Kitchn Love Letters

This $40 Grill Is the Best Option for Grilling Newbies. Period.

published Jun 9, 2021
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Credit: Betsie Van Der Meer/Getty Images

If you are into grilling, it’s easy to fall victim to the “bigger is better” mentality. I mean, there are some monster grills out there! But if, like me, you’ve contained your cooking adventures to The Great Indoors, a mega grill with all the bells and whistles can seem intimidating. 

Until last year, I’d never grilled anything. Seriously! It just wasn’t in my bag of tricks. I think this was in large part due to the fact that I used to be a vegetarian; although grilled veggies are delicious, they don’t have quite the allure of a smoky grilled strip steak. (If you’re wondering, I used to pan-fry my veggie burgers.) But after a decade of cooking professionally, and with meat back on my menu, I figured it was time to learn. 

I got my grill, a 14-inch Smokey Joe charcoal model from Weber, second-hand, which means it has the charming patina of any much-loved tool. But grills are hardy, sturdy things, and even though mine has a few years under its belt, it’s been a zero-regret purchase. If you’re a grilling newbie like myself, I think you will love this grill. Here’s why.

1. It’s very affordable.

Really, $40 is not a bad price for what could be considered a major cooking appliance. I was hesitant to take the plunge on a more expensive model, because it was entirely possible I wouldn’t actually enjoy grilling. (Spoiler, I do!)

Although there are no fussy add-ons to this grill, it has everything necessary, including an ash catcher underneath the main drum, and a very easy-to-clean removable grate. If, after a trial period, you decide you are going to be a grilling machine, you can always upgrade to Weber’s 22-inch grill. And if you really love grilling, you could invest in their $1,049 Summit Kamado model.

2. It’s great for small spaces.

Travel grills are handy if you’re the camping or picnicking type. But don’t discount their usefulness for your own backyard. If space is at a premium at home, or you don’t want a grill to be the focal point of your green space, a mini, lightweight charcoal grill like this is the perfect solution. I don’t even leave mine outside — it gets tucked away neatly in the garage until I’m ready to cook. Thankfully, although it’s short, the actual surface area for grilling is pretty generous. I most often use it for “just” myself, but it is definitely large enough to cook dinner for two. I have!

Credit: Rochelle Bilow
The size of the grill (Corgi for scale!).

3. It’s easy to learn on.

Charcoal grilling comes with a learning curve, even if you’re comfortable with cooking over an open flame. Timing is everything with charcoal, but it’s easy to get the hang of it with a miniature grill. A smaller grilling area is more temperature-consistent — there are less hot and cool zones to navigate — so you can gain confidence with the other variables at play, like charcoal type, lighting the dang thing, chimney use, and burn-time. 

4. It’s cute.

Sue me: I like tiny, adorable things! The Smokey Joe, with its 17-inch height and 14-inch diameter, seems like the sort of grill a squirrel or woodchuck might toast acorns over, which I find charming. I think about this every time I use my grill, and it brings me a little happiness.

And even though my Weber is made for packing up and adventuring, I’m quite happy staying put with it. Someday, I’ll bring my grill on field trips to campgrounds and beaches, but for now I’m keeping my training wheels on and enjoying my latest quarantine-inspired hobby right in my backyard. 

Is this the year you start grilling? Share your goals (and questions!) with us in the comments.