Guess what, Virginia: Sometimes, great bargains do exist. The Charcoal Wagon Grill (model #BB02231G), a Wal-Mart exclusive, is good bang for your buck. It’s nice to be able to spend less than $100 and get a grill with 381 square inches of cooking space and a 202 square inch warming rack. That’s large enough to push the coals to one side and cook indirect on the other. There’s a crank-adjustable charcoal grate that brings it about an inch or two under the cooking grate, a foldable shelf with utensil hooks, a front charcoal door, an easy-to-remove ash pan, and even a bottle opener. The cooking grate is porcelain-coated wire. It has the obligatory built-in thermometer that doesn’t work well, too. As we suggest often, use your own, more accurate digital grill thermometer. Throw in a two-year warranty on manufacturer’s defects for all parts, and you have a bargain.

Better still, it’s solid. The metal is a little thin, but not any thinner than some of its big brothers. It’s well designed for airflow, having vents on the left and right of the charcoal chamber as well as on the hood. Put together properly, you shouldn’t have any stray drafts playing havoc with temperatures. Yet it’s not a beast, weighing in at only 67.3 pounds. It’s easy to move because there’s no flex or wobble to it. It’s compact. The side shelf is held sturdily with thick screws. In a nice touch, the handles are shiny steel. One part you can do without is the glue-on rubber feet for the lid: it makes a non-sealing lid worse. It uses a 60″ grill cover, highly recommended.

All it needs for assembly is a flathead screwdriver, a Phillips screwdriver, and an adjustable wrench. Wal-Mart will even assemble it for you; contact your local one for details. Owners have given it high marks. While they report assembly times of 2 to 3 hours as compared to the manufacturer’s estimate of one hour, they rate it highly for being easy to clean, for the adjustable charcoal grate, and for the spacious cooking surface. One owner reported paint melting off, and one wished it sealed well enough to extinguish the coals when closed. Most were very happy with it. Well taken care of, this cooker could last years.

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