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One of the best ways to cook outdoors is on a portable grill. These small appliances help you make a tasty meal anywhere, from the shore of a lake to your own backyard. They also lend additional firepower to your main grill when you’ve got a big cookout going. To help you select the right one, we tested the cooking capabilities of a range of grills and then ate everything we made, to make sure the fruits of our labor was up to snuff.
Best Portable Grills
Editors’ Choice: Weber Smokey Joe
Best Overall: Masterbuilt Portable Charcoal Grill
Most Instagram Worthy: Cuisinart Cgg-750 Venture Gas Grill
Best Charcoal: Oklahoma Joe’s Rambler Tabletop Charcoal Grill
Best For Burgers And Dogs: Weber Q1200 Liquid Propane Grill
Best Choice Of Cook Tops: Magma Crossover Single Burner Firebox
Best For Tailgating: Coleman RoadTrip 285 Stand-Up Propane Grill
Best Collapsible Grill: GoBQ Portable Charcoal Grill
Best For More Than Just BBQ: Firedisc Original
Modern And Stylish: Berghoff Leo Portable Tabletop Barbecue Grill
Best Fire Pit-Grill Combo: Snow Peak Takibi Fire and Grill
Best For Big Events: Americana Walk-A-Bout
The Expert: I’ve been testing charcoal and gas grills for
since 2020. Each grilling season, I slide new grills out of their packaging and inspect them for their build quality and workmanship, a value I hold high in a product. (I’ve been fixing, building, and making things my entire life, and I am never without a project.) After assembling and fueling each grill, and before cooking juicy hamburgers, marinated bone-in chicken, and veggie patties, I do a quick but thorough evaluation of cooking-surface temperature as recommended by cookbook author, chef, and barbecue expert Dave Joachim, who suggests spreading slices of white bread over the grilling surface to clearly see where cold spots can produce undercooked food—the areas that turn up black show hot spots, still-white areas are cold spots. Armed with all of this knowledge and a set of grilling tools, I set out to determine the best and most well-made portable grills you can buy right now.
What to Consider When Selecting a Portable Grill
Type of Fuel
Portable grills are fueled by lump and briquette charcoal or propane, each with its own advantages. Lump charcoal is easier to ignite and burns hotter than charcoal briquettes. Because it’s charred wood, it consists of irregularly shaped pieces, and so requires a bit of experience to correctly build a fuel bed. Bagged charcoal is slightly more difficult to light but is easy to work with in that you ignite a pile of it in a charcoal chimney and pour the glowing coals onto the coal grate. You can easily move these regularly shaped pieces with a coal shovel to put the heat where you need it. Charcoal is dramatic and fun to work with; outdoor chefs generally like smoke and flames. Propane, both in a 16.4-ounce camper-size fuel bottle and the common 20-gallon size, is tame in comparison. It’s certainly cleaner and quick to set up and light: Open the fuel tank’s valve and light the burner with a match, butane lighter, or the igniter on the grill.
Type of Grill
Aside from fuels, think about your other needs. Do you want to set up, cook, and cool down quickly? Then gas is your obvious choice. Just how compact does the grill need to be and how lightweight? These point you in the direction of a small, sheet-metal kettle or 16.4-ounce propane model. If durability is your sole criteria and not weight, look at the grill’s build and features that contribute to longevity. Perhaps a cast-iron hibachi is your best choice or maybe it’s a simple charcoal grill built from sheet metal.
How We Evaluated These Portable Grills
In addition to evaluating these grills based on their neatness of manufacturing, consistency of cooking surface, ease of use and assembly, and—for charcoal grills—how easy it is to place and manipulate the charcoal and whether the vents provide sufficient airflow, we also monitored how much attention the food needed while cooking and used a professional-grade digital thermometer to ensure food safety. But perhaps the best test for these grills: We ate what we cooked. To keep up-to-date on supply-chain issues and availability, we also included a few grills that we didn’t test based on our experience with the brands, user reviews and ratings, and how closely they align with our criteria. These are our favorite portable grills of 2022.
Watch: Dave Joachim's Best Brilling Tips
Weber Smokey Joe
Fuel: Charcoal | Cooking Surface Area: 13.8 in. diameter
This is a phenomenal small grill, a kettle-shaped classic. A bottom vent and an aluminum top damper allowed us to dial in the airflow. Despite the Smokey Joe’s small volume, there was enough room to manipulate the coal for precise cooking—we placed mound charcoal on one side for indirect heating and rotated the lid so that the top damper drew smoke past the food. The grill’s setup and cooldown are simple, precise, and fast. Years of experience with it have convinced us of one thing: It’s a classic that would be almost impossible to improve upon.
Masterbuilt Portable Charcoal Grill
Fuel: Charcoal | Cooking Surface Area: 194 sq. in.
For its Portable Charcoal Grill, Masterbuilt employed a simple version of technology it developed for its larger 560 Digital Charcoal Grill. With the use of a fan and a separate charcoal firebox, you can have this grill hot enough to cook in about the same time it takes to heat up a portable propane grill. We loaded the firebox with charcoal from The Good Charcoal Company, which was a consistent medium size and perfect for the small, 1.5-pound-capacity firebox. We lit the charcoal with a torch for about 60 seconds, turned the fan to medium, closed the firebox, and in 15 minutes we were grilling burgers. The fan is electric, of course, but that doesn’t mean you have to be tied to an outlet—it can also be powered by four AA batteries. When we tested using battery power, with the fan set on medium speed, we were able to grill for about five hours. The grill features a porcelain-coated, cast-iron cooking grate that helps provide even heat—and which we found very easy to clean. We were able to roll the grill around easily, with the collapsible cart, and with the dedicated firebox and locking grill lid, we didn’t spread ashes wherever we went with it. The Masterbuilt Portable Charcoal Grill makes grilling with charcoal easy, fast, and clean.
―MOST INSTAGRAM WORTHY―
Cuisinart Venture Portable Gas Grill
Fuel: Propane | Cooking Surface Area: 11 x 14 in.
Packed up, Cuisinart’s Venture resembles a picnic basket, making it about as portable as a table-top grill can get. And it took us less than a minute to set up its three pieces, including a wood top, grill body with handle, and base. The top and base combine to form an attractive prep surface that clips alongside the grill. The single 9,000-BTU burner is fueled by a 16-ounce propane canister that conveniently stores in the base. Being a single-burner grill, the Venture made it a little tricky to manage heat when cooking thicker meats like bone-in chicken, as it’s hard to get away from the heat for longer, indirect cooking. We set the burner on low for the 100 percent beef burgers we grilled, flipped them once, and then turned up the heat to imprint sear lines from the cast-iron grate. Generally, we found it relatively easy to grill thinner foods and, even better, convenient to turn on and off as needed over the course of an afternoon. One Popular Mechanics editor used it at her neighborhood block party to grill hot dogs and sausages. It was the hit of the day.
Oklahoma Joe’s Rambler
Fuel: Charcoal | Cooking Surface Area: 17 x 13 in.
This somewhat simple, unassuming grill turned out to be the sleeper in our test. We were really impressed by how easy it was to cook with either direct or indirect heat. The charcoal tray is adjustable, hanging from a ladder rack that can quickly raise or lower the coals as needed. The burgers came out with fantastic coloring and that “cooked over charcoal” taste. To cook chicken more slowly, we shuffled the coals to one side, put it in away from them, and closed the lid. The damper on top allows for fine management of the heat, and a large, easy-to-read thermometer made monitoring the temperature simple. As far as portability, this table-top grill doesn’t break down to take up less space—what you see is what you get, and it might be difficult to transport in smaller cars. We were surprised to find that the Rambler is nearly 50 pounds. That might seem a tad heavy, but it has cast iron grill grates and is fabricated from thick-gauge steel, instead of cheap stamped sheet metal. It’s built to last, though we wouldn’t suggest hiking into the woods with it.
―BEST FOR BURGERS AND DOGS―
Weber Liquid Propane Grill
Fuel: Propane, 16.4 oz. | Cooking Surface Area: 12.5 x 16.5 in.
The Q1200 is compact and light, the most convenient portable grill we tested. This one gets the job done almost entirely through conduction—its single burner provides heat to a porcelain-coated cast-iron cooking grid that functions much like a 189-square-inch pan. Narrow slots in the grid provide a path for drippings. With the lid down, you get reliable cooking as hot air circulates over the grid. The bread test confirmed that the Weber has good middle-of-the-pack heat distribution. But because you can’t control that heat as well, you’ll need to either carefully monitor your food or save this one for burgers and dogs: It will dry out or burn chicken and more substantial cuts of meat. For added convenience, Weber sells a separate stand—a nice accessory when you don’t have a picnic table on which to set the grill.
―BEST CHOICE OF COOK TOPS―
Magma Crossover Single Burner Firebox
Fuel: Propane | Cooking Surface Area: NA
The Crossover is a modular, portable cooking system with a base Firebox containing a single propane burner. (It’s also available in a Double Burner version for $400 more.) The system is designed to be paired with Magma’s Crossover cooktops, which include the Griddle Top ($250), the Plancha Top ($140), the Pizza Oven Top ($409), and the one we tested, the Grill Top ($500). The Crossover is designed for portability—you can close up, latch, and easily carry or store the Firebox and cooktop. The system is well-thought-out and a good fit for the RV lifestyle—if your trek takes you through the mountains, the Firebox has an altitude adjustment for the burner to make sure it runs hot no matter how high up you are. The lid becomes a side shelf where you can prep food or use it as a cutting board. With the Grill Top in place, we tested the heat distribution and found that, at medium to low levels, it was fairly even—with the burner turned all the way up, it was hottest in the center. We were able to grill burgers with nice sear marks and cook chicken more slowly and evenly done throughout. There are a number of mounts and stands for the Magma Crossover. We tested the Quad Pod Stand with adjustable leveling feet, which lets you set up the grill virtually anywhere.
―BEST FOR TAILGATING―
Coleman RoadTrip 285 Portable Stand-Up Propane Grill
Fuel: Propane, 16-oz. | Cooking Surface Area: 25 x 12 in.
For tailgating, camping, or a barbecue in the park, the RoadTrip 285 is easy to haul and set up. It runs on 16-ounce propane canisters—bring spares if you’re cooking for a crew or making multiple meals. The two-piece grates are made of cast iron and coated with porcelain, covering three burners that yield 20,000 BTUs. The burners all sit under the solid center sections of the grates, which our bread test revealed to be the hottest area on the grill. You will need to carefully manage indirect heat when cooking thicker things like chicken on the bone—we kept it over the open grates around the edges of the grill. The 25 x 12-inch cooking surface will hold a lot of burgers, dogs, or whatever your preference. And, if you want to mix things up, the grill grates swap out for griddle or stove grates (available separately).
―BEST COLLAPSIBLE GRILL―
GoBQ Portable Charcoal Grill
Fuel: Charcoal | Cooking Surface Area: 13.5 x 13.5 in.
This folding GoBQ is a novel, innovative portable grill unlike any other. It packs up in a tube eight inches in diameter and 14 inches in length, and carries easily by the handle on top or with the included shoulder strap. Made of silicone-coated fiberglass fabric with a collapsible metal frame, it can withstand temperatures up to 2,200 degrees. We enjoyed the ease of setup, and once we were familiar with the grill, we could open it up in seconds. A flexible metal basket holds the charcoal, and we tested both with it full and with about 12 briquettes for a quick meal. Once open, the outside carrying case becomes a hood to cover the grill and contain heat. In our testing, we grilled burgers, hot dogs, and bone-in chicken on the GoBQ, all of which culminated with the expected, delicious results. While the standard fare was quite easy, the chicken cooked over indirect heat required a little more manipulation of the charcoal, which wanted to settle to the middle of the basket. Nevertheless, once we sorted out how to strategically set the charcoal, we could reliably create an indirect heat zone. Post-grilling, cleaning and packing up was a breeze. After we dumped the charcoal and ash, the fabric cooled enough to touch within about 30 seconds—placing the cooking grate inside the cover with tongs, we then folded the grill, latched the cover, and packed it all away. The GoBQ grill is a great option for traveling, tailgating, or even for folks with small apartments, given its ease of packing, stowing, and carrying.
―BEST FOR MORE THAN JUST BBQ―
Fuel: Propane, 16-oz. | Cooking Surface Area: 22 in. diameter
Strictly speaking, the Firedisc isn’t a grill—it’s a portable outdoor cooker. The 22-inch “disc” sits on a sturdy, two-piece stand made of thick steel bar stock. The pieces come apart without tools, lay flat, and easily slide in the back of a car or truck. We prepared burgers and marinated chicken on the bone in our test unit. While the Firedisc was capable with our test menu, its best use is as a wok or cast-iron frying pan—in fact, it’s seasoned just like cast-iron cookware. In it, you can boil, flambé, sauté, or have a kickass fish fry. Fajitas, fried chicken, pancakes, stir-fry, cheese steaks, and bacon are all fair game in the Firedisc. With the weather warming up, we took our taco Tuesday out on the patio for a change—cooking out doesn’t have to mean burgers or barbecue.
―MODERN AND STYLISH―
BergHOFF Leo Portable Tabletop Barbecue Grill
Fuel: Charcoal, wood | Cooking Surface Area: 13.78 in. diameter
The stylish, carbon-steel BergHOFF Leo Portable Tabletop Barbecue Grill is a piece of modern art. It comes with a cork lid that doubles as a base on which the grill rotates to allow for airflow adjustment. Inside the heat-resistant cylinder you’ll find an enameled fire basket and grill and charcoal grates, plus a small tool to lift the grill grate. At 11 pounds and a little under 14 inches in diameter, the Leo is a breeze to transport to where the fun is; it has a handy strap that attaches to two silicone handles and pulls double duty as an over-the-shoulder strap that also secures the lid. One thing to keep in mind: This grill is fueled by charcoal. So, as portable as it is on the way to the barbecue, you’ll have to leave yourself with enough time for it to cool off before it’s portable for the trip home. It comes in black or white and will blend in on even the tiniest of terraces.
―BEST FIRE PIT-GRILL COMBO―
Snow Peak Takibi
Fuel: Wood | Cooking Surface Area: 12.5 x 17 in.
For fans of real wood and a relaxing campfire cooking experience, there’s the stainless steel Takibi. This fold-flat fire pit comes with a grill bridge that fits over the top and is adjustable up or down for optimal distance to the coals. Like using charcoal, cooking on the Takibi requires a little patience—ideal conditions come once the bare flames die down and the wood is reduced to glowing coals. We used oak firewood cut down to eight-inch chunks to get a hot bed of coals, which took about 45 minutes. If you’re solely interested in cooking, lump charcoal would be a faster way to get to grilling over a bed of coals. Setting the grill bridge about four inches up worked nicely for us, with our burgers right over the coals. Chicken on the bone needs to be set a little higher to be sure it cooks evenly. With the Takibi, once the cooking is done, remove the grill bridge, throw on some more wood, and you’ve already got your campfire going.
―BEST FOR BIG EVENTS―
Fuel: Charcoal | Cooking Surface Area: 18 x 18 in.
The Americana is unique: a lightweight, full-size grill on a collapsing wheeled stand. Fold it up and go. Unfold it and cook. It’s a lot of grill for the money, especially when you consider its 332 square inches of cooking surface and excellent engineering. Place its charcoal on a pan and you get a fair amount of reflected infrared energy from it. Yet convection is easy: simply close the lid, which is hinged to the grill body and well sealed. Because of the features, plus the low, front-mounted sliding vent and a nicely designed top damper, the grill is highly adaptable to a variety of foods and cooking methods—and works as the primary grill or as a satellite to a larger appliance.
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