If you don’t have much time and just want to find out what the best tailgate grill is, then I recommend the Cuisinart Petite Gourmet Tabletop Grill as the best one.
Tailgating is considered an American tradition. There is something uniquely fun about getting together with some friends to have a cookout from the back of a truck while waiting for a game or concert to begin. However, if you are thinking of grilling on the go, you need to have the right hardware. This means finding a grill that can withstand the journey, feed enough people, and still be functional when you pull it out of storage.
To help you choose the best grill for tailgating, I’ve compiled a shortlist of features and things to consider when looking for models. Check it out to see how you could improve your backseat barbecue with ease.
What to Look For in a Tailgate Grill?
Because tailgate grills are meant to be portable, you have to think of features that could affect how well the grill works on the go. One of the most important is one some people never think of – the fuel source. Others include the size of the grill itself, how much it weighs, and whether or not there are any special features in the design that could improve functionality.
The fuel source is the quintessential feature of any grill. It can affect cooking temperature, how thoroughly food is seared, and even taste. When you intend to be tailgating, it also has a significant effect on portability and whether you will be able to store the grill in your car or truck.
When choosing a model for tailgating, you want to make sure you have a fuel source you are comfortable with. The big three will be charcoal, propane, and electricity. In general, although charcoal is delicious, I recommend avoiding it. A tailgate charcoal grill will be heavy, difficult to transport, and hard to cook with on the go.
Electric can also be an issue if you don’t have an outlet. Most portable grills are meant to plug into some sort of electrical outlet. If you don’t have one in your vehicle, you are out of luck.
Instead, I strongly recommend using propane. You can transport a small tank with ease and will be able to control the flow of gas to affect the heat and overall taste of your food. The one downside is it might be a bit of a fire hazard, so take extra precautions in crowded areas.
Again, a grill for tailgating needs to be portable. You won’t be able to pack up your 4 gas burner and go to the big game. Instead, you need something small and lightweight which fits comfortably in the back of your truck. I recommend choosing a grill which is 25 lbs. or less since most people will be able to carry something this size.
When it comes to capacity, though, size can be a problem. In general, try to find a portable tailgate grill with enough surface space to cook 6-8 hamburgers at once. This should be adequate to feed a crowd and will make cleanup and transportation simple.
Finally, check out whether there are any extra features you might be interested in. More and more manufacturers are now creating portable grills specifically designed to tailgate, and they are throwing in more features to improve convenience and functionality.
Some potentially useful additions include an extra surface to place cooked food, a smaller brush for easier cleaning, and obvious temperature controls on the front to better prepare food.
Tailgate Grills Roundup
Let’s find out what the best portable grill for tailgating is.
The George Foreman Indoor/Outdoor Grill is one of the most unique looking options on this list of tailgate BBQ grills since it looks like an old-fashioned serving tray. However, perhaps this appearance is fitting since this large grill easily serves 15 people, so you never have to worry about running out of cooking space while tailgating.
The stand is long and made of plastic, and doesn’t appear to be foldable. This is one potential downside. However, the cooking surface more than makes up for it, since it features the traditional George Tough Nonstick Coating and is a breeze to clean once food prep is done. The main fuel source is electric, and there is adjustable temperature control.
The electric fuel source in this model is actually a positive, since the grill is small and designed to sit outdoors. This means it does not need to be plugged in and instead uses batteries. A metal lid helps trap heat and flavor while preparing food.
While you might not get the flavor you love with the George Foreman, it is highly portable at 21 lbs. and will make enough food for everybody.
- Serves 15 people
- Easy clean cook surface
- Adjustable temperature control
- Non-folding stand
Blackstone is a big name when it comes to grills, and I will admit I had high expectations for this tabletop model. It looks almost exactly as if the cooking surface of a traditional grill was shrunk and made portable, but this is part of why it is a great tailgate propane grill. It is available in 17 and 22 in. sizes with ample cooking space. While there are no grill lines, there is ample room for food.
The primary fuel source is propane and there are two adjustable heat zones if you would like to make more than one type of food at once. The back has a channel to capture grease, so you don’t have to worry about the potential hazard of having too much grease on the surface of the grill.
This model is highly portable, weighing in 32 lbs. It is heavier than normal but also packs a whopping 24,000 BTUs of heat from its propane fuel source. It is more powerful than any other option, and I strongly recommend it for more intense tailgaters and grillers.
- Two independent heat zones
- Grease channel
- Multiple sizes
- Heavier than expected
The Weber 10020 Smokey Joe grill is a small, lightweight model that weighs a mere 9.5 lbs. but still knows how to pack a punch. It looks like a mini version of a traditional charcoal grill, and even uses charcoal as its primary fuel source! This is an excellent choice if you cannot live without the flavor of charcoal-cooked burgers, even when tailgating.
This model has a lid to trap in the delicious smoky flavor, and the exterior is porcelain to prevent rusting, pitting, and tearing if exposed to the weather. There is enough room on the 14 in. surface to cook for at least 4-6 people at once.
Because this is such a simple model, there is not much in the way of heat control. However, some people just love charcoal that much.
- Uses charcoal
- Small and easy to clean
- Porcelain exterior
- Difficult to control heat
How often do you get to bring a cast iron hibachi grill with you tailgating? If you get this Lodge model, you can bring one with you every time. This particular grill uses charcoal as its primary heat source and is small, heavy, and durable. The charcoal goes in a small compartment at the bottom and heats the 19 in. cooking surface with ease.
This grill weighs around 27 lbs., which is a little heavy for a portable grill. However, the flavor is excellent. The only potential downside is the cast iron is difficult to clean, and there is absolutely no temperature control on this simple model.
- Cast iron
- Uses charcoal
- No heat control
The Cuisinart Petite Gourmet Tabletop Grill is a high-quality gas grill that weighs roughly 17.5 lbs. and has a whopping 145 in. of ceramic cooking surface. This surface is easy to clean with a basic brush or even some wiping and is large enough to cook hamburgers and hotdogs for at least eight people at once.
This particular model has a lid and metal legs for improved stability while on the go. The legs can be folded and have rubber grips so you don’t have to worry about sliding. Some additional features include a 5,500 BTU burner, a twist to start electric ignition, and a precision temperature gauge.
Overall, I think this is one of the best gas grills to take on the go. The surface heats evenly and it is easy to connect a propane tank. Plus, there are extra safety features and the temperature is easy to control, reducing the risk of burnt food or a potential fire in the parking lot.
- Precision temperature control
- Ceramic cooking surface
- Foldable legs
- High heats can cause the lid to start to melt
Out of these options, my personal favorite for a tailgating grill is the Cuisinart Petite Gourmet Tabletop Grill. In my opinion, this is best portable gas grill for tailgating. This gas grill is easy to use, has extra stability, and has the best temperature control out of all of the models I considered. It also meets all of the significant features needed for a great tailgate grill, including have ample cooking space. If I had to choose a grill to come in second, I think I like the Blackstone Tabletop Grill. While it’s heavy, it gets the job done and has multiple cooking zones.