Here is a review of the six best charcoal grills under $200 and some guidance on a few grills to specifically avoid. There are some really nice grills in this price range so there is no need to skimp on quality just because you are on a budget.
Best Weber Charcoal Kettles Under $200
Weber kettles are, in my opinion, among the best charcoal grills available at any price point. There are two defining characteristics of these grills that make them special. The first aspect is the tightness of the grills and the resultant ability to precisely control the airflow to the charcoal. The second aspect is that the porcelain enameled construction enables these grills to easily last for 10-20 years. Great performance and long lasting value.
While money spent on a Weber charcoal grill is a sound investment, trying to navigate the Weber product line can be confusing. Weber currently offers eight charcoal grills under $200 but only three of them should be considered.
Weber Jumbo Joe
The Jumbo Joe costs about $60 and is the best portable charcoal grill made. Period.
The Jumbo Joe makes all of Weber’s other portable charcoal grills (Smokey Joe Silver, Smokey Joe Gold, Go Anywhere) completely irrelevant.
The 18 inch cooking grate is the largest of any portable grill and gives you plenty of capacity. The locking lid latch serves double duty as a lid holder. The single lower air damper gives you precision temperature control which turns this grill into a surprisingly great smoker. I have smoked a five pound pork butt in a Jumbo Joe and the cook was EASY.
The Smokey Joe grills are TINY in comparison to the Jumbo Joe. Here is more information on why I love the Jumbo Joe.
Weber 22 inch Premium Original Kettle
The 22 inch Premium Original kettle will set you back about $150 and is the upgraded version of the classic grill that has served so many generations of grillers with amazing performance.
- Do NOT consider buying the $99 version of this grill that is called the 22 inch Original.
- Do NOT consider buying the $79 version of this grill that is called the 18 inch Original.
You want the Premium Original.
The “Original” grills have a fatal flaw. It is a massive pain in the butt to clean the ashes out of the grills. You will end up turning the grills upside down and dumping the ash all over the ground and even that is a very awkward maneuver.
The Original Premium grills come with the One Touch Cleaning System and High Capacity Ash Catcher that works great. This is one of those little features that makes a MASSIVE difference. The Premium kettle is the exact same kettle you get in the higher end Performer Deluxe grill that is cart mounted with the propane ignition system.
Here is a video look at the Original Premium grill. The ash removal system is featured at about the 1:40 mark.
Weber 22 inch Master Touch
This is the Premium Original kettle with a few extra goodies and comes in at just under $200.
The 22 inch Weber Master Touch is a few inches taller than the Premium Original kettle and comes with the following upgrades:
- Gourmet Grill Grate
- Elevated Warming Rack
- Tuck Away Lid Holder
The Gourmet Grill Grate is a mixed bag. The grate has a removable center insert that can be replaced by a bunch of different cooking inserts (wok, griddle, cast iron sear station, pizza stone, etc). All of the inserts are sold separately and, in all probability, after you use them once or twice you will stick them away in a cabinet someplace to gather dust. What is NICE about this grate is that the rods are about 30% thicker than a standard Weber grate and should last a year or two longer.
The Elevated Warming Rack is a cute idea that is going to get in your way. This will be another item to stick in the back of a cabinet to gather dust.
The Tuck Away Lid Holder is GLORIOUS! The biggest problem with the Premium Original kettle is that there is no place to put the lid when you are working the grill. The lid on the Original Premium does have a little hook inside that lets you latch it onto the side of the kettle but the dang thing is awkward and very few people ever actually use the feature. The lid holder on the Master Touch is a SERIOUS upgrade.
Char Broil Kettleman
The Kettleman from Char Broil costs about $100 and is a unique charcoal grill that will be perfect for some people. While at first glance the 22.5 inch Kettleman looks similar to a standard 22.5 inch Weber kettle, in reality it is a completely different beast.
On a Weber kettle your food is primarily cooked by the hot air produced by the burning charcoal. This is “convection grilling”. On a Kettleman the charcoal heats a semi-porous grill grate. The grate gets hot and emits infrared radiation. The infrared radiation is what cooks your food.
This unique design has some definite advantages. The main benefit of the Kettleman is the grate design virtually eliminates flare ups when grilling greasy foods like burgers or steaks. Another advantage is that because the charcoal is so close to the grate you actually don’t need to use as much charcoal as you do on a Weber kettle.
Here is a quick walk through of this grill:
The Kettleman has an easy to use ash clean out system and a sturdy frame that is easily movable on your deck.
The Kettleman typically costs just under $100 and has a BETTER warranty than a Weber kettle. The Kettleman matches Weber’s ten year warranty on the grill body and has a two year warranty on the grate.
There are a couple downsides to the Kettleman that you should be aware of.
- The infrared grate design really works nice but the same features that prevent flareups also make the grate a pain to clean.
- This grill is designed for Hot and Fast grilling. Some folks claim that they can do Low and Slow barbecue with a Kettleman but the charcoal is really too close to the grate for serious low temperature cooking.
Overall the Kettleman is a rock solid choice for the budget conscious griller who is more interested in steaks and burgers than pulled pork and brisket.
Char Broil Charcoal Grills to Avoid:
Char Broil has multiple barrel style, offsets and box style grills is the sub $200 range. Do not consider any of them. The material is cheap, they are a pain to assemble and the air control is a joke. When it comes to inexpensive Char Broil grills then it is the Kettleman or nothing.
Pilot Rock Park Grills
This is a non traditional suggestion but I figured I would throw it in here for kicks and giggles.
If you have ever used a public grill at state park then chances are you used a Pilot Rock grill.
These grills are nearly indestructible and the grate can be adjusted to four different heights. The grill head swivels so you can adjust for windy conditions and these grills are a snap to clean up.
These park grills are not fancy but they are American classics and come in under $200.
Cast Iron Hibachi Grills
Here is another interesting $100 idea that I wanted to put in front of you.
You can pick up a cast iron hibachi style grill for under $100 and have a blast learning to use the little guy. These small grills are not as useful as the Weber Jumbo Joe but are still special. Cast iron is beautiful and this hibachi style grill makes grilling fun.
Here is a look at this powerhouse in action grilling up a two pound ribeye steak 🙂