The Best Portable Grills, According to Chefs and Pitmasters

Grill anywhere with the help of the Weber Q1200 Gas Grill and other top picks.

In This Article

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

A portable grill featured on a colorful patterned background
Amazon

Ask anyone to think of spring or summer, and many will turn to memories of cookouts. The smell of meat, sausages, vegetables, or fish charring on the grill goes right with warm weather. Grilling doesn't necessarily require a backyard; portable grills make it easy to take the cookout with you to the pre-game tailgate, beach, lake, local park, or campground.

The variety of portable grills on the market may seem daunting, but we've enlisted the help of three experts in the field to help you find the right grill for your needs. Cory Bahr is the chef and owner of Parish restaurant in Monroe, Louisiana, a finalist on The Next Food Network Star, and a Food & Wine Best New Chef. Jake Wood is the owner and pitmaster of Lawrence BBQ in Durham, North Carolina. Finally, Tank Jackson is the pitmaster and hog farmer of Holy City Hogs in Charleston, South Carolina. We paired their input with combing retail and review sites to research the best portable grills, dubbing the Weber Q1200 the winner. Read on to see why and view the rest of our picks in several key categories.

Best Overall: Weber Q1200 Liquid Propane Grill

Weber Q1200 Liquid Propane Grill

Amazon

Pros: The Weber Q1200 provides the quick and even heat of larger grills with a small enough footprint to fit in most cars' trunks without sacrificing space for other items.

Cons: The handle on the lid can become quite hot during cooking, so use care when opening the grill. The grease collection system requires specially-sized aluminum pans.

Three grills were competing for Best Overall, and they were all in the Weber Q Series. Bahr owns a Q1000 that he came to almost by accident, receiving it from his mother, who won it as a prize. "My back porch has three different Big Green Eggs, a Lang Patio model, and a Demant Hearth grill. I use this beast 100% of the time." Bahr loves the even heating of the circular burner tube and its small jet holes. It's a must-have when his family takes trips to the beach.

Cooking fish on a grill is intimidating to many home cooks. Without high heat to sear the fish, followed by more regulated medium heat to finish cooking, the fish dries out and sticks, shreds, and crumbles on the grill. Bahr, an avid angler, finds his Weber up to this task and more.

The Q1200 is identical in specifications to the Q1000, including porcelain enamel cast-iron grates, with the addition of small folding side tables that can accommodate food waiting to be grilled, tools, or seasonings. The Q2000 doubles the cooking area of the 1000 and 1200 with the same folding side tables. The price differences between the three are nominal for the added features, so in the end, we resorted to considering the amount of space a portable grill would take when packing, and the Q1200 wins for performance, construction, and its compact size.

Price at time of publish: $287

  • Dimensions: 15.5 x 40.9 x 16.5 inches
  • Capacity: 189 square inches
  • Fuel Type: Gas
  • Weight: 31 pounds
Cory Bahr

"My back porch has three different Big Green Eggs, a Lang Patio model, and a Demant Hearth grill, but I use the Weber Q1200 100% of the time."

— Cory Bahr

Best Value: Weber 10020 Smokey Joe 14-Inch Portable Charcoal Grill

Weber 10020 Smokey Joe 14-Inch Portable Charcoal Grill

Home Depot

Pros: The Smokey Joe is lightweight and compact, making it easy to store and transport. The heat control from its damper system provides excellent heat control.

Cons: The handle design can get hot during cooking, and there is no ash collection system offered in larger models.

The Weber Smokey Joe 14-inch is a kettle design that features most of the features found in Weber's larger kettle models. The dual damper system provides the ability to easily control the heat inside the grill for slow cooking or high-heat searing, and the porcelain enamel finish provides excellent heat retention.

We wouldn't recommend using this as a combination smoker-grill due to its size, but it is excellent for direct or offset grilling for meats, vegetables, sausages, and the like. The small footprint and weight make the Smokey Joe easy to pack and carry wherever you might need to use it at a fraction of the price of the larger models.

Price at time of publish: $46

  • Dimensions: 17 x 14.2 x 14.5 inches
  • Capacity: 147 square inches
  • Fuel Type: Charcoal
  • Weight: 9.5 pounds

Best Gas: Coleman RoadTrip 285 Portable Stand-Up Propane Grill

4.8
Coleman RoadTrip 285 Portable Stand-Up Propane Grill

Amazon

Pros: The RoadTrip has three individually controlled burners and an easy-to-set-up stand with wheels for easy movement.

Cons: Because of the three-burner, high-BTU setup, the fuel usage is higher than other models, and the water-tray/drip pan design is messy to remove and empty.

Coleman has been in the portable cooking game for so long that it was my father's brand of choice long before I was born. That is to say that they've had some time to refine their craft. For a portable grill, the RoadTrip 285 offers three independently adjustable burners with a combined output of 20,000 BTUs to control heat when cooking multiple food items or projects that require a mix of high and low heat.

The grill features a locking lid and pop-up stand that lifts the grill to a comfortable height without requiring insulation to protect a table or tailgate. Two side tables are convenient for holding tools, condiments, or plates. The push-button ignition system provides easy lighting, and the grill's cooking area is enough to feed a family or group without overcrowding. When the stand is folded, the wheels can still be used to maneuver the grill from the car to the cook site.

Price at time of publish: $320

  • Dimensions: 30.25 x 19.19 x 16.13 inches
  • Capacity: 285 square inches
  • Fuel Type: Gas
  • Weight: 32.5 pounds

Best Charcoal: The KUDU Open Fire Grill

The KUDU Open Fire Grill

Kudu Grills

Pros: The design of the fire pan allows for excellent control of the heat, and the easy positioning of the grill and pan racks provide direct and offset heat without manipulating the fire.

Cons: It is heavy, weighing in at 75 pounds with all of its accessories, and there is a learning curve to managing the fire and rack systems.

The Kudu has its roots in South African design for open fire grilling. The standard model features a cast-iron vessel at the base on which to build and manipulate the fire, allowing for the creation of hot or cool zones for offset cooking. Two pole-mounted racks hang above the fire pit, one for grilling and one ostensibly for holding pots or pans but can be manipulated for other purposes. The elevation bars for the racks provide both vertical and horizontal positioning to move them closer or further from the direct heat of the fire.

The Kudu is Wood's choice for portable grills. Despite the weight that may require assistance for loading and unloading, the grill breaks down into manageable pieces that need little room for packing and is ready to cook with only a few minutes of assembly. Along with the base, the starter package ships with a grill grate, legs, two elevation bars, and a seasoned cast iron pan. Additional accessories such as a rotisserie are available.

Price at time of publish: $499

  • Dimensions: 29 x 48 inches
  • Capacity: 283 square inches
  • Fuel Type: Charcoal or wood
  • Weight: 75 pounds with all accessories

Best For Camping: Cuisinart CGG-180T Petit Gourmet Portable Tabletop Propane Gas Grill

Cuisinart CGG-180T Petit Gourmet Portable Tabletop Propane Gas Grill

Cuisinart

Pros: This grill is compact and lightweight but offers a medium capacity and high heat for feeding small groups.

Cons: The Petit Gourmet has a small drip tray which may need to be emptied frequently for "juicier" jobs and its plastic components near the high heat source could become problematic.

The Petit Gourmet is lightweight with a small footprint that is great for packing in small spaces, making it great for camping. Its extendable legs help provide a level surface while its burner offers 5500 BTUs of heat from the stainless steel burners.

The grill grates are porcelain enamel, which aids in longevity and heat retention. Even with its small form factor, the Petit Gourmet can accommodate 4 pounds of food at a time - 8 burgers or steaks, 6 chicken breasts, fish, or vegetables, which makes feeding a family or group easy.

Price at time of publish: $150

  • Dimensions: 18 x 12.2 x 12 inches
  • Capacity: 145 square inches
  • Fuel Type: Gas
  • Weight: 14 pounds

Best For Tailgating: Green Mountain Grills Trek Prime WiFi Pellet Grill

Green Mountain Grills Trek Prime WiFi Pellet Grill

Green Mountain Grills

Pros: The Trek offers excellent heat control and is equally useful for smoking or grilling.

Cons: The app connectivity requires a Wi-Fi connection, and the manufacturer suggests using their proprietary pellets, which can stimy spontaneity.

The Green Mountain Trek is a combination smoker and grill, equally suited for a couple of slabs of ribs or steaks for the group. It features an auger-fed pellet system with a hopper that can accommodate up to nine pounds of wood pellets, which is enough fuel for small smoking tasks without the need to refill.

Jackson is a new convert to Green Mountain grills for ease of use. The Trek offers app-based integration, which monitors the grill temperature and internal food temperature for those who want a "set it and forget it" grilling experience. The app does require Wi-Fi to operate, which can be handled away from home via a mobile hotspot on your phone. It features temperature ranges from 150-550°F at 5-degree increments for slow cooking or high-heat searing. Depending on your grilling style, the grill is versatile, handling meats, vegetables, pizzas, or baking projects.

Price at time of publish: $399

  • Dimensions: 24 x 32 x 16 inches
  • Capacity: 219 square inches
  • Fuel Type: Pellet
  • Weight: 63 pounds

Best Large Format: Cowboy Cauldron Urban Cowboy

Cowboy Cauldron Urban Cowboy
Cowboy Cauldron

Pros: The Urban Cowboy is a large-capacity grill that is still portable and provides room for both grilling and cooking on the provided grill.

Cons: The lack of a drain hole in the bottom means manually draining water from accidental rain exposure or cleaning, and the 6-foot tripod can prove unwieldy to pack.

Sometimes portability is in the eye of the beholder. Some folks want to tuck their grill away in the corner of the trunk of their car, others see anything that fits in the bed of a truck as portable.

It's not unheard of for Jackson to throw his 30-gallon Sea Island Forge grill in the back of his truck at a moment's notice for some spontaneous grilling. Weighing in at 370 pounds from its cast iron construction, the Sea Island strikes a bold look. "At the end of the day, pulling up some chairs and putting your feet up on the boot rail after cooking does make a statement," says Bahr.

Also in the running is the Cowboy Cauldron Urban Cowboy Model, which is no less a statement piece than the other. Where the Sea Island design is a bowl that sits on a stand, the Cowboy Cauldron is a bowl suspended from a tripod system on a chain. Both grills are similar in diameter, 30-32 inches, while the Urban Cowboy is constructed of plate steel, weighing a fraction of the Sea Island at 75 pounds. The 72-inch tripod adds another 47 pounds to the equation, along with the considerations of packing 6-foot poles.

Weighing pricing and the included accessories, the $2900 Sea Island base model includes the kettle and the boot rail stand. Extras such as a proprietary compatible grill or plancha are purchased separately. At $2000, the Cowboy Cauldron ships with a rain cover and a grill that provides a platform for grilling and pan cooking. Judging on the value for dollars spent on included equipment and for its lighter weight for ease of movement, we dub the Cowboy Cauldron Urban Cowboy the winner in this case.

Price at time of publish: $1,999

  • Dimensions: 30-inch diameter, plus tripod
  • Capacity: 706 square inches
  • Fuel Type: wood, charcoal
  • Weight: 75 pounds, plus 47 pounds for the tripod

Conclusion

With the many sizes and formats of portable grills available, the choice comes down to what size you like and what type of fuel you prefer. The propane-fueled Weber Q1200 offers reliable, steady heat in a compact form. At the same time, the Kudu Open Fire Grill provides the flexibility of high, open fire charcoal heat, low temperature for slow roasting, or anywhere in between with a larger footprint.

Factors to Consider

Size

Things worth considering when it comes to size are where you're going to use the grill, how many people you're cooking for, and how you'll get it there. Some of the grills we reviewed are best moved with a pickup truck, while others could fit in an SUV or in the corner of the trunk of a small car. If you're going to be cooking for a larger group (six or more) you might want to consider one of the larger capacity grills reviewed here.

Weight

The weight of a grill brings the question of how much effort you want to put into moving your portable grill. The grills weighing in at over 50 pounds will require some assistance for you to move, unload, and stow safely, while the smaller models can be shuttled about with relative ease.

Fuel Type

Gas and charcoal grills both have their merits. Gas is easy to light and quick heating. One-pound propane cylinders take up very little space for transport. Charcoal is bulky and heavy, but open fire does provide flavoring from the terpenes in the wood. Running out of gas without a refill can bring your cookout to a halt, while foraging for firewood may prove possible when the charcoal burns out too soon. There's no correct answer; it depends on your preference for space and ease of use.

The Research

I consulted three experts, combined with my own expertise, to get their thoughts on what makes a great portable grill, then scoured the market for the best options. After combing the market for volumes of online reviews for these products, I weighed them against several criteria, including value, ease of use, consistency, and quality of construction.

Pro Panel Q+A

How do you attach a propane tank to a grill?

There are two ways that this can work. It depends on whether you have a small cylinder (typically 1-pound) or a 20-pound tank, which are the type that you can find at home improvement or convenience stores for swap-out. A 1-pound cylinder is threaded to screw into the gas fitting on a stove; simply carefully match the threads and turn the cylinder until it is tight. For a 20-pound tank, you'll need a hose and a regulator. The regulator screws directly onto the tank with the hose attaching to the regulator and the gas fitting on the stove.

How do you light a portable gas grill?

Grills come with varying ignition types. Push-button ignition is either by a manual or battery-operated ignition button, which causes a spark that then ignites the gas. A long lighter such as those used to light candles is recommended for those that don't have that feature. For the daring, a long match or a rolled-up piece of paper can reach the lighting point of the grill.

How do you clean a portable grill?

It's important to keep your grill clean to extend its longevity and prevent safety issues. The manufacturer will have preferred methods for cleaning the grill to avoid damage. But as a rule of thumb, you want to clean the grill grates of any food or grease buildup to prevent fires or avoid foodborne illness and clean the top, sides, and bottom for the same reason. Emptying and cleaning the drip pan is also key. Keep burner tubes clean to avoid buildup, which might cause fires or clog the gas jets. One can typically unclog jets by poking them with a pin or thin piece of wire. Finally, for charcoal grills, you want to ensure that the fire is completely out, then dump the ashes and either wipe or hose down the grill. Ashes are wonderful at collecting moisture, and it is essential to the life of your grill to remove them after cooking to prevent rust.

Our Expertise

Greg Baker is an award-winning chef, restaurateur, and food writer with decades of experience in the food industry. For this piece, he interviewed chef Cory Bahr and pitmasters Jake Wood and Tank Jackson to find out what the pros look for in a portable grill. He then used their insights and his own expertise combined with market research to curate this list.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles