Best Overall Portable Grill
Napoleon TravelQ 285
: 12000 | Weight
: 26 lbs
Outstanding grilling performance
Evenly dispersed and controlled temperatures
Really easy set up
Packs up small and relatively light
Can blow out in high winds
The TravelQ 285 from Napoleon is a gourmet, high-end propane grill downsized into a portable format. The result is readily transported, regardless of your usage, with a size and design that will feed up to 4-6 people sophisticated, grilled meals. Max heat is high enough to sear high-quality beef, while the surface can be configured to cook at extremely low heat levels indirectly. One can even cook in different zones of the grill for different temperature levels. The auto-igniter of the Napoleon is more reliable than most others we have tested.
All this performance comes with a high price tag. Also, we wish that one could purchase this grill in a configuration that allowed both tabletop use and rolling cart use. It comes in either configuration, but it is essentially fixed in your purchased mode. Some of our testers use a portable grill at their apartment or small house to optimize storage space. We then like to be able to take that same grill on the road for adventures further afield. A modular cart system for the Napoleon 285 would certainly make it the ultimate product for our purposes. We purchased and committed to the tabletop version. The rolling version uses exactly the same grill head on a folding stand/cart. Everything we have to say about the cooking performance of the Napoleon can be extrapolated to the stand-up version. In the tested configuration, this is our favorite model of all tested.
Read review: Napoleon TravelQ 285
Best All-Around Bang for your Buck
Smoke Hollow 205
: 10,000 | Weight
: 17 lbs
Great value and size
Good surface area for its weight
Burner can become disengaged easily
Igniter and propane connection stick out and are flimsy
This is easily the best value in an all-around travel BBQ that we have seen. Its MSRP is very fair, and online retailers often offer it discounted below this list price, further increasing its value. All the models that scored higher are more expensive. Also, 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. This model is a great value and a standout for our Best Buy Award.
Of course, the more sophisticated grills will offer higher performance. The most significant difference between this and the more expensive models is in burner control. The Smoke Hollow is simpler and offers less precision. We think the Smoke Hollow gets the job done for most folks at the most digestible price. For just a few dollars more than the Smoke Hollow, we also granted a Best Buy Award to the Char-Broil Grill2Go. The Grill2Go is a little more expensive and suffers when cooking "low and slow," but carries much more quietly, sears hotter, and you can fit up to three fuel canisters inside the lid for transport.
Read review: Smoke Hollow 205
Best Value for Cooking HOT
Char-Broil Grill2Go X200
: 9,500 | Weight
: 22 lbs
Infrared style grilling
Poor low heat performance
The Char-Broil Grill2Go x200 is excellent, especially for the price. Its aluminum case is tight and solid, reminiscent of that on the Editors' Choice Award winner. Its burner is very hot, roaring to life with a click of the piezo igniter. Its carry size and weight are average, considering the grill surface area. For searing red meats, cooking burgers and dogs, and blackening most vegetables, the Grill2Go excels. In these types of cooking, the Char-Broil is difficult to distinguish from the very top performers.
It is in "low and slow" cooking that the Char-Broil Grill2Go suffers. You just can't turn it down low enough to slow cook ribs or really gently cook a thick, boneless/skinless chicken breast. If you know you will avoid these foods, the Char-Broil is an incredible value. For those with more well-rounded grilling preferences, upgrading to the Napoleon, or accepting some rattly construction and associated usability and portability trade-offs with the Smoke Hollow 205 is the way to go.
Read review: Char-Broil Grill2Go x200
Top Pick for Portability
: 8,500 | Weight
: 10 lbs
Adequate cooking performance
Grease gets messy during transport
Limited grill-top space
The Primus Kuchoma is super compact and carries very cleanly. It only weighs 10 pounds and the stowed format is a simple three-dimensional rectangle about the size of an old fashioned briefcase. The propane regulator is located on a flexible hose that can be stowed inside the grill. Other small grills have a regulator that sticks out. Grilling performance of the Kuchoma is at least as good as the other compact products we have used.
Larger grills have more space, more power, and more control, inherently. You won't be able to indirect grill some ribs on the Kuchoma. Slow-cooking a chicken breast next to a searing steak isn't a reasonable option on this Top Pick Award winner. Finally, the Kuchoma is messy in transport. To save weight, bulk, and rattle-factor, it has no removable grease trap. Drippings are captured inside the bottom of the grill casing and then drip out the side or back during transport. Wrap it in a heavy trash bag for all your transportation or risk oily stains in your Kia trunk.
Read review: Primus Kuchoma
Top Pick for Red Meat Searing
: 14,00 | Weight
: 15 lbs
No cooking lid
No "low and slow" cooking
The Solaire Everywhere infrared grill is the most unique product in our roster. It performs very well in a few categories. First, it is very small and compact. It rivals our Top Pick for portability. Its construction is tight and carries quietly. Most importantly, the high-powered ceramic "flameless" burner, sitting below a carefully dimensioned grate of v-shaped bars cooks steaks better than anything else in our review. Heat is delivered rapidly and very high. 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 that uncompromised steak cooking performance without some drawbacks. The Solaire Everywhere is quite specialized. First, the grill top is small. You'll get just one or two steaks on there at a time. Next, it is very expensive. Finally, and this is the most significant issue, but the low-heat performance is virtually nonexistent. The heat options are adjustable, but are best 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 tougher to impossible.
Read review: Solaire Everywhere
We got a wide variety of testers to help assess each model at campgrounds across the West.
Why You Should Trust Us
We've tasked long-time OGL review editor Jed Porter with heading up the examination of Portable Grills. When you ask Jed's friends what his favorite food is, they'll likely answer either "chips and salsa" or "meat." It is his appreciation of grilled flesh that we like here. Even before we equipped him with nearly a dozen portable propane grills, Jed was cooking 1-2 meals a week outside over flame, rain or shine, near or far. He's also done, at various times in his career, mountain guiding assignments that involve catering for groups of up to 20 hungry, adventurous guests. He has tapped into a wide network of culinary experts. Most helpful have been an aunt who taught college culinary arts at SUNY Delhi, a cousin who owns a bbq catering business, and a close friend that is a vegetarian grilling aficionado.
Our testing process is thorough. First, we employ OGL's crack team of internet "shoppers" (this is an understatement… they are far more than "shoppers". The OGL tech team can mine the internet for products even the experts have never heard of) to scour the whole grill market. Next, we narrow down that market to a manageable and comprehensive list of the best products available. We purchase those products, at retail cost, for extended and comparative review. We are testing equipment all the time. Our lead test editors essentially always have at least a few grills in their possession for their use, testing, and distributing to other testers. We will occasionally repurchase products for closer examination. Then we buckle down and do the dirty work for a month or four. In the intensive testing phase, we grill piles of food, measure temperatures, configure fans for wind simulation, and burn through gallons of propane, all in the pursuit of authoritative and definitive conclusions.
Related: How We Tested Portable Grills
Analysis and Test Results
A portable grill is exactly that. It may be just portable enough to get in and out of your truck bed with a friend, or it might be compact enough to fit in a large backpacking pack. The wide definition of "portable grill" challenges our testers, but that's why we give them the support we do. We have pondered your use, overall use, and the function of each grill to ascertain just how well it will perform in "real life". Trust that our conclusions are carefully tailored.
Related: Buying Advice for Portable Grills
More than in other categories of consumer goods, the value of your portable grill depends on how much and for how long you intend to use it. More expensive products tend to last under more rigorous or extensive use. Also, you must consider your menu and cooking style. Simpler grilling, like burgers and dogs, doesn't require high-end cooking performance. If, though, you sear steaks and slow-grill chicken, on the same piece of equipment, you need a more expensive grill. The least expensive grills don't offer the BTUs nor the control to cook more complicated foods. Unlike with other pieces of equipment, size isn't necessarily tied to value. In fact, in our test, the smallest grills were among the most expensive. Large portable grills are also quite expensive. The best values are those that are about average in size. Both our Best Buy winners, for instance, are near average in weight, grilling surface size, and carrying dimensions. The best values in our test all vied for the Best Buy Award. We looked closely at the price to performance ratio of the Camp Chef Portable Grill, the Char-Broil Grill2Go and the Smoke Hollow 205. All three are an excellent buy, with the latter two edging ahead to hold our award designation.
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 Napoleon TravelQ puts out a moderate 12,000, 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 and has half the cooking area of the bigger guns. The Petit Gourmet with its lower output 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. This points to an issue in assessing just the raw BTU score. X amount of heat over a small surface area is hotter than the same amount of heat over a larger surface area. The Cuisinart and Eureka Gonzo Grill have half the BTU rating as the STOK Gridiron 1-Burner, but they also have half the cooking surface area. The Top Pick Primus Kuchoma is also quite small, but puts out 8000 BTUs.
After noting the manufacturers' BTU output ratings we did head-to-head, subjective testing of the max heat output of each grill. Here, the Top Pick Primus Kuchoma up against the Solaire Everywhere.
The newest Best Buy winner, the Char-Broil Grill2Go x200, puts out a claimed 9500 BTUs at max heat. We found that to be roughly true, but only wish it would turn down lower. It's often too hot for cooking certain types of foods but excels when high heat is desired.
Is there anything better (and simpler) than good beef cooked fast and hot? The Solaire Infrared grill specializes in this move. Here, some head-sized ribeyes. Grill testing is rough.
Higher BTUs 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.
Our ranking of heat output considers the manufacturers' BTU reporting, grill surface area, and lid sealing and construction. For the most part, our scoring of the heat output follows BTUs, but we make some exceptions and variances. For instance, both the Primus Kuchoma and Weber Q1200 claim 8500 BTUs. In practice, the Weber is a little hotter and maintains that heat over a larger cooking surface. It scores better on our list. The Solaire Everywhere makes 14000 BTUs, but sears a steak faster than anything else, even those that feature more BTUs.
We enlisted professional BBQ caterers Liz Bazzano and Ryan Weidenbach (google Dubbs BBQ...) to help in assessing these compact wonders. Their input was illuminating and helpful.
Control is the criteria that most distinctly separates the high performers from the poorer grills. This metric was scored based on how many burners each product has and whether they can be adjusted to high, medium, and low temperatures. We also 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. There are advantages and disadvantages to a grill surface that naturally presents different temperature zones. If you are cooking all one type of food, covering the entire grill surface, you want even heat throughout. If you are cooking a variety of foods all at once, you might prefer different temperature regimes. To test the distribution of heat across a grill we mainly grilled foods of different types in different corners of the grill. To illustrate this, for a select set of our tested grills, we cooked plain white bread on the grill top and photographed the result to help visualize the distribution of heat on these grill tops.
One round of the toast test, illustrating the heat distribution on the Top Pick Primus Kuchoma.
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 Editors' Choice Napoleon TravelQ 285 scored highest in this category due to its two burners with distinct high, medium, and low settings and flawless ignition system. We appreciate that the grilling surface of the Napoleon is non-stick and can be a consistent temperature throughout the entire grill surface. The Napoleon'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. You can also use the two-burner system to make multiple heat zones on the Napoleon.
Of the one-burner grills, the mid-sized options offer a wide range of control options. On all that we currently include in the review, the knob and regulators allow clear and wide-ranging burner output. Control, then, is mostly a function of burner shape, grill shape, and the relative interaction of these two things. Large burners, relative to the grill size, distribute heat more evenly to the grill top. The u-shaped burner of the Camp Chef Portable Grill is the best single burner 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 kind of food, but not so good if you seek different temperature zones.
Our Best Buy choices present very different control options. The Smoke Hollow 205 has a burner that adjusts from truly low heat (especially when you put food on the included "warming rack") to high enough to sear with. The Char-Broil Grill2Go gets hotter than the Smoke Hollow, but just doesn't allow low-and-slow cooking.
The Camp Chef Portable BBQ grill in action.
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 Top Pick Kuchoma is roughly similar in grate size but weighs much less than the other two. The Cuisinart and Kuchoma both have an elongated burner beneath a rectangular grate. The Eureka Gonzo Grill has a round burner beneath a round grate. For a given temperature setting on each, the Eureka grill top presents a more uniform temperature than that of the Cuisinart or Kuchoma. 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 Eureka.
To determine scores in this metric, we considered weight and other criteria. 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 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, Solaire Everywhere, and Eureka Gonzo Grill, all at 15 lbs, and the Primus Kuchoma at 10 pounds are the lightest products tested in this review. The Cuisinart 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 Kuchoma and Solaire both carry cleanly and easily like a small suitcase. All of these products are so light to transport that we took them on the most adventures of all the products we tested.
The Best Buy Char Broil Grill2Go is unique in that, for transport, you can carry fuel cans inside the lid. We like this. Surprisingly few others allow this.
At 17 lbs, the next lightest grill is the Best Buy Smoke Hollow 205. It is also light and easy to carry and transport in its convenient suitcase position, but the Smoke Hollow doesn't grill evenly throughout the entire grilling surface, and its knob froze on us a couple of times. It's also more rattly when riding in the back of a vehicle than other models.
A common portability pitfall is the grill parts coming dislodged in transit. The Camp Chef, pictured here, isn't alone in having its heat disperser come free.
The STOK Gridiron 1-Burner is the heaviest model we tested, weighing in at 57 pounds. But, keep in mind that it's also the easiest of all the cart style products tested to roll across your patio. 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. 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 cart-style Cuisinart All-Foods Roll Away requires lifting the body of the grill up and off of the stand to fold into the rolling position.
What better occasion to "force" a spring picnic than grill testing. A family event, comparing grills and eating good food in March in Drictor, Wydaho.
The Editors' Choice Napoleon TravelQ 285, at 26 pounds and smaller than an airline carry-on "roller board," is remarkably portable, given its surface area and cooking performance. Special mention must be made of the portability of this grill; it can be purchased as a table top model (like we did) for maximum compactness or with integrated wheels and folding stand for patio and stadium parking lot portability.
The STOK Gridiron 1-Burner standing on its end, the Coleman RoadTrip (previously tested) in front and the Cuisinart All Foods Roll-Away Portable top right.
The most notable portability attribute of the Best Buy Char-Broil Grill2Go is that one can fit 3 propane canisters inside its closed lid, for transport. No other tested award-winning grills have space beneath their lids for even one canister. This is nice when space is tight. And who would be using a portable grill when space isn't limited?
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 Gonzo Grill stands out for its unique cooking area. It boasts a dual cooking surface consisting of a grill on one side and a griddle on the other. The Gonzo Grill can also be converted into a stovetop by removing the griddle.
A couple large chicken breasts basically fill the hot portion of the Cuisinart Petite Gourmet.
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).
The Top Pick Primus Kuchoma is the lightest and smallest grill we tested but has more cooking surface area than three other products. Good design choices were made here.
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.
The high score in this category goes to the Camp Chef Portable. The Camp Chef has a stable cooking surface so no wind can get through the grilling grate.
Our fan test largely verifies our findings from "real world use".
Wind resistance is the one chink in the armor of our Editors' Choice winner. On one particularly windy picnic in Grand Teton National Park, both burners of the Napoleon TravelQ 285 blew out repeatedly. Interestingly, this did not occur on other occasions nor could we replicate it with our more controlled fan test. When it stayed lit, the tight lid and high overall output of the TravelQ made it work just fine in the wind.
In cold and windy weather, (note our bundled tester this unseasonably cool early summer testing day) convective cooling can really strip the heat from your food. A tight lid, minimal and strategic vent holes, and a robust burner guard against that wind.
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 Weber 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.
All that now stands between you and mobile grilling is your final choice and a big pile of grillables. Crack that first tailgate can, process our comparative assessments, and pull the trigger on an excellent portable delicious-making machine. None of our choices are poor ones, and all enable the most memorable of dining experiences. We are proud of the work we've done in hashing out all your options, and are honored to be this small part of your transient culinary journey.