Aug 28, 2023
The 7 Best Tailgate Grills Of 2023
Win tailgate season with these portable grills that can cook for a crowd. Nor’Adila Hepburn is a writer who specializes in reviewing furniture, kitchen appliances, gardening tools, travel accessories,
Win tailgate season with these portable grills that can cook for a crowd.
Nor’Adila Hepburn is a writer who specializes in reviewing furniture, kitchen appliances, gardening tools, travel accessories, and more. Her work can be found in Real Simple, Better Homes & Gardens, Trip Advisor, Travel + Leisure, INSIDER, and more.
Jump to a Section
We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation. Learn more.
Southern Living / David Hattan
In the South, tailgating is serious business, and the grill is the center of any tailgate. Whether you’re partial to gas, charcoal, or pellets, a tailgate grill will need to be large enough to cook for a crowd, yet portable enough to tote to and from your tailgate spot.
“When choosing a grill for tailgating, there are a few things to consider such as size, weight, and temperature,” says Jason Morse, owner and executive chef at 5280 Culinary, as well as national spokesman and grilling expert at Ace Hardware. “Ask yourself: Will this grill cook for the crowd I’m tailgating with? Is it portable and easy to tow? What temperature do I need to cook at? Is it going to be a hot and fast grill or am I going low and slow for BBQ? Will the grill recover fast during grilling so I can batch cook?”
To come up with this list, we researched a variety of charcoal, gas, and pellet grills and assessed factors such as size, portability, fuel type, care, and maintenance. Morse also weighed in with expert insight on what makes the best grill for tailgating.
This grill folds flat like an ironing board, making it easy to take from place to place.
It only has one burner, so you can’t have different temperature zones.
For anyone who needs a grill that you can lock, load, and roll, the Weber Traveler Portable Gas Grill is our go-to. We put this propane grill on the top of our list mainly because of its collapsible cart that makes it more mobile and easy to store. The grill also features a one-handed setup, so you can get to grilling as quickly as possible. There is also a lid lock on the cover that automatically locks as soon as you close the grill. The included adaptor hose can be used with tanks up to 20 pounds, but if you don't need that much fuel, you can attach a 1-pound gas canister underneath the grill.
With the Traveler, you get 320 square inches of cooking space. This amounts to around 15 burgers or up to 20 sausages. Note that it only has one burner, so you don’t have the luxury of having different temperature zones. You can still adjust the temperature from low to high, which means you could make a range of food, including pancakes—just not at the same time.
This grill only has one side table, so it may not be for people who like to spread out while they grill. But given that it comes with hooks to hang up a few tongs and spatulas, we don’t think this is a deal breaker.
Price at the time of publish: $419
Fuel: Gas | Size: 37.2 x 43.6 x 23 inches | Cooking Area: 320 square inches | Weight: 49 pounds
It has a temperature control knob that allows you to grill at the right temperature without having to adjust the coals.
The 200-square-inch surface area might be too small for cooking for a large crowd.
The Masterbuilt Portable Charcoal Grill is chock-full of useful features that tailgaters can appreciate. Typically, charcoal grills require you to manually adjust the coals to achieve a desired temperature, but this is not the case with the Masterbuilt. It features a temperature control knob that lets you add or subtract the heat from the grill as necessary.
Another selling point is that the grill is able to fold down to half its size, and it has wheels, making it portable and easy to load/unload from your vehicle. There are also two side shelves to hold condiments and spices. Bonus: The shelves come with two beverage holders to keep your drinks nearby.
It features a 200-square-inch surface area, which is perfect for a family of four (although it may not be enough for a larger crowd). The temperature ranges from 250 to 550 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning you can use it to cook anything from poppers to brats to juicy steaks.
Put your choice of slow-burning briquettes or lump charcoal in its hopper. If you plan on having the grill going all day, the hopper can hold enough charcoal for four hours of use. It has a lock on the lid, so you can store the ashes inside until you’re able to dump them. The Masterbuilt uses both batteries and electricity as a power source.
Price at the time of publish: $330
Fuel: Charcoal | Size: 36 x 45 x 19 inches | Cooking Area: 200 square inches | Weight: 52 pounds
This tabletop grill sits just over a foot tall, yet it has almost 200 square inches of cooking space.
There is no temperature control knob.
Tailgating on a budget? Consider the Cuisinart Portable Charcoal Grill. This grill is one of our favorites because it’s only 15 inches high and weighs just 5 pounds, so it’s easy to unload and carry. Also, the lid has locks on it, so you can easily lift and carry it by the handle with one hand.
Its stainless steel rack provides 196 square inches for cooking burgers, sausages, or seafood. Unlike more expensive grills, the Cuisinart has no burner knobs, so you’ll have to spend time adjusting the charcoal to reach your desired temperature. However, there are air vents located on the lid and at the bottom of the grill that control airflow. There is a charcoal ash tray and firebox below the racks so you can easily dispose of them when you’re done. Although it lacks the bells and whistles that come with fancier options, if you need a low-cost and portable option for quick grilling—we put our money behind this one.
Price at the time of publish: $40
Fuel: Charcoal | Size: 15 x 14 x 14 inches | Cooking Area: 196 square inches | Weight: 5 pounds
The stainless steel legs fold up and double as carrying handles.
Even though it folds down compactly, it’s still heavy at almost 70 pounds.
The Green Mountain Davy Crockett Sense Mate Grill is a wood-pellet grill that’s gaining popularity among grillers because it works similarly to an oven and provides an even heat source. You’ll notice that the lid is peaked, which makes it a fantastic choice to cook entire rib racks and roasts. It even comes with upper and lower grilling racks, so you get all the space you need to cook your favorite dishes.
The flameless design means that you don’t have to stay chained to the grill while it cooks. The grill also comes with a meat probe and Wi-Fi connectivity, so you can monitor grilling temperatures and adjust them if necessary.
The grill also features stainless steel legs that fold up and double as carrying handles. When you’re ready to get your grill on, just drop down the handles and lift the body up. The legs will lock into place and you’re ready to start. Just keep in mind that you won’t get that smoky flavor that you would get from a charcoal grill.
Price at the time of publish: $389
Fuel: Wood pellets | Size: 32 x 34 x 23 inches | Cooking Area: 219 square inches | Weight: 68 pounds
The legs pivot to lock the grill in place, allowing you to carry it with one hand.
It only has one burner, so you can’t cook at different temperatures.
Despite its compact size, this tabletop grill isn’t lacking in power. It features a 6,500 BTU burner that offers the right temperatures for grilling juicy steaks, burgers, and vegetables. It’s also easy to carry thanks to sturdy side handles and steel legs that fold back when it’s time to go.
The porcelain-enameled racks are specially designed to heat up fast and minimize flare-ups. The lid is also made from the same material and is not prone to rust or peeling. According to Weber, it’s big enough to fit about six burgers. However, it lacks multiple burners, so you won’t be able to cook food that needs different temperatures at the same time. To start, simply push the ignition button on the side, and the grill is ready to go. Keep in mind that the grill needs to be assembled before it can be used.
Price at the time of publish: $89
Fuel: Gas | Size: 15 x 19.5 x 11.5 inches | Cooking Area: 160 square inches | Weight: 14.5 pounds
It saves valuable trunk space by attaching to the hitch of your vehicle.
For the price, we wish it came with smart capabilities.
The HitchFire F-20 is like any other grill—except that it hooks up to the back of a truck or SUV. This comes in pretty handy for the times you wish to free up trunk space for other tailgating essentials like, coolers, chairs, and tables. Thanks to sturdy pins that securely fasten the grill to your vehicle’s trailer hitch, you never have to worry about it taking a sudden spill on highways or bumpy roads. The grill also comes with an adjustable arm to swing it 180 degrees to one side when you want to access the trunk.
It features twin 10,000 BTU burners, for maximum heat and a 355-square-inch surface for cooking all your favorite tailgate delicacies. Plus, it has a black powder coat finish, which gives extra durability. And, when you’re not tailgating, the HitchFire is great to take with you on camping trips and picnics, too.
You don’t have to disconnect the grill from your trailer hitch when you’re ready to light it up. But if you prefer to take it off, simply detach it and it transforms into a tabletop grill. The grill features two side tables along with a bottle opener and a place to hang grilling tools. The only downside with this grill is the price. But, if you’re an avid tailgater—it could be worth the money.
Price at the time of publish: $649
Fuel: Propane | Size: 13 x 39 x 22 inches | Cooking Area: 355 square inches | Weight: 72 pounds
The flat-top surface is great for cooking everything from burgers to liquidy items like eggs or pancakes.
It can connect to a larger fuel tank, but an adaptor hose is not included.
While the grill is still king when it comes to cooking a juicy steak, this 22-inch Blackstone Tabletop griddle is a great outdoor alternative, especially if you plan on making breakfast items or steaks strips. With this Blackstone model, you get 361 square inches of space (enough to fit up to 12 burgers) and two independently controlled cooking zones for a total of 24,000 BTUs. The burners have separate ignite switches, so you can cook foods (like eggs, crepes, and burgers) at varying heat levels at the same time.
Because it’s a griddle, it features a flat-top design and no grates, which allows you to cook food in its own juices, but there is also a grease tray at the back to collect extra drippings. This also makes it well suited to cooking liquidy foods like eggs or pancakes and small foods that would otherwise fall through the grill grates. Use it with a 1-pound fuel bottle (not included) or you can connect it to a 20-pound fuel tank using an adapter hose (not included).
Price at the time of publish: $220
Fuel: Gas | Size: 15.5 x 29.5 x 24 inches | Cooking Area: 361 square inches | Weight: 38 pounds
The Weber Traveler Portable Gas Grill is our top gas grill for tailgating because it provides space to cook about 15 burgers and is mounted on top of a mobile cart that you fold up and roll out when you’re done. For a great charcoal tailgate grill, the Masterbuilt Portable Charcoal Grill with Cart is packed with features including two side tables that have built-in beverage holders.
According to Jason Morse, owner and executive chef at 5280 Culinary, a grill’s portability is key for tailgating. You want a grill that can fit in your vehicle to transport to and from your tailgate event. “Do you want this grill to fit in your truck bed or are you hauling it in a trailer? Is it big enough to handle the food for your crowd? To me there is a fine line between the size and performance of my tailgate grill, I want the grill that hits the sweet spot for both," says Morse.
The main fuel types you’ll find in tailgating grills (as well as most other grills) are propane, charcoal briquettes, lump charcoal, and wood pellets. “For propane, tanks come in various sizes and are very portable,” explains Morse.”You can bring the right amount for your event and not have to store any.”
If you use a charcoal grill, the charcoal needed for it primarily comes in two forms—briquettes and lump charcoal. “Briquettes are light, fast, and great for single cooking events and for grilling hot and fast for burgers, dogs, and brats,” says Morse. “Charcoal lumps also light fast and are good for low and slow cooking, and hot and fast grilling.” Pellets are also becoming increasingly popular and come in many flavors. Morse says, “They are great for low and slow cooking (like rib racks) and hot and grilling.”
“First and foremost, a clean grill is a happy grill. Happy grills don’t have issues,” says Morse. “Before you tailgate, be sure to give your grill a good clean and remove any ash, food particles, grease, oil, etc. This will help prevent parking lot ‘incidents.’”
To be as safe as possible, he advises tailgaters to plan ahead when it comes to putting out flames from the grill. “Think about where you will extinguish your charcoal,” he says. “Bring a metal bucket and extra water to help with extinguishing the coals. It never hurts to bring a small fire extinguisher with you.”
He also points out that when going out to a tailgate event, consider your power source. “Ask yourself, does your grill need power? Where will you get it? Do they allow generators? Do you have gas for your generator?”
“There are a couple of ways to light charcoal for your tailgate grill, some will be faster than others,” says Morse. Whether you use charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal, you can use a starter chimney, an electric starter, or starter fluid. With lump charcoal, Morse says you can use a butane starter or starter cubes to get the fire going.
“Absolutely!” says Morse. “Grill manufacturers make great portable grills knowing their customer wants that brand experience no matter where they are cooking.”
This depends on the size and type of grill you go for plus features. In general small charcoal grills with no gas, burners tend to be the cheapest. According to Morse, kettle grills are also quite inexpensive and come in the $100 to $400 price range. Grills with more features such as extra burners or gas or special design features tend to be the most expensive.
Nor’Adila Hepburn is a writer based in North Carolina who specializes in writing product reviews. To determine the best tailgating grills, she researched all kinds of tailgating grills and evaluated them based on size, portability, fuel type, and care, and maintenance. Nor’Adila also spoke to Jason Morse, owner and executive chef at 5280 Culinary, as well as national spokesman and grilling expert at Ace Hardware.Price at the time of publish: $419Fuel: | Size: | Cooking Area: | Weight: Price at the time of publish: $330Fuel: | Size: | Cooking Area: | Weight: Price at the time of publish: $40Fuel: | Size:| Cooking Area: | Weight: Price at the time of publish: $389Fuel: | Size: | Cooking Area: | Weight: Price at the time of publish: $89Fuel: | Size:| Cooking Area: | Weight: Price at the time of publish: $649Fuel: | Size: | Cooking Area: | Weight: Price at the time of publish: $220Fuel: | Size: | Cooking Area: | Weight: