As more Americans get vaccinated, in-person gatherings and group outings are becoming increasingly popular. And since it's summertime, many people are taking advantage of the nice weather by hosting events outside, whether that's in their backyard or at the park. If you're planning on gathering with friends soon, a portable gas grill might come in handy — whether you have limited outdoor space or are traveling, portable grills take up less room, are easy to transport and are quick to set up. A portable grill isn't just ideal for the weekend warrior that loves being outside and cooking, either. “It's fantastic for parents involved in the children's activities or [who] enjoy the outdoors, especially camping and the beach,” said Max Hardy, owner and head chef of Coop Detroit. “The great thing about portable gas is it's easy to light and easy to cut off. It gives the cook better control of the fire versus charcoal, which is a little more challenging.”
Portable gas grills: Pros and cons
In addition to having the freedom to move these grills easily instead of needing to pick a permanent (or even semi-permanent) spot, portable gas grills have multiple benefits. According to Jonathan Fox of Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q, here are some of the benefits a portable grill affords you:
- These grills are usually smaller, making them great for storage and travel.
- You generally don’t have leftover ash — like what a charcoal grill will leave on your hands.
- Portable gas grills heat up much faster and are much easier to turn off, which is key when you’re traveling.
- They’re versatile and cook a variety of different foods.
- Depending on which brand and model you go with, the price point can be generally lower.
However, there are some drawbacks to portable grills you should consider before investing in one. These cons might also inform the portable gas grill model that’s best for you.
- They are generally smaller, which means less cooking space — you may have to cook items in batches, running the grill longer and using more gas.
- Even the best portable gas grills don’t get as hot as a larger grill — unless you bring an entire propane tank.
- Most models are still on the heavier side, so moving them around isn’t necessarily easy.
- The flavor of food on a portable gas grill is different from charcoal, added Hardy, which some may prefer (and others won’t).
How to buy the best portable grill
When deciding on a quality gas grill that’s portable, you'll want to look for some specific features. The experts we consulted recommend keeping these in mind as you shop:
- BTUs. British Thermal Units measure thermal output or firepower of a gas grill. According to Ferrellgas, a gas grill should have between 75 and 100 BTUs of power for every square inch of primary grill surface. For a grill with a 100-square-inch cooking space, for instance, the minimum ideal BTUs would be 7,500. Other factors can also compensate for lower BTUs, including high-quality cooking grates that conduct heat well and smaller vents to control air flow. Ultimately, grills with lower BTUs will take longer to cook food, and grills with higher BTUs can overcook or char your food if you aren't careful.
- Side tables. Look for “workstations” to the left and right of the grill to make it easier when prepping your food on the go, advised Hardy.
- Easy set up. If you’re shopping with travel or tailgates in mind, look for how easy it is to connect the gas and the convenience of set up as well as breakdown.
- Durability. Since you’ll likely be setting up, breaking down and storing multiple times, you want a find a portable grill that can withstand some wear and tear, said Fox. He recommends asking before buying: “How is the build quality, is it cheap or durable? Does it have solid grill grates for getting a good sear?”
- Grates. Having long-lasting grates isn’t the only consideration. You also want to look for ones that are heavy-duty stainless steel or cast iron grates. “They are better for searing and maintaining even grilling temperatures,” said Shanghai Red's executive chef Andres Sen Sang. “These also make for an easy clean up after use.”
Best portable gas grills
When it comes to brands, Weber is a go-to for our experts. But depending on your needs, these are some of the highly regarded portable gas grills they recommend.
Best overall portable gas grill: Weber
Weighing in at 42.5 pounds with 12,000 BTUs and 280 square inches of total cooking area, this portable grill can easily cook for three to four people at a time. “It is a Weber, so the build is one of the best out there,” said Fox. Although it only has one burner, which is common with a smaller grill like this, Fox explained that it’s surprisingly high-powered. “It also has a great cook space — enough for 8-12 burgers along with an optional second, elevated rack and a thermometer great for heat management. You can never go wrong with a Weber,” he noted.
Best affordable portable gas grill: Weber
The smallest option in the Weber Q Series, this portable gas grill is always ready to grab and go for your next adventure. In addition to porcelain-enameled cast-iron cooking grates, 8,500 BTUs and 189 square inches of cooking space, this compact grill features a push button ignition and removable catch pan. “This is the best bang for your buck,” said Fox. “It has a great build, decent capacity and is both easy to control and cook on.”
Best smart portable gas grill: Northfire
Northfire's InfernoGo propane gas grill is one of the most high-tech portable option on the market. The Infernogo Grill heats up to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit in minutes to allow for fast and thorough cooking. With 7,000 BTUs, a push-start ignition and infrared heat, this stainless steel grill brings delicious meals to backyards, tailgates and camping adventures.
Best basic portable gas grill: Weber
The next step up in Weber’s Q series, this portable grill option also has 8,500 BTUs and 189 square inches of cooking space that serves two to three people. However, it comes with two convenient folding side tables and also has an electronic ignition for an easier start. “This is a very reliable grill and it’s small enough to fit in the back of a car,” said Shannon Snell, pitmaster at Sonny’s BBQ. “It’s also an easy out-of-the-box setup. Pound for pound, this is one of the best grills on the market.”
Best high-end portable gas grill: TEC
If you’re looking to splurge, Sen Sang recommends going with a TEC portable infrared gas grill. “It’s a versatile size grill and also certified for use with combustible surfaces, including wood,” he said. This means that whether you have limited yard space or are traveling, this grill has been designed for versatile use in mind, including on tables, countertops or free- standing on a pedestal.
Best all-in-one portable gas grill: Weber
Although this gas grill is compact — and ideal for those who have limited space — it’s still robust. With two burners, 468 square inches of total cooking area and two side tables, this grill is large enough to be a backyard staple while also having the benefits of portability. “Weber, hands down, has the best grills for the average consumer,” said Hardy. “It’s the best and meets all your grill needs with overall functionality.”