Even though the outdoor propane gas grills now take up the most space in the lawn and garden department of stores, charcoal barbecues are still going strong. Nothing can beat the tradition or the flavor of cooking on a charcoal-powered barbecue grill. The thin stamped-metal versions that look like a metal ball when the lid is on are still available, but there are many more styles available as well. Charcoal grills come in all shapes and sizes, from the little disposable models that are ready to be lit, used and thrown away after use, to large grills capable of cooking huge amounts of food.
The smallest charcoal grills are the disposable types. These grills are made out of disposable aluminum roasting pans with a thin aluminum grill surface. They come with a wire stand and are prefilled with charcoal that is already saturated in starting fluid. These units work great for a couple who would just like to grill a few hot dogs or hamburgers for an impromptu picnic.
The standard round stamped-steel barbecue grill with a dome lid is probably the most recognized charcoal barbecue grill. It comes in a box and has legs that need to be assembled before use. The surface area is typically large enough to cook for a small family get-together. Some units have plastic wheels to make it easier to move the barbecue. The grill surface is steel and, on most models, adjustable for height to keep it off the coals.
Large grills are made from steel with steel lids. Some are large enough to require a chimney to dissipate the smoke from the grill. Commercial units of this type are usually towed on a trailer behind a vehicle to get them to the grilling location. These are used for large parties such as graduations and reunions. They require large amounts of charcoal or wood to fuel them.
A major part of the grilling experience lies in the taste the charcoal imparts to the meat. Cooking on gas-powered grills is not even a close second to the flavor of cooking over charcoal. Charcoal is not coal but rather wood that is pressed into briquettes and heated to very high temperatures in a container without oxygen. The wood chars but does not burn. It turns into charcoal. Experts use the least amount of starting fluid to get the coals burning, which gives the best flavor to grilled foods.