There is undoubtedly something very special about charcoal-grilled food. Meat, poultry, game, vegetables—all of these natural flavors only become richer after a good charcoal grilling. And while affordability might be the reason why so many people go for charcoal instead of gas, it is the distinct smokey taste and juicy texture found in food prepared on charcoal grills that draw in so many BBQ enthusiasts.
But out of such a wide selection of charcoal grills that the current market of outdoor equipment has to offer, it may be hard to decide which one to go for, especially for those who have a limited budget. Thankfully, most trusted top-tier manufacturers offer charcoal grills just under $200, all without cutting down their quality.
What to Look for in a Charcoal Grill?
There are plenty of cheap off-brand charcoal grills out there, and while they can sure last you through a season or two, it may be smarter to invest in a more quality grill that goes for anything in the upper tier of under $200.
But how to choose between your kettle-style grills, cart-style grills, combos and Kamados? As with any other cooking appliance, it all depends on the way you plan to use your grill. This includes the frequency of usage, the environment you primarily want to cook in, the number of people you plan to serve most of the time, and, of course, the available space in your backyard, patio, or deck.
- Smaller, more portable grills generally take the shape of kettles, though they too can be large enough to feed half a campsite. These grills are viewed as more traditional, easy to transport, install, and clean. These feature detachable charcoal pans underneath the firebox, tall lids (often porcelain-coated), and a set of air vents.
- Larger cart-style grills are generally more party-appropriate, featuring extended cooking surfaces, built-in smokers, and side tables. Though these may take more space, they also come with more compact designs and caster wheels, so you can pack them for car camping or tailgating as well, though it may require reassembly on site.
- Combo grills and Kamado-style grills are somewhat fancier choices, but they can deliver just as well as traditional charcoal grills. Combos may not be the favorite of charcoal grill purists, but they sure will serve just fine for those who enjoy a variety in their menu.
List of Top-Rated Charcoal Grills Under $200
|Weber 14401001||Kettle||363 sq. in.||View on Amazon|
|Royal Gourmet CC1830S||Cart||800 sq. in.||View on Amazon|
|Cuisinart CCG-190RB||Kettle||150 sq. in.||View on Amazon|
|Char-Griller E06614||Kamado||153 sq. in.||View on Amazon|
|Char-Griller E1515||Cart||250 sq. in.||View on Amazon|
|Royal Gourmet CC1830F||Cart||800 sq. in.||View on Amazon|
|Blackstone 1819||Combo cart||519 sq. in.||View on Amazon|
Review of the Best Charcoal Grills Under $200
As its name suggests, Weber Original Kettle Premium is a landmark of tradition and quality that would satisfy all charcoal grill lovers. This classic apple-shaped charcoal grill offers a balanced combination of smart design and increased functionality with the emphasis on both portable dimensions and roominess of the cooktop.
Measuring around 22.5 inches in width, this roomy Weber grill provides an impressive cooktop for a model of its class, reaching 363 square inches in total. At maximum capacity, the grates are able to fit up to 13 extra-large burgers simultaneously.
The efficiency of this grill is further reinforced by its heat control system that allows you to adjust temperatures during grilling through the position of the dampers. Moreover, the hinged design of the plated steel grate allows you to handle charcoals while you cook, adding to the overall performance.
The actual fuel grate that holds charcoal is made to take on substantial heat, allowing you to expand your cooking techniques and even prepare meals via indirect grilling. Featuring a tall lid, the firebox creates ideal conditions inside the chamber which is especially important for smoking your foods.
With its anti-rust porcelain-coated protective layer, the firebox is able to endure high temperatures for long periods of time, so the grill’s beautiful obsidian paint won’t flake easily. It is also extremely easy to clean the bowl of the grill thanks to the one-touch cleaning system that allows you to empty the charcoal pan without difficulty.
In addition to utensil hooks for your cookware, the grill provides a special cook for the firebox lid, allowing you to keep it on the side of the grill instead of putting it on the ground. The lid’s handle is also insulated to avoid accidental heat-related injuries.
The entire unit is mounted on three legs, two of which feature portable caster wheels to make any form of transportation less taxing. Connecting the legs is a grated bottom shelf designed to provide balance but it can also be used for storage.
- 363 square inch cooking surface
- 39.5” x 22.5” x 27”
- 7.5” porcelain-coated lid
- 32.3 pounds in weight
- Large enough to grill 13 burgers in one go
- Features adjustable air vents
- Neat utensil hooks on the side
- Compact and portable
- Durable wheels and frame
Royal Gourmet CC1830S
This traditional smoker grill combo from Royal Gourmet will make for an ideal backyard or camping cooking station, especially for larger gatherings. Powered by charcoal and reinforced with durable materials, the CC1830S offers an extra-large cooking area as well as a neat built-in smoker section.
A dual-style barbecue grill with an ample cooking surface area and flexible design, this charcoal Royal Gourmet makes for a fine addition to any backyard, porch, patio, or campsite. Equipped with two convenient wheels, the entire unit is made easier to move from site to site despite its formidable party-friendly dimensions.
Measuring 800 square inches in total, the cooking surface dedicates 438 square inches to the main grate area, 179 square inches to the extra swing-a-way rack designed for warming, and 183 square inches to the offset smoker located on the left side of the grill though it can be used as an additional grilling surface.
Thanks to its easily removable pan, the grill allows for faster and hassle-free cleaning after each cooking session—you can simply take out the pan and get rid of the accumulated charcoal ash in a few simple steps. You can also exercise better control over your cooking temperatures by adjusting the charcoal pan while grilling.
Charcoal is also the recommended fuel for the side smoker, either in the form of lumps or briquette charcoal dust. It can take any type of wood chips or pellets for smoking as well.
All main grates have gone through the additional process of porcelain coating, so you can be sure all food particles are easy to clean after every meal. The black-coated grill can take on temperatures as high as 400 degrees Fahrenheit, lasting much longer than models with a regular protective coating.
Other functional improvements include the lid thermometer, side-door for charcoal adjustment and air-vent, smokestack, heat-resistant handle, bottom storage shelf, and utensil hooks. The unit needs to be assembled, though it is extremely easy to do even on your own.
- 800 square inches of cooking area
- 183-square inch warming rack
- 55.1” x 27.2” x 48.4”
- 54.2 pounds net weight
- Great for large households and camping parties
- Combo design expands cooking options
- Extended surface area for cooking and prep
- Handle feature protective coils to prevent scalding
- Wheels ensure easy transportation
One of the leading manufacturers of cookware and cooking equipment, Cuisinart delivers products with durable construction and smart design all at affordable prices. The CCG-190RB charcoal grill is no exception but rather a clear illustration of the company’s adherence to high quality, combining exceptional portability with consistent performance.
This portable charcoal grill measures only 14.5 inches in diameter and stands at 15 inches tall, making it a perfect choice for road trips, car camping, and even hiking. Since it weighs just around 2 pounds, it can be transported with ease in a backpacking bag or trunk and installed with ease on almost any more or less even surface.
Though the grill is made to be as compact as possible, it still offers an impressive 150 square inches of cooking surface able to grill various meats, burgers, and veggies for your entire family or even camping or tailgating party.
The chrome-plated grate distributes heat evenly for every corner of the rack, not to mention it is incredibly sturdy and easy to maintain. The firebox itself comes with an extra layer of protective enamel for improved heat resistance.
In addition, the grill features a system of double air vents that allows for more precise heat adjustment during cooking. There is also the convenience of the removable pan that collects ash as well as the protective locks located on the lid to enhance security measuring during the moving of the grill or its installation.
- 150 square inches of cooktop
- 14.5” x 14.5” x 15”
- 2 pounds
- 3 lid locks
- 2 vents
- Classic red design and sizeable cooktop
- Porcelain-coated lid and firebox
- Easy to move and clean
- Four sturdy legs provide stability
- Bottom shelf for storage
Known for its wide range of appliance designs, Char-Griller lives up to its reputation with this unique Kamado-style charcoal grill. Though it takes the appearance of a traditional ceramic grill, the E06614 is in fact a steel charcoal grill with improved insulation and temperature maintenance.
One of the main benefits of this steel grill is its lightweight construction and certain material endurance. Not only is it lighter in weight and more affordable than ceramic grills, but it also attains similar high temperatures with less fuel input.
This level of heat conservation that equals those found in ceramic grills is made possible by the triple-wall steel insulation of this sturdy yet mobile model. It also features two flexible air dampers: one at the top and one at the bottom, both of which allow you to control the heat intensity when you grill.
Thanks to the intricate adjustability of its dampers, the grill can produce a number of open and closed combinations which determine the cooking conditions and, depending on the damper position, allow you to smoke food, grill tender white meat, ribs, and burgers, properly cook poultry, roast red meat like pork or beef, and even sear juicy stakes.
Another great addition is the grill’s ash collection tray meant to make routine cleaning faster and less messy. The egg-shaped grill also comes with two handles for portability and a neat hinged lid that locks and lets you adjust the fuel mid-grilling. A thermometer has also been added to the top of the lid for easier monitoring of inside temperatures.
- 153-square inch cast-iron cooktop
- 20.5” x 21.5” x 25.3”
- 37 pounds in weight
- 2 air dampers
- Kamado-style deep-red exterior
- Features cast-iron grates
- Smaller dimensions suit on-the-go type of cooking
- Works for camping and tailgating
- Can be set up almost anywhere
A more classic take on backyard BBQ sets from Char-Griller, the E1515 Patio Pro provides ultimate charcoal grilling experience at more affordable rates without compromising the longevity or quality of materials.
Made to be both extremely portable and accommodating in terms of cooking capacity, this patio grill takes up a minimal amount of space in relation to its grate size which is ideal for small backyards, porches, balconies, and car trunks.
The cooktop amounts to 250 square inches of available grilling space elevated on 44-inch tall legs that feature two wheels for better mobility. The grates are made of cast iron and prove to be strong and incredibly heat-resistant, while the rest of the grill’s reinforced steel bottom ensures the heat is well-maintained and even throughout the cooking process.
On the left side, you will find a compact wooden prep table, and on the right side of the firebox, there is an easily accessible charcoal drawer for enhanced fuel control. Moreover, the built-in air vents allow you to decide the heat intensity throughout, while the charcoal pan can be taken out with ease and emptied after each session.
Though this grill is practically made for smaller spaces, it can still take on a whole turkey for a round of smoking or grill burgers for the entire family in one go. In addition to the lid’s tall design, its handle is made of wood to prevent any burns, allowing you to check on meat readiness anytime.
- 250 square inches of cooktop
- 1 side table
- 31” x 21” x 44”
- 50 pounds in weight
- Portable and compact yet suitable for large parties
- Tall firebox with a side shelf
- Two durable wheels
- Storage shelf underneath the firebox
Royal Gourmet CC1830F
In many ways similar to the previously overviewed Royal Gourmet dual grill, the CC1830F offers more cooking options by adding an offset smoker and expanding the main cooking surface with the extra warming rack, amounting to 800 square inches of grilling space in total.
This generously sized grill gives you plenty of space for cooking, including its 438-square inch main grate, 179-square inch foldable warming shelf, and 183 square inches worth of space on the side smoker. Main area and smoker grates are made from porcelain-coated steel of ¼-inch thickness, and the warming rack features a layer of chrome to increase rust-repellent qualities.
What separates this model, however, is the absence of a side table but the convenient addition of a dual-level tray for charcoal that allows you to set the desired height at which the fuel sits in order to control the heat strength with more precision.
Another feature that lets you adjust the heat is the built-in air vent that controls the allowance and restriction of airflow between the firebox and the outdoors. By setting up the dampers at different settings, you will be able to create ideal conditions for different types of foods.
The large charcoal tray that can fit up to 5 pounds of fuel and the main grate are both covered by the dome-like lid with a touch-safe spring handle and outer heat gauge which lets you check the inside temperatures without losing heat or smoke.
And of course, connected to the main grill is the side smoker with plenty of space on its dedicated grate and its own trays for charcoal and wood chips. The grill is also equipped with two wheels and a strong mesh bottom rack made from steel which you can use for storing utensils and cookware.
- 800 square inches of workable grilling or smoking area
- 1 offset smoker
- 45.3” x 26.8” x 48”
- 57 pounds in weight
- Firebox features side door for faster fuel adjustment
- Tall lid and extra large anti-rust grates
- Separate smoker
- Serves large crowds
- Superior fuel control
Known for manufacturing high-quality gas griddle stations, Blackstone also doesn’t shy away from combo grills with different power sources. The Blackstone 1819 unites a classic burner griddle surface that operates on propane with a charcoal-powered grill grate, allowing you to go for various cooking techniques at the same time.
This dual combo BBQ station is a perfect solution for those who enjoy grilled and griddled foods in equal measure and would prefer to be able to cook both kinds in their own backyard. Made from durable powder-coated black steel, the unit is large enough to accommodate an entire party without infringing on the space of your patio or deck.
The grill section operates on charcoal and measures 16 inches by 15.75 inches, amounting to around 252 square inches of grated cooking surface which is enough to fit plenty of burgers and veggies in a single go. On the side of this section you will see a quick-access side door for charcoal adjustment for a more detailed heat control during grilling.
As for the griddle section, the surface is traditionally made of cold-rolled steel which, with the right amount of seasoning, wonderfully enhances the flavor of each meal. The griddle is 17 inches long and 15.7 inches wide, giving you roughly 267 square inches in total. Equipped with a single stainless steel burner, the griddle is fueled by propane and can be adjusted with the heat control knob located on the front panel.
Though there is no lid that would form a classically-shaped firebox, the combo grill produces enough heat power to cook any type of food thoroughly and efficiently. In addition to such useful enhancements as rear grease management system, utensil hooks, and a bottom storage shelf, this Blackstone features two wheels that improve its portability, so you can transport the entire assembly with ease.
- 50.5” x 21.2” x 35.8” total dimensions
- 519 square inches of cooking area
- 2 grill surfaces
- 1 gas burner
- 82 pounds
- Steel frame and stainless steel elements
- Side shelf for prep or storage
- Bottom shelf fits propane tanks and cookware
- Easy access to charcoal pan
- Cleans easily from grease and debris
What is the best charcoal grill for the money?
Depending on what shape and size you look for in your charcoal grill, the best choice will vary with the circumstances. If you are after a traditional kettle-shaped grill, then your best bet would be a Weber, for example Weber 1401001.
Portable grills for camping are generally pretty uniform, so you can choose freely between any Cuisinart or Char-Griller, such as Cuisinart CCG-190RB. As for larger grills, then you are sure to find what you look for in a charcoal grill line from Royal Gourmet, particularly models with offset smokers like Royal Gourmant CC1830S.
How to use air vents on a charcoal grill?
Charcoal grills operate through two types of vents: an intake vent and an exhaust vent. The intake vent is designed to draw oxygen in order to feed the fire, while the exhaust vent gets rid of combustion gases through what is called draft and allows the intake vent to provide oxygen. The exhaust damper needs to be opened at all times to some degree in order to vent out the gases.
The intake vent is typically located on the top of the grill’s lid and it’s this vent that needs to be regulated for more precise heat control. By doing this, you will reach different temperature levels required for cooking various types of meats and vegetables.
|Vent position||Temperature||Type of cooking|
|¼ open||250-350°F||Low heat grilling|
(ribs, burgers, chicken tender)
|½ open||350-450°F||Medium heat grilling (pork, beef)|
|Fully open||450-550°F||Deep searing|
Are charcoal grills better?
Charcoal grills are generally more portable than gas grills. Charcoal burns hotter than gas. Since you can’t dial down the heat, you can leave areas without briquettes to control the temperature. Many people also prefer the smoke flavor a charcoal grill provides.
Though gas grills can be easier to deal with in terms of maintenance, charcoal grills are much more affordable and efficient when it comes to heat output. They are also easier to move which is vital for car camping and backpacking.
As a fuel, charcoal not only gives more heat than gas but also provides better control over heat distribution since you can arrange charcoal lumps however you please. Charcoal also imbues food with richer flavors, smokey and deep, which is the main prerogative of so many BBQ lovers.