No matter where you are in the world, as soon as the sun comes out, it's hard to beat cooking outdoors on an open flame. Buying a barbecue for the first time can be daunting. Fancy electric or gas grills can cost the earth, while traditional coal barbecues range from rickety but fit-for-purpose budget grills, to enamelled kettle barbecues that wouldn’t look out of place on a Texan range. We love the primal process of creating fire ourselves, so we whittled down our testing group to charcoal barbecues only. Read our full list of the best charcoal barbecues to buy.


Which barbecue should I buy?

The most important things to consider are how many people you’ll be cooking for, how much storage space you have, especially once you’ve factored in bags of charcoal and other barbecue accessories (some barbecues come with very handy protective storage cases, too), plus where and when you’ll be barbecuing. For a lot of people, small portable barbecues work for trips away, but they're also a perfectly acceptable garden barbecue for couples, families with young children – or just people who don’t mind cooking in batches. It’s also worth being realistic about how often you’ll use a barbecue. If you’re likely to only dust it off once or twice a year, an expensive gas grill with a huge footprint probably isn’t worth it. Read on to discover our top buys. For over 400 buyer's guides, visit our reviews section and find reviews of portable, gas and charcoal barbecues and much more.

Best budget charcoal barbecues at a glance

  • Best overall budget barbecue: Weber compact 47 charcoal barbecue, £99
  • Best smoker barbecue hybrid: Bar-Be-Quick smoker and grill barbecue, £74.99
  • Best budget barrel barbecue: Argos Home charcoal oil drum barbecue, £60
  • Best large charcoal barbecue: Lifestyle 22" kettle charcoal barbecue, £79
  • Best basic charcoal barbecue: VonHaus Barrel charcoal barbecue, £78.49
  • Best multi-functional barbecue: Bar-Be-Quick Tandoori Smoker and Grill, £75

The best budget charcoal barbecues under £100

Weber compact 47 charcoal barbecue

Best overall budget barbecue


This porcelain-enamelled, dinky version of their heftier grills is rust-proof, comes with an ash catcher and is perfect for small gardens. If you’re in the market for a serious barbecue arsenal, Weber’s chimney starter kit is well worth looking into. It’ll get your charcoal ready in quick-time and we found it ridiculously helpful when testing 15 barbies on a drizzly day in spring.

Bar-Be-Quick smoker and grill barbecue


Best smoker barbecue hybrid

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We were super impressed by the fact this unassuming cylindrical contraption features four cooking functions. Speaking purely on barbecue terms, there are two tiers and the bottom one can be turned into a lidded portable barbecue. It’s not as sturdy as a traditional smoker, but it can retain a constant heat for up to three hours, so you could smoke whole chickens or pork ribs with ease.

Argos Home charcoal oil drum barbecue

Argos Home Charcoal Oil Drum BBQ with Warming Rack, £40

Best budget barrel barbecue


  • Easy to use and light
  • Good heat coverage
  • Effective heat distribution


  • No tool storage
  • Poor quality in parts

Star rating: 4/5

Compared to other charcoal barbecues on the market, Argos' basic barrel barbecue offers excellent value for money. An obvious strength is the price point. For under £50 you're afforded plenty of cooking space for two, or elements for four people. The efficiency and quality of cooking is worth more than £40 alone.

Vents in the bottom basin feed the coals with air to keep them heated. The shape of the barbecue means it's easy to achieve an even coal distribution so cool spots that are common in kettle barbecues are easily avoided. For the money, you can't get much better.

Read our full Argos Home charcoal oil drum barbecue review

Available from:
Argos (£60)

Lifestyle 22" kettle charcoal barbecue

Lifestyle 22inch kettle charcoal BBQ

Best large charcoal barbecue


  • Large cooking area
  • Adjustable twin air-vent system


  • Ambiguous building instructions
  • Cheap-feeling handles

Star rating: 3.5/5

If you don't mind interpreting diagram-based instructions with no text and have a set of basic tools in your cupboard, you'll feel rewarded by this barbecue once built. It's a cheap but cheerful model that's lightweight to lift and manoeuvrable thanks to its wheel. It will need to be under cover for wetter months.

Some useful features make it feel like a value-for-money purchase, the first of which being two cooking grills. They don't produce the char lines you look for from grills, and ingredients need to be oiled to prevent them from sticking, but you have the option to cook with high heat just above the coals, or lower and slower at the top.

An adjustable twin air-vent system gives you adjustability over the temperature with the lid on, which cooks ingredients the most efficiently. A removable ash-catcher is another user-friendly feature.

Read our full Lifestyle 22" Kettle charcoal barbecue review

VonHaus Barrel charcoal barbecue

Vonhaus charcoal BBQ

Best basic charcoal BBQ


  • Good build quality
  • Big cooking surface
  • Good height


  • Poor-quality wheels

Star rating: 4/5

An excellent example of the way barrel barbecues should look and work, Vonhaus' basic model has the archetypal style without compromising on capacity.

You can cook for a crowd thanks to a 73cm x 39cm grill. Under its fold-down lid, potato chips cooked exceptionally well with defined charring. Courgettes didn't stick and a whole spatchcock chicken cooked through in less than half an hour.

It's a bit tricky to clean, although that isn't unusual for barrels. It also lacks tools, which is a minor issue.

Read our Vonhaus Barrel charcoal barbecue review

Available from:
VonHaus (£78.49)
Amazon (£78.49)

Bar-Be-Quick Tandoori Smoker and Grill

Bar-be-Quick Tandoori Smoker and grill

Best multi-functional barbecue


  • Versatile
  • Skewers included


  • Poor heat retention

Star rating: 3.5/5

This is a brilliant option for anyone who is looking for an entry-level to low and slow outdoor cooking, offering a standard BBQ grill along with a 'tandoori' attachment, smoker and fire-pit functions.

For the price, you trade off some build quality. The 'tandoori' function overstates the product's ability - for example, you're not able to blister naan breads on the side. But for anyone who wants an affordable multi-functional and portable barbecue, this is a great price.

Read our full Bar-Be-Quick Tandoori Smoker and Grill review

Available from:
Argos (£85)


How we tested budget barbecues

We tested a representative sample of barbecues and scored them against the following criteria. We tested each barbecue using an identical batch of popular BBQ food like burgers, chicken, sausages and halloumi & vegetable kebabs.

Ease of assembly: barbecues have to be put together from scratch, so we assessed for easy instructions. Clear manuals, minimal nuts and bolts and a logical construction process were judged favourably.

Manoeuvrability: unless you live in a balmy climate, you’ll have to move your barbecue in and out of indoor storage. Wheels and handles help in this respect.

Footprint: we looked for barbecues with neat shapes that can be slotted into a small storage space.

Ease of cooking: we judged the size and height of the grill and temperature control – food that’s charred outside but raw inside is the ultimate culinary no-no.

What didn’t set us alight?

Barbecues with poor air circulation. For coals to burn efficiently you need good ventilation from underneath, so any barbecues with coals laid on a flat surface don’t tend to work as well.

Design over practicality. Some gimmicky table barbecues or mini bucket barbies might look cool, but if you can’t fit more than a couple of sausages on, what’s the point?

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This review was last updated in August 2020. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at


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