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The Best Charcoal Grills Under $500: 6 Top Picks Reviewed

If you’re an ardent charcoal grill fan looking to get ready for grilling season, you may want to consider investing in one of the best charcoal grills under $500. At this price, not only are you getting a fantastic addition to your outdoor cooking arsenal, but you’re definitely getting more bang for your buck than similarly-priced gas grills.

While gas grills tend to be more convenient to start up, charcoal grills evoke a much more visceral grilling experience. There’s something beautiful and satisfying about setting up a fire, watching it burn down to its embers, and using that as a source to grill your food.

Romanticism aside, charcoal grills also offer the benefit of imbuing your food with a rich, textured and smokey flavor often absent in gas grills. Propane (and natural gas for that matter) also tends to get quite pricey over time. So, if you’re on a budget, burning charcoal or briquettes is going to be much kinder on your wallet.

Without more delay, let’s take a look at some of the best charcoal grills under $500 currently on the market.

Editor’s Pick for Best Charcoal Grill Under $500: The Weber Performer Deluxe

If there can only be one, then let it be the Weber Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill. With a built-in thermometer, mounted timer, tons of work space and an electronic gas ignition, the Performer Deluxe takes charcoal grilling to the next level. With the flavor of charcoal and the convenience of gas, all it takes is the push of a button and you’re ready to start grilling.

Ranking Table: Our 6 Best Charcoal Grills Under $500

Best Charcoal Grills Under $500Pros, Cons & BBQ Digest Award

Weber Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill

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Editor’s Pick

+ Touch-N-Go propane-powered ignition system
+ 363 square inches of primary cooking area
+ Huge work space for food prep

– Requires propane in order to make use of the igniter    

Original PK Grill & Smoker

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Best Minimalist Grill

+ Cast aluminium construction for rust prevention and heat retention
+ Can be used in the backyard but also taken on outings and trips
+ 4-Point Venting System allows for direct and indirect cooking

– Minimalist design means ashes have to be disposed of manually

Akorn Kamado Charcoal Grill by Char-Griller

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Most Unique Design

+ Attractive and unique design that provides excellent heat retention
+ Ash collector makes cleaning up effortless
+ Equipped with dual adjustable dampers for maintaining specific temperatures

– Requires a separate cover, without which it may be prone to rust

Dyna-Glo Dual Zone Premium Charcoal Grill

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Most Versatile Grill

+ Flexible, versatile and customizable grilling experience thanks to dual cooking zones and firebox divider
+ Adjustable coal trays, chimney and dampers, for easy temperature control
+ Side shelves, bottom storage, built-in lid thermometer

– Might be too big and cumbersome for smaller households

Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill

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The Classic

+ Classic kettle grill design
+ Improved ash disposal with One-Touch cleaning system
+ Stainless steel, porcelain-enameled construction for heat retention and rust prevention

– Legs are not the sturdiest

Royal Gourmet BBQ Charcoal Grill with Offset Smoker

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Best Charcoal Grill Smoker Combo

+ Integrated smoker for low and slow barbeque
+ Front and side tables for easy food preparation
+ Large primary cooking area and adjustable dampers

– Can’t handle temperatures higher than 400°F

A More Detailed Look At Best Charcoal Grills Under $500

Weber Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill – Editior’s Pick

If there’s one company that knows a thing or two about grilling, it’s Weber, and with the Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill, they demonstrate just how refined their products have become. The Performer Deluxe is a natural successor to the classic Weber grill that has become synonymous with an outdoor gathering. It’s basic function – being able to contain a fire and concentrate heat – still remains, but with a few choice upgrades.

To start with, the Performer Deluxe features the electronic Touch-N-Go propane-powered ignition system. This means that, after stacking your coals or firewood, instead of having to reach down into the coals and risk being burned, you can light the stack with a single push of a button.

This grill also removes all of the guesswork from grilling. An LCD cooking timer and built-in lid thermometer offers precision control over the cooking process and ensures that you’ll never burn a steak. On top of that, the One-Touch cleaning system with removable aluminium ash catcher makes cleaning the grill an absolute dream.

The entire grill has 363 square inches of primary cooking area, and the domed lid means you can comfortably grill steaks, burners, ribs and even whole birds. The massive work area means you can prepare all of your food directly at the grill without having to make multiple trips back to the kitchen. And once you’re done grilling, simply shut the integrated lid damper to kill the oxygen supply and let the fire die safely.

Weber really made something special with the Performer Deluxe and it really can’t be recommended enough.

Features at a glance:

  • Electronic Touch-N-Go with Propane Gas powered ignition system
  • 22-inch diameter porcelain-enameled bowl and lid
  • 363 square inches of primary cooking area
  • Aluminized steel One-Touch cleaning system with removable, high-capacity, aluminum ash catcher
  • Removable LCD cooking timer and built-in lid thermometer
  • Massive workspace for food preparation
  • Integrated hooks grilling accessory storage
  • Adjustable dampers for precision heat control

Original PK Grill & Smoker – Best Minimalist Grill

Simple is oftentimes better, and nothing exemplifies this more than the Original PK Grill & Smoker. Still featuring the award-winning design which has been used for more than 60 years, the PK Grill & Smoker is a solid, two-piece cast aluminium construction. The use of aluminium was deliberate, as it allows for better heat conduction than steel and is also relatively lightweight.

The capsule shape of the grill is also a product of much design deliberation. This design makes the PK Grill & Smoker ideal for searing steaks and cooking burgers, but also for making delicious low and slow barbeque.

The shape of the grill works in conjunction with the 4-Point Venting System, which provides exceptional airflow within the grill when needed. When all of the vents are closed, the heat is used directly for hot and fast cooking, but when the vents are open, air is circulated allowing for more even heat distribution and convection heating.

While the grill does come with a cart complete with lower and side shelves for food preparation, it can also be easily removed and used for camping or tailgating. And with 300 square inches of grilling space, it’s unlikely that anyone, whether in the campsite or your backyard, is going to go hungry.

Features at a glance:

  • Unique capsule shape and additional vents make it easy to grill hot and fast or low and slow
  • Cast aluminum construction including hinges
  • Can be used in a backyard but also is ideal for camping and tailgating
  • 300 square inches of primary cooking surface
  • Consumers Digest Best Buy 2017
  • AmazingRibs Pitmaster Best Value Pitmaster Award 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2018 Official Grill of Steak Cookoff Association.

Akorn Kamado Charcoal Grill by Char-Griller – Most Unique Design

If you’re looking for a grill with a unique design that doesn’t sacrifice on performance, the Akorn Kamado Charcoal Grill by Char-Griller is your answer. With a design reminiscent of a giant edd, the Kamado Charcoal Grill  is a versatile grill and smoker constructed from triple-walled 22 gauge steel constructed to maintain cooking temperatures ranging from 200-700 degrees.

With dampers both on the top and bottom of the grill, controlling the air flow and temperature is effortless and precise. The shape of the grill is likewise designed to conduct heat extremely efficiently and therefore use less coal and wood during the grilling process.

The Kamado Charcoal Grill comes standard with a few useful features that enhance the grilling process and make it a pleasure to use. To start with, the Easy Dump ash pan makes cleaning up and getting rid of ashes an effortless chore. The grill also also comes with a cart and two caster wheels for easy mobility as well as a huge workspace for food preparation.

With 314 square inches of cooking space, the Kamado Charcoal Grill can take care of most foods including steaks, ribs and chickens easily. It uses cast iron grates in order to enhance the flavor of the food as well as provide even heat distribution.

Features at a glance:

  • Insulated design means more heat, less charcoal and less airflow means insulated heat for juicy meat
  • 314 Square inches of primary cooking space
  • Large surface for food preparation
  • Easy dump ash pan for simple ash removal
  • Dual adjustable dampers for maintaining specific temperatures
  • Cast iron cooking grates enhance flavors and heat evenly

Dyna-Glo Dual Zone Premium Charcoal Grill – Most Versatile Grill

Do you sometimes need to cook for massive gatherings but at other times only want to stoke up a barbeque for the wife and kids? If so, then the Dyna-Glo Dual Zone Premium Grill is likely the best solution.

It’s an ingenious charcoal grill that comes equipped with a removable firebox divider which enables you to use one or two cooking zones. With 576 square inches of cooking space available on the one side and 240 square inches on the other, you can easily build a fire according to your needs. If you’re having a massive gathering, simply remove the divider and make use of the entire 816 square inches of grilling space.

What’s great about the Dual Zone Premium Grill is the specificity which it affords to the grilling process. A handy feature are the dual charcoal adjustment trays, which allow you to raise or lower how close the charcoal is to the food for more or less intensity. Combined with the stainless steel divider, this grill offers unparalleled flexibility and customization when grilling different types of food.

The Dual Zone Premium Grill doesn’t skimp on performance either. It uses cast iron porcelain-enameled cooking grates to retain heat, provide amazing sear marks, and lock in flavors and juices. The stainless steel construction offers a double-walled lining to retain heat, and the stainless steel smoke stack has an adjustable flu for temperature and flavor control.

There are also sliding side dampers on either side of the grill for added temperature control and improved airflow. It’s finished in stainless steel not only to help with heat retention, but also for added style, making a pleasure to look at no matter where in your backyard it sits.

Features at a glance:

  • Removable firebox divider for single or dual cooking zone
  • 576 square inches of primary cooking space
  • 240 square inches of secondary cooking space
  • Pivoting, integrated warming rack
  • Dual charcoal adjustment trays
  • Built-in lid thermometer
  • Cast iron porcelain-enameled cooking grates
  • Sliding side dampers for temperature control and improved airflow
  • Two side shelves for food preparation
  • Bottom side basket for charcoal and accessory storage
  • Removeable, high capacity ash collection tray for easy cleanups
  • Chimney stack for easy smoke ventilation

Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill – The Classic

As the gold standard in charcoal grilling, it’s hard to pinpoint any flaws or drawbacks of the Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill. Simply put, this grill has come to define charcoal grilling on a global scale, and its distinctive and attractive kettle design is instantly recognizable by almost anyone.

There’s a reason for its popularity. Aside from being reasonably priced, the Kettle Grill is the result of refining a product to do one thing spectacularly well – and that thing is grilling.

Constructed from porcelain-enameled stainless steel, this grill not only retains and directs heat but will also never rust or peel. The stainsteel steel, porcelain-coated cooking grate is hinged to allow you to add more coal without removing the entire grate from the fire. And a built-in lid hook allows you to rest the lid on the body of the grill without having to put it on the floor.

This version of the grill has been updated with a few premium features not found on the original. While it comes standard with the aluminium dampers for air flow and heat control, it also has a built-in thermometer you know exactly how hot your fire is. Ash disposal has also been improved upon thanks to the One-Touch cleaning system and high-capacity ash catcher.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It seems that Weber took that saying to heart as the Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill is, for all intents and purposes, the same classic grill that everyone knows and loves.

Features at a glance:

  • Classic charcoal grill design
  • Built-in lid thermometer
  • Rust-resistant aluminum dampers
  • One-Touch cleaning system with high-capacity ash catcher
  • Porcelain-enameled lid and bowl retain heat and won’t rust or peel
  • Lid hook means you don’t have to rest the lid on the ground while grilling
  • Cooking grate is hinged for easily adding charcoal while grilling

Royal Gourmet BBQ Charcoal Grill with Offset Smoker – Best Charcoal Grill Smoker Combo

The Royal Gourmet BBQ Charcoal Grill with Offset Smoker is the second iteration of a firm favorite in grilling circles. They’ve improved upon the original design by including collapsible side and front tables for seasoning and food prep. In addition to the prep tables, this grill also contains a number of hooks for hanging grill accessories and a lower storage grate for wood or charcoal.

Other than that, Royal Gourmet’s grill still does everything its predecessor does extremely well. With 438 square inches of primary cooking space and a 179 square inch warming rack, there’s pretty much nothing this grill can’t handle. An integrated lid thermometer and adjustable charcoal pan for raising or lowering the coals give you precision control over the grilling process.

The main feature of this grill is the 183 square inch offset smoker that easily allows for delicious barbeque. It also has a side door that lets you quickly replenish wood or tend to the fire, and a side air vent for air flow regulation and temperature control. The smoker can also be used as a small secondary grill if you need to cook foods at different temperatures.

If grilling steaks and hamburgers isn’t enough for you, then the Royal Gourmet BBQ Charcoal Grill with Offset Smoker is definitely a grill worth considering. Take it with you on your next camping trip and do some low and slow barbeque in the great outdoors.

Features at a glance:

  • 438 square inches of primary cooking space
  • 179 square inch warming rack
  • Porcelain-coated steel wire grates
  • 183 square inch off-set smoker
  • Adjustable charcoal pan lets you modify the distance between charcoal and food
  • Integrated lid thermometer
  • Removal charcoal, ashes pan
  • Traditional charcoal grill with offset smoker combination for dual style barbecue
  • Smoker side-door for easy wood replenishment
  • The offset smoker can also be used as a small grill
  • Includes smoke stack, temperature gauge, scald-proof handle, seamless connection, side air vent, and wheels to transport.

Frequently Asked Questions

How important is heat distribution?

Heat distribution is extremely important when grilling. If heat isn’t distributed properly, you run the risk of developing hot and cold spots. This means that your food will be overcooked in some areas but undercooked in others.

What is the best way to clean my charcoal grill?

Cleaning and maintaining your grill is crucial to ensuring its longevity, and your grill should be cleaned after each and every use. Once you’re done cooking, let the coals burn out, then empty the ashes from the ash removal tray.

Next, scrub the grates with a grill brush to get rid of any excess detritus. It’s also advisable to do this before your next grilling session after heating the grill for 15 minutes to prevent food from sticking.

Lastly, once the grill has completely cooled, remove the grates and clean the inside of the grill with some mild dish soap and a steel wool pad.

How should I arrange my charcoal?

The way you build your fire and arrange your charcoal largely depends on how you want to grill your food. When starting a fire, always arrange your charcoal in a large, pyramid-like pile so that it catches quickly and evenly.

Once the coals are ready, spread them evenly across the grate if you’d like to cook with direct heat. If you want to cook with indirect heat, put the lit coal to either side of the grate and leave the other side empty.

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