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A good portable grill is just the ticket if you’re into tailgating, assuming you’re happy sticking to the basics, like hamburgers and hot dogs.
That’s because most portable models have only one burner, which limits their capabilities: They just don’t have the temperature range of larger grills. You’re trading versatility for portability.
Consumer Reports recently tested nine portable grills, and our experts found that performance varied widely. Some struggled to provide heat evenly across the cooking surface. Most have a narrow temperature range, some can’t deliver low heat for ribs and brisket, and some suffer both limitations. That’s why most people buy them as a secondary grill.
Lab-Tested for Your Tailgate
We tested portable grills from grill giants Char-Broil and Weber, along with Blue Rhino and Cuisinart, the latter of which is better known for its countertop appliances. You’ll also see grills from Nexgrill and North American Outdoors, as well as a nifty model from Smoke Hollow, which is the first portable we’ve seen with a smoke tray.
In our portable grill tests, we measure how hot a grill is after 10 minutes of preheating and compare that to the grill’s maximum temperature. We gauge how even the heat is across the cooking surface, as well as the temperature range.
CR's Test Results
Only one of the portable grills in our gas grill tests performed well enough to make our recommended list because of the category’s inherent limitations, but our findings did turn up two others worthy of your consideration.
“The Blue Rhino CrossFire GBT1508M portable grill is unusual in that it has one burner, and yet it has a wide temperature range,” says Cindy Fisher, who oversees CR’s grill tests. “There’s about a 500-degree difference between the average low and high surface temperatures, so you can actually cook a variety of foods on it.”
5 Ways to Make Your Tailgate Even Better
These pre- and post-game parties have been described as a time when people bring their kitchens and living rooms to parking lots outside football stadiums.
“Thousands of mini households are on public display on game day,” says John Sherry, a cultural anthropologist at Notre Dame. His research on tailgating at college football games found that when people gather like this, they’re doing more than establishing family rituals.
“The game is delivered to you, but tailgating is a way for fans to participate in the spectacle.”
Here’s how to make sure your mini household is in fine shape before the big game:
• Stock a box with essentials that you’ll need every time you tailgate, such as paper plates, napkins, cups, foil, and garbage bags. Toss in seasonings, bottle openers, corkscrews, and a meat thermometer. And since you’ll be handling raw meat, be sure to pack soap and paper towels, too.
• Load a toolbox with a spatula, tongs, grill gloves, and other grilling utensils.
• Keep tempers from flaring by checking how much propane or charcoal you have on hand.
• Plan a menu that includes utensil-free foods such as tacos, chicken wings, quesadillas, and pulled pork sandwiches.
• Pack coolers with frozen bottles of water to keep food cold. As it gets closer to game time and the ice melts, you’ll have plenty of water for hydrating and hand washing.
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