The Best Portable Grill For Tailgating

The great American tailgating experience is still alive and well! Family and friends enrich their ties to fandom in limited parking lot spaces and sidewalk stalls across the country.

Though this is definitely the kind of thing where the right equipment will make all the difference between enjoying a tasty grilled meal, or dragging yourself into the stadium early to buy an over-priced hamburger.

Of course, not all tailgating grills are created equal. This is definitely a niche where some grill manufacturers have been known to cut a few corners.

If you want to truly get your money’s worth and you don’t want to get stuck eating some last-minute stadium fare, then you are probably wondering what the best grill is for tailgating?

Right off the bat the Coleman RoadTrip 285 and the Weber Q-1200 are a good place to start. Both feature impressive build quality as well as thoughtful engineering that makes them very easy to set up as well as take down. Though these aren’t the only great tailgating grills on the market today.

If we’re going to find the best tailgating grill for you, we are going to have to roll up our sleeves and take a closer look at this surprisingly wide field. 

The 10 Best Portable Tailgating Grills You Can Buy

You might be surprised by how many high-quality portable tailgating grills there are on the market today. Grill manufacturers are keen to offer models to fit just about any interest.

So, we did our best to consider some of the most popular niches in the portable grill niche, while also factoring in popular tailgating traditions.

Here are the 10 best Tailgate Grills for for your tailgate party in the beach, park, or campsite.

1. Best Overall Tailgating Grill: Coleman RoadTrip 285 Portable Stand-Up Propane Grill

Coleman made their name producing high-quality propane products, lanterns, and camp stoves.

So, it’s no small surprise that they would proudly show up in the portable gas grill niche with the Coleman RoadTrip 285 Portable Stand-Up Propane Grill.

This propane tailgate grill is designed to be incredibly portable, as well as compact. I really like that you don’t have to put in a lot of work lugging it from Point A to Point B thanks to it’s heavy-duty, yet lightweight collapsible, wheeled frame.

Inside the shallow firebox, you’ll find three independently controlled propane burners. This lets you create dual heat zones.

I like that you could say use the right side of the grill to sear off burgers or bratwursts, and then move them over to the left side, which you can set on low heat to effectively mimic a warming zone.

As the name implies the Coleman 285 gives you 285 square inches of grill grate space. This is more than enough space to grill 4 to 6 hamburger patties or a staggering number of hot dogs.

I also really like the special porcelain coating. Not only is it nonstick, but it also protects the underlying metal from rust and corrosion.

If there's a nit I would pick with this grill it's the shallow lid. There's not enough space under the lid to cook a large bone-in chicken breast without worrying about it sticking to the underside of the lid.

Still, this isn't a big deal if you are the kind of person who just wants to grill up burgers and brats before the big game.

What We Liked

  • The collapsible stand with easy to use wheels is lightweight and convenient when you’re on the go, yet it’s also sturdy when you set it up.
  • The ability to create dual heat zones with three independent controls is really nice for making bone-in pieces of meat or when you need to grill two different types of food.

What We Didn’t Like

  • The lid is too shallow to really grill a thick piece of meat like a bone-in chicken breast.
  • There isn’t much in the way of a grease management system, so you can sometimes get a big flare up when grilling a bunch of fatty burger patties.

2. Best Propane Grill For Tailgating: The Coleman Party Propane Grill

Right off the bat, the Coleman Party gas grill was designed to appeal to campers, hikers, and other people who need to cook in the great outdoors yet need a grill that's just as lightweight as it is compact.

With that in mind, the grill grates are just big enough to quickly grill up two hamburger patties.

Though there are certainly some other features infused in this portable propane grill that quietly impress me.

Something that might go unnoticed with the Coleman Party Propane Grill is the pairing of the Perfect Flow technology with the 8,000 BTU burner. 

This helps in several ways. For starters, it makes it much harder for the wind to blow it out, which is a chronic problem with a lot of small propane grills.

It also makes the flame burn more efficiently for superior oxidation of the hydrocarbons in the propane.

Thus you get a cleaner flavor in your meat, which isn’t something you can always say about small propane grills like this.

The Coleman Party Propane Grill comes set up to run on a 1-pound propane cylinder like a DOT 39. This is great for times when you need to pack light, but it isn’t set up to convert to a hose connected to a larger propane tank.

So, if you are looking at a longer grilling session, you might want to make sure to always pack a backup 1-pound propane cylinder with you.

What We Liked

The Perfect Flow engineering makes for a cleaner burning flame, as well as less chance of the flame getting blown out on a windy day.

The 8,000 BTU propane burner is hot enough and there are enough square inches on the grill grate to make two hamburger patties at the same time.

What We Didn’t Like

There’s no real lid to help hold in the heat when you want to cook something on a low flame.

You can only run it on a 1-pound propane cylinder with no current adapter to connect it to a larger propane tank.

The Verdict

If you are just cooking for you and another person, and space in the trunk is at a premium, the Coleman Party Propane Grill is a great option. It can also pull double duty as a camping or hiking grill for times when you want to cook a quick meal in the great outdoors.

3. Best Infrared Grill For Tailgating: Char-Broil Grill2Go X200 Portable TRU-Infrared Liquid Propane Gas Grill

Char-Broil is one of the more commanding names in the gas and infrared grill niche with options at every size and type.

The Char-Broil Grill2Go X200 Portable gas grill is part of their well-respected TRU-Infrared line, which does a great job of evenly distributing the heat across a surface area that would otherwise be prone to flareups. 

This special type of grilling technology works by heating a special infrared element with a hot propane flame.

The radiant energy then spreads out to evenly cook the food. It also helps meat and vegetables to retain more of their natural juices as infrared energy doesn’t penetrate the innate moisture barrier the way an open flame does.

I also really like the heavy-duty exterior shell of the Char-Broil Grill2Go X200 Portable TRU-Infrared.

Not only does it protect the sensitive inner workings of the grill, but it’s also stout enough to handle having other things packed on top of it in the trunk of the car or back of an SUV.

It also has a little bit of an insulative quality, so if you need to quickly pack this grill up to rush off the to game, there is less risk of it melting something next to it.

What We Liked

The Tru-Infrared helps spread the heat out evenly across the grill grates.

The heavy-duty case protects the grill and makes for easy packing.

What We Didn’t Like

The grill overall is small and limited to about four third-pound hamburger patties.

The stainless steel of the grill grates can be a little sticky and prone to scuffing over time. It’s best to only scrape it down with a stiff-bristled nylon grill brush.

4. Best Charcoal Grill For Tailgating: Weber Jumbo Joe Charcoal Grill 18 Inch Black

Weber is another one of the more commanding names in the grill industry.

They made their name by producing high-quality kettle grills for decades, and they continue to do so with the simple, yet durable design of the Jumbo Joe 18-inch charcoal kettle grill.

In a lot of ways, this is the little brother to their widely popular and arguably iconic 21-inch kettle grill.

It has all the same material cues with the thick gauge steel and porcelain enamel coating for superior exterior rust resistance.

It even has the same aluminum dampers to let you carefully dial in the airflow and heat control. 

While it might not sound like the most exciting feature in the world, I really like the handle and lid assembly.

The handle itself is made from glass-reinforced nylon which makes it both confidently firm and lightweight as well as heat resistant. 

You can trust that this handle won’t burn you when you grab it. At the same time, there is also a “Tuck & Carry” lid lock, which holds the lid on secure during transport, then swivels completely out of the way when you set up the grill.

Inside you’ll find Weber’s signature chrome-plated grill grates. At 18-inches in diameter, they provide just over 254 square inches of grilling space.

This is more than enough to grill for five hungry guys in the parking lot before the big game.

Though the chrome-plated grates are prone to scuffing and eventually corrosion. This is a problem with a lot of Weber’s grills and their hallmark shiny grill grates.

The best way to prevent this from becoming a problem is to scrape the grates down with a stiff-bristled nylon grill brush. This won’t scuff the chrome plating the way that steel wool or a wire grill brush will.

What We Liked

Overall build quality is on par with the rest of the Weber line, yet it still has a very friendly price tag.

The 18-inch diameter grates are large enough to grill for four or even six people at one time, yet the grill is nice and compact.

The nylon reinforced handle and the locking lid bracket gives you the confidence to stow your tools under the lid while you travel from Point A to Point B.

What We Didn’t Like

The chrome-plated grill grates are prone to scuffing and corrosion if you don’t scrape them down with a stiff nylon grill brush instead of a wire brush or steel wool.

There’s no sort of formal grease management system, which can make cleanup messy.

The dampers don’t seal 100% solid which means it takes a while to fully suffocate the fire if you need to put the grill away quickly.

5. The Best Budget Grill For Tailgating: Megamaster 820-0065C Propane Gas Grill

Megamaster is a somewhat smaller grill manufacturer, who manages to infuse quality materials and engineering principles into grills with a friendly price tag.

You see this concept really shining through with the Megamaster 820-0065C Propane Gas Grill with its heavy-duty construction and porcelain-coated grill grates.

This portable gas grill is compact, and easy to carry with you from Point A to Point B. I also like that it has a firmly locking clasp to make sure the lid doesn’t pop open on you.

It makes it easy to store all your grilling tools with you.

Inside the firebox is a single stainless steel propane burner element that is rated to produce up to 11,000 BTUs of heat per hour.

It’s connected to a Piezo igniter system that fires up the gas consistently.

When it comes to the primary grates, I’m very impressed by the non-stick porcelain coating, which helps release food easily, while also making for easy cleanup.

This is somewhat rare in portable tailgating grills, especially budget models like the Megamaster 820-0065C Propane Gas Grill.

If there’s a complaint with this portable tailgating grill it’s the warming rack.

Not only is it not coated with nonstick porcelain, but it’s also flimsy and has a knack for getting in the way.

It’s the sort of thing you might just want to uninstall from day one.

What We Liked

The locking lid might not seem all that special, but if you’ve ever spilled a bunch of grilling tools in a stadium parking lot before, you’ll appreciate that it’s there with the Megamaster 820-0065C Propane Gas Grill.

The porcelain-coated grill grates are nonstick and rare in this price range.

The 11,000 BTU per hour stainless steel propane element is efficient and consistently fires up with Piezo igniter.

What We Didn’t Like

The warming rack is flimsy and gets in the way.

It comes set up to run on a one-pound propane cylinder without an available adapter to run off a hose connected to a larger propane tank.

The Verdict

With its superior build quality, porcelain coated grill grates, and latching lid, paired with a friendly price point, the Megamaster 820-0065C Propane Gas Grill is the best budget portable tailgating grill on the market today.

6. Best Electric Grill For Tailgating: The George ForemanIndoor/Outdoor Electric Grill

George Foreman grills broke into the industry with their famous table top electric grill. They have since grown their line to include innovative indoor grilling appliances like the George Foreman 15-Serving GFO240S.

Not only does it look sleek on your countertop, but it also lets you do things like tableside grilling when hosting a dinner party!

As an electric grill, you are going to have to think a little bit in advance when you take it tailgating.

Fortunately, the advent of the “Green” movement has made electricity increasingly available at a lot of venues.

Many stadiums have a designated tailgating area, where you can reserve a spot in advance for a small fee. Some even have spots with a power post available.

It’s worth noting that the George Foreman 15-Serving GFO240S comes with a removable stand. It does take a few minutes to set up, but it lets you replicate the feel of a traditional grill.

Though you don’t need to assemble the stand to use this portable electric tailgating grill safely. The bottom of the GFO2405 is insulated enough that you can use it as a tabletop grill, or set it up on the tailgate of your truck without worrying about it melting the plastic box liner.

The grill grates inside the George Foreman 15-Serving GFO240S measures in at a robust 240 square inches, which is just enough room to grill five or six standard hamburger patties at a time.

It is gradually sloped to help rendered fat gradually flow away to a modest collection pan.

The grill grates have a nonstick coating on them, but they aren’t heavy-duty porcelain like you might find on a traditional gas or charcoal grill.

If you are too aggressive when scraping them down you could damage the nonstick coating, which will make the underlying metal very sticky.

To prevent this from happening you should never use metal tools for flipping meat or cleaning the grates on the George Foreman 15-Serving GFO240S.

If you love the convenience of electric grilling, and your favorite tailgating spot has electricity service available, you can confidently move the George Foreman 15-Serving GFO240S up your list.

Not only is it thoughtfully engineered, but it also helps you produce lean meals that are sure to please, making the George Foreman GFO240S the best portable electric grill for tailgating.

What We Liked

The insulated base lets you use it as a tabletop grill or as a traditional grill with a stand.

The 240 square inch grill grates are large enough to grill for four or five hungry people at a time.

The grill grates are sloped slightly to let rendered fat and grease run off to a collection tray, which makes for leaner, healthy food.

What We Didn’t Like

The stand takes a while to assemble, and can sometimes feel wobbly if you aren’t on a perfectly level surface.

The nonstick coating is easy to accidentally scrape, which makes the underlying metal very sticky.

7. Best Portable Gas Grill For Tailgating: The Weber Q-1200 Green LP Gas Grill, 51070001

Weber’s commanding presence in the grill industry expands to all niches and tastes.

While they are known best for their high-quality charcoal grills, they still bring a thunderous success to the portable gas grill niche with their Weber Q-1200.

Not only is it lightweight and durable to easily take with you, but it also has all the thoughtful engineering cues to deserve a life on your deck as your everyday grill!

With a cast aluminum body and lid with a built-in thermometer as well as collapsing side tables, the Weber Q-1200 is portable when you need it to be.

Yet it’s also large enough to let you grill for up to four people at a time. I also appreciate that the 189 square inch grill grates are coated with nonstick porcelain.

Not only does this help release food easily, but it makes for easy cleanup. This is a quality departure from Weber’s typical chrome-plated grill grates.

The thick metal of the grill grates also provides superior heat retention.

This helps make the most out of the 8,500 BTU stainless steel propane burner, that might otherwise be underpowered in a grill this size. 

Just make sure you give the Weber Q-1200 a solid 10-minutes to properly preheat.

The thick metal of the grill grates isn’t the only thing that maximizes the heat potential of the Weber Q-1200.

The domed lid is made from cast aluminum for heat refraction and is shaped to help circulate heat back down to the grill grates.

It’s also tall enough to let you grill taller pieces of meat like a big bone-in chicken or turkey breast.

Weber brings their telltale product quality to bear with the Weber Q-1200.

It has a lot of the superior materials and thoughtful engineering you want in a grill that can easily double as your daily grill on the back deck or patio. 

Just make sure to give it at least 10 minutes to properly preheat before you place the meat down on the grill grates.

What We Liked

The overall material build quality of the Weber Q-1200 is heavy-duty and infused with thoughtful engineering principles throughout.

The grill grates are made from thick heat-retaining metal, then coated with non-stick porcelain.

It’s light and the side tables fold for easy portability. Yet it’s still large enough and secures enough to pull double duty as the everyday grill living on your deck.

What We Didn’t Like

The BTU per hour rating of the propane element is only rated to 8,500 BTUs, which is a little weak, and means you need to give this gas grill a solid 10 to 12 minutes to properly preheat.

The grease tray under the firebox is just a heavy-duty aluminum tray that is prone to bending and getting stuck.

8. Best Wood Pellet Tailgating Grill: Traeger Grills TBT18KLD Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker

Traeger is the original name in wood pellet grills. While they certainly grew their line with their large, robust wood pellet grills, they’ve also brought their presence to bear with nicely compact units like the Traeger Grills Ranger.

It still uses all the same smoky indirect heating method, yet has the small footprint you want in a portable grill that will travel from your home to the venue in the trunk or back seat of your vehicle.

Measuring in at a tidy 21 x 20 x 15 inches, the Traeger Grills Ranger might not take up a lot of space, but it still can cook a lot of food.

The primary grill grates offer up 184 square inches of cooking space. This is just enough to fit four quarter-pound hamburger patties or half a standard broiler-fryer chicken.

Like all wood pellet grills, the Traeger Grills Ranger uses indirect heating and smoke to cook the food.

This is done via an 8-pound capacity hopper and an internal auger system that delivers prepared wood pellets to the firepot. The heat and smoke then rise up into the primary cooking chamber.

I really like the 8-pound capacity of the hopper. Traeger could have cut corners here with a smaller hopper, but the 8-pound capacity of the Ranger is big enough to smoke riblets and bone-in chicken breasts.

The grill grates are coated in a protective porcelain coating. This gives them nonstick properties for easy release and clean up after you are done cooking.

The lower portion of the primary cooking chamber is angled to help divert any grease and drippings to the exterior dripping’s cup. It’s also reusable, so all you have to do is pour off the grease and rewash the cup.

The Traeger Grills Ranger is a great way to make smoky meat. Especially if you are the kind of person who likes to make pit beef, riblets, or smoked chicken wings.

It will make cook a perfect medium-rare steak, but you might not get the same deep sear lines that you might expect from a traditional gas or charcoal grill’s direct flame.

The tradeoff here is that you get a portable wood pellet tailgating grill that is truly capable of producing a smoky barbecue at a tailgate party.

What We Liked

The overall compact design and latching lid make it easy to take the Traeger Grills Ranger with you. You  can even secure your grills tools inside.

The grease management system and the grease cup, along with the porcelain coated grill grates make for very easy cleanup.

The 8-pound wood pellet hopper is just big enough to handle any size smoking session.

What We Didn’t Like

There’s no pellet purge system, and pellets need to be released after each grilling session to keep them from breaking down and jamming up the auger.

The bottom of the Traeger Grills Ranger can get hot throughout a long smoking session, so you want to set it on a fireproof base.

It can only cook via indirect heat, which won’t give you the kind of sear on a steak like you typically expect from a traditional gas or charcoal grill.

9. The Best Small Portable Grill For Tailgating: Cuisinart CGG-180TB Portable Propane, Petit Gourmet Tabletop Gas Grill

Cuisinart is better known for its high-quality indoor kitchen appliances.

While their relatively new presence in the grill industry might be a surprise to some, you can rest assured that models like the Cuisinart Petite Gourmet have the same material quality, engineering, and value price tag you'd expect from this titan in home cooking.

The Cuisinart Petite Gourmet is incredibly compact when you need it to be. You could potentially even collapse it down to fit snug in a backpack. Yet when you get to your destination, the legs deploy, the lid unlatches and you have more than enough cooking space on the 145 square inch grill grates to grill hamburgers for two or three people. Maybe more if you love bratwursts and hot dogs.

Something else to note with the Cuisinart Petite Gourmet is that it carries Cuisinart’s standard 3-year warranty protection that they give to every grill in their lineup. While this is a little bit sparse for their larger grills, it’s actually a step or two better than most of the competitor's grills in this niche.

What We Liked

The collapsing legs and overall compact size make it easy to transport the Cuisinart Petite Gourmet from Point A to Point B.

The 3-year warranty coverage is better than most of the competition.

What We Didn’t Like

The grease management system is a little small, so you will have to watch out for flareups and overflows during a longer grilling session.

The legs aren’t all that adjustable, which can be a problem if you are setting the Cuisinart Petite Gourmet up on something other than a perfectly level surface.

The space under the lid isn’t quite large enough to hold all your grill tools.

10. The Best Grill & Griddle Combo Grill For Tailgating: The Blackstone Tailgater Portable Gas Grill and Griddle Combo

Blackstone made their name in the grilling and culinary industry by providing high-value griddles that stand the test of time.

So, it’s no surprise that they would make sure to include a portable tailgating grill that can pull double duty as both a flattop griddle and a traditional gas grill.

The Blackstone Tailgater has two large stainless steel burner elements. Each one pumps out an impressive amount of heat. On the 20,000 BTU right side, there’s a griddle top made from cold-rolled steel.

With a properly maintained seasoning layer, it can make breakfast foods like pancakes, scrambled eggs, and bacon.

Though it’s just as capable of sautéing vegetables or searing off sausage links.

On the left side of the Blackstone Tailgater, there is a grill box suspended over a 15,000 BTU burner element. Here the exposed flame of the H-shaped propane burner replicates pretty much everything you need a traditional gas grill to do. There’s even enough room under the lid to grill a bone-in chicken breast or other large pieces of meat while trapping the heat for even cooking.

If necessary, you could grill meat on one side and then turn the griddle down to serve as a warmer. However, there isn’t a lid for the griddle side, so if you do want to multi-task it as a warmer, you might want to improvise an upside-down heavy-duty aluminum baking pan to help hold in the heat.

One of the less-heralded features of the Blackstone Tailgater that I really like is the adjustable legs and feet. This is a great way to keep this griddle-grill combo level on uneven ground.

What We Liked

The cold-rolled griddle can develop a nice seasoning layer to boost flavor.

The 20,000 BTU griddle burner can really pump out a lot of heat for making breakfast foods and sautéing vegetables.

The 15,000 BTU H-shaped grill burner does a great job of evenly distributing the heat.

The adjustable legs and feet are great for keeping the Blackstone Tailgater level on an uneven surface.

What We Didn’t Like

This grill is set up to run off a hose and propane tank, but there isn’t anywhere to secure it under the grill.

The thermometer in the lid isn’t all that accurate.

The Verdict

If you want a griddle and grill in one that’s also portable enough to take with you to the big game, then the Blackstone Tailgater needs to be near the top of your list. It has the build quality and value price tag that hedges your bets against a case of buyer’s remorse.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are BTUs And How Do They Matter?

The term BTU stands for “British Thermal Units.” It is the measure of heat defined as the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree. In the case of grills, and gas grills, in particular, BTUs are a good baseline to tell how hot as well as how efficient a grill is. You don’t often see BTU ratings in charcoal, electric, and wood pellet grills. Though it’s a great tool for gauging the heat output of one gas grill versus another.

In portable gas grills for tailgating, you usually want to see a BTU rating of at least 10,000 BTUs per hour. Though you might be completely satisfied with a slightly lower BTU rating of 8,500 BTUs if there are other features like a domed hood or heavy-duty cast iron grill grates to absorb the heat. If you see a

Do All Portable Gas Grills Run On A 1-Pound Propane Cylinder?

Most portable gas grills come set up to run off a 1-pound propane cylinder like the common DOT 39. Though some people prefer to connect to a larger liquid propane tank via a longer propane hose. This lets you use the portable gas grill on your deck at home as your everyday grill.

Though some portable gas grills can’t be converted. So, if you do want to run one-off a larger propane tank, you will want to double-check the fine print to make sure it can be adapted.

How To Safely Put Out A Portable Charcoal Grill?

Charcoal grills used to be the standby option for tailgating, though in recent years they have fallen out of popularity. This is due in part to stadium parking lots prohibiting them as fire hazards, as well as tailgating fans not being sure how to safely put one out.

Though there are a few things you can do to properly extinguish a charcoal grill. This starts with setting up a plan to give yourself enough time to put it out. As soon as you are done cooking, you can use the following steps to help extinguish the charcoal grill before you go into the stadium to watch the game.

  • Step 1: Close all dampers and vents. If you have a damper with a little bit of an air leak, you might be able to seal it tightly with the addition of some heavy-duty aluminum foil.
  • Step 2: Wait for 15 to 20 minutes for the flames inside to suffocate.
  • Step 3: Use a metal scoop to remove all the embers and hot ash to a metal bucket.
  • Step 4: Add water to the metal bucket and stir to extinguish the embers.
  • Step 5: Reseal the lid of the grill to make sure any small stray embers are suffocated. Then place the bucket of wet embers someplace safe.
  • Step 6: Dispose of the wet ash bucket someplace safe or seal it and bring it home with you to be disposed of.

What Is The Best Portable Grill For Tailgating?

If you are passionate about tailgating before the game, there are certainly some great portable grills to consider.

Finding the best tailgating grill for you will depend on how much space you have and how many people you need to cook for.

If space in the back of your vehicle is at a premium, you might want to give a good hard look at the Cuisinart Petite Gourmet. Not only is it compact for traveling, but it has the build quality to last for years, as it’s backed by a hearty 3-year warranty.

If you are a charcoal purist, then you might want to move the Weber Jumbo Joe Charcoal Grill to the top of your list. Not only does it lock firmly in place, but you can trust that Weber engineered it to last.

If you want a gas grill that can pull double duty on your deck at home as your everyday grill, then the Weber Q-1200 is likely the best portable gas grill for your tailgating party. It has the material build quality as well as the ability to connect to a larger liquid propane tank.

Whatever your needs and interests happen to be, chances are good the best portable grill for tailgating for you is probably on this list.

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