Would you like a BBQ unit to take on the road with you, but you don’t know how to select the one that most suits you? There is nothing to worry about because we’ve got you covered. Take a look at our list of best portable grills, find out how they work, and how to select the perfect model for your needs.
If you conducted a web search for a portable grilling system, you probably found hundreds of models from different manufacturers. We are aware that people don’t have hours or days to analyze a bunch of units, especially in today’s hectic times. That is why we did the groundwork for you. We carefully selected the best portable grills across various categories. The only thing remaining to do is to browse through the units we suggested and fall in love with (at least) one of them.
What Is a Portable Grill?
The crucial difference between a portable BBQ and a standard grilling system is the size and mobility. The general rule is that portable grills are smaller, although we could probably find one or two exceptions. However, high mobility and ease of transport are the underlying conditions that a grilling system must fulfill if we are ever going to consider it portable.
When it comes to weight, it’s only natural to expect that the product you plan to carry around is not too heavy. There is no specific rule, but experienced grillers agree that a portable unit shouldn’t weigh more than 50 pounds. Of course, there are the incredibly light systems that do not weigh more than 15 pounds. On the other hand, the units that come close to the 50-pound limit (or a bit over it) usually have sturdier construction or extra features to offer in return for the added weight.
There is no difference when it comes to how these grills are constructed. In fact, everything is the same. The core of each grilling system is made of four components: cook box (body), cooking grate (or griddle), cover (lid), and dampers with air vents.
Which One Is Better – Charcoal or Gas?
Just like regular-sized units, portable grills use two main types of fuel – charcoal and gas. The former ones usually have a coal bed located beneath the grate. That is where you add charcoal lumps or briquettes that ignite to get the system up and running. After arranging and lighting the coal, place the food on the cooking surface. It’s up to you whether you want to close the firebox with a lid or leave it open. If you put the cover on, you need to monitor the temperature inside and make sure that it remains around the desired level. You use this by adjusting the dampers and air vents. As for the cleanup, you need to wait for the coals to cool down before you can throw them away. After that, you also need to wipe the entire unit to extend its durability.
Unlike that, gas grills get their heat from burner tubes. In most cases (at least with portable grills), they will use propane as fuel. It’s quite easy to get a liquid propane tank and mount it to your unit. The ignition, in most cases, is as simple as turning on a switch or pressing a button. The burners then use gas to heat up and provide heat output in the form of BTUs (British Thermal Units).
So, which one is better? Believe it or not, this issue has been the topic of many discussions and even arguments among expert grillers. We are afraid that there is no definite answer to this question and that it all comes down to your preference.
If you are a traditional person (someone would say purist), you will probably incline towards charcoal. The coal lovers believe that you can only get an authentic taste of finely-grilled food if you use this type of fuel. Although we admit that there might be some truth to that, gas grills have also gone a long way when it comes to delivering delicious meat. Another advantage of charcoal is that it can provide extremely high temperatures, which makes it perfect for searing. On the other hand, working with coal is messy, so be prepared to get your hands dirty. We are sure that you won’t consider that a problem if you are a fan of traditional grilling.
Gas grills are a bit more modern and perhaps more suitable for that type of people. We are talking about those guys and girls who have a passion for gadgets and technology. They will be impressed that just pressing a couple of buttons and turning some knobs can produce a tasty burger. There is no doubt that gas grills are easier to use and less messy. However, it can’t deliver as much heat as charcoal, and you need to make sure to change the propane tanks frequently in portable grills.
As you can see, both methods have advantages and drawbacks, and only you can know which one is more suitable for your needs. In the end, let us mention that there is a small portion of portable grilling systems out there that use pellet as fuel. Hardwood acts similar as charcoal, but it can provide even more flavorful results. Don’t worry; we included one of them in our best portable grills for the money list.
Best Portable Grills for the Money
Even if you are purchasing a BBQ for camping or RV, you might not want it to be just an essential grilling item. Instead, you are searching for a quality product that will make your day better with ease of use and the food deliciousness. The best portable grills for the money are those units that might cost more than a standard mobile BBQ, but you can rely on them at any occasion.
Solaire Anywhere Portable Infrared uses liquid propane as a fuel and features electronic ignition that only requires you to press a single switch. It has a cooking surface of 155 square inches powered by a burner that can provide 14,000 BTUs heat output. Cooking grids are made of stainless steel, and they have a V-shape to protect against flare-ups and offer better flavor. Although it was made of durable stainless steel, the product only weighs 27 pounds. The dimensions are 21 x 13 x 12 inches, which makes this tabletop grill perfect for any trunk. It also comes with a carrying bag to make moving around with it easier.
Weber Q2200 is a premium-grade portable propane grilling system. It offers double as much cooking area as the previously described unit. 280 square inches are enough to cook food for four to six people. The product has only one burner that offers 12,000BTUs of heat per hour. As such, it is a bit less potent than Solaire, but that is still enough strength for the unit to achieve proper grilling temperature. Cast aluminum body and lid and cast iron cooking grates greatly help heat retention not to be an issue. Weber is famous for the durability of their products, and you can expect that this model will last for years to come. The weight of the product is around 40 pounds, which is an indicator of the quality of the construction. While it might not be suitable for carrying around in a bag, the compact design enables you to place it any trunk.
If you like the flavor you get when using wood-fired BBQ systems, you will be delighted to know that there is a portable option available out there. Green Mountain Grills Davy Crocket Pellet Grill makes sure to take advantage out of modern technology. You can use your mobile phone to control it via Wi-Fi. That means that you can move away from the unit and still monitor the temperature inside the cook box. The product weighs 57 pounds and has foldable legs for more comfortable transport. Despite the compact design, it manages to offer a convenience tray with hooks for your grilling tools and even a pan that catches grease.
Our final suggestion in the best portable grills for the money is Hasty-Bake 369 Portable Stainless Steel. What makes this model unique is that it uses charcoal as fuel. If you are a traditional griller and believe that no other types can match coal BBQs, this is the unit for you. The cook box was made of durable stainless steel, as well as the base of the model. It’s a shame that they also didn’t include premium cooking grates, but the nickel-plated ones do an excellent job. You can fit up to eight average-sized hamburgers on the grilling surface of 151 square inches. That means you can cook for up to three people (four, if they are not hungry) on this unit. The manufacturer offers a 10-year workmanship and parts warranty, which is an excellent indicator of the high quality that this product provides.
Top Rated Portable Grills
If you are unsure about which BBQ system you should buy, focus on the experience that other customers had. That can provide you an excellent insight into product quality and let you know if the unit is worth your while. One of the top-rated portable grills on the market is Coleman Road Trip LXE. We loved the black color, but you can also choose from seven other, including red and blue. Keep in mind that the price varies and there are discounts on some shades.
Regardless of the variation you choose, the features are the same. The cooking surface offers 280 square inches of space, which is enough to cook food for up to six people. If you are looking to increase the versatility of the product, consider changing the default grill grates with an iron griddle or stove grate. Equipping the product with these two accessories will provide you options to cook food around the clock. Coleman LXE weighs 44 pounds and stands on a collapsible cart. Whenever you need to transport the unit, you can pack and unpack it in a matter of seconds.
Magma Products A10-803 Connoisseur Series Chefsmate is another portable gas grill worthy of your attention. The unit weighs less than 20 pounds, making it perfect for all the outdoor needs. If you want to go camping or maybe just for a picnic, you can carry it around easily. The legs are foldable, and they offer a sturdy stand when they are out. The lid is lockable to ensure fast transport and proper heat retention when the unit is up and running. The model has a greased tray to collect drippings. Although that makes cleaning a bit easier, it is still tricky to clean up the inside of the grill. On the plus side, the quality of construction is superb and you can BBQ for years with this product.
Weber Jumbo Joe 18-Inch is a real bargain among top rated portable grills. The renowned manufacturer decided to offer a mobile grilling system with ample cooking space. 240 square inches of available surface on the cooking grates of plated steel might not be a lot in the world of regular-sized units, but it is more than enough for a portable grill. The model features a kettle design with the bowl with a porcelain-enamel finish and aluminum dampers that are rust resistant. The handle stays cool to the touch, and the ash catcher makes sure to collect the drippings. Jumbo Joe uses charcoal as fuel and weighs less than 20 pounds. Although it is a kettle, the compact design makes it suitable for transport. If you want an even smaller unit, make sure to take a look at the Weber Smokey Joe.
Unlike Weber, Pinty might not be a brand you are familiar with then it comes to BBQ market. However, that doesn’t stop them from offering Pinty Portable Folding Charcoal Grill. The unit exceeded our expectations in many areas, but we loved the fact that it has seven air vents for best performance. It is also extremely lightweight as it weighs less than 10 pounds. The legs are the sturdiest part of this portable BBQ unit, while the silicone handle remains cool to the touch at all times. It is packable in a matter of seconds, and you can use the handles on the sides to carry it around like a briefcase. When it comes to the cooking surface, it offers 250 square inches which means that you can cook for about six people simultaneously.
Best Portable Grills under $100
Although they bring mobility into play, portable BBQ units are considerably smaller than standard models, and they don’t have as much power. Aside from that, some manufacturers sacrifice the thickness of the materials so that they can make their product lighter. Those three factors can significantly reduce the price of mobile grilling systems, which is why a lot of them are available at an affordable cost. We singled out some of the best portable grills under $100 on the market.
Weber Go-Anywhere is a tabletop grilling system that uses charcoal as fuel. It offers a compact design and weighs only 14 pounds. Although it provides just 160 square inches of cooking area, you can use the maximum of it thanks to the rectangular grate made of plated steel. Regulation of airflow is possible with the use of two dampers with three vent holes in each. The handle remains cool to the touch, but it is not lockable. Despite that, the foldable legs make sure that it stays in place while you are moving the unit around. We also loved the lid hangers, which can protect your BBQ unit from the wind.
Lodge L410 Pre-Seasoned Sportsman is another charcoal model available at an affordable cost. The manufacturer pinpoints that the cooking grate has been pre-seasoned and you can use it immediately. The grilling surface is around 155 square inches with the charcoal bed located below the main surface. You could say that this unit reminds of hibachi-style BBQs, which provide particularly impressive results in barbecuing. It weighs 27 pounds and perhaps its only downside is that it doesn’t have a lid.
Thanks to the discount available on Amazon, Cuisinart CGG-180TB Petit Gourmet is now under $100. Unlike Weber and Lodge, it uses gas as a fuel, which will be suitable for those who are looking not to get their hands dirty with coal. It weighs only 13 pounds, and it doesn’t offer much cooking space. However, 145 square inches is enough to place eight average-sized burgers or chicken breasts at once. The grilling area is heated by a single burner that packs 5,500 BTUs of heat output. The grate has a porcelain-enamel finish to prevent food from sticking to the surface. The lid is lockable, while the folding feature of the legs enables packing it up for the go in seconds. The handle can be used to carry the unit around like a briefcase. You can also choose red and stainless steel models.
Char-Broil Grill2Go X200 might use propane as fuel, but it also takes advantage of the infrared technology. That cooking system enables this unit to provide delicious and juicy food that can compare to charcoal grills. The cooking grate is of stainless steel and offers 200 square inches of grilling space, which is enough for up to four people. The lid and the cook box are made of cast aluminum for better heat retention and increased durability. For the price, you even get a thermometer what monitors the temperature in the firebox powered by a 9,500 BTUs burner. The item weighs 20 pounds, and its dimensions are 24 x 16 x 14 inches.
The last model we are presenting is Coleman Fold N Go Instastart which gives a new meaning to the compact design. It offers only 105 square inches of space, making it ideal for two people heading on a picnic or road trip. The unit uses gas as fuel, and the burner included provide up to 6,000 BTUs of heat output. Starting the grill is automatic, and you have total power over the heater thanks to the control valve. The unit even has a greased tray below the grate that catches drippings.
How to Choose a Portable Grill?
We never understood the one-size-fits-all products when it comes to clothes. That is because we are firm believers that a single item cannot fit everyone. At least that is the case with portable grills. Take a look at several areas that require your particular attention when making the decision about which model to buy:
Will You Carry It Around Often?
We know that you will take your unit on the road. Otherwise, why would you be looking for a model with high mobility? But we want you to ask yourself whether YOU will be carrying it around often. It’s one thing to pack the grill in the trunk of the car and get it out when you arrive at the destination. But it is entirely different if you will remove it from your vehicle and then carry it for another mile to the woods. If the latter is the case, you might consider lightweight units that are not heavier than 20 pounds.
What Size Do You Need?
All these BBQs are small, and you can’t expect them to serve more than four or five people at once. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider their size. If you are only cooking for two on your road trips, you can buy an even smaller product and save more space (and money).
How Often Will You Use It?
Even the best portable grills don’t have a lifespan as long as some regular units. However, if you are planning on grilling often, you should ensure to look for high-quality construction. That will ensure that the item doesn’t fall apart after a couple of uses and that you can use it for at least a year or two. The crucial things you need to pay attention to are the fire box, cooking grates, and stability of the legs (if there are any).