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How to Buy a Charcoal Grill

Choose a charcoal grill

Anyone who's purchased a flimsy grill and then had it self-destruct in the middle of meal prep will tell you: not all grills are created equal.

Sure, you get what you pay for. But you also need to think about your needs and what features might make life a lot easier.

Be a smart shopper. Here are a few things to consider when you're in the market for a charcoal grill.

How do you want to use the grill?

Grabbing a grill for tailgating is different than outfitting an outdoor kitchen designed for huge gatherings. Charcoal grills come in many sizes and can provide anywhere from 140 to 700 square inches of cooking space. Be honest: do you want to grill up some hot dogs or have the capacity to smoke multiple racks of ribs? And if you want to do any indirect cooking, will you have room for charcoal on one side of the grill with food on the other?

Pro tip: Don't forget sides. When you're calculating how many burgers you can fit on a grill, consider how much space you'll want for corn on the cob, veggie kabobs or grilled pineapple.

How well does the grill control temperature?

With charcoal grills, venting is the name of the game. You want a grill with both top and bottom vents to help you regulate temperature. Some grills allow you to adjust the distance between the food and the charcoal. Others have accessories that help you monitor and regulate temperatures.

Pro tip: Be honest about your style - and what you'll grill. If you're going to cook up burgers and brats, you probably don't need the temperature sensor that was developed by NASA. Not saying it wouldn't be fun - just saying it might not be a necessity. 

Does the construction measure up?

You never want to describe a grill as "woogedy." A quality charcoal grill will feel solid. When you jiggle it, nothing should wiggle unevenly or squeak. Remember that the sales floor is like a first date: it's probably not going to get better from here. A grill that feels rickety in the store will probably fall apart once you get it home.

Pro tip: Don't forget about assembly. Some grills require hours of setup time. Nicer grills make it easy for you to get the grill home, assembled and ready to cook.

How will the grill clean up?

Unless you have a full-time staff, you're eventually going to have to clean your grill. When you're shopping, pretend each grill is caked in gunk and filled with ash - how easy does it seem to clean? Remember that if it's a pain to clean, you probably won't use the grill as much. And if you have to turn it upside down to empty it out? Next.

Pro tip: If it's tricky to get the ashes out, walk away! That is not the grill for you. Ashes can be dangerous and are messy enough that you should hold out for an ash collection system that works for you.

Get Your Grill

Finding the charcoal grill of your dreams just takes a little research. Know yourself, your budget and your needs. Then? Don't settle for a grill that's anything less than amazing.