If I ask you to picture the perfect tailgate party, there’s no way a nice juicy freshly grilled burger won’t pop up in your head! If you’re looking to host a sizzling BBQ party or planning on firing it up at the back of the stadium for the big game, then you’re definitely in need of a top-notch tailgate grill to serve your love for cooking on flames.
Between all the different features and specs, it can get quite confusing to make a choice, however, this is exactly where I come in with a detailed buying guide and a list of the 5 best tailgate grills. So without further ado, let’s jump in!
What Type Of Fuel Should I Go For?
First things first, you need to pick the fuel that’s going to fire up your tailgate grill. Perhaps you didn’t give it much thought, or you could be strongly leaning towards a certain fuel, but in any case, here’s what you should know to make up your mind:
Basically, there are 3 fuel types to choose from: charcoal, gas, and electricity. Since we’re talking about grills for tailgating, we can safely take electric grills out of the equation, leaving us with gas and charcoal grills. Each one has its strong and weak points, so the choice depends on what sounds better to you.
Let’s start with charcoal, the oldest fuel used in grilling. Charcoal holds a special place in the hearts of many grill enthusiasts thanks to the smoky signature taste it adds to food, especially meat. Unfortunately, that’s all you’re going to get from charcoal because the rest isn’t so nice.
Charcoal produces carbon monoxide which isn’t eco-friendly nor does it smell good. It also takes so much longer than propane to light up and the temperature control is a huge pain. You’ll have to either deprive the fire of oxygen or feed it more if you wish to change the temperature which isn’t precise and could end up ruining your meal. Not to mention, you’ll have to wait for about 10 to 15 minutes for the change to kick in.
With charcoal, the cleaning process can be tedious. First, you got ash and residue to scrape off, then you need to be extra careful when you’re dumping out the used still hot charcoal because it’s a fire hazard. This also applies to when you’re packing your grill to head home after the event.
As for gas, the go-to is mostly propane gas. Lots of people prefer propane over charcoal, nowadays, given the fact that propane burns cleaner so it leaves nothing behind to scrape. It’s also colorless and odorless, which means you’ll only smell the aroma of your food. This does, however, take away the smoky deliciousness you’d typically get from charcoal.
However, controlling the temperature when you’re using propane is super easy and accurate because of the dial mechanism which requires you to simply turn it up and down for the temperature to change. Propane also lights instantly and heats up pretty quick, so you can get down to grilling in no time.
Although packing and cleaning up after using propane requires almost no effort, you’ll have to pay the utmost attention to the possibility of gas leakage to avoid any accidents.
Remember, you can choose the fuel appealing the most to your grilling senses as long as you stay safe and responsible.
What Makes A Good Tailgate Grill?
A random choice isn’t going to land you the best tailgate grill, but considering the following features surely would help you with that.
Compactness And Portability
The portability of your grill should top the list of your priorities when you’re planning to use it for tailgating.
You want a grill that’s lightweight so you can easily transport and move it around. A too heavy grill will burden you with weight, causing you to struggle whenever you need to carry it out of your truck, maybe even injuring you in the process.
A compact grill would be quicker and simpler to set up, while also being much more convenient as you’ll be saving precious space on your ride for passengers, supplies, as well as other tools.
A tailgate party is all about gatherings, the motto here being: the more the merrier!
Between all your family members and friends, chances are you’ll have lots of mouths to feed. This is why your tailgate grill should have your back with a large enough cooking capacity to accommodate for all the food you’ll be grilling.
Of course, you may be thinking this doesn’t make sense with how much I just emphasized compactness, but actually, there’s no contradiction here.
While it’s true that a larger cooking capacity means a bigger sized grill, but this doesn’t mean a smaller model would have less cooking capacity.
Numerous grills are designed to offer maximum cooking capacity while preserving a compact build, so you can definitely serve quite a lot of people while saving on space.
Cooking capacity is still worth considering even if you’re planning on feeding just a couple of friends, you want to be prepared for any other encounters with people who may end up being new ones!
If you’re into grilling, you don’t need me to tell you how controlling the temperature on your grill is crucial to cooking, particularly when it comes to meat.
If the temperature is below required, you can end up with partially uncooked meat which may cause food poisoning. At the same time, if it’s too high, you’ll have some nasty burnt meat to deal with.
For those going with propane gas models, you need to check for the dials on your grill. Make sure they offer multiple options and settings, as well as being smooth to turn and conveniently placed.
If your heart is set on a charcoal grill, you won’t find any dials, but you’ll see vents that regulate airflow and, in turn, affect the rate plus the temperature at which charcoal burns.
Since we’re talking tailgate grills, you should know that they are generally more likely to undergo wear and tear considering the frequent outdoor usage.
For this reason, the materials used in building your grill should be of high-quality to withstand one cooking season after the other. You want it to be either, cast iron, stainless steel, or enamel porcelain.
Also, your grill should resist rust as well as acquiring dents too soon during its career. Such damage can contaminate your food or compromise the grill’s performance.
Many additional features can greatly alter your cooking experience, for example, assembly.
Assembling your grill should be quick with minimal effort needed, and so, look for a model that offers a simple set up requiring a limited number of tools.
The foundation of a tailgate grill should be rock solid to provide maximum stability on any surface, from grass all the way to concrete. A wobbly base isn’t only annoying to work with, but it can also cause scorching or fires.
Safety features are very important as well. For instance, a grill with a body that stays cool will prevent any injuries in case someone accidentally touches or brushes against the grill while it’s hot.
Top 5 Tailgate Grills
There’s no way better to kick off this list than with a Weber grill. The folks at Weber have been bringing us premium-quality grills for years now, and their Go-Anywhere Charcoal Grill is no exception.
The porcelain-enameled body and lid guarantee high durability with resistance to rusting and peeling while efficiently retaining heat like no other, whether you want to grill up a stake fast or slow cook some ribs.
At just 14 pounds, this compact lightweight grill is super easy to handle. The lid locks tightly around the body transforming into a briefcase that you can carry around without a hassle.
Despite the small build, it delivers quite the cooking capacity with an area of 160 square inches, holding up to 6 burgers at once or 4 mid-sized steaks over the plated steel heat-restraining grates.
The Go-Anywhere comes with very simple assembly requirements, just screw in the handle to the lid, and you’re good to go. It’s also equipped with rounded sturdy aluminum feet which provide extra height and support, so you can place it on any surface without worrying about starting a fire.
For charcoal lovers, the Weber 121020 Go-Anywhere is an excellent choice at a pretty sweet price.
- Very portable and compact
- Multiple vents for temperature control
- High retention of heat
- Tuck-N-Carry Lid Lock
- Cools down quickly
- Doesn’t waste charcoal
- The lid handle can get too hot
- Lacks ash pan, you have to scoop the ash out from the grill bottom
- Vents can be tricky to use
If you’re looking for a simple but powerful gas grill, the Smoke Hollow 205 Stainless Steel Propane Gas Grill may be just the one for you.
This sturdy stainless steel grill was built with portability in mind, it’s compact and can be packed away trouble-free, making it perfect for tailgating. The legs fold securely into the grill while both the warming tray and cooking grate fit snugly into the body, allowing for a ride without clanging and banging.
A special feature offered by the Smoke Hollow is the warming rack located above the sizable 205 square inches primary cooking area. This lets you keep your burgers and hotdogs nice and warm on chilly days.
The stainless steel construction makes cleaning rather effortless, and the removable drip pan lets you dispose of grease without any mess. This grill heats up fast and does a decent job retaining it, even with an open lid.
The lid comes equipped with a catch mechanism that helps it remain open in windy weather. You can relax without worrying if it’ll crash down. The U-shaped burner delivers 10,000 BTUs and runs on disposable one-pound propane cylinders.
- Handy warming rack
- Effortless cleaning
- Nice temperature control
- Heats up quickly
- Large cooking capacity
- Locking hood
- Heat retention can be improved
- Lacks side handles
- Grease pan can be too small
Next up, one for folks looking for a highly portable grill, the Coleman Fold N Go Grill should be right up your alley. The unique sleek folding design makes it a perfect companion for tailgating, and the built-in handle allows for easy carrying and extra portability.
The Coleman comes with a spacious 105 square inches cooking area that’s big enough to serve 5 to 6 people. Thanks to the instastart push-button, lighting up this grill takes no time with its 6,000 BTUs burner utilizing the PerfectFlow technology to keep the heat steady.
The horseshoe shape allows for a more even and consistent grilling, while the adjustable settings provide precise temperature control. The Coleman grill lasts up to 3 hours on high, running on one 16.4-oz propane cylinder.
The removable grease tray and porcelain-coated stamped-steel grate won’t give you a hard time cleaning up, you can even wash them safely in the dishwasher.
- Very compact
- Built-in handle
- Horseshoe shape for even cooking
- Easy cleaning
- Perfect for light use
- Heats up fast
- Quality can be better
- Doesn’t serve many people
- Lighter not reliable
- Lid closure not very tight
Combining dependability with power, the Pit Boss Grills Stainless Steel Grill is one of the most durable yet portable grills your money can buy.
The lid is constructed with 430 stainless steel and the grid with 304 stainless steel, making for a visually attractive look as well as a solid build. It’s also lightweight, at 23 pounds, featuring folding legs, a latching hood, and a carrying handle for maximum portability and security during transport.
The Pit Boss Grills Stainless Steel Portable Grill boasts a two-burner design, each one is adjusted independently and delivers 10,000 BTUs. This ensures you have total control of the grilling temperature.
The cooking surface is a hefty 276 square inches, large enough to serve all your tailgating buddies. This grill runs on a disposable 1-pound cylinder, providing power and fast heating up. The built-in dome thermometer is fitted to them and lets you accurately monitor the temperature.
All in all, this grill is a good choice, but the price tag may be too much for some users.
- Stainless steel construction
- Two burners, 10,000 BTUs each
- Features folding legs
- Spacious 276 square inches cooking area
- Can be a bit unstable
- Legs may be too sharp for some tables
- Hard to clean
Ending this list on a high note, the Cuisinart CGG-306 Professional Gas Grill is, no doubt, one of the most positively rated grills on the market, and rightfully so.
Right off the bat, this grill is equipped with two stainless steel burners, providing a total of a mighty 20,000 BTUs. This system is individually controlled, with dedicated control knobs for each burner. It comes with electronic ignition and allows for simultaneous firing up.
The Cuisinart requires no assembly, and you can set it for action in less than 10 minutes. This is good news especially for the not-so-handy tailgaters as there’s no need for tools or matches.
This grill sports a strong stainless steel construction and weighs only 22 pounds. Adding in the locking cover, folding legs, as well as an ergonomic carrying hands, we got ourselves one portable and easy to carry powerhouse.
The 275 square inch cooking surface provides lots of space for all your grilling needs, with a satisfying performance thanks to its ideal heat control. The integrated thermometer plus the adjustable burner knobs give you a wide range of heat settings to use for warming, baking, roasting, or searing.
The Cuisinart CGG-306 Professional Tabletop Gas Grill is a safe bet for any tailgater. It’s more on the expensive side, but lots of users deem it as worthy of every penny.
- Two powerful burners
- Lots of cooking space
- Fast assembly
- Has a locking cover
- Durable construction
- Helpful customer service
- Grease pan can be bigger
- The hose is too short for some users
- May run too hot
When it comes to tailgating, I want a powerful grill that gives me as much control as possible over the temperature, all the while being a breeze to pack and clean. This is why the Cuisinart CGG-306 Professional Tabletop Gas Grill takes it home! It has a durable stainless steel build, two impressive burners, as well as knobs for adjusting the heat. The versatility and portability offered by the Cuisinart have definitely won me over.
However, if you’re looking for a grill that doesn’t make a dent in your wallet but still provides decent performance, then you should seriously consider the Coleman Fold N Go Instastart Grill.