Choosing a Charcoal Grill
So you are a charcoal griller! Some might say you are a grilling purist and we would agree. Nothing beats the flavor of grilling with charcoal. When shopping for a new charcoal grill, keep in mind that a charcoal grill should last for many years, not just a few seasons. That means they should be built from heavy-gauge and corrosion-resistant materials. Here are some other things to keep in mind when making your selection:
Configuration:This is simply a personal choice question. Most grills are stand-alone, meaning they sit on their own stand or cart. Another option is a built-in grill. Built-in grills sit in custom-made outdoor kitchen islands or counters. If you are building an outdoor kitchen in you backyard, then a built-in grill might be for you.
Tending the Fire: Most hardwood charcoal burns out in 45 - 60 minutes. If you plan to cook longer than that you will need to add more charcoal to keep the party going. Some grills make this easy and some make it a frustrating experience. The best charcoal grills have a way of adding charcoal without having to take the grill apart or remove food from the grill grate. Some common solutions are a separate door that provides access to the fire pit or hinged sections of the grill grate that allow you to tend the fire without pulling the grate off the grill.
Ash Removal: Burning charcoal makes ash and from time-to-time that ash must be removed from the grill. Some grills have easily removable ash pans with spill-proof sides that make the process quick and simple. Other grills have ash-bowls or plates that are difficult to remove and seem to spill ash everywhere on your way to the trash can.
Cooking Grate Material: Grill grates are made either from porcelain-coated cast iron or stainless steel. Here's the deal - cast iron grill grates are super non-stick if you season them properly and retain more heat than steel. This means food will stick less to cast iron and will have bolder grill marks. HOWEVER, cast iron must be cleaned carefully and seasoned every once in a while. If you need some help with seasoning cast iron check out our Caring for Cast Iron page for more info. Stainless steel has much less attractive cooking qualities and is more expensive than cast iron, but requires almost ZERO maintenance. Just hit it with a stiff brush and you are good to go.
Rotisserie: One of the classic ways to grill meat is by using a rotating BBQ rotisserie near a hot fire. This is done by inserting a spit (a sturdy metal rod) through your food, securing the food with metal claws, and then attaching the spit to a heavy-duty motor. The motor slowly turns the food near the fire until the food is cooked. The advantage of this cooking method is the food cooks more evenly and bastes itself internally as the food rotates. Many grills offer a rotisserie option but we like rotisseries that are heated using dedicated burners mounted behind the food, not underneath it. This prevents flare-ups and allows the food to baste properly.
Warranty: This one is easy - the longer the warranty the better a grill is usually made.
Shipping: Some smaller or lighter charcoal grills ship to you via UPS ground. This means the grill arrives at your house in the classic brown UPS truck and the driver will leave the grill at your door. Larger and heavier grills must ship via truck freight. In this case a delivery company will call you and arrange a delivery time.