All You Need To Know About Portable Charcoal BBQ Grills

A portable charcoal grill takes your amazing BBQ skills to the outside world. Show off your charcoal magic to more than the closest family.

A gas grill can be kind of portable. It doesn’t come close to the portable charcoal grill though. 

Unless you own a truck, your regular BBQ rig is best left in the garden. 

The last option, if you want that smoke flavored food, is a campfire. That needs some skill though. You don’t want the whole neighborhood smoke flavored.

With a portable charcoal grill, you have easy and safe cooking everywhere.

How To Use A Portable Charcoal Grill 

  • Prepare the food.
  • Use lump charcoal or charcoal briquettes, or mix them.
  • Light up the grill.
  • Don’t put on the food too quickly. The coal should be white or glowing red.
  • Grill the already prepared food

Grilling should take time, and depending on the method you use, it can take up to 30 minutes just to get good heat.

Preparation is important when it comes to cooking. Have everything prepared. Let the grilling be the last part of your meal. 

One important thing to consider is the type of charcoal you should use. The choice is between lump charcoal or charcoal briquettes. 

  • Charcoal briquettes: Made of compressed sawdust. They burn for a long time. Might miss out a bit on that smoke flavor.
  • Lump charcoal: Made from pure wood. Burns faster. Gives a lot of smokey flavor. Some hardcore pit masters wouldn’t even mention “charcoal briquettes”.
  • A mix of both: Get the pros and cons from both types. You get some of that smoke flavor. At the same time, you get a longer cooking time with the charcoal briquettes. 

What Is The Best Portable Charcoal Grill 

When choosing a portable charcoal grill, there are a few things you should consider. How portable should it be? What features should it have? How many people should you be able to cook for? What material?

While you think about that, we’ve reviewed some of the best buys you can make. 

Check out our guide: “Best Portable Charcoal Grills”

Where To Set Up Your Portable Charcoal Grill 

The grill should be where it does not cause a fire. That’s the basic need. A grill can start a fire both during and after grilling. Make sure it is on a flat surface. There should be no flammable materials under or around it. Wind can blow embers around. Watch out for that as well. 

Make sure there aren’t kids or animals too close. Kids in particular have a fondness for fire. The same goes for adults but we are better at controlling it. 

Keep a fire extinguisher or a can of water nearby.

How To Start A Portable Charcoal Grill 

Lighter fluid is an easy way to light the grill. At the same time, lighter fluid can spoil the taste of your food. It’s better to look at other options. 

A Chimney Starter is an easy way to light the charcoal. At the same time, it is useful for determining how much coal to use. Half a chimney stone is fine if you are only cooking a few thin pieces of meat and some sausage. A full chimney is suitable for larger meals. 

Fill the chimney with coal. Use paper or lighter cubes at the ventilation holes and light up.  

Wait for the coal to get while/red. Pour out the coal. Wear a heat-resistant glove when pouring out the coal. It can easily throw sparks. 

When you have distributed the coals, put the grate on. It is ideal if it is warm before you start grilling. 

If you don’t have a chimney starter, there are other ways. Build up the coals like a pyramid and place paper or lighter cubes in and around them. When the coal has finished burning, place it out with tongs. The way you place it depends on how you will cook the food. You can read more about that below. 

How To Cook With A Portable Charcoal Grill 

  • Indirect grilling
    Put charcoal briquettes/lump charcoal on the sides of the grill. This way, the food is not exposed to direct heat. You use the grill as an oven. Indirect grilling is suitable for large food that takes more than 20 minutes to cook. 
  • Direct grilling
    Place charcoal/briquettes over the entire grill base. This method is great for quick grilling and where you want high heat.

Lower the heat and close the lid for an even smokier taste. This method takes a little longer but is definitely worth the wait! By closing the lid, you get more even heat and shorten the cooking time. Use a thermometer with a base station to avoid lifting the lid so often.

See also:

11 Best Outdoor Food Prep Tables

How To Clean A Portable Charcoal Grill

It’s best to make a habit of scrubbing the grill grate after use. Food and grease won’t build up that much if you do.

You need: Trash bag and a steel grate brush. 

  1. Let the barbecue cool down.
  2. Enjoy the food and praise.
  3. Scrub the worst from the hot grill grate using a steel grill grate brush. The heat will help burn off the remains and make it easier to remove the food and residues.
  4. Empty the COOL ashes.

Make a habit of emptying the COOL ashes after grilling. We don’t want to start a fire. Ashes can cause fires long after they seem to have burned out.

A deeper cleaning requires a bit more tools and investment in time.  

See also:

5 Ways to Clean BBQ Grease off Concrete


A portable charcoal grill is a great way to take your cooking outside. Remember to only use it when it’s safe. Take care of the cleaning as soon as possible. Your grill and future self will thank you.

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