The Best Tailgate Grills

BBQ and tailgating go hand-in-hand. What better way to enjoy the game than by grilling up some delicious food with your friends? Portable grills make it easy to BBQ anywhere, and tailgating is the perfect opportunity to break them out.

The 10 Best Tailgate Grills
The 10 Best Tailgate Grills

The Best Tailgate Grills

Have you ever attended a sports event where half of the day, you hung out with your friends in the parking lot and enjoyed great food cooked on a tailgate grill? Tailgating is so much fun as it involves consuming lots of food and beverages from or around the open tailgate of a vehicle. It has its own indescribable energy that keeps you coming back for more.

There’s something about the smell of grilled food that gets people in the mood for a good time. But not all grills are created equal. When it comes to tailgating, you need a grill that is portable, durable, and easy to use.

Luckily, there are plenty of great options on the market. To help narrow down your search, we’ve compiled a list of the best tailgating grills currently available. Whether you’re looking for a portable gas grill, a charcoal grill, or a pellet grill, we’ve got you covered.

All of these amazing grills can help you prepare the best ribs, burgers, and steaks right from the back of your truck. Some options even have built-in stands for those who do not have space in the back of their vehicles.

Ready? Let’s dig in.


Quick Overview

  • Editors Pick: Traeger Ranger Wood Pellet Grill
    ” place this tabletop grill directly on your truck bed or picnic table and cook up to six burgers or ten hot dogs at a time”
  • Best Overall: Smoke Hollow Aussie 205
    “compact and lightweight, it can still deliver an impressive 12,000 BTU with its large U-shaped burner”
  • Best Small Budget: Cuisinart CCG190 Portable Charcoal Grill
    “affordable grill uses hot coals to produce heat, giving your food unbeatable flavour”
  • Best Luxury: Green Mountain Pellet Grill
    “built-in Wifi that allows you to control and monitor the grill temperature from your smartphone with their app”
  • Best for Beginners: Weber Q1000 Liquid Propane Grill
    “this gas grill comes entirely assembled and the push-button ignition makes it super easy to operate”

Traeger Ranger Wood Pellet Grill [Editors Pick]

Traeger Ranger Wood Pellet Grill
Traeger Ranger Wood Pellet Grill
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Bring your favourite wood-fired flavour anywhere with the Traeger Ranger Wood Pellet Grill. This durable grill has 185 square inches of cooking space, weighs about 60 pounds, and has an 8 lb capacity pellet hopper. You can place this tabletop grill directly on your truck bed or picnic table and cook up to six burgers or ten hot dogs at a time.

This is the best tailgate grill in our opinion because it features a unique “Digital Arc Controller” that helps you set the temperature with great control. Plus, the “Keep Warm Mode” gives you even more control over your evening, ensuring that your meal is ready when you are.

With added accessories like a meat probe thermometer, a cast iron griddle, and porcelain-coated grill grates, you can’t go wrong with this unit. A heavy-duty lid handle and two locks will have you feeling confident bringing this along with the rest of your tailgating supplies.

PROS

  • Meat probe
  • Heavy duty grill body
  • Griddle included
  • Digital Arc Controller

CONS

  • Heavy unit

Smoke Hollow Aussie 205 [Best Overall]

Smoke Hollow Aussie 205
Smoke Hollow Aussie 205
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The Aussie 205 Stainless Steel Tabletop Gas Grill is our best overall of the tailgating grills because it’s a simple, yet durable, propane grill that has plenty of cooking space (a whopping 305 square inch cooking surface) and weighs only 25 lbs.

Its small size makes it perfect for bringing along on your tailgating or camping adventures, and its locking hood and foldable legs make it convenient to do so. Though the Smoke Hollow 205 is compact and lightweight, it can still deliver an impressive 12,000 BTU with its large U-shaped burner.

The double-layer stainless steel hood means that this grill retains heat exceptionally well and the built-in lid thermometer and temperature dial make temperature reading quick and easy. There is also a functional top rack where you can keep food warm, or remove it completely if you’re grilling a large piece of meat in the main cooking space.

PROS

  • Good BTU output
  • Lockable hood and foldable legs
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Push button ignition

CONS

  • Warming rack may get in the way

Cuisinart CCG190 Portable Charcoal Grill [Best Small Budget]

Cuisinart CCG190 Portable Charcoal Grill
Cuisinart CCG190 Portable Charcoal Grill
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If you want to impress your friends with a sleek, portable charcoal grill without spending a fortune, the Cuisinart CCG190 is for you. This Cuisinart charcoal grill allows you to bring charcoal grilling practically anywhere, so you can have that amazing smoky BBQ flavour whenever you want.

This affordable grill uses hot coals to produce heat, giving your food unbeatable flavour. Though the cooking area is only 150 square inches, you can still make enough grilled foods for a small crowd. Weighing only 2 lbs. and equipped with 3 lid locks, you can feel confident bringing this along on all your adventures.

Featuring a dual-venting system for temperature control and an enamel-coated firebox and catcher for easy clean-up. It is safe to say that this is a wonderful charcoal grill with an affordable price tag.

PROS

  • Lightweight grill
  • Firebox and venting system
  • Inexpensive

CONS

  • Small cooking area
  • Not very durable

Green Mountain Grill-Davy Crockett WiFi Pellet Grill [Best Luxury]

Green Mountain Grill-Davy Crockett WiFi Pellet Grill
Green Mountain Grill-Davy Crockett WiFi Pellet Grill
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Next is our Best Luxury grill, and what better unit than the Green Mountain Davy Crockett Pellet Grill, a powerhouse in terms of tailgating grills. Wood pellets are a favourite fuel source for grilling enthusiasts because they burn cleanly and deliver an unbeatable flavour.

The Green Mountain Pellet Grill makes the process of grilling also quite simple. This advanced grill comes with an electric feeder system that helps feed the pellets and support the continuous performance of the unit. Plus, it’s paired with a thermal sensor that constantly monitors the grill temperature.

If you weren’t already sold, this smoker grill features built-in Wifi that allows you to control and monitor the grill temperature from your smartphone with their app. Plus, the grill’s meat probe also transmits the internal temperature of your meat to your phone, so you’ll never overcook anything at an exciting party again.

Of course, you can’t enjoy all these features without electricity, it hooks up to 110V or 12V with adaptors for 3 Power Options.

PROS

  • Automatic feeder
  • Built-in thermometer
  • Wi-Fi enabled
  • Large surface area

CONS

  • Large and heavy
  • No wheels
  • Require electricity for some features
  • Expensive grill

Weber Q1000 Liquid Propane Grill [Best for Beginners]

Weber Q1000 Liquid Propane Grill
Weber Q1000 Liquid Propane Grill
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Another masterpiece from Weber, the Q1000 liquid propane grill is a perfect example of the saying, “good things come in small packages.” This small gas grill is the best portable gas grill for beginners. It has a cooking space of 189 square inches and one stainless steel burner that can produce 8500 BTU every hour.

The infinite control burner valve makes it easy to set the temperature according to your requirements. Plus, the cast aluminum lid is durable and retains heat very well. We also love how this gas grill comes entirely assembled and the push-button ignition makes it super easy to operate.

PROS

  • High heat retention
  • Comes fully assembled
  • Easy to operate
  • Easy to store
  • Cast iron grates

CONS

  • Long preheat time

The Verdict

  • Editors Pick: Traeger Ranger Wood Pellet Grill
    ” place this tabletop grill directly on your truck bed or picnic table and cook up to six burgers or ten hot dogs at a time”
  • Best Overall: Smoke Hollow Aussie 205
    “compact and lightweight, it can still deliver an impressive 12,000 BTU with its large U-shaped burner”
  • Best Small Budget: Cuisinart CCG190 Portable Charcoal Grill
    “affordable grill uses hot coals to produce heat, giving your food unbeatable flavour”
  • Best Luxury: Green Mountain Pellet Grill
    “built-in Wifi that allows you to control and monitor the grill temperature from your smartphone with their app”
  • Best for Beginners: Weber Q1000 Liquid Propane Grill
    “this gas grill comes entirely assembled and the push-button ignition makes it super easy to operate”

Things to consider when buying a tailgating grill

Okay, we’ve given you a lot to think about. Now we need to figure out which of these incredible tailgate grills is the best fit for your needs. Here are some important factors to consider before you buy a portable grill.

Fuel Type

There are many different types of tailgating grills available in the market:

  • Charcoal: Although charcoal takes a little longer to cook with and requires a touch more practice and maintenance, it is still the preferred fuel type for meat lovers and BBQ enthusiasts. By lighting charcoal lumps or briquettes under the grill grates, you create an even heat distribution and a smokey flavour that is second to none when grilling to impress.
  • Propane: Unlike charcoal, propane burns cleanly, meaning, it does not impart any additional flavour onto your food. Propane grills are easy to light, easy to clean, and require very little maintenance.
  • Wood Pellets: Wood pellets are made of compressed sawdust and are available in different wood flavours. A pellet grill will usually come with a pellet hopper, a place to put your wood pellets and have them dispense as needed. Pellet grills offer a wonderful smokey flavour, especially for slow-cooked meals.

So, depending on your preference, choose a grill with a fuel source that supports your cooking skills.

Temperature Control

One of the factors that can make or break your grilling experience is temperature control. Considering the importance of temperature while grilling, it is wise to invest in a tailgate grill with good control. Most gas grills have temperature dials so you can keep an eye on the internal temperature of your grill and adjust it as necessary.

On the other hand, charcoal grills don’t operate on dials so you must rely on the amount of charcoal burning and pay attention to the air vents. Having multiple vents allows you to maintain a steady temperature with an even burn rate.

Burners

Burners are an important feature to keep in mind when purchasing a portable gas grill. If you plan to grill different types of meat at the same time, you might want to look for a portable grill with multiple adjustable burners. You’ll be able to set the temperature and grilling power of each burner independently to grill each item perfectly.

However, having one stainless steel burner isn’t a bad idea either, especially if it’s in a large U-shape. A U-shaped burner allows for an even heat distribution across a large surface area, eliminating hot and cold zones.

Warming Rack

Now, a warming rack isn’t a deal breaker, and some BBQ’ers don’t particularly like them, but if you’ve never used a portable grill with a warming rack, we think it’s worth a try. If you’re buying a portable grill, it’s most likely because you want to BBQ on the go, or in small quarters. A warming rack gives you extra space to store your cooked food while keeping it warm in the process. It also increases your overall grilling area, giving you more space to make more food!

Gas Models BTUs

BTU is an abbreviation for British Thermal Units. These units measure any gas grill’s firepower or thermal output. According to grilling experts, a gas grill should produce 75 to 100 BTU for every square inch of the cooking surface. So, if your grill has a cooking area of 100 square inches, it should ideally have a BTU of at least 7500.

However, a lower heat output doesn’t always mean poor performance. Some units have excellent heat retention that makes up for low BTU.

Pellet Hopper Capacity

A Pellet Hopper is like a container designed to store all the wood pellets required for the cook. The wood pellets are transferred to the fire pot through an auger from the hopper. Therefore, your hopper’s size determines the duration of your cooks. If the size of the hopper is smaller than you need, you will be unable to cook for the required time.

To extend the size of a hopper, you can also buy hopper extenders. However, make sure that these are from a reliable brand and are compatible with your pellet smoker.

Additional Features

There are many additional features that can help change your grilling experience at your tailgate party. For instance, some grills come with a stand or table which would be handy if you don’t have a truck to place your grill on.

Some grills also come with handles to make transport and set up a breeze or a carrying bag to protect your portable grill in storage or transport.

Other beneficial features are an aluminum ash catcher for charcoal grills or a spill-resistant drip tray and a removable drip pan for a propane grill. These features make maintenance and clean-up simple and straightforward so that you can spend more time doing what you love.

BBQ Hero Tip: Bring a metal bucket to place hot coals into after you’re finished cooking at your tailgate party. This will save you time otherwise spent waiting for the coals to cool off before packing up.

Features to consider when choosing a tailgate grill

Here are a few more essential features to consider when choosing the best tailgate grill.

Construction Materials

Keep an eye out for solid structures built from long-lasting materials. Just because a grill is portable does not mean it should have a weak or disposable structure.

Another feature that holds lots of importance is the sturdiness of the handle and legs. These two characteristics can greatly impact the way you can use a grill for a purpose. Weak, flimsy legs and handles can ruin your cooking experience and may also lead to accidents that can result in injury.

Dimensions

We can’t help but emphasize that compactness and portability are two major factors to consider before you buy a tailgate grill. Your grill should be lightweight to carry and easy to use so you’re ready to go even on last-minute party plans.

A compact grill is also useful if you have a small vehicle. You’ll be able to save space while packing and bring it along to any outdoor adventures you find yourself on.

Though having a compact grill is of most importance, you must also keep in mind the number of guests you’ll be cooking for. Ensure you have the sufficient cooking capacity for all of your guests while keeping overall size in mind.

Mounting

Some tailgating grills are designed to be placed directly onto the tailgate of your truck, however, not everyone has a truck! If you’re attending a tailgating party in a small car, consider choosing a tailgating grill that comes with a stable base. Also, if your base has wheels, ensure they’re equipped with a proper locking system to prevent any movement while you’re busy cooking and grilling.

Warranty

When you make a big purchase like this one, it’s important to consider what kind of warranty you’re protected by. Sometimes things go wrong and you have no control over the outcome. There may be faulty parts, or maybe you’re just not happy with your decision. This is where a warranty comes in handy. Also, when a company offers a free lifetime warranty you know it’s a good product that the company trusts will do its job.


Safety Tips for Tailgate Grills

Portable grills of any kind should be handled with care and caution, especially small grills that you’ll be bringing to a family picnic or sporting event with lots of people around. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind when handling your new tailgating grill.

Allow Time To Cool

When you’re finished cooking, it’s important to let your entire grill cool before packing up. A hot lid or grilling area can cause damage to your vehicle or storage area if not cooled completely.

Washing Grill Grates

Maintaining your grill is an important task that should not be skipped. Usually, grill grates should be washed after every use. Some are even dishwasher safe, though you should always check the owner’s manual before putting them in your dishwasher.

Keep a Fire Extinguisher on Hand

Tailgating parties can get rowdy, and having a portable grill around can make things dangerous. Always keep a fire extinguisher nearby when grilling around people and vehicles to prevent disaster.

BBQ Hero Tip: Start preheating your grill as soon as you set it up at your tailgate party, especially if you have a charcoal grill. Charcoal grills take some time to preheat and reach a stable temperature. To avoid holding up the party, ignite it as early as possible so it’s ready when you are.

Tailgating Grills FAQs

What do you do with small propane cylinders when they’re empty?

Contrary to popular belief, small propane cylinders should not be thrown into regular waste or recycling containers because they are considered hazardous waste. Some parks will have designated collection bins for propane cylinders. Otherwise, most gas stations and retailers will take back empty canisters when you return to purchase new ones.


Is charcoal or gas grilling better?

It all comes down to personal preference. Charcoal grills allow you to cook your food over hot coals on a rack above them. Gas grills are more complex in that they have many different parts like burners, hoses, tanks, and valves involved in the cooking process. Many enjoy the smoky flavour you get by cooking over charcoal briquettes that you wouldn’t get on a traditional gas grill. Furthermore, lots of moving parts on gas grills mean more could go wrong.


How many square inches of cooking space do I need to grill up to eight burgers?

You will need at least 200 square inches of cooking space to cook eight burgers at once. Remember, each item on your grill should be spaced out at least half an inch to reduce crowding effects.