This article is way out of date! Weber has introduced quite a few different versions of their kettles since I wrote this five years ago.
Let me save you some time:
The two best kettles are the Weber Jumbo Joe and the Weber 26.75.
The Jumbo is the best portable grill ever and is one of the best charcoal grills under $200.
The 26.75 is the perfect size for all of your grilling needs and is perfectly priced.
The Performer line of grills are worth a look. Here is the Weber Performer Deluxe vs Premium comparison.
If you need some parts to fix up your older kettle then here is a list of replacement parts for Weber charcoal grills.
I am not going to give you a sales pitch on Weber kettle grills. I am going to assume that you have already done enough research to know that there is nothing that will make your life any better than buying one of these bad boys.
I wrote this post because I got to the exact same point as you and then got stuck. The question wasn’t whether I should get a Weber kettle; the question was “Which one?”
(Quick answer: 22 inch Platinum or Performer)
Weber makes eleven different kettle grills and the cost ranges from $40 to $1000. The kettles come in five different sizes and have very different features. All of the kettles cook great but if you want to maximize the return on your investment then sit back, get a cup of coffee and read along.
14 inch Weber kettle grills ($40-$60)
These are the excellent Weber Smokey Joes. The Smokey Joe comes in two models, the Silver and the Gold. I think everyone should own one of these. They are cheap enough and they just look like happiness to me. These are small grills and are great for people short on storage space (apartments, etc) or who want to have a good grill to take to the park. You can grill six burgers at a time pretty easy.
There are two major differences between the Silver and the Gold and after I looked them both over I bought the Smokey Joe Gold.
Difference #1: The air intake holes for the Silver are at the base of the kettle while for the Gold they are located on the side. The reason for the different design is that the Gold is designed to be a true portable grill.
Another way of looking at the placement of the air intakes is that for the Silver the air intake (on the bottom of the kettle) is located BELOW the charcoal grate. This means it is possible for small pieces of hot charcoal to fall through the air intake and land on the ground below. This is actually quite common which is why Weber includes an ash catching disc supported by the tripod legs. The problem is that after a while the disc gets lost and folks can’t be bothered to replace it.
The air intake vent for the Gold is located slightly ABOVE the charcoal grate. This makes it impossible for live coals to escape through the air vents and land on the ground.
Difference #2: The Gold comes with a metal band on the base of the kettle that serves two purposes. When the band is swung to the vertical position it snaps onto the handle of the lid and locks it in place. This is a great feature if you want to carry a grill from one location to another. When the metal band is in the horizontal position it serves as a built-in lid holder. The Silver does not have the metal band so the lid does not lock in place and there is no lid holder. Here are two pictures of the Gold.
Bottom line: If you want a small grill then both are great. The Silver is cheaper and readily available at the box stores. If you want a portable grill buy the Gold. The Gold isn’t carried in many stores so your best bet is through Amazon.
18 inch Weber kettle grills ($80-$120)
There are two grills to choose from here, the One Touch Silver and the One Touch Gold. I do not recommend either of them.
I loved my 18 inch Silver when I first bought it. I was grilling burgers and steaks and life was awesome. As soon as I tried slow cooking a slab of ribs I realized I had made a mistake. The grill just wasn’t big enough. Yeah, yeah..you can roll the ribs and bank the fire and make it work. But I didn’t want to have to “make it work”. I wanted it to work perfectly all by itself and that simply isn’t going to happen at this size.
At some point you will want to barbecue a couple slabs of ribs, or a brisket, or a pork butt and you will be very frustrated if you are working with the 18 inch kettle. What you really want is a 22 inch kettle and they only cost a little bit more than the 18 inchers. The difference between 18 and 22 inches doesn’t seem that significant at first. However when you do the math (Area = pi *r *r) you realize that the 22 inch grill has 48% more grilling area.
The only reason to buy an 18 inch kettle is if you have a camp, guest house, etc where you want to have a good cheap grill and you don’t care if it gets stolen, abused, etc. In this instance I would go with the 18 inch One Touch Silver.
There is no reason to buy an 18 inch One Touch Gold. Ever. If you have the money for an 18 inch OTG spend it on a 22 inch OT Silver instead.
Bottom line: If you need a good grill for burgers and dogs at the fishing camp get the 18 inch One Touch Silver. Otherwise let’s keep moving along.
22 inch Weber kettle grills ($100-$400)
This is the sweet spot. The 22 inch kettles are the workhorses of the Weber fleet. All of these grills have the exact same cooking area but the amount of features varies tremendously. Your choices are as follows:
One Touch Silver ($100): The least expensive of the bunch. No extra features, just a lean mean barbecue machine. The absence of an ash catcher makes it a pain in the butt to clean charcoal and ashes out of the grill. This grill is acceptable but if you have the extra $50 you really want to upgrade to the Gold.
One Touch Gold ($150): The same as the Silver but for an extra $50 cleaning out the ashes is a breeze. You will be using this grill for 10-30 years so go ahead and spend the extra money now for such an important upgrade. The biggest knock against the Gold is that it does not come with an integrated work surface. I use the heck out of my side tables. If you have already bought a Gold then Weber also sells a separate work table that fits up against the kettle.
Platinum ($250): Now this is where it gets interesting. The Platinum has a roll back lid holder, built-in dome thermometer, two usable side tables, hinged cooking grates and two charcoal baskets. I consider having a side table to be a non-negotiable essential in a kettle grill. The dome thermometer is great for when you are cooking low and slow. The hinged grate and charcoal baskets make long, slow cooks much easier.
An overlooked feature on the Platinum is that the dome is unique. This is the only 22 inch Weber kettle grill that has the handle on the front of the dome. Every other kettle has the handle on the top of the dome. The handle is on the front of the Platinum kettle as part of the roll back lid holder design.
Now I really don’t care about where the handle is located. What I do care about is that on the top of the lid, where every other Weber kettle has a handle, the Platinum has the air vent. On every other kettle the air vent is offset to the side of the dome. This is very important when going low and slow with ribs, brisket, etc. For every other kettle you have to figure out, “When I close the lid do I want the air vent over the charcoal or do I want it over the meat?”
You do not have to experiment or remember with the Platinum. Because the air vent on the Platinum is at the top of the dome it is impossible to put it in the wrong location. Here is a side view of the Platinum dome that shows the vent, roll back holder, etc.
Performer ($350): This is the flagship of the 22 inch line. The Performer has the hinged charcoal grate, charcoal baskets, side mounted lid holder, a long working side table, dome thermometer, charcoal storage compartment and a gas ignition system (Touch-N-Go) to light your charcoal.
Here is where I break from the crowd. The Performer is a great kettle but I never thought the bells and whistles justified the price tag. I can light charcoal just fine with a chimney and have no interest in a propane assist burner. From the reading I have done on forums it sounds like most people use the charcoal storage container as a trash can.
You will not be disappointed if you get a Performer. I personally found I got all the features I valued in the Platinum for about $75 less.
Because the Touch-N-Go gas ignition system is one of the most talked about feature on the Performer line it is easy to make the mental connection that if you buy a Performer you will get the ignition system.
There is a second grill in the Performer line that DOES NOT include the gas assist and at first glance the two grills look identical (see below, the one with propane assist is on the right).
If you want the gas assist make sure you buy the Performer Charcoal Grill with Touch-N-Go. The other grill, without the gas assist, is simply called a Performer Charcoal Grill. We get lazy and talk about the Performer when what we almost always are talking about is the Performer Grill with Touch-n-Go.
There is nothing wrong with the plain Performer Charcoal Grill and at a price of $280 I think it is a better value.
Bottom line: The 22 inch Weber kettle grills are the best choice for almost everyone. If you can afford the Platinum or Performer then it will be money well spent.
26 inch Weber kettle grill ($300)
This was a tough choice for me and is one I revisit from time to time. There is something extremely seductive about a kettle this large at this price. About twice a year I seriously consider adding this kettle to my collection but rationality always pulls me back in.
The pros of this grill are that it has the One Touch Gold ash collection system and the grill itself is massive. Whole packer briskets can be a little challenging on a 22 inch kettle but are no problem with the 26 incher.
The cons of this grill are that it does not have a working side table and the lid is very awkward.
I am a somewhat athletic guy and consider myself to be somewhat strong. When I first picked up the lid on a 26 inch kettle I was startled by how heavy it was. The lid is also has a much larger diameter than a lid for a 22 inch kettle and, unlike my Platinum, has the handle on the top of the kettle. To take the lid of the kettle while you are grilling will require you to man handle something that is hot, heavy and large and to do so by grabbing it in the middle.
For my Platinum I simply grab the handle on the front of the dome and slide it back onto the roll back lid holder.
Three years ago I went to the grill store knowing that I was going to buy the 26 inch kettle. I walked out with the 22 inch Platinum instead.
The Weber Ranch Kettle ($1000)
The Weber Ranch kettle is a showpiece; a monstrous beast. Ownership of a Weber Ranch is a status symbol. Like most showpieces and status symbols The Weber Ranch is not a particularly good value. But then again, that is not the point.
I have not talked to or read about anyone who did not love their Ranch. Coming in with a 37 inch diameter cooking grate your cooking options on this kettle are almost limitless. If you are just feeding a few people you can light a single chimney of charcoal, dump them in a single pile and grill some steaks. On the other hand, if you are feeding a crown you can put a 60 pound pig on this thing and get it roasted in about six hours.
Here are the downsides of the Ranch.
1. This grill is massive and you have to think about where it is going to live when not being used. At 37 inches across it is too wide to come through standard screen doors without some wrangling going on.
2. It is a pain in the bum to clean out the ashes. You are going to need to use a shovel.
3. It is expensive. The other Weber kettle grills cost abou $0.45 per square inch of grilling space. The Ranch costs over $1.00 per square inch.
My suggestion to anyone who is considering the Ranch is to at least consider the following option; buy two 26 inch One Touch Golds instead. Here is why:
1. Two 26 inch grills will cost you $600, about half as much as the Ranch, and you get just as much grilling area.
2. The 26 inch kettles come with the One Touch System so cleaning ashes is easy.
3. It is much easier to move and store the two large grills compared to teh one massive kettle.
On the other hand, owning a Ranch is akin to owning a Corvette. Having a minivan would be much more practical but where is the fun in that?
Thanks for sticking with me down to the end of this post! I hope you learned a little about Weber kettle grills and have a better idea as to which one would be right for you. If you have any questions or comments please let me know, I would love to hear from you!