Charcoal BBQs for an authentic flavour and cookout experience

The best charcoal BBQs to buy for garden gatherings and dining al fresco.

Veggies and meat on charcoal BBQ

by Eleanor Weaver |

Nothing beats the pull of a charcoal BBQ where you can dine al fresco and enjoy the sight, sound, and scent of the barbecue crackling away. And of course, who doesn't love catching up with family and friends around the warmth of an outdoor grill, come rain or shine.

Whether you prefer meaty burgers, roasted vegetables, veggie burgers, or tasty kebab skewers, a charcoal BBQ will take your grill experience to the next level with smokey flavours and smells that scream summer with delicious authentic char.

It's the ultimate garden cooking appliance, and whether you're looking to buy your first charcoal barbecue or replace one that's seen better days, we've rounded up the very best to bring the holiday experience to your garden.

We've also included buying advice and the must-have accessories to help make your BBQ a breeze.

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Best charcoal BBQ to buy in the UK

The Weber Compact Charcoal BBQ takes our top spot and is a favourite on Amazon too. The chrome triple-plated cooking grates make it easy to cook comfortably on and is easy to clean, with a One-Touch Cleaning System in place to easily sift out ash, dirt, and burnt food and grease.

Reviewers have said that it's perfectly sizable, one customer was able to grill 16 sausages and 8 quarter pounder burgers at once, but still nicely compact for storage or for use on a balcony. It's a versatile choice, durable, and it won't rust due to the porcelain-enamelled lid and bowl.

Key features:

Steel-plated cooking grate | Durable all-weather wheels | Porcelain-enamelled lid and bowl

Aluminised steel one-touch cleaning system | Bottom wire rack | Angled lid hook inside lid

Rust-resistant damper | High capacity removable ash catcher | 47cm cooking space

Heavy-gauge steel fuel grate | Limited ten-year warranty

Dimensions: 53.1 x 54.1 x 87.9cm

Weight: 9.28kg

Review: "What a beast! Just cooked two barbecues, one for 18 people, the other for 9. This thing is easily big enough to rip through about 16 sausages or 8 1/4lb burgers at once. Gives a ferocious heat that is easy to control. It cooks things fast, really fast! Banging the lid on gives such a great smokey flavour. Quality is top-notch. I would definitely recommend complimenting this purchase with a charcoal starter, heatproof gloves, and a cover. Overall, fantastic purchase and really pleased."

If you consider yourself King of the BBQ and enjoy cooking a lot of food (or have plenty of mouths to feed), this XL BBQ will perfectly suit your grilling needs. Great for family or friend-filled gatherings, you can cook over 10 burgers and 10 sausages at once, and there's plenty of room to grill or smoke larger meats too.

This BBQ has everything you need; plenty of storage with foldable side tables, hooks to hang your utensils, easily adjustable air vents and coal tray, and a door at the front too for easy movement of coal without having to touch or lift the grill.

With all the features it's understandably a bit more expensive, but it's definitely a garden investment if you love barbecuing regularly.

Key features:

XL grill | Portable due to wheels | Coal tray with a crank handle | Warming rack

Easily removable coal ash tray | Lid thermometer | Easy to clean | Four hooks for utensils

Bottle opener

Dimensions: 124 x 66 x 113cm

Weight: 25kg

Review: "Really pleased with this, bought it a couple of months ago and have now finally managed to use it a few times. The build was easy, took a while but straightforward enough. The coal tray is great, it's nice to be able to adjust the heat without having to struggle with moving the rack up or down like on different BBQs, and the side trays with plenty of hooks make cooking for large parties easy. There is loads of room for meat, which is awesome, as we always cook too much. Would definitely recommend this grill."

Super lightweight, compact, and with easy-carry handles, this barbecue is the perfect companion for BBQs on the beach, camping grounds, and in your local park (if permitted!) It's also a fantastic option if you're particularly limited on space but don't want to miss out on a BBQ this summer.

It holds up to five burgers, which is plenty for an impromptu cookout whilst the porcelain-enamelled lid and bowl will help to retain heat and cook your food to perfection. This one is black, but there are some other fun colours to choose from including, navy blue, crimson, ivory white, smoke grey, and spring green.

Key features:

Carry handle | Compact and lightweight | Porcelain-enameled lid and bowl

Tuck-N-Carry lid lock doubles as a lid holder | Dampers for easy temperature control

Easy to clean

Dimensions: 43 x 41 x 46cm

Weight: 4.4kg

Review: "I've used this 4 or 5 times now and I'm really happy with it. There are three of us and it's a good size for that. I bought the ivory coloured one and it looks fantastic. Really nice quality, and sturdy. Super easy to use with the briquettes, and easy to clean. I haven't had the occasion to take it outside of the garden yet with the recent lockdown, but it's light enough and a good size to be portable and easy to move. I like the way there's a metal piece that goes over the handle to stop it from opening when it's not in use. I expect I'll take it on days out with me."

A household name for grilling, the George Foreman Charcoal BBQ is no exception and is a great budget option. It offers great convenience with two wheels for portability and is a compact size, ideal for easy storage. It's easy to put together and should be able to serve a hungry group of five without an issue, perfect for family cookouts.

It has an integrated thermostat to help you maintain optimum cooking temperatures, and while you might not get all the features as with some of the other, more expensive models, it certainly gets the job done.

Key features:

45cm diameter cooking area | Rust and dust-resistant | Wheels for portability

Chrome plated grill | Grease collection tray | Adjustable lid vent

Enameled bowl | Cool-touch handles | Wire storage rack | Integrated thermostat

Dimensions: 60 x 114 x 98cm

Weight: 7kg

Review: "The BBQ was simple to assemble, I think I put it together in 20 minutes. I've used it twice since I bought it, and cooked for six of us without any trouble. The only downside is that I think it's not high enough, I'm 6ft and I have to stoop over to cook on it."

This Dancook Kettle Charcoal BBQ is simple yet sturdy in design with stainless steel and strong, durable aluminium that makes it look stylish and refined. The patented liner in the BBQ collects grease and ash whilst reducing the use of coal and making cleaning easier - because the combustion air is pre-heated, the cooking effect is increased by 50 per cent! The temperature can be controlled via the three air vents with just the turn of a finger, and the extra-thick 6mm chrome-plated grid is ideal for holding even larger cuts of meat.

Key features:

40cm diameter cooking area | Stainless steel and aluminium | Three air vents

Extra-thick 6mm chrome-plated grid | Patented liner | Easily transportable

Fifteen-year warranty on stainless steel parts, two-year warranty on all other parts

Dimensions: 89 x 57 x 60cm

Weight: 8.6kg

Review from Amazon: "This is the second Dancook I've bought, I gave the first one to a son when we were downsizing. That was over 8 years ago and it's still in perfect working condition without RUST. Easy to keep clean, after each cook brush the grill to remove any cooked product or fat and place the grill in the dishwasher. My only suggestion to improve the product would be to offer a smaller charcoal hearth as sometimes the lump wood charcoal is in such small pieces that they fall through into the ashtray."

With an iconic look, this oil drum BBQ from Argos is a great size, boasting enough room for gatherings of up to 18 people. It comes with a warming rack so you can keep food warm while you prepare the next round, and the steel hood also makes it a great fit for roasting, baking, and smoking. It has a fold-down side table means you can keep your favourite sauces and spices close at hand, and two wheels so you can move it around the garden with ease.

Key features:

Cooking area dimensions: 37 x 87cm | Warming rack | Steel construction | Self assembly

Removeable ash tray | Fold-down side table | Two wheels for movement

Manufacturer's 1 year guarantee

Dimensions: 90 x 130.5 x 67cm

Weight: 14.5kg

Review: "It’s a fantastic grill for parties; it’s worth its price. Steaks taste amazing, and even turkey steaks stay juicy and tasty. The grill is mobile on two wheels which makes it easier to transport."

This charcoal BBQ has been designed with convenience in mind, with everything you need to make for a super easy barbecue experience. Perfect for easy hosting and cooking for up to 15 people, it has a load of handy features including a front door for adding new coals (instead of having to lift off the grill), an adjustable charcoal tray with a crank operation to control the heat, and even an in-built bottle opener! We'd recommend having two people on-hand to help with construction as it arrives flat packed and might take a bit of time to assemble.

Key features:

Cooking area dimensions: 42 x 58cm | Steel construction | Ash catcher | Thermostat

Warming rack | Crank handle for heat control | Collapsible shelf | Front door for adding coal

Adjustable charcoal tray | Bottle opener | Two wheels for movement | Packed flat

Dimensions: 113.5 x 102 x 71cm

Weight: 26.18kg

Review: "Really beautiful and classy. Definitely worth the price. The only thing to consider is having someone help you assemble the BBQ as it is a two-person job. Unfortunately, the manual is not as clear with the images on some steps so it did take us a couple of hours to assemble it. Overall looks as advertised and definitely unique and plenty of space to put everything from utensils to the food. Love it."

Charcoal BBQ FAQs

Got a burning, or BBQ sizzling, question? Hopefully we've answered them below...

What else do I need for my charcoal BBQ set-up?

As well as the BBQ itself, you're going to need some must-have essentials to make sure BBQ season gets going without a hitch. These accessories will help keep your BBQ in its best condition and help you get your grilling underway.

Weber Chimney Starter

Weber Chimney Starter

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Don't wait forever for your coal to light! Simply fill your charcoal chimney starter with your chosen fuel, light a fire underneath and wait until everything is glowing, then pour out into your grill. It works perfectly every time, even if your barbecue is interrupted by an unseasonal drizzle.

Topline Supagrill 18 x 850g Bags Instant Light Lumpwood Charcoal

Best charcoal offer
Topline Supagrill 18 x 850g Bags Instant Light Lumpwood Charcoal

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This top-rated bumper pack of instant light charcoal will see you through the seasons for beach BBQs, garden lunches, and spontaneous cookouts when the sun is shining.

Velway Waterproof Heavy Duty Barbecue Cover

Best BBQ cover
Velway Waterproof Heavy Duty Barbecue Cover

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Keep your BBQ in great quality by covering it up once the summer is over. This BBQ cover will fit most grills and a drawstring hood design to keep it covered even on windy days.

GQC 10PCS BBQ Grill Tool Set

Best BBQ tool set
GQC 10PCS BBQ Grill Tool Set

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Every BBQ needs its own set of tools, and this popular set of 10 has everything you need.

HG 138050106 Oven, Grill and Barbeque Cleaner

Best BBQ cleaner
HG 138050106 Oven, Grill and Barbeque Cleaner

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Once you're done, give the grill a once over with this handy cleaning product from HG to keep it looking good for next year.

What size charcoal BBQ do I need?

The size of the BBQ you need depends on the storage space you have available to store your grill, and the number of people you intend to cook for. It'll also be worth considering the types of food you'll be cooking too with bigger grills needed for long skewers or larger meats.

According to Argos, these are the general size guidelines:

• Two - four people: 1800cm2 cooking area

• Six people: 2000cm2 cooking area

• Eight people: 2500cm2 cooking area

Woman at charcoal BBQ
©Photo: Getty Images

Which is better, charcoal or gas BBQ?

Ultimately the choice is yours, but for a more traditional BBQ experience and unique smokey flavour, we'd have to recommend charcoal for an amazingly authentic taste, whether you're a meat-eater or a veggie.

Charcoal is a more affordable way to grill compared to gas BBQs, but it's worth considering that a gas grill can offer more convenience - the heat can be controlled more easily and the food will be cooked more evenly.

It may give you more confidence cooking, as a charcoal BBQ will take longer to reach the correct temperature, but many prefer cooking on charcoal regardless and prefer to not use a gas canister.

Check out our pick of the best gas BBQs.

How to clean your charcoal BBQ?

Postal Barbecue has shared their top guide to cleaning your charcoal grill, cleaning a Weber Kettle Charcoal BBQ similar to those on our list! That'll help you deep-clean your BBQ when the time comes to remove that ash, burnt food bits, and caked-on, burnt-in grease.

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