The best portable grill

Camp Cooking

If you want to use pans on your grill, don’t be tempted to buy cheap ones. Cooking performance will be poor, and they won’t last. Cast iron is best, but copper and stainless steel are also good.

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Which portable grills are best?

There’s nothing quite like cooking outdoors, and a portable grill means you can do that anywhere, anytime. The trouble is, there are so many to choose from — with different fuels, shapes, sizes, finishes, and prices ranging anywhere from $40-$250 — that narrowing it down can be a challenge.

We’ve been looking at a vast range of alternatives to help you pick the one that’s best for your needs. The technology may not have changed much over recent years, but we’ve got a couple interesting new additions among our top picks as well as an old favorite.

Best portable grills 2021

1. Weber’s Jumbo Joe Charcoal Grill: From perhaps the top name in outdoor grilling, this grill, a long-standing favorite, offers great portability yet a surprisingly large cooking space.

2. Char-Broil Portable 240 Liquid Propane Gas Grill: It doesn’t get much more compact than this, yet it’s still very practical and affordable, too. This model is a new entry on our list.

3. Char-Griller’s Tabletop Charcoal Grill: Another newcomer to our list, this spacious, durable grill can double as a smoke box, and it’s a great value.

For full reviews of these products, scroll to the bottom.

Choosing a portable grill — the key factors

Much like an ordinary grill, fuel is one of the main issues — but now you also have to consider carrying it around. Charcoal not only gives what many think is the best flavor, but also comes in easily portable bags. Gas is undoubtedly convenient, but standard 20-pound bottles aren’t particularly convenient.

Fine for RVing, but not for camping. Some compact portable grills use the smaller 16-ounce bottles, which is great, but you probably won’t get push-button ignition. Electric is possible, but you’re going to have to run it off a generator. Not a complete no-go, but choice is limited. Pellet-fired is another option, but although some are called “portable,” you wouldn’t want to move them far!

Size and weight are also big considerations, and you’re probably going to have to make compromises. That said, our top pick, the Weber, is easy to stow yet offers 250 square inches of cooking space. That’s six or eight burgers at a time, which is not bad. With a little planning, you won’t need to struggle to feed the family. 

While we’re on the subject, think about how well it will travel. Some have clips to hold the lid in place. On others, the legs fold right over the lid to secure it. If it doesn’t have that kind of thing, you just know it’s going to come apart in transit.

Racks themselves are usually cast iron or stainless steel. The former conducts heat better, but the latter is easier to keep clean. You’ll want to think about how the heat is controlled (dampers are common), and how easy the grill is to clean up after. Finally, check the exterior finish. On cheap portable grills, a heat-resistant paint is used; it’s OK but will eventually need repainting or rust will get in. Porcelain enamel is more durable but can chip and, again, rust can start. The best is stainless steel, though it may come at a premium.

Portable grill FAQ

Q. Do you have any tips for safe outdoor grilling?

A. Yep. Pretty straightforward.

  1. Don’t light your grill near flammable material, particularly undergrowth, overhanging branches or leaf litter.
  2. Make sure it’s stable so it can’t tip over.
  3. Make sure kids know it’s a no-go zone, and either keep pets in the RV while you’re cooking or tether them temporarily.

Q. How do I dispose of used charcoal at camp sites or in the wild?

A. You need to be very careful or you could start a serious fire. Camp sites may have their own rules, which you need to adhere to. Never tip charcoal in with trash, it can retain heat for up to 12 hours.

If you must dump it on the ground, wait as long as possible (like until next morning) then dowse thoroughly with water and cover with dirt. It’s not always convenient, but best would be to transfer it carefully to a heat-proof container and dispose of it safely at home.

In-depth reviews of best portable grills

Best of the best

Weber’s Jumbo Joe Charcoal Grill

Weber’s Jumbo Joe Charcoal Grill

What we like: 18-inch diameter seems small but actually provides 250 square inches of grill area. Good build quality. Simple heat control. Porcelain enamel coating is great for heat retention when closed. Handle doubles as lid lock.

What we dislike: A few arrive with parts missing, and owners have been very critical of Weber support.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Best overall

Char-Broil Portable 240 Liquid Propane Gas Grill

Char-Broil Portable 240 Liquid Propane Gas Grill

What we like: Ideal for couples or young families, with 240 square inches of cooking space. It has sturdy legs and comes with handles for the ease of portability. Allows for heat and temperature monitoring. Cheap, but decent quality.

What we dislike: Required 1-lb propane tanks. Some reports of faulty regulators.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Char-Griller’s Tabletop Charcoal Grill

Char-Griller’s Tabletop Charcoal Grill

What we like: Tough steel chassis with cast iron grates. 250 square inches of rack space. Twin dampers for easy heat control. Removable ash pan. Use as fire box / side smoker with larger Char-Griller models.

What we dislike: Finish occasionally flakes or peels. Quite heavy.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Bob Beacham writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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