pit bowl only)
- Total Cooking Area: 3.3 sq. ft. (50-Gallon - 7.8 sq. ft.)
- Weight: Fire Pit & Boot Rail Stand 225 lbs, Grill Attachment 20 lbs, Heat Dome 2.0 5 lbs
If you believe the joy of outdoor cooking is found in sharing the cooking experience with your friends and family, then the Sea Island Forge 30-Gallon Grilling System is the perfect grill for you. It’s more than an ordinary charcoal grill; it doubles as a fire pit. It transforms outdoor cooking into a memorable experience focused on quality food and quality time.
The Grilling System is customizable to meet your exact needs. The high-quality Fire Pit and artisan-crafted attachments allow you complete control over your outdoor cooking experience.
Each add-on gives you even more precision and versatility, taking your grilling game to the next level. You can save up to $900 when you bundle the products.
The bundle we’re addressing in this article consists of a durable cast ductile iron bowl to hold your coals and a cutting-edge adjustable grill grate that smoothly raises, lowers, and pivots over the fire.
The patented Ratcheting Grill attachment provides outdoor chefs with maximum versatility and precise heat control needed to manage every variable of the grilling process.
If you have ever been in a situation where your temperature was too hot, you can save your meal with the Ratcheting Grill attachment. Grillmasters can effortlessly adjust the grill's position in relation to the fire and raise or lower it while cooking, providing real-time temperature control within seconds. The attachment can be easily added and removed, so guests can enjoy the warmth of the fire pit before, during, and after the meal.
This bundle also includes the Sea Island Forge Heat Dome 2.0. The restaurant-grade, stainless steel dome sits on top of the grill to capture the smokey flavor and preserve the tenderness of the meat. A built-in thermometer on the Heat Dome and an adjustable smoke valve provide additional control and precision.
This 30-Gallon Grilling System bundle includes a galvanized steel boot rail stand, the Heat Dome 2.0, stainless steel Grill attachment, and a half-inch, hand-hammered poker for adjusting coals. This all-in-one charcoal grilling and fire pit solution is the true centerpiece of any outdoor gathering space and is built to last generations.
Forbes weighs in on the versatility of this grill and fire pit combo System, "Speaking of firepits, check out the line from Sea Island Forge, an artisan blacksmithing ship from South Georgia...They are great looking as open fire pits, but on top of that, accessories make them very versatile."
- Best Grill Features: The patented Ratcheting System gives precise, real-time heat control. The ability to entertain guests while cooking provides an unmatched level of versatility and enjoyment. The bundle option offers big savings - up to $900. If you’re interested in a bigger option, the 50-Gallon Grilling System is available.
- Things to Consider: The Sea Island Forge Grilling System is heavy, and there are no wheels. This is not a portable grill that you can take anywhere. If you need to reposition the grill, make sure you have another person helping you. The Gear Truck is a bundle add-on worth considering if you need somewhere to store your attachments and an easy way to transport them.
Best Ceramic (or Kamado) Grill: Kamado Joe Big Joe® Grill - Series III
- Price: $2,999
- Grill Dimensions: 58.4” W x 53.7” H
- Total Cooking Area: 3.1 sq. ft.
- Weight: 487 lbs
Kamado grills are top-rated among grilling enthusiasts for their durability and heat consistency. They are typically made of ceramic and are designed to retain heat over long periods. The Big Joe® Grill - Series III from Kamado Joe embodies everything experienced outdoor chefs love about this grill style.
Convenience features like the Air Lift™ hinge system allow the grill to be easily opened with one hand using a secure, comfortable grip.
Users of this grill also enjoy that it offers a multi-level cooking system that utilizes a two-tier cooking grate for cooking at different temperatures simultaneously. Kamado Joe’s signature Divide & Conquer Flexible Cooking System will further allow grillmasters to set up different cooking zones with varying temperatures on designated areas of the grates.
Although the Kamado Joe Classic Joe Series III charcoal grill is equipped with top and bottom vents to assist in heat maintenance, the ceramic construction offers a challenge for inexperienced grillers looking to control heat. Once the grill reaches a certain temperature, it can be difficult to lower it, as the ceramic material retains heat for a long time. If you prefer a hands-off approach to cooking, this grill may not be for you.
Kamado Joe has a passionate community of users who love to share how practical and versatile these grills are. One reviewer sang the praises of the Kamado grill, “This grill is probably one of the best on the market,” the reviewer stated, “if you love grilling but aren’t the best, this grill is a must-have as it will help you become a great griller, smoker, or searer.”
- Best Grill Features: The Air Lift™ hinge system nicely addresses one of the biggest downsides of ceramic egg-shaped grills - the lid's weight.
- Things to Consider: This is the heaviest charcoal grill on our list. Weighing in at 487 lbs, portability is the most significant downside of this grill. The Kamado Joe's exceptional heat retention can pose a significant challenge for novice grillers or smokers, as it cannot be easily cooled down once it has reached high temperatures.
Best Accessories: XLarge Big Green Egg in an intEGGrated Nest+Handler with Mates Package
- Price: $2,169
- Grill Dimensions: 29.5" H x 29" L x 26.5" W
- Cooking Area: 3.1 sq. ft.
- Weight: XL Egg 243 lbs, intEGGgrated Nest 37 lbs, EGG Mates 12 lbs
Like the Kamado Joe, the Big Green Egg XLarge Grill is a ceramic-style grill that is popular for its versatility and is renowned for consistency of temperature and flavor. The number of accessories available for maximum versatility sets the Big Green Egg brand apart from others in its category. The Big Green Egg has a wide range of accessories, from basic items like cooking grids, ash tools, and grill covers to more advanced options like pizza stones, rib racks, and digital temperature controllers.
The XLarge intEGrated Nest+Handler with Mates Package includes the items listed in the product name, a convEGGctor for indirect cooking, a Grid Gripper to easily adjust your cooking grid, an Ash Tool, a bag of charcoal, and charcoal starters. If you’re a grilling enthusiast with a love for ceramic grills, this package is all you need for the ultimate cooking experience.
The Big Green Egg offers an EGG Genius that controls the temperature of your Big Green Egg XLarge Grill via your smartphone, tablet, or computer (similar to automatic pellet smokers). Through the EGG Genius application, you can set and monitor the heat of both your fire and your meat.
Like the Kamado Joe, the Big Green Egg charcoal grill has heat-adjusting equipment and a fan attached to the charcoal box that helps raise and lower the temperature. This is more of a hands-off approach to cooking, but it will ensure the temperature is exactly what you want. Less fun. More Precise.
Remember that the ceramic material is the ultimate heat retainer; the added temp controls are not instant fixes. It could take as long as 18 hours for the grill to cool down once it’s hot.
The Big Green Egg has numerous cookbooks, spices, wood chunks, and chips available to achieve your desired flavors. Overall, the Big Green Egg XLarge Grill can be tailored to fit the desires of any outdoor chef. The wide variety of accessories available and the charcoal grill’s additional capabilities to smoke or bake make this ceramic grill a good choice for the experienced grillmaster who enjoys versatility and durability.
- Best Grill Features: The Big Green Egg XLarge Grill is made of high-quality materials and hardware resistant to cracks, rust, and fading. An array of accessories provide additional versatility to an already versatile outdoor cooker.
- Things to Consider: Heat control can be a challenge due to the ceramic construction. Once it is hot, it stays hot. Although the XL Big Green Egg bundle comes with a rolling base, the weight of the grill limits portability. If you’re looking for a grill with a gathering/entertaining component, this isn’t for you. Your family could roast marshmallows on it, but it won’t be fun.
No matter your outdoor cooking requirements, these high-quality charcoal grills will provide you with fantastic outdoor cooking experiences. As you search for your perfect charcoal grill for cooking delicious meals and entertaining, consider your experience as a grillmaster and your guests' experience. Happy Grilling!
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