Tailgate grilling is something anyone with a vehicle can enjoy, and in our opinion, should!
Hosting a mini social event, serving up grilled food right from the back of your parked vehicle either before, after or during a sporting event really puts the icing on the cake of a great day.
Having said that, it’s important to choose the right grill, or there’s a danger of your food offerings taking the shine off the day instead!
And that’s why, in this article, we’re going to tell you everything you should know about, and help you to choose the best tailgate grill for your needs.
Bringing out your grill isn’t just for summer anymore. Statistics show that barbecues of all types (tailgating and otherwise) are becoming popular all year round in the United States.
Whether you’re new to tailgate grilling or want to replace your old model, you’re in the right place. You’re going to learn about the factors you should keep in mind prior to investing in a tailgate grill, so you know how to pick out the best and right one for you.
You won’t have to scour online for the highest-quality products either. We’ve listed nine of the top models available on the market today, with a mini-review and our opinion on each.
At a Glance: Our Recommendations for Best Tailgate Grill
- Weber Jumbo Joe Charcoal Grill 18 Inch Black
- Coleman RoadTrip LXE Portable Gas Grill
- Blackstone Grills Tailgater – Portable Gas Grill and Griddle Combo
- Broil King Keg 5000 Charcoal Barbecue Grill
- Solaire Anywhere Portable Infrared Propane Gas Grill, Stainless Steel
- Weber Q1200 Liquid Propane Grill, Red
- Weber Go-Anywhere Charcoal Grill
- Smoke Hollow 205 Stainless Steel TableTop Propane Gas Grill
- Lodge Cast Iron, Hibachi Style Sportsman’s Grill
Note: Clicking the above links will take you to further information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon or Home Depot.
- 1 Best Tailgate Grill – A Detailed Look at Our Top Recommendations
- 1.1 Weber 1211001 Jumbo Joe 18-Inch Portable Grill
- 1.2 Coleman Roadtrip LXE Portable Propane Grill
- 1.3 Blackstone Grills Tailgater – Portable Gas Grill and Griddle Combo
- 1.4 Broil King 911470 Keg 5000 Charcoal Barbecue Grill
- 1.5 Solaire Anywhere Portable Infrared Propane Gas Grill, Stainless Steel
- 1.6 Weber 51040001 Q1200 Liquid Propane Grill, Red
- 1.7 Weber 121020 Go-Anywhere Charcoal Grill
- 1.8 Smoke Hollow 205 Stainless Steel Tabletop Propane Gas Grill
- 1.9 Lodge Cast Iron, Hibachi Style Sportsman’s Grill
- 2 What to Look for in the Best Tailgate Grill for You
- 3 Conclusion
Best Tailgate Grill – A Detailed Look at Our Top Recommendations
By now you’ll have a good idea of what you want in a tailgate grill. You also know what features are necessities and which are negotiable.
For the rest of this article, we take a look at what are, in our opinion, the best tailgate grills available today. There should be one here to suit everybody’s needs.
Weber 1211001 Jumbo Joe 18-Inch Portable Grill
Th Jumbo Joe runs on charcoal. It has an 18-inch diameter cooking surface and a porcelain-enameled body. The top lid is removable with a four-hole smoke vent. There are also centered vents on the bottom.
It’s perfect for charcoal enthusiasts who want to tailgate in big groups. The 18 inches of cooking space allow you to grill for four or more people at once. Although it can’t be folded away, it’s compact enough to fit in any vehicle comfortably.
Weber makes assembly a straightforward process. A wrench is included in the box to help you put it together. The only other tool you’ll need is a standard screwdriver, and you’re ready to go.
Four aluminum feet sit on a wide base at a fair distance from the grill itself, for a convenient, safe grilling experience. This means that you can set your Jumbo Joe on a table without fear of burning the surface. If your favorite tailgating location has picnic tables, you’ll appreciate this. Plus, you can rest assured that your cooker won’t wobble or sway.
Don’t be fooled by the size or name of this BBQ, which somewhat contradict each other. It’s a decently sized but still compact grill, with the ‘Jumbo’ moniker referring to it being larger than the even smaller ‘Smoky Joe’ from the same weber range.
This grill retains heat and distributes it evenly, and thanks to the sizable and adjustable top and bottom vents, you have control over temperatures and your cooking. It’s also equipped with a lid holder, which you can hang your lid on when preparing to cook or are ready to serve your food. Without it, you could be struggling to find a place to set your hot lid down, but it can also act as a windshield if you aren’t grilling with the lid on.
And note that hanging the lid on the grill won’t compromise it’s stability, with the legs being wide enough to keep the centre of gravity well within it’s stable base.
The ash-catcher underneath makes clean-up a breeze. It can be removed once your grill has cooled down, for the ash to be dumped and everything wiped down.
The user manual is helpful for inexperienced grillers. You can try out Weber’s cooking tips for everything from fish and meat to vegetables.
- Durable body and build.
- Generous cooking capacity.
- Instructive user manual.
- Dimensions: 19.75 inches by 20.5 inches by 19.75 inches.
- Weight: 18 pounds.
- Cooking surface: 240 square inches of cooking space.
- Nylon handles.
- Aluminum dampers.
- Plated-steel cooking grate.
- Porcelain-enameled body.
What We Like
- Even heat distribution and retention.
- Sleek, traditional design.
- Dampers for temperature control.
- Stable build.
- All required assembly tools included.
- Good ventilation.
- Comprehensive user manual.
What We Don’t Like
- Lid is too shallow for grilling whole chickens, etc.
- Ash catcher isn’t sheltered, so ash may blow around after emptying the ash out.
- Carrying bag must be bought
If you want a discreet charcoal grill that can still feed a good-sized crowd, the Weber Jumbo Joe is a perfect choice. See it for yourself at the link here.
Coleman Roadtrip LXE Portable Propane Grill
The Coleman RoadTrip LXE is a foldable propane grill, delivering up to 20,000 BTUs of heat. This modern-looking product is packed with features to make grilling a pleasure.
It’s compatible with small propane cylinders. You can expect to get an hour or more of cooking time out of a 16.4-ounce cylinder.
It stands out as convenient and versatile. The wheeled base and side tables can be drawn completely into the grill body. This is practical for tailgaters with limited space in their vehicles.
Getting it out of your car or truck and ready to cook is painless. Unfold the base, wheel it to wherever you like, and hook it up to your propane tank. The wheels have treads so as to roll smoothly over most surfaces.
There are no separate pieces or parts to panic over once you’ve assembled the grill. All you have to do is lift the base and lock it into place.
You won’t have to bother with matches or a lighter. At the touch of a button, the burners ignite. The cast iron grates are set over two burners. Each burner can be controlled independently from the other, so you can have 2 heat zones, or even cook indirect.
If you’re grilling foods that need different temperatures, this cuts out the waiting time. For meat-lovers, cook medium-rare and well-done steaks or burgers at the same time.
With this product, you get two side tables that extend from either side. You can keep your cooking utensils (or drink) close at hand while you grill.
And as it’s built from cast iron, is porcelain enameled, and the grease tray is removable, cleaning and a thorough scrub-down is easy.
- More than 1 hour of cooking time per propane cylinder.
- Transport-friendly in all senses.
- Independently adjustable burners.
- Dimensions: 33.8 inches by 13.5 inches by 19.1 inches.
- Weight: 48.9 pounds.
- BTUs: 20,000
- Cooking surface: 285 square inches
- Collapsible, with two wheels.
- Includes two side tables.
- Cast iron and porcelain-enameled surfaces.
- Runs off 16.4-ounce propane cylinders.
- Available in seven different colors.
What We Like
- Large wheels can roll over most surfaces.
- Base and side tables are foldable.
- Little assembly required.
- Burners can operate on separate settings.
- Ignition is automatic.
- Grease tray is removable for cleaning.
What We Don’t Like
- Heating can be uneven at higher temperatures.
- Burners aren’t covered, meaning grease can drip onto them.
If you want to spend more time enjoying the party rather than grill-related duties, the Coleman RoadTrip LXE is for you. If you want to learn more about this product, click this link.
Blackstone Grills Tailgater – Portable Gas Grill and Griddle Combo
The Black Stone Grills Tailgater functions as much more than just a grill. It also functions as a griddle, enabling you to serve up more than just grilled meat at your tailgating parties. How about pancakes? Fried eggs and bacon?
One of the most attractive aspects is its versatility. You can fire up the charcoal grill box or the propane griddle. That’s right—you don’t have to choose between gas or charcoal. You can use both at the same time if you like.
There are two burners on the gas side, one is an H-tube burner made of stainless steel, the other is cast iron. You can regulate the temperature of each independently from one another.
Best of all, you’ll find two standard burners. If you want to boil up a pot of delicious stew or even whip up some pancakes, you can. Anything that you cook on your stove at home can be made with this grill.
No matter where you’re tailgating, this product will hold up. The four legs can be adjusted to a height that’s comfortable for you, and the feet are built to keep it motionless, even on rough surfaces.
On the charcoal side, you’ll be grilling on cast-iron grates. The griddle is cold-rolled steel. This grill puts out a lot of grilling power. If you close the lid and the vent, it will retain an immense amount of heat.
You may be wondering how much work you’ll have to do to assemble it. You’ll be relieved to hear that putting it together is an uncomplicated affair. Blackstone provides a detailed user manual that covers assembly in explicit detail.
The user manual will also help you get familiar with the many features. It also provides instructions for maintenance and care to keep your Tailgater in good shape.
- A choice of using gas or charcoal.
- Almost anything can be cooked on this grill.
- Resilient, long-lasting build.
- Dimensions: 52 inches by 24 inches by 38.5 inches.
- Weight: 78.7 pounds.
- BTUs: 60,000
- Cooking surface: Total 512 square inches
- Adjustable, removable legs.
- Three cooking configurations.
- Two standard burners.
- 90-day warranty.
What We Like
- Adjustable height.
- Legs are stable on any surface.
- Versatile cooking surfaces.
- Burners can be operated
- Standard burners for cooking with pots or pans.
- User manual included.
What We Don’t Like
- Legs are hard to detach.
- Quite large for transporting.
- Lid handle gets scalding hot.
- Dumping ash is messy (true for ANY charcoal grill.)
If you want to bring something extra to your tailgate parties, consider this Blackstone Tailgater. It’s a quality product, incredibly versatile and a sure winner.
You can boil pots, fry eggs, grill steaks, cook with gas or charcoal, and so much more. For more details and current prices, please click this link.
Broil King 911470 Keg 5000 Charcoal Barbecue Grill
This Broil King ‘Keg’ is built for tailgating, with an attachment to hook it up to your truck’s hitch. It is a charcoal-fuelled keg-shaped grill that has 480 square inches of cooking space.
If your tailgate sessions tend to be lengthy and large, this product is up to the job.
One of the major benefits of the Broil King is low charcoal consumption. Due to it’s incredible insulative properties, it needs much less charcoal than you think, even if you’re grilling for hours.
You can make use of two cooking surfaces. The primary one is a cast-iron grate, the secondary is a chrome surface. A thermometer on the lid will show you what’s going on with the internal temperature.
The heavy build of this tailgating grill makes for excellent heat retention. When you close the lid and vents, it makes for a tight seal and being a kamado style cooker, can be used for low n slow smoking.
Yes, if you like slow-cooking over charcoal, the Broil King is ideal, able to hold a steady low temp for many hours, with little intervention needed once you learn to control the vents.
And despite it’s ability to retain and hold a steady heat, the body itself won’t heat up too much or pose a safety hazard, the outside mostly staying just warm to the touch.
And you don’t have to hitch the grill to your truck, it includes a base with two wheels to roll it wherever you like. The stand can be leveled, which works to keep it steady and stable. This is important with a tailgate grill of this weight and size.
Two extendable side tables open on either side for drinks or plates. Each table has a row of three hooks for your cooking utensils, with less risk of you knocking your tools and utensils to the ground.
- Cooking capacity for large tailgate parties.
- Two cooking surfaces.
- Built to tailgate with an attachment for truck hitches.
- Dimensions: 41 inches by 27.5 inches by 47 inches.
- Weight: 126 pounds.
- Cooking surface: 480 square inches
- Cast-iron cooking grate (280 square inches).
- Secondary chrome cooking surface (200 square inches).
- Two removable side tables with hooks.
- Wheeled base.
- Trailer-hitch adaptable.
What We Like
- Detachable side tables include hooks.
- Choice of cast iron or chrome cooking surfaces.
- Hitch-adaptable, specifically for tailgating.
- Removable ash tray for easy dumping.
- Retains heat well.
- Can cook whole chickens and turkeys.
- Wheels for portability.
What We Don’t Like
- Very heavy.
- Temperature is slow to adjust.
If you take tailgating seriously, and would like to smoke low n slow on the road, the Broil King Keg 5000 just might be the best tailgate grill for you.
For more information, check it out here.
Solaire Anywhere Portable Infrared Propane Gas Grill, Stainless Steel
The Solaire Anywhere portable, propane powered infrared grill lives up to its name. It weighs in at only 20 pounds, and with a width of 21 inches and a height of 12 inches, fitting it into your vehicle can be done with ease, regardless of trunk space.
This rectangular grill comes almost fully assembled. All you’ll have to trouble yourself with is screwing the handle onto the lid. The lid itself latches securely to the body to be carried safely.
For fuel, it runs off one-pound propane cylinders. A carrying case is included so you can pack three cylinders along for your tailgating sessions.
If your least favorite part of grilling while tailgating is the waiting, consider this product. Don’t be misled by size—the infrared burners pack a punch.
You may get less cooking capacity than with other grills, but this won’t be an issue. Because of the incredible heat produced by the infrared burners, you can knock out food swiftly enough to prepare more food for more people, in considerably less time.
After you switch it on, it will heat to high temperatures in three minutes or less. You’ll be grilling before your fellow tailgaters have a chance to complain about hunger. You won’t even have to bring out your lighter—it has spark ignition.
This rapid-heating feature works well, regardless of the climate outdoors. Whether you like to tailgate in summer or prefer an autumn chill, you can rely on this grill to heat up fast.
Inexperienced and expert chefs out there can also benefit from this grill. The infrared burners are designed to provide intense heat with consistent distribution. No matter where you set food on the grates, it will get even heat. You won’t have to spend time worrying about exact placement to avoid cold spots or burning.
If you’re intrigued but intimidated by the infrared burners, you shouldn’t be. You are supplied with a detailed instruction manual to get you familiar with the product and the process required.
- Petite and portable.
- Long warranty compared to many other models.
- Infrared burners for fast, even grilling.
- Dimensions: 21 inches by 13 inches by 12 inches.
- Weight: 20 pounds.
- BTUs: 14,000
- Cooking surface: 140 square inches
- Runs off one-pound propane cylinders.
- Stainless steel and ceramic build.
- Infrared burners.
- One-year warranty.
- Carrying bag included.
What We Like
- Heats up rapidly.
- Light and compact.
- Push-button ignition.
- Even and intense heat distribution.
- Comes with a warranty.
- Detailed user manual.
What We Don’t Like
- Small cooking capacity.
- Can get very smoky while cooking fatty foods.
If you’re tired of impatient friends or family demanding food, the Solaire Anywhere portable infrared grill will solve your problem. Tailgaters who enjoy searing at high heats will like this model too.
Learn more about it here.
Weber 51040001 Q1200 Liquid Propane Grill, Red
Also appearing in our guide to the best grills for camping, The Q1200 is a small LP grill with power. It performs like a bigger model but doesn’t burn through fuel as fast.
There’s nothing worse than a fuel hungry cooker when you’re tailgating. You either have to carry more fuel, or worse – leave the fun to go out and buy more mid-gathering.
The Weber Q1200 runs on small propane tanks of 14.1 or 16.4 ounces. One 16.4-ounce tank can get you up to five hours of grilling time, depending on the temperature.
A great feature of this grill is the built-in thermometer. Combined with the temperature dial, you’ll have optimal control over the heat. If you’re the type of cook who likes to have as much control as possible, you’ll enjoy this feature.
Once you light it up with the automatic ignition, it heats up rapidly. You can get grilling without waiting an age for it all to pre-heat.
It doesn’t come with a stand, but it’s still appropriate for tailgating. You can place it on the bed of your truck or a fold-out table without worrying about burns.
A side table on either side can be extended to hold drinks, utensils, or plates. These tables are at a good distance from the cooking surface itself, so anything placed on them will not be too close to the heat.
This little grill is also excellent for tailgaters who dread clean-up. Nearly every aspect of the design helps make cleaning up simple.
It has a special grease management system and disposable grease pan. All the grease from your meat is channeled straight into the grease pan. All you have to do is toss the pan out when you’re finished grilling and replace it.
The cast-iron cooking grate is porcelain-enameled. You can reap the grilling benefits of cast iron without the tedious maintenance due ot the easy clean and rust-resistant nature of the coating.
Even the burner tubes aren’t hard to scrub down as they are stainless steel. Since the tubes are encased in one piece of steel, there’s also less risk of rusting.
- Heat-safe on any surface.
- Designed for easy cleaning.
- Dimensions: 24.6 inches by 20.5 inches by 40.9 inches
- Weight: 26 pounds.
- Cooking surface: 189 square inches.
- BTUs: 8,500
- Stainless steel burners.
- Porcelain-enameled cast-iron grates.
- Built-in thermometer.
- Two side tables.
- Runs on 14.1 or 16.4-ounce propane cylinders.
What We Like
- Large handle for secure carrying.
- Can be placed on wood or plastic without damaging it.
- Doesn’t burn propane fast.
- Thermometer included.
- Clean-up is painless.
- Evenly spaced burners for steady heat distribution.
What We Don’t Like
- Stand and other useful accessories must be purchased
- Attaching small propane cylinders can be tricky.
- Small cooking capacity compared to some others in this list.
This energy-conservative tailgate grill is a big cooker in a portable body. If you’re eager to check the Weber Q1200 out for yourself, click this link.
Weber 121020 Go-Anywhere Charcoal Grill
Weber makes our list again with the Go-Anywhere charcoal grill (it also tops our best portable charcoal grill roundup). This trim-built product is suitable for tailgating anywhere, from parking lots to open fields.
Right out of the box, it assembles without any hassle. Screw in the handle to the lid, and you’re ready to tailgate.
The slim, rounded aluminum feet offer more height and support than you might think. You can stand this little unit on grass, it will be stable and high enough to not worry about starting a fire. The same goes for truck-beds or folding tables.
At just under 15 pounds, you can carry it around like a briefcase. The lid latches to the body securely, meaning it won’t bounce around in your vehicle. Although lightweight, the body is substantial rather than flimsy.
Don’t think that compactness equals a low cooking capacity. You can still set up to six burgers on the grill at once. If you favor steak over burgers, you can comfortably fit four mid-sized steaks at a time.
Once you shut the lid, you can expect high heat retention. Whether you want to slow-cook ribs or grill a steak up fast, this Weber does the job.
There are a total of 4 vents on this grill. It has two vents on the lid and 2 low down on the sides of the body. Since temperature control can be finicky with a charcoal grill, more vents are useful.
When you need to take the lid off, you can hook it on the built-in lid holder. The lid can also serve the dual purpose of a windshield.
The porcelain-enameled body is easy to wipe down when needed. Once the coals go out, the grill cools down quickly. You can remove the grates and easily scrub it down after use.
- Exceptionally compact and portable.
- Conserves charcoal.
- Generous cooking capacity.
- Dimensions: 12.2 inches by 21 inches by 14.5 inches.
- Weight: 14.46 pounds.
- Cooking surface: 160 square inches
- Porcelain-enameled body.
- Two smoke vents on the lid.
- Six vents on the body.
- Lid holder on the body.
What We Like
- Easy to transport.
- Heat-safe on any surface.
- Convenient lid holder enables lid to be used as a windshield.
- Numerous vents for temperature control.
- Low charcoal consumption.
- High heat retention.
- Simple to clean.
- Cools down fast.
What We Don’t Like
- Lid handle can become hot the touch.
- Low height when the lid is on.
- Ash must be scooped out from grill bottom.
If you want a petite charcoal grill that’s easy to transport and use, the Weber Go-Anywhere might be the best tailgate grill for you.
Check it out for yourself here.
Smoke Hollow 205 Stainless Steel Tabletop Propane Gas Grill
If you’re looking for a gas grill with no frills, the Smoke Hollow 205 is a good choice. This travel-friendly stainless steel product is small and folds away for convenient transport—making it ideal for tailgating and camping.
The legs fold into the grill so that it isn’t awkward to pack away. And the grate and warming tray fit tightly and snug into the body for transport – You won’t hear clanging and banging when you’re carrying it around.
This product is built almost entirely of stainless steel. This makes cleaning and maintenance practically effortless. It comes with a removable drip pan to dispose of grease. All you have to do is detach it, dump it, and put it back.
The stainless steel construction is also great when it comes to temperature. It heats up quickly and retains heat well, even with the lid open. Once this grill is hot, you won’t need to keep dialing the temperature up to keep it that way.
One practical feature of the Smoke Hollow 205 is the warming tray. You can place your burgers or hotdogs on it to keep them warm in chilly weather.
The lid also has a catch mechanism, to help it stay open even in windy weather. You won’t have to wonder if it will come crashing down abruptly.
As the burner is U-shaped, the temperature will vary from left to right. This is useful for those of you who like to grill foods that need different temperatures. This tailgate grill won’t burn through your propane either.
- Stainless steel build is tough and simple to clean.
- Transport-friendly and compact.
- Heats up rapidly.
- Dimensions: 15.8 inches by 26.9 inches by 11.8 inches.
- Weight: 20.4 pounds.
- BTUs: 10,000
- Cooking surface: 205 square inches
- Runs on 1-pound propane cylinders.
- Stainless steel body.
- Stainless steel drip tray.
- Chrome-plated warming rack.
What We Like
- The warming rack is a nice touch.
- Cleaning is simple.
- Grills food quickly and evenly on high heat.
- Adapter hose can be purchased for large propane tanks.
- Copious cooking capacity.
What We Don’t Like
- Doesn’t retain heat well in cold weather.
- Small grease pan.
- Spark igniter can be unreliable.
If you want a gas grill that’s simplistic but capable, consider the Smoke Hollow 205. Learn more about this fantastic product here.
Lodge Cast Iron, Hibachi Style Sportsman’s Grill
It weighs in at only 32 pounds. It has a handle attached so you can carry it without much difficulty. The only tool you’ll need to assemble it is a screwdriver for the legs. The rest of the pieces can be put together without any other tools.
The Lodge Sportsman provides the grilling experience you’d expect with cast iron. It retains heat well so that you can grill evenly at a high temperature.
Admittedly, the cooking surface is smaller than many models, but you’ll still be able to cook for many without much waiting. Once the grates get hot enough, food can be seared and served up quickly.
Adjusting your grilling grate to two heights is possible. You can grill closer or farther away from the coals – which controls the amount of heat applied ot the food – depending on what you’re preparing.
Although the build is simple, you can still control the temperature. There is a vent built into the lower half of the grill. The fire door can be left open or removed entirely if you want to get your fire even more oxygenated and screaming hot.
Unlike with other charcoal grills, escaping ash won’t be an issue. Ash is securely contained inside the fire pit base, to be dumped easily when you’re done.
The three legs of this hibachi-style grill are stable enough. It will stay upright on any flat, stable surface.
- Resilient: 100 percent cast iron construction.
- Lightweight and portable.
- Provides high, even heat.
- Dimensions: 19 inches by 8.2 inches by 10.2 inches.
- Weight: 32 pounds.
- Cooking surface: 120 square inches of cooking space.
- Cast-iron construction.
- Removable draft door.
- Grate adjustable to two heights.
What We Like
- Long-lasting, quality build.
- Great heat retention.
- Sturdy legs.
- Ash stays contained in the grill.
- The iron grate is non-sticky.
What We Don’t Like
- Requires regular oiling to avoid rusting.
- Cleaning after grilling can be a chore.
- Must be placed on concrete only—not wood or plastic.
If you’ve always wanted to bring cast-iron cooking to your tailgating parties, the Lodge Hibachi style cast iron grill will suit you. If you’re interested in checking it out, follow this link.
What to Look for in the Best Tailgate Grill for You
In a previous article, we already underwent a search for the best portable gas grill, any of which would be good tailgating, but not necessarily the best, as the tailgating environment calls for particular deign and features that not all smam grills have.
And the best tailgate grill can vary from person to person. Not everyone has the same preferences when it comes to features and specifications.
At the same time, there are some essential requirements—like portability and quality—that every tailgate grill should have.
Let’s look at the factors you should consider when looking for the right model for you.
Choice of Fuel to Use
Fuel choice can be a strong personal preference. If you’re a charcoal person, it’s going to be hard to convince you to go with gas.
If you’re new to tailgating, or grilling in general, you may be wondering why you should be thinking about fuel at all?
Basically, you have three choices: gas, charcoal, or electric. With tailgate grilling, you can eliminate electric grills from the equation. So which one is better—gas or charcoal?
Well, gas and charcoal each have their own advantages and disadvantages. Whether the pros outweigh the cons or not depends on you.
Charcoal is the choice of those seeing themselves as real grill aficionados. Charcoal imparts a subtle smoky flavor to food that you don’t get with gas, and is somewhat the hallmark of a good grill out, and the reason many people choose to grill in the frst place.
However, the majority of Americans favor propane over charcoal for their grills. Propane lights instantly and heats up quickly, meaning less time waiting around to start grilling. It’s also easier to cook for longer on gas versus charcoal, as with charcoal topping up on fuel can be a long drawn out process.
With LP (Liquid Propane) tailgate grills, you also get the added element of near instant control. All you have to do is twist a dial to turn to the temperature up or down. With charcoal you have to either starve the fire of oxygen, or oxygenate it more to change the temperature, and the change can take 10 to 15 minutes to kick in.
When the fun is over, you’ll find clean-up is usually easier with gas grills. Propane is a cleaner-burning fuel, so you won’t have to scrape out ash or residue when finished cooking. It’s also odorless and colorless, so all you’ll smell is the food you’re grilling.
On the other hand, charcoal produces carbon monoxide when burned. And you’ll have to take care when disposing of your still hot charcoal briquettes after a tailgating session, to ensure you don’t start any fires. The same goes for putting out your grill and allowing the ashes to cool before packing up and heading home.
Now, this doesn’t mean that safety isn’t a concern with gas. Leaking gas is one of the primary causes of grill-related accidents.
In the end, it’s up to you what fuel appeals to you most. If you love the aroma of burning charcoal and feel like it adds something to your grilled food, go ahead. There’s no right or wrong choice of fuel as long as you understand your safety responsibilities.
If you want to learn more about propane versus charcoal, check out our guide: Charcoal Vs Gas – Which is Better?
Compactness and Ease of Packing
When you’re picking out a tailgate grill, portability should be a priority. You want it to be light, easy to move and use, so you can use it whenever the opportunity arises. Struggling to move it in and out of your vehicle isn’t much fun.
You don’t want to end up injuring yourself heaving a huge, heavy grill out of your car or truck. So the best models will be transport-friendly, and easy to set up and pack away after use.
Regardless of the size of your vehicle, a compact grill is practical. You’ll want to save space for passengers and tailgating supplies, like drinks and food.
Tailgate parties are like any social event—the more the merrier. If you have a big family or group of friends, your tailgate grill must have a decent cooking capacity.
This may sound like it contradicts what we just discussed about compactness. The larger the grill, the less likely it is to be compact. Still, a smaller model doesn’t have to mean less cooking capacity.
Some tailgate grills are built to cook for just a few people. Others are designed to maximize cooking space so you can prepare food for many people at once.
Even if you’re planning to tailgate with just one or two others, give cooking capacity some thought. You never know if you’ll encounter other tailgaters, or make friends while you’re out and about, that you’ll want to invite over for a shared meal and a beer.
Grilling can be a delicate business, especially concerning meat. If your meat or chicken isn’t cooked to the right temperature, you could end up with food poisoning. Burnt, overcooked food isn’t a pleasant scenario either.
The best grill for any tailgater should have good temperature control. If you pick a gas model, check out the dial. The more options you have for temperature settings, the better. It should be smooth to turn and conveniently located.
Charcoal fueled models won’t come with dials, but they do have vents. These vents will regulate airflow, in turn influencing burn rate and heat.
More vents mean you have a greater degree of control over the temperature. Favor charcoal grills with multiple vents, and possibly with adjustable height grates.
Design and Features
The best tailgate grills will have an all-inclusive quality design. As many aspects as possible should be designed with performance and user-friendliness in mind.
You need to be aware of all the parts you should be checking out before you buy. One poorly made feature can ruin an otherwise great product.
Temperature control, cooking capacity, and ease of packing are just a few aspects of tailgate grills.
Let’s begin with assembly: putting together your grill shouldn’t take forever. Not everyone has a fully-equipped toolkit to assemble equipment that comes in lots of pieces.
A well-built grill must also have a sturdy foundation. The feet should keep the heat well away from the ground or tabletop the cooker is placed on. A badly designed base can result in scorching or, worse, fires.
It also has to be stable on all surfaces, from concrete to grass. You can’t have everything wobbling every time you flip a burger.
Those that have wheels make for hassle-free transport and movement. Just be sure that the wheels include a locking mechanism to prevent movement when you start the actual grilling.
Certain models come with lids, so they’re capable of roasting as well as grilling. For these models, the lid should close snugly for optimal cooking. Others are built with extendable sides to set your food and cooking utensils on.
If you’re going with a gasser, see how many BTUs it’s rated for. BTU stands for British thermal unit. Basically, the BTU rating is a measurement of how much heat it can produce.
Additional safety features are always a bonus. For example, those with bodies that stay cool to the touch. This way, no one will get scalded if they accidentally touch or brush against it while it’s hot.
The materials it’s built from can make all the difference. Stainless steel makes for easy clean-up and tends to be more durable too. So do porcelain-enameled parts.
Finally, you can include aesthetics in your final decision. Some grills have a classic, traditional look about them, whereas others are modernized.
Bear in mind that function should always trump appearance. Don’t jump into buying a product just because it looks nice.
Quality of Construction and Design
Your tailgate grill should last for longer than a single season. Aside from cleaning-related matters, construction materials play a role in longevity.
A grill can be portable without being flimsy. Stainless steel, enameled porcelain, iron: all are built to withstand the wear and tear of tailgating.
You also don’t want it to rust or get dented after just a few trips. Damage of this also has the ability can also affect the way it works, or folds away.
No matter how skilled you are at grilling, you can’t compensate for a shoddy build. Tailgate grills that are thinly made rather than solid won’t regulate heat well, and this affects the consistency and results of your cooks.
Accessories or Bonuses
No matter what you’re buying, additional accessories are always welcome.
Does your chosen model come with cleaning brushes? Maybe a protective cover to keep it safe during transport? How about a handy carry bag to keep your grill and tools in one place?
This shouldn’t be your main focus, but if you’re stuck deciding between two products, it could be the decider in a tiebreak.
As you can see, the best tailgate grill can vary based on your preferences and habits. We hope that one or more of the products discussed above appeal to you, because really, they are some of the very best you’re going to find.
Each of the tailgate grills in our list has its own unique advantages. Nevertheless, we’ve picked the Weber JumboJoe 18-Inch portable grill as our overall winner.
This little charcoal number will have you serving up your favorite foods fast. You get a great level of cooking control thanks to the extra vents, plus, the assembly is painless and cleaning it after use is effortless too.
If you have any questions or feedback for us, please write in the comments. We’ll make sure to answer every single one!
Product image credits: © Amazon.com