We evaluate the best portable grills and travel BBQ for picnics, camping, and beach excursions. After researching 30 models, we bought eight and started inviting friends out to the park and beach. We grilled hundred of dogs, burgers, and veggies in side-by-side tests to help you find your perfect portable BBQ companion. We have awards for top grilling performance, the lightest and the grills won't break the bank. We also select the best options for small decks and patios for folks that want a good home grill with limited space.
Read the full review below >
Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
January 2018 Update
We added in a new Best Buy winner: The Smoke Hollow 205. We liked this grill so much, we kept it around for months of testing and use it even when not traveling. It's a great backup BBQ for the home or one to keep at the office for a needed lunch dose of grilling and chilling.
Best Overall Portable Grill
Coleman RoadTrip LXX
The Coleman RoadTrip LXX is a reliable and robust stand-alone grill. It has a 285 sq in Porcelain-coated cast iron grate and two burners with independent controls, which makes it easy and fuel efficient to turn off one burner if you only have a small amount of food to cook. The LXX starts easily on the first try every time and the built in thermometer makes it easy to regulate the temperature. The LXX is a great product and suitable for day trips, camping, tailgating and even apartment patios. The attached stand is very convenient, especially if there is no picnic table or sufficient surface available. Once unloaded, the wheels make it easy to roll this grill to your desired cooking area, but it does make a lot of noise when rolling over uneven surfaces. At 22,000 the LXX has the highest BTU output of all of the contenders tested.
Output power & control
Large cooking surface
Read review: Coleman RoadTrip LXX
Smoke Hollow 205
This is easily the best value in a travel BBQ we have seen. While its listed price is $120, we rarely see it sold for over $80. All the models that scored higher are $20-$120 more expensive. In addition, it is very lightweight, especially considering that it comes with a decent cooking area of 205 sq inches. That doesn't include the 105 sq inch warming rack that the majority of portable grills lack. We found this model to be a great value and easily granted it a Best Buy award.
Great value and size
Good surface area for its weight + a warming rack
Relatively light and easy to transport
Burner can become disengaged easily
Igniter and propane connection stick out and are flimsy
Read review: Smoke Hollow 205
Top Pick for Portability
Cuisinart Petite Gourmet
If you're looking for super portability, the Cuisinart Petit Gourmet is one of the top performers tested. Its telescoping legs tuck in nicely making it easy to carry, and it's the lightest contender we tested. It came along on more fast and light adventures than other contenders because it's super ultralight and convenient to carry and operate. Though this grill isn't extremely powerful, it does grill nice and evenly. The Blackstone The Dash also earned high scores for portability but lower scores for output power and control. This product didn't cook the most amount of food of all the grills tested, but it was by far one of the most portable. It cooks evenly with a maximum output of 336 degrees. When set on the low setting, it grills vegetables slowly or roasts garlic without worry. If super hot is more your style of grilling, further investigate the Coleman LXX, the Cuisinart All-Foods Roll Away and the STOK Gridiron.
Locking lid latch
Grills great considering its low BTU output
Small cooking surface
Read review: Cuisinart Petit Gourmet
Top Pick Grilling Performance
Weber Q 1200
Easy to clean
Snazzy side tables
Excellent temperature control
Starts first try
No lid latch
Disposable aluminum grease trap inserts fly away in the wind
Can be challenging to attach disposable propane canister at first
If grilling performance is your top priority, and you don't mind the extra weight, the Q 1200 is the best. If you'r limeted on space at your apartment, this could also be a good home grill. It's a sturdy and portable grill with a porcelain-enameled, cast iron, non-stick cooking grate that is very easy to clean. Its ignition system is flawless, and it has a very low center of gravity that makes it super stable. The 189 square inch cooking surface of the Q 1200 holds a surprising amount of food for its size. It cooked everything in our test piece with room to breathe. Though this model runs a tiny bit cooler than most of the grills tested here, it is still awesome to use. The temperature was easy to regulate, the grilling surface was evenly heated, and the non-stick cooking surface made it easy and nearly effortless to grill on and easy to clean up as well.
Read review: Weber Q 1200
Analysis and Test Results
We've updated our previous review to include some new innovative products that include a grill/smoker and models with interchangeable cooking surfaces. We scored each contender based on its BTU output, burner control, weight, ease of transport, cooking area and wind resistance. The table above shows the comparative scores of all the products tested, and the metrics below describe the significance of each category as well as top scoring products.
For this metric, we looked at the number of BTU (British thermal units) each product generated. The BTU is a unit of energy equal to about 1055 joules. It is the required amount of energy to heat or cool one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. Maximum output scores were also determined by how many burners each product has and how well they work.
The Coleman RoadTrip LXX led this category with 22,000 BTUs and received a high score in this metric because the high power output is a breeze to control with its two individual burners. We liked that we could use one burner to cook something small, thus conserving fuel.
The Weber Q 1200 put out a moderate 8,500, and the least powerful model is the Cuisinart Petit Gourmet that manages 5,500 BTU, but keep in mind that it only weighs 15 lbs. The Cuisinart Petit Gourmet with its mere 5,500 BTU didn't have a problem grilling anything we wanted. It didn't take longer to cook than the other contenders, and it uses the least amount of fuel.
Higher BTU equals more heat, but it is challenging to determine the heat output from the BTU rating alone. Size, construction materials, and design all contribute to how much heat will be produced on the actual grilling surface.
This metric was scored based on how many burners each product has and whether they can be adjusted to clear high, medium and low temperatures. We took into account if the grilling surface presents a consistent temperature throughout, whether it has a thermometer and push-button ignition, and how well both perform. We also took into consideration whether the lid was big enough for closed grilling, how easy the grease trap was to use, remove, and clean, and if the regulator provided a snug or loose fit.
The Coleman RoadTrip LXX scored highest in this category because it has two burners with distinct high, medium and low settings, a thermometer, and a flawless ignition system. We appreciate that the grilling surface of the LXX is non-stick and always a consistent temperature throughout the entire surface of the grill. The LXX's lid has plenty of clearance for closed grilling, the grease trap is easy to remove and clean, and the regulator didn't give us any trouble.
The Smoke Hollow Vector Series Smoking Tabletop 3-Burner Gas Grill receives an honorable mention in this category as well. It has a built in thermometer and three burners: two main burners and one smoke burner that makes controlling the temperature a breeze. It has a massive amount of space between the grill and the inside of the lid, so closed grilling and smoking a large piece of food would not be a problem, just as long as you take the warming rack off first. The Vector Series comes with its high-quality propane hose that has a wrenchless plastic tightening handle that makes it easy to attach to a propane tank. Keep in mind though, that the propane hose on this product doesn't connect to prefilled one pound propane cylinders.
The Blackstone The Dash received the lowest score in this metric because the grease trap attaches in such a manner that it only works if the back leg is propped up higher than the rest of the grill. Even then the grease has to be corralled, so to speak, into the trap by tipping it from side to side — otherwise, it could just drip down the grill all over the place. If the Dash is on an uneven surface, the grease will flow to the lowest corner and over the edge (especially when cooking bacon on the griddle side of the cooking grate).
The Cuisinart Petit Gourmet, at 15 lbs is the lightest product tested in this review. The Cuisinart has telescoping legs that fold up neatly, and it's easy to carry in one hand. This product is so light to transport that we took it on the most adventures of all the products we tested. The Petit Gourmet is easy to set up and use, and it grills food evenly. At 18 lbs, the second lightest grill was Blackstone's The Dash. It was also light and easy to carry and transport in its convenient rolling suitcase position, but the Dash doesn't grill evenly throughout the entire grilling surface, and its grease trap system left something to be desired.
The STOK Gridiron 1-Burner is the heaviest model we tested and weighs in at 57 pounds. But, keep in mind that it's also the easiest of all the cart style products tested to transport. The Gridiron is unique in that it has a section of the grill that comes out and interchangeable inserts can be used such as a pizza stone, veggie tray and more.
Ease of Transport
To determine scores in this metric, we loaded up each product into vehicles, took them to picnics and campsites, and grilled gratifying culinary concoctions. When on these excursions, we took into account weight, size, wheels, stands, construction materials, and lid latches. We also evaluated how secure or not secure they were, noise during transport, and messiness/cleanliness on the ride home.
The Cuisinart Petit Gourmet and the Blackstone the Dash are by far the most comfortable grills to carry and transport. The Petit Gourmet is the lightest grill tested in this review at a mere 15 lbs, and the Dash comes in second at 18 pounds. Both are very light and can be carried easily with one hand. The Dash can also be transported in a rolling suitcase fashion.
An honorable mention in this category goes to the STOK Gridiron 1-Burner for having the top transporting system of all the cart style, stand-alone products tested. The Coleman RoadTrip LXX and the Cuisinart All-Foods Roll Away (the other two cart-style contenders we tested) both require lifting the body of the grill up and off of the stand to fold into the rolling position. The Gridiron has a release lever that you push with your foot that causes the body to disengage from the cart effortlessly. Once the body of the grill and the cart are separated, you lift the handle, and the wheels roll gently towards the frame. It's the best and most effortless cart-style system we tested.
The Smoke Hollow Vector Series recieved the lowest score in this metric. It is a 38-pound tabletop model that has three burners, one of which is for a smoke tray. With the side tables folded and the legs folded, this product is in transport mode but is still challenging to move. The only handle on the Vector Series is the one used to open and close the lid. The handle is not sufficient for carrying this grill. You can hold it up by the lid handle, but it is extremely off balance and cumbersome and not suitable for transporting.
Scores in this metric were determined by the size of the cooking surface and what the grill surface was made of or coated with. We also analyzed if the surface was non-stick, if it had side tables or any other added features, and what multi-functions it provided. Additional functions included a grill grate that could be turned over and made into a skillet or bonus features like a warming rack or smoker tray. We also took into account with this metric how simple or challenging each contender was to clean.
The Smoke Hollow Vector Series Smoking Tabletop 3-Burner Gas Grill earned the highest score for cooking area for a few reasons, the first one being that it has the largest cooking surface dimensions tested, measuring 367 square inches. The most important reason is that it has an added feature of having a third burner that heats a smoke chip tray thus turning it into a smoker. It also has two side tables with extensions, a warming rack, and a Porcelain-Coated Steel cooking surface. The Blackstone The Dash is the only product we tested that has a dual cooking surface consisting of a grill on one side and a griddle on the other.
The STOK Gridiron 1-Burner receives an honorable mention in this area because of its unique feature that allows you to change out its cooking surface. It has a circular section in the middle of the grate that comes out and is interchangeable with different surfaces (each sold separately).
Does the burner blow out in the wind? Does the lid get easily slammed shut? Does the grease trap fly away? Is the whole system sturdy? These are all things that were taken into consideration when scoring all of the contenders for this metric.
Highest scores in this category go to the Coleman RoadTrip LXX and the Blackstone The Dash. The Dash has a stable cooking surface so no wind can get through the grilling grate, and the LXX fared through high winds that were strong enough to lift a large patio umbrella up and over it.
The Cuisinart All Foods Roll-Away and the STOK Gridiron 1-Burner scored the lowest in wind resistance. We were frustrated at the number of times we had to re-light these models in high winds. The Q 1200 comes with an aluminum disposable drip tray insert that goes into the more permanent drip tray. This is nice for ease of cleanup, but it's not very wind resistant and usually ended up on the ground after flying away in windy conditions. This can be easily remedied by doing without the disposable part or just by putting a rock into it.
Best for Specific Applications
The Cuisinart Petit Gourmet is super light and extremely easy to transport and does a great job of grilling a smaller amount of food. It got to go on extra adventures because its ultralight and non-bulky design makes it extremely portable. When folded up, it doesn't have any pointy legs that stick out, and it gets kudos for having such an easily stowable design.
We recommend the Editors' Choice award-winning Coleman RoadTrip LXX for tailgating or for using on a small apartment patio. It is very reliable, grills evenly and has a high BTU output.
The Smoke Hollow Vector Series Smoking Tabletop 3-Burner is the model to go for if you want to smoke your food. However, it doesn't have any carrying handles and is challenging to transport.
The STOK Gridiron 1-Burner is for the culinary expert who wants to cook everything from burgers to pizza on their grill. There is a section of the cooking grate that can come out and be swapped with interchangeable inserts such as a griddle, wok, pizza stone, chicken roaster and more. The inserts are available for purchase separately from the STOK website.
We think the best portable grill for the ultralight adventures is the Cuisinart Petit Gourmet, the most portable grill in this review. It's easy to carry, transport and clean. The Coleman RoadTrip LXX is perfect for tailgating, while the Weber Q 1200 is great for car-side camping or picnicking as it is sturdy, stable and grills very evenly.
Each individual review will provide a more in-depth analysis of that model's performance in all the metrics tested, any pros or cons that we discovered, and what you can expect while using each product. If you still want to know more, head over to our Buying Advice article, where we share more tips and tricks.
We tested our contenders both with the standard Coleman 16.4 oz Camping Fuel Cylinder (the "green bottles") and the Worthington 1-Gallon Propane Tank with the Stansport Propane Bulk Hose. We prefer the one-gallon setup because it's more cost-effective, more environmentally friendly and less hassle than constantly buying the 16.4 oz green bottles. Also, the bigger tank delivers more BTUs. The green bottles are usually available for $5 individually in stores. However, buying an individual bottle online can run $13 or more - another reason to go with a 1 gallon tank.
— Valentine Cullen
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.