Nothing beats cooking on an open flame on a summer day. So if you’re a picnicker who enjoys a sizzling beauty outside, a portable gas grill is exactly what you need to ace those situations.
I tested tons of gas grills to come up with the hottest ones of 2019. In this article, I’ll present all the information you need to pick the best portable gas grill available out there, so let’s hop in.
Why Choose a Gas Grill?
The answer to this question is really simple, portable grills come in many types, the most common ones are gas grills, charcoal grills, and electric grills.
What makes many go for the gas grills is the fact that they’re cheaper and cleaner than charcoal grills. Besides, they’re more convenient outdoors than electric ones. Not to mention how user-friendly they’re when it comes to newly crowned BBQ kings.
Gas grills fire up quicker than charcoal ones and you can use them then save what’s left in the tank for later. Unlike charcoal, once you start the grill, it’s gone! You’re gonna need to use a new patch the next time you start up your grill.
There’s no actual winner here and there are no wrong answers either, it’s a matter of your own perspective. You can choose whatever works best for you, but from hereafter, I’ll be focusing on gas grills.
Things to Look for in a Gas grill
There are many things to take into consideration when you’re buying your gas grill, some might be more important than the other. We’ll be covering them all today.
Types of Gases Used
Traditionally, there are two types of gases used in gas grills: propane gas, and natural gas. The main difference between them is propane being held in portable tanks, while natural gas grills are connected to your house’s natural gas system, the same one that powers water heaters.
Propane gas tanks are affordable and you can buy one from your nearest grocery store. Not to forget you can take them anywhere with you.
Natural gas would come in handy if you have a natural gas system installed in your house and you’re not planning on moving your grill around that much.
This aspect is very significant if you’re planning to let your sense of adventure lead your way. Whether you’re camping, tailgating, or even boating, it’s not wise to buy a grill that you won’t be able to maneuver.
Also, if for any reason, storing a grill in the backyard isn’t allowed, a portable grill that can be stored indoors would really come in handy.
That makes “knowing your limits” an important factor when you’re buying a new grill. Portable grills can go as light as 10 pounds, reaching up to 60 pounds. You should factor in how much weight you’re willing to pull, push, tailgate, or even carry.
There are two types of portable grills: cart style models and tabletop grills. The first one’s equipped with wheels and usually slightly heavier than the tabletop grills, which as their name suggests, are set on a table.
In the tabletop case, it’s advisable to carefully choose the table’s material too, as for example, not all plastic tables can withstand heat, and grills generate a lot of that. Also wood might get charred if the grill is too close to the table.
Cooking grates are the main point of contact with food, so their material seriously matters. There are several materials fit for making grill grates, most notably, stainless steel and cast iron, so let’s see what they offer.
Stainless steel grates, on one hand, resist warping and chipping. However, they’re more expensive, still, they’re much easier to maintain than cast iron. All you need to clean them is a bristle brush.
Just be aware that they lose their shine over the years. The top-notch grills are the ones using chef-quality commercial-grade 304 stainless steel.
The main drawback is their poor heat-retaining properties. Stainless steel can’t hold the heat enough for an adequate grill, so if you’re cooking with a stainless steel grate, you might need to be a little bit more patient.
Cast iron grills, on the other hand, are the more economical option, extra durable, and nothing beats them when it comes to heat-retaining efficiency. They come in porcelain coated variants which are stick-free, leaving those perfect grill marks on the meat.
The downside here is the burden of maintaining them, as they can rust if they aren’t cleaned thoroughly, which can be very unhealthy. But the good news is, with proper cleaning and maintaining, cast iron grills can last for years to come.
There has also been a new trend of using aluminum in making grates, and although they won’t rust, the main issue here is that they’d discolor over time.
You can choose whatever material you prefer for your own taste, but always remember to check thoroughly for any chips or nicks here and there. Examine the paint job carefully and the used material grade.
At first, it might sound tedious but it’s not that hard and you’ll be saving yourself a lot of fuss later on, better safe than sorry.
First of all, you need to know that BTU stands for “British Thermal Unit” which is the amount of energy you need to heat or cool one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit, and while many people tend to go for the highest BTU ratings, this isn’t exactly the right way to do it.
BTU rating measures the amount of fuel a grill burns, this can tell you more about how powerful a grill can be, but not always. As it’s actually a matter of ratio between the grill BTU output and the surface area it’s applied on.
The best method to rate heating power is through looking for BTU rating per square inch of the grate, where the grate here being the main heating surface of the grill, this way, you measure the actual level of heat reaching the food rather than the heating surface itself.
A grill that delivers 100 BTU per square inch would be more than enough for you to have an excellent experience.
Another way to rate the heating power of a grill is through burner controls. This is a crucial factor to consider when you’re buying a grill.
A grill with poor burner controls will cause some zones to be hotter than others. Inadequate heat distribution results in an unevenly cooked steak, which of course nobody wants.
Check the size of the burners themselves and make sure they’re big enough to cover the entire surface of the grill where cooking occurs. Moreover, see if the grill offers specialized zones for different techniques of cooking such as the super-hot infrared zones for meat searing.
Always opt for a grill with multiple burners, as they make grilling much easier and less time-consuming.
For example, if you need to use just one side for small portions of food, or you want one side of the grill to act as a cooler for different types of foods.
Here’s another question to ask: How much grilling surface space is enough for you?
Are you grilling for a party, a small group, or just a couple of people?
A big enough cooking surface starts from 150 square inches. This would be enough to cook for a large group of people.
A pro tip here is to check for the size of the lids and make sure it’s a good fit over the burners.
This prevents grease from dripping onto the flames which causes scary flare-ups that aren’t safe, especially if there are kids around.
Additional factors you should also keep in mind include:
- Wind resistance: wind can waste a lot of heat so having well-covered burners can save a lot of gas for future use.
- Thermometer: some cooks are very wary about the temperature of the food, so having a built-in thermometer can be a win in those situations, especially for searing.
- Easily removable grates are essential for cleaning your grill because nobody loves a BBQ party that ends at the doctor’s office.
- Side tables for extra space.
- Carrying handles to nuance portability.
- Folding legs to facilitate storage.
Top 4 Portable Gas Grills
Now that we’ve learned all that we need to know before buying a portable gas grill, I’ve shortlisted 4 of our favorite portable gas grills for you to choose from.
Kicking off our list with one of my favorites, the RoadTrip LXE is an excellent choice for tailgating, camping, and picnicking. Thanks to its superior portability and ease of assembly.
To set it up, all you have to do is place the foot on the towing handle and extend the legs from the metal bars and you’re good to go.
Not only is the assembly easy, but also the RoadTrip LXE saves you the effort of starting a fire owing to the InstaStart button that can ignite your grill with one push, without the need to bring matches or lighters.
It’s hooked with two independently adjustable burners that can deliver 10,000 BTUs of grilling power each, powered by 16.4-ounce propane cylinders. That will cook your food evenly in no time.
The grill is equipped with two cast iron porcelain-coated grates, which are 285 square inches wide. The massive space allows cooking for the whole family as easy as it can be, taking into consideration how big the grill surface is and how much heat is delivered to it.
The swap top interchangeable cooktops allow for switching between the normal grill grates and stove grates or even a griddle.
The best part about the RoadTrip LXE is that it didn’t forget about the road trip part, with its collapsible stands, wheel folds, and low lid, it can fit in most car trunks.
- Delivers 20,000 BTUs on the surface
- Compact design for easy transportation and storage
- Very easy to set up and user-friendly
- Doesn’t need matches or lighters with the instastart button
- Some people complained about the deterioration of the paint
- The handles are a bit weak
Next up we have Weber’s liquid propane grill, a very impressive grill that’s equipped with lots of features.
Burners are made with highly durable stainless steel, which resists rusting and corrosion, giving you a long-term value for your hard-earned money.
Its porcelain-enameled cast-iron grates will ensure maximum heat distribution for an ultimately efficient grilling. As for reliability, the aluminum lid has got you covered.
It also allows for different types of grates to be installed on the grill, as you can easily replace the cooking grate with a compatible griddle, making it one of the most versatile grills you can find in the market.
This extra portable and lightweight grill offers 189 square inches of cooking surface and can deliver 8500 BTUs per hour. It comes fully assembled and ready to use out of the box, with a push of a button away from igniting.
- Highly durable
- Excellent burner controls
- Compact and lightweight
- Allows for griddle/grates separate cooking on split grates
- Comes with a push-button ignition
- Poor heat production with low BTUs delivered
- Some people complained about the regulator of the grills being not powerful enough
If you’re looking for a small grill that can be stored and transported anywhere, yet sturdy and reliable to grill food evenly compared to bigger and bulkier models, then you’ll be pleased to hear about Cuisinart CGG-180T.
You can start it easily with no matches or lighters due to the quick start ignition, so you also wouldn’t have to worry about wind and cold locations.
Being small and compact isn’t only good for storing in limited spaces like patios and small decks, it also makes all the heat produced packed on the stainless steel grill, deeming it one of the most energy-efficient grills you can find.
- Stainless steel 5,500 BTU burner that allows for even cooking
- Cooks 8 burgers, 8 steaks, 10 chicken breasts, or 4 pounds of fish
- Small but effective 145 square inches cooking surface that gets the job done
- Super lightweight in a briefcase design for easy carrying, and folding legs for easy setting
- Low fuel consumption
- Poor handle durability
The smoke hollow 205 is another popular choice among tailgaters, campers, and RV owners who are looking for a robust and reliable grill, its stainless steel build gives it extra durability and long-lasting service while staying lightweight and easy to use so you can get it up and running in minutes.
The grills cooking surface is another huge plus, bearing a 105 square inches chrome-plated warming rack rounding the total grilling surface area to a grand 205 square inches, an ideal choice for a family cookout or a large group picnic.
You’ll also be very pleased to hear that it comes with a drip tray that has a locking lid which allows you to focus more on cooking and worry less about the mess.
This grill can deliver up to 10,000 BTU on a 1 pound propane cylinder that is sold separately.
- Includes foldable legs and front carry handle for high portability
- Stainless steel body for durability
- Operates on a disposable one-pound propane cylinder
- Mess-free with minimal flare-ups
- Poor heat control as one side is always hotter than the other
- The included Piezo igniter fails over time but can be replaced fairly easily
When I think of a portable grill, I always want a grill that can do it all, and that’s something that Coleman RoadTrip LXE offers. It just takes grilling standards all the way to the top. From high portability and extreme durability, all the way to powerful burners, compact size, and easy-to-set-up design, which hits all the grilling sweet spots. That’s why I would pick it as a winner in my book.
However, if you’re tight on cash, the Smoke Hollow 205 can be the bargain of your dreams, as it offers a featherweight high durable mess-free alternative for a highly budget-friendly price.