The grilling world never ceases to amaze us. Whenever we review different kinds of grills, we are always surprised at how pitmasters in the US and around the world have created ever better smoking, roasting, and grilling methods. Today’s close match is between two giants of the grilling world – the kettle grill and the barrel grill.
The classic kettle grill is something that’s been in American homes for at least five decades now. The barrel grill is a relative newcomer in the mass market scene. Regardless, both are formidable options for charcoal grilling. Do you get a Weber kettle grill? Do you order a custom barrel grill with all the bells and whistles?
We have consulted with top pitmasters and other barbecue lovers to find out what they love about both the kettle grill and the barrel grill, and we gained some beneficial insights that will help you decide. Because let’s admit it – two or three grills are always better than one, especially if you are hosting a big cookout and you desperately need more space for that ten-pound roast.
The more grills you have, the more meat you can smoke or grill, and you can produce a tremendous amount of barbecue in a third of the time. Of course, that might mean more simultaneous work for you, but this is a small tradeoff for being able to prepare all the food you need ahead of time.
The Kettle Grill
Half a Century of Glory
Let’s admit it – there has always been a longstanding debate about the ideal charcoal grill ever. While the same thing can be accomplished by a nice pile of rocks and some chopped wood, the most discerning pitmasters are very particular about the outcome of their cookouts, and they also want to cook with specific parameters.
For example, pitmasters who specialize in smoking meat need temperatures to be constant, so when there is a ten-degree drop in temperature while using a kettle grill, after reaching peak heat and the charcoal grill can’t sustain the temperature, they immediately have to recalibrate the time needed to complete the smoking/grilling.
It’s these ‘small things that tend to have a significant impact on the outcome. For example, drops in cooking temperature can mean a substantial adjustment in the cooking time. If you are cooking a dozen burger patties, this might not be a problem, but as the amount of meat involved increases, so does the cooking time.
- Due to their size, kettle grills tend to have reduced cooking space. If you want to extend the cooking space inside the kettle grill, you need to purchase separate grilling racks. Unfortunately, kettle grills usually do not come with warming racks, either.
Fortunately, if you already have a kettle grill at home, you can easily buy any number of warming racks from Amazon. However, due to the space constraints, don’t expect kettle grills to be more versatile than larger barrel grills.
There might be a difference of 75-100 square inches of cooking space if it’s a toss-up between a kettle grill and a barrel grill. A barrel grill (on average) provides up to 438 square inches of space.
- Barrel grills and kettle grills tend to be as sturdy as each other, so you won’t have to worry about the durability of the metal if you buy any of these.
- Kettle grill brands like Weber tend to provide more extended warranties to both US and international customers. It’s also easier to get a replacement should you need one because international brands have more extensive networks.
- Kettle grills are more user-friendly and beginner-friendly. Let’s face it – not everyone knows how to maximize charcoal grilling. A newbie would probably be intimidated by a vast barrel grill with an offset chamber. If you are not interested in using an offset chamber for some severe smoking, skip the barrel grill and get a kettle grill instead.
The Barrel Grill
Versatility and Space Combined
A barrel grill is precisely as it sounds – it’s a vast barrel laid sideways and split in half. The top half of the barrel grill serves as the cover, and the bottom of the barrel handles the sack of charcoal and woodchips you are using for the cookout. The barrel grill has a very folksy appeal because anyone can make one with a clean barrel. Then, of course, there are barrel grills with offset chambers, a thermometer, etc. If you want the bells and whistles, get one from a commercial brand.
- Barrel grills don’t need a chimney because the extra space inside already provides a draft for the charcoal.
- Barrel grills also have vents that are strategically positioned to provide the best ventilation for charcoal and meat. Ventilation is critical, so the charcoal and woodchips do not die out. More advanced designs incorporate industrial blowers so the pitmasters can easily control the grill’s temperature by using a knob.
- Choose a barrel grill with an offset smoker if you need that feature. If not, you can stick to using a kettle grill, which is easier to use and smaller, too.
- Barrel grills are ideal if you are interested in using wood chips like mesquite, apple, and hickory to enhance the flavors of the meat. Smoking is a serious business in many parts of the world, and the only way to get good results is by having a quality smoker. The most severe smokers in the world dedicate entire rooms to smoking – that’s how seriously they take the tenderness and flavors of smoked meat.
- It is effortless to reach maximum temperatures of 500°F-700°F (260°C-371.11°C) with a barrel grill. After attaining peak temperature, you can regulate the temperature to as low as 150°F (65.56°C). Therefore, lower-temperature cooking such as roasting and smoking is super easy in a barrel grill.
- Barrel grills have rusting issues. Therefore, you have to maintain and clean it often if you want to preserve your barrel grill.