Having BBQ out in nature is always a great way to bond and have fun with the gang. However, bringing a full grill with you during outdoor trips can be a huge hassle. Luckily, there’s plenty of portable gas, charcoal, and electric grills available in the market today. You just need to know what to look for, based on your needs.
A small portable grill is very versatile. You can use it on a small apartment balcony, in your backyard, or out on a camping trip on the beach. We’ve looked at the best full-sized grills before, now let’s find the best portable grills to bring with you on your next trip. We’ve thoroughly tested various portable grills currently available in the market to see which is the best for different situations and settings. From small lightweight grills that are great for outdoor camping to bigger models that are perfect for a tailgate, you’ll find them here.
We’re also going to provide a comprehensive buying guide on portable grills. You’ll learn how to buy a portable grill and what are the specific features you should watch out for. Let’s get to it.
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Who Should Buy a Portable Grill?
Are you wondering if you should buy a portable grill? Is it a smart investment based on your current situation?
For grilling enthusiasts with plenty of open space in their homes, investing in an expensive full-size gas grill may be the best choice. However, these types of grills are designed to stay in a permanent location. Also, not everyone has the budget to afford and even space to house these large grills.
This is where portable grills come to the rescue. If you’re a frequent camper, you know the struggles of having to cram everything you need in the car. Every space in your vehicle is used by camping gear and backpacks to the point that people in the back will have to share seats with them. Nothing is more heartbreaking than forgetting the grill during a camping trip. Having a portable grill can help solve the issue of space in your vehicle.
Portable grills not only benefit campers and nature-loving grillers, people with small apartments that have balconies can also enjoy the smoky goodness of a barbecue. You can easily set up a portable grill within minutes. Just make sure that it isn’t against the rules to have a barbecue on your apartment’s balcony and you should be good to go.
In short, the people who should buy a portable grill are those who have limited space and a limited budget for grilling. Campers who want to enjoy a barbecue in the woods should also consider getting one if they haven’t already.
Things to Consider When Choosing the Best Portable Grill
There are thousands of portable grill models out there that it can be a daunting task to pick the right one. Shoppers need to be armed with the knowledge of different types of portable grills and the features they can provide. In this section, we’re going to look at the most important factors you should consider when buying a new portable grill.
Familiarizing yourself with these factors will enable you to make an informed decision and lessen the chance of buyer’s remorse. We also crafted our list of best portable grills for 2021 based on these factors. Let’s get to it!
The budget is one of, if not the most important factor when choosing a portable grill. You’ll want a model that has both function and value. We’ve made sure to consider this in our list.
Charcoal grills are the most popular option for portable grills. Most charcoal grills will cost you between $40 and $180. Their price generally depends on capacity and brand.
If you have a bigger budget, then a portable gas grill may be for you. They are generally more expensive than their charcoal counterpart. They can cost you between $100 to $300 for a small model. A medium-large portable grill can set you back around $350 to $600. There are even larger ones, but that defeats the purpose of a portable grill. They are also very expensive, costing as much as $2,000.
Finally, we have the electric portable grill. These are the cheapest amongst the trio of portable grills. They can cost around $40 to $100. However, there are also high-end portable electric grills that can cost as much as $250. Electric grills are very portable and lightweight; however, their biggest drawback is that they need an electric outlet to function. This means you’re going to need a generator from an RV if you want to use an electric grill out in the woods.
Different portable grills have different shapes and sizes. There are flat, rectangular, and barrel shapes. Most of these shapes will fit in the back of cars. However, you should measure the space available in your vehicle to determine the perfect portable grill size for you.
The size of the portable grill you choose should also depend on what kind of food you cook and for how many people. You don’t want to cook on a small grill for a huge backyard party. If you just want to cook hotdogs and burgers for the family on a Sunday picnic, a small or medium portable grill may be best. Otherwise, if you want to cook whole steaks and chickens, a larger grill may be necessary. Campers may want to get a small grill for maximum portability.
You should also consider the weight of the portable grill. Not many are willing to carry heavy luggage everywhere on a camping trip. Portable grills tend to weigh anywhere between 2 pounds to 35 pounds. The weight can also severely affect portability.
One thing to note is that a bigger size doesn’t always mean it’s heavier. Some portable grills are small yet heavy and vice versa. Do your research and know your and your vehicle’s weight limits.
Construction & Build Quality
Another factor to consider is the build quality. Not all portable grills are made the same. The cooking surface can be made of various materials. The most commonly used are stainless steel, coated steel, and aluminum. If you have your specific preference between these materials, make sure to pay close attention to the manufacturer’s description of the portable grill.
If you’re planning to get a charcoal grill, make sure it has easy-access coalbed and easy-control dampers. These features are what you’re going to need to control the grill’s temperature. For gas grills, you’re going to want to double-check the igniter, burners, and gas valve. These are the most important components of a gas grill. If you detect anything faulty about these parts, you should return them immediately.
The most important component of an electric grill is the heating element. You can check how fast your electric grill heats up by paying attention to its wattages.
As stated before, there’s plenty of materials used when making high-quality portable grills. The most popular materials used are:
- Stainless Steel – Stainless steel portable grills are very rust-resistance and relatively durable compared to other types. Stainless steel also does a great job at retaining heat, making temperature regulation less of a hassle.
- Powder-coated Steel – The most affordable option amongst portable grills, powder-coated steel is a great option for those with tight budgets. They can rust sooner than other materials, however, they are so cheap that most people buy them just to replace them a few years later instead of buying more expensive models.
- Aluminum – The most expensive portable grills are generally made of aluminum. They feature aluminum fireboxes that can evenly reflect heat and never rust. You can expect to pay a premium for these portable grills. However, you can rest sure that you’re investing in a product that can last for years – maybe even forever.
The whole point of portable grills is to make bringing a grill to outdoor locations a more convenient task. We want to maximize every square inch of space in our vehicle, especially for a long road trip ahead. A grill that takes up too much space will defeat its purpose. You will want a grill that is small enough to fit at the back of your vehicle. If the portable grill is collapsible, then it’s a plus.
Being lightweight and compact is also a huge plus. You should be able to carry the grill without too much hassle. Small to medium grills are perfect for four or fewer diners. For larger gatherings, large portable grills with wheels are recommended.
The Best Portable Grills
The best portable grills are ones that can cook well and hold heat effectively while also providing fluid maneuverability. Portable grills don’t have to be expensive and fancy. As long as they get the job done, that’s what matters to us the most.
Best Portable Charcoal Grill – Weber Jumbo Joe
If you’re looking for a charcoal grill that has plenty of features, easy to use, and is affordable, then the Weber Jumbo Joe may be for you. It is 18.5 inches in diameter, meaning there is plenty of space to smoke two whole racks of ribs. On top of that, it is small enough to fit in the back of your trunk while still having space for cooler and other camping supplies. It is one of the best overall portable charcoal grills out there.
However, everything is not perfect. There is no thermometer included with your purchase. It also lacks its storage cover. It is still worth the price tag, given its build quality and features.
Best Portable Gas Grill – Weber Q-1200 Portable Gas Grill
Looking to splurge on a high-end portable gas grill? Then you can’t do any better than the Weber Q-1200 Portable Gas Grill. The sleek design of the Weber Q-1200 will catch anyone’s attention. It is vastly superior in different categories, compared to its peers. One should expect premium quality and features, with its heft price tag.
The Weber Q-1200 is very easy to assemble, with only a few parts required. Once assembled, it feels very sturdy and solid. The igniters work well. The grill gets hot pretty quick, reaching 500 degrees Fahrenheit in 15 minutes, just as advertised. You can easily control the temperature with the dials.
Best Budget Portable Gas Grill – Cuisinart Petit Gourmet Tabletop Portable Gas Grill
For a more budget-friendly portable gas grill, we have the Cuisinart Petit Gourmet Portable Gas Grill. This portable grill from the well-known kitchen brand, Cuisinart is our pick for the best budget option for portable gas grills. It features a twist start ignition and foldable legs. It also uses natural gas tanks that ignite quickly. It can provide a consistent and steady flame.
One big difference between this and the previous gas grill option is that it is much weaker; only topping at 400 Fahrenheit. However, it is very easy to assemble and is sturdy enough for its price range.
Best Portable Electric Grill – Cuisinart Outdoor Electric Tabletop Grill
Finally, our pick for the best portable electric grill is the Cuisinart Outdoor Electric Tabletop Grill. If you’re looking for an easy-to-pack and compact electric grill, this is the best one out there. It has a cooking area of 150 square inches; allowing you to cook eight hamburgers at the same time. It needs 1500 watts to operate.
As with most portable electric grills, you’re going to need an electric source to operate. This lowers the overall portability of the electric grill. This is great for people who want to have a convenient grill they can use in the backyard or while tailgating.
This concludes our buying guide for the best portable grills for 2021. We hope that you’ve learned the different factors you should consider when shopping for portable grills. You can use our top list above as a reference to find the best deal suited to your needs and budget. Good luck and have fun grilling!