Year-round outdoor cooking can be a stoic affair in Britain, but with the best charcoal barbecues, you can give your fresh ingredients a chargrilled flavour that's synonymous with cooking over coals. And now the summer has arrived at last, there's a lot of al-fresco eating to look forward to.


For an authentic smoked food experience, the charcoal barbecue is king. Gas barbecues may be quicker, cleaner on the hands, and easier to control, but with a charcoal BBQ you get more versatility – not to mention deliciously smoky flavour.

Our experts have put a host of the latest models to the test to bring you our updated list of the best charcoal barbecues to buy this year. Read on to discover our tried-and-tested picks of those worth their price and the investment. Newest additions were tested and reviewed by reviews expert, Lesley Jones.

We also have a whole host of the barbecue recipe ideas to get you started, or you can visit our reviews section to find more of the best portable, gas, and budget barbecues, as well as the best barbecue boxes to buy or best pizza ovens.

Best charcoal BBQs 2024 at a glance

  • Best charcoal BBQ: Kamado Joe Konnected Joe, £1,795
  • Best Weber charcoal BBQ: Weber Master Touch, £285
  • Best charcoal smoker BBQ: Big Green Egg large ceramic grill, £1,760
  • Best large charcoal BBQ: VonHaus XL American style charcoal BBQ grill, £239.99
  • Best charcoal BBQ for families: Char-Broil Kettleman, £212.99
  • Best portable charcoal BBQ: Lotus Grill charcoal barbecue, £175
  • Best for social barbecuers: Char-Broil Charcoal L barbecue, £287.99
  • Best charcoal BBQ for small gardens: Big Green Egg MiniMax, £820
  • Best charcoal BBQ for taking on trips: Everdure Cube portable charcoal BBQ, £222.80
  • Best kettle BBQ for user-friendly features: Napoleon 22" charcoal kettle grill barbecue, £245.99
  • Best charcoal BBQ under £200: VonHaus Compact charcoal barbecue, £119.99
  • Best kettle BBQ: Weber Classic kettle barbecue, £204.99

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Best charcoal BBQs to buy in 2024

Kamado Joe Konnected Joe

Kamado Joe Konnected Joe

Best charcoal BBQ


  • Perfect grilling
  • Easy to maintain


  • Expensive outlay
  • Heavy to get in place

Star rating: 5/5

First of all, when it comes to looks, the Konnected Joe puts every other barbecue in the shade. With its distinctive dark red ceramic casing, it looks as good as it grills and will be a real talking point at your garden get-togethers. You choose how you want to cook – from monitoring the coals the old-fashioned way to letting it do everything bar turn the burgers, it’s a flexible, fully-controllable dream.

Use the Kamado Joe app to adjust temperatures, get alerts when your food is ready, and remind you to clean up afterwards. The only thing we didn’t love about this model was the gargantuan task of getting it into the garden. With kerbside delivery, this could be a problem for those with hard-to-access spaces, but once in place, it’s well worth the effort for the simplicity of cooking.

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Weber Master-Touch 57cm charcoal barbecue

Weber Master-Touch 57cm charcoal barbecue

Best Weber charcoal BBQ


  • Great for smaller gardens
  • Good looks


  • Takes practice to learn how to adjust cooking temperatures
  • No keep warm tray

Star rating: 5/5

With its iconic looks and easy handling, the Weber kettle-style Master Touch is a great option. It’s easy to light, comes to temperature quickly with a reliable thermometer on the porcelain enamelled lid and gives even cooking results across its diameter, with the space to build coal strategically to create different temperature zones.

That may have been the only downside, but there are plenty of online tutorials from Weber devotees or you can even sign up to one of the company's classes to get the best out of your new purchase. It was easy to clean up afterwards thanks to the quality of the grill itself and the one-touch cleaning system, which used a lever to sweep ash into the pan below.

Weber is a name to be trusted and the quality of build means that, although this is a relatively basic model, we'd recommended this as a choice for those who want to be able to store and use their barbecue year after year.

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Big Green Egg large ceramic grill


Best charcoal smoker BBQ


  • Superb cooking
  • Easy to use


  • Build is down to you

Star rating: 5/5

This hefty piece of kit takes some getting used to, but once you're familiar with the temperature control and various mechanisms, you're away. The Big Green Egg can hit searing temperatures or retain a gentle heat with finite precision for very long periods.

It multitasks as a smoker and oven for baking and roasting, with lots of extras available for purchase, including extra racks, baking stones and grills (but be warned, the prices can increase steeply once you start adding accessories). The barbecue function is excellent – it comes up to temperature in 20 minutes and produced some of the best food of all we tasted.

Read our full Big Green Egg ceramic grill review.

VonHaus XL American-style charcoal BBQ grill

VonHaus XL American style charcoal BBQ grill

Best large charcoal BBQ


  • Easier than most to assemble
  • Great cooking space


  • Not as solid as more expensive models
  • Possible staining of front panels

Star rating: 4.5/5

You get brilliant barbecuing at a bargain price with this VonHaus barbecue. It gives far pricier units a run for their money, and we liked how basic and 'analogue' this model was compared to others who rely on high-tech and gadgetry to get a perfect cook. This was all about the involvement of barbecue – building the coals, standing over to monitor heat and having the space to get everything we fancied on the grill.

There’s enough space on the generous griddle and warming rack to really load up with favourites for the whole family. It's easy to maintain the desired temperature for cooking by adjusting the front handle to heighten or lower the bottom coal tray – ingenious and very satisfying.

Looking a lot more expensive than its price tag would suggest, this is one piece of summer kit we’ll love using and despite its cost, looks like it will last to come back onto our deck annually.

Char-Broil Kettleman

Char-Broil Kettleman BBQ

Best charcoal BBQ for families


  • Attractive
  • Some storage
  • Latch to lock lid
  • Vents offer good temperature control
  • Easy to move


  • Lots of assembly needed
  • Tools needed for assembly
  • Instructions a little unclear
  • Not a lot of space between grill and coals

Star rating: 4.5/5

This generously sized barbecue is sturdy and robust, and it offers enough grilling space for two to four people, ideal if you’re a family looking to make the most of the good weather.

Assembly was a frustrating endeavour and we were slowed down by diagram-only instructions. The Kettleman comes packed with lots of polystyrene and plastic, and there are many parts to this build. You’ll need a spanner, which is not provided. It also wasn’t overly clear where the coals should be placed; the coal rack has large gaps between the grates and sits very close to the grilling rack.

Once assembled and lit, this barbecue was a joy to cook on, and everything was imparted with a classic barbecued flavour. There are many features we loved on this barbecue: the responsive temperature gauge, easy-to-use vents and sturdy wheels. If you’re looking to cook for a small crowd, this spacious model offers consistent cooking every time.

Read our full Char-Broil Kettleman charcoal BBQ review.

Lotus Grill charcoal barbecue

Lotus Grill charcoal barbecue

Best portable charcoal BBQ


  • Smoke-free
  • Dishwasher-safe parts
  • Exterior stays cool to the touch


  • Needs batteries
  • Limited size

Star rating: 4.5/5

With no lid or legs, the Lotus hardly takes up any space, weighing just 3.7kg. Combined with its 'smokeless' credential, it's a great one for courtyards, small gardens or balconies, particularly because the exterior doesn't heat up so it can be stood straight on grass or a table without damage.

It arrives ready assembled so there's no faffing when you receive the box. The model is fan-assisted and, after lighting, took six minutes to get up to temperature. Air flow is dial-controlled so just takes a bit of practice to get used to.

Vegetables, spatchcock chicken and potatoes cooked quickly. Most impressively, unoiled courgette slices didn't stick, although the grill lines could have been more defined. Arriving with a carry case, 1kg of charcoal plus lighting gel, it's good value for money for its ease and simplicity.

Read our full Lotus Grill charcoal barbecue review.

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Char-Broil Charcoal L barbecue

Char-Broil Charcoal L barbecue

Best for social barbecuers


  • Heats quickly
  • Good value for money


  • A faff to put together
  • Tricky to adjust coal shelf height for temperature regulation

Star rating: 4/5

This is a solid barbecue with good build quality, although our main gripe was that it took a bit of time and patience to get it together – there seemed to be lots of fiddly screws and caps that had to be fitted at awkward angles. Serving up to lots of guests can be a hassle, but with this model you can cater for larger garden get-togethers easily.

Inside the barbecue you’ll find a generous amount of cooking space and a handy keep-warm rack, which can be loaded with the items you want to keep just-so before serving. The adjustable chimney meant that smoke could be redirected back into the unit to up that gorgeous barbecue flavour your guests will appreciate – it helps with temperature regulation, too.

Storage on this model was excellent with collapsible side trays, six hooks for accessories and an inbuilt bottle opener that's ideal for thirsty cooks.

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Big Green Egg MiniMax

Big Green Egg MiniMax BBQ

Best charcoal BBQ for small gardens


  • Attractive
  • Versatile
  • Easy to assemble
  • Good safety features
  • Exceptional fuel efficiency


  • Too ferocious for gentle cooking
  • Heavy
  • Temperature monitor may be confusing

Star rating: 4/5

For those looking for something simple, compact and efficient, the Big Green Egg Minimax is an excellent choice. The smallest of the Big Green Eggs, this BBQ is a luxury pick that excels at cooking for smaller groups, and would be ideal for a couple, family, or small gathering.

Sturdily constructed and easy to assemble, our initial concerns about this barbecue's steep price tag were offset by its impressive build quality. Despite being able to reach temperatures of 370°C internally, the heatproof handles stayed cool and the exterior never became dangerously hot. The cast iron vent at the top of the BBQ does get hot, however.

Though only offering a 13-inch diameter grilling area, the Big Green Egg Minimax cooked spatchcock chicken, vegetable skewers, potatoes and lamb cutlets very quickly. The heat generated from this BBQ was too ferocious for gentle cooking, and vigilance will be needed to keep delicate foods from burning.

Read our full Big Green Egg MiniMax charcoal BBQ review.

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Everdure by Heston Blumental Cube portable charcoal BBQ

everdure by Heston Cube charcoal BBQ

Best charcoal BBQ for taking on trips


  • Attractive
  • Compact
  • Easy to pick up and move around
  • Cool-touch handles
  • Deceptively large surface area for cooking


  • Limited space for coal
  • No temperature gauge
  • No lid
  • Exposed to the elements during cooking

Star rating: 4/5

This robust yet lightweight barbecue is an ideal companion for camping trips or beach days. It comes in three colours – stone, graphite and orange – and includes an integrated food storage tray, preparation board, and cool-touch handles on either side.

We found the set-up was simple, but getting the BBQ to light and retain heat was tricky as it doesn't have a lid. Unlike larger models, there's no temperature gauge either, but the exterior stays impressively cool during cooking.

Despite its compact size, we were able to cook decent-sized portions on this model – and our vegetable skewers were nicely charred but unevenly cooked. We also grilled a whole aubergine, which was well blistered and soft, although it took a long time to cook.

Its hefty price tag will be a turn-off for some, but if you have the money to spend, it's a stylish portable barbecue that will serve you well on your travels.

Read our full Everdure by Heston Blumenthal Cube portable charcoal BBQ review.

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Napoleon 22" charcoal kettle grill barbecue

Napoleon 22 charcoal kettle grill BBQ

Best kettle BBQ for user-friendly features


  • 10-year warranty
  • Nifty hook to hang lid on
  • Hinged grill


  • Fiddly to assemble

Star rating: 4/5

This is a simple but well-made BBQ that has an impressively user-friendly design, but is also a reliable all-rounder for anyone wanting to cook outdoors often.

A screwdriver and spanner are included with the nuts and bolts, which we appreciated, along with clear instructions and diagrams in the manuals for its construction. Once fully heated, cooking was a faff-free affair that yielded nicely cooked-through courgettes and potatoes marked with defined grill lines, and evenly charred kebabs packed with flavour.

It's easy to use the direct and indirect heat zones with this model. We were able to keep cooked ingredients warm around the edges of the grill whilst others cooked in the centre, without them becoming overdone. For lid-down cooking or smoking, the temperature dial on the lid is reactive and clear to use. We particularly appreciated the lock-and-release ash collector which means you don't have to fish around to dispose of old coals.

Read our full Napoleon 22" charcoal kettle grill barbecue review.

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VonHaus Compact charcoal barbecue

VonHaus charcoal BBQ

Best charcoal BBQ under £200


  • Adjustable smoke / temperature control
  • Lots of features


  • Small grill area
  • Poorly defined grill lines

Star rating: 4/5

This barbecue is a good choice for anyone wanting a large grilling area on a budget and would be suitable for smaller spaces. You forfeit some build quality for the price. Component parts felt a bit flimsy and construction was a flat-pack affair involving lots of fiddly screws.

Once constructed, you gain nifty features like a bottle opener and two useful side tables for holding lightweight barbecue tools. The height-adjustable firebox offers control you can rarely achieve when cooking over coals and yielded some nicely cooked ingredients.

Read our full Vonhaus Compact Charcoal BBQ review.

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Weber Classic kettle barbecue

Weber Classic Kettle Charcoal Barbecue 57cm

Best kettle BBQ


  • Handy lid lock
  • Good accompanying handbook
  • Well thought-out features


  • Large to store
  • Lacks tool hooks

Star rating: 4/5

With a simple, intuitive design, this kettle barbecue by Weber is an ideal option for anyone wanting good cooking results with minimum effort. The grill is large enough to cook food for a family of six, while features like easy cleaning, ash collection and a lid hook for tucking the hood away as you're turning burgers makes life just a bit easier during use.

The brand is obviously confident about the longevity of its product, covering its bowl and lid with a 10-year warranty, and guaranteeing its other parts for between two and five years. The handbook will fill you with confidence and excitement about using this barbecue.

Read our full Weber Classic Kettle charcoal barbecue review.

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Other charcoal BBQs tried and tested

What to look for when buying a charcoal BBQ

  • Size: Depending on the style, some barbecues can cater for large gatherings and others are best suited to two people. Coal distribution will also affect cooking capacity. For example, sometimes it's easier to distribute your coals and achieve even direct heat in barrel barbecues than in dome-bottomed kettle models
  • Number of cooking grills: Using inserts or shelves to move food away from the main heat (known as indirect cooking) is for more delicate dishes. The closing of the hood helps the food to cook evenly without too much fuss so lessens all the turning and moving, and means you are free to socialise
  • Adjustable air vents: These will feed your coals with air and allow you to change the cooking temperature beneath a cooking hood.
  • Heat thermometers: Not a standard feature on many models, but particularly handy if you're cooking meat joints and wanting to reliably achieve the same cooking results over and over.
  • Portability: If you're hoping to take your grill on the go, look for a model that's lightweight and easy to transport.

How to choose the best BBQ

Once you've decided which barbecue to buy, the style will depend on how many people you want to cook for, what you want to do with it, the space you have, budget and how often you will use it.

  • Basic grill BBQ: For simple straightforward cooking, this style of barbecue – which comes without a hood or air vents – will do a good job. However, you have to stay by it, learn how to use barbecue coals to create various heat zones around the grill, and regularly turn and move the food for even and safe cooking
  • American-style grills or domed kettles: These barbecues are more versatile. By using the hood and air vents, heat can go from hot and fast for cooking over the coals (known as direct cooking), to long and slow for smoking or cooking large joints of meat or whole fish. Some barbecues have vents that can be adjusted to feed the coals with air
  • Kamado grill: 'Kamado' comes from the Japanese for the wood or charcoal-fired earthen vessels used as an oven but now is a general term for ceramic grills. The distinctive egg shape and thick, heavy ceramic lining make these incredibly versatile and precise for grilling, roasting, baking and smoking using both direct and indirect heat. They could be a little advanced for the beginner but for the serious grill chef they are a wonderful and exciting piece of equipment.
Best charcoal BBQs food

Charcoal barbecue fuel and lighting

Our burning desire for eating outdoors is raising questions around deforestation and where the charcoal is from. Look for the FSC logo of the Forest Stewardship Council, the world certification scheme of wood products on the pack to ensuring properly managed forests for your charcoal.

  • Choose your charcoal carefully. It is possible to buy sustainable charcoal which generally will be more expensive. However, you should need less of it because it burns more slowly, and gives out better heat, which will offset some of that cost
  • Briquettes and self-lighting charcoal contain chemicals and give off strong odours that will impact on the flavour of your food
  • Never use petrol, chemicals or firelighters intended for coal fires to light your barbecue and never ever use in a ceramic grill. Look for natural firelighters now widely available.

How we tested charcoal barbecues

We tested each model's every function (including smoker, pizza oven, tandoori, fire pit) under control-conditions in order to find the best of the bunch. Read more about how our experts test products. The following are available widely at major supermarkets.

Coals were stacked and lit in order to achieve direct heat and left until they were white hot with glowing red centres. The same key ingredients were also used during each core test.

  • Un-oiled courgette slices: To test the non-stick ability of grills and assess its grid-cooking capabilities
  • Potato slices: Can the BBQ soften and seal the potato before the outside burns?
  • Whole aubergine: We recorded how long it took to grill whole aubergines until soft all over and the skin was blistered
  • Vegetable kebabs: These were laid flat across the grills. We checked for defined grill lines, even cooking, sticking and hot spots
  • White burger buns: Popping these on the grill is an easy way to warm and toast them with defined grill lines
  • Steak: Steak is an excellent indicator of heat intensity and the non-stick quality of grill bars to sear meat without it sticking
  • Spatchcock chicken: For lidded BBQs, we tested the model's ability to retain heat and keep the coals going with the lid on. This was a separate test requiring a new set of coals. A digital meat thermometer was used to check that the meat was safely cooked inside.
Best charcoal BBQs food

What we looked for when testing charcoal barbecues

Each model was scored against the same core criteria:

  • Ease of use: We asked whether each model is intuitive to use and suitable for people with varying BBQ experience. We also measured how long each charcoal BBQ took to assemble and how straightforward this was to do, if at all. Some of the BBQs also required tools for assembly, so we awarded extra points to those that came with tools provided
  • Ease of cleaning: Is the model easy to clean? Are there manufacturer's guidelines provided to help with cleaning?
  • Cooking results: We considered evenness, taste, texture and succulence of the cooked food during testing
  • Value for money: We thought about whether the charcoal BBQ was worth its price tag
  • Quality of materials: Does the barbecue have a robust exterior and feel like it's built to last? Does it use quality, well made materials that look attractive?

How to clean a charcoal BBQ

You can usually expect some mess when cooking on charcoal, but keeping your barbecue clean after use will help it stay in good condition – and potentially lengthen its lifespan.

After the coals have cooled completely, try to do the following:

  • Scrape the grates clean with a wire brush and remove any ash from the bottom of the grill
  • Clean the inside of the grill and the lid with warm, soapy water and a sponge. If the grates are particularly dirty, soak them for a few hours before scrubbing clean
  • Check the vents and remove any debris that may have built up over time
  • Store your charcoal BBQ in a dry place, protected from the elements – many brands sell a cover

How to extinguish a charcoal BBQ

  • If the barbecue has vents, close them: This will cut off the oxygen supply to the coals, so they start to cool down. You'll want to let the coals cool for several hours before attempting to take them out.
  • Dispose of the ashes: Once the coals have cooled completely, use a shovel (ideally a metal one) – to scoop them into a container. Never dispose of hot ashes in a plastic or paper container, as they can easily ignite.
  • Soak the coals: To make sure the coals are extinguished, you can also pour water over them – be sure to use lots of water so you've completely saturated them.
  • Check for remaining embers: If you see any glowing embers, repeat the soaking process until they're fully extinguished.

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Barbecue recipes

From chicken and fish to vegetarian ideas, side dishes and healthy BBQ feasts, visit our barbecue recipe hub.

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