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Published Aug. 25, 2021

No matter if you like singing “Take Me out to the Ballgame,” or you’d rather grill without a crowd—maybe with just a few friends at a campsite—the best portable grills let you take your home cooking on the road. But finding the best portable grill for you can be as involved as developing the perfect seasoning blend. Is a gas grill better than a charcoal grill? And what about a pellet grill or even a electric grill? Knowing where you want to cook and what you want to cook is definitely a recipe for success, but more goes into finding the best portable grill than just that. This guide is meant to give you some of the secret sauce you need to find the right BBQ grill for you. 

What to consider when shopping for the best portable grill

From fuel type to foldability, there’s a lot to consider when shopping for the best portable grill. Here are the ingredients to look for. 

Do you want to cook with gas, charcoal, or something different? 

While gas and charcoal grills are most common, you can also find portable pellet and electric grills. Different fuel sources have unique advantages and disadvantages. There’s little arguing against the true BBQ flavor that charcoal delivers. However, charcoal grills can be more dangerous, and they also require lugging a supply of briquettes. Portable gas grills are easier to use and provide greater control, but they don’t provide quite the same BBQ flavor. Plus, on the whole, gas grills tend to be heavier than charcoal grills, though a propane canister is likely to weigh less than a bag of charcoal. Pellet grills provide a nice in-between, giving you the flavor of a flame and the control of a gas grill—they work by feeding wood pellets into the burner based on your desired temperature level. But they also tend to be more expensive, and the wood pellets aren’t as ubiquitous as charcoal. Electric grills are probably the easiest to use, but they have the downside of needing a power outlet, which limits their usable locations. Plus, they provide the least authentic BBQ flavor.  

What’s it made of? 

The materials used to make a grill affect its durability and how well it can retain heat. Ceramic retains heat very well, making it a good choice for smokers that cook low and slow. But metal—either iron or steel—grills that are lined with a porcelain enamel provide strong heat retention as well—and at less cost. You also want a great grate. Like a cast-iron skillet, cast-iron grates retain heat and displace it effectively, preventing your food from sticking. 

Have you sized things up properly?  

When shopping for the best portable grill, pay attention to the dimensions. If a grill is too big, or too heavy, it won’t be easily transportable. Most portable grills are roughly the size of a breadbox, but some feature legs or stands that fold out to give them a more permanent feel when you’re using them—stands also prevent you from having to crouch around your grill. Some grills pack nicely into containers with straps, while others can roll on wheels, which is especially useful if you’re toting your grill across the park, rather than simply transferring it from your trunk to the top of your tailgating table. The best portable grills can weigh as little as a few pounds to as much as 50 pounds. Remember, the fuel has to be carted, too. So factor bags of charcoal or canisters of propane into your packing plans. 

The best portable grill to suit your situation 

Whether you want to grill at the campsite or lakeside, here is the best portable grill for cooking on the go.  

Best portable grill for campers: Coleman RoadTrip 285 Portable Propane Grill

Dinner Rolls

This powerful Coleman portable grill folds down wheely well. Coleman

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Cooking over a campfire is charming and fun. But it can also be frustrating trying to manage the uneven heat of an open flame. This Coleman portable gas grill provides up to 20,000 BTUs of steady cooking power from three adjustable burners underneath 285 square inches of cooking space. That’s easily enough room for a full dinner for four, fitting five burgers, and several skewers of veggies at once. And yet this camping grill packs up nicely. It’s heavy at more than 45 pounds, but its handy legs and useful side tables fold down into a wheelable package, much like a rolling suitcase. 

Best portable grill for tailgaters: Weber Q2200 Portable Propane Grill

Top of the Table

This tabletop grill is ideal the next time you’re cooking before a soccer match or football game. Weber

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At 19.5 inches deep and 51.4 inches wide (with the side tables extended), the Weber Q2200 Portable Propane Grill still leaves plenty of room for all the fixin’s. The 280 square inches of cooking space can fit 12 burgers, while the single burner, with push-button ignition, can put out 12,000 BTUs of power. The body on this Weber grill is porcelain-enameled for durability and heat retention, while the cast-iron cooking grates spread the heat evenly and prevent those burgers from sticking. All of that adds up to a hefty 41.5 pounds. But, hey, moving the propane grill from the trunk to the table and then back into the car can just be your workout for the day. 

Best portable grill for city dwellers: Cuisinart Electric Tabletop Grill

Electric Sliders

A portable electric grill brings BBQ to your balcony. Cuisinart

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You can still grill out, even if you live in an apartment building. A portable electric grill like this 1500-watt Cuisinart gives you that option, letting you plug into power up a BBQ that’s just as safe as a toaster oven. This Cuisinart measures 18 x 12.2 x 12 inches, perfect for a balcony or small patio—and for the closet come winter. And yet its 145-square-inch cooking grate can accommodate eight hamburgers at once. Messes should be kept at bay thanks to the latching porcelain-enameled lid and included drip tray.

Best portable grill for beach bums: Fox Outfitters Folding Charcoal Grill

Carry-Out BBQ

You’ve got grilling in the bag with this foldable charcoal grill. Fox Outfitters

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Picnics near water inevitably mean lugging a bunch of stuff—floaties, coolers, chairs, towels. The Fox Outfitters Folding Charcoal Grill could actually be the easiest part of your haul. The 4.5-pound stainless steel grill folds into a carrying bag no bigger than a briefcase. Of course, you will need to cart the charcoal. You’ll also need to assemble the grill, but Fox Outfitters—and Amazon reviewers—say this can be done in less than a minute. Out of the bag, the charcoal grill stands at 17.5 x 13 x 8.5 inches, offering enough room for two large steaks with veggies on the side.     

Best portable grill for chefs on a budget: Weber Smokey Joe Premium

Smokin’ Deal

A Weber portable grill gives you one of the best charcoal BBQs around, for less. Weber

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Weber has been a leading name in charcoal cooking since 1893. And the Weber Smokey Joe Premium gives you the same grilling prowess as its classic kettles, just in a smaller package, and for a lower price. For less than $50, you can get a 14-inch porcelain-enameled Weber that’ll cook just as well as the big boys. The charcoal grill can hold three steaks and then some, and vents on top and bottom let you control the flow—and, therefore, the heat. Really, the only thing you’re sacrificing in this 10-pound portable Weber grill is size. Even in a tinier package, this charcoal grill will deliver the big flavor you’ve come to expect from Weber.   

FAQs

Q: How much charcoal do you put in a portable grill? 

How much charcoal you put in a portable grill depends on the level of heat you’re seeking. The more charcoal, the hotter the temperature. Char-broil recommends about 30 briquettes for smaller portable grills, but conditions like wind and rain can also affect how much charcoal you need. 

Q: What is the best brand of grills? 

It’s hard to argue against Weber. They’ve been best in the grilling business since 1893, and they’ve brought their charcoal grilling expertise—which focuses on materials that retain heat and grill designs that deliver a lot of cooking control—into the gas and electric markets.

Q: What is the easiest grill to use? 

Portable electric grills are the easiest to use, but a portable gas grill is fairly user-friendly as well. Most gas grills feature push-button ignition, and they allow you to adjust the temperature with the turn of a dial. 

The final word on shopping for the best portable grill 

Part of the joy of grilling is cooking outside. And with the best portable grill, you can cook in your neighborhood park, outside the ballpark, or in spaces in between. Look for grills that won’t weigh you down, that pack up in a way that lets you take them where you want, and that will deliver the high heat when you need it, or go low and slow when you prefer. Ultimately, finding the best portable grill is a bit like grilling in general: it’s all a matter of taste.     

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