As convenient as propane grills can be, many grillers enjoy the down-home smoky taste that only a charcoal grill can provide. Portable charcoal grills are small and light enough that they can be taken on road trips, to the park, or used in the backyard. Companies like Weber, Coleman and Charbroil have whipped up some of the best portable grills around. The basic design uses a grated cooking surface encased within a paint-coated shell to aid in heat convection. The most portable of these grills fold-up legs and snap lids which lend a portable design which is easy to fit in the car. Despite their smaller size, a portable charcoal grill can cook up some of the tastiest food for friends and family. The stainless steel cooking grates leave signature grill lines on the meats, while the air flow in the charcoal base keeps everything nice and hot. Take a look at some of these cool features below- maybe you'll want to try one for yourself!
While smaller than your full-sized grill sitting on the back porch, a portable grill can still pack a punch when it comes to cooking lots of food at once. These grilling surfaces are generally measured in square-inches. Simply compare this number with your big grill's cooking surface to get an idea of how much space is available. Remember that many small grills have a folding "warmer" rack on the inside which folds up with the lid. Some companies list how many hamburgers their cooking surface can handle.
Users can place veggies or toasted buns on the rack to complete the delectable ensemble. The best type of cooking grates are the ones made from stainless steel. Users will find it quite easy to remove food even when seared and charred. A quick wipe with a soapy rag or grill cleaning brush can remove most residue like dried BBQ sauce.In addition, regular steel grates can be kept from rusting by rubbing them with a bit of vegetable oil. This prevents the steel from oxidizing when not in use.
Portable Base and Top
What makes a portable charcoal grill portable is the compact design of the lid and base. The base is designed to hold all of your charcoal briquettes, and generally has a steel grate on the bottom to promote airflow. Airflow adjusters on the bottom of many models allow users to change how much oxygen reaches the coals. Setting the adjuster to full-open will result in a hotter fire.
When you need to move a grill filled with hot coals, the last thing you want is to grab a pair of searing hot handles. Heat resistant Nylon handles such as the ones on Weber models are the best choice for people who don't want to get burned (who does?). Nylon handles dissipate heat and do not get as hot as, say a metal or wooden handle can.
The lid is especially important in creating top-notch grilled foods. The lids on portable BBQ grills keep the hot air circulating within the chamber, cooking the top and bottom of the food at the same time. Small grills need to retain as much heat as possible because of their smaller size.
Durability on the Road
A small charcoal grill can only serve you well if it can withstand the beatings of travel. Portable grills are meant to be used anywhere from the wilderness to your local park. The primary line of defense lies in the ceramic coating on the exterior. Ceramic paint is applied through extreme heat to the outside of the steel surfaces. This paint comes in many colors ranging from blue to red, with the most popular being black. This coating resists scratches, dings, and most importantly, rust.
Ash Collection and Cleanup
When you're on the go, cleaning the grill after every use is essential. An unclean grill will leave a black, sooty mess all over your clothes and car. Cleaning is simple with a grill brush- just brush the soot out of the grill's base (assuming the grill has cooled down completely). For added protection, opt for a grill that comes with a carrying case, or buy one after-the-fact. Carrying cases allow for quick cleanup and easy transport.
No true grill master is complete without a meat thermometer on their portable charcoal grill. Built-in thermometers tell you what the exact temperature is inside of the grill. A built in thermometer eliminates the hassle of carrying a separate one around. Temperature is measured in Fahrenheit and Celsius.