How much should I pay for a charcoal grill? Experts advise

Kamado Joe Konnected Joe Digital Charcoal Grill
(Image credit: Future / Dan Fauzi)

While a gas grill offers a quick and convenient way to barbecue food, a charcoal grill has a unique smoked flavor that is hard to replicate. Because charcoal burns hotter than gas, it also means that you can flash-sear food quickly, or slow cook large cuts for hours until meat is deliciously tender.

These are just some of the reasons why this type of grill is the best grill for authentic barbecued foods, but how much should you pay for a charcoal grill?

We've seen basic freestanding units for as little as $19.97 but you can easily spend up to $500 - or if you've got a spare $17,000 you could get your hands on the "Rolls Royce of grills": the dual-fuel Kalamazoo Hybrid Fire Grill!

To help you understand how much a new charcoal grill should set you back, we've called in the professionals, kitchen appliance experts Ryan Fitzgerald and Jim Gray. So whether you like the sound of a kettle, barrel or ceramic charcoal grill, read on to find out about the average cost of each.

How much should I pay for a new charcoal grill?

Kitchen appliance expert Ryan Fitzgerald, who is also a real estate entrepreneur who stages houses with high end grills, told Top Ten Reviews: "The main type of charcoal grills are kettles, barrels and kamado-style ceramic cookers. 

"Kettles, like the classic Weber, provide versatility with their lid and adjustable vents but can run hot and cold in spots. Barrels excel for low-and-slow cooking with their extra thick insulation keeping temperatures steady. 

"Ceramics like my Big Green Egg are my personal favorite - the egg shape and heat retention makes them almost like outdoor ovens.

"As for price, you can find a basic kettle for $150 or so, while most cart-style barrels fall in the $250-$500 range. Of course a ceramic kamado will set you back $700 minimum on up to $1,500 for higher-end models - all worth it in my opinion if you do a lot of cooking for events."

1. Kettle charcoal grill

Kettles are the most versatile type of charcoal grill, and are ideal for creating a hot sear for grilling steaks and burgers as well as making slow smoking ribs. They're also lightweight so they're easier to transport than other types of charcoal grill.

Image of Ryan Fitzgerald
Ryan Fitzgerald

Ryan Fitzgerald is a kitchen appliances expert, real estate entrepreneur and owner of Raleigh Realty. He has helped hundreds of clients to source grills for their outdoor entertaining needs. He is also used to home staging with high end grills. 

The downside is kettles tend to have a smaller cooking area compared with a barrel grill, so they are best suited to smaller households, says Ryan. "Kettles are affordable and let you switch between direct and indirect cooking easily, but can be tricky to control temperatures precisely."

The price range for a kettle charcoal grill is $55 to $250.

2. Barrel charcoal grill

Barrel grills are usually larger so provide more space for indirect cooking and smoking big cuts of meat. "Their horizontal design can result in hot and cool zones, though," said kitchen appliances expert Jim Tray.

They are also more difficult to transport because of their size and may require more charcoal just to create enough heat to cook. It's also more difficult to control the temperature in a barrel.

The price range for a barrel grill is from $59 (for a portable one) to $700.

Ryan told Top Ten Reviews: "Barrels deliver phenomenal smoked flavors but require some finesse to use."

Jim recommends buying a barrel grill if you have a large household or do a lot of hosting. He said: "Bigger families may prefer the spacious grilling area of a barrel grill. You'll also use more charcoal per cookout with a larger grill.

"Think about family size when choosing a charcoal grill. Consider if you'll be cooking for just yourself or entertaining crowds."

Image of kitchen appliances expert Jim Tray
Jim Gray

Jim Gray is a kitchen appliances expert and professional coach who is also a huge cooking enthusiast, particularly for grilling! 

3. Ceramic charcoal grill

A ceramic grill is a dome-shaped barbecue that has an interior ceramic shell. The insulation provided by the thick ceramic walls makes them incredibly efficient at holding high or low temperatures for hours. Ceramic grills retain heat so they offer precision cooking. Plus, they use less charcoal so you can save costs there. 

But they are also much heavier and more expensive than a kettle or barrel grill, and they cook differently because of the heat radiating from the ceramic material. This can mean that the food lacks some of the smokey flavor you would expect from a traditional charcoal grill.

But ceramic kettle grills are good for creating a more controlled cooking process for people new to this way of cooking. "Ceramics, though making everything from pizza to pork to perfection, are quite an investment of funds and counter space," advises Ryan.

The price range for a ceramic grill is from $125 (for a portable one) to $2,500.

Napoleon NK14 Portable Charcoal Kettle Grill being tested in writer's home

Napoleon NK14 Portable Charcoal Kettle Grill being tested in writer's home (Image credit: Future)

Is it worth spending more on extra features?

You might be wondering, is it worth buying an expensive charcoal grill? As with most things, you tend to get what you pay for and investing in a premium brand like Napoleon or Weber and you get a higher quality product.

These more expensive grills tend to be made from durable metals such as cast iron and stainless steel, which can handle high temperatures better than cheaper materials.

Kitchen appliances specialist Jim Gray says: "Cheap grills under $100 might be tempting, but typically have thin metal that dents easily and rusts quickly. Spending a bit more on a name brand ensures your grill will last for family gatherings and neighborhood block parties for years. Reliable temperature control prevents charred food, too!"

Charcoal grills in the higher price bracket also tend to have advanced features, including precise temperature control, infrared burners and several cooking zones. They also distribute heat more evenly which can result in better searing and fast cook times.

Well-known brands often come with better warranty support and customer service to give you peace of mind if anything goes wrong.

Whether an expensive barbecue grill is worth the money depends on your specific needs, preferences and budget. If you value durability, performance, and cooking quality, investing in a high-end grill may be worth it for you. But if you don't grill that often or have budget constraints, finding a more affordable grill will be a better option.

Maddy Biddulph

Maddy has been a writer and editor for 25 years, and has worked for some of the UK's bestselling newspapers and women’s magazines, including Marie Claire, The Sunday Times and Women's Health. Maddy is also a fully qualified Level 3 Personal Trainer, specializing in helping busy women over 40 navigate menopause.