Choosing between Weber’s 26 inch kettle and the 22 inch options is not an easy decision. About five years ago I was standing in front of these grills side by side and bought a 22 incher.
I love my 22 inch kettle but still have lustful thoughts about owning a 26.
Let’s put the 26 and 22 inch options head to head and see if we can figure out the best one for you.
Here is a quick video comparison of the Premium 22 inch kettle and the 26 inch model. The video shows the Slow N Sear attachment in the 26 inch kettle but this is NOT a standard piece of equipment that comes with the grill.
What Makes the Weber 26 Inch Kettle Special?
The 26 inch kettle is special because of its combination of size, features and value.
The difference between a 22 and 26 inch grate doesn’t seem that significant at first. However, when you put the two kettles side by side you realize that the difference is massive.
- The 22 inch kettles give you 363 square inches of grilling space.
- The 26 inch kettle give you 508 square inches of grilling space.
- That means the 26 inch grill is 40% larger than the 22.
The 40% increase in grill space is a serious upgrade over the 22 inch models and simply cannot be ignored. Y
- You can smoke two slabs of St Louis cut spare ribs on a 22 inch kettle.
- You can smoke four slabs on the 26.
Another subtle but important size difference is the grate that holds the charcoal.
- The charcoal grate for a 22 inch kettle has a 17 inch diameter.
- The charcoal grate for a 26 inch kettle has a 21.75 inch diameter.
The larger charcoal grate comes into play when you want to use the Snake Method for a seriously long Low and Slow barbecue session. You can make a much LONGER charcoal snake in the 26 inch kettle and as a result get cooks up to 9 hours long!
The 26 inch kettle is such an amazing smoker that many people stop using their Weber Smokey Mountain cookers after they buy one of these.
The 26 inch kettle has some nice upgrades over a base model kettle grill and make it similar to a 22 inch Master Touch. These upgrades include:
- Integrated Lid Holder
- Charcoal Baskets
- Hinged Stainless Steel Grate
This is the only kettle offered that has a stainless steel grate. Every other kettle comes with a grate made from nickel plated steel. Nickel plated steel looks pretty when new but the plating quickly comes off and the grates rust away to nothing after a few years. The stainless steel grate on this grill is really going to last.
The 26 inch kettle also comes with a load of other features that are standard on most kettles including:
- Built in dome thermometer
- Heat shield for the lid handle
- High capacity ash catcher assembly
- One Touch ash cleaning system
- High precision air flow capability
- 10 year warranty on porcelain enameled lid and bowl.
The 26 inch kettle has an MSRP of $349 but always sells in stores for less. The price point of this grill is $100-$150 less expensive than the 22 inch Performer Premium and Deluxe models respectively.
Weber makes a larger grill than the 26 called the Ranch that comes in with a 36 inch diameter cooking grate. The Ranch has a price tag of over $1,000.
When you do the math on grilling area vs cost it turns out that you can buy two 26 inch kettles for a few hundred than the Ranch and end up with more grilling space.
You can also compare the 26 inch kettle to a PK grill. The cast aluminum 360 model is the biggest charcoal grill offered by PK with 360 square inches of grilling space. The 26 inch kettle is MUCH larger and costs hundreds of dollars less.
Weber 26 vs Weber Performer
Here is where the game gets interesting. While I absolutely love the 26 inch grill it does have a few issues.
The biggest problem with the 26 incher is that, unlike the 22 inch Weber Performers, it lacks a side table for food prep.
And the thing is, while you will want the extra size of the 26 inch kettle every now and then, you will want to have a side table EVERY SINGLE TIME that you grill.
In the end, it was the lack of a side table on the 26 inch grill that led me to buy a 22 inch Performer style grill instead.
There are three versions of the Performer series. All of the Performers have side tables but there are differences in the upgrade packages between them. If you go with the most basic of the Performers you will get a great 22 inch grill with a side table that costs less than the 26 inch grill.
Here are all of the differences between the Weber Performers (Standard, Deluxe and Premium).
The second issue with the 26 inch kettle is subtle and wont be important to everyone but should be taken into consideration.
The lid is heavy.
It takes a lot more steel to make a lid for the 26 inch kettle than it does for the 22 inch models and you can really feel the difference.
The lid on the 26 is still very manageable by most people but some folks find it really awkward to try to maneuver a lid that is both very large and very heavy.
Working the lid on a Performer is a breeze and something you never even think about. When you remove the lid on the 26 incher you will know that you are doing something.
Again, this wont be an issue for most people but it is something that you should take into consideration.