Charcoal Grill Face-Off: Weber Kettle vs. Big Green Egg

Two iconic grills in a barbecue showdown

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The Weber Original Kettle dots the backyard of millions of American homes, making it practically synonymous with summer grilling.

The Big Green Egg, which debuted in the 1970s, is a kamado grill that also burns charcoal but with a more airtight design and a bigger basin. The Egg has inspired a cultlike following and many copycat cookers.

Consumer Reports’ testers put them head to head to see how the two grills cook when pushed to their limits, and whether the Big Green Egg, which costs six times more than the Weber Kettle, could offer the kind of performance that would justify the price.

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"With charcoal grilling, the cooking performance is largely dictated by how a fire is built and how the airflow to the flames is controlled," says Larry Ciufo, CR's test engineer in charge of grills. "That means everything from the quantity and type of charcoal to the design of the grill can impact your final result."

Most charcoal grills have two dampers, one near the bottom and one at the top, which work in tandem to direct the flow of air. More air feeds a fire, allowing it to burn hotter. Kamado grills also have two dampers, they tend to have a more airtight design, and most hold more charcoal than a conventional charcoal grill.

We tested each of these grills with its recommended type of charcoal: Weber-brand briquettes and Big Green Egg lump hardwood coal. We filled the Weber Kettle with 3 pounds of briquettes and allowed the coals to ash over. The weight is equivalent to the number of briquettes Weber recommends, and it fills a typical charcoal chimney starter.

For the Egg, we weighed out 3 pounds of lump hardwood and lit it. But because the Egg’s deep cylindrical shape is designed to hold more coal, we also ran our tests with the Egg loaded to capacity with 5 pounds of lump hardwood.

But we didn't stop with these comparative tests. We also ran each grill through our battery of performance tests, as we do for all the charcoal and kamado grills we evaluate, including those for heating evenness, cooking performance, and ease of cleaning, and did a thorough examination of features and design, all to determine which grill makes it easy to cook fabulous food.

Now, for the grill-off.

Vitals

Weber (18-inch): At 23 pounds, the molded metal Weber is lightweight and readily maneuverable, with a domed lid that sits securely, if not snugly, in place. Two dampers, one at the bottom and one in the lid, control airflow and as a result, temperature.

Big Green Egg (large): The Big Green Egg tips the scales at 165 pounds, thanks to cast ceramic walls an inch thick. Heatproof gaskets form a tight seal when the lid is closed, leaving the dampers as the only source of airflow and giving you superior control over cooking temperature.

Test-by-Test Results

High-Heat Cooking
To see how differences in cooking temperature would play out in the real world, we seared 1½-inch-thick sirloin steaks on both grills over 3 pounds of coal. As you would expect given the laws of physics, both fires burned at similar temperatures and produced similar steaks. When we filled the Egg to its capacity, however, things looked a little different.

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