Grilling season really starts on Memorial Day before peaking through the fourth of July and continuing until Labor Day. If you have a grill, you can turn every weekend into a culinary adventure with smoked or grilled delicacies. This is especially true if you buy the best charcoal grills under $500.
You don’t have to break the bank to end up with a quality grill, and we’ve picked out six of the best charcoal grills you can buy at this price point. Take a look and use our buying guide to narrow down your choices to find the perfect charcoal grill to complete your grilling season.
The Six Best Charcoal Grills Under $500 – Reviews
1. Best Overall – Weber 15501001 Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill
This grill comes packed with premium features for the price point. You’ll get an Electronic Touch-N-Go system that will ignite your charcoal without a problem, and there is an LCD screen that gives you duration details about your cooking in real-time.
You get 363-inches of cooking area with a 22-inch porcelain-enameled bowl that ensures you have more than enough room to cook.
There is precision temperature control without lifting the lid, and the adjustable dampers make it very quick and easy to adjust or control your temperature. Closing these dampers will extinguish the coals by cutting off the oxygen flow.
The LCD timer has a back-lit design, it’s removable, and you can mount it on the worktable, and there are dedicated hooks to hang all of your cooking tools, and this makes them very accessible as you work.
The grill comes with a thermometer built into the design, and it comes installed and ready to help you keep your cooking temperatures to the perfect degree. There is a heat shield coating on the grill’s handles that protects them from getting too hot when it’s on to keep you safe.
- One-touch cleaning system included
- Has a removable LCD cook timer
- Assembly instructions are 3D through the BILT app
- Assembly can be time-consuming
- May not create a complete seal
- Wheels are smaller
2. Best Budget – Weber Original Kettle Charcoal Grill
This is a 22-inch grill that can easily cook multiple pieces of meat at once. You get adjustable dampers that give you excellent control over your cooking temperature, and it has a lid hook for you to hang your grill’s lid when you need access to your food.
The legs come with wheels that make it easy to maneuver around, and there are plated steel grates that give you even heat transfer.
A nice point about this budget grill is that it comes almost fully assembled out of the box. You just have to connect the lid and the bowl before firing it up, and the grates feature hinges that make cleaning or loading charcoal easy.
The steel design won’t rust or burn with heavy use, and you get a very good ventilation system to ensure everything cooks evenly.
The damper system on this grill ensures that the heat doesn’t rise too much inside the bowl, and there is an impressive 363-square inch cooking space. It has an attached tray to catch the ashes, and it makes cleanup easy.
- Has a damper system included
- Comes with grates with hinges
- Steel bowl and lid promote good air circulation
- Wheels are very small
- The lid is awkward and heavy
- Grates may not give 100% even heat distribution
3. Best Runner Up – PK Grills 99740 Original Grill & Smoker
Portable Kitchen Grill was originally debuted in 1952, and this is a very elegant model for a charcoal grill. It’s great for anyone who wants a high degree of versatility, durability, and a retro look and feel.
You get a unique capsule shape on this grill with four vents that make it easy to tailor your cooking speed to the cut of meats you have, and it uses high-grade cast aluminum in the body that resists rust and corrosion.
The aluminum also ensures you get efficient cooking temperatures that can result in heat conduction that is four times higher than you’d get with traditional steel. It’s rustproof, lightweight, and durable.
There are 300-square inches of cooking space that can handle everything from a turkey to hamburgers or hot dogs, and you can easily detach this grill from the stand to take it from place to place.
There are two dampers and two adjustable vents on the body of this grill that will give you precision temperature control without fat drips or flares. There is a 10-year warranty on this grill to protect you from defects or damage.
- Comes in two styles and two colors
- Doubles as a smoker or charcoal grill
- Uses cast aluminum construction
- No lower storage shelf
- The stand is very plain
- Screws can be too long for the cap head bolts
4. Best Under $400 – Char-Griller E16620 Akorn Kamado Charcoal Grill
The rounded construction on this grill allows you to use it for smoking or grilling. There is a triple-walled insulated design on this grill to give you excellent heat retention, and there are two dampers on the bottom and top of the design the help you control the temperature.
Cast iron steel makes up the cooking grates, and they have a porcelain coating on them, and the two front wheels make it very easy to maneuver this grill around.
There is a removable ashtray on this setup that makes cleanup very quick and easy between uses, and there are folding side shelves that give you enough space to set your plates, spices, and tools when you work.
When you finish, you can fold them neatly down for easy storage. You get 447-square inches of space to cook on, and there is also a warming rack included.
The compact design of this grill is another bonus point, and the body comes made out of 22-gauge steel. This steel resists rust and corrosion, and you can safely leave it outside during grilling season without worrying about it. It’s also very resistant to dents and other wear and tear.
- Side tables fold down
- Features a small warming rack
- Triple-insulated wall design
- Grates can wear out faster than the grill
- Difficult to assemble
- Warranty is shorter
Alt One – Dyna-Glo DGN486DNC-D Heavy-Duty Charcoal Grill
This slightly larger grill by Dyna-Glo allows you to easily cook up to 24 hamburgers at the same time, and there is an adjustable charcoal tray, sliding side dampers, and an adjustable flue to help you control the temperature.
There are sliding cooking grates or a side door that gives you two access points for your charcoal, and you get dual cooking surfaces. The grates are durable cast iron with a porcelain coating that helps ensure you get even heat transfer to your food.
The dual side counters give you plenty of space to hold your plates and utensils or store your food, and there is a second storage basket at the bottom of the grill.
The numerous adjustment points give you excellent control to cook several things at once, and you get 686-square inches of cooking space between the two surfaces.
Customer service is very responsive to this product if you run into issues, and there are heavy-duty wheels that make moving this grill around quick and easy.
The steel smoke stack allows heat and smoke to escape to make cleanup much easier, and you can purchase a cover to keep it safe all year round.
- Has multiple adjustment points
- Dual cooking surfaces
- Two side counters included
- Can be challenging to put together
- Smokestack isn’t durable
- Grates are spaced slightly further apart
Alt Two – Royal Gourmet Gas Grill and Charcoal Grill Combo
This grill uses heavy-duty stainless steel in the majority of the construction to make it very durable, and the firebox has an organic silicone material that can easily withstand a broad range of temperatures up to 600-degrees Fahrenheit.
You get 742-square inches of cooking space with this setup, and it has two fixed tables on the sides that give you space to prepare your food and set your utensils.
You get a dual construction with this setup that includes a charcoal and gas grill. The side with the charcoal grill has a charcoal pan with an adjustable height for temperature control.
The gas side of this setup comes with three burners made out of stainless steel that give you 27,000 BTUs. The automatic ignition system makes this grill very easy and safe to use.
The oil cup will collect any grilling residue and grease while you cook to make cleanup quick and easy, and there is a large tray for ashes at the bottom of this grill’s firebox.
The two built-in dampers help to control the temperature and give you great air circulation, and there is a bottom cart that gives you a nice amount of storage space with double-layer doors.
- Two casters make it easy to move
- Plenty of storage space
- Gas and charcoal grill capabilities
- Doesn’t come assembled
- Flame protectors are thin
- Doors can fall open
Charcoal Grill Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why does charcoal grill better than gas?
Charcoal burns much hotter than gas can, and you can’t dial down the heat the traditional way. In turn, you can sear your choice of protein before letting it finish cooking in a cooler spot. This can bring out a more full flavor than you get with gas.
2. How long can charcoal grills last under normal conditions?
Every grill on our best charcoal grills under $500 come built to last years. They use durable materials and high-quality design to resist breaking down, corrosion, or rust. With the right conditions, they can easily last at least a decade or more.
3. What are the main differences between a gas and charcoal grill for food?
Charcoal gives your food the traditional smokey flavor that comes from using wood chips, and gas grills can provide your food with a bacon-type taste. A gas grill does produce more steam to give your meat more moisture, but you’ll always get a better sear with a charcoal grill.
4. Is grilling a healthier alternative to frying food?
Yes. Meats that you grill have a lower fat content because a lot of it drips away during the cooking process, and grilled food has a lower calorie content than you get with fried foods.
5. Does your charcoal grill need a lot of ventilation around it?
Since almost every form of American charcoal will produce carbon monoxide when it burns, you have to put your grill in a very well-ventilated area. It’s better if you have it in a wide-open area like your backyard or patio where the smoke can drift away. Never use it in an enclosed space or indoors.
6. How long should charcoal burn before you cook on it?
How long you let your charcoal burn before you decide to cook on it depends on how much heat you want or need. Your coals will reach high heat in 5 to 10 minutes and have white-grey ash covering. They’ll go to medium-heat after 25 to 30 minutes.
Why Choose a Charcoal Grill Over a Gas Grill?
Many people believe that the flavor you get from a charcoal grill is better than you’d get from a gas grill. They also believe that it can be easier to clean and maintain a charcoal grill over a gas grill because charcoal incinerates the food drippings while having fewer mechanical parts to clean.
The cost difference between the two types of grills also plays a significant role because a charcoal grill’s construction and design mean that they’re usually less prone to failure and less expensive than gas.
A good charcoal grill under $500 will sear and smoke without breaking your bank, and you’ll spend at least twice as much getting a gas grill that does that.
Finally, you get more control when you use charcoal grills over gas because gas requires you to have a steady supply of oxygen to the burners to prevent them from flaming out.
With charcoal, you can slide the vents shut to keep the fire burning slow and low and let the smoke linger around the meat to impart flavors without worrying about it going out.
Best Charcoal Grill Under $500 Buying Guide
When you start looking for the best charcoal grill under $500, what buying criteria do you want to keep in mind? Not all grills are equal, and you want to get the best pick for your wants and needs.
This short buyer’s guide will lay out everything you want to know about these grills, and you can take each point and apply it to the grills you consider to narrow your choices down.
Having multiple areas that you can adjust on your grill makes it much easier to control how quickly your food cooks and the overall temperature.
Check and see that your grill allows you to move the charcoal closer or further away from your cooking surface, and it should also have at least one or two grates with adjustment points. Dampers are another must-have thing on your grill to help you regulate the temperature.
Knowing what temperature your grill is at a glance is necessary to ensure you don’t over or undercook your food. Having a built-in thermometer or two on your grill is a great way to help you control the temperature and reduce the chances of burning anything.
Check for a thermometer on the grill’s lid, or you could have one that mounts onto the side of the grill to monitor the temperature.
Cooking Surface Area
Think about how many people you want to cook for in one go, and you’ll want to consider larger grills if you plan on cooking for more than five people at one time.
The cooking surface area will usually be listed on the grill in square inches. You can get a reasonable estimate on whether or not the grill is large enough for your needs by looking for this measurement and considering how many people you routinely cook for.
A grill cover is a nice accessory to have because it can keep your grill dry and out of the elements between uses.
They usually come custom-fitted to your grill to ensure they stay in place once you get them on, and they have weatherproof layers that lock moisture out. This can help your grill last much longer in different weather conditions.
Your grill and the grates should support an even heat distribution from one end to the other because it can lead to uneven cooking times or food that is half cooked.
The grill should have a decent seal when you shut it to trap the heat inside, and the grates on the grill should conduct the heat. It will take some minor trial and error on your part until you learn how your grill distributes heat when you first get it.
Aluminum and stainless steel are two very popular materials for your grill’s body and a large portion of the accessories because they withstand wear, tear, rust, and corrosion very well.
The grates usually feature cast iron with a porcelain coating on them to help them resist damage by the heat. See which materials your grill uses because they play a significant role in how long your grill will last.
You want to be able to move your grill around from point A to point B without taking it apart and assembling it on-site.
Many charcoal grills come with legs that have casters on the bottom that make it easy to roll the grill around to different locations. Some smaller models even come apart and allow you to take the grill while leaving the stand.
Unless you have space for all of your tools and accessories somewhere away from your grill, you want some storage space.
This could be simple hooks along the side of the grill to hang your utensils, or you could have a storage shelf or two on the grill. Some even come with storage behind closed doors at the bottom of the unit to keep everything dry.
A warming rack is an area away from the direct heat that allows you to set your food to keep it warm while preventing it from cooking further.
Many charcoal grills have a smaller rack set up higher along the back of the grill to store your items, or you could have an entire space on the side for it. You can also set a pan with water on these racks to keep your food warm.
Although this won’t be a huge expense, you still want to get a grill that comes with a full or limited warranty attached to protect you if it breaks.
Double-check that the grill has a warranty, how long the warranty lasts from the date of purchase, and what it does and doesn’t cover.
This will help you get the most out of your charcoal grill without worrying about the cost to replace parts or the grill itself if something happens.