Devon Ferguson
Published by Devon Ferguson
Last Updated On: January 23, 2023

As a 10+ year carnivore dieter who loves grilling and smoking meat on charcoal grills, I took it upon myself to try the different charcoal grill brands out there to see if they fit the $500 bill without compromising the quality.

After years of trial and error, I've finally curated a list of the six best charcoal grills under $500 that offer excellent features and top-notch grilling performance.

Let's get into it.

6 Best Charcoal Grills Under $500

1

1 - Weber Performer Charcoal Grill 22"

Weber Performer Charcoal Grill 22

With its assortment of features, this charcoal grill is the ideal choice for anyone seeking a barbecue grill that can do it all.

The Weber Performer charcoal grill has 363 square inches of cooking area and employs the classic kettle grill design with a 22" cooking grate.

I was able to cook enough food to feed six friends comfortably and grilled up to 18 hamburgers on this cooking surface.

A range of culinary possibilities, easy access to charcoal, and convenient grilling are all made possible by the Weber Gourmet BBQ System (GBS).

Another favorite feature of mine is an easy "touch-and-go" electrical and gas lighting system that allows you to avoid directly touching dirty lump coals. Plus, the coals heat up pretty fast in less than 5 minutes.

I love the heat-resistant work surface with metal paint located to the right of this Weber Performer grill. I used this for meal preparation, serving as a shelf for my sauces and seasonings.

Pros
  • Touch N Go gas ignition system
  • Gourmet BBQ system
  • Removable backlit LCD timer
  • Efficient heat distribution
Cons
  • The lid lacks a stainless steel hinge
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Quick Facts:

  • Total cooking space : 363 square inches
  • Dimensions : 29 x 42 x 43.5 inches
  • Max temperature : 700 degrees
  • Material : Steel
2

2 - Char-Griller E1515 Patio Pro Charcoal Grill

Char-Griller E1515 Patio Pro Charcoal Grill

This compact charcoal grill under $500 has a 250-square-inch primary cooking space– I comfortably grilled six 4-in burgers at once.

A connected side table offers additional storage for cooking equipment and spices. It also has a heat-resistant handle and dependable temperature control for heat retention and convenience.

A hinged door is a nice feature since it eliminates the need to place your cover on the ground when cooking. Because of its compact size, I used less charcoal, which also minimized the time to start the fire.

It also comes with an easily removable ash pan: take out the ashtray and empty it.

However, because Char-Griller E1515 Patio Pro charcoal grill lacks a thermometer, gauging your cooking temperature is quite challenging.

Pros
  • Easy to move
  • Durable steel exterior
  • Easy ash cleanout
Cons
  • The side table is composed of cheap wood
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Quick Facts:

  • Total cooking space : 250 square inches
  • Dimensions : 31 x 21 x 44 inches
  • Max temperature : 550 degrees
  • Material : Alloy steel
3

3 - Royal Gourmet CC1830S 30" BBQ Charcoal Grill

Royal Gourmet CC1830S 30 BBQ Charcoal Grill

My third-best charcoal grill features a grill with an offset smoker, allowing you to cook and smoke meats simultaneously.

As one of the best charcoal grills under $500, this appliance has a massive 811 square inches of cooking spread across the porcelain-coated wire grates (443 square inches), chrome-plated warming rack (184 square inches), and an offset smoker (184 square inches).

It also has porcelain enameled cooking grates that lock in meat juices for extra flavor.

And if you want to achieve more woody flavor with this grill, I recommend using briquettes or lump charcoal as fuel, with a tiny amount of wood chips.

The cool-touch spring handles are safe to hold and shield your hand from extreme temperatures.

The grill's front and side shelves have plenty of room for your spices and cooking equipment. And the bottom shelf gives you additional storage space as well.

Thanks to the two integrated wheels, I could frequently change my backyard grilling station because it's pretty easy to move.

Even though Royal Gourmet CC1830S 30'' BBQ charcoal grill features a smoker, it's a bummer that the smoker is small, and you can't smoke large meat cuts. Also, because of the size, cleaning the smoker is tough.

Pros
  • Large warming rack surface
  • Includes a smoker
  • Adjustable charcoal trays
Cons
  • Flimsy construction
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Quick Facts:

  • Total cooking space : 811 square inches
  • Dimensions : 53.39 x 27.95 x 48.82 inches
  • Max temperature : 400 degrees
  • Material : Steel, Porcelain-enameled
4

4 - Masterbuilt MB20040220 Gravity Series 560

Masterbuilt MB20040220 Gravity Series 560

I included this Masterbuilt Gravity Series grill in my list because it cooks with the bold taste of charcoal while providing the electrical temperature control of pellet grills.

It can heat up rapidly to temperatures between 150°F and 700°F for a better cooking range because it is a hybrid charcoal smoker and grill.

This gravity-fed smoker is simple to use and has cast iron grates that keep a consistent temperature.

I had no difficulty producing tasty racks of ribs over the massive 800 square inches of primary cooking surface, which also includes a 240-square-inch warming rack.

I love that the controls on this outdoor cooking grill are on a panel on the left side, with each item having its own button that you can push straight up.

Although it's an excellent charcoal grill, it's not fuel-efficient and consumes more charcoal briquettes than other grills I've tried. Also, you cannot use the 560 in the rain because it is not weather resistant.

Pros
  • Automatic temperature control
  • Has a meat probe
  • Sears food with great flavor
Cons
  • Not waterproof and fuel-efficient
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Quick Facts:

  • Total cooking space : 800 square inches
  • Dimensions : 17.91 x 55.71 x 47.05 inches
  • Max temperature : 700 degrees
  • Material : Stainless steel
5

5 - Kamado Joe KJ15040320 Kettle Joe 22 Inch Charcoal Grill

Kamado Joe KJ15040320 Kettle Joe 22 Inch Charcoal Grill

The unique cooking characteristics offered by the Kamado Kettle Joe charcoal grill increase heat retention, smoking capacity, and coal efficiency.

It has a decent 363 square inches of cooking area, and your cooking grate may be converted into a complex cooking tool with its multi-level design, enabling you to cook different foods at once in various temperatures and styles.

With the enhanced airflow and 22" edge-to-edge indirect cooking, the detachable SloRoller also transforms this kettle into a true smoker.

I particularly enjoy how this cooker retains heat and functions more like a Kamado-style grill thanks to its hinged cover, stainless charcoal ash bin, and ceramic petals.

The only major issue I faced with this charcoal grill was how leaky it was. During my low and slow cooking sessions, I closed the top and bottom tightly, but a lot of smoke was still leaking.

Plus, even after closing both openings, I couldn't keep the temperature below 250°.

Pros
  • Efficient ceramic firebox
  • Adjustable hinges
  • Folding shelves for more space
Cons
  • Not ideal for low-and-slow cooking
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Quick Facts:

  • Total cooking space : 363 square inches
  • Dimensions : 23.82 x 30.3 x 20.47 inches
  • Max temperature : 700 degrees
  • Material : Ceramic
6

6 - PK Grills Charcoal Grill Combo

PK Grills Charcoal Grill Combo

This PK grill combines some of the greatest qualities of kamado-style smokers with charcoal grills, enabling you to cook hamburgers or long-slow smokes over hot charcoal or wood chips.

The PK charcoal grill is an excellent direct-heat grill that produces perfectly seared meat. You can regulate the temperature with more precision thanks to the two dampers in the lid.

It has a remarkable capacity for temperature gauge regulation ranging from 180 to 750 degrees.

Because of its built-in lid thermometer, the ribs it produced were excellent. They had a fantastic black bark and a fabulous pink smoke ring around the edge after roasting for 3 hours on the 300 square inches primary cooking surface.

I've had this charcoal grill for 6 years now, and it should survive for many more years because of its solid cast aluminum construction. Plus, it's worth noting that this charcoal grill is backed by an outstanding 10-year warranty.

However, I wouldn't say I liked that the hooks are on the back, which renders them essentially worthless for hanging utensils while you're cooking.

Additionally, 300 square inches could be too small for you if you grill larger steaks for many people.

Pros
  • Great for grilling and smoking
  • Heats up quickly
  • Innovative ash tents
Cons
  • Confusing set-up instructions
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Quick Facts:

  • Total cooking space : 300 square inches
  • Dimensions : ‎16 x 35 x 35.5 inches
  • Max temperature : 750 degrees
  • Material : Cast aluminum

Best Charcoal Grills Under $500 Buyer's Guide

An image of a woman browsing online for the best charcoal grills under $500

Here's a detailed buyer's guide to help you if you're planning on investing in a top-quality charcoal grill under $500.

1. Construction Material

The exterior construction material on a charcoal grill will determine how long it will survive and how well it will withstand the environment.

Charcoal smokers made of stainless steel or powder-coated steel are the most durable and can withstand high temperatures and cooking pressure. These type of materials also makes the charcoal grill rust-resistant for outdoor cooking.

I wouldn't recommend buying charcoal grills made of porcelain or enamel because they tend to chip and shatter easily with time.

2. Charcoal Grill Size/Capacity

An image of a budget charcoal grill with good grill size/capacity

When looking for good charcoal grills under $500,  it's vital that you inspect the size based on cooking grates and total cooking area. Then, match these measurements with how many people you intend to cook for and the amount of food you'll be grilling.

Small grills are ideal for singles, small families, and hosting a visitor or two. These grills are around 26 inches or so in width, and they support only grilling with direct heat.

On the other hand, medium charcoal grills are ideal for medium-sized families and small gatherings. The width of the cast iron grates ranges from 27 to 33 inches, and they support cooking with both direct and indirect heat.

Finally, if you're frequently hosting larger family gatherings, large charcoal grills are a good fit for you. The cast iron cooking grids on such grills are 34 inches wide and larger.

3. Grill Accessories

When purchasing a charcoal grill,  always keep an eye out for extra equipment and accessories that come with the BBQ.

This is important because a grill with the necessary accessories will help you have the best grilling experience. Some of the accessories to consider include a rake, chimney, and fire starter.

4. Fuel Type

An image of burning charcoal as a fuel type for charcoal grills

Most charcoal grills use either briquettes or lump charcoal as fuel. I recommend buying a charcoal grill that uses lump charcoal because it burns hotter and cleaner than briquettes since it is manufactured from real wood.

On the other hand, briquettes are a good fit if you want more smoke for your meat.

Because briquettes are formed of sawdust and other materials, they burn slower and generate more smoke than lump charcoal.

Read More: Best Charcoal Briquettes

Who Should Buy a Charcoal Grill?

Anyone who loves adding great smokey flavor to dishes and cooking large chunks of meat, including chicken and turkey, should buy a charcoal grill.

Charcoal smokers are also ideal if you want to care for your meat the old-fashioned manner, slow cooking and basting it with your preferred sauces and rubs for 6 to 24 hours.

Who Shouldn't Buy a Charcoal Grill?

An image of a person cleaning and scrubbing a charcoal grill

Anyone who wants a set-it-and-forget-it kind of grill shouldn't buy a charcoal grill.

Charcoal grills require a lot of tending and adding lump charcoal to keep the fire burning until your meals are cooked.

Also, if you want an easy-to-clean grill, charcoal grills aren't a good fit for you.

This is because charcoal grills have an intense cleanup process because of the interaction of coal and ash on the steel grill parts.

FAQs

Should I Clean My Charcoal Grill After Every Use?

Yes, you should clean your charcoal grill after every use by removing all the grease and food debris and emptying the ash collection tray. Cleaning and maintaining after every use will lengthen the lifespan of your grill.

What Is the Most Versatile Charcoal Grill Brand?

The most versatile charcoal grill brand is Weber. Weber grills are made of premium materials like cast iron, porcelain-coated enamel, and stainless steel. The brand also builds grills using welds rather than fasteners, which results in stronger, rustproof seams.

How Long Should I Let My Charcoal Grill Sit Before Using It Again?

You should let your charcoal grill sit for at least 24 hours before using it again for the next grilling session.

What is the Best Charcoal Grill Under $500 for You?

Charcoal grills are cost-effective and yield fantastic charcoal-smokey results. With a good charcoal grill, you can readily grill anything, from meat and bread to fruits and veggies.

Still, if you want to make charcoal grilling faster and easier, or you want to expand your options when cooking outside without going over the $500 limit, Weber Performer 22" is the grill that’s worth serious consideration.

With its many features that blend the best aspects of a charcoal and gas grill, this Weber Performer charcoal grill gives the classic and smoky flavor of charcoal with increased convenience and efficient heat distribution.

Weber Performer Charcoal Grill 22"

Our #1 Recommendation

  • Touch N Go gas ignition system
  • Gourmet BBQ system
  • Removable backlit LCD timer
  • Efficient heat distribution
  • Get the BEST PRICE until the end of January
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