Whether you’re camping or tailgating, a portable grill is a must. Sure, you could try to wrestle a full-sized grill into your car, but why put yourself through that when there’s a tool that’s actually made for the job at hand? Charcoal and gas partisans will swear by their preferred fuel source, but gas has an undeniable edge when it comes to portability. Why? Because one-pound propane canisters are a lot easier to lug around than a big bag of briquettes. Still, that doesn’t mean charcoal is a total no-go. If you have room for the fuel, there’s no denying the delicious smokey flavor it can deliver.
To find out which travel grills are the best of the best, we spent hours upon hours grilling everything we could get our hands on. It’s been a delicious few weeks, and now we’re proud to present the best portable grills on the market today. Read on for our rankings of the best gas and charcoal options.
The Best Portable Gas Grills
Best Overal: Cuisinart Petit Gourmet
Coming in at just under 20 pounds, the Petit Gourmet is perfect if you want to take your grilling show on the road. A simple one-pound propane canister provides enough fuel to cook simple meals with ease. Just bear in mind that this grill can’t reach very high temperatures, so it might take an extra few minutes to cook your steak just the way you like it. One major drawback is that the actual cooking area is smaller than you might think. It should go without saying, but don’t expect to be able to grill enough food for a big family in one go. But if you like the sound of a romantic grilled dinner for two, the Cuisinart Petit Gourmet is a great pick for your dream picnic date.
Napoleon Scissor Cart Grill
If you find yourself hiking to your campsite, you’ll thank Napoleon for putting a cart and pair of wheels on its portable grill. While most other portable grills offer a cart as an optional accessory, this Napoleon comes with one that’s easy to collapse and stow.
It takes a little more up-front effort to build this grill, but once it’s done you’ll have enough cooking and prep surfaces to rival a full-size model. Better still, the 12,000 BTUs is plenty to handle burgers, dogs, and assorted other treats. We did notice it gets a little finicky when the wind picks up, but with a little patience, the Napoleon TQ285X-BL Scissor Cart grill can be a great choice for music festivals, camping, and tailgating.
Solaire Anywhere Portable Infrared Grill
Avoid! Don’t be fooled by the impressive name. The Solaire Anywhere is plagued by strange design choices that keep it from earning our recommendation.
First and foremost, the poorly thought-out vent layout mean that a weak breeze is all it takes to blow out the flame. It happened again and again during our initial testing, leaving our burgers cold and raw and our veggies as fresh as the day they were picked. Undeterred, we tried again a few days later, after the wind had died down. Success! We finally managed to grill burgers and veggies, despite several other obstacles that got in the way. The built-in V-shaped grilling grids blocked portions of the food from cooking, so we were forced to constantly adjust the food to make sure it was cooking evenly (and to a safe temperature).
At the end of the day, considering how much this grill costs, it’s just not worth the effort.
The Best Portable Charcoal Grills
Best Overall: Weber Smokey Joe
When we tested full-sized charcoal grills, the Weber 22-inch Original Kettle was the obvious winner. Lo and behold, its smaller counterpart aced our tests as well.
The Weber Smokey Joe takes everything we loved about the 22-inch Original and crams it into a package small enough to bring to the park. The portability is aided even further by a handle that wraps around the entire grill. This grill doesn’t have the cachet of the Lodge Cast Iron Grill or the simplicity of an Old Smokey, but it’s phenomenally reliableWeber even backs it up with a 10-year warranty. And when it comes to impressing your neighbors with burgers, chicken, and grilled veggies, the Smokey Joe will always have your back.
Old Smokey Charcoal Grill
It’s hard not to chuckle a little when you first lay eyes on the Old Smokey. It looks like nothing so much as a steel drum cut in half in someone’s garage. But there’s a distinct charm to its no-nonsense look. This is a charcoal grill that was good enough for your dad, your dad’s dad, and your dad’s dad’s dad before him.
As you’d expect from its looks, it doesn’t come with any special features. Worse, there are some questionable design decisions. On our unit, the grill hood didn’t sit completely flush with the bowl, and we had some issues with the seriously questionable vent flaps. What this grill does have, though, is fantastic heat retention. In our testing, a small load of charcoal stayed hot enough to grill for hours, making the Old Smokey a perfect pick for a long day of tailgatingor cooking breakfast and lunch at your campsite.
Lodge Cast Iron Grill
On the other end of the spectrum is the Lodge Pre-Seasoned Sportsman’s Charcoal Grill. Mention cast iron to any foodie and you’ll get a nonstop rant on its myriad virtues, and there’s good reason for that. As long as you keep it properly seasoned, there really isn’t anything that cooks quite like it.
We absolutely loved cooking with this Lodge, but there are some notable caveats. The lack of a cover limits your cooking options, though there’s a draft door to regulate heat and another to manage your coals. Then there’s the seasoning we mentioned earlier: A lot of work goes into maintaining cast iron, especially something of this size. Finally, this thing weighs a ton, making it something you’ll want to put in a certain spot and leave it therethe opposite of portable. If you don’t mind a little extra maintenance and can stomach weight and cost, this Lodge is a treat to cook with. We wouldn’t lug it into the woods, but it’s perfect for a small patio.