With summer now in full force, we're finding more ways to spend time outdoors and make the most of those long evenings, and what better way to do so than to cooking up a treat on a charcoal barbecue? They're often more affordable than their gas counterparts, plus, they add that delicious smoky taste to whatever it is you're cooking!
Whether you want hamburgers, sausages, or some grilled vegetables, a charcoal BBQ will add that extra something special. However, there are many variations out there, from large to small and value to high end, so to help you pick, we'll guide you through the considerations and introduce our favourites available to buy online from Amazon, Argos, John Lewis, and more!
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In addition to giving your food that great smoky taste, charcoal barbecues tend to be more affordable than gas styles, so you may be able to go bigger than you thought! There are a few points to consider as well as size, though, so think about where you want to use your BBQ, and how many people you'd like it to feed, whilst browsing the guide below.
When you're first looking into charcoal barbecues, you're likely to notice that there are a few main types. Each one serves its own purpose, and you will find that each has its own benefits. Whether you buy a barrel, a kettle, or a portable charcoal barbecue, you can be sure that with our guidance it will fit your needs perfectly.
A barrel barbecue effectively looks like a huge steel drum sliced in half. They are perfect for larger quantities of food, because they offer such a spacious cooking area, and they also give you the option to smoke your food too.
The bottom half of the barrel is for the coal with a flat grill for your food, whilst the top half forms the lid which can either be left open or closed to keep your food toasty warm.
You will find, however, that barrel barbecues can tend to be pricier than their alternative models, so they're likely to appeal to those willing to make more of an investment for the long term.
A good alternative to the barrel barbecue is the kettle grill. Kettle models are smaller, more affordable versions of barbecues that are to become a permanent fixture in your garden. Their circular shape is good for balancing and retaining heat, and if they come with a lid, the lid is normally designed to reflect the heat in the barbecue.
Although they are smaller than their barrel counterparts, kettle barbecues are rarely very portable, so you may want to look onwards if you are looking for something to take with you to the beach or park.
Providing that it is authorised (and we strongly advise that you verify this beforehand), there can be nothing nicer than enjoying a barbecue in the great outdoors. However, the disposable BBQs can be unreliable in terms of allowing you to control the cooking temperature, and they are often not as good at giving your food that smoky flavour.
In these scenarios, we recommend looking into a portable charcoal barbecue! They are essentially more lightweight versions of their kettle or barrel counterparts, and compact enough to be taken on the go.
We would caution, though, that the cooking space will be smaller, and that sometimes you may still find some difficulties in reaching the same heats available on the larger sizes as they are made of lighter metals.
Not every charcoal barbecue will come with a lid, but we advise that you look for models that do, as it allows for safer storage and it expands your options for cooking.
For larger barbecue models that are likely to be spending long periods of time outside, or stored in a shed or garage, a lid will ensure that the cooking area (the grill) is protected from the elements.
Moreover, a lid allows you to choose between cooking with direct heat (when the lid is not in use) and cooking with indirect heat or a combination of the two (when the lid is in use). It is also a good idea to close the lid when you are aiming just to keep your food warm, as it will retain the heat that was being produced from the grill.
Although it may seem somewhat obvious, we strongly advise considering the size and weight of your barbecue before you buy. Product pages will generally list all of this information so you can make the most informed choice. You will be able to measure the space you intend to use for your BBQ, but we advise looking into the grill area, too.
The area for the grill (generally measured by diameter for kettle or round models, and by length and width for square or barrel models) will indicate how much you can cook at once, although of course this will depend on what you are cooking and the size.
We recommend ensuring that your barbecue has at least a diameter of 35 cm (or 35 cm x 50 cm for square models) to easily and equally feed a group of five. If your household or typical garden gathering consists of more or fewer people, you can adjust your requirements accordingly!
If you are planning for your charcoal BBQ to be a permanent fixture in your garden, then you may not need to worry about its weight. On the other hand, if you are planning to regularly bring it inside for storage, or even more so, if you are planning to take it on trips with you, you should definitely aim for a more lightweight model.
Although we would advise against anything less than 5 kg, as this is likely to be too flimsy for long periods of cooking, we recommend keeping anything that you are going to be moving regularly under 10 kg, or it may be too cumbersome.
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Compact 57 cm Kettle Charcoal BBQ
A Straightforward, Easy-To-Assemble Mid-Sized BBQ
Classic Barrel Outdoor BBQ Smoker
A Budget-Friendly Barrel With Bonus Extras
Go-anywhere Portable BBQ
Compact, Portable, and Ideal to Take on Trips
Charcoal Kettle Pizza BBQ
A Food-Lovers BBQ That Doubles as a Pizza Oven
Kettle Charcoal BBQ
A Great Kettle Grill for Family Meals
Big Green Egg
Extra Large Nest BBQ With Wood Shelves Bundle
An Extremely High-Quality BBQ to Feed Plenty of Guests
Drum Charcoal BBQ
Experience Authentic Cooking With This Reliable Barrel Barbecue
Charcoal Smoker and Grill
A Quirky and Versatile Charcoal BBQ
Outdoor Multifunction BBQ Smoker
A Multi-Functional Smoker and Grill
Everdure by Heston Blumenthal
CUBE Portable Charcoal BBQ
Small, Stylish, Easy to Use and Aesthetically Pleasing
This charcoal kettle model from Weber is an uncomplicated barbecue for when you just want to get your grill on! It has all of the basic features you could want: a porcelain enamelled bowl and lid for heat insulation, and a very spacious cooking area.
It also has its own ash catcher installed, which makes for easy clean-up post barbecue, and the lid has an insulated handle, so you can use it without fear of accidentally scorching yourself. A fantastic all-rounder that sails to our top spot!
Looking for a barrel barbecue that won't break the bank? This is surely the choice for you! In the classic barrel style, this spacious grill and smoking cylinder will maximise your cooking area.
Plus, the barbecue includes folding shelves for you to prepare items to grill, and there is plenty of storage space underneath the smoking cylinder (which can also double as an ash collection drum) for you to keep any other barbecuing essentials. There's even a set of grilling utensils and an apron and oven mitt included.
This barbecue is designed for portability, much like the CUBE, but we would argue that it has some key advantages over its stylish counterpart. It even has a ten year guarantee!
For example, this small barbecue has a triple-plated cooking grate, and a porcelain enamelled lid and bowl, so you can cook with direct and indirect heat. Moreover, it is raised on metal legs to protect the cooking surface, and has a glass reinforced handle so you can easily carry it to the park, beach, or even to a festival.
Certainly a unique choice in our list, this model can convert to a pizza oven with an included aluminium ring. It is a good size for a family, so you can be sure to keep everyone happy and fed with a variety of dishes!
It also includes an ash pan for easy clean up, and has a great accessory storage area towards the base of the product to store your utensils. Moreover, the thermally insulated lid will enable considerable control over cooking heat. This model is slightly heavier than its similarly-sized counterparts, so it's nice and sturdy and perfect for keeping at home.
Ideal for a family barbecue, this George Foreman Kettle BBQ is as reliable as you'd expect, with its chrome-plated grill and grease collection tray. It may not be designed for larger barbecues, but it certainly fits the bill for a trustworthy grill that can cook up 5 portions of food.
Moreover, the lid comes with an integrated thermostat and handy adjustable vents, so that you can ensure you have optimum control over your cooking.
Plus, the ceramic interior means that whilst the inside is exceptional at retaining heat, the outside will remain comparatively cool so it isn't hazardous. Though weighty on its own, there are wheels if you need to transport it. A lifetime guarantee seals the deal!
This George Forman BBQ is a perfect basic barrel barbecue. Made of robust, power-treated steel, you can reach high cooking temperatures in a short space of time.
As well as a large surface area capable of grilling up ten portions, it has a chrome-coated warming rack so you can keep food warm until serving. Plus, there are heat controlling vents on the lid to ensure you're cooking your burgers just as you like them!
An unusual BBQ shape, this is essentially an upright barrel, but with similar dimensions to a kettle barbecue. It is actually fully adaptable, and offers two levels for cooking that can be used separately.
Further, it comes with a temperature gauge, and its lid includes adjustable vents for achieving the perfect temperature. Although it has the two levels for cooking, we would recommend keeping in mind that it does have quite a limited cooking area, so it's best for household-sized rather than large gatherings.
This KCT BBQ Smoker is a great choice if you are an enthusiastic cook after big flavours, as it has its own integrated upright smoker that allows you to smoke your food independently of grilling it.
It also contains the mainstay features of a barrel barbecue, such as a large grilling area, adjustable vents for temperature control, and some extra work space. We would perhaps only recommend this barbecue for those after something a little more specialist, as if you are not too keen on a bulkier model you may find the upright smoker a bit too cumbersome.
Our first portable pick of barbecues, the CUBE is an adorable choice if you want to barbecue when you're out and about. It has a bright, stylish design, and plenty of integrated accessories such as the bamboo preparation board and food storage tray.
However, we would note that although this is a great choice for occasional barbecues on the go, it may not be a good long-term investment as it is limiting in terms of cooking choices; you cannot close the lid to cook, and you'll definitely require a flat surface to set it on as it does not have long-reaching legs.
Wondering how else you can step up your grilling game? Celebrate one of life's simplest, yet arguably most delicious, pleasures with our suggestions for top quality barbecue essentials.
Whether it's burgers, steaks, veggies, or even pizzas, you can ensure that your summer is memorable with meals enjoyed directly from the grill. With our considerations and our top ten picks, why not treat yourself to a charcoal BBQ!
Author: Hannah Kato
No. 1：Weber｜Compact 57 cm Kettle Charcoal BBQ
No. 2：KCT｜Classic Barrel Outdoor BBQ Smoker
No. 3：Weber｜Go-anywhere Portable BBQ
No. 4：Bar-Be-Quick｜Charcoal Kettle Pizza BBQ
No. 5：George Foreman｜Kettle Charcoal BBQ
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