Types of Charcoal Grills

Portable Charcoal Grills – Innovative and compact, these models are typically square or rectangular, and are designed to be easy to move before and after for storage. Popular on back porches in apartment complexes and in tailgating situations, often they offer elements to ease mobility, such as collapsible legs and other features. Typical designs feature a lid with venting and legs made from various hard metals, such as steel. Some versions can be completely contained after use, devoid of vents or ash escapes to prevent unwanted embers from escaping and starting a fire. Rare models offer the same capability of larger units, with spits, hot dog trays and other features found in traditional non-mobile backyard units.


Brazier – Devoid of lids and venting systems, the Brazier is a straightforward version of a Kettle Grill, offering a metal pan filled with charcoals under a wire or mesh grate. In common use before the 1950s, George Stephen improved the design to create Kettle Grills in that decade, and they can still be found in stores today. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes, but are typically small, round or square grills with no covers.

Pellet Grill – Compressed wood pellets are the fuel for these grill models, which are placed in a hopper that’s inserted into a grill’s fire box, typically at the bottom of the grill. An electric igniter starts the pellets, which are burned down to coals; the entire process is controlled by an electric auger and thermostat. Pellet grills are effective smokers, allowing a low temperature smoke effect at between 90-160 degrees Fahrenheit.  Considered both a grill and a smoker, pellet grills allow the ability to increase the internal temperature to 500 degrees, allowing the cook to either slowly smoke or grill the meat at a low temperature.  The rate at which each pellet grill burns through fuel can vary depending on internal temperature, the wood pellets themselves and the size. Various flavors of wood pellets are offered, including apple, maple, oak and many others, to improve the sensory experience when the food is consumed.

Square Charcoal Grill – A combination of Kettle grills and brazier models, square charcoal grills have replaced braziers in popularity since their introduction in the 1960s. The lid is similar to a kettle grill lid in design, with adjustable vents, and typically offers four legs, with two legs featuring wheels so the unit can be tilted and moved for storage when not in use. These models are typically devoid of extra features and options, such as baskets and hot dog shelves, but these features are sometimes offered.

Japanese Hibachi – Hibachis are copies of traditional Japanese cooking devices called Shichirins. These small grills are typically portable models made from metals such as steel, cast iron or aluminum. They offer two small cooking grills placed over a charcoal pan made from sheet metal. The grids are adjustable, allowing the user to move them up or down to increase or decrease the heat reaching the food. Hibachis are portable, and typically lack extensive accessories and even lids.

Kettle Grill – The classic grill design found in backyard barbecues across the country, Kettle Grills copy George Stephen’s Weber Kettle Grill first offered to the public in the early 1950s. They come in a variety of sizes, but the basic design remains the same. They offer a circular design with a domed lid, charcoal grid, cooking grill, round lower chamber and legs. Most models offer venting systems and wheels for easy mobility and storage. The round shape of the lower chamber focuses the heat in an even fashion over the entire grill surface, allowing a more even heat distribution, while the domed top traps the hot air and allows it to circulate more effectively and holding in flavor.

Cart Grill – Typically rectangular in design, charcoal cart grills are designed for easy use and easy mobility. The lids are attached to the base by hinges; the internal design features a grill for food and a grid for charcoal, both of which can be raised or lowered to adjust heat levels. Most models feature an ash collector drawer at the bottom for removing ashes. The carts themselves features wheels, and typically storage shelves or side trays. Pictured left is the Bison Cart - Charcoal Grill from Bull Grills, a larger square charcoal model placed on a cart for mobility.

Barrel Grill – Barrel grills are usually made from a 55 gallon steel barrel placed sideways and then cut in half. Hinges connect the top half to the lower half, which holds the charcoal or wood fuel, allowing the unit to be opened and closed for meat placement. The design typically incorporates vents in the top and bottom, as well as a chimney on the lid; legs hold the barrel grill off the ground. These models are great smokers; the multiple vents in the design allow the cook to control the internal temperature. They are typically fueled by charcoal, or a wood charcoal combination.

Ceramic Cooker – Kamados, Big Green Eggs and other forms of Ceramic Cookers have been present in various forms in Asia for nearly 3,000 years. The modern Saffire Grill Smoker is pictured left as an example. Originally made from clay and known in Japan as mushikamados, American servicemen brought back models and the concept of ceramic cookers after World War II. Clay and ceramic materials resist moisture and heat more effectively than metal; each design offers these materials in an oval shape, with a domed lid that’s hinged to a rounded bottom. They can be used to smoke, grill or barbecue foods, but are prized for their ability to slow cook or smoke meat unlike other grill models mentioned above, the exceptions being the pellet and the barrel charcoal grills.

Tandoor Oven – Invented for cooking in India and Pakistan, a Tandoor Oven is fueled typically by wood. The meat is usually skewered and placed into the oven from above (pictured right is the top of a tandoor oven); the cooking effect is a combination of grilling and oven cooking. Since the air in a tandoor oven can quickly exceed 500 degrees, chicken and other food will cook fast when compared to other grills.


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