The Best Portable Grills, According to Food Network Kitchen
Make sure you're ready to cook wherever you go!
By Sharon Franke for Food Network Kitchen
Our Top Portable Grill Picks:
- Best Overall: Weber Q 1200 Gas Grill
- Best Value Portable Grill: Nexgrill 1-Burner Portable Propane Gas Table Top Grill
- Best Portable Charcoal Grill: Weber Smokey Joe Premium Charcoal Grill 14”
- Best Portable Grill for Camping: Blackstone 22'' Tabletop Griddle
- Smallest Portable Grill: Coleman Fold N Go + Propane Grill
- Best Portable Grill for Tailgating: Coleman RoadTrip 285 Portable Stand-Up Propane Grill
Whether you’re a camper, tailgater or picnicker who’s not satisfied with cold sandwiches, a portable grill makes it easy to cook hearty meals away from home. There’s a wide range of portable grill options, including models that are small enough to slip into a tote bag and others that are sturdier and better at handling more than just hot dogs and burgers. But portable grills are not just for on-the-go grilling — you might want to select one of these models to use in your backyard or terrace if you want a grill that doesn’t take up too much room. We rounded up our top selections that include the best grills for all kinds of travelers and grillers.
Gas vs. Charcoal Portable Grills
Just like larger grills, these models are powered by either gas or charcoal. In addition to the weight of the grill, you should also factor in the weight of a bag of charcoal or a tank of charcoal to take with you. Portable gas grills work will small, one-pound propane tanks that provide enough fuel for about two hours; some can be used with a hose adapter to connect to a larger tank. If you’re going on a camping trip with a propane grill, you will need to bring enough gas or have a source for more gas for more than one meal.
What to Consider Before Buying
How portable is it? In addition how heavy it is, check to see if the grill folds up into a compact package. Also look into how easily it can be assembled when you get to your picnic or camp site.
What do you plan to cook? If your idea of a cookout consists of burgers, brats and perhaps steaks, a small grill with a low cover will more than meet your needs. But, if you want to prepare a gourmet meal at the beach or in the park, you’ll want one with a lid that’s tall enough to give you room to cook chicken or a small roast.
Construction: Just like a larger grill, a portable one shouldn’t be able to tip over easily. It should sit solidly whether it will be used on a table or the ground or sits on a stand. Give it a push to check for stability.
For on-the-go barbecues, the Weber Q is the best portable grill. It gives the same great, even cooking without flareups that you get from full-size Weber grills. For fuel, it uses a one-pound propane cylinder, which will let you cook for a couple hours — that’s more than enough time for several rounds of burgers, just-caught trout or even chicken. Though, this wouldn’t be enough time for smoking a turkey breast or pork butt, unless you want to bring along a second tank to connect while cooking. On the porcelain enameled cast iron grates, there’s enough room for about six hamburgers.
This grill has two side tables, which give you a place to rest your tongs or a package of buns; they fold up so the grill fits neatly in your trunk. There’s also a thermometer in the lid and an exceptionally easy-to-remove drip pan. You can choose your Q with a hood in titanium, black, blue, green, orange or red. If you want to use a 20-pound tank, you can buy an adapter hose. An optional cart is also available. The grill itself weighs about 23 pounds.
Call this the little grill that could. In spite of its low price, compact size and light weight (it’s less than 20 pounds!), this grill has a steel wire grate that’s big enough to handle about 14 hamburgers, which makes it perfect for large-family camping trips or away-from-home entertaining. And, you can rely on it to preheat quickly and cook evenly, so you won’t need to move all those patties around to have them all ready and nicely browned at the same time. For power, it uses a 16-ounce propane tank.
The legs fold up, and the lid locks for carrying, but you won’t find any special features on this basic black model. To use it, you’ll need a table or a tailgate, otherwise you’ll have to squat down to flip your steaks.
This is a mini version of the classic Weber kettle. It has many of that iconic grill’s great features, most notably the ability to control heat and avoid flareups. The lid handle stays cool enough to lift without a mitt, and the lid rests on the bowl while you’re flipping the kabobs or serving fish.
The grate is large enough to cook a half dozen burgers or twice that many frankfurters. At less than 10 pounds, this grill easy to tote. If you’re tired of boring black, the Smokey Joe is also available in red, ivory, gray, blue or green.
While camping, you want to be able to make bacon and eggs for breakfast as easily as steaks and pork chops for dinner. This grill has a flat griddle cooking surface that’s good for grilling just about anything. You won’t get grill marks, but you will get even browning whether you’re making flapjacks or burgers. As there are two burners, you can cook at two different heat settings. When you’re making fajitas, you can sear the skirt steak on high at the same time that you’re sautéing the onions and peppers over low. The griddle lets you cook a dozen patties or 24 brats.
The thirty-two-pound Blackstone is designed to be used on a tabletop with a one-pound LP tank (with an adapter hose it can be hooked up to a larger tank). Before your first use, you have to season the carbon steel griddle. Over time the griddle will turn black and develop a nonstick patina.
Smaller than a briefcase and less than 10 pounds, this foldable grill more closely resembles a waffle or panini maker rather than a grill. You can carry it by its handle or stash it in a backpack to transport it to the beach or picnic site. Of course, you also have to bring along a one-pound propane tank. With its four-burger capacity, this is a model for feeding up to four people but not for a large family or entertaining a crowd.
When you get home, you can remove the grate and toss it in the dishwasher. If you plan to use the grill for camping, you can buy a griddle to swap in for the grill surface, so you can make French toast for breakfast. An optional carrying bag for the grill and two tanks is also sold.
With this Coleman, you won’t have to worry about where to set up the grill or crouching down to cook. It sits sturdily on an integrated stand, making it ideal for tailgaters or campers who want to do some serious cooking. When it’s time to pack up and go, the cart folds up; it has two wheels that make it easy to pull. Three independent burners mean you can cook your ribs, sausages and veggies on three different settings simultaneously. On the grates, there’s space for about a dozen hamburgers.
You get a lot of convenient features with this portable grill — there are two side tables to rest your spatula and beverage of choice, and, just like the stand, they fold up for traveling. For an additional cost, you can purchase griddle surfaces or stove-top burners to switch out for the grill grates, meaning you can make pancakes and a pot of coffee on your grill. The RoadTrip only works with a one-pound tank. It comes in black, red, orange, blue or green.
How We Picked
We relied on our experience both in developing recipes and cooking at our own picnics and camping trips to select our picks for the best portable grills. In addition, we checked review sites to see what other professionals recommend and read user comments to see what people like and dislike about using various models.
As with full-size grills, our chief consideration was how easy it was to control the flame so you can get even cooking results without a lot of flare ups. After all, just because you’re away from home doesn’t mean you have to settle for charred pork chops or undercooked chicken. However, we also reviewed how convenient the grills were to use on the go. Our picks contain a selection of models for everyone from a hiker to a multiday camper.
Sharon Franke has been testing and writing about kitchen equipment for over 30 years. Before becoming a cooking tools expert, she spent seven years working as a professional chef in New York City restaurants. In her free time, she's busy baking sourdough bread and rustling pots and pans on her own stove.