How to select the best small, outdoor portable charcoal grill for camping, tailgating, RVing, patio and backyard BBQ. Find reviews about Coleman, Weber charcoal BBQ grills and other manufacturers. See what grill types are the most popular and which one to select.
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Gas or charcoal? For home or camping? Do you prefer the chargrilled flavor and the texture? Is it large enough for your family and frequent guests?
These are just some of the questions you have to ask yourself before buying a portable charcoal grill.
While the fuel type is the main difference between various BBQ grills, many grilling fans would also consider the cooking speed, available features, size, power, convenience, mobility, and what's most important – the flavor and look of the grilled steak.
If you are shopping for a new barbeque grill, there are several types you can choose from, and related to the fuel type they use:
Gas grills. Gas grills are powered by natural or propane gas and are the most popular type of barbeque grills in the US and Canada. This type is the preferable choice of many BBQ lovers because you can easily and quickly fire them up and prepare a meal; there is no preparation involved and dusty clean up afterward. They offer various useful features, such as the side burner, temperature adjustment, and several burners to create different cooking zones. While the cooked meat is still good, you won't have that distinctive smoked flavor found in charcoal grills.
Charcoal grills. Charcoal grilling is the synonym for the BBQ we know and crave. This is where you prepare grilled meat with a truly smoky flavor. If you like to sear meat and enjoy a perfect meal afterward, you will go with the charcoal grills. But, keep in mind that it takes time to set the grill up, preheat and then clean it. Who cares if you are outdoors and not in a rush!
Electric grills. Electric grills are the simplest of all grills because they use electricity, and there is no fire and smoke. As opposed to the other two types, these grills can be used indoors and outdoors, making them ideal for homes and apartments. They are the cheapest of all, but it lacks the impression that you are eating real BBQ.
Portable charcoal grills are designed for outdoor BBQ-ing using the lump and briquette charcoal. Such grills are usually made of sturdy material and have a large cooking area for its size so that they can cook enough for one or more people. Due to its smaller size, built-in wheels, or compact and foldable design, such grills are easy to transport and store. That is why they are great for tailgating.
Note: The lump charcoal is the charred wood that is a preferred fuel of many experts. It is easier to ignite, and it generates more energy. Charcoal from the bag is easy to work with as you can easily move it where you need the direct heat.
Many BBQ fans and experts love the smoke and flames charcoal produces, and of course, the smell and flavor of the cooked food.
The greatest advantages of all portable charcoal grills vs. other types are the compact design, quality deep cooking, more heat generated, and tasty food with its characteristic smoked flavor.
The small size makes these grills perfect for picnics, tailgating, backyard patio, camping, RV users, and outdoor lovers. You just need a few pounds of charcoal, depending on how much meat has to be cooked, a few friends, and a case of beer.
Here are some considerations to take into account when shopping for a portable grill:
The quality of construction is very important.
When looking for a portable charcoal grill, choose the grill with a solid construction, and it doesn't rattle or squeak when you shake it gently. Joints should be firmly welded to each other with the welds polished smooth for safety, rather than being held together with nuts and bolts or screws (doesn't apply on cast iron grills).
The quality of material used to build the grill.
Your new charcoal grill should be made of thick and sturdy parts and not thin and flimsy. Check out those made of heavy cast-iron and with a heavy iron grate.
Buy a grill with a thicker hood and is enameled, so it protects the metal from discoloring.
Before you buy the grill and right at the store, test several portable charcoal grills, roll the grill on the floor of the showroom (if applicable), and see how it moves. Select the grill which has large wheels so it can turn easily and traverse uneven ground. The area around the handles should have enough space so that your hand will fit through easily and safely. A handle should be made of wood so it won't heat up during the cooking process.
Cooking grates should be strong and heavy, preferably made of cast iron, stainless steel, or porcelain-coated stainless steel, to resist the rust and is easy to clean. To provide enough grilled food for your meal, make sure that a grill surface is big enough, which is usually 12" by 16".
A good portable charcoal grill should have an adjustable grate so you can change the height or the distance between the heat source and your food.
Keep in mind that a grill is fueled by natural lump charcoal or briquettes, and pick one with the dip firepan.
A locking lid on grills is what you should aim for. It allows moving your grill around and prevents ash and coals from spilling.
Charcoal grills today come in variety of shapes and sizes, and include from basic to advanced features and accessories.
There are two popular types of portable charcoal grills:
Hibachi-type portable charcoal grills are mainly used for quick grilling and small food pieces, like burgers and kebabs. They are usually small and compact, made of heavy cast-iron with a robust iron grate, making it very durable and resistant to weather conditions.
Food is located directly over the charcoal. Cast iron hibachi grills don't have lids; they are open, allowing plenty of air for your fire.
Hibachi grills usually consist of a rectangular or oval firebox, with one, two, or three metal grates to store even more food. This and multiple positions for crates allow Hibachis grills to be used for high-heat cooking.
Hibachi grills are the best portable grills for tailgating and camping as they are portable and very easy to use. These mini charcoal grills are great to make the grill fast. It is a good choice for grilling outside and if you don't have enough space in the backyard. One of the drawbacks is the limited amount of food you can cook at one time and the low performance in bad weather.
A kettle grill type was introduced to the market by Weber-Stephens Co. Kettle grills are round, have deep grills with the lid, cooking chamber, charcoal chamber, venting, and foldable legs. They use lump charcoal or briquettes.
Some kettle grills are equipped with a pan for collecting ash and wheels for easy transfer. The price can be in a range from $30 for a simple one to over a hundred for high-quality ones.
Grills with the lid are giving you an option not only for fast grilling but to grill larger cuts of meat, like beef roast and steaks.
Portable charcoal grills are also available with a stand and wheels, making it great for patios and picnics. Between the grill legs, you can mount an additional shelf for barbecue accessories.
Some of these compact charcoal grills are equipped with legs that fold away to hold the lid in the position for carrying and storage. A lid can also be used as the windshield.
Cost. Charcoal grills are cheaper; the price is from $30 up, while the gas is around a hundred, even more. Portable charcoal grills are less expensive than gas grills because they have a simpler design with fewer features to offer. Portable grills using charcoal need only a container to hold the charcoal, vents, and a rack situated above the charcoal for cooking your steak or burgers.
Flavor. Food from the charcoal grill tastes much better as there is a real smoke flavor (for the better flavor, you can even add some wood to the fire).
Easy to use. Desired temperature or heat is hard to control on the charcoal type, while the gas type uses temperature control knobs. It is hard to start a fire, or time-consuming, on the charcoal grill, while with the gas type is much easier and faster by pressing the lighting button. Most gas grills have multiple burners, so by simply turning the knob, you can create different cooking zones to grill, sear, cook, or warm up your food.
Let's be honest, gas grills are the most popular type for barbeques because they are convenient to use, easy to fire up, have more features available, and less maintenance is involved. But, when it comes to grilling performance, food quality, flavor, and look, nothing can beat charcoal grills. Portable charcoal grills are simply made for cooking tougher cuts of meat for a longer time and for outdoor picnics and tailgating.