Review: Oklahoma Joe's Judge Charcoal Grill

Wagyu beef ribeye steak with grilled corn.

Oklahoma Joe's sent us their Judge Charcoal Grill to review, and after throwing venison, beef, chicken, fish, and veggies on it the last few weeks, we've decided that it's a keeper. Built tough with convenient features, it's easily one of the best charcoal grills we've ever owned. The Judge retails at $399. You can find more information on the Judge here:   Read below for Rick's thoughts.

Packing and Construction

The Judge came carefully packaged, and it was easy to remove from the box. With just a few pieces to assemble, set up was easy and quick. You don't have to be a contortionist to attach any nuts and bolts-- unlike other grills we've had over the years.

The Judge is constructed with heavy-gauge steel, and I expect it will last a lot longer than other grills we've owned. The pair of large wheels make it easy for even one person to move the grill on any type of ground,  from concrete to gravel to grass.

Convenient Features

In the front of the unit is a large firebox door, allowing you to add more coals for longer cooking/smoking sessions. You won't have to open and close the lid unnecessarily, preventing heat from escaping. For a semi-clumsy person like myself, it also keeps me from burning myself.

Grilled venison deer heart.

Below the firebox door is another great addition-- a large full-length cleaning tray. All of the ash falls to the bottom of the grill. Once cooled, you just slide out this tray and dump the ashes to discard. I’ve never had a grill so fast and easy to clean. This is one of my favorite features on the Judge.

Grilled corn and asparagus.
Another nice attribute is a heatproof rubber grip on the handle, preventing any scorching surprises when you go to lift the lid. Above the handle is an easy-to-read, professional-grade temperature gauge that also glows in the dark for nighttime cooking-- great idea. On the lid is a large diameter smokestack, and  along with the air intake damper on the side, allows for good airflow through the grill-- ideal for for smoking.

On each side of the grill is a removal shelf for convenient workspace. Underneath is a large storage shelf to stow away your grilling tools and charcoal starter.

The Oklahoma Joe's Halftime Charcoal Starter

Speaking of, we have the Oklahoma Joe’s Halftime Charcoal Starter, and it is by far the best charcoal starter I have ever used. Traditional chimney charcoal starters tend to be skinny and tall, whereas the Halftime is low and wide with large ventilation holes all around it. This allows for more air circulation around the igniting coals, allowing them to heat up faster--about half the time as traditional starters. Also, because the starter is wide, there is more surface area for the fire-starting material to reach the coals.

Oklahoma Joe's Halftime Charcoal Starter

Note: I always choose chimney charcoal starters over liquid fire starters, which can leave toxic residues on your coals that can transfer nasty flavors onto grilled food. Chimney charcoal starters also save you money in the long run as they will last years if properly stored. There's no having to continually purchase bottles of starter fluid.

Cooking on the Judge

The cooking surface is 18x30 inches and is wide open when the lid is pulled back, making it easy to place large pieces of meat, such as a turkey, roasts and brisket, without a secondary shelf getting in the way. As someone who has owned many grills in his lifetime, this is an appreciated feature.

Grilled steelhead trout with mint compound butter, courtesy of

The grates are heavy-duty cast iron that heat up quickly and evenly. They provide grilled meats a beautiful sear, thanks to an adjustable charcoal tray that allows you to bring the coals as close as 1 inch to the grates. Or lower the tray to approximately 10 inches away for a longer smoke.

On the right side of the unit is a large heavy-duty air intake damper to get good air flow over your coals. With a large handle to adjust airflow, there is nothing dainty about it.

If you're looking for a new charcoal grill, we highly recommend the Judge by Oklahoma Joe's. For more information on the Judge, visit Oklahoma Joe's online:

Vietnamese-style lemongrass venison skewers.