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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. A notable exception is the Big Green Egg (Est. $800 for large), which earns top scores in professional reviews and a seemingly cultlike 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 is 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 makes virtually every Top Charcoal Grill list or roundup published and gets very high marks across the board from owner reviewers on consumer websites.

Nicole Wakelin in her review of the Big Green Egg for Wired.com says it does it all – from wood-fired pizza and cinnamon buns to any meat imaginable -- and works equally well for baking, grilling and smoking. She says there is a bit of a learning curve, but she had it down to a science within a week.

Owners agree, saying it's surprisingly easy to use in every aspect, from cooking to cleaning it afterward, with a number saying they became "experts" in the use of the grill very quickly. The downside is that it's expensive, but it will last forever.

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. It also gets great reviews from owners at consumer review sites. Most praise the ignition specifically, and say the grill heats up well. There are almost no cons noted to the Weber, except the timer, which users says is poorly designed and not necessary with a charcoal grill.

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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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