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For many Americans, having a meal out looks a bit different these days given the ebb and flow of coronavirus impacts on their neighborhoods. Outdoor grilling is increasingly popular in 2020 as people attempt more and more cooking at home due to social distancing and restaurant closures —others have turned tropical vacation plans into more remote camping destinations. That’s why portable gas grills are coming in handy — whether you have limited outdoor space but still want to barbecue or are traveling, portable grills take up less room, are easy to transport since you don’t have to lug charcoal and are quick to set up, heat up and get cooking. A portable grill isn't just ideal for the weekend warrior that loves being outside and cooking. “It's fantastic for parents involved in the children's activities or enjoy the outdoors, especially camping and the beach,” says 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, the double-edged sword leaving 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, notes Jim Mumford of Jim Cooks Food Good and a brand ambassador for Johnsonville.
- 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, adds Hardy, which some may prefer (and others won’t).
How to buy the best portable gas grills
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:
- Heft. Above all, a portable grill needs to get hot and stay hotter, explains Mumford. “Heft will ensure solid construction and allow some retaining of heat so look for an easy to clean, steel model.”
- BTUs. British Thermal Units measure thermal output or firepower, according to Mumford. “Too many portable grills can't get hot enough to do much more than steam food so look for at least 10,000 BTUs in your grill,” he says.
- Side tables. Look for “workstations” to the left and right of the grill to make it easier when prepping your food on the go, advises 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, says 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,” says 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 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,” says Fox. Although it only has one burner, which is common with a smaller grill like this, Fox explains 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 says.
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,” says 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 infrared propane gas grill is the most high-tech portable option on the market, according to Javier Chavez, executive chef and owner of Kitchen Table and Kitchen Table Squared. The Inferno 2G has two individual burners that heat up to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit in minutes to allow cooking a range of options at the same time. With 15,000 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,” says 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 says. 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,” says Hardy. “It’s the best and meets all your grill needs with overall functionality.”