This guide reviews the best tailgating grills, before going on to teach you about all the factors you should keep in mind when looking for the best tailgate grill, so you know how to pick out the right one for you.
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!
So whether you’re new to tailgate grilling or want to replace your old model, you’re in the right place.
You won’t have to scour online for the highest-quality products because we’ve listed eight of the top models available on the market today, with a mini-review and our opinion on each.
At a Glance: The Best Tailgate Grills Discussed in our Guide
- Weber Jumbo Joe Charcoal Grill 18 Inch
- Coleman Roadtrip LXE Portable Gas Grill
- Blackstone Tailgater Portable Gas Grill and Griddle Combo
- Broil King Keg 5000 Kamado Grill
- Solaire SOL-IR17BWR Anywhere Portable Infrared Gas Grill
- Weber Q1200 Liquid Propane Grill
- Weber Go-Anywhere Charcoal Grill
- Masterbuilt 205 Stainless Steel Tabletop Gas Grill
Note: Clicking the above links will take you to further information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon.
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.
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 small 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 two choices. But which is better – gas or 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 first 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.
In the end, it’s up to you what fuel appeals to you most.
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 portability, performance and user-friendliness in mind.
A well-built grill must 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 side tables 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, the higher the better for out and out high heat grilling.
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 Jumbo Joe 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!