The best charcoal BBQs to turn up the heat and flavour in 2024

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

Veggies and meat on charcoal BBQ

by Eleanor Weaver |
Updated on

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?

No matter the food on the barbie, a charcoal BBQ can handle it, and some may even go as far as saying meat tastes far better on a charcoal BBQ. Whether you prefer meaty burgers, roasted vegetables, veggie burgers, or tasty kebab skewers, this piece of kit will take your grill experience to the next level with smoky flavours and smells that scream summer with delicious authentic char.

Best charcoal BBQ at a glance:

Best overall: Weber Compact 47cm Charcoal BBQ - view on Amazon UK
Best value: John Lewis Charcoal BBQ - view on John Lewis
Best budget-friendly BBQ: George Foreman GFKTBBQ Charcoal BBQ- view on Amazon UK
Best for large families: CosmoGrill Outdoor XL Smoker Barbeque - view on Amazon UK

The beauty of a charcoal BBQ is that they all operate in the same way; add your coal and get grilling! So when it comes to picking the best charcoal BBQ for you, the main concern is the size. The size of the BBQ will not only determine how many people you're grilling for (we've given a breakdown on this further below), but also its storage capabilities and portability. If you plan to take your BBQ on holiday, a small tabletop-size BBQ may be your go-to, but you will have to compromise on the cooking area. Meanwhile, a larger BBQ can become a garden staple, but thanks to wheels, you can move it around with ease.

We've rounded up our pick of the best charcoal BBQs to buy this year and we've made sure to include some great BBQ deals - at all price points. We've also included buying advice and the must-have tools and accessories to help make your BBQ a breeze.

Best charcoal BBQs to buy in the UK

Best overall

Weber Compact 47cm Charcoal BBQ
Price: $96.43

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 and durable, and it won't rust due to the porcelain-enamelled lid and bowl.

Customer 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."

Pros

  • Durable and weather-proof
  • Heat is easy to control
  • Easy-to-buy accessories

Cons

  • The height of the grate isn't adjustable

Best value charcoal BBQ

John Lewis Charcoal BBQJohn Lewis

Not only is the John Lewis Charcoal BBQ seriously good-looking, it's also fantastic value at under £250. For that price, you get a robust BBQ that can cook for up to four people with plenty of handy extras including a lid thermometer, airflow control, a warming rack and large transporter wheels so you can easily move it around your patio or into the shed come winter. It doesn't scrimp on shelving either with two shelves below the BBQ for condiments and plates, and two side shelves ideal for plating up the much-awaited grub.

Customer review: "Super easy to assemble, plenty space to host a good-sized party. Plenty of side space to put your plates and other BBQ essentials."

Pros

  • Plenty of shelving space
  • Great value
  • Good size for small gatherings

Cons

  • Side shelves don't fold down, which make it slightly harder to store away

Best for large families

CosmoGrill Outdoor XL Smoker BarbecueAmazon/ CosmoGrill

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 from CosmoGrill 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.

Customer 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."

Pros

  • Easy to clean
  • Bottle opener is a nice touch
  • Coal door to refuel with ease

Cons

  • Large in size

Best portable charcoal BBQ

Weber Smokey Joe Premium Charcoal BBQ
Price: $171.17

Super lightweight, compact, and with easy-carry handles, the Weber Smokey Joe Premium Charcoal BBQ 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.

Customer 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."

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Easy to clean
  • Easy to carry

Cons

  • Legs can't be folded down

Best budget-friendly BBQ

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.

Customer 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."

Pros

  • Simple to use
  • Great value
  • Compact, so easy to store

Cons

  • Doesn't have a lot of features

Best drum-style charcoal BBQ

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 which 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.

Customer 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."

Pros

  • Side table is really handy
  • Great for large families and gatherings

Cons

  • No underneath shelf - less shelving compared to other BBQs on our list

Best for smoke control

LotusGrill XL Portable Smokeless Charcoal BarbecueJohn Lewis/ LotusGrill

One of the main gripes with cooking with charcoal is, unsurprisingly, the smoke. While it's great for giving that wonderful flavour, it's not so great having your hair and clothes smell like smoke the rest of the day. LotusGrill has sought to tackle that problem with its Portable Smokeless Charcoal Barbecue. Equipped with a patented fan system, the BBQ regulates airflow so you can still get delicious flavours without a plume of smoke. It's only available in this compact design (and smaller options are available) but despite that, you could still feed up to 10 hungry mouths.

Pros

  • Cool-touch outer
  • Temperature control
  • Reduces smoke
  • Comes with a matching carry bag

Cons

  • Requires 4 x AA batteries (though they are included)

Best Kamado-style charcoal BBQ

Boss Grill The EggAppliances Direct/ Boss Grill

Kamado grills are iconic for their egg-shaped ceramic vessels that look smart and stylish in the garden and are spacious for versatile cooking. And while you could invest in ones from Big Green Egg or Kamado Joe, the Boss Grill The Egg steals the show for its affordable price. Designed to smoke, grill or bake, it has a three-layer cooking grid and even comes with a free pizza stone for homemade pizza. The ceramic body is not only incredibly durable, but it also guarantees heat retention so you can cook more food with less fuel. With extra features such as a free BBQ cover, vents, bamboo shelves, wheels and temperature gauge, this a great pick for those looking to expand their culinary skills.

Customer review: "This ceramic bbq is the same as branded others on the market, they look the same and cook the same. There is one huge difference, the cost! It is a third of the price. It's a win, win. If you are somebody who doesn't buy branded goods and wants a bbq that does everything, do yourself a favour buy from here."

Pros

  • High quality and durable build
  • Use coal or wood chips
  • Free accessories included
  • Versatile cooking

Cons

  • Slightly tricky to assemble due to the weight

Recommended

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.

Customer 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."

Pros

  • Easy to move
  • Heat control
  • Adjustable charcoal tray

Cons

  • Hard to assemble

Best for small families

Outback Omega 201 Charcoal BBQ GrillAppliances Direct/ Outback

The Outback Omega 201 Charcoal BBQ Grill is made for small families looking for those smoky flavours. As well as having a cooking space large enough to cook up 15 burgers at once (up to four people), it has ample storage space with base storage and two weather-resistant side tables - one of which features a tool rack. Based on wheels, it's easy to move from shed to patio and it's easy to clean too, thanks to the enamelled hood, porcelain coated grill and ash tray.

Customer review: "We bought this BBQ a few weeks ago and we have used it twice. It’s absolutely amazing. It’s so easy to use and very easy to clean! It seems to have some kind of enamel on it making it easy to clean. No one likes cleaning the BBQ, it is a horrendous job but this enamel on it makes it a lot less daunting. Well worth the money. we are very happy with it."

Pros

  • Good for beginners
  • Easy to clean and assemble
  • Ample weather-resistant storage

Cons

  • Side tables don't fold down for storage
  • Bit more basic compared to some BBQs

How we chose the best charcoal BBQs

All of these charcoal BBQs have been hand-selected by our team of Modern Gardens shopping experts. We carefully considered the size, value for money, overall design appeal and added features in our selection of the best. Our team has spent hours investigating and researching charcoal BBQs to make it easier for you to find the very best, and we'd never recommend a product we don't believe in.

Where possible, we also test and share the latest and best products you should know about. And with help from Modern Gardens Magazine, Garden News and Garden Answers, we share expert gardening knowledge to help you get the most from your product.

Charcoal BBQ FAQs

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

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. Plus, you should consider the number of people you intend to cook for. It'll also be worth considering the types of food you'll be cooking, as bigger grills suit 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

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.

Best chimney starter

Weber Chimney Starter
Price: $30.50

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

Customer review: "You literally screw up some newspaper balls and place at the bottom, throw in your coals, light the paper and no joke in a few minutes the coals are alight and glowing red hot and can add as little or more as you like. No going back to fire lighter's for me."

Pros

  • Lights a charcoal BBQ faster
  • Extremely well reviewed
  • Easy to use
  • Sturdy

Cons

  • None

Best charcoal offer

This top-rated bumper pack of Topline Supagrill instant light charcoal will see you through the seasons for beach BBQs, garden lunches, and spontaneous cookouts when the sun is shining. It's a great bulk buy offer.

Customer review: "Literally grab and go bags of charcoal. Great price, appropriately packaged and fast delivery."

Pros

  • Lights fast
  • Consistent burn
  • Retains heat

Cons

  • Some customers comment that the coals are small and can fall through the grate

Best BBQ cover

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

Customer review: "Not quite an ideal fit, we use a couple of bungee straps to better hold the cover in place in high winds, it is after all a general cover not made to suit a particular model. Overall a good buy."

Pros

  • Durable material
  • Water-resistant

Cons

  • The cords that secure this cover can come loose in rough weather

Best BBQ tool set

Every BBQ needs its own set of tools, and this popular set of 10 has everything you need. The GQC 10PCS BBQ Grill Tool Set is an Amazon Choice product that includes silicone and stainless steel tongs, a fork, a spatula and a basting brush.

Customer review: "Great BBQ tools, stylish and functional and covers everything you could want to cook on the BBQ. A nice BBQ tool set. Comes in a well made soft case to keep the tools together. Tools are well made and are of good quality."

Pros

  • Value for money
  • Comes with a storage bag
  • A complete set of BBQ tools

Cons

  • Some customers have commented that the metal is thin

Best BBQ cleaner

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. This HG 138050106 Oven, Grill and Barbeque Cleaner is a powerful degreaser that can remove caked-on food and fat.

Customer review: "Easy to apply with the spray nozzle, it is quite strong and useful for any greasy surface for over, microwave or kitchen sink or kitchen top. Once applied, it is easy to clean via a paper towel or a micro fibre towel."

Pros

  • Effective
  • Works fast

Cons

  • Can cause skin burns and eye damage if mishandled

Which is better, charcoal or gas BBQ?

Ultimately the choice is yours, but for a more traditional BBQ experience and unique smoky 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 in 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.

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.

The best Weber BBQ for your grilling needs

The best hybrid BBQs

The best outdoor pizza ovens

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Eleanor Weaver is the Deputy Homes & Garden Product Editor for Modern Gardens, specialising in outdoor furniture, décor, and tools. She's always looking out for inspiration online for stylish and affordable designs, and enjoys spending time in nature.

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