Straight to the Point
If you’re looking for a portable charcoal grill that offers big-grill performance in a mobile package, we recommend the Masterbuilt Portable Charcoal Grill and Smoker with Cart. We have lots more recommendations below—including models from PK Grills, Oklahoma Joe’s, Weber, and more.
If you’ve spent even five minutes researching grills, you know there’s a lot to choose from. Between gas grills, charcoal grills, pellet grills, and smokers—each with price points that can vary from a couple-hundred bucks to thousands of dollars—making a choice can feel pretty daunting. To complicate things even further—just kidding, we’re only here to help!—we recently tested portable charcoal grills, and we’ve got a great set of grates to fit every budget.
The Winners, at a Glance
- Assembly Test: We assembled each portable charcoal grill, timing how long it took to do so.
- Temperature Control Test: We used a probe thermometer to monitor the temperature of the grill as we fired it up and attempted to adjust the temperature. We also looked at how accurate any built-in thermometers were, compared to the probe thermometer.
- Corn, Burgers, and Brats Test: We grilled two corn cobs, two burgers, and two brats on each grill, evaluating how well and evenly each grilled.
- Cleanup Test: We cleaned each grill per the manufacturer’s instructions, looking at how easy it was to do so.
- Usability Tests: Throughout testing, we evaluated how easy each grill was to setup, use, and move.
What’s a Portable Charcoal Grill?
As the name suggests, portable charcoal grills are portable! While most grills can be moved around to some extent, these are smaller, lighter, purpose-built grills meant for mobility. This means they also tend to be among the most budget-friendly grills, and they’re convenient for smaller spaces like patios or balconies.
Firing up a portable charcoal grill is guaranteed to make you the most popular person at the beach, park, or campsite this summer—just be sure to check local regulations first to make sure grilling is allowed.
Should You Buy a Portable Charcoal Grill or a Standard-Size Charcoal Grill?
We know it’s annoying to be told “it depends,” but, well, it depends. If you’re only planning to grill at home and you have the extra space for a standard-size charcoal grill, you might as well give yourself the additional cooking surface and opt for the full-size version.
If you’re tight on space or like the idea of being able to bring a small grill along on road trips or weekend outings with friends, a portable charcoal grill might be just the thing.
The Criteria: What to Look for in a Portable Charcoal Grill
Charcoal grills tend to be pretty straightforward in design anyway, so portable models aren’t the place to expect bells and whistles. When we let our testers loose on over a dozen portable charcoal grills, we wanted their feedback on factors like assembly and clean-up, heating speed and retention, ease of flipping food, and whether they dealt with problems like sticking or flare-ups.
The portable charcoal grills that scored highest in our tests excelled in a few key areas:
This might seem obvious, but we wanted to make sure each portable grill was actually portable. We’re less likely to use a grill that needs a complete tear-down and reassembly each time we want to take it somewhere. And, ideally, a portable grill should be lightweight enough to be manageable by just one person—though we do have a few in our list that are best transported with a helping hand.
We’re not expecting perfect stability on a sandy beach or rocky campsite, but if a portable grill is sitting on a tabletop and wobbling with each burger flip? Not ideal.
Ease of Use
Again, the whole point of a portable charcoal grill is to be able to use it in situations where a grill may not be an obvious choice. We sought out grills that were easy to assemble and clean and retained heat well enough to cook food our testers actually wanted to eat.
With that, let’s get into the portable charcoal grills we’re happy to recommend.
What we liked: This grill scored high right out of the box—literally, thanks to the fact it arrived mostly assembled. This was also where testers became very aware of the PKGO’s heft; its cast iron construction means this portable grill clocks in at 39.5 pounds. It won’t be the easiest for everyone to move around, but this also means it’s nice and stable.
Our testers appreciated how easy it was to add charcoal without making a mess, and noted how the food had plenty of room on the grates. Burgers and sausages “sizzled immediately when placed on the grill” and came away with “very defined grill marks,” according to testers’ notes. The PKGO was equally easy to clean—pretty much a dump-and-go situation—though it did take a long time to cool down enough to handle.
Overall, testers agreed that this grill is “great for an avid camper or outdoorsy person,” with the caveat that it’s too heavy to realistically carry over long distances. They also liked the clips on the sides that ensured the lid stayed closed during transport or storage.
What we didn’t like: Its weight may be a detriment to its portability, but the PKGO “retains heat so well that the weight actually makes it more attractive,” according to one tester, who added that this grill is worth the investment because it “performed so well and the quality of the build is so durable.”
Price at time of publish: $337.
- Cooking area: 204 square inches
- Dimensions: 13.03 x 20.9 x 15.3 inches
- Weight: 39.5 pounds
- Warranty: 20 years (bowl and lid), 3 years (grates and plastic components), 2 years (metal parts and accessories), 1 year (temperature gauge)
What we liked: With its useful rolling cart, testers confirmed that Masterbuilt’s portable charcoal grill is “incredibly easy to move” and “stable when fully unfolded” thanks to the wide base. Once you’ve got it where you want it, charcoal was easy to add through the hopper.
Food came off of the Masterbuilt with a nice sear and the grill retained heat well enough that our tester never had to refill the coals during a 45-minute cooking session. Ash was easy to clean up (thanks again, hopper!) and general consensus was that this grill “would be good for a small beach-going or camping family.” It even has two built-in drink holders. Testers also agreed that the Masterbuilt portable charcoal grill is both beginner-friendly and suitable for experienced grills who can make the most of its ability to double as a smoker.
What we didn’t like: Our testers cautioned that the hopper door gets quite hot and you’ll definitely want to use BBQ gloves if you’re planning to add coals while cooking.
Price at time of publish: $298.
- Cooking area: 200 square inches
- Dimensions: 18.8 x 27 x 36 inches
- Weight: 52 pounds
- Warranty: 1 year
What we liked: The Everdure CUBE is probably what comes to mind first when most of us think of a portable grill. It’s “small and easy to move” and “really easy to use” according to testers, though it’s definitely suited to just one or two people—you won’t be feeding a crowd with this one!
One tester described the CUBE as “literally a drink cooler converted into a grill and I’m here for it.” This little grill is nice and lightweight, and well-balanced thanks to rubber feet at all four corners. When it comes to cooking, the CUBE delivers with surprising performance. Testers reported “definitive grill marks” on the brats, charing on the corncobs, and a nice sear on the burgers.
The Everdure CUBE portable charcoal grill is “definitely a beachgoer type of grill” that is “easy to move, easy to use, and easy to clean.” While its small size may limit how efficiently you can feed multiple people, this is a portable grill you’ll actually want to use. It’s also available in a handful of fun colors.
What we didn’t like: Again, this is a small grill and its size may be limiting for some.
Price at time of publish: $199.
- Cooking area: 103.9 square inches
- Dimensions: 9.1 x 16.7 x 13.7 inches
- Weight: 15.43 pounds
- Warranty: Not specified
What we liked: At 44 pounds, this grill might require a second set of hands to help assemble and move, but it’s sturdy once you get it in place. Testers liked the expansive cooking area and while they did notice some hot spots while cooking, food came off the grates nicely cooked and with pleasing grill marks.
Due to the Dyna-Glo’s heft, this probably isn’t the grill you’ll carry along to the park, but it’s a great option for small outdoor spaces. Testers agree this grill will appeal to grilling beginners thanks to its sectioned grates that allow for the easy addition of charcoal, as well as the conveniently placed vent dampers and ash catcher. Similarly, experienced grillers will appreciate the cast iron construction that retains heat well and clocks in at an accessible price.
What we didn’t like: Again, this isn’t a grill for moving any sort of distance.
Price at time of publish: $197.
- Cooking area: 287 square inches
- Dimensions: 24.17 x 18.35 x 21 inches
- Weight: 40.7 pounds
- Warranty: 1 year
What we liked: Despite being “heavy and cumbersome to carry,” the Oklahoma Joe’s Rambler scored high among our testers, who appreciated the grill’s capacity both for charcoal and space on the grates for cooking. “Food that was in contact with the cast iron grates browned exceedingly well,” noted one tester, who also commented that the Rambler “handled well and was easy to clean,” thanks to its pull-out ash tray.
This grill is perhaps more of a small-format grill than a true portable unit—a lack of wheels adds to the difficulty of moving it around—but the heavy-duty construction means the Rambler retains heat like a champ. The charcoal tray is also height-adjustable, meaning you can easily achieve either high heat, or keep things low and slow. Overall, “this grill feels priced exceptionally well for its durability and performance.”
What we didn’t like: At 48.5 pounds, you’d likely need two people to move this grill around.
Price at time of publish: $199.
- Cooking area: 218 square inches
- Dimensions: 19.5 x 21.8 x 26.8 inches
- Weight: 48.5 pounds
- Warranty: 2 years
What we liked: The NOMAD portable grill definitely carries the highest price tag on our list, but our tests proved it’s worth the splurge if you’re serious about grilling on the go.
Not only does the NOMAD come fully assembled, the suitcase-style design means it’s about as portable as a portable grill can get. There are no legs, so you’ll need to find a flat surface, but it’s a sturdy piece of equipment with its rubber feet and magnetic grates. Because the NOMAD unfolds, you’re provided with a generous cooking surface—212 square inches as-is, or you can purchase the optional second grate and enjoy 425 square inches of grilling space. During our single-grate test, two corn cobs, two burgers, and two brats fit with ease, though only the brats came off with visible grill marks. The corn was warmed through while the burgers had more of a sear. It also as an interesting, honey comb-shaped grate pattern.
“This is a good grill for its portability and ability to cook well,” reported one tester, who says the NOMAD is one of the most accessible portable grills for beginners because “it’s not difficult to set up or use and the dampers don’t leave much room for error.” That said, it may not be ideal for avid grillers, but for camping or tailgating purposes? Definitely.
What we didn’t like: Of course, its price tag is *very* high compared to the other grills in this review.
Price at time of publish: $649.
- Cooking area: 212 or 425 square inches
- Dimensions: 20.5 x 4.75 x 27.25 inches
- Weight: 28 pounds
- Warranty: Limited lifetime
What we liked: When it comes to affordability, this grill is tough to beat. Testers liked how lightweight and easy it was to carry, and while the portable Expert Grill isn’t the most stable unit out there, it gets the job done without fuss. “This grill has a lot of room,” one tester noted, pleased with the amount of available space to flip food and move things around.
All told, it’s the price that really sells this grill, which “feels like it would belong to a beginner or someone who is not ready to commit to a full-size charcoal grill.” Testers agree that this model is “a good fit for tailgating or RV camping, where it can sit on a truck bed, fold-out table, or picnic table.”
Expert Grill may not have given us a luxury grill with this portable pick, but it’s a darn good price for a very functional piece of equipment. Also? It’s cute.
What we didn’t like: The legs are wobbly, which gave testers pause.
Price at time of publish: $74.
- Cooking area: 262 square inches
- Dimensions: 17.5 x 17 x 24.5 inches
- Weight: 18.5 pounds
- Warranty: 1 year
What we liked: Here we have another budget-friendly portable charcoal grill, this one from Char-Griller. It’s quite stout, which does mean it’s less easily portable than the comparably priced Expert Grill, but it’s very sturdy and testers appreciated the lack of wobble.
Once the grill is up and running, testers did like the spacious cooking surface, evenly cooked food, and resulting char marks which yielded brats with “a wonderful outside texture and flavor with a juicy inside.”
Overall, this is another portable grill best suited to beginners, but for the price, we’ll back it as a pick for anyone in the market for a small charcoal grill.
What we didn’t like: The Char-Griller can be troublesome when it comes to adding charcoal, which must be done from the smaller side of the barrel, where the charcoal chimney “just barely fits inside to be able to pour the coals without spilling ash and hot embers.”
Price at time of publish: $70.
- Cooking area: 250 square inches
- Dimensions: 19 x 18.7 x 21.1 inches
- Weight: 37 pounds
- Warranty: 1 year
What we liked: Testers liked the portability of this grill, which “can be easily carried by an adult” and “would be great for a day trip with a small family.” The Slow ‘N Sear kettle grill is also easy to clean and cools down quickly, which is convenient for packing up but perhaps less ideal for heat retention during cooking.
You probably won’t win any grilling competitions with the SnS Slow ‘N Sear, but if your goal is a truly portable charcoal grill that won’t take ages to cool down after use, testers concurred that the price is fair and “the overall quality of the grill is good.”
What we didn’t like: Our testers struggled with uneven heating, reporting a difference of 35°F between a sausage that had been in the center of the grate versus one that had been closer to the edge for the same amount of time.
Price at time of publish: $180.
- Cooking area: 18-inch diameter
- Dimensions: 21 x 20.25 inches
- Weight: 17.8 pounds
- Warranty: 10 years (bowl and lid), 5 years (ash removal, plastic components, side shelf), 2 years (remaining parts)
What we liked: With one of the most respected names in the grill game, it should come as no surprise that there’s a Weber on our list. The Go-Anywhere is a portable charcoal grill at a favorable price that’s easy to assemble and lightweight enough to carry with ease.
It isn’t Weber’s standout performer, though. While our testers had no issues with grilling burgers and corn cobs, the bratwursts cooked unevenly in comparison. But as one tester noted, “there are no bells and whistles in any capacity—this grill performs the bare minimum and does so admirably.” In other words, as long as your expectations are modest, the Go-Anywhere is a solid choice if you’re looking for a well-constructed grill under $100.
What we didn’t like: Again, uneven cooking plagued this pick a bit.
Price at time of publish: $71.
- Cooking area: 160 square inches
- Dimensions: 11.5 x 19.5 x 15 inches
- Weight: 13.45 pounds
- Warranty: 10 years
What we liked: The Smokey Joe is certainly budget-friendly at less than $50. It’s quite small and lightweight, and though testers noted the importance of keeping the grill upright and steady to avoid dislodging the lid and grate while carrying it, this is an easy grill to move around.
Though the Smokey Joe doesn’t get as rip-roaring hot as many of us may hope for in a grill, this is an affordable, practical, beginner-friendly option for cooking food in places where you otherwise wouldn’t.
What we didn’t like: As you can probably assume from the 14-inch diameter, there’s not a lot of room to work while cooking. While testers were able to fit two burgers, two brats, and two ears of corn all in one go, the sausages were undercooked and the rest “looked baked, not grilled,” according to notes.
Price at time of publish: $46.
- Cooking area: 14-inch diameter
- Dimensions: 17 x 14.2 x 14.5 inches
- Weight: 9.5 pounds
- Warranty: 10 years
- Americana Walk-A-Bout Portable Charcoal Grill: This grill was able to cook food satisfactorily, but testers thought it just felt too cheaply constructed, even for its low price.
- Napoleon 14″ Portable Charcoal Kettle Grill: Testers just thought this grill was too average to choose over other models. “I would spend more money on a grill that I could trust to prepare a good-quality product rather than take the less expensive route and purchase something I would be unhappy with after the first time cooking on it,” one tester noted.
- Char-Broil Portable Kettle Charcoal Grill: “Don’t spend one red cent on this grill!” wrote one tester, whose most positive feedback about this inexpensive model was that it’s easy to clean.
How light is a portable charcoal grill?
It varies! Depending on their size and construction, the portable charcoal grills we tested ranged from just under 10 pounds to over 50 pounds.
How do you start a portable charcoal grill?
It’s helpful to use a chimney starter when lighting a charcoal grill. Instead of squirting lighter fluid all over the charcoal, you pile charcoal into the chimney, stuff the bottom with newspaper, and light with a match. When the coals are hot, simply transfer them to your grill.