5 Tips for Grilling on a Smaller (18-Inch) Charcoal Kettle Grill

By Cook's Illustrated Published March 2017

Our winning charcoal grill is a 22.5-inch kettle grill from Weber, and our recipes are designed for its spacious grilling surface. But since home cooks with small outdoor spaces may have smaller grills, we decided to see how our recipes would translate.

After cooking our recipes for Peri Peri Grilled Chicken, Sweet and Tangy Grilled Country-Style Pork Ribs, and Smoked Pork Loin on Weber’s 18-inch grill, here’s what we learned.

Don’t Grill Large Roasts: A 4-pound pork loin barely fit on the cooking grate, so larger cuts, like a brisket or whole turkey, won’t work at all.

Get a Smaller Water/Drip Pan: Instead of using a 13 by 9-inch disposable aluminum pan for catching drippings or holding water (water can help keep meat moist over a long smoking time and also helps moderate the temperature), use a large loaf pan (such as a 7 by 5-inch pan). Reduce the amount of water by 25 percent.

Halve When Necessary: When recipes call for cooking food on only half the cooking grate (i.e. grill-roasting recipes) and thus fitting a lot of food into a limited space, we recommend halving the recipe if using a smaller grill.

Use Less Charcoal: When using a smaller grill, reduce the amount of charcoal by 25 percent to avoid burning food on the exterior before it cooks through.

Don’t Cut Back on Wood Chips: If the recipe calls for wood chips, use the full amount. The amount of chips determines how long smoke is present, and that need doesn’t change when using a smaller grill. The increased density of smoke may make food taste smokier, but we found the results perfectly acceptable.