The 6 Best Portable Grills and Travel BBQs
We set out to find the best portable grills and travel BBQs for your summer park gatherings and camping trips. First, we looked at 20 top models and selected seven for a side-by-side grill-off. We then evaluated each grill for how easy it was to transport and cook on. Not all portable grills are created equal — we help you find the perfect one for your needs.
Read the full review below >
Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Updated May 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. The Cuisinart is still the best bet if portability is a priority.
Cuisinart Petit Gourmet
If you're looking for super portability above all else, the Petit Gourmet is your best bet. Its legs tuck nicely and flush to the rest of the design, which made it the easiest grill to transport even without its bag. It joined in more adventures than the other grills tested because it is so ultralight and convenient to carry. The bag is nice, too, just in case a few crumbs spill out. Though this grill isn't extremely powerful, it does grill nice and evenly.
Locking lid latch
Grills great considering its low BTU output
Small cooking surface
This grill has a tiny little drip tray that attaches securely to the bottom. The drip tray didn't seem to catch much grease, but it didn't leak much either. The Cuisinart's porcelain-enameled cast-iron grill grate was the easiest to clean by far. This grill was our least favorite to start up as it often takes two to three tries before lighting. This was disappointing, especially since we had this ignition problem with none of the other grills. When turning from high to low, it's hard to accidentally shut the fuel off — you have to push in the dial and twist it to turn it completely off.
The low setting on this portable grill is very low, and it
Top Pick for Tabletop Grilling
Weber Q 1200
Super non-stick grill surface
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 an effective
You must pull down on the regulator for there to be enough room to attach a 16.4 oz propane canister or even a hose to a one or five-gallon tank. See the "Ease of Transport" below for more details on this subject.
This grill came with a disposable aluminum insert that goes into the drip tray. We suspect that this was intended for ease of cleanup. However, the aluminum tray liner was not wind resistant and ended up blowing around a bit.
The 189 square inch cooking surface of the Q 1200 holds a surprising amount of food for its size. It kept everything in our test piece with room to breathe. Our medium heat setting for cooking the test pieces was not enough for this grill. Even on medium-high it took over 34 minutes to cook
Analysis and Test Results
Travel BBQs are your ticket to a great meal on the go. Whether you are camping, picnicking, spending a day at the beach or tailgating before a football game, portable grills are a simple solution for cooking an excellent meal away from home.
Other Notable Models in Our Tests
Coleman NXT 50
This grill is light and easy to transport.
The NXT 50 can grill a large amount of food and it doesn't have any flare-up. It has a low flame heat output even on high and
The drip tray on this grill didn't catch all of the grease, causing it to leak onto the surface underneath. So be careful if you place it on a resin or plastic coated table or surface.
The porcelain-coated stamped steel cooking grate of the Coleman NXT 50 is fairly nonstick and in the middle of the test group for ease of cleanup.
One nice aspect of this grill is that you can set it on end, with the handle up, for it to take up less space in the back of a car or a trunk. Just make sure to take out the grease tray first.
The amount of time to cook test piece ~ 20 min. The sliders had to be grilled separately as there was not enough room.
Coleman RoadTrip LXE
The only model tested with built-in stand and wheels.
This grill is easy to move from place to place in the folded or even upright standing position, but take caution when attempting to lift it from its folded position to the upright standing position without reading the directions. See the Safety Note about the Coleman LXE below.
Char-Broil TRU-Infrared Grill2Go X200
The Char-Broil does have the best drip catch system of all the grills tested in this review.
Unfortunately, the Char-Broil did not end up being included in our test piece. We did test it and it does work, but make sure you want to cook something very fast at a very, very hot temperature. During our test piece project, this grill smoked, had flareup and got just plain too hot. If felt dangerous to use and we didn't want to potentially ruin our food either. It reached a temperature of ~ 650 degrees in under 10 minutes on low. We suspect this grill might perform much better with a higher quality regulator. It devours fuel.
We tested our contenders both with the standard Coleman 16.4 oz Camping Fuel Cylinder 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.
Criteria for Evaluation
Each of the models in this review is evaluated and scored on the following criteria.
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.
According to the specs, the Coleman RoadTrip LXE leads this category with 10,000 BTU. The Char-Broil TRU-Infrared Grill2Go X200 is next in line at 9,500 BTU. The Weber Q 1200 and the Coleman NXT 50 both 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 13 lbs.
The Cuisinart Petit Gourmet with its mere 5,500 BTU didn't seem to have a problem grilling anything we cooked on it, didn't take any longer grilling time and used the least amount of fuel.
The Char-Broil TRU-Infrared Grill2Go X200 had the highest maximum output. It reached a temperature of ~ 450 degrees in under 10 minutes.
Higher BTU equal 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.
The Char-Broil TRU-Infrared Grill2Go X200 has the least favorable burner control of the grills tested. This Grill2Go gets very, very hot even on the lowest setting and it is challenging to keep the temperature low enough to avoid charring without periodically turning the grill completely off. The Weber grills a bit cool. The burner controls on the Cuisinart and both Colemans worked great.
The lightest product, the Cuisinart Petit Gourmet, at 13 lbs was by far the lightest product tested in this review. The Cuisinart had sturdy little legs that folded up neatly and was easily carried in one hand. This grill was so light and easy to transport, it got to come on extra adventures. Second lightest was the Coleman NXT 50 at 20 lbs, which was also light and easy to transport. Next were the Char-Broil TRU-Infrared at 25 lbs and the Weber Q 1200 at 27 lbs, but the Infrared Grill2Go generates 1,000 more BTUs (9,500) than the Weber Q (8,500) even though it is lighter. Interestingly, the Coleman RoadTrip LXE was the heaviest product tested at 35 lbs and puts out 10,000 BTUs.
Ease of Transport
The Cuisinart Petit Gourmet was by far the easiest grill to carry and transport. It's the lightest grill tested in this review at a mere 13 lbs, which is seven lbs lighter than the next lightest model, the Coleman NXT 50. With the Cuisinart and the NXT 50 note that both are very light and you can carry each one with one hand. The Weber and the Char-Broil had to be carried with two hands, which wasn't too much of a problem as they are not that heavy. The Char-Broil has two very secure latches to keep the lid secure when traveling and the Weber had none. The lid on the Weber is fairly heavy for its size though, and the lack of lid latch didn't pose much of a problem. The Coleman RoadTrip LXE was most definitely the heaviest product tested. It is heavy and cumbersome and not much fun to get in and out of a trunk or hatchback. It was the only grill tested with legs and wheels, which proved to be very convenient if we were cooking somewhere without picnic tables.
The Coleman NXT 50 was the only grill tested that we had to take the propane canister completely off of to move it from one end of a picnic table to the other. The fuel line is so long on this grill that it leaves the fuel canister dangling. However, this long fuel line could also attach the propane canister as far from the hot cooking surface as possible, which could potentially be a safer place to attach to the grill.
Propane Cylinder with the Weber Q 1200
One must pull down on the regulator for there to be enough room to attach a 16.4 oz propane canister. At first we thought this was inconvenient and slightly annoying, but it quickly became apparent that this secure connection was actually an extreme asset when lifting or moving this grill from one cooking surface to another (not travel mode, say just one picnic table to another) because the propane canister is so securely attached you can do so without worrying about it flopping around.
Safety Note about the Coleman RoadTrip LXE. This grill is easy to roll from place to place
Size of Cooking Area
The Coleman RoadTrip LXE has the largest cooking surface area by far at 285 sq in. The Char-Broil Grill2Go's cooking surface size is 200 sq in and the Q 1200 follows close at 189 sq in. The Cuisinart Petit Gourmet has the smallest cooking surface size measuring 145 sq in.
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 clean up,
How We Test
We had a lot of fun testing these grills. We took them on campouts, cookouts and even had a few grill parties, but in the end we were determined to see how they compared side-by-side.
Minimum test piece
1 ear of corn
1 yellow squash
1 sirloin & veggie kabob
1 chicken & veggie kabob
1 prawn, pineapple & pepper kabob
2 ground beef sliders
Test piece grill time measurements are based on the medium setting unless otherwise noted.
About Drip Trays
They are not all created equal by far. Some portable grill designs put more thought into the design and functionality of their grill drip trays. The Char-Broil TRU-Infrared Grill2Go X200 had the largest and most user-friendly drip tray. The Q 1200's drip tray wasn't very wind resistant and the Coleman NXT 50's drip tray leaked. The Coleman RoadTrip LXE has a drip tray that you cannot take out with a 16.4 oz propane canister attached and the Cuisinart Petit Gourmet had the smallest drip tray of all the grills tested.
Nice Bonus Features
The Coleman RoadTrip LXE and the Cuisinart Petit Gourmet both came with a backup burner lighting chain system in case the automatic ignite starting mechanism were to go out. The ideas is that if you go on a longer camping excursion and the ignition starter were to go out, and
The RoadTrip LXE also has nice slide-out side tables and hooks in the front for hanging your grilling tools.
Best for Specific Applications
The Char-Broil TRU-Infrared is burly. It looks like the tank of portable grills and its "TRU-Infrared" heat technology acts like somewhat of a convection oven without drying out the food being grilled. This grill would be great for an off-road or four wheel drive trip where the contents of a vehicle might get jostled around a lot. It locks up tight with its two very secure latches and it isn't wobbly. This grill is great for anything that needs to be grilled fast and scorching.
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 of its ultralight and non-bulky design that travels great. When folded up it doesn't have any pointy legs that stick out and it gets kudos for having such an easily stowable design.
In conclusion, 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. If you want something extremely durable for grilling things extra hot, try the Char-Broil. The Coleman RoadTrip LXE is perfect for tailgating. The Weber Q 1200 is great for car-side camping or picnicking as it is sturdy, stable and grills evenly, but does take just a bit longer.
Also see our cooler and ice chest side-by-side comparrison.
— Valentine Cullen
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