I have to admit, portable charcoal grills have a special place in my heart. Why? Hard to say. They’re cool, effective, cheap, easy to store and as long as you understand their limitations, they do everything their bigger brothers do in a more convenient package.
Perhaps the king of portable bbq grills is the Weber Smokey Joe. Why? Mostly because of the reasons I mentioned above: It’s cheap, effective, easy to store and works like a champ. You’ll need to understand that it is small. The smallest full-size charcoal kettle grill Weber sells is the Weber One Touch Silver 18.5 inch. The Smokey Joe has a 14.5 inch grill. Now don’t get me wrong – 4 inches is a big difference. Don’t buy one of the Smokey Joes thinking you can get a whole bunch of food on there. You’re only going to realistically be able to cook for up to 4 people. More than that and there are going to be decent wait times. But like this video shows, you can get a decent amount of food on the thing if you try.
The Smokey Joe comes in two flavors, the Silver and the Gold. The Silver is the one we all know and love. The Gold comes with a wire lid lock/carrying handle. It also has vent holes on the sides instead of the bottom which is the reason there is no tray at the bottom of the kettle. Up to you which one you prefer. Some people have voiced displeasure for the side vent placement; others seem to have no problem with it. Guess it all comes down to if you think you need the lid lock/handle contraption or not.
Weber also recently re-introduced their Jumbo Joe. This little devil is pretty much the same as the Smokey Joe Silver except for the 18.5 inch grill. Yup, you read that right – 18.5 inch grill, the same size grill as the smallest of the full-size charcoal grills. One thing to keep in mind – the Jumbo Joe doesn’t have a super big top end. The lid to the grill is a little short, so don’t buy it thinking you’ll be able to stuff a full size bird under there. It’s compact for a reason. But if you’re looking to grill for more than 4 people and think the Smokey Joe isn’t going to cut it, then go for the Jumbo Joe.
In fact, I’m going to stop this article right here. Why? Because in all reality you should be buying the Weber Jumbo Joe. Or the Smokey Joe if you’re cooking for less people. If you’re looking for a great portable bbq grill for more than 2 or 3 people, the Jumbo Joe is going to be pretty much head and shoulders above all else. Price? The Smokey Joe Silver runs around 30 bucks with the Jumbo Joe going for around 60. Is it worth double the price?
Take another look at that video. That’s 13 chicken legs stuffed onto the Smokey Joe. Now consider the Jumbo Joe has a 62% larger cooking area. That works out to about 21 chicken legs. Lots more sausages. An extra steak or hamburger or two. You get the picture.
And if you think I’m being unfair to all other portable charcoal barbecue grills, don’t worry, I’ll write another article about them later. But this one needed to be all about the Weber Joes.
Not a fan of the charcoal? Check out these posts to see if there’s something there that lights your fire (or your heating element):
Why an Electric Grill is Better Than Gas Or Charcoal (And Why It’s Not)
Portable Gas Grills – Best of Both Worlds