If you’re a frequent camper, you know the struggle of cramming everything in your vehicle before the trip. Every square inch of space becomes more and more invaluable, and people in the back seat may find themselves sharing space with backpacks and camping gear. Then, as if the car isn’t crammed enough already, you realize you forgot to include the grill, the very heart and soul of the party.
The best portable grills should be ones that cook well with decent heating and provide fluid maneuverability. They don’t have to be fancy, but as long as they get the job done, that’s all that matters to us.
In this article, we’ll give you a guideline on how to pick a grill that best matches your needs. We’ll then review a few standout grills in detail, followed by answering some of the most frequently asked questions among users. And before wrapping everything up, we’ll introduce the top grill brands and manufacturers in the field.
Who Should Get a Portable Grill
For home grillers with ample open space in their homes, they can invest hundreds, even thousands, of dollars on a full-sized gas grill or one of those ceramic grills. Budget allowing, BBQ aficionados can integrate those grill into an outdoor kitchen island or a cooking station. But the thing is, those grills are meant to stay in a permanent location, and it’s not like everyone can afford the cost and space to accommodate large grills.
But what about frequent campers who want to bring their grill along on the road, or sports fans who want to host a tailgate party or a cookout at the beach? It wouldn’t make much sense and would be impossible to pack those humongous grills into their vehicles.
This is where the portable grills make sense.
Since these grills aren’t fixed to a certain position, you can bring them along wherever you go. They are highly versatile and compact, which is a much-needed quality when you’re on the road or when you’re carrying your grill on a hike. When the rain is coming and the wind is blowing too hard, you can carry the grill to a different spot. If you have to walk to the camping spot, why not put the grill on the ground and pull it like a suitcase? Grills with wheels or casters make it less burdensome to move the grill to the perfect spot for grilling.
Another thing is that these grills are much less expensive compared to full-sized grills. But that doesn’t mean they’re any less functional or powerful. They are still capable of dishing out a good meal.
How to Choose the Best Portable Grill
Below are our guidelines for choosing the right portable grill. We took several different factors into account that ultimately shape our review section below.
We know every customer has a budget in mind when they shop, so that’s why we picked the products that harmonize between value and function.
Most charcoal-fed grills regularly run somewhere between the $40 and $180, depending on their brand and capacity. They are the most popular and common option as a portable grill.
Portable gas grills are usually more expensive than their charcoal-fueled partners, running between $100 and $300 for a small grill and between $350 and $600 for a medium-large grill. There are larger gas grills, but they would defeat the purpose of portability, and they are of course more expensive, with some costing more than $2,000.
Electric grills are the cheapest among the trio, with some costing between $40 and $100. There are higher-end electric grills that can run to as high as $250, as well. While electric grills may be lightweight and portable, you need an electric outlet to run them. That’s great if you’re camping with an RV, but they won’t be useful when you’ve got a tent in the woods.
Planning on what to cook and how many people you’re cooking for is vital in determining what grill size best fits you.
For burgers and hotdogs on a Sunday picnic or before the game begins, a small to medium grill should suffice. Otherwise, if steaks and/or a whole chicken is on the menu, then a bigger grill is in order.
If you’re a lone traveller or a couple enjoying the weekend getaway from a metropolitan area to the outdoors, a small grill is more than enough. Otherwise, if your whole family is going on a fishing trip, consider getting a medium to large grill.
The cooking surface can be of various different materials, the most common of which are coated steel, stainless steel, and cast iron. If you have a specific preference, pay close attention to the manufacturer’s description.
If you’re picking a charcoal grill, you’d want one with easy-access coal bed and easy-control dampers, since you’ll be controlling the grill temperature by adjusting the amount of airflow and coal.
Upon receiving a gas grill, make sure to check the burners, igniter, and gas valve. Those are the critical components of a gas grill, and if you detect any faulty parts, you should return the unit immediately.
As for an electric grill, the most important component is the heating element, so may want to pay attention to its wattage, as this will determine how fast your grill heats up.
When on the road, you need to maximize every square inch of space inside your vehicle to pack all the stuff. So it’s best that the grill doesn’t gobble up your already limited area. You’d want a grill small enough to fit inside the back of the vehicle, and it’s great if it’s collapsible.
A portable grill should be one that is lightweight, compact, and that can be carried without much hassle. Normally, such grills are better fit a party of no more than four diners.
For a larger group, grills equipped with casters or wheels are much preferred.
Charcoal grills are tiring and troublesome to clean, which is a tradeoff for their superior heating ability. Besides scrubbing the grate, you’d have to deal with emptying the coal bed, but this can be less burdensome if the grill has an ash catcher or a dust pan. There’s no grease tray on charcoal grills, so fats and juices burn up on the coals, so that’s one thing you don’t need to worry about.
As for gas grills, some models feature a drip tray that will contain the excess grease and juices dripping from the meat. They also shield the burners against corrosion and blockage caused by falling grease, saving you a lot of cleaning time.
Electric grills are the easiest to clean. Unlike the grates of charcoal or gas grills, those of an electric grill are often dishwasher-safe, though this feature varies from model to model. And they are relatively easy to hand wash since the cooking surface usually has a nonstick coating.
Regarding the material of the grate, stainless steel, coated cast iron, and coated steel are relatively easy to clean and durable, but the same cannot be said for uncoated cast iron, which needs gentle cleaning and meticulous maintenance. If you’d rather not deal with all the cleaning hassle, it’s best to steer clear of uncoated cast iron.
Cooking with open fire means flare-ups— sudden and violent burst of flames when grease and fat are exposed to direct fire. This can catch the grillers off guard and can cause injuries.
As a general rule of thumb, to help prevent flare-ups, you can trim off excess fat before cooking.
7. Extra Features
Here are a few extra features that can maximize the cook’s comfort during cooking:
- Tool hooks
- Side tables or bottom shelf
- Extendable base/legs
Reviews of the Best Portable Grills in 2021
1. Weber Jumbo Joe Charcoal Grill – Best to Buy in 2021
With the first pick of the draft, we selected the Weber Jumbo Joe. It’s a classic charcoal grill that cooks very well, and easy to clean and control. Plus, it’s a great fit for all outdoor parties, no matter where you decide to host the grill fest.
- Excellent overall performance
- Easy-to-control damper
- One-clean touch system
- Good safety measures
- No temperature gauge
- Troublesome to access coal bed
The Jumbo Joe measures 20.5 inches long by 19.7 inches wide by 19.7 inches tall. Its diameter measures 18 inches, offering 240 square inches of cooking area. Its interior is spacious enough to fit portions for roughly six adult diners.
Though its grilling surface is average at most when comparing with other grills, the Jumbo Joe is a classic grill that does its job so well, in fact, it’s listed among the best grills to purchase within this year.
The cooking grate is plated steel, the coal grate below is heavy-gauge steel, while the bowl and lid are porcelain enameled steel. Right below the bowl is an aluminum ash catcher— dubbed the One-Touch cleaning system by Weber— and a bottom air vent— also known as damper or draft door. On the lid there’s another damper and a lid lock.
The dampers are strategically placed to control the airflow inside the grill, a critical factor to control how hot the grill gets. These dampers make the ultimate difference between meats cooked to perfection and undercooked/overcooked food: they allow or restrict the amount of air reaching the burning coal, which increases or reduces the heat produced.
For even more fine-tuned cooking, you can set up two distinct temperature zones by piling charcoal on one side of the charcoal grate while leaving the other half bare. Foods cooked over the coals will cook quickly and get a good sear, while the other side cooks more indirectly, which is great for roasting a chicken or cooking ribs at a slower pace.
One thing we find rather unpleasant is that in order to add a large quantity of new charcoal, you need to take out the cooking grate. Doing this not only interrupts the cooking process, you may also run the risk of dropping the food and spilling the coal if you’re not careful. But this dilemma can be remedied by purchasing a foldable cooking grate sold separately. If only a few coals are needed, they can be dropped through the grates on both sides near the grate handles.
The Jumbo Joe is light, easy to carry and store. To prevent the contents from spilling out, the Jumbo Joe also comes with a lid lock. That said, this grill may take up considerable amount of space inside a vehicle.
The plated steel grate is reasonably easy to hand wash: scrubbing with a grill brush and dish soap when it’s warm produces the best result. To further prevent food sticking, you should apply cooking oil on the hot grate before adding food.
The handle is glass-reinforced nylon with a heat shield attached. The insulation will keep the cook from burning their fingers, eliminating the need for oven gloves or mitts.
Although the ash catcher is a well-intentioned thought, it’s not a well-designed feature. Once the ash fall on the catcher, wind can scatter the still-hot ash around, posing a fire hazard and even injuring those standing near the grill.
The Weber Jumbo Joe is a typical charcoal cooker that best represents the core values of a good grill: inexpensive, functional, timeless, and rich in sentimental values.
2. Weber 57060001 Q3200 Liquid – Best Natural Gas Portable Grill
Natural gas grills aren’t supposed to be portable: they’re fixed to the gas line. That said, if you need a powerful grill that you can move as far as the gas line allows, then the Weber Q3200 can give you that extra wiggle room. The 10-foot flexible hose might not be much, but you’ll be surprised how desperately you need it when you host a back yard grill fest on this grill.
- Large capacity
- Open cart design
- Constant flow of gas
- Built-in thermometer
- All-terrain casters
- Side tables
- Tool hooks
- Relatively expensive
The Q3200 measures 30 inches long by 50.2 inches wide by 55.5 inches tall with the lid open and side tables extended, and 21 inches long by 50.2 inches wide by 43.5 inches tall with the lid closed and side tables out. The cooking area measure 393 square inches and— with the warming rack offering another 75 square inches— for a total of 468 square inches of cooking space.
The Weber Q3200 has a glass-reinforced nylon frame, giving it a feeling of sturdiness and durability. It also comes with a 10-foot gas hose to attach to your gas line, eliminating the need for refueling midway through cooking.
The dual stainless steel burners dole out 21,700 BTUs per hour and are under warranty for up to 10 years, which displays Weber’s commitment to ensuring their products’ quality and performance. The grate is porcelain-enamel cast iron and is under warranty for up to five years.
Additionally, the lid and body are cast aluminum and are under warranty for up to five years. The electronic ignition system runs on four triple-A batteries, and the infinite-control valve makes it easy to fine-tune the temperature to your preference with ease.
Once you’ve disconnected the Q3200 from the gas line, you can move this grill around easily, since it only weighs 85 pounds, much lighter than other natural gas grills. Equipped with two durable all-terrain casters on a sturdy cart, the Q3200 will be able to traverse all surface, be it the patio behind your home or the front lawn, so you can position it anywhere near a natural gas stub.
Granted the grill can never pack inside a vehicle and go on a trip with you, its 10-foot hose will give you the flexibility you need to clean under and behind the grill without disconnecting it from the gas line.
The removable catch pan will gather all the excess grease and fat, which can be discarded easily after the party’s over. The grate requires manual cleaning, since it’s too big to fit inside a dishwasher. The porcelain enamel coating makes it relatively easy to hand wash, though the coating can wear or chip with extended use.
The lid handle is well insulated.
What we particularly like about the Q3200 is the two removable folding side tables. You can place jars of spices, condiments, and trays of food there. It gives the chefs a great sense of comfort and convenience when things are within an arm’s reach. If that’s not enough space for you, the bottom shelf on the cart offers even more area to put your things on.
Thanks to the built-in thermometer, you can monitor the temperature, and adjust the burner valves right on the spot to your liking.
Speaking of cooking tools, the tool hooks come in extra handy when there is no place on the side table to put them down. Little subtleties in design like this really earn the grillers’ thumbs of approval.
Another noteworthy feature is that this portable grill also comes with a grilling light, which can help you see the food on a moonless night. Considering its perks, the Q3200 deserves to be chosen as one of the top natural gas grills.
Granted the Weber Q3200 is much heavier and less mobile than the other grills in this article, but it still gives you flexibility and versatility, especially compared to its peers in the natural gas category. Its overall performance will surely make the Q3200 a worthwhile consideration, not to mention the extra features it offers.
3. Weber 121020 Go-Anywhere – Best Portable Charcoal Grill
Staying true to its name, the Weber Go-Anywhere is another fine example of Weber’s well-made grills. Its compactness is truly a blessing for frequent campers and picnickers.
- Compact & lightweight
- Minimalist design
- Tuck-N-Carry lid lock
- Multiple dampers
- Flimsy base, may spill contents
The Weber Go-Anywhere measures 12.2 inches long by 21 inches wide by 14.5 inches tall. It provides 160 square inches of cooking space, which can handle up to six burger patties, according to home grillers.
Weber uses plated steel for the grate and heavy gauge steel for the charcoal grate, much like the Jumbo Joe above. The lid and base are porcelain enameled steel and under warranty for up to 10 years. The grill also has two dampers on the lid, letting you adjust the interior temperature by allowing or restricting the flow of air in and out of the grill.
True to its name, the Weber Go-Anywhere is very light, and can serve right on the spot.
What we like about this little grill is how the lid lock also functions as the legs when the grill is set up for cooking.
The grate is easy to hand wash. Most grease will come off by scrubbing with a grill brush soaked with regular dish soap. For more stubborn stains, you can look to specialized cleaners, but only as a last resort.
This grill comes equipped with 3 glass-reinforced nylon handles— one on the lid and two on the sides. This will eliminate the need for mitts.
What we find concerning is the lid lock-grill stand combo. While this is a very nice design, the base isn’t very sturdy. In fact, a buyer once expressed a concern about spilling sizzling food and hot charcoal.
The Weber Go-Anywhere is a little grill that’s perfect for a couple or a small family outing in the open. Granted, this grill may lack the glitz and glamor, but it gets the job done.
4. Coleman RoadTrip LXE – Best Portable Propane Grill
The next grill on our list is the Coleman RoadTrip LXE, a propane-fueled grill that cooks well, is highly mobile, and is easy to use. It’s one of the most bought and prefered propane grills.
- Reasonable price
- Lightweight & portable
- Powerful heating capacity
- Sizable cooking surface
- Removable drip tray
- Side tables
- Easy setup
- Flimsy side tables
The RoadTrip LXE measures 47 inches long by 14 inches wide by 39 inches tall. Its cooking surface offers 285 square inches, so there’s plenty of space to cook food for the family or a small party.
The grilling surface consists of two halves, both of which are porcelain-coated cast iron, but what we like about the RoadTrip LXE is that the grates are interchangeable with other cooktops— like the griddle and stove grates— for more cooking versatility. However, you have to purchase these parts separately.
The dual burners can dole out 20,000 BTUs per hour, and all that heat is controlled through the Perfect Flow Pressure Control System, which will fine-tune the grill to your heart’s content. And the InstaStart ignition makes it easy to light up the grill at a click of a button, eliminating the need for matches.
Although one-pound gas canisters are the most common type of fuel container when going camping or picnic, you can connect a 20-pound refillable tank to this grill, provided that a high-pressure hose and a suitable adapter are available.
What sets this grill apart from the others in this article is how easy it is to minimize its size and move it around.
The RoadTrip LXE is collapsible and can be pulled like a piece of luggage, since it comes equipped with a pull handle and all-terrain wheels. It also doesn’t take up much space within your vehicle. You can then store it inside the trunk of your car, or put it in the back of your pickup truck easily. Upon arrival and departure, the grill can be set up or folded down in a matter of seconds, thanks to it lift-and-lock mechanism.
The porcelain coated cast iron cooking surfaces require gentle cleaning and meticulous maintenance, since the nonstick coating will peel off under violent scrubbing. Before cooking, you should apply cooking oil to the grates to minimize sticking.
The drip tray helps eliminate excess grease and is reasonably easy to hand wash with regular dish soap.
The lift-and-lock base is firm and sturdy, though the same cannot be said for the side tables, which feel wobbly and may break if you place too many heavy items on them.
The retractable side tables, while being a nice feature, aren’t actually helpful. If you place more than a few lightweight tools and small condiment containers, they would collapse.
Despite its rather high cost, the Coleman RoadTrip LXE is a well-designed, functional, and reliable gas grill that can accompany you on every camping trip.
5. Delonghi BG24 Perfecto – Best Portable Grill for RV
RV camping brings the convenience of electricity, so whenever you’re planning to make BBQ on the road, the DeLonghi BG 24 is worthy of your consideration.
- Tempered glass lid, allowing visibility
- Detachable thermostat
- Sizable cooking surface
- Short cord
- Inconsistent heating across the grill
The BG24 measures 19.7 inches long by 13.2 inches wide by 6.7 inches tall. With a cooking area of 192 square inches, this grill can cook for a small family.
The cooking surface is die-cast aluminum with a non-stick coating, but this coating may eventually wear off.
The BG24 has a 1500-watt heating element. However, one concern raised among users is the inconsistent heat distribution across the cooking grate.There have been cases of consumers reporting that there are certain spots on the grill where it remains cold, so food may not cook evenly.
When grease and juices start dripping, they will fall into the drip tray waiting right beneath the grill. The see-through glass lid not only shields the cooks from grease splashes, but also lets them monitor the inside of the grill as the food cooks.
There are 5 different temperature settings to meet the cook’s demands. Also, an indicator light lets you see if the grill is preheated and ready for grilling at your selected temperature.
The Delonghi PG24 is compact and easy to carry around when you’re on the road. Just plug in the RV’s power outlet, and you’re all set to go.
The drip tray and the glass lid are dishwasher-friendly. And if that’s not an option, hand-washing with a sponge and dish soap shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
The grate is another story. Since it has a port for the heat controller, it has to be hand washed, and the water should not come in contact with the port.
The BG24 has cool-touch handles, which eliminate the need for mitts. There’s also a built-in safety microswitch that will turn off the grill automatically upon detecting an electrical failure.
What we find disappointing is that the cord isn’t long enough, though this can be easily remedied by an extension cord from the RV’s electrical outlet to the dining table outside.
Every time you’re planning an outing in an RV, you can always depend upon this little chef to make the trip more enjoyable.
6. Cuisinart CGG180 CGG-180 – Best Portable Grill for Camping
The next items on our list is the Cuisinart Petite Gourmet CGG-180, a gas grill fit for camping trips. It may look small, but its performance will surprise you.
- Reasonable price
- Adjustable height
- Easy to set up
- Firm & sturdy base
- No casters
- No side table
The Cuisinart CGG-180 measures 28 inches long by 17.5 inches wide by 32.5 inches tall, and measures 2.64 cubic feet. Its cooking surface offers 145 square inches. Now it may not seem much, but the grill can cook several large items at once. There are multiple video reviews in which the CGG-180 can cook eight large cuts of steak, chicken breasts, or fish.
The stainless steel burner can dole out 5,500 BTUs per hour, which is much inferior to other gas grill, but considering its size, it is not that bad.
The grate is porcelain enameled steel. In addition, there’s a lid latch and a drip tray.
Weighing 18.8 pounds, this grill is slightly heavy. But its suitcase-like design makes it easy to carry and store inside the trunk of a car.
The adjustable VersaStand™ base allows you to set the grill’s height depending on the terrain. When moving, you can collapse the legs, secure the lid, and carry it to a new location, just like a briefcase.
Both the drip tray the the grate are easy to wash by hand, but Cuisinart advises against using abrasive cleaning solution or metallic scouring pads. A nylon brush and regular dish soap is more than enough.
The CGG-180 features a lid latch and a spillage-resistant drip tray.
The CGG-180’s extendable legs are a nice touch whenever a flat surface isn’t available. It can quickly transform from tabletop use to floor stand use, and can be extended or shortened at will. The base is rustproof aluminum that can adapt to any environment.
Using propane as heating fuel, the grill can be attached to a disposable canister or it can be connected to a refillable tank, as long as a high-pressure hose and adapter are available.
Cuisinart CGG-180 is one of the few portable grills that can quickly adapt to the environment around it. Whenever you are going camping, it’s always a reassuring sign when you know this grill is there, ready to dole out good BBQ.
7. PK Grills PKO-SCAX-X Original – Best Portable Grill for Tailgating
Last but definitely not least is the PK Original, a versatile charcoal grill that will turn tailgate parties into unforgettable dining experiences.
- Cooks well
- Sturdy frame
- Multiple dampers
- Side table
The PK Original measures 19.5 inches long by 36.4 inches wide by 34.8 inches tall. The cooking surface offers 310 square inches, which can serve from seven to ten diners easily.
The body— also called the “capsule” by PK because of its shape— is cast aluminum, while the cooking grate is nickel plated steel. The charcoal grate is steel, the kit hardware is stainless steel, and the shelf is aluminum.
Regarding temperature control, the grill has four sliding dampers. And like most charcoal grills, you can set up two different temperature zones. All you need to do is pile the coal on one side of the grill for direct heat cooking for quick searing and great grill marks. With no coals on the other side of the grill, you can cook a whole chicken without worrying about charring the skin, or cook a brisket or racks of ribs at a lower temperature.
Weighing 48.4 pounds, the PK can be pushed around with ease, thanks to the sturdy cart with all-terrain wheels. Too bad there are no wheel locks to prevent the grill from rolling off.
The grate doesn’t have a non-stick coating, so to save cleaning time later, we advise you to apply oil to the hot grate before cooking.
The lid handle is reasonably well insulated.
The aluminum side shelf and bottom tray offer extra room— up to 544.5 square inches— for holding condiments, cooking utensils, and spices.
The PK Original is the grill for tailgate parties. Granted, it is more expensive than its charcoal-fed counterparts, but it is a well-made grill that delivers.
Top-Rated Portable Grills Comparison
|Weber Jumbo Joe||20.5” x 19.7” x 19.7”||240||Charcoal||Ash catcher||Limited warranty|
|Weber Q3200 Natural Gas Grill||30” x 50.2” x 55.5”||468||Natural Gas||Side Tables,Casters||Limited warranty|
|Weber Go-Anywhere 121020||12.2” x 21” x 14.5”||160||Charcoal||Handles||Limited warranty|
|Coleman Roadtrip® LXE||47” x 14” x 39” ||285||Propane||Side Tables, Casters, Handles||3-year limited warranty|
|DeLonghi BG24||19.7” x 13.2” x 6.7”||192||Electric||Handles||1-year limited warranty|
|Cuisinart Petite Gourmet CGG-180||28” x 17.5” x 32.5”||145||Propane||Handle, Adjustable base||3-year limited warranty|
|PK Original Grill & Smoker||19.5” x 36.4” x 34.8”||310||Charcoal||Casters, Side Table, Handles||Limited warranty|
Portable Grill FAQs
There are many burning questions regarding propane tanks, most of which revolve around two main concerns: how to attach a fuel tank and how to light it. So, we’ve taken the opportunity to answer them for you.
How to Attach a Propane Tank to a Portable Grill
- Ensure that the knobs on the grill are in “OFF” position.
- Then, remove the old propane tank from the grill.
- Remove the protective seal from the new tank, and check to see whether the tank’s connector and the grill’s connector are compatible.
- Connect the tank to the grill.
- Hand-tighten the parts until the connection is completely secured. Do not use any tools to tighten it further.
Once connected, you ought to perform the soapy water test to make sure there’s no leakage or faulty parts on the grill. Make sure that the connection is good, otherwise, your grill may not perform at optimal level or even not at all.
How to Light a Portable Propane Grill
- Open the grill lid.
- Turn on the gas valve
- Most gas grills have an integrated lighter built within, so you can start the these grills effortlessly by turning the temperature dials or knobs on the dashboard. However, in case the lighter doesn’t work, you can use a match or a long-handled lighter to ignite the burner through the hole on the side of the grill.
- Immediately turn the burner to the HIGH setting to keep the flame burning.
- Once the grill is lit, readjust the flame to your liking.
Whenever the next camping trip or tailgate party comes along, you wouldn’t want to go on the road without one of these portable grills. Whether you’re an avid camper who loves to grill on road trips, or a sports fan who enjoys a nice grill fest in the park, we hope that these best portable grills will live up to your expectations, and make your outings unforgettable.
If you want to share any of your experiences with the grills in this article, grilling tips, or basically anything, please feel free and head straight to the comment section right below.