Grilling on the go is so popular now. It’s great to be able to go anywhere you like and just take a mini grill out of your trunk and have a little cookout wherever you happen to be.
There’s no shortage of tailgate grills on the market, but we’ve identified 5 of the best of them and have some reviews of them for you.
Following that we have a brief buying guide outlining what to look for in your tailgate grill. Then we’ll take a look at your most frequently asked questions.
Best Tailgate Grill - Comparison Table
Best Tailgate Grill - Our Reviews
Here’s a great little tailgating grill from well known brand Cuisinart. It flies off the shelves at Amazon and customers rave about it. It’s a great choice for those who prefer gas grills over charcoal.
It’s super portable, weighing only 17 pounds, and not taking up much space at all, measuring just 19 inches by 11 (obviously bigger when bought with the stand). You can carry it like you would a briefcase.
Despite looking so small and dinky, there’s 160 square inches of cooking area all together, enough to feed up to 4 or 5 people at any one time.
You can choose from red, black or stainless steel, and you can buy it with or without the VersaStand. The VersaStand telescopic legs, just slide out from under the grill to make a sturdy stand at the perfect height on which to do your grilling. And it’s set up within seconds.
The burner has an electric ignition and a high BTU, so it’s energy efficient, and you get the meat cooking in no time. Being a gas grill rather than charcoal, you have complete control over the cooking temperature, thanks to the precision temperature gauge.
The food cooks just as evenly as it’s larger grill counterparts.
We like that it has a lid, so you can have that roasting effect on your meats and vegetables. There’s an integrated lid lock, so you can safely lock up the grill after use not to get any grit in the trunk of your car before you take it back home and clean it.
The grate is removable and is dishwasher safe.
This is a great little grill from Weber. Customers love it and we can see why.
Folded up it measures just 15.5H x 40.9W x 16.5D inches, so it really won’t take up much space in your trunk. It also has extension tables that you can use for food prep that simply fold away when not in use.
Despite its relatively small dimensions, it provides 189 square inches of cooking space, which can be enough to feed up to 6 people at a stretch.
It’s stainless steel burner has a good BTU rating, coming in at 8500, so it will cook your food super quick.
It’s real USP though is the cookbox’s special shape which provides optimum circulation of heat around the food for even heating. The cookbox is cast aluminum, designed for both durability and efficiency. Not only that, it’s easy to clean and maintain too.
You get some nice searing from the cooking grates, which also happen to be easy to clean, thanks to their porcelain enameling.
Speaking of cleaning there’s an angled grease tray, positioned away from the burner tubes, which channels the grease into a replaceable catch pan. Super convenient.
There’s an easy start electronic ignition for the propane fuel, so getting it going won’t be a problem.
You can get it in some nice bright colors too, just pick your favorite.
We also love how it comes fully assembled straight out of the box.
If you haven’t heard of Pit Boss, where have you been? Pit Boss are known for their grills and smokers, and this baby lives up to the Pit Boss name.
It’s quite small and portable, weighing just 23 pounds, and with folding legs, taking up very little space.
Despite it’s small appearance however, there’s a whopping 276 square inches of cooking surface to play around with, that’s quite a lot for a tailgating grill.
We love how it features two independently controlled burners to give you ultimate control over cooking temperature, allowing you to have food cooking at two different temperatures if required.
We also love the built in thermometer in the lid, since cooking with a lid on allows you to cook with more moisture.
The burners are quite energy efficient too, with 10,000 BTUs meaning you get your food heated up super quick.
Once you’ve got your 20 pound propane cylinder hooked up, you just push and turn the ignition to get it going.
It’s sleek stainless steel construction means it’s designed to be durable, you’ll get plenty of life out of it.
Here’s a real popular tailgating grill from Weber, a big and trusted brand in the grill market, and if you like that smokey charcoal taste, then this would be a great grill to go for.
It’s really designed to be portable. It’s lightweight, and measures just 14.5" in height by 21" in width by 12.25" in length. It has 3 handles, and you can carry it like you could a briefcase, super convenient. Even it’s thin but sturdy metal legs simply fold up over the body, so it doesn’t take up too much space at all.
Although it looks small, there’s 160 inches of cooking surface to play around with, and it can easily cook 6 burgers at any one time.
Normally, it can be tricky to control the temperature of a charcoal grill, but this beauty has dampers, so you can tweak the temperature as needed.
The cooking grate is made with plated steel, so it really retains heat and is easy to clean.
The lid and base are also designed to retain heat, and being porcelain enameled means it won’t rust in the outdoors or peel.
The lid of the grill locks into place, a super handy safety feature, especially important when carrying the grill.
#5. Runner Up
Char-Broil Portable Tabletop Charcoal Grill
Although they’re better known for their smokers and larger grills, Char-Broil have done a great job with this portable grill.
The stand out feature of this particular grill is it’s affordability, so if budget is your main concern, then this would be the perfect grill to go for.
It lends itself to a tailgating cookout, thanks to it’s small dimensions, relatively light weight, and carry handle. The steel legs also fold away, to make it more compact again for storing in your trunk.
Although small, there’s 187 square inches of cooking surface in total all together, making it big enough to cook a couple of burgers and some sausages.
You can choose between using charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal. Either way you get that lovely smokey taste that you’d miss out on if you went for a gas powered grill.
We love that the handles are heat resistant, such an important safety feature.
It’s real durable too, with a high quality steel construction and high-temperature finish, which helps to prevent rust, and thus extend the life of the grill.
Best Tailgate Grill - Buyers Guide
Here’s some things you might like to think about before buying your tailgate grill.
Fuel choice is generally the most difficult decision to make before purchasing your grill. Grills can be fueled in a few different ways, but if you’re planning on getting a tailgate grill, you can forget about getting an electric one.
That leaves you with charcoal or gas (propane). Each of these has their pros and cons, which we will go through now.
Charcoal tends to be the cheaper of the two, and they are generally more portable than gas grills. With a charcoal grill you’ll have to wait a while for the coals to heat up, but when it does get going, the charcoal burns hotter than gas. Unfortunately however, you can’t dial down the heat on a charcoal grill. Unlike a gas fueled grill, a charcoal grill will give your food a light smoky flavor.
So with a gas grill, you may find you have to pay a bit more, but you have much greater control of the grill temperature. Propane grills are also easier to clean than their charcoal counterparts. Another advantage of a gas grill is that it produces more steam than its charcoal counterpart, giving the meat that much loved juice and moisture.
So there’s a lot to mull over when it comes to fuel chance, and to be honest there’s no easy answer as to which fuel choice is best. I guess what it will boil down to in the end is whether or not you wanted to go for that smokey charcoal taste. But whichever fuel choice you prefer, we’ve got you covered, as we’ve included both types in our Top 5 tailgate grills.
Our Numbers 1, 2, and 3 are all gas grills, whilst our Numbers 4 and 5 are both charcoal grills.
Now portability is very important for a tailgating grill.
The typical grill that people keep in their garage and wheel out into the backyard for a cookout is usually far too big, bulky and heavy to pack into your trunk for tailgate grilling.
A good tailgate grill meanwhile, will be considerably more lightweight, and won’t take up too much space in your trunk, so you can fit all the other bits and pieces you need for your tailgate cookout into your trunk along with it. Any side tables featured will need to be ones that can be folded down.
We’re going to level with you here. Tailgate grills don’t have the same cooking capacity as a grill you’d keep for your backyard. A typical tailgate grill could easily feed two very hungry people, or could feed a small family.
In general the larger the grill’s capacity, the less portable the grill is, and vice versa. However in our Top 5 tailgate grills above, we’ve aimed to strike a good balance between grill capacity and grill portability.
The sturdiness of a tailgating grill is a very important safety feature. Tailgate grills are typically on wheels, and if this is the case in the grill you have your eye on, please ensure that there’s a locking mechanism on the wheels, and set the grill up on flat ground so it doesn’t wobble when in use.
Ease of Maintenance
Remember that when you’re done cooking you also need to clean up after yourself. So it’s handy to have a grill that you can easily take apart for cleaning and wipe down. Parts that are dishwasher safe are a plus.
Other features and accessories
One particularly popular feature with grills (tailgate grills or otherwise) is a lid. Having a lid on your grill allows you to give your food a slow roast effect, once the meat is sealed. To that end we’ve deliberately included grills with this feature in our Top 5.
Another well loved feature is extendable side tables. These can be really handy, you can use them for prepping food or for resting your condiments or cooking utensils on when not in use.
Sometimes a stand is sold with the grill, and other times you may have to pay for one separately. A good stand will give you the same comfort and convenience that you’d get with a stationary grill.
Many tailgate grills come with protective covers, which are great for keeping off rain or dust. It’s not an essential piece of kit but it’s nice to have.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you grill on a camp stove?
The short answer to this is No. Well, at least not usually. On a typical camp stove, you can only fry, saute and boil. The exception to this rule is when you have a camp stove and grill combo. Unfortunately, product reviews of these hybrids are beyond the scope of this article.
How long does a propane gas canister last?
A disposable 14 or 16 ounce propane tank will last about 1.5 to 2 hours, and will allow you plenty of time to feed a large group of people, even if some of them have to wait due to a lack of space on the grill.
A standard 20 lb propane tank on the other hand, should last about 18-20 hours on most grills. These tend to be used most frequently on the standard sized grills you’d keep for backyard cookouts.
How do you dispose of charcoal after tailgating?
In order to dispose of any charcoal you have used, you need to let the charcoal cool down completely. You can do this by either letting the coals burn down, or closing the vents and the lid to starve the coals of oxygen. Once done, the ashes can be tipped into a garbage can.