Best Charcoal Grills of 2021

The top barrel- and kettle-style charcoal grills cook evenly and give you plenty of control

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charcoal grillst Eric Schnakenberg

It's hard to beat grilled burgers cooked over an open flame. And for those of us who value the control of charcoal over the convenience of gas, grilling out over charcoal is summer at its finest.

The great thing about a charcoal grill? The more coal you add, the hotter the fire. If you know what you’re doing, you can control the cooking surface to masterfully grill anything from a quickly seared steak to a slow-smoked pork shoulder—and rule the backyard barbecue all season long. (If you're really serious about grilling and smoking, you might consider trading up to a kamado-style grill, which combines charcoal with an airtight design to give you even more control.)

Today charcoal grills account for nearly 40 percent of all grills sold—not quite on par with gas grills, but still far outpacing the sales of pellet grills or kamado grills. Below, we've compiled a list of the very best charcoal grills, based on our latest tests.

Not sure where to start? Check our grill buying guide for a run-down of all your options.

More on Grills

On a charcoal grill, everything from evenness to temperature range is largely controlled by the charcoal itself. That led us to heavily weight design and convenience in our testing protocol. “The differences between charcoal grills are less pronounced than with gas grills, and far more depends upon how the user cooks with the grill,” says Cindy Fisher, CR’s lead grill test engineer.

But that doesn't mean there aren't differences between models.

Features like multiple air vents and adjustable play an important roll in turning out great food, because they let you control the heat. Below, we've highlighted some of the very best charcoal grills from our tests. CR members can read on for those selections, in both barrel- and kettle-style grills, or jump right to our charcoal grill ratings.

Best Barrel-Style Charcoal Grills

Best Kettle-Style Charcoal Grills

Paul Hope

As a classically trained chef and an enthusiastic DIYer, I've always valued having the best tool for a job—whether the task at hand is dicing onions for mirepoix or hanging drywall. When I'm not writing about home products, I can be found putting them to the test, often with help from my two young children, in the 1860s townhouse I'm restoring in my free time.