Portable grills are designed for picnics, camping and tailgating and they're usually large enough to cook for two or three people. Although cheap models are commonplace, experts say you need to spend at least $30 for something dependable. Furthermore, if you plan to transport your portable charcoal grill regularly, a locking lid is helpful.
Unsurprisingly, Weber sits atop the portable charcoal grill market with the Weber Smokey Joe Gold (Est. $35), which receives the most reviews and highest ratings in our research. It resembles the excellent Weber One-Touch grills, with its porcelain-coated bowl and lid, glass-reinforced nylon lid handle, plated steel grate and unmistakable domed appearance. It also has a lid lock that doubles as a lid holder when the grill is in use.
The Smokey Joe Gold receives a top rating in one professional test of portable charcoal grills. In addition, owners give it stellar ratings saying it's roomy, durable and performs well. A few people aren't crazy about the top air vents, saying they can cause the fire to go out when the lid is shut, but it's unclear if this is operator error or a true design flaw.
If you're simply seeking a charcoal grill that's suitable for compact spaces, a hibachi-style grill might work for you. Hibachis are small cast-iron grills that feature a heavy grate over a bed of very hot coals. Once common, only a few models still exist. Reviewers say the best of these is the Lodge Sportsman's Grill (Est. $95).
This grill is basic: essentially a cast-iron coal basin with a cooking grid that has a choice of two height levels and a flip-down door for easy access to charcoal. However, basic or not, it gets great reviews for its versatility, with John Heatherly of BeforeItsNews.com illustrating how many ways it can be used, from expanding its grilling repertoire with common kitchen items or using it as a Dutch oven.
The Lodge grill earns high ratings from consumer reviewers who give its cast-iron construction a lot of love. Owners report it's solidly built and versatile, but some point out that it gets and stays extremely hot, so they advise keeping children far away and avoid placing it on valued surfaces. Most say it is easy to use and clean. A lot of reviewers point out that the Lodge is heavy for a portable grill, but plenty of others say it makes food taste so good that they don't mind its heft.