Choosing a charcoal grill

Charcoal grills generally cost less than gas grills, but surveys show that owners use gas grills with greater frequency. One could argue forever over whether food tastes better when prepared on a charcoal or gas grill; ultimately, it comes down to personal preference.

Reviewers say the following about shopping for a charcoal grill:

  • Look for at least 300 square inches of cooking space. This allows room for six burgers and six hot dogs, enough to feed a family with space left over for guests. If you plan on entertaining larger groups, look for a grill with at least 500 square inches of primary cooking space.
  • Invest in a charcoal chimney starter. These allow you to start your coals quickly and cheaply without lighter fluid.
  • Consider where the grill will live. If you plan to leave your grill outdoors, you'll want to invest in a model made of heavy-gauge or stainless steel. Regardless of where you store your grill or what it's made of, it's still a good idea to invest in a cover to help prevent wear and rust.
  • Look for grills with vents above and below the cooking grid. These allow for better temperature control. Also, look for vents that can close completely to help the grill cool down more quickly.
  • Look for a hinged cooking grate. Hinged cooking grates make it easier to add more charcoal without disturbing your food. Not only is this more convenient, it's essential if you plan to slow-grill food.
  • Consider the grill's cleaning mechanism. Cleaning out charcoal grills can be a hassle, so make sure your grill has a good ash-collection system, as well as a slide-out tray for easy disposal.
  • On portable grills, look for a locking lid. If you plan on moving your grill around a lot, a locking lid is key to prevent ashes and coals from spilling.

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