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10 Easy Pieces: Outdoor Charcoal Grills


10 Easy Pieces: Outdoor Charcoal Grills

June 11, 2014

The charcoal vs. gas grill debate will go on as long as there are backyards and patios. Suffice it to say we are on the charcoal side of the debate–hotter flame, richer flavor (albeit more sooty mess and less spontaneity). In the charcoal arena, there are three types of grills to choose from: kamado, open fire, and kettle; here are 10 favorites across the cateogories.

N.B.: Last week we explored the 10 best Portable Outdoor Grills, best for picnicking and camping.

Kamado Cookers

Above: A kamado is a traditional Japanese wood- or charcoal-fired earthen vessel. The modern versions of the kamado cooker are marketed as barbecues for outdoor use. Their special appeal is the ability to cook at lower temperatures, so meats and vegetables emerge more tender. Kamado-style cookers are made from a variety of materials, including high-fire ceramics, refractory materials, traditional terracotta, and a mix of Portland cement and crushed lava rock. Outer surfaces are usually a high-gloss ceramic glaze. The leader in the category is The Big Green Egg with five sizes from Mini ($220) to XL ($900), and an active BGE Bulletin Board Site with posts about cooking almost everything under the sun on a Big Green Egg–from Thanksgiving turkeys to the perfect brisket to grilled pizzas.

Above: On the high end of the pricing spectrum, the Kamado Joe ProJoe Stainless Steel Grill is made from commercial-grade stainless steel and heat-resistant ceramic; $7,499 from Shopper’s Choice.

Above: The Primo All-in-One Kamado Round Grill includes cradle shelves, an ash tool, and a lift for $875.99 from Amazon.

Open Fire Grills

Above: The leader in this category is the Grillery. Pundits such as Tom Brokaw and the late R. W. Apple of the NY Times put this open-flame grill in a league of its own. Available directly from the manufacturer, Grillworks Inc., each unit is custom manufactured in the US. The grill is available in two sizes: the original model, The Grillery, is 19-inches-by-20-inches-wide ($2,850), and now there is also The Grillworks ($4,975), which, at 19-inches-deep-by-42-inches-wide, is perfect for Texas-size barbecues.

Above: California Fire Pit has several models that double as both a cooking surface and an open pit fire for warmth and ambience. Until recently only available on the West Coast, they are now available across the US. The Monterey Firepit ($499 + $160 shipping) is the smaller model–24 inches in diameter–while the Sequoia ($659 +$175), shown here, is 30 inches across and has a rotisserie rig that grills four chickens, or eight steaks, or 20 burgers; sold directly through California Fire Pit.

Above: We like the modern lines of this sturdy, all-steel Piet Hein Eek Grill, a Dutch design that has two cooking levels and a shelf for storage. The price is €1,665, plus shipping from the Netherlands.

Kettle Grills

Above: Weber has dominated the kettle grill category since the first was invented by George A. Stephen, Sr., one of the co-owners of the Weber Brothers Metal Works, a Chicago custom order sheet metal shop. Stephen took two half-spheres that were destined to be buoys in Lake Michigan and fashioned them into a dome-shaped grill with a rounded lid, and the classic Weber kettle grill was born. We like the Weber One-Touch Kettle Grill in black; $149 from Amazon.

Above: As usual, the Scandis do us one better in the design department. Danish company Dancook’s stainless steel and aluminum 1400 Kettle Charcoal Barbecue is sleek and stylish; £161.09 from Amazon.

Above: Weber’s Ranch Charcoal Kettle Grill is the perfect size for small backyards and patios; $1,299 from Amazon.

Above: The Masterbuilt Kettle Grill has a porcelain-coated lid and cooking grate for $67.84 through Amazon.

Ready to fully live outside for the summer? See Beyond the Barbecue: 13 Modern Outdoor Kitchens. And go to Gardenista for entertaining ideas, including Summer Party: Cocktails and Caramel Corn and Galvanized Goods for Summer Entertaining.

N.B.: This post is an update; the original story ran on May 5, 2009 as part of our Shaker Style issue. 

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