Over the past 6 years, our experts have bought 22+ portable grills to test side-by-side. This 2021 review highlights 12 of the best to help you cook up delicious meals, even while on the road. We design objective tests to evaluate important features such as output power, and then back up those assessments with real-world cooking experience. We've tested these grills at tailgate parties, backyard BBQs, picnics, and camping trips, making hundreds of meals to date. The result? An experience-based, comprehensive review of the best portable grills on the market.Related: Best Camping Stove of 2021
Best Portable Grill of 2021
|Price||$239.00 at REI|
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|Pros||Excellent heat retention, convenient side tables, consistent ignition||Sturdy, simple, good sized coal bed and grill space||Fast warm up, efficient on fuel, amazing steaks, clean operation and transport||Sturdy, hot, lightweight||U-shaped burner distributes heat evenly, high quality regulator, large grilling surface|
|Cons||Less portable due to weight and lack of latching lid, hot even on lowest setting||Handles get hot, vents are hard to adjust, requires more preparation than gas grills||Mixed windy performance, no slow-cooking function and poor medium-rate cooking||Too hot for cooking some foods||Large packed size, no integrated thermometer|
|Bottom Line||From folding side tables to easy to clean cooking grates, this thoughtfully designed model makes grilling on the go fun and easy||Simple and highly effective, this portable charcoal grill will help you show-off your pit cooking skills away from home||If you know you like infrared grilling at home, consider this for your portable choice||This affordable grill will last you a long time and sear your red meat lightning fast; it is a little too hot sometimes||This grill straddles the value line with high quality components but falls just short of being top tier|
|Rating Categories||Weber Q 1200||Weber Go-Anywhere C...||Solaire Everywhere||Char-Broil Grill2Go...||Camp Chef Portable BBQ|
|Output Power (25%)|
|Cooking Area (20%)|
|Wind Resistance (10%)|
|Specs||Weber Q 1200||Weber Go-Anywhere C...||Solaire Everywhere||Char-Broil Grill2Go...||Camp Chef Portable BBQ|
|Weight (pounds)||31 pounds||12 pounds||15 pounds||22 pounds||20 pounds|
|Cooking surface area (inches)||189 sq in||140 sq in||135 sq in||187 sq in||200 sq in|
|# of burners||1||N/A||1||1||1|
|Grill material||Porcelain-Enameled Cast Iron||Plated steel||Stainless Steel||Stainless Steel||Nickel plated stainless steel|
|Packed Size (inches / cu ft)||15" x 26" x 14" / 3.2 cu ft||14.5" X 21" X 12.2" / 2.2 cu ft||21" x 8" x 13" / 1.3 cu ft||23.5" x 15" x 14" / 2.9 cu ft||22" x 14" x 15" / 2.7 cu ft|
Best Overall Portable Grill
Weber Q 1200
Weber has a reputation for building grills that gracefully blend cooking performance and reliability, and that tradition is rolled into a portable package with the impressive Weber Q 1200. Although it is not the most powerful when measured in output power alone, the design of this grill allows it to efficiently and effectively reach ideal searing temperatures within just minutes of preheating. The highlight of this top-quality construction is the porcelain-enameled cast-iron cooking grates, which comfortably retain the heat evenly distributed by the U-shaped stainless steel burner underneath. Simply put, this model let us grill with more precision, predictability, and control than any other model we bought and tested.
Although this portable powerhouse reaches top temperatures with ease, it is more difficult to learn how to harness the heat of the grill surface for foods that require more low-and-slow cooking. Though this model excels in the tabletop or tailgate setting, its relatively heavy weight and bulky packed size — combined with the lack of latching lid — make it less than ideal for cooking far away from the car or campsite. But if you hope to regularly grill up delicious meals while on the road, the Weber Q 1200 is an accessible portable grill that is sure to appeal to both novice cooks and professional chefs alike.
Read review: Weber Q 1200
Best Bang for Your Buck
For the size and price, it may be tough to find a compact grill more powerful than the Cuisinart Grillster. Not only is it incredibly fuel-efficient, but this portable powerhouse reaches peak temperature within a matter of minutes after clicking the piezo lighter. A lightweight steel lid and three insulating walls give it the ability to both block wind and retain heat, allowing you to cook in less-than-ideal weather. This model cools down almost as quickly as it heats up for a quick get-away, with a locking lid and enough space to store one-pound gas canisters. It also sports an easy-to-carry handle.
The Grillster is great at searing steaks and other high-temperature cooking, but it is tough to control the overall range on this rip-roaring grill. Unless we were aiming for blackened chicken or blistered peppers, we rarely found ourselves using anything more than the lowest gas setting. Although it is compact and portable, there is a tradeoff with its smaller grilling space. Petite and sure-footed, the Grillster is the perfect companion for a picnic for two, no matter the location.
Read review: Cuisinart Grillster
Best Portable Charcoal Grill
Weber Go-Anywhere Charcoal
For the fans of pit-cooking out there, we offer up the Weber Go-Anywhere. This well-built barbeque is an innovative take on the manufacturer's classic design, incorporating their enameled, cast-iron construction into a convenient, compact package. The rectangular basin can hold a coal bed that is both deep and evenly spread. A plated steel top grate settles securely into place thanks to deep-seated insets cast into the grill frame, so you can easily adjust heat zones without fear of dropping your whole meal into the coals.
We cannot guarantee that the Go-Anywhere will boast the same heat output as its gas-powered competitors — that's up to you and your coal-stoking abilities. There is certainly a learning curve to mastering different heat zones, but cooking over charcoal potentially offers an accuracy that cannot be matched when cooking with gas. The tightly fitting vents are tough to adjust without gloves, and it takes time to skillfully manage these adjustments for perfect airflow. But we can assure you that with practice, this portable grill can allow you to master the art of cooking over an open flame and produce delicious food in the process, even on the go.
Read review: Weber Go-Anywhere Charcoal Grill
Best Infrared Option
The Solaire Everywhere infrared grill is the most unique product in our roster and performs very well in a few categories. First, it is very small and compact, and its construction is tight and carries quietly. Most importantly, the high-powered ceramic "flameless" burner that sits below a carefully designed grate of v-shaped bars cooks steaks better than anything else in our review. Heat can be very high and is delivered rapidly. For those excellent cuts of red meat that require nothing more than a touch of flame, this is the best portable grill on the market.
You don't get this uncompromising high-heat cooking performance without some drawbacks. The Solaire Everywhere is quite specialized. First, the grill top is small, with space for only one or two steaks on it at a time. Next, it is very expensive. Finally — and this is the most significant issue — the low-heat performance is virtually nonexistent. The heat options are adjustable, but they would best be described as "High" to "Extremely High." Further, the lid is only for portability; you cannot close it while cooking. Steaks are prepared very, very nicely, but other foods are nearly impossible to cook well.
Read review: Solaire Everywhere
Why You Should Trust Us
We tasked long-time OGL review editor Jed Porter with heading up our analysis of portable grills. When you ask Jed's friends what his favorite food is, they'll likely answer either "chips and salsa" or "meat." Jed regularly cooks 1-2 meals a day outside over an open flame, near and far, rain or shine. At various times throughout his career as a mountain guide, he has catered for groups of up to 20 hungry, adventurous clients. Adding more expertise in this category is Aaron Rice. Aaron has worked in-and-around kitchens for the better portion of a decade — he now runs an on-site culinary garden for a high-end restaurant. As a wilderness instructor, he has also taught many a hungry teenager the art of creating delicious meals with small stoves. Both reviewers tapped into a network of friends and family who also happen to be culinary experts: from culinary arts professors to professional chefs to BBQ-business owners.
Our thorough testing process began with scouring the internet for the latest and greatest products across the portable grill market. Next, we narrowed our selection to create a manageable, yet comprehensive list of the best products available. We bout all these products at retail cost to allow us to conduct an extended, objectively honest, and comparative review. These review editors rigorously assessed these grills, distributing them to friends to offer a fresh perspective. Throughout the intensive testing phase — which lasted months — we grilled piles of food, measured temperatures, configured fans to simulate wind, and burned through gallons of propane and piles of coal, all in the pursuit of an authoritative review of the best portable grills on the market.
Related: How We Tested Portable Grills
Analysis and Test Results
A portable grill could be just mobile enough to load it in and out of your truck bed with a friend, or it might be compact enough to fit inside a large backpack. Such a wide range of sizes and shapes of "portable grills" presents a real challenge to our testers, but that's why we take time to analyze the entire marketplace and select the best options available today. We then put ourselves in your shoes and put each model through an array of creative real-life cooking scenarios. This helped us evaluate each product's overall performance and function, as well as the finer details and relative strengths and weaknesses, to help you pick out the best possible portable grill to meet your needs.
Related: Buying Advice for Portable Grills
The value of your portable grill depends on your cooking needs and how long you hope to use it for. A basic, more affordable grill might get you through a backyard-bash, but a more expensive product will tend to last longer, even under more rigorous or extensive use. Simple grilling, like burgers and dogs, can be done on any portable grill. But if you would like the option to sear a steak and slow-cook chicken on the same grate, you'll likely only find such features on higher-quality models. Similarly, the least expensive grills don't offer the maximum heat output nor the control to cook more complicated foods.
While the all-natural allure of charcoal might be viewed as a more sustainable option than propane, these grills tend to burn through coals pretty quickly. This is an important factor to consider when choosing a grill, particularly considering the cost of replacement fuel. Classic charcoal briquettes are the most common, but we recommend all-natural lump charcoal, which may be harder to start but burns hotter and offers a higher-quality flavor without any additives or chemicals.
Grill size isn't necessarily tied to value — in fact, the smallest grills in our review are among some of the most expensive. When considering carrying dimensions, grilling surface, and overall performance, the more average-sized grills tend to fall into a more reasonable price bracket. There is a broad range of prices in this category, but two of the lower-priced models stand out. The Cuisinart Grillster has the power you need to sear steaks, but due to its lower-end price point, it lacks the overall control of better grills. The Char-Broil Grill2Go is slightly more expensive, but cooks with the quality of an infrared burner, and includes additional features like a thermometer built into the lid.
For this metric, we had to consider how different methods of heat production compared among different grills across the board. For gas, we looked at the number of BTUs (British thermal units) each product generates. For charcoal and electric options that cannot be measured the same way, we drew upon evidence from testing and an infrared thermometer to measure internal grill temperatures. We also factored in the number of burners of each product, how well the grill body insulated heat, and the volume of the coal bed.
For gas-powered grills, the Weber Q 1200 puts out a rather modest 8,500 BTU — not the most in our review, but with an efficient U-shaped burner and an insulating lid, this grill offers top cooking performance. The least powerful model is the Cuisinart Petit Gourmet that manages only 5,500 BTUs, but keep in mind that it only weighs 15 lbs and has half the cooking area of the bigger units. Even with its lower output, the Petit Gourmet didn't have a problem grilling anything we wanted, it didn't take any longer to cook than the other contenders, and it uses the least amount of fuel. This points to an issue in assessing just the raw BTU score: a certain amount of heat over a smaller surface area will be hotter than the same amount of heat spread across a larger surface area.
On the charcoal side, insulation plays a much more important role in output power and efficiency. The Cuisinart Portable and Weber Go-Anywhere are very similar in terms of coal bed volume, but the Go-Anywhere scores much higher thanks to its cast iron construction.
Higher BTUs produce more heat, but it is challenging to determine the heat output from the BTU rating alone. Grill size, construction materials, and design all contribute to how much heat will be produced on the actual grilling surface.
Our ranking of heat output also considered each manufacturer's BTU reporting, grill surface area, and lid sealing and construction. For the most part, the scoring of the heat output follows manufacturer claims, but we made some exceptions based on our observations. For instance, while the Weber Q 1200 only claims 8,500 BTUs, in practice it operates at hotter temperatures and maintains that heat over a larger cook surface compared to other similar models. The infrared-cooking capability of the Solaire Everywhere puts out 14,000 BTUs, and confidently sears a steak faster than anything else.
Control is the criteria that most distinctly separates the highest performers from the rest of the contenders. For gas and electric, this metric was scored based on how many burners each product has and whether they can be adjusted to high, medium, and low temperatures. For charcoal, we assessed how easy it was to maneuver the coal bed to create heat zones. We also considered if the grilling surface presents a consistent temperature throughout, whether it includes a thermometer or push-button ignition, and how well both perform. There are advantages and disadvantages to a grill surface that naturally presents different temperature zones.
If you're cooking only one type of food that covers the entire grilling surface, then you will want to have consistent heat throughout. If you are cooking a variety of foods all at once, you might prefer different temperature zones. To test the distribution of heat across a grill, we grilled different food types in different corners of the grill.
To illustrate this, we cooked plain white bread and photographed the result to help visualize the distribution of heat across these grill tops. 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 Weber Q 1200 is one of the highest-scoring in this category due to the adjustability of its control knob and a sound electronic ignition system. We appreciate the naturally non-stick porcelain-enameled grilling surface, and that the cast iron grates distribute a consistent temperature across the entire cook surface. The domed lid of the Q 1200 has plenty of clearance for closed grilling, the grease trap is easy to remove and clean, and the integrated thermometer helps regulate internal air temperatures with impressive accuracy.
Of the one-burner grills, the mid-sized models offer a wide range of control options. On all that we currently include in the review, the knob and regulators allow a clearer and wider range of burner output. Control, then, is mostly a function of burner shape, grill shape, and the relative interaction of these two features. Large burners, relative to the grill size, distribute heat more evenly to the grill top. We found the u-shaped burner of the Camp Chef Portable Grill to be one of the best single burners in our review. The large surface of the Cuisinart All Foods Roll-Away gives the cook multiple heat zones to work with while grilling. The infrared burner of the Solaire Everywhere heats the entire grill surface to about the same temperature. This is good for cooking lots of one type of food, but not so good if you're hoping to cook different foods at different rates.
It is important to mention here that cooking with charcoal is very different from cooking over a gas burner. Charcoal is an active heat source, meaning that it can be adjusted — stoked to increase heat, or smothered to decrease it — but requires constant care to regulate temperature. The upside is that the potential for control is very high because charcoal gives you virtually unlimited ability to manage various heat zones across the grilling surface. The downside is that this control is not guaranteed: there is a significant learning curve to master this technique, and it's more difficult than adjusting the dial of a gas grill.
Among the charcoal models, the Weber Go-Anywhere scores top marks for control. Thanks to a relatively deep basin, we were able to build and stoke a substantial volume of coals to achieve the exact heat we desired. Since the area of the basin exactly matches the surface area of the grill, we were then able to spread out those coals to create targeted heat zones.
Let's closely compare the smallest grills in our test regarding control. The Cuisinart Petite Gourmet and Eureka Gonzo Grill are very similar in size and weight. The Petite Gourmet has an elongated burner beneath a rectangular grate, while the Gonzo Grill has a round burner beneath a round grate. For a given temperature setting on each, the Gonzo grill top presents a more uniform temperature than the Petite Gourmet. You have more options to move your food around to different temperature zones on the rectangular grates, but you have greater uniformity of cooking conditions across the top of the Gonzo.
To determine scores in this metric, we loaded each product into vehicles, took them to picnics and campsites, and grilled gratifying culinary concoctions. When on these excursions, we took into account things like overall size, weight, construction materials, and availability of wheels, stands, or lid latches. We also evaluated how secure or not secure they were, noisiness during transport, and cleanliness on the ride home.
The Petit Gourmet has telescoping legs that fold up neatly, and it's easy to carry in one hand. The Gonzo Grill, contained by its included nylon bag, requires two hands to carry but is a little less fiddly otherwise. The Solaire carries cleanly and easily like a small suitcase. Models like this are easy to carry into the park to find your ideal picnic spot. With any grill, cleaning them before transporting them will lead to less mess.
The 31-pound Weber Q 1200 is still surprisingly portable due to useful handles. Special mention should be given to the fact that it can be purchased as a tabletop model (like we did), or can easily be integrated into a separate wheelable, folding stand for enhanced parking lot convenience.
The most notable portability attribute of the Char-Broil Grill2Go is that one can fit three propane canisters inside its closed lid during transport. None of the other top-rated grills have space beneath their lids for even one canister. This is nice when space is tight, and it's just convenient. And who would be using a portable grill if space weren't limited?
Scores in this metric were determined by the size of the cooking surface, the surface material, and any coatings, whether the grill has any side tables or any other added features. Additional features and functions include a grill grate that can be turned over and made into a skillet, or bonus features like a warming rack or smoker tray. We also took into account how simple or challenging each contender was to clean.
A standout in this category is the George Foreman Indoor/Outdoor 15+, which has one of the largest cooking areas included in this review and can uniquely transition from cooking on the back porch to the kitchen table. The Gonzo Grill is another stand-out for its unique cooking area. It boasts a dual cooking surface that consists of a grill on one side and a griddle on the other. The Gonzo Grill can also be converted into a stove-top by removing the griddle.
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 the contenders for this metric.
The high score in this category goes to the Camp Chef Portable. The Camp Chef has a stable cooking surface that prevents any wind from getting through to the grilling grate. Wind resistance was another particularly strong aspect of the George Foreman Indoor/Outdoor, whose electrically heated cooking surface seemed completely unfazed by convective heat loss, as far as we can tell.
The Cuisinart All Foods Roll-Away scored the lowest in wind resistance. We grew frustrated at the number of times we had to re-light this model in high winds. The Weber Q 1200 comes with a disposable aluminum drip tray insert that you can place in the more permanent drip tray. This is nice for aiding with cleanup, but it's not very wind-resistant, so it usually ended up on the ground after flying away in windy conditions. This can be remedied by doing away with this disposable part or just by putting a rock in it.
All that now stands between you and mobile grilling is your final choice and a big pile of grillable grub. Crack that first tailgate can, ponder our comparative assessments, and pull the trigger on an excellent portable delicious-making machine. None of our choices are poor options and all can facilitate memorable dining experiences. We are proud of the work we've done to hash out all the options and honored to be a small part of your transient culinary journey.
— Jediah Porter and Aaron Rice
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