Outdoor activities like hiking, camping, tailgating and traveling can be made more interesting and enjoyable when all you need is readily available with you. Just like other traveling necessities such as tent, bed, food and specific utensils for a comfortable time, BBQ grills are of equal importance. As most of the hiking and tour trips are liked to be made in the mountainous regions, every hiker and traveler won’t reject the idea of having the aroma of tasty BBQ dishes.
It is the natural taste of charcoal smoke used in BBQ which compels one to have it on their trips. This has been made easier for travelers by the introduction of portable charcoal grills. In this article, we will throw light on some of the models and hopefully you get to choose the best portable charcoal grill for your outdoor trips.
Charcoal BBQ grills are the classic versions of home grills. These are still people’s favorite and is mostly used in homes. The portable versions which are smaller and lighter in size can easily be carried along for camping, hiking, tours and travels in the outdoor. The small size and easy assembly has enabled all the passionate travelers to include it in their essential items list for outdoor traveling.
There are different types of grills like a gas grill, electric grill and others but the charcoal grill has its own unique nature and features. The usage of charcoal grill started in the early 1950s. The first charcoal grill system was launched by Weber having a simple one-piece kettle in which the fuel (charcoal) is placed in the seamless metal drum beneath the metal grate. The metal grate is for holding the food which is to be cooked.
A small burner (opening) is there on the side of the metal drum from where the fuel is ignited. The latest portable charcoal grills used nowadays are not much different from those classic versions except with the design and looks. Since BBQ is an open air activity, the ease and portability amongst portable charcoal grills is one of the core factors to consider.
Features of Charcoal Grill
In simple words, we can define charcoal grill as a system for the gradual preparation/cooking of food on low flame or heat beneath it. The unique factors of a charcoal grill are the uniformity in the cooking of food which is not possible in other types of the grill like a gas type. The following features of the charcoal grill make it unique and special from others:
The overall dependency of quality and taste of the food relies on the fuel used. In gas grills, although less effort is involved in burning and cooking yet is avoided by most of the people. The reason is none other than the fuel i.e. gas. The food cooked lacks the very taste and aroma which is attributed to barbecue only.
Although the heat and radiation of the gas fuel can be easily adjusted as per requirement, it still is unable to provide evenness during the cooking phase of the food. Charcoal on the other side has more effective results in the case.
The charcoal briquettes are the commonly used fuel source in charcoal grills. The charcoal briquettes after burning transform into embers radiating a uniform heat utilized for cooking the food. The qualitative impact, heat creation and burn rate are the emphasized preferences in the use of this type of fuel source.
Another type of fuel used is all-natural lump charcoal. The all-natural lump charcoal is capable of producing high heat, smoky aromas and tasty flavors. Unlike the charcoal briquettes, there are no fillers and binders in this type of fuel so it is mostly preferred for cooking in the areas with low atmospheric pressure.
Since the cold areas above the mountain peaks covered with snow have less atmospheric pressure, the cooking time of the food is prolonged. In such cases, the latter source of fuel is a better option for efficient results.
The charcoal grills come in different sizes and shapes with the varying configuration in each type. However, the very common amongst all is the compactness, easy folding options for portability and reducing the size to accommodate in less space. The different varieties of charcoal grill include the round shaped, square and rectangular grills. Some of them may have lids while others do not.
The ventilation system is also present in some of the types which are used for controlling the heat. It is helpful in enhancing the flame and ultimately the heat. But most of the people prefer grills without a ventilation system as to avoid the spilling of ashes from the grill especially when the ground surface is not ideal to be dirtied with ashes.
The ability to control the temperature for food like a pizza or cake in the oven is easy where the regulator helps you in keeping the food on optimum temperature. But when it is outdoors where you do not have the availability of the temperature regulator like ovens, the strategy is to be reversed accordingly.
Keeping in mind this important factor, the charcoal grill manufacturers has introduced different variations in the design of the grills by including lids, dampers and space between the food and heat source. The lid captures the heat without letting it go waste and helps in reducing the cooking time of the food e.g. meat.
The dampers are a good source of heat regulation and are mostly two in numbers. The one used for regulating the intake oxygen which increases or decreases the burn rate of the fuel and other one is the exhaust outlet. Similarly the lesser the space between the food and heat source (briquettes), the more it tends to maximize the temperature and vice versa.
The charcoal grill is a simple unit and easy to assemble in comparison with a gas drill. The charcoal grills are mainly composed of the following parts:
- Drum Base
- Lid (Optional)
- Tripod Stand
- Cooking Grate
- Crank for raising and lowering the grate
Assembling these parts will hardly take a few minutes and on the other hand, gas grills might take a couple of hours to assemble. These parts being lighter in weight are easy to adjust and fit anywhere in your car trunk without taking extra space.
Looking into the different types of outdoor grills from a maintenance perspective, charcoal grills are believed to have the simplest and lowest maintenance rate. Depending upon the quality of construction material, usage, cleaning frequency and storage, the only part more liable to wear and tear is the cooking grate.
Therefore this only part of the grill will need replacement after few years. Since the cooking grate is inexpensive, it causes the charcoal grill to have the minimal maintenance cost as well as effort in replacement.
Choosing the Ideal Portable Charcoal Grill
Till now we discussed the different types of outdoor grills and the unique features of charcoal grills which take it to the top of the list amongst all. So, if you have decided to buy a portable charcoal grill you must be wondering which one to buy. For choosing the ideal and best portable charcoal grill, considering the following factors might help you in taking the right final decision:
Just like any other shopping items, a charcoal grill is available in many budget ranges. Think! How much are you going to spend on your product? Before picking up one, look at the grill that you can afford. The fortunate thing about charcoal grills is that they are less expensive than other types of grills.
However, it must be kept in mind that the grills available in the lowerprice range might not be able to fulfill all your requirements and expectations and you will have to give up on certain features that are included in high end grills like the covering lid, design, material, capacity and more.
You are obviously going to buy anything according to your requirements and needs. Unless you know your own requirements, choosing a grill will be a lot harder. Aligning your budget and requirement is the important phase in the selection of an outdoor charcoal grill. It is therefore recommended to choose one accordingly.
If you are a solo traveler then go for the smaller and lighter versions of the charcoal grill which will serve you better in your trips. If you are a part of a group or family then decide according to the number of people accompanying you. No matter if it is an indoor or outdoor activity, you need to be able to cook many amounts of food at the same time so it will take less time and serve all in one go by considering the size and space of the grill.
Portable charcoal grills’ unique feature is the lighter weight and smaller size. All outdoor essentials are preferred to be lighter, smaller and easily packable in little spaces for quick traveling. Plan according to your traveling purpose.
Whether it is your car trunk or a travel bag, the size does matters and therefore it is a must considering factor. Choosing one which can be broken down into its parts and then easily assembled might solve your problem.
Portable charcoal grills’ price starts from as low as $10 and ranges to $2000+. The average price of a good charcoal grill with numerous and essential features is $100-$200. But putting that much amount in one traveling piece is not a clever idea unless it is a long-term outdoor activity.
You can find tens of these products with quite affordable prices but wait! We have made that hectic research easier for you in the next section of this article. Just go through it and the next step will be your DECISION!
Top Charcoal Grill Reviews
Now we will focus on highlighting some of the best charcoal grills available in the market. This section is going to help you with deciding the suitable model for your needs and requirements. Our research on some of the top-class and high rated charcoal grills will help you save much time in looking for the best option according to your travel plan.
Dimensions: 18.5 x 16 x 17 inches
Features: Made of cast iron, removable ash pan, available cooking space of 250 square inches, sliding drawer for access to fuel, cool hood handle, mountable on other grills
Best use: Camping, hiking, picnicking, partying
The Char-Griller 2-2424 is a highly recommended grill in a very affordable price. Supported by sturdy legs, this grill will be more stable and able to provide a level cooking surface. It is easy to use and the cleanup and adjustment options are simply a breeze. The design is really attractive and the larger cooking surfacewill allow you to easily serve more than 10 people in one go. This grill is a great option for camping and hiking.
Weber 10020 Smokey Joe 14-Inch Portable Grill
Dimensions: 15.6 x 15.6 x 9 inches
Features: Covering lid with glass-reinforced nylon handle, triple nickel-plated cooking grate with 14.5-inch diameter, porcelain enameled coating for the prevention of rust and fading
Best use: Tailgate parties, cookout, car camping, hiking in the wild, beach party
The Weber 10020 is a simple and classic designed portable grill. It is inexpensive and comes in smaller size which makes it ideal for a solo travel. Most of the people also keep it in their homes for quick little BBQ parties.
The quality of food prepared in this little cooking master will be no doubt delicious. It is capable of serving 2 to 4 people in a single one time cooking. It’s fairly durable as well so it can take quite a bit of punishment.
Lodge L410 Charcoal Grill
Dimensions: 19 x 8.2 x 10.2 inches
Features: Easily washable by hand, draft door for regulating heat, flip-down door for coal/fuel accessibility, made of durable cast iron with cooking grate of 17.25 x 9 inches
Best use: Patio, tailgating, car camping, picnics, outdoor home cooking, fishing trips
The Lodge L410 is the name of “quality”. Quality in terms of material as well as the cooked food. The material is made up of cast iron which provides durability and long lasting life. It also has a fairly large cooking area which will allow you to cook many amounts of food at a time. If you are looking for a grill that is durable and easy to use, this comes highly recommended.
Mini BBQ Charcoal Grill
Dimensions: 12.2 x 16.5 inches
Features: Easy portability, light weighted, separate carbon tray, insulated wood handle, grill grate of 11.8 inches diameter, heat control, easily adjustable furnace temperature with 3 available air holes
Best use: Camping, outing, fishing trips, hiking
The Mini BBQ Stove is very light which allows for some great portability. It is a perfect choice for a family outing or camping. The safe and easy usage of this cooking grill are the most attractive features along with others like heat control and easy adjustability. The temperature is also adjustable from the air holes and therefore applicable in preparing different dishes requiring varying heat and temperature for cooking.
Marsh Allen 30052AMZ Charcoal Grill
Dimensions: 18 x 10 x 3.4 inches
Features: Sturdy product made of cast iron, cooking surface of 157 square inches, 2 adjustable air vents for controlling heat/burn rates, easily adjustable cooking grids into 3 different positions, wood grid for safe handling of the grill
Best use: Backyard party, quick BBQ parties, home cooking
The Marsh Allen 30052AMZ Charcoal Grill is another affordable but durable outdoor grill and with unique design features. Priced in the range of serving one or two people, it has the capacity of serving more than eight people at once.
The high quality and durable cast iron material from which it is made allows respectable durability. The orientation of the cooking grate and height adjustments in this design is something that is not seen nowadays with regards to other grills.
Weber 121020 Go-Anywhere Charcoal Grill
Dimensions: 12.2 x 21 x 14.5 inches
Features: Unique advanced design with no nuts or bolts, rectangular plated steel cooking grate, grilling surface area of 160 square inches, covering lid, glass reinforced nylon handle on lid, adjustable dampers with vent holes for regulating air flow, porcelain enameled coating for preventing rust
Best use: Camping, hiking, tailgate parties, picnicking
The Weber 121020 has a fancy look and looks different from other charcoal grills. It can be easily accommodated in your car trunk and can get you the best outdoor party with the capability of serving 6-8 people. Highly recommended for backyard parties or as an important cooking tool for a small apartment with limited space. The adjustable dampers can help you regulate airflow which means more even cooking.
Portable charcoal grills certainly has its pros and cons, especially with regards to outdoor cooking. However, many people still prefer the unmistakable aroma and taste of charcoal grilled food. If you are in the market for a good charcoal grill, we hope that you will find something you like in our selection.
Are you a fan of outdoor charcoal grilling? What’s your favorite charcoal grill? Feel free to share your thoughts in our comment section.