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How to Choose the Best Grills from Weber, Brinkmann, Kingsford and More
Smokey charcoal grills still make the best barbecues. Start up times are longer than electric grills and propane grills, but innovations such as ash catchers makes clean-up almost as easy.
Popular brands include Weber, Brinkmann, Kingsford, Char Broil and Meco.
Hibachi Charcoal Grills
Hibachis are small table-top grills, typically one foot long. They can grill 2 or 3 steaks at a time. Their small size makes them portable and suitable for RVing and tailgating as well as home backyard use.
Simple sheet-metal hibachis are available for a few dollars. These rust easily and don’t last long.
The best hibachis are made out of thick cast iron and have a cast iron cooking grate as well. They cost about a hundred dollars. These will retain heat better and last for years. The small size of the grill keeps the weight of the hibachi manageable despite the thick walls.
Most hibachis don’t have covers. One popular trick is to place the hibachi inside an old kettle grill. This raises the hibachi to waist level and provides a cover, while making use of the heat-retention properties of the cast iron hibachi.
Kettle Charcoal Grills
Round kettle grills are the classic backyard grill.
Diameters of 18, 22 and 26 inches are popular, giving cooking surfaces of 250, 400, 530 square inches respectively. Though the diameter is only 4 inches longer, a 22 inch grill has 50 percent more area compared to an 18 inch grill. Rotisserie attachments are usually available only for the larger models.
Like hibachis, cheap and simple sheet steel models are available. They rust easily and don’t last long. Even stainless steel rusts quickly when exposed to a charcoal fire.
Their larger size makes the use of cast iron impractical (too heavy), so high-end kettle grills use enamelled steel (porcelain coated) to prevent rust. Premium brands can last more than 10 years. They cost over one or two hundred dollars.
Some older models use cast iron cooking grates but this is becoming less common in new models. Enamelled steel grates are now popular. A hinged grate allows charcoal to be easily added to the fire, even in the middle of cooking.
Premium models have a removable ash catcher at the bottom, and closable air vents to control the fire.
Quality models have a close-fitting cover that is air-tight enough to extinguish the coals (with the air vents closed) and to control flare-ups. Together with the ash catcher, this allows any unburnt charcoal to be easily reused the next time.
There are hybrid propane-charcoal grills. The propane burner is used for 10 to 20 minutes to start the charcoal fire, and is then switched off. This combines the easy-start operation of a propane grill with the heat and smokey taste of charcoal.
Barrel Charcoal Grills
These are similar to kettle grills (and cost about the same), with a few differences.
- Maximum size is larger than a kettle grill, over 800 square inches.
- A hinged revolving lid is conveniently fixed to the grill.
- A slide-out charcoal drawer is available on some models, for easy refilling of charcoal in the middle of cooking.
- The entire grill is typically not as air-tight as the best kettle grills, making it impractical to snuff out the coals by cutting off the air.
The Best Charcoal Grill
For the average backyard, a kettle grill is a good choice. It doesn’t take up much space and is big enough to cook for a family or a small party.
Whatever the choice, it is difficult to go wrong. Real grillers use charcoal.