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Camp Chef Portable BBQ Review

A price-point grill with some of the amenities of top-of-the-line models.
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Price:  $176 List | Check Price at Amazon
Pros:  U-shaped burner puts out a ton of heat, evenly
Cons:  Rattly construction, large packed format
Manufacturer:   Camp Chef
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 18, 2019
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66
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 11
  • Output Power - 25% 5
  • Control - 25% 7
  • Portability - 20% 7
  • Cooking Area - 20% 7
  • Wind Resistance - 10% 8

Our Verdict

The Camp Chef Portable BBQ matches or exceeds the performance of our Best Buy winners, and works nearly as well in some ways as the Editors' Choice Napoleon TravelQ. The main drawback of the Camp Chef is its loose construction. The legs fold clumsily and the heat dispersing plate inevitably comes loose and moves around during transport. It's also a bit large and therefore not the most portable of all the grills we tested. But the price is more digestible than some of its high-end competitors, and after months of extended use, it's still going strong.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award Best Buy Award 
Price $176 List
Check Price at Amazon
$249.00 at Amazon$209.00 at Amazon$113.34 at Amazon$129.00 at Amazon
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Pros U-shaped burner puts out a ton of heat, evenlyExcellent cooking performance, smaller and lighter than mostSuper non-stick grill surface, easy to clean, snazzy side tables, excellent temperature control, wind resistant, always starts first tryGreat value, secure lid, good size and heat output, stainless throughoutSturdy, hot, lightweight
Cons Rattly construction, large packed formatMoody wind performanceHeavy, no lid latch, disposable aluminum grease trap inserts fly away in the wind, can be challenging to attach disposable propane canister at firstBurner easily disengaged, imprecise burner controlToo hot for cooking some foods
Bottom Line A price-point grill with some of the amenities of top-of-the-line models.Napoleon makes “no holds barred” grills for your backyard and for professional applications. Their travel version brings high end performance to a quite portable format.Great grill with good temperature control and awesome porcelain-enamel coated cast iron cooking grates that clean up in a snap.This is the best value in a portable grill we've seen.This affordable grill will last you a long time and sear your red meat lightning fast. It is a little too hot sometimes.
Rating Categories Camp Chef Portable BBQ Napoleon TravelQ 285 Weber Q 1200 Smoke Hollow 205 Char-Broil Grill2Go X200
Output Power (25%)
10
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5
10
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8
10
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7
10
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5
10
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5
Control (25%)
10
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7
10
0
9
10
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7
10
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7
10
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5
Portability (20%)
10
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7
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7
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6
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7
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8
Cooking Area (20%)
10
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7
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6
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7
Wind Resistance (10%)
10
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8
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7
10
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8
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8
10
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8
Specs Camp Chef Portable... Napoleon TravelQ 285 Weber Q 1200 Smoke Hollow 205 Char-Broil...
Total BTU 12,000 12,000 8,500 10,000 9,500
Weight (pounds) 20 pounds 26 pounds 31 pounds 17 pounds 22 pounds
Cooking surface area (inches) 200 sq in 285 sq in 189 sq in 205 sq in 187 sq in
# of burners 1, u-shaped 2, u-shaped 1 1 1
Grill material Nickel plated stainless steel Porcelainized cast iron Porcelain-Enameled Cast Iron Stainless Steel Stainless Steel
Packed Size (inches) 22" x 14" x 15" 24" x 20" x 10" 15" x 26" x 14" 27" x 17" x 12" 23.5" x 15" x 14"
Piezo Ignitor Yes Yes Electric Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Camp Chef is a basic, portable grill. It was a close contender for our Best Buy award, but others edge it out. The Camp Chef is more expensive than the award winners, but it has more even heating and greater maximum heat output. All these less expensive competitors offer enough control for cooking almost anything you might want to cook. The Camp Chef is pretty bulky for its cooking area. The cooking area is suitable for a complete meal for 2 or the meat course for 4. For transport, it is about the size of the larger "six-pack" standard milk crate.

Performance Comparison


The Portable BBQ grill is a reasonable value and offers heat control above its pay grade.
The Portable BBQ grill is a reasonable value and offers heat control above its pay grade.

Output Power


Camp Chef claims that their Portable BBQ puts out 12000 BTUs. Our testing gives us no reason to question this. For the surface area and price, we are impressed to see the u-shaped burner under the hood of the Camp Chef. This distributes the heat more evenly and makes for more heating power. When we max out the burner knob, pretty much any food item we would put on there will char in just a few minutes. In short, the Camp Chef makes all the heat you need.

Tailgating  ski-resort picnics  and camping out are all good uses for something like the Camp Chef Portable.
Tailgating, ski-resort picnics, and camping out are all good uses for something like the Camp Chef Portable.

Claimed output, in BTUs, is just one variable in the output power comparison. Effective heat output is a function of the max BTUs possible, grill surface area, lid geometry, wind resistance, and grill burner shape. Overall, the Camp Chef is as hot as you should need.

The piezo ignitor of the Camp Chef works most of the time.
The piezo ignitor of the Camp Chef works most of the time.

Control


The u-shaped burner and wide-ranging knob of the Camp Chef give the user plenty of control. As noted above, the burner gets plenty hot for searing a steak. It can also be loaded down with thick, boneless-skinless chicken breasts and cook them "low and slow" without drying them out. The options between these two extremes are clear and well graduated. The u-shaped burner delivers your chosen level of heat to all but the farthest corners of the rectangular grill surface.

The Editors' Choice Napoleon TravelQ 285 sets the bar for control in a portable grill. Setting it apart from the Camp Chef is dual burners, a thermometer, and $75. You get what you pay for. At the price, the Camp Chef is all you can expect and offers plenty of control.

A full load of vegetarian grilled delight. The Camp Chef can nearly do it all. Like any single burner grill  it cannot do indirect grilling. Otherwise it will do what you want it to do.
A full load of vegetarian grilled delight. The Camp Chef can nearly do it all. Like any single burner grill, it cannot do indirect grilling. Otherwise it will do what you want it to do.

Portability


The Camp Chef Portable BBQ Grill weighs 20 pounds. For the surface area, this is right on par with the others. It is bulkier than others in this category, but not by much. The primary portability issues we had are with the rattly construction, a heat disperser that inevitably dislodges during transport, and a regulator that sticks way out unless you unscrew it. Screwing and unscrewing the regulator is somewhat tedious.

The Camp Chef regulator  in position  and the grease trap  pulled partially out. The regulator really needs to be removed for transport. Otherwise it sits out there vulnerable.
The Camp Chef regulator, in position, and the grease trap, pulled partially out. The regulator really needs to be removed for transport. Otherwise it sits out there vulnerable.

This photo shows the dislodged heat dispersal plate. Virtually every time the Camp Chef grill is moved  the plate comes out like this and needs to be replaced. It's not hard  but it's a dirty task.
This photo shows the dislodged heat dispersal plate. Virtually every time the Camp Chef grill is moved, the plate comes out like this and needs to be replaced. It's not hard, but it's a dirty task.

Cooking Area


200 usable square inches of grilling surface is just right for a complete meal for two. If grilling just the meat course of a dinner meal, you can fit 4-6 servings on the Portable BBQ. This size range seems to be the sweet spot for portability and versatility. Both Best Buys are about the same size as the Camp Chef. The less expensive award winning grills have straight burners. The u-shaped burner of the Camp Chef makes a little more of its surface area usable.

The u-shaped burner of the Camp Chef is very nice. For the price  we are impressed and pleased to see this in this grill.
The u-shaped burner of the Camp Chef is very nice. For the price, we are impressed and pleased to see this in this grill.

Wind Resistance


We had no problems with the wind resistance of the Camp Chef. In multiple spring time Rocky Mountain grilling sessions and our standard "fan test", the Camp Chef never blew out and stayed just hot enough to sear a steak.

Value


The Portable BBQ Grill sits squarely between our award winners. It costs more than the Best Buys, but offers the u-shaped burner of the Editors' Choice. We recommend this grill and nearly granted it our Best Buy Award. For portability at a lower cost, the Best Buy winners are both a better value and do essentially all the kinds of grilling you might consider on the road.

Conclusion


Despite some small issues (rattly construction, protruding sloppy regulator), the Camp Chef is well-made and intelligently designed, at a reasonable price. For the price, the Camp Chef scores pretty well overall. It is a little rattly and its construction quality doesn't inspire a ton of confidence. The cooking performance is excellent, especially as compared to the similarly priced options. For its cooking surface area, the Camp Chef is a little bulkier than we would like.


Jediah Porter