The 7 Best Portable Grills and Travel BBQs
Ready for some outside culinary adventures? We researched over 50 products before purchasing the top 7 contenders to put through a series of side-by-side tests. We took them tailgating, to parks, campsites, lakeside, and beach day outings. Do you want a stand alone tailgate master or something extremely small and light that's not a hassle for a quick Sunday afternoon outing? Perhaps you're looking for something you can prepare dinner on as well as fry up some pancakes or bacon on the following morning. Or maybe you're searching for the perfect addition to your RV or camp setup or apartment/condominium patio. We even have a contender this year that also doubles as a smoker. Whatever you're looking for, let us help you find the best portable product for your particular needs.
Read the full review below >
Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Updated August 2017
To get you ready for summer, we added in a new award winner: the Weber Q 1200. It replaced the Q 1000 as our favorite heavier model for when performance is a top priority. The 1200 has an excellent thermometer and side trays; this adds weight and a little cost, but we think it's worth it. New for this year, we've also added several new models, including the brand new Editors' Choice, the Coleman RoadTrip LXX.
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 full review: Coleman RoadTrip LXX
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 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 full review: Cuisinart Petit Gourmet
Top Pick for Table Top Grilling
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. 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.
Read full 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 seem to have a problem grilling anything we cooked on it, cooked things in the same amount of time, and used 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 also took into account if the grilling surface presents a consistent temperature throughout and if 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 clear 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. 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 make controlling the temperature a breeze.
The scores in this metric are based on how many pounds each contender weighed and how easy or difficult it was to transport because of it.
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 easily carried in one hand. This product is so light and easy to transport that we took it on many adventures. The second lightest grill was the Blackstone The Dash at 18 lbs, which was also light and easy to carry or transport in a convenient rolling suitcase fashion.
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.
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/insecure 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 easiest 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 easiest transporting system of all the cart style products tested. The Coleman RoadTrip LXX and the Cuisinart All-Foods Roll Away both require lifting the body of the grill up and off of the stand in order 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. Next you simply lift the handle and the wheels roll gently towards the frame. It's the best cart style system we tested.
Scores in this metric were determined by the size of the cooking surface and what the area was made of. We also analyzed if the surface was non-stick, if it had side tables, 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.
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, 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.
Does the burner blowout in the wind? Does the lid get slammed shut? Does the grease trap fly away? These are all things that were taken into consideration when scoring contenders for this metric.
Highest scores in this category go to the Coleman RoadTrip LXX and the Blackstone The Dash. The Dash has a solid cooking surface so no wind can get through and the LXX fared through winds that lifted a 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 how many times we had to re-light these models in high winds. The Q 1200 came with an aluminum disposable drip tray insert that goes into the more permanent drip tray. This was nice for ease of cleanup, but it's not wind resistant and usually ended up on the ground in windy conditions. Though this can be easily remedied by doing without the disposable part or 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 went 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 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 evenly. Each individual review will provide a more in-depth analysis of the grill's performance and what you can expect while using it. If you still want to know more, head over to our Buying Advice, where we share more tips and tricks.
— Valentine Cullen
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