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In this report

The best charcoal grills earn high scores for taste and versatility

Reviewers don't recommend high-end charcoal grills very often; most say that a moderately priced kettle grill is all the average cook needs. Still, a notable exception is the Big Green Egg (Est. $800) , which earns top scores in professional reviews and a seemingly cult-like devotion from hundreds of users posting to retail and opinion websites. These nearly universal high marks have earned it our highest designation as the best charcoal grill.

The Big Green Egg (named for its distinctive shape) is a kamado-style grill, its design based on a traditional Japanese cooking vessel whose oblong shape offers excellent temperature control. You can cook at very low or very high temperatures and the settings are accurate enough that you can bake in this grill or use it as a smoker. Its cooking grate is completely sealed by the grill's ceramic exterior, so it can cook for hours on only a few coals. The exterior surface remains cool to the touch, even as the grill reaches high cooking temperatures. It is sold in five sizes, from mini to extra large, all of which carry a lifetime warranty.

The Big Green Egg is the highest-rated model in Adam Lang Perry's test of six charcoal grills, published in Men's Journal, and it also makes Derrick Riches' list of top-10 charcoal grills on About.com. Both praise its versatile cooking performance, although Perry cautions to close the bottom damper before opening the lid, so the rush of oxygen doesn't create an eyebrow-incinerating spike in temperature.

Vicky Sanderson, in her review of charcoal grills for The Toronto Star, says it prepared the best barbecued-meat she ever tasted. The model earns a rating of 95 points (out of 100) from reviewers at Viewpoints.com, who say it's durable, performs well and makes grilling fun, although some cite its high cost as a drawback.

For those who want a less expensive charcoal grill with a few premium features, reviewers recommend the Weber Performer Platinum (Est. $350) . This model has a hinged cooking grate for adding charcoal, one-touch ash removal, a worktable mounted on a steel-wheeled cart, a built-in thermometer, a lid-catcher and onboard storage for utensils and extra charcoal. The Weber Performer's signature feature, however, is its propane-powered ignition system, which some reviewers say combines the best of gas and charcoal cooking. Hot coals can be ready in around 10 minutes, according to users.

The Weber Performer Platinum is highly recommended in one professional test of charcoal grills, and About.com's Derrick Riches ranks it as one of his top-10 charcoal picks. About 70 owners review this model at Amazon, awarding it an average rating of 4.9 stars out of 5. Most praise the ignition and say the grill heats up well, although one user maintains that the construction could be better and others say the plastic worktable is not very sturdy.

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Weber 1481001 Performer Platinum Charcoal Grill, Black
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from Amazon.com
New: $369.00 $349.00   
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