I grill all year round because, to me, food tastes better when it’s cooked outdoors over an open flame. The flavor of a hamburger grilled over a fire, salmon seared on the grill, and pulled pork smoked over cherrywood makes my mouth water. Cooking in a microwave, oven, or stovetop doesn’t elicit the same response as cooking on a portable grill.
There’s a misconception that grilling dinner is a time-consuming and involved task. But grilling doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, some grills are nearly as easy to use as an oven. And, if you’re into it, grilling can add new dimensions to your cooking, as well as letting you whip up gourmet meals in remote locations.
We tested a half-dozen portable grills to find the best for every chef. So, feel free to scroll through our list or jump to the category that you’re looking for.
Best Charcoal Grill Best Portable Smoker Most Portable Grill Best Grill to Cook Everything Easiest to Transport Best Electric Grill
For more information on portable grills, check out our buyer’s guide at the end of this article.
The Best Portable Grills of 2021
Best Charcoal Grill: Solo Stove Grill Bundle
With a large surface area, this easy-to-light charcoal grill cooks evenly thanks to its convective airflow system that takes the challenge out of getting a charcoal fire going. The convective airflow also turns fuel to coals faster than other charcoal grills that we tested.
The Solo grill ($599) was super-easy to assemble. The only assembly required was tightening six bolts to attach the grill’s legs to its body. Solo promises box-to-burger in 30 minutes, and they were spot on.
The Solo Grill Kit came with everything I needed to get dinner on the table except the food. The kit includes the grill and stand, a 4-pound charcoal starter pack, firestarters, carry case, cover, stainless steel grilling tool in a carry case, and a short stand, which was the key to making the Solo Stove portable.
When I cooked at home on my deck, I used the higher leg set. When I took the grill on the road, I swapped legs. Both leg sets use the same grill body.
Inside the cylindrical grill, a low grate supported my charcoal, and an upper grate held my food. The sides of the upper grate fold up to give me easy access to the charcoal below, even when I was midway into cooking.
From holding a match to the lighter stick or charcoal, it took the Solo Stove around 15 minutes to turn the charcoal into grillable embers. There is no messing with controls. The airflow is automatic.
Once I had a bed of embers, I had heat to cook for close to 45 minutes. So, in one session, I grilled onions, peppers, zucchini, and tofu. When those were done, I loaded the grill with burgers and steaks. I didn’t need to add more charcoal or mess with the embers.
Photo credit: Berne Broudy
I also added chunks of hardwood to this grill to create smoke and give my food more flavor. Wood took a little longer to burn to coals — closer to 30 minutes.
And it burned hotter, so I used the flip-up grill surface panels to move the wood coals to one side, and I cooked my food on the other. Burning wood gave everything I cooked a delightfully smoky flavor.
Grilling is a messy pursuit, but the Solo makes cleanup as seamless as possible. The ash pan, charcoal grate, and cooking grates all lift out so that they can be cleaned independently in the sink.
This grill pushes the boundaries of portable in 38.5 pounds and two bulky pieces of metal. But, I love that it can cook so much at once that I do take it on the road.
And though it’s not a firepit — Solo makes a separate firepit — after grilling on the beach, I lifted the upper grate out, and my crew gathered ’round the Solo Stove to make s’mores and enjoy the sunset.
Pros: Air convection makes lighting and cooking simple and fast Cons: Bulky and expensive
Check Price at REICheck Price at Amazon
Best Portable Smoker: Traeger Ranger Pellet Grill
Traeger’s Ranger Pellet Grill ($400) delivers all the awesomeness of a full smoker grill in a compact package. The Ranger sits on a table or the ground, and when you’re not using it, it clips shut so you can carry it like a suitcase with its oversized lid handle.
The 60-pound, wood-pellet-fired Traeger Ranger is a heavyweight in the portable grill class. But at 13 x 21 x 20 inches, it’s still compact enough to be transportable.
The Ranger burns hardwood pellets to cook your food with indirect heat up to 450 degrees F. It’s the best grill for slow-cooking ribs, butts, and more. But it also added flavor to tofu, perfectly cooked a pork tenderloin, and finished a steak I had seared in a cast-iron pan.
A digital control pad on the front of the grill let me control the temperature in 5-degree increments and the cooking time. It also let me monitor the included meat probe.
Once the temperature and timer were set, the status window displayed the temperature inside the grill, the remaining cooking time, and the probe temperature. The probe plugs in next to the display panel.
Keep-warm buttons and an ignite button are in the same control panel. Indicator lights next to the temperature readout confirm that the timer is set, the keep-warm mode is activated, and the meat probe is plugged in.
The 184-square-inch cooking surface held a lot for such a compact unit. On different days, I loaded the Ranger with a rack of ribs, six burgers, and two spatchcocked chickens.
The hopper can hold 8 pounds of pellets, which kept this grill hot for a long time. I slow-cooked a Boston butt for 4 hours, and there were still pellets left in the hopper. But, depending on how long and how hot I was cooking, at times I needed to reload.
Photo credit: Amazon
The grill burns Traeger-specific pellets, which are available in nearly a dozen subtly different and delicious flavors from maple to hickory. Amazon, Walmart, Home Depot, and my local hardware store all carry Traeger pellets — they’re easy to find.
Almost everything I’ve cooked on the Ranger has come out perfectly. Its precise temperature control let me experiment with smoking chicken for slicing and smoking it for pulling. When dinner was ready but the rest of my crew was still out mountain biking, I left the pulled pork on the keep-warm setting and it was still moist, tasty, and warm when they arrived.
The Ranger also comes with a cast-iron grill, which I used to make eggs, pancakes, bacon, and smoky breakfast kale. Whatever you’re cooking, the Ranger funnels grease into a tiny bucket on the back of the grill.
I lined the inside of the grill with tinfoil or Traeger’s disposable liners to make cleanup easier. But anytime you’re slow-cooking a hunk of greasy pork for 6 hours, it makes a mess.
The Ranger plugs into any 120V outlet. It requires electricity to operate, but it’s a low draw, so I was able to run the Ranger off my truck’s AC outlet. I also used a Goal Zero Yeti Power Station to run the Ranger without a wall socket.
If you’re looking for a smaller, more affordable smoker grill with fewer bells and whistles, consider Trager’s Scout. For 100 bucks less, you get a smoker grill with its temperature adjustable in 25-degree increments, a smaller hopper, and a lighter package.
Pros: Indirect heat great for slow-cooking Hardwood pellets ensure consistency and let you choose a flavor Cons: Requires AC power Max temperature is 450 degrees F
Check Price at AmazonCheck Price at Backcountry
Most Portable Grill: Primus Kuchoma
The closest thing to a standard camp stove in size, the propane-fueled Kuchoma ($189) got top marks for good looks, a trim silhouette, and ease of cleaning. The 10-pound Kuchoma is the most compact grill I loved — 17.3 x 6.1 x 12 inches — and easy to carry via a wood-trimmed handle to wherever you’re inspired to cook.
Barbecue oceanside, next to your car or camper, or deep in the woods. When you find a suitable surface, the grill stands on fold-open steel legs, and it lights with a match-free piezo ignition.
Inside, the Kuchoma has a horizontal burner tube under removable ceramic nonstick grates with a stainless-steel drip tray underneath. Both the grate and the drip tray are dishwasher safe, and they were easy to wash by hand.
To cook, all I had to do was load a one-pound propane canister into the gas holder, connect it to the grill, and push to ignite. The grill heated quickly and evenly. The deep hood let the heat circulate to cook food evenly, although I wasn’t able to achieve the same level of indirect heating with the Kuchoma as I was with other grills.
The Kuchoma put out less heat than other grills we loved — around 8,500 BTUs. But that was plenty to char burgers, cook fish, and turn out some tasty pork chops.
Photo credit: Primus
The Kuchoma looks like a camp stove, but it’s not. Primus doesn’t offer alternate cooking surfaces for the Kuchoma. I used a cast-iron pan on top of the grill for morning eggs and bacon, but I would have preferred a griddle.
The Kuchoma was one of the easiest grills to get to somewhere remote, thanks to its small size and light weight. Courtesy of the Kuchoma, I had a full dinner in some remarkable locations. And, packed up, it tucked away inside a closet, a storage bin in my camper, or the trunk of my car.
Pros: Super-compact and light Nonstick grill surface cleans easily Cons: Only 8,500 BTUs Nonstick surface scratches with standard metal utensils
Check Price at BackcountryCheck Price at Amazon
Best Grill to Cook Everything: Camp Chef VersaTop 1 Burner
To call Camp Chef’s VersaTop 1 Burner ($195) just a grill is selling it short. With the grill box attachment, the propane-fueled base will crisp your salmon, sear your steak, or cook your kabobs until they’re tender. But its grate, griddle, and pizza oven attachments turn this grill into a full kitchen and render the cooking possibilities endless.
With 224 square inches of cooking surface, I could cook for a crew. The matchless ignition stove has 18,000 BTUs of heat, controlled by adjustable knobs.
The grill uses Camp Chef’s heat diffuser system, which minimizes hot spots. This system also converts flames into infrared heat, vaporizes grease drippings, cooks evenly, and brings out your food’s best flavor. Grease that doesn’t vaporize is collected by both a tray and a grease cup.
The grill box has space inside for air to circulate so that food cooks from all sides. The heavy-duty box held heat and distributed it well, as did the seasoned cast-iron grates. A temperature gauge on the face let me keep an eye on how hot I was cooking, although its temperature control wasn’t as precise as in some other grills.
Photo credit: Amazon
After grilling up a batch of Siracha Sweet Lips Barbecue Chicken and zucchini from the garden, I was able to clean up even with limited water. The seasoned cast iron did scratch, however.
If I wanted to switch from grilling to pizza oven, burner, or griddle, I just lifted the 14” grill box off the burner and stored it in its bag.
The 17 x 18 x 8-inch VersaTop doesn’t have legs. So, I mostly set it on a picnic table to cook. If it ever felt off-camber, its leg levelers let me even it up.
Check Price at REICheck Price at Backcountry
Easiest to Transport: Coleman RoadTrip 225
Not every barbecue takes place right next to the car. Coleman’s RoadTrip 225 Portable Standup Propane Gas Grill ($220) lets you wheel your grill to the party, so you can cook up a feast, conveniently.
The grill has quick-fold legs, two of which have wheels. For travel, the RoadTrip folds flat and rolls on the wheels when towed by its handle.
For cooking, the wheels scissor open. Unlatch the lid, and you’re ready to cook. The RoadTrip 225’s two adjustable burners lights with a push button. You can control the temperature — up to 11,000 BTUs — in zones across the 225-square-inch cooking surface.
The grill had plenty of heat to tackle anything I wanted to cook. High heat let me get a good sear going, and I appreciated the small built-in side table work surface. It was the perfect place to balance a plate of burgers or a board to let my steak rest.
A water pan underneath the grates collected cooking grease. The pan and the cooking grates are removable for cleaning. When dinner is done and it’s time to roll, the lid locks for the trip back to the car or truck.
Photo credit: Amazon
The RoadTrip 225 runs on one-pound propane cylinders. And a super-smart design feature — the grilling surface can be swapped for stove grates or a cast iron griddle, both sold separately.
And not only is it easy to roll to dinner, but it’s also easy to store. The grill fits in a closet, the garage, or anywhere else folded flat and standing tall, which makes this a great choice for chefs with limited storage space.
Check Price at AmazonCheck Price at Walmart
Best Electric Grill: Weber Q1400 Electric Grill
George Foreman put electric grills on the map. And, there are some serious pros to grilling with electricity, not gas, charcoal, or wood. Electric grilling is the lowest impact, especially if the power flowing from your plugs comes from renewables.
Electric grills are also easy to use, easy to clean and, once you hone your technique, they can help you cook a juicier burger. Electric grills produce less smoke, too.
Based on Weber’s most popular portable grill ever, the Q1400 electric ($269) gives chefs who want to go electric a way to barbecue. The Q1400 has 180 square inches of grilling surface and runs on standard 120V electric power from any outlet. With the lid closed, the grill measures 14.5 x 27 x 16.5 inches.
It also has porcelain-enameled cast iron cooking grates that are set into the cast-aluminum grill. Plug in the power cord to the heating element and into your socket, and a turn of a knob fires it up. The directions recommend preheating for 20 minutes to bring the grill body up to temp for best indirect heat.
I turned it to high and gave it 10 minutes before tossing on my burgers. They were juicy on the inside and tasty all the way through. They cooked faster than I expected and left just a few drips in the removable catch pan.
The infinite heat control setting didn’t give me a lot of guidance as to what setting yielded what temperature, so it took me some experimentation to dial in my favorite dishes.
Photo credit: Walmart
The cast aluminum body did a great job of keeping the heat even. And, while it was weird to cook over a bare electrical element — one that looks similar to the heat source in the top of my oven at home — when the food was done, there didn’t seem to be any residue on it.
The 6-foot grounded cord gave me space to set up the grill. And, when it was raining or snowing out, and I didn’t want to stand in the weather, I used this grill on my kitchen counter. It didn’t smoke like a charcoal or gas grill and was safe to operate indoors.
Assembly was quick. I attached the lid to the base with pins and screwed in the lid handle, and I was ready to go.
Check Price at AmazonCheck Price at Walmart
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Portable Grill What’s Your Preferred Fuel Source?
If you’re adamant about charcoal, gas, or electricity to cook your food, that will narrow your choices. Each has its advantages.
Gas and electric grills start instantly. Charcoal takes longer but adds flavor. A smoker grill, or a charcoal grill that can also burn wood, will make your cooking next level if you’re into the flavor and the slow cook times. Consider what you want to cook and how, and then buy a grill that can handle it.
How Much Will You Cook?
Pick a grill that can handle food for your crew, so you won’t be stuck at the grill all night cooking in waves or burning a lot of extra fuel to heat up empty space.
Diffuse Heat vs. Direct Heat
Most grills claim to cook with diffuse heat, but few actually do. A pellet smoker grill will for sure. So will a charcoal grill if you move your coals to one side and your grillables to the other.
Diffuse heat will seal in flavor and won’t dry out your food. It can also slow-cook, allowing you to make pulled pork, ribs, and other melt-in-your-mouth slow-cooked meals. Most grills trap heat inside, and some store and release it from the body of the grill, which assists in sealing in flavor, but won’t truly cook slow.
Portability and Size
Your setup may determine which portable grill is right for you. If you plan to transport your grill in a compact car or carry a grill to a far-from-the-road scenic overlook, you’ll need a grill that packs smaller and weighs less than if you’re driving your grill to a campsite and unloading it on the picnic table.
And, if you’re trying to squeeze one into your rig for car camping, be sure to buy one that leaves you room for other stuff. Some portable grills come with their own stand, and others require a table.
The Best Thermoses of 2021
If you want your favorite liquids to stay hot all day, check out our roundup of the best thermoses of 2021. Get ready to warm up with a hot drink. Read more…
13 Backpacking Meals People Love
Backpacking meals are light, easy to pack, long-lasting, and easy to make with just boiling water. And they're getting better all the time. Read more…
The post The Best Portable Grills of 2021 appeared first on GearJunkie.
#BestOf #Cooking #Outdoor #Reviews