When it comes to charcoal grilling there’s some debate surrounding the best type of grill to use. If you’re looking for your first grill or even wanting to move from gas to charcoal, you’re probably wondering which is better, a kettle grill or a barrel grill?
Although they function largely the same, some differences could sway your decision. Let’s take a look at the most important ones so that you can choose the right grill for your needs.
Size Comparison Between Kettle and Barrel Grills
Although sizes between individual models can differ, the overall size of a barrel grill is usually larger than a kettle grill. The surface is rectangular, which is sometimes better when cooking for large groups.
Take the following two similarly priced grills to get an idea of the difference in size when comparing kettle grills vs. barrel grills.
- The Royal Gourmet 30” Charcoal Grill has an offset smoker and a barrel design. The total cooking area is 438 square inches including the warmer rack and smoking compartment. This grill is more versatile than a standard kettle grill because it offers two separate cooking methods in one.
- The Weber Kettle 22-Inch is one of the most popular kettle grills available and Weber was the first company to use the kettle design. The grill features 363 square inches of cooking area, slightly less than the Royal Gourmet barrel model. There’s no offset smoker or warming rack, so it’s less versatile overall.
When comparing the size between these two grills, the Royal Gourmet is the better option, giving a win to the barrel style. However, if you simply want a large cooking area and don’t need a smoking compartment or a warmer rack. The round 22-Inch surface of the Weber would be the better choice.
As with many decisions when buying a charcoal grill, the ‘best’ option is subjective.
Quality and Construction
When shopping at the same price point, the quality of materials and construction is usually comparable.
The Weber Kettle is one of the most popular charcoal grills on the market today and the design has a long history of being both reliable and durable. Barrel options, like the Royal Gourmet, are equally as robust.
Although quality is largely the same, Weber, the maker of the most popular kettle grills, offers a more generous warranty coverage period than most brands.
Weber also has an extensive international network of distributors and authorized service centers. This means that if you want durability and complete peace of mind, it’s better to go for a kettle grill from a trusted manufacturer like Weber.
Ease of Use
When it comes to user-friendliness, kettle charcoal grills easily take the top spot. With a kettle design, the charcoal is placed below the cooking surface and vents are controlled from the top and bottom to adjust airflow and cooking temperature.
Barrel grills often feature an offset component which means that there’s more complexity overall. If you want the simplest cooking experience with the fire and cooking are taken care of in a single chamber, the kettle design is superior.
However, if you want more versatility, then a barrel grill with an offset smoker would be your best choice. Again, the difference here isn’t quite about which is the outright best, but rather which is the best for your unique needs and preferences.
The Bottom Line: Should You Buy a Kettle or Barrel Grill?
When you’re asking which is better, a kettle grill or barrel grill, the answer usually comes down to how you want to cook.
Barrel grills typically have offset smokers that make them more versatile as both high-intensity grillers and smokers in one unit. Kettle grills are simpler but are easier to use, even if they compromise some versatility.
Choose the one the best suits your needs. If you will cook like most people and only need to smoke occasionally, the traditional kettle design will often be the best choice.