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New to Charcoal BBQ HEEELLLPPP!

Been grilling with gas my whole life (I'm only 26 so forgive me for my sins). I've reading a fellow chowhound's blog and reading a lot about Adam Perry Lang and really want to start grill and smoking with charcoal. Can somone please help with the purchase of a good beginners charcoal grill where I can start learning to grill and smoke on. As I said before I'm 26 and not trying to break the bank. Thanks in advance to anyone that can help.

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  1. This might be a good resource for you to start:


    1. I'm glad to see you've seen the light and are abandoning gas. What do you need to know? I'll share with you any information I can.

      Who's blog are you reading? APL is one of the geniuses of barbecue cooking. I really love his books.

      How much do you have to spend? Do you have a place to grill?

      droip me a note at brooklynq@gmail.com

      1. On the cheap? Weber kettle or smokey mountain. A little trickier to smoke on the kettle, but if taken care of, you'll have it for years

        1 Reply
        1. re: BiscuitBoy

          I like the Big Green Egg. It's a little ugly - but works like a damn.

        2. Unlike gas grilling, you really can get a quality grill/smoker for very little money. This is the setup I use: http://www.lowes.com/pd_null_42948577...

          I paid less than $100 for it nearly ten years ago, and it's starting to look a little rough (but I use it a lot). The biggest difference between a cheap smoker/grill and a more expensive one is that the expensive ones use thicker metal and hold the heat better, so you can smoke in all kinds of weather, and you don't need to tend the fire as much. That said, I love tending fire, so a cheap unit does the job just fine. I've cooked about half of APL's book, and all of it done on the unit shown above, or a tiny hibachi that we take camping. Really, charcoal grilling doesn't have to cost much at all.

          1. I consider my Weber Performer grill one of the best 'investments' I have ever made. It is smartly made and works perfectly.


            I bought it because of a Cooks Illustrated review. A charcoal grill with gas ignition is just genius!

            2 Replies
            1. re: Becca Porter

              The reviews at Amazon for this grill are amazingly good.

            2. I agree w/ BiscuitBoy: It's hard to go wrong with a 22.5" Weber kettle. You can spend more and get better, but it's hard to beat the basic kettle bang/buck-wise. You can cook low/slow, or hot/fast with relative ease. It's the perfect starter for new outdoor cooks.

              1. I vote weber too, it's great for learning the basics on and you can upgrade later. I bet someone you know has one that they don't use, everyone got one in the 90s.

                We had a weber but stopped using it when we had toddlers; they are hot for so long you need to be able to keep children away or switch to gas for a few years. Now the kids are bigger, we can smoke and roast on coals again. Hooray!

                6 Replies
                1. re: hillsbilly

                  Another vote for the 22.5" Weber kettle.

                  They are the grills that all other grills are measured by plus you won't break the bank. You can also smoke on one as is or use something like the "smokenator" that's made to fit the Weber.

                  Have fun with whatever you decide on!

                  1. re: JayL

                    The Weber kettle is an awesome grill. But a mediocre smoker. You need a barrel style grill to be able to grill *and* smoke meat.

                    1. re: Indirect Heat

                      You're right, the Weber kettle can be described as a mediocre smoker...but a smoker it can be "if" you know what you're doing. I guarandamntee that I can take a Weber kettle straight off the showroom floor and cook as good or better bbq than most folks can produce off a dedicated smoker. Guaranteed.

                      For those that want to "convert" their 22.5" Weber into a smoker, the Smokenator http://www.smokenator.com/ really is a godsend...according to those I know that use it.

                      For the price you can't go wrong with a 22.5" Weber. Learn to use it and you'll be very happy. Are there better grills? Yes. Are there better ways to smoke? Of course there are. But for the $$$ the quality is very good and you can both grill or smoke once you learn how to properly use the grill.

                      By the way, the CharGriller that Indirect Heat uses can be a great smoker if you do a few pretty simple modifications (and add the side fire box). It makes for a good grill also.

                      1. re: JayL

                        I certainly agree that the Weber is the way to cut one's teeth. A barrel-style is a logical next step. If only because it will permit the preparation of a much greater amount of barbecue!

                        1. re: MGZ

                          And where good bbq is concerned..................more is ALWAYS better!

                          Amen to that!

                        2. re: JayL

                          You can do better than the smokenator. Well cheaper. Get a few firebricks, they cost a couple bucks. Please see here for more information:


                  2. Rippin200, as others have said eloquently, for a starter grill, the 22½" Weber is the standard by which all others are judged (that does not mean that none exceed the standard, but they almost always will be much more expensive). In other words, you really need a solid reason NOT to get a Weber, and you probably do not have that reason formulated yet.

                    But the hardware is only part of the story. Do not begin to entertain the thought of using a chemical fire starter. Get a charcoal starter chimney at Ace Hardware for $7 or $8 and you (1) will never need to buy lighter fluid when you run out -- ever -- and (2) will not have the taste of charcoal lighter in your food. And, until you find something better -- you probably won't -- use "chunk" (not briquette) mesquite charcoal as your standard. Later (probably when you have a barrel smoker), you may want to invest in hickory chips, but chunk mesquite is cheap and good. (Avoid Lazarri brand, though: it seems to have a lot of trapped internal water that -- when it turns to steam -- creates spectacular fireworks effects which may get you using the fire extinguisher you keep on hand sooner than you had planned to use it.)

                    1. just started using the big steel keg - a steel version of a big green egg type cooker, costly-ish, but i love it so far

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: thew

                        When I lived in the 10021 zip code area they weren't allowed.

                          1. re: thew

                            Twas easier to get forgiveness. Which in that hood requires greasing the doorman, concierge, elevator operator, and building superintendent.

                      2. About 5 years ago, we were in Walmart and found the Royal Oak griller/smoker and thought we'd give it a try. We were so happy with it we bought another while they were still in stock (it's in a box in the garage waiting for it's day.) A third one we bought later and gave to our son.

                        The charcoal grate adjusts so you can sear and then lower the heat; the lid rolls back like a desk instead of opening like a regular grill (which is good for me as I'm vertically challenged); and the cooking surface allows for direct and indirect cooking. The front door opens to add more charcoal and the ash tray on the bottom removes to clean up. It was all of around $119 at the time.

                        We've always loved charcoal and would never think of using gas - ever. We have a S/S firestarter, and honestly it only takes about 10-15 minutes to get the coals ready to use. We've used lump charcoal and regular and either one is fine with us. I've cooked pizza using indirect heat, and roasts come out just fine.

                        I think W-S offered something similar, but much more expensive and a bit more heavy duty, but I'm not sure it's still available.

                        1. Thank you everyone. I know not to use the charcoal that is soaked in lighter fluid or even use lighter fluid at all. Is there a certain type of coal I should be using I thought I heard somewhere there were different types?

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: Rippin200

                            Rippin200: "Is there a certain type of coal I should be using I thought I heard somewhere there were different types?"

                            See a couple posts above:

                            "Until you find something better -- you probably won't -- use "chunk" (not briquette) mesquite charcoal as your standard. Later (probably when you have a barrel smoker), you may want to invest in hickory chips, but chunk mesquite is cheap and good."

                            1. re: Politeness

                              I second lump hardwood charcoal but am not crazy about mesquite. I also try to buy stuff produced in America (not for nationalistic reasons but rather a sense of better quality standards).

                            2. re: Rippin200

                              Royal Oak lump charcoal (Wal-Mart carries it) will do just fine for you. Just be aware, lump tends to burn up faster than briquettes. If you're grilling this isn't an issue, but if you're trying the low 'n slow approach it can add a little work.

                              1. re: Rippin200

                                For grilling, I use briquettes which deliver high consistent heat for a long time. For smoking, I use real charcoal chunks. You get better control over heat and fire size. Plus you can add in wood for wood smoke. Brisket sees mesquite. Pork sees hickory. Chicken and turkey see apple. Early on I wondered how much difference it really made for wood type, and used mesquite for a turkey. Wayyyyy too strong flavour for turkey.

                                1. re: Indirect Heat

                                  To me, barbecuing and grilling are skills and thus require practice (think throwing darts). Through such practice you will learn about flavors, cooking time, etc. Fuels are a subject that will take a great deal of time to master (if ever). At present, I have Kingsford briquettes, Cowboy lump, and several types of wood logs (apple, cherry, maple, and peach).

                                  Different applications call for different fuels. If I am going to spend 12-14 hours barbecuing pork shoulders, my fire starts with briquettes due to the long burning time. I add thin logs of wood (make friends with your axe) and lump coals throughout the process according to the amount of heat/smoke I think needed.

                                  As you can see, there are lots of opinions and each has its own merit. I am not a fan of too much hickory or mesquite as they are quite pungent. Others make excellent 'cue using those fuels. Bottom line - start cookin'!

                                2. re: Rippin200

                                  No one's said it 100% clearly, so this may be obvious. There's lump charcoal and briquettes. The former is hunks of wood made into charcoal, the latter is the former, ground up and pressed into shape, with binders and sometimes fillers.

                                  There's a great online lump charcoal database at nakedwhiz.com.

                                  For briquettes, I'd avoid the original Kingsford in the blue bag. It's ubiquitous and cheap, but it has coal and clay in it that make a lot of ash and aren't so great for flavor. They also now have a 'competition' version that's better but to me is relatively pricey. My preferences are Rancher charcoal, which last I checked was available at Trader Joe's, and Stubb's, which Lowe's sells. Both lack the fillers and I know the Rancher uses yucca starch as a binder.

                                  For lump, use the database as a guide. But let price guide you also. I'm in GA, and there are some stores here that carry exotic brands (Wicked Good from MA, e.g.), but $20 for a ~20lb bag of charcoal is insane unless it's your only option. I don't like the Cowboy or Whole Foods house brands- the charcoal isn't dense enough (burns too quick, too many sparks). The Big Green Egg brand is basically 1st choice Royal Oak with about a 50% markup. The Royal Oak at Wal Mart may be a good deal, but I think it's made in Paraguay and that reviews have been so so- remember that everything at Wal Mart is a race to the bottom. My preference is the original Royal Oak that I get at Restaurant Depot. I had a run there that had some trash in it, but that was a while back. And it's typ around $8 for a 17-18lb bag.

                                  Finally, the real quick thoughts on grills are to be sure to get one with good airflow control. Weber's are great, and there are other decent ones too. But many have gone very light on the metal thickness. And 'convenience' features like removable ash pans tend to also be big holes that keep you from controlling the airflow to the fire for indirect cooking.

                                  1. re: ted

                                    ted--I get the competition kingsford at Costco but I find that it burns too fast & I have to keep adding more. Fortunately I have 2 huge bags of it (see: Costco) but it is a PITA to have to keep adding more even though I have the flip up sides on my grill----which BTW, the OP should make sure her Weber has.

                                    1. re: sparkareno

                                      Yep, I pretty much avoid it in favor of Rancher or Stubb's.

                                3. I Weber gold kettle grill is always a very safe choice for your first grill Its big enough for a crowd and there are accessories such as a rotisserie.

                                  If you want a smoker on the cheap Id take home a Weber Smokey Mt. It may not look like much but people win BBQ competitions with them on a regular basis.

                                  I like Kingsford charcoal for weeknights and lump charcoal when I am cooking something special like leg of lamb. Indirect Heat's post above is correct about the proper smoking woods.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Kelli2006

                                    I second the Weber smoker. The great thing is they have a website with instructions on how to smoke everything!
                                    For a grill, I like the Weber Gold. I used to have a Performa, I find a chimney works just as fast and clean and you don't have to worry about running out of propane.

                                  2. Anyone else swear by the Kuuma Stow & Go Charcoal Grill?? I do! The stainless steel is a lifesaver, as I keep mine outside and live near a beach (saltwater air destroys grills). Super well constructed and easy to clean. Got mine here:

                                    1. OK, I say do not go out & get just any chimney starter--you must get a Weber starter. Believe me, I have gone through many a cheap hardware store brand & always had trouble getting a fire started. Last year I bought a Weber chimney and have never once had a problem. First of all, they hold a ton of charcoal and second--there are holes on the sides that many do not have which helps get it going. They are about $15 and worth every penny---as is your Weber kettle grill. I swear this company should be sending me checks every month with the way I sing their praises. Weber rocks.

                                      2 Replies
                                        1. re: MGZ

                                          As do I--love my Weber starter. Holds a lot of charcoal, plus it's easy to light the newspaper.

                                      1. I don't use a chimney to start charcoal. I use a brush burner propane tourch hooked on a 5 gallon propane tank. Much faster and I use it to burn off the grill from the last cooking at the same time. Available at harbor freight for around $30.

                                        7 Replies
                                        1. re: duck833

                                          isn't a chimney starter less money and easier?

                                          1. re: tommy

                                            The chimney might be a few bucks cheaper but it is not easier. The brush burner will get the charcoal steak ready within 3-4 minutes, and clean off the grill.

                                            1. re: duck833

                                              I've never found speed of charcoal being ready to cook being an issue. I mean, if you start the charcoal when you pull stuff out of the fridge, by the time you're ready to cook, the charcoal will be good and hot.

                                              Having the charcoal ready on time is more about good planning than about having a speedy lighting method.

                                              1. re: duck833

                                                a few bucks cheaper as in half the price, with no additional cost of propane.

                                                seems to me that dumping a few coals in a chimney is easier than messing with a blow torch hooked up to a propane tank that i don't have sitting around. sounds like fun, though.

                                                1. re: tommy

                                                  I do need a torch to make creme brulee...

                                                  1. re: Bada Bing

                                                    Please do NOT use a propane WEED BURNER for your Creme Brulee - or at least don't use it in the kitchen ;)

                                                    1. re: rich in stl

                                                      I had to Google "weed burner" to see what you meant. yeah, that's overkill:

                                          2. never had a Weber kettle type charcoal burner but I have had an Old Smokey ($29.95 at most any grocery store in Texas), and the principle seemed the same. I liked it and got ok results but for real smoking I went to a New Braunfels Smoker (about $125). The firebox is on the side and when I use nice chunks of wood it delivers 1st class BBQ. Just like w. charcoal, I can get a few big hunks of pecan or mesquite ready for smoking in about 15 min. w a Weber chimney. Now I also have a gas grill, and I use it a lot ...but for three things...BBQ, thick steaks, and pizza... it is the NB Smoker. You can make a fire in the top area, not the firebox on the side. You can cook right over the fire (steaks) or right next to the fire (pizza stone). The thermometer says it gets up to 900 F. in there. My gas grill is a Weber 300 series and it just can't do those three things nearly as well.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: tim irvine

                                              We've had two Weber Smokey Joes (small portable camping size, that we both had one of going into the relationship), used up a Weber 22" grill (which wasn't really used up but DH wanted a new one, he's a litle weird about his grills), got a couple of gas grills, the first one was too cheap and self-destructed, the current one is fine for a lot of things, and I got him a Weber 26" grill for Christmas, which he loves the hell out of. We always cooked the Thanksgiving turkey on the 22" Weber, but the bigger one has really expanded our horizons- we can cook a lot of stuff besides a turkey without having to stagger the cooking times.

                                              In other words, we're Weber fans. But in the hot hot summertime I have to admit I like the convenience of the gas grill, and i'm not ashamed.

                                            2. I will htrow my vote with the Weber 22 1/2 as an excellent starter grill - also get yourself the Weber Charcoal Chimney starter to aid in lighting the grill - 26 1/2" if you want a larger cooking surface

                                              1. Grill: Weber Gold.

                                                Fuel: Good hardwood briquettes are fine -- just make sure to get the stuff without the lighter fluid. Basic Kingsford is fine for now.

                                                Smoke: Smoky flavor does not (should not) come from the briquettes or charcoal, which ought to basically be a neutral. If you want smoky flavor, use chunks of wood soaked in water.

                                                Starter: Chimney starter. The Weber model is nice but not necessary to shell out the extra bucks. Heck, back in scouts we made one with a tomato juice can, and some heavy gage steel wire. Punch holes with a church key and you are good to go. Spraying the newspaper with a spritz of Pam reduces chances of failure to about nil (high humidity days can be trouble).

                                                Cooking: Sure your Weber can grill. But it's real forte is indirect heat. Play to the Weber's strengths and prepare to be amazed.

                                                6 Replies
                                                1. re: MikeB3542

                                                  wood chips need to be soaked. wood chunks not so much. water does not penetrate wood very far - that's why boats are made of wood

                                                  1. re: thew

                                                    Most hulls are fiberglass now, and fiberglass chips do little to improve carnitas..

                                                    1. re: thew

                                                      I'm afraid that's not entirely true. Wooden boats can be built so that the timber swells in water. My friend's cedar canoe leaks quite badly until it is 'soaked'. Timber in your house will be between 5 and 25% water. Stick a lump of water in wood and it will eventually reach what is known as its fibre saturation point. A saturated 2x4 weighs twice that of a dry one. That's on of the reasons when you are building on your own you try to keep the timber dry. (As well as to prevent warping, after building).

                                                    2. re: MikeB3542

                                                      I disagree about the Weber's forte. You can do a good job cooking direct or indirect with a kettle, but it can't cook indirect as well as, say, a good offset rig, and it it won't cook direct as well as a dedicated, adjustable grate grill, but the Weber kettle's real strength is it's versatility - it can do it all well enough to keep just about everybody happy.

                                                      Agree w/ everything else, tho.

                                                      1. re: MikeB3542

                                                        I disagree about the Weber chimney starter. It is much bigger than most out there and the holes go up the sides which most don't so the fire gets some air to speed things up. I have gone through years of every other one out there and the Weber one has changed my charcoal grilling life. More than worth the $5 extra bucks (got mine on ebay).

                                                        1. re: sparkareno

                                                          I agree with Spark that the Weber chimney is worth the negligible extra cost. I found myself replacing corroded cheapo ones pretty much every year until I got the Weber chimney a few years ago, and it's still going strong. Plus the larger-than-average capacity is very nice.

                                                      2. What city are you in? Be unique. Get a used weber kettle on craigslist. Find a red one which Weber will not make anymore (in the original firetruck red). Get one with the ash catcher removal system (or learn how to mod it).

                                                        You can get these for $40-60 in good condition. I've got 4 Weber grills. AFter owning cheap ones forever (Charbroiler etc.) just go for the Webers, and don't look back. Last forever, parts are available forever (almost), lots of support.

                                                        Or get a performer. I got one for $75 that needed some new parts but no biggie. Then get yourself some firebricks. These are available for a couple of bucks. Then read this thread:

                                                        You can now grill direct/indirect, and smoke low for hours. When you are ready, you can step up to a weber smokey mountain or Big Green Egg/Kamado etc. Or go offset. I have the WSM and it works like a charm.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: deeznuts

                                                          On a side note I believe Weber still makes the red but as far as I can tell only for the overseas market and only in the 26.75 inch one touch.Cool colors like gold, white?yellow also . Could not believe my eyes when I saw them in Denmark last summer.

                                                        2. Although I have 3 Weber Kettles in my backyard (from Craigslist, etc) I have a different suggestion - Make an Ugly Drum Smoker!

                                                          Basically you get a 55 gal metal drum, drill holes in the bottom, burn it out, put grates in at and you have a smoker. Google UDS for Ugly Drum Smoker. I[m going to make one in a Whiskey barrel;. Should be neat ;)

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: rich in stl

                                                            OP: "Been grilling with gas my whole life (I'm only 26 so forgive me for my sins). I've reading a fellow chowhound's blog and reading a lot about Adam Perry Lang and really want to start grill and smoking with charcoal. Can somone please help with the purchase of a good beginners charcoal grill where I can start learning to grill and smoke on. As I said before I'm 26 and not trying to break the bank. Thanks in advance to anyone that can help"

                                                            I'm of the opinion that the UDS suggestion is a little outside of the box.

                                                            1. re: tommy

                                                              Yes, the UDS suggestion is a bit outside the box (I was feeling puckish) I suggest you search craigslist for a weber kettle - maybe $25. Best way to start!