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As the coronavirus pandemic continues, American’s are scratching that travel itch with camping, road trips, wilderness adventures and outings to local parks and beaches. But, as fun as these socially-distanced excursions can be, there’s one piece that’s often missed: great food. With less access to restaurants and hotels, getting a solid meal can be tricky. The solution? A portable grill.
Portable grills are compact, easily transportable means of making great meals anywhere. They’re an obvious choice for camping and day trips, but the small size also makes them convenient for anyone living in a city or small house. The best portable grills can be set up anywhere, be it a picnic table, a lawn, or the beach, and can be used to cook everything from hotdogs to veggies to fish.
If you’re looking to upgrade your next outdoor adventure with better food, read on. We’ve rounded up eight of the best portable grills, including gas, charcoal and electric grills.
What Are the Best Portable Grills?
Grill Type: Charcoal and gas are the two most popular types of portable grills. Gas grills are cleaner too and much easier to handle, but you do forego that smokey flavor and high heat of charcoal grilling. If you only grill occasionally, a portable charcoal grill is a good choice. There are also a handful of portable electric grills that work in apartments or in unison with a camping generator, but those can be useless in many outdoor situations.
Cooking Area: How much food will you need to cook? Most portable grills have a cooking surface of around 200-300 square inches, which should be enough for a family of five. For reference, a circular grill with an 18-inch diameter can fit eight burgers. If you intend on cooking for more than five people (or, say, a couple of teenagers) go for one of the grills with close to 300 square inches of cooking area.
Power: The more heat a grill can produce, the more flexibility you have while cooking. You can churn out hot dogs or burgers faster but you also get more range when preparing difficult cuts such as fish or nice steaks. The power of a grill is measured in BTUs (British thermal units) with portable grills typically ranging from around 8,000 to 20,000 BTUs.
Weight: Chances are you’ve already got a decent amount of gear to lug around. A light portable grill is always better. The portable grills on our list range from 16 to about 50 pounds, with heavier options utilizing wheels or ergonomic handles for easier transportation.
Ease of Use: No one wants to spend their leisure time unpacking, prepping and fiddling with a grill. Be sure to check set up procedures and user reviews and to find out whether or not a grill sounds easy to use.
Design: Because portable grills are so compact, design becomes more important than full-size grills. The grate is close to the heat source, so most brands utilize some form of guard or a spacious interior to prevent flare-ups. Check the features list of a portable grill to see what the brand has done to minimize flare-ups and evenly distribute heat across the grill.
1. Weber Q2200 Liquid Propane Grill
Weber’s portable Q-series grills are widely regarded as some of the best in the business. It’s no surprise, as Weber has been making industry-leading grills since they started way back in 1893. The Q2200 is our favorite of the Weber lineup because it has more power and cooking area than the lesser models yet more portability than the standing wheeled Q3200.
The gas-powered Q2200 pumps out 12,000 BTUs on a 280 square inch cooking space, which should be sufficient for grilling anything in a reasonably short time. It’s very easy to assemble and use thanks to a minimal setup, fold-out side tables and electronic ignition. The only possible downside is the weight. It comes in at about 43 pounds, but two sturdy side handles allow two people to carry it at once.
2. Coleman RoadTrip 285 Portable Propane Grill
Most portable grills require a table or the grillmaster to sit on the ground. This RoadTrip propane grill from Coleman, on the other hand, comes outfitted with legs that fold up into a rolling suitcase-like setup. This allows you to use the RoadTrip almost anywhere and makes carrying it much easier. Plus, the legs make it ideal for tailgating.
The Coleman grill is also very powerful, delivering 20,000 BTUs for getting that perfect texture on a thick steak. An electronic ignition also means there’s no need for dangerous match or lighter starts, and a 285 square inch cook area is more than enough for most grillers.
3. Weber Smokey Joe 14-Inch Portable Grill
If you prefer the authentic experience and smokey flavor offered by charcoal grilling, go for this Smokey Joe from Weber. The portable charcoal grill features a rugged porcelain-enameled construction that should survive many camping trips, and a no-frills design makes it easy to use.
With a 14-inch diameter, the Smokey Joe is on the small side. It’s ideal for two to four people with enough space for approximately five burgers at once. The grill weighs just under 10 pounds, making it very easy to transport, but the compact size also makes it a good option for small houses or apartments.
4. BioLite CampStove 2
BioLite was created for two types of customers: those without access to clean energy and outdoorsmen looking for a streamlined cooking appliance and power source. The CampStove 2 is BioLite’s solution. It’s a wood-burning stove that uses foraged sticks and twigs to heat the stove while simultaneously generating electricity for your smartphone, headlamp and other gadgets.
To use the BioLite for grilling, you will need to purchase the grill add-on. With this extra grill piece, the BioLite stove weighs just under four pounds and folds up to fit neatly in a bag. This makes it an excellent choice for backpackers and anyone with an already overstuffed road trip car.
BioLite CampStove 2, $149.95, available at Backcountry | BioLite Portable Grill, $59.95, available at Backcountry
5. Cuisinart Chef’s Style Propane Tabletop Grill
This tabletop grill from Cuisinart is a powerhouse that you can carry in one hand. It boasts an incredible 20,000 BTUs of steak-searing heat from two individually-controlled burners (both delivering 10,000 BTUs). This dual-burner design comes in handy for cooking, say, burgers on one side and thin-cut veggies on the other. And despite all the power, the Cuisinart weighs just 22 pounds, making it fairly easy to throw in the trunk and carry around the campsite, beach or park. The grill is also probably the best looking portable option around, which is great for use in small homes as it’ll be an attractive feature instead of an eyesore.
6. Char-Broil Grill2Go Portable Gas Grill
If you’re very tight on space but want a capable gas grill, check out this Char-Broil Grill2Go. On first glance, it looks like a toolbox with three sturdy handles and a durable cast aluminum construction. The grill isn’t big, but 200 square inches of cooking area should be enough for most small groups and families.
One of the best features of the Grill2Go is TRU-Infrared technology. This special cooking grate minimizes flare-ups that result in charred or burnt food. The TRU-Infrared grate also works to distribute heat more evenly across the surface, which is very helpful when the grill is packed full of burgers or veggies.
7. Weber Q1400 Electric Grill
Electric portable grills are hard to come by because most customers don’t have access to an outlet while grilling. But, if you do, this Weber Q1400 is a great option for clean, sustainable grilling. Like the rest of Weber’s Q-series, the Q1400 is made of high-quality materials including porcelain-enameled cast-iron cooking grates and a cast aluminum body and lid. It’s also ergonomically designed to fit in small spaces and be transported from home to the cookout. The grill is great for use outside the house but really shines as a solution to small urban apartments where gas and charcoal grills won’t work or aren’t allowed.
8. BergHOFF Tabletop Grill
Most portable grills are rugged affairs for outdoor adventures and serious excursions. This charcoal-powered BergHOFF tabletop grill is different, catering more to those of us that identify as “glampers” more than campers. It’s made of a handsome powder-coated steel with a stylish cork lid that doubles as a base and hot pad. Setup is very simple: just dump charcoal and ignite with a match or lighter. Once you’re back home, the BergHOFF can be completely disassembled for cleaning. The grill also features a shoulder strap that makes it very easy to carry the 17-pound grill to the beach or park.