A charcoal BBQ – or barbecue, to give it its proper spelling – is a method of cooking unlike any other. Not only does barbecuing provide a whole new flavour profile to the likes of meats and fish, but, because they’re usually only used during clement outdoor conditions, they become the literal life of summer parties.
What to look for when buying a charcoal BBQ
Charcoal BBQ-ing isn’t necessarily a simple a task as throwing some charcoal bricks into a pit and covering it with a grill. Although, if you don’t have a proper BBQ to hand, this DIY method can certainly work. No, when looking at upgrading your outdoor area, there are a few things you need to consider before you make your final purchase.
Charcoal vs gas BBQ
Charcoal and gas BBQs both have their pros and cons, but for us, charcoal will forever come out trumps. We’ll admit, cooking on a gas grill is much easier than a charcoal grill, but the sacrifice you have to make is flavour. And, considering you’re an Australian man who loves his steaks, sausages and burgers, we reckon you’re going to want them to taste as good as physically possible.
It’s inherently tricker to adjust the temperature of a charcoal BBQ, which is why some of the models on the list below allow you to make air flow adjustments to fine tune your temperature.
Charcoal BBQ types
There are three main types of charcoal BBQ to look out for, barrel, ceramic and kettle.
- Kettle grills, such as the first entry from Weber on our list below, can come in a variety of sizes and are a great option for charcoal BBQ beginners. The spherical shape helps to direct heat evenly around the cooking area, making cooking your steaks a relatively foolproof exercise.
- Barrel grills are what you want to look out for if you primary concern is smoking meat. Kamado grills, such as The Big Green Egg, work in a similar way, but stand vertical as opposed to the horizontal nature of a traditional barrel grill. These charcoal grills are going to be more expensive than kettle grills, but stand to give your food greater flavour. You just need to have a little bit more skill wielding the utensils.
- Ceramic grills, such as those made by Everdure, are going to be the most expensive option. They’re best suited to those who really know how to BBQ, and they have the added benefit of more precise temperature control. They can also get much hotter than the other charcoal BBQ types, hence the more precise control being required.
So, now you know some top charcoal BBQ-ing tips, it’s time to find out which ones to look out for. Our selections may all differ in price and looks, as well as the amount of cooking space you’re afforded, but all have been produced with the sole intention of giving you the classic American-style charcoal taste that Australians seem to love.
Weber 70th Anniversary Edition Charcoal Kettle BBQ
Price: $799 AUD
Weight: 16 kg
Customer reviews: “It’s literally unbreakable, I just keep it outside where it bears the brunt of rain, hail and sun without any problems.”
As nostalgic as they come, this 70th Anniversary Edition of Weber’s iconic charcoal bbq is one we would love to have in our back garden. It’s available in four colours, but this ‘Rock n Roll Blue’ version is the standout choice in our opinion. But, what can it do? Offer simple charcoal bbq-ing at its very best, with 57cm of grill space hidden beneath the domed lid. But, perfect cooking aside, you’re going to want to get this Weber charcoal bbq for its design.
Everywhere you look you’ll find nods to design elements featured on older-generation Weber kettle bbqs, from the 50’s all the way through to the 90’s. These subtle aesthetic touches include white-walled tyres, a built-in lid thermometer designed to look like a classic 50’s-style hood ornament, nylon grab handles finished in a wood effect and a utility tray down the bottom to store all your utensils. Oh, and Weber also throws in a bottle opener, because you can’t grill steaks without a cold beer in hand.
And, as you’d expect, your investment gets you solid Weber quality that you know is designed to last summer after summer.
BEST NO FUSS BBQ
Weight: 34.50 kg
Customer reviews: “Wonderfully made and durable. Good design.”
Yep, the iconic Swedish furniture manufacturer is also in the charcoal BBQ game. This Grillskär charcoal bbq comes with a couple of shelves for storing plates and food waiting to be grilled, has air vent openings to adjust the intensity of the flames and, in true IKEA fashion, has extra pieces that can be bolted on to it to provide extra storage and preparation space.
There’s plenty of space on the grill itself for searing some steaks and sausages, and you even get extra touches such as hooks to hang utensils. We also think it’s a bit of a looker, too.
Everdure by Heston Blumenthal 4K Charcoal/Electric BBQ
EDITOR OWNED & RECOMMENDED
Price: $2,999 AUD
Fuel: Lump charcoal
Customer reviews: “Cooking made easy with a traditional heat source.”
If there’s one man who was going to shake up the charcoal BBQ game it had to be Heston Blumenthal. The Michelin-starred British chef is always at the forefront of innovation in the culinary world and this charcoal BBQ, created in collaboration with Everdure is one of the most outlandish we’ve ever seen.
Not only does it look like some sort of futuristic space pod, but it employs a suite of futuristic tech to ensure you end up with only the finest quality grilled food. Airflow can be finely controlled, meaning you can set a precise temperature, which you can read on the touch glass display. You also get internal probes (not that kind) that constantly monitor the temperature of the food you’re cooking, so you know exactly when it’s done.
One thing we will say is that low and slow cooking is difficult on the 4k – this takes time to perfect. If you’re really into smoking, this may not be for you.
Editor’s Note: I tend to cook big t-bones and whole chooks on the Everdure 4k and it works like a charm. My smoking attempts have been a bit rubbish.
Everdure by Heston Blumenthal Fusion Charcoal BBQ
BEST FOR APARTMENTS
Price: $1,099 AUD
Fuel: Lump charcoal
Customer reviews: “Since the purchase my BBQ’s have increased as I can’t stop using this great unit. Best thing ever.”
If a space-age charcoal BBQ isn’t quite your bag but you’re still after a celebrity-endorsed charcoal grilling machine, then perhaps this other model from Heston may be more to your liking.
This Fusion model may resemble a Kraftwek podium, but it’s a charcoal BBQ that will appeal to those who love to spit roast their pork or chicken to the point where the meat falls off the bone. The charcoals are good to go in just 10 minutes, Cliplock Forks make sure your food is held securely and the porcelain enamel firebox makes clean-up a breeze.
Oklahoma Joe's Rambler Tabletop Charcoal Grill
A MORE AFFORDABLE APARTMENT-FRIENDLY CHARCOAL BBQ
Price: $489 AUD
Customer reviews: “This is the highest quality portable grill that I’ve come across.”
We often associate charcoal BBQs with the garden and outdoor space, but what if space is a premium and you live in an apartment, for example? It’s unlikely you’re going to fit a fully-fledged BBQ on a balcony, which is where this tabletop grill from Oklahoma Joe’s comes in handy (of course, you can still use it in your backyard if you have one, we’re not discriminating here).
The Rambler is made from heavy-duty steel so you know it will last, while the cast-iron grate is large enough to accept approximately 6 burgers, or 6 steaks or 12 sausages (or a combination of all, naturally). The height of the charcoal tray can be adjusted to bring the heat closer to, or further away from, your food to influence cooking speed.
Its portable nature also means you can put it in the car and take it to the park for larger social gatherings.
Kamado Joe Big D&C On Cart Series II
BEST PREMIUM ALL ROUNDER – DOES IT ALL
Price: $3,599 AUD
Customer reviews: “Awesome easy to use and heaps you can do with it from pizza , ribs grilled chicken or steak to low and slow brisket.”
A mouthful of a name maybe, but this Kamado Joe domed charcoal BBQ will serve up a salacious mouthful of food. It may look similar to another well-known domed charcoal BBQ (although, that one is green and this is red) but we can tell you that Kamado Joe’s iteration gives you literally everything you need to start grilling.
Innovative features such as a wire mesh fibreglass gasket provide an air-tight seal when the lid is shut, ensuring that the maximum temperature is delivered to your food. A Divide & Conquer cooking system employs the use of split-level grates, so you can cook different foods at different speeds and airflow can be fine-tuned thanks to a top-mounted vent and you can clearly see the temperature inside by way of a gauge on the lid.
It’s not cheap by any means, but the Kamado Joe offers one of the best charcoal bbq experiences money can buy. You can also pick-up a Classic version of this bbq, which is slightly smaller but also slightly easier on the purse strings.
Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 Digital Charcoal Grill & Smoker
Price: $1,199 AUD
Fuel: Charcoal or briquettes
Customer reviews: “I’m not sure how to word this but this is the Swiss Army knife of grills.”
If the smokiest of flavours is of the utmost importance to you then this Masterbuilt charcoal BBQ is the only one to get.
Not only can you grill food in a conventional fashion (and to a precise temperature thanks to a digital control panel that regulates a DigitalFan) but a charcoal hopper can hold enough charcoal to slowly smoke your meat for 12-15 hours, and if you want to get all experimental, then you’re free to mix coal with timber, instead of using conventional charcoal, to introduce new smokey flavours to your meat.
It practically functions as a complete oven too, with the ability to roast and bake whatever you put inside, and there’s even a companion app (this is 2022, after all) which you can use to set a precise temperature.
Weber Summit® Kamado S6 Charcoal Grill Centre
BEST WEBER CHARCOAL BBQ
Price: $3,699 AUD
Customer reviews: “Hands Down Best Grill Ever Owned”
If the Weber Kettle charcoal BBQ at the top of this list doesn’t quite cut the mustard for you, then may we present this absolute beast of a charcoal grilling machine.
Not only does this BBQ look like it will grill your steaks just by looking at them, but a double-walled kettle made from Weber’s own porcelain enamelled steel ensures temperatures can reach – and stay at – their highest, and remain there all day long. It also means you can utilise a range of cooking methods: roast, sear or smoke.
It also benefits from Weber’s Gourmet charcoal BBQ System which lets you switch out the inner plates to assist with cooking a multitude of foods, such as pizza stone and wok inserts.
BEST PORTABLE BBQ FOR CAMPING
Price: $229 AUD
Fuel: Lump charcoal
Customer reviews: “Superb little BBQ. Used it on our recent camping trip and it was great.”
For simple charcoal cooking on-the-go, you can’t get much more portable than the Everdure Cube. This diminutive box has everything you need to smoke some snags at the campsite, including a food storage area, preparation board and the charcoal grill itself. Charcoal bricks go inside a porcelain enamel box insert, which you can remove once its cooled down to clean, and the chrome grab handles on either side of the Cube stay cool during and after cooking, so you can move it around with ease.
Everdure says the grilling space on offer is good for 6 small burgers or 3 medium steaks, so you may have a little bit of a tough time cooking for an entire camping group, but considering you only need to pay $229 for just a clever little portable grilling machine, you can all get your own.
Big Green Egg Large
FOR THE SERIOUS BBQ’R
Price: $1,800 AUD
Customer reviews: “Smoking meat will never be the same again. Only regret is not having purchased this sooner.”
We alluded to it earlier and so here it is. The Big Green Egg is perhaps the most iconic Kamado-style BBQ and has found favour with BBQ fans around the world for its simplicity and ability to perfectly cook all manner of meats.
While the Big Green Egg is by no means portable (if you want that, you can get the MiniMax Egg) it doesn’t command as much outdoor space as you might expect. Being a Kamado BBQ, you can use the Big Green Egg to smoke, roast and bake, but we reckon it’s smoking you’re going to be doing most, especially when you can fit 8 steaks on the grill at once.
We also love the sheer number of accessories available for the Big Green Egg, which includes various preparation areas, extra grills and even pizza stones.