A portable charcoal grill should be as effective as possible, preferably just as much as a full-sized charcoal grill. On top of that, it has to be very lightweight and convenient to transport, which allows you to easily take it along everywhere you want.
Grilling doesn’t have to only take place in your backyard, the summer weather is good for activities away from home.
It’s a great opportunity to bring along a small-sized grill and get on the road knowing that no matter where you are, you have the ability to prepare delicious food.
This is where a problem arises, do you have a small and compact enough grill ?
I looked deep into the topic and created a guide where you will learn the best portable charcoal grills for every occasion.
The 5 Best Portable Charcoal Grills Reviewed
I picked several options, most of them will come in handy everywhere regardless of your situation. If you have any specific requirements then I invite you to check out every suggestion in detail to make sure which of them will be the best.
Great for grilling at home for one or two people and to be brought along some place else.
Weber Smokey Joe is a very simple, small-sized and lightweight portable charcoal grill available at a very attractive price. Despite not costing much, it is a solidly built and very durable grill, which is what the Weber brand is famous for.
It is covered with 10 years of warranty and I am sure that in good hands it will last for much longer.
A small charcoal grill is perfect for those who only want to prepare food for themselves for example. It doesn’t take much space, is cost-effective and very easy to clean.
It has a tray under the grill where the ash goes, it is easy to remove and empty.
A small downside is lack of lid lock and lack of side handles, which would be very useful in the event that a hot grill has to be moved somewhere else.
Besides, a small kettle-style construction isn’t quite as effective when it comes to temperature control.
If smoking or better control are important to you then I really recommend the slightly bigger “Weber Jumbo Joe” version.
A little advice from someone experienced, if you want to achieve the highest possible temperature, open the air vents all the way and take off the lid.
If you don’t feel like getting a big grill burning just to grill some very simple and small-sized meal then this is a perfect option. If you don’t have much space for a standard grill, this is a great alternative.
If you need a real portable charcoal grill then it’s also a perfect choice, especially for those with a limited budget.
The next suggestion is actually for those who only think about grilling (forget about smoking).
On top of that, it’s a grill created strictly for those who travel, which you’re going to find out while checking out its features.
The greatest advantage of Weber Go-Anywhere is the mobile construction that makes it very convenient to transport.
Thanks to the very low weight and the number of handles, it is incredibly easy to carry. Despite its small size, it has two handles on the sides and one on the lid (total of 3).
It has 160 square inches of cooking area, enough to fit up to 6 burgers at once (that’s slightly more than the described earlier Smokey Joe).
I really like the legs that are usually used to keep the grill in the right position, but when folded, they serve as a lid lock. A truly great, versatile solution that everyone will appreciate when away from home.
When it comes to the quality of workmanship, Weber has lived up to the task and maintained high level of workmanship for this kind of money.
Sadly, it is necessary to mention several downsides that in certain situations might turn out to be upsides.
Not enough distance between the grates and the furnace makes it necessary to use the right amount of charcoal.
Adding more briquettes will result in high temperature, which makes it easy to burn the food. On the other hand, you can utilize it to create great sear marks at the end of the grilling process.
Another downside to some people might be not enough space between the grates and the lid. This type of construction also offers much poorer temperature control compared to kettle style grills.
The last downside is lack of any cleaning system whatsoever, which luckily isn’t quite as bothersome thanks to small size of the grill.
All those downsides don’t actually matter that much, as this is a grill made for simple grilling away from home. You need to understand that it’s not possible to solve all the problems in such a small grill.
The next suggestion is a not very popular hibachi style grill from Lodge, a renowned manufacturer of cast-iron kitchen tools.
The Lodge Cast Iron Sportsman’s Grill is an interesting alternative to standard grills. One certain advantage is its great durability thanks to the material the entirety of this grill was made of (cast iron).
Another advantage is mobility, it’s an option for those who cook away from home, like when camping. Of course you can use it as a stationary grill if you only cook a few chunks of meat or don’t have room for a big grill.
Its small size makes it very cost-effective in fuel consumption and easy to clean.
It has about 150 square inches of cooking area.
What is amazing is that it comes with adjustable grill grates height on two levels.
It also has a heat-adjusting door that gives access to the charcoal.
The downside of cast-iron is large weight despite the really small size of the grill. The advantage, on the other hand, is the corrosion resistance which means that in good hands this grill can really survive a lot.
I need to emphasize that rust might appear if you don’t properly preserve the grill but don’t worry. It only appears on the surface, it doesn’t penetrate deep into the grill, so all you have to do is carefully remove the rust using a brush, then preserve the entire surface again.
When it comes to cast-iron grills, you just have to watch out not to drop it, as it might lead to cracks.
The Lodge Cast Iron Sportsman's Grill takes a lot of time to achieve the right temperature and a lot of time to cool down after the end of cooking.
There is one more downside to add, total lack of any protection from wind or rain.
It is phenomenal at grilling, but it comes with certain limitations that I mentioned above.
Kamado is mostly associated with very heavy ceramic grills that don’t have much to do with mobility.
The Char-Griller Akorn Jr. is an exception for two reasons, the first is small size and several portable features. The second is not being made of ceramics but of steel instead, which allows it to weight a little less.
Of course, compared to other options in this guide, it is still a very heavy grill. It does have handles on either side, though, which makes it easy to move it from one place to another.
I believe there won’t be any trouble transporting this grill conveniently, like when camping.
Despite about 150 square inches, you are able to cook enough food for as many as several people.
Bigger construction and weight also mean much better functionality and convenience.
Kamado is specialized in grilling and smoking at the same time thanks to great properties of insulation and air flow control.
Great insulation guarantees much better efficiency of charcoal (lower consumption) and ability to easily achieve very high temperatures.
It comes with an ash drawer that you can remove and empty any time, like after you’re done cooking.
Char-Griller Akorn Jr. is a solid and durable portable kamado grill, but sadly it is pretty expensive compared to other options.
I think that it’s mostly an option for experienced kamado enthusiasts who spend a lot of time away from home. It’s not particularly lightweight nor mobile, but it’s hard not to appreciate the versatility, functionalism and solidly built construction.
Tips for buying new portable charcoal grill
The criteria for choosing a new compact grill are similar to those in case of full-sized models, which you can read about in the guide to the best charcoal grills.
When looking for a portable grill, you also have to take such aspects as size, weight and portability features into account.
Budget – At the very start decide what price range you tolerate. Luckily portable charcoal grills are among the cheapest, but it’s possible to find pretty expensive options among them.
Size and weight – Analyze your needs, the number of people you cook for and where you’re planning to go. In the next stage take the weight of the grill into account, especially if you’re planning to walk large distances on foot with your grill. If you’re going camping, the weight will probably not be a problem, because you will most likely go by car.
Cooking style – You’re only interested in grilling or maybe you are more ambitious and think about smoking? In case of the latter it is important because not all grills offer enough space between the grill grates and the lid.
Portable features ( handles, lid lock etc ) – As the name suggests, a grill of this kind should be mobile and to make it possible, several basics are required. Just as important as small size and low weight are additional handles, folding legs/stand or a lid lock.
Cleaning – After each cooking it is necessary to clean up after yourself, this task cannot be skipped. Pay attention to how the manufacturer has solved this problem in their grill, if it comes with an ash tray/container etc. Cleaning a grill, from ash among other things, is not exactly the most pleasant task, which makes different useful ash removal systems welcome.