On summer evenings in the UK, there’s nothing quite like gathering your friends and family around a BBQ and catching up over chargrilled food (and maybe a few beers).
For this to happen, you need a BBQ; one that can handle anything you throw at it, from your classic burgers and sausages, to the more gourmet teriyaki chicken and vegetable skewers.
There are several types of BBQ fuel, but the one that best gives you that smoky flavour is the classic charcoal. Charcoal BBQs come in all shapes, sizes and designs, so there’s guaranteed to be one that’s perfect for your household.
To help you decide which barbecue is right for you, we’ve chosen our 7 best charcoal BBQs on the market, based on their design, durability, cooking space and value for money. Get ready to grill up a storm and be named king or queen of the BBQ!
Last update on 2021-10-20 / All Pricing & Imagery from Amazon Product Advertising API
Let’s start with our top pick BBQ –
Our best charcoal BBQ has lots of storage and cooking space, and optimum temperature control
Our pick of the best charcoal BBQs is this CosmoGrill Outdoor XXL Smoker. As the name suggests, this is a large barbecue – at 142 x 64 x 113 cm, it’s probably not going to be suitable for balconies or smaller outside spaces.
This does, however, mean you have a substantial grilling area (72 x 42 cm), so there’s plenty of space to cook for a large family or group of friends. There’s even enough room for a whole chicken or brisket. The charcoal tray can be adjusted using the crank handle, so you can bring the coals closer to your food as necessary.
As well as plenty of cooking space, there’s also a warming rack above the main grill that allows you to keep food warm once it’s cooked. Foldable storage shelves either side of the barbecue are great for holding condiments, and 4 hooks on the edge of each shelf offer space to hang cooking utensils.
One of the best features of this BBQ is the optimum temperature control. A built-in thermometer means you can always see what temperature your food is cooking at. The stainless steel handle on the lid also makes it easy to open and close, allowing you to adjust the air supply and increase or decrease the temperature.
Two wheels on the base mean that whilst this heavy BBQ isn’t exactly a portable option, it is reasonably easy to move around your garden. As long as you’re not looking for something you can throw in the boot of your car to take to the beach, this barbecue is the perfect option to allow you to feed everyone at the same time.
- Large cooking space, perfect for groups.
- Includes a built-in warming rack.
- Built-in thermometer helps you cook at the optimum temperature.
- Easy close lid with stainless steel handle allows you to adjust the heat.
- Lots of included storage.
- 2 wheels make it easy to move.
- The bulky design may not be suitable for smaller gardens.
- Takes a while to assemble.
- Not the most affordable option.
Our best value BBQ is easy to assemble and highly portable
Next up on our list of the best charcoal BBQs is this model from Uten. Made from rust-resistant stainless steel, it features a simpler design than the CosmoGrill, and is much more portable.
The design has foldable legs, which makes it easy to assemble and disassemble in minutes and allows it to fold up into a manageable size for transportation. The handles on each side mean you can carry and store it easily – it’s perfect for taking on camping trips or picnics.
At 76 x 35 x 18 cm when open, and weighing 4.6 kg, it’s significantly smaller and a lot lighter than the CosmoGrill. Whilst this helps with portability, it does mean a slightly smaller cooking space – although it should still be plenty for most requirements. There are no additional storage shelves, or hooks to hold your utensils, which is a little inconvenient.
The grill itself is designed to evenly distribute internal heat, for consistent cooking. The vents in either end ensure enough oxygen can enter and increase air circulation, which helps to prevent your food from burning and can also extend the life of your grill.
The legs have non-slip feet for stability – although it has to be said that overall, the design of this barbecue is not as sturdy as many. This is understandable considering the increased portability and affordability of this product, but it does mean you need to take a little more care not to knock it during use.
Even so, it’s hard to find too much to fault with this BBQ when you look at the price compared to its competitors. At less than a quarter of the price of the CosmoGrill, if you want a BBQ for occasional use, or for taking on camping holidays, you really can’t go far wrong with this sleek, foldable model.
- Vented design allows even heat distributions and helps prevent burning.
- Highly portable with foldable legs and handles.
- Great for picnics and camping.
- Easy to assemble.
- Basic design – no storage space or warming shelf.
- Feels a little flimsy.
This charcoal BBQ is stylish and packed with lots of great features
Our next BBQ is the Toronto Click by Tepro. This barbecue has a similar design to the CosmoGrill, but it’s not as wide, so it’s perfect if you like this style, but don’t have as much space in your garden.
The BBQ measures 67 x 115 x 107 cm, and the grilling surface is 56 x 41.5cm. The grill has a warming surface above, and the lid can be easily opened and closed using the metal handle, to increase or decrease the air supply.
There’s also plenty of storage with this model. A foldable shelf on one side is perfect for drinks and condiments, whilst the shelf underneath can be used to store plates or food, and hanging hooks provide a place for your BBQ tongs.
There’s no shelf on the other end of the unit, but there is a handle, which, combined with the 2 wheels on the base, makes moving the BBQ reasonably easy (although it’s not small enough to be considered portable).
Other helpful features include a height-adjustable charcoal tray, and a removable ash collection tray, to make cleaning the barbecue easier once you’ve finished cooking. It also has a grid-in-grid design, which is compatible with pizza stones, woks and pans – although these are sold separately.
The steel body of the BBQ feels a little flimsy, but it is covered in a powder-coating that helps protect it from rust and gives it a stylish aesthetic. Overall, this is a good-looking and well-designed BBQ that’s packed with useful features to make your grilling experience easier.
- Built-in warming surface.
- Shelf and hooks provide lots of storage.
- Removable ash collection tray offers easy cleaning.
- Wheels allow it to be easily moved around.
- Grid-in-grid design is compatible with pizza stones and pans (sold separately).
- Although not difficult, it does take a while to assemble.
- Metal is quite thin, and quality control is not the best.
This DIY option is perfect for those who want to build their own BBQ
Cost: Price not available
It’s on to something a bit different next, with this DIY BBQ from Landmann. Unlike the other options featured here, this one requires you to build your own fireplace, out of bricks.
Contained in the package is a chrome-plated cooking grill, a charcoal grid, and an ashtray, along with instructions from the manufacturer on how to build your BBQ. It’s important to note that bricks are not included, and you will need to purchase these separately. The instructions on how to build it aren’t the best, so you might wish to consult a professional for advice.
If you’ve got some bricklaying skills, or you don’t mind a bit of DIY challenge, this option does allow you to create a natural-looking BBQ that can look much better in your garden than a metal alternative and provide a sturdier base. Of course, it will be a permanent structure, so you won’t be able to move the BBQ around, or take it camping.
It could also be a great option if you have an existing brick structure, and want to furnish it with a new grill, or if you have some spare house bricks lying around and are looking for a way to recycle them. The grill can be easily removed from the structure for cleaning and storage.
Measuring a large 67 x 39 cm, the grill offers you plenty of space to cook your burgers and sausages. All the components feel high-quality and should last for several years. Being able to remove all the parts from the structure also means you can store them inside, reducing the likelihood of rust forming.
Ultimately, this is an unusual option that won’t suit everyone, but if you’re happy to put in the work, the reward can be a high-quality, stylish brick barbecue that will put others to shame.
- Allows you to build your own fireplace out of bricks.
- Can look better than a metal option.
- Large grill to accommodate food for up to 8 people.
- Requires a base to be constructed.
- Bricks not included.
- Large gaps between the charcoal grid can cause some pieces to fall through.
A compact BBQ with an enamelled bowl and a rapid-fire start
This well-made Charcoal Bar-B-Kettle showcases the kind of high-quality design and materials you would expect from Weber. The BBQ is sturdy, easy to assemble and compact – at just 47 x 57.9 x 90.9cm, it’s ideal for smaller gardens and patios.
It showcases a porcelain enamelled bowl and lid, and the lid comes with a heat shield to protect your hand. Inside, there are thick Gourmet Barbecue System grates (diameter 47cm), which have a removable section in the middle, to accommodate a variety of GBS accessories, including a pizza stone (sold separately).
The Rapid Fire Chimney starter system allows you to heat the coals quickly and means you can be ready to grill in 15-20 minutes. The heat created is strong, easy to control, and will cook food quickly – you should have no problem cooking up to 16 sausages at a time.
Weber advertises 3 methods of cooking on this grill – direct, indirect and 50/50, depending on what you’re cooking. Sausages and burgers can be cooked directly, whereas roasts and foods that take longer than 20 minutes should be cooked indirectly. 50/50 offers a compromise between the two methods, for foods such as steaks.
Other helpful features include a removable ash tray, which makes it easy to clean the barbecue, and 2 wheels on the base, which allow you to move it out of storage and into position. Unfortunately, there’s no thermometer to tell you how hot your cooking environment is, but it wouldn’t be too difficult to fit your own to the lid if required.
This compact Weber Bar-B-Kettle is certainly a strong contender on our list of the best charcoal barbecues, and if you’re a family of 6 or less, it might just be perfect for you.
- Stylish porcelain enamelled bowl and lid.
- Rapid Fire Chimney starter means you’re ready to grill in 15-20 minutes.
- Includes Gourmet Barbecue System grates with a removable centre, to accommodate a variety of accessories (sold separately).
- Lid handle has a heat shield to protect your hand.
- Removable aluminium ash catcher ensures it’s easy to clean.
- 2 wheels allow you to move it around.
- Not as much grilling space as others.
- Unsuitable for smoking meat.
- No temperature gauge.
This enamel bowl BBQ is an affordable option from a brand with expertise in grilling
George Foreman is a well-known name in the world of grills and kitchen appliances, and this Charcoal BBQ proves that the brand’s expertise extends to outdoor cooking too.
This kettle BBQ features a temperature and dust-resistant black porcelain enamel bowl, with an internal cooking height of 65 cm. The lid has an adjustable vent, enabling you to control the airflow to your grill, and increase or decrease the cooking temperature. There’s a built-in thermostat to allow you to monitor the temperature and cook your food more efficiently.
Inside, the chrome-plated grill has a diameter of 45 cm, which isn’t the biggest on our list, but should still be plenty for a group of 4-6 people. A handy grease collection tray collects and contains fats, making it easier to clean.
Weighing in at just 7 kg, it’s reasonably lightweight, and the 2 wheels on the base make it easy to move around. It’s easy to assemble, and the legs of the BBQ can be detached if you wish to transport it to another location, making it suitable for beach and camping trips.
The metal on this one is quite thin, and the overall quality does not seem to be on the same level as the similar Weber design. However, considering that this one is much more affordable, if you’re only going to be using it occasionally on those hot summer days, it should be more than sufficient.
- Temperature and dust resistant enamel outer.
- Built-in thermostat for monitoring the temperature and optimal cooking.
- 2 wheels make it easy to store and transport.
- Lightweight (7 kg).
- Easy to assemble.
- Good value.
- Low cooking height might be uncomfortable for taller users.
- Metal is thin, and fixings are not the best quality.
This cleverly designed BBQ is a little pricier than others, but worth every penny
Cost: Price not available
Our final charcoal BBQ is this Taurus 660 from Landmaan. This is the second model from Landmann on our list, but unlike their DIY BBQ, this one comes with everything included, so you can start barbecuing as soon as it’s assembled – no building work required.
The overall BBQ measures 104 x 49 x 104 cm, which is quite sizeable, although not the largest model we’ve featured. The grilling area is 66 x 36 cm, whilst the large built-in warming grill comes in at 60 x 18 cm. This should allow you enough grilling space to cook and keep food warm for up to 10 people at a time.
There’s lots of clever storage in this BBQ – the small side table on the end is removable, so you can take it off when it’s not needed, whilst the shelf underneath offers a convenient place to store crockery and condiments, without getting in the way of cooking.
It has a powder-coated lid and fire pit, and enamelled cooking grills and charcoal grid, for increased durability. The height of the charcoal grate can be adjusted, and the removable ash catcher assists you in keeping it clean – although there’s nowhere for the fat to collect, which can cause issues. A built-in hood thermometer will help you keep it at optimum cooking temperature.
This is a sizeable BBQ, and it’s certainly not one that you’ll be throwing in the car to take camping. However, it does have the usual 2 wheels, and a helpful handle on one side, to allow you to move it around your garden and into storage.
Although it’s the most expensive option on our list, the Laudmann Taurus 660 is an excellent BBQ, and if you can afford to invest a little more, we don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
- Large grilling area suitable for up to 10 people.
- Built-in warming grill.
- Height adjustable charcoal grate.
- Handy storage with removable side table.
- Removable ash pot for easy cleaning.
- 2 wheels and handle allow you to move it around.
- Prone to dripping fat.
- Priciest option on our list.
- Not very portable.
How To Light A Charcoal BBQ
There are a couple of ways you can light your charcoal BBQ. We’ve detailed the most common method below, using lighter fluid:
- First, make sure your BBQ is clean, and remove any ash from previous grilling.
- Open the vents to ensure air can get to your charcoal.
- Arrange either lump charcoal or briquettes in a pyramid shape in the base of the grill.
- Pour lighter fluid over the coals and allow it to soak in for 5 minutes.
- Pour on a little more immediately before lighting, so that the coals are moist.
- Carefully light the charcoals in 2 or 3 places, using a long match or lighter with handle to avoid burning yourself.
- Allow it to burn for around 15 minutes, or until all the lighter fluid has burnt off, and the coals start glowing red in the middle and turning white at the edges.
- Spread the charcoals evenly over the base of the grill using tongs and replace the grate. You’re ready to cook!
How Long Does A Charcoal Barbeque Last?
How long the charcoal in your BBQ lasts will depend on a variety of factors, including what kind of charcoal you’re using, the size of the pieces, and whether your grill is open or closed. As a general guide, lump charcoal can last anywhere from 1 – 4 hours, depending on the conditions.
Lump charcoal is made of charred pure wood. This type lights quickly, burns hot, and is great for giving your food an intense smoky flavour. Briquettes are one of the cheapest and most popular types of charcoal; they generally burn longer than lump charcoal, although not as hot. They’re made from by-products such as wood scraps and are often treated with chemicals to make them easy to light.
You can extend the burning time of your charcoal by buying high-quality coals and waiting for them to burn red hot before cooking. Adjust your BBQ’s vents to regulate the temperature, and keep adding more coals, so you always have a mixture of ones that are burning, and ones that are unlit, ready to catch.
April is a freelance writer who specialises in writing about home and garden design and the environment. She is an avid wildlife-enthusiast and adventure-seeker, and feels happiest when in the Great Outdoors.