There’s something about grilled food that makes it irresistible to tons of people. You know what I’m talking about; the extra savoriness of meat and the amplified sweetness of veggies, everything is just better when grilled!
Unfortunately, not everyone is blessed with a spacious backyard to fit a jumbo-sized grill nor have the strength, means, and time to up and carry a 100-pounds grill in case they’re going camping or attending a beach party.
The solution? A tabletop grill of course! These grills are built to be compact as well as portable, and today, I’ll be helping you find the best tabletop grill you can get your hands on! So let’s not waste any time and get down to business!
Charcoal Grills Vs Gas Grills
The first thing we need to get out of the way is your choice of grill type. According to their fuel source, tabletop grills are generally categorized into 3 main types: Charcoal grills, Gas grills, and Electric grills.
Electric grills aren’t very efficient, they’re the least powerful and require constant access to power outlets, so they’re not very convenient either especially for the outdoors lovers.
This leaves us with the two most commonly used types, charcoal and gas grills. In order to help you make a choice between the two, I’m going to be comparing their advantages and disadvantages in multiple aspects of the overall grilling experience.
Firing up charcoal grills take quite some time. Typically, it’d be about 10 to 15 minutes before it reaches the desired grilling temperature so you can start using it. This can be rather inconvenient for people who aren’t too fond of waiting.
On the other hand, gas grills light up almost immediately and can be ready for action within a couple of minutes. Granted, some models take more time than others, particularly ones with delayed heating up, but that’s rarely seen in gas grills.
Once you begin your cooking session, the need for controlling the temperature emerges as you apply different techniques such as searing, roasting, or warming up.
In this aspect, propane gas grills significantly out-do charcoal ones because they feature knobs that you simply turn up and down to change the flame strength as you please.
However, with charcoal that’s not possible. Instead, air vents are used to regulate how much oxygen is fed into the fire. The more oxygen, the stronger the fire, and consequently, the higher the temperature. Depriving the fire of oxygen will have opposite results. Such manipulation is tricky to master and required quite a few trials.
Moreover, since we’re on the topic of temperature, you should know that charcoal grills can reach up to 1400 °F, whereas propane grills can only as far as 550 °F. This should be enough for any type of meat, but with charcoal, you get to experiment with more recipes and grilling styles.
The winner here is pretty obvious, charcoal gives food a distinct taste matched by no other. That traditional, smokey, zesty taste of meat is the reason tons of people turn to charcoal grills despite their downs, the flavor is just worth it. Additionally, charcoal can come from numerous wood origins, each with a unique aftertaste.
Gas grills, on the opposite side, offer no such thing. Although some people try to achieve a similar taste by adding a few wood chips into the fire, it just doesn’t live up to the charcoal game in my opinion.
Propane gas burns cleaner compared to charcoal, this means it produces less harmful emissions and leaves no residue behind, so your cleaning task is a bit easier.
Charcoal, however, doesn’t burn as clean, it gives off carbon monoxide and crumbles down into ash. This leaves with an extra cleaning step which is ash disposal.
Factors To Consider When You’re Buying A Tabletop Grill
If you’re on the hunt for the best tabletop grill, you can’t just blindly choose any grill and expect it to satisfy your cooking needs. Instead, you should carefully look at the following criteria and match them to suit your preferences.
The durability of a tabletop grill is often compromised by the frequent exposure to wear and tear, particularly if you’re always taking it outside.
Manufacturers are highly aware of that, so you’ll find most grills to be made of either stainless steel or cast iron.
Stainless is steel is light but very sturdy and reliable. It offers a simpler approach to grilling and requires no special storage conditions as it’s very resistant to rust. Cleaning stainless steel grates is definitely an easier job, but the heat retention capability is inferior to cast iron.
That being said, many people lean towards cast iron grills for their added special taste after being well seasoned. However, the process is time-consuming and they do demand to be stored in a dry environment.
One of the most appealing qualities of a tabletop grill is the possibility of tagging along on your outdoor adventures. Multiple features of a grill contribute to its portability, here are 3 crucial ones:
It makes sense for the weight of the grill to factor in its portability, after all, it determines how much effort it’ll take you to actually carry and transport your grill.
You want it to be light enough as to not be a burden, yet heavy enough to support and stabilize itself. Pay attention to the specs on your product and make sure the mentioned weight suits your needs.
Right after the grill’s weight, comes its handles. They play a major role in facilitating carrying and transporting your grill. Sturdy high-quality handles should provide you with a comfortable tight grip, materials such as steel are perfect for the job.
Unfortunately, they can get rather too hot to touch, so you’ll either wait for them to cool down or use some safety heat-resistant gloves.
Ideally, you want two side handles as well as a handle on the lid.
A lockable lid is a true blessing when it comes to a grill’s portability. It keeps all the components of the grill tucked away during transportation, and also prevents any residue from flying around until you get a chance to clean it out.
You can rate a grill’s power by the number of BTUs produced by its burner. BTUs express the heat output of a grill, which is basically how hot it can become. If you intend to do some searing and roasting, then you should definitely look into BTUs.
Generally, tabletop grill burners offer a minimum of 5,000 BTUs and a maximum of 10,000 BTUs. To cheat the system, some grills are equipped with several burners to increase the total BTU output. This also helps creates zones of varying temperatures for different types of cooking.
Cooking Surface Area
Ask yourself this: how many people am I going to cook for? The answer should give you an idea of how large a cooking area you’re looking for.
Tabletop grills usually max out at about 280 square inches of primary grilling area, which should be enough to serve 6-8 people. So, if you’re planning to host more friends, you’ll probably need to run a couple of turns.
I personally think foldable legs are indispensable for tabletop grills. They offer the advantage of extra compactness for easier storage or if you want to pack it during the off-season.
Even if you’re not short on space, foldable or retractable legs provide sufficient distance between the hot grill and whatever surface you place it on.
Best 5 Tabletop Grills
Kicking off the list with a crowd-pleaser, the Cuisinart CGG-306 Professional Tabletop Gas Grill has landed thousands of positive reviews thanks to its powerful and reliable performance.
Setting up this stainless steel beauty is rather easy as it requires no special tool, you can be all done in less than 10 minutes. At 22 pounds, this lightweight grill is equally effortless to transport, with folding legs, a big carrying hand, as well as a lockable cover for added convenience.
The Cuisinart is as powerful as it is portable, you can tell by the double burners delivering 10,000 BTUs each with the option of simultaneous ignition for a whopping 20,000 heat output.
Controlling such power is rather simple thanks to the individual control knobs, an integrated gauge thermometer, as well as a twist-start electronic ignition to ditch the matches.
The cooking surface is 275 square inches running on a 20-pound tank of propane. The price tag may be the only real issue for users on a budget.
- Dual burners
- Large cooking area
- Easy to carry
- Electronic ignition
- The grease pan can be larger
- The hose can be longer
Following up with Coleman’s Fold N Go Instastart Grill, this one is an awesome choice for those who want a grill for occasional cravings or to cook for only a couple of people.
Weighing around 10 pounds, this grill is hands down one of the most portable ones on the list, with transport made even easier thanks to the built-in handle.
The Coleman provides 6,000 BTUs of power, which is enough to handle all sorts of meat, but of course, limiting when it comes to certain grilling techniques such as searing. The InstaStart button offers immediate firing up, using no matches or lighters.
The cooking capacity on this grill is rather modest, where 105 square inches provide a grilling area to serve around 2 or 3 people at a time, with a horseshoe shape that allows for even cooking. Cleaning the Coleman is a breeze, you can just throw the removable grates and grease tray in the washing machine and call it a day!
- Horseshoe design distributes heat evenly
- Very lightweight
- Dishwasher-friendly grates and grease tray
- Ideal for a small family
- The cooking area may be too small
- Not very powerful
For stainless steel lovers, the Smoke Hollow 205 Tabletop Gas Grill should be right up your alley. The sleek design, as well as solid build, are just the tip of the iceberg of features offered by this grill.
One thing I particularly like about the Smoke Hollow is the 105 square inches warming rack sitting above the primary grilling area of 205 square inches. This allows you to cook 5 or 6 burgers all the while keeping your already done hot dogs and buns nice and warm.
The push-button ignition means firing up in no time, so you won’t have to wait around on an empty stomach. The stainless steel burner produces 10,000 BTUs and is U-shaped for even distribution of heat. The gauge thermometer also helps you to accurately monitor the temperature.
As for portability, the Smoke Hollow 205 includes foldable legs, a locking hood, and weighs just under 21 pounds for easy storage and transport. Moreover, there’s a drip tray to collect grease, making cleaning the grill that much easier.
- Handy warming rack
- Spacious grilling space
- Push-button ignition
- Easy to clean
- U-shaped burner
- No side handles
- Grease tray maybe a bit small
You didn’t think I was going to pass this list without a charcoal appearance, did you? The Weber Go-Anywhere is one of my, as well as many other people’s favorites when it comes to charcoal tabletop grills.
With a primary cooking space of 160 square inches, this grill can hold up to six burgers or a couple of medium-sized steaks, which is big enough to accommodate your party guests.
The grate is made of durable plated steel which does quite a good job retaining its heat. This is further extended by the porcelain-enameled lid and base, which are also rust-resistant.
Portability is also impressive on the Weber Go-Anywhere, thanks to the smart design of the slim folding legs which also act as a lock for the lid, transforming the grill into a compact size similar to that of a briefcase. Did I mention it weighs only 14.1 pounds?
Adding the affordable price to the equation, and we got ourselves quite the catch.
- Great value
- Smart lid lock
- Stable legs
- Porcelain-enameled base and lid
- The vents need some trials to master
- Needs ash pan
- Lid handle gets too hot
Last but definitely not least, the Pit Boss Grills Stainless Steel Grill combines solid construction with a simple attractive look.
The body and lid are made of 430 stainless steel, while the grid is 304 stainless steel, both providing a visually appealing sight. But don’t let the sturdy construction fool you, this grill weighs just 23 pounds when assembled.
Not only is it practically effortless to carry, but its portability is enhanced with folding legs and a latching hood that closes firmly to offer secure and compact storage.
You’ll find this grill to be quite powerful, with two burners delivering 10,000 BTUs separately. Each burner has independent controls, giving you complete freedom when adjusting the grilling temperature over the spacious cooking area of 276 square inches.
The Pit Boss Grills Stainless Steel Grill demonstrates rapid heating up and includes a built-in dome thermometer so you can check for precise measurements at any time.
- Full stainless steel construction
- Comes with two burners
- Integrated dome thermometer
- Large grilling area
- A bit wobbly
- Edges are too sharp
In my opinion, a tabletop grill is all about portability. This is exactly what the Weber 121020 Go-Anywhere Charcoal Grill offers, with a smart locking system, a durable build, and a yummy smokey taste, it definitely takes this one home.
However, if you’re leaning towards a propane gas grill, you should seriously consider the Cuisinart CGG-306 Professional Tabletop Gas Grill.