Sports games, beach barbecues, days at the park — no matter where you spend time outdoors, a tailgate grill is an essential piece of equipment. The
best tailgate grills are compact models that transport easily and are designed with a variety of fuel sources to suit your grilling preference. To help guide your search, here are a few things to keep in mind as you shop:
Your grill’s fuel source is a matter of preference, and
propane is a clean, convenient option. Propane tanks are readily available and take up minimal space if you keep a spare. Grill manufacturers provide BTU ratings (British Thermal Units, essentially a measurement of a grill’s power), and, generally speaking, grills with higher BTUs get hotter faster than ones with lower BTUs. Keep in mind, that a grill’s size will also affect how quickly you can prepare the amount of food that you’re grilling, simply do to the the amount of cooking space. Some purists like using charcoal to get that classic charred flavor, and you have plenty of options there, too. Just remember to take the proper precautions when it comes to fully extinguishing and disposing of hot coals to prevent dangerous situations or fire.
You can find tailgate grills that are raised on legs, which should work on most stable surfaces, or tabletop models without legs that sit directly on sand, pavement, or heat-proof tables. Accessories such as fold-down prep surfaces, interchangeable cooktops, and rolling carts are bonus features, so decide which, if any, are important to you. Lastly, consider the weight of the grill when shopping, as any grill you choose should be one you’re able to easily lift and carry.
Wherever you take them,
the best portable grills make it easy to get outside and cook with friends. 1 The Overall Best Tailgate Grill Cooking area: 285 square inches Fuel source: Propane Weight: 46.67 pounds BTUs: 20,000 BTUs
grill from Coleman, you don’t have to sacrifice grilling performance for portability. Rated with an output of 20,000 BTUs, it heats up quickly across its three burners. Plus, each of the burners can be adjusted to a specific temperature, so you can create different grilling zones across the roomy 285-square-inch cooking surface. What really sets the Coleman apart from other tailgate grills, though, is the additional griddle cooktop, which can be popped on instead of the grill grates if you want to fry eggs, bacon, or pancakes.
On either side of the grill are two folding prep tables, which are convenient for placing bowls of marinated meat or platters to hold food after it comes off the grill. While it is the heaviest grill on this list, transporting the Coleman is easy, as the stand converts into a rolling rack. Since it stores flat and upright, it takes up minimal space.
According to one reviewer: “This is a fantastic grill. It is versatile, practical and portable. The construction is pretty solid and sturdy. It is easy to set up, take down and transport to the campsite, tailgate party or storage. The 285 sq. in. cooking area is generous for a portable grill.” 2 The Best Tabletop Tailgate Grill Cooking area: 189 square inches Fuel source: Propane Weight: 28.5 pounds BTUs: 8,500 BTUs
portable tabletop grill from Weber includes two fold-out side tables for a bonus workspace, and boasts 8,500 BTUs of power. The small chamber heats up quickly, and the temperature can be monitored on the lid’s gauge so you know when it's time to get cooking for the best results. The grill’s 189-square-inch cooking area is made from split porcelain enameled cast iron, which is corrosion- and rust-resistant. And though the Weber doesn’t come on a stand, a compatible cart can be purchased separately to elevate and transport it.
As is, the Weber works on a number of heat-proof surfaces like aluminum tables, stone, pavement, and sand. Below the grill is a removable catch pan where grease collects, so you can keep your grill clean and flare-up-free. Whichever of the six fun colors you pick, your grill will arrive fully assembled, so you can get right to grilling (after you attach your propane tank, of course!).
According to one reviewer: “Great grill. I’ve tailgated with it numerous times now. I cooked at a tailgate for 20 people with it, loading it completely with brats and burgers and it worked great.” 3 The Best Charcoal Tailgate Grill Cooking area: 160 square inches Fuel source: Charcoal Weight: 8.82 pounds BTUs: N/A
For those who love the flavor that only charcoal can impart, this
tabletop charcoal grill from Weber is a great choice. It’s also priced under $60, making it the most affordable tailgate grill on this list. The design of the Weber is not over-complicated, and that part of its appeal. The steel construction has no nuts or bolts, and the lid and base are coated in porcelain enamel, making the surfaces durable and easy to clean. The 160-square-inch cooking surface can cook up to six hamburgers.
Depending on what you’re grilling, the heat can be controlled via two rust-proof dampers on either side of the lid’s handle. The plated steel legs pivot to lock the lid into place when you’re ready to transport or store the grill, and due to its rectangular shape, it will fit more easily in a car or storage area than drum-shaped charcoal grills. When you want to get cooking, just release the legs back into position and place this grill on a stable, flat, and heat-resistant surface.
According to one reviewer: “We purchased this grill for a tailgate and we've fallen in love with it! It gets really hot and takes a fraction of the coals that would be required for a larger grill. The fire lasts a long time as well. It's truly a go anywhere grill and I'm glad we made the investment. You won't be disappointed.” 4 A Convertible Propane Grill For Less Than $200 Cooking area: 145 square inches Fuel source: Propane Gas Weight: 17 pounds BTUs: 5,500 BTUs Cuisinart’s Petit Gourmet grill has a similar look to the Coleman, but has a lower BTU output and smaller cooking surface of 145 square inches. Though smaller in size, it can still cook up to eight hamburgers and 10 chicken breasts at a time, so it is a good option for cooking for a small crowd while camping, or on a patio or driveway. The telescoping legs on the stand can be adjusted to a comfortable height for different users, or adjusted to a smaller size if you want to use the Cuisinart as a tabletop grill instead. This design is one of the smaller ones, so it lacks the side tables that other grills on this list have. That’s something to keep in mind if you’ll know you’ll need the extra workspace.
A single dial controls the heat across the grill’s 5,500-BTU burner, and while it doesn’t have foldable prep tables, the grill itself folds down compactly to be carried by the lid’s handle, and since it weighs only 17 pounds, it’s lightweight and portable.
According to one reviewer: “Love the adaptability of this grill! Great for the patio, tailgate, or beach! Only needs a small gas canister, so very portable.”