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What features make the best tailgate grill? The top tailgating grills have excellent portability, weighing around twenty pounds or fewer. They should also have decent cooking capacity. Most of the top-rated models offer plenty of grill space, with even the smaller models providing over 200 square inches of cooking area.
Next, these compact grill models should offer quick and easy clean-up, with features like removable and dishwasher-safe grill plates, removable burners, and folding legs. Finally, like the best traditional grills and the best smoker grill combos out there, the highest-quality grills for tailgate cooking should heat quickly and maintain a consistent temperature.
A portable charcoal grill or portable small gas grill can add versatility when tailgating or cooking outdoors in areas that might not have a convenient electricity source. If you like to cook at tailgate parties but find your home bbq grill inconvenient to lug around, consider a new portable grill for tailgating.
Keep reading to learn more about the best tailgate grills on the market and how to choose the best grill for your next tailgate party, camping trip, or at-home grilling.
Award: TOP PICK
WHY WE LIKE IT: With three independently operated heaters and a removable skillet, this device allows making meals on the go. It has a PVC-coated shell that stands up to the elements.
With a compact, portable design, the Royal Gourmet PD1301S 316 sq. in. grill is the ultimate device for tailgating. This tabletop system has sturdy feet that provide added stability and it’s ideal for camping. It works with a 20 lb propane tank (not included) to provide on-the-go meals. With three independently controlled burners, it enables cooking multiple dishes at a go, and it produces a total of 25,500 BTUs of heat. However, this unit doesn’t come with a gas tank.
A spacious 24-inch wide 316 sq. in. cooking surface accommodates a variety of cookware. This device assembles easily, allowing users to start meal preparation fast. This device has a griddle top that enables preparing anything from grilled meats to simmering soups, and it’s detachable for hassle-free cleaning. It boasts three knobs for operating the burners and has stainless steel burners for durability. This grill has a PVC-coated cover to protect the grill from the elements.
Award: HONORABLE MENTION
WHY WE LIKE IT: This grill comes with several organizers that enable storing accessories. A chopping block simplifies preparing meats and veggies. This model has a heat protection system, allowing placement on a variety of surfaces.
This Everdure CUBE 115 sq. inch grill provides excellent grilling power without taking up too much space. It has stainless steel parts that offer durability and cool-to-touch handles that facilitate simple transportation. Featuring an insulating base with a built-in heat shield, this device can be placed safely on a variety of surfaces without causing damage. It is well-suited for use in tailgating, RVs, and camping. However, with just 115 sq. ft. of grilling space, this model is a bit small for gatherings.
It can prepare six small burgers or three medium steaks at once. This charcoal grill has an integrated tray for keeping accessories, like a pair of high-grade grill tongs, food, and an included bamboo chopping board that simplifies preparing meats, vegetables, and other meals. The grill has two safety latches for securing accessories and it comes with a chrome grill rack that accommodates meats and other treats. This model is available in a variety of colors, including matte black, khaki, and orange.
Award: BEST STORAGE FOR COOK TOOLS
WHY WE LIKE IT: A dual burner system with independent heater knobs allows preparing two different meals at the same time. This unit has a cover that secures cook tools and has a sturdy handy for transportation.
The Coleman RoadTrip 225 225-square inch grill boasts two propane gas burners, allowing users to speed up cooking. This model boasts two different temperature zones, allowing users to prepare various treats at the same time. With a swappable cooktop, this device offers flexibility. An included cast iron grate system allows roasting meats, and it can be swapped for a griddle or stove grates (sold separately) for simmering and boiling. However, this model lacks an integrated thermometer gauge.
This grill arrives fully assembled, helping users to save time, and it has a high-quality grease management system that simplifies cleanup. Featuring an InstaStart system with push-button ignition, this grill supports hassle-free starting. We like the heater knobs that enable adjusting the size of the burner flame. The grill works with a 16.4 oz propane cylinder (sold separately) for food preparation. This model has a cover and handles that enable storing cook tools and carrying this device easily from place to place.
Award: BEST FOLDABLE GRILL
WHY WE LIKE IT: With a folding design and a handle, this grilling system is remarkably easy to transport. The 226 sq. in. surface with ceramic-coated non-stick grates supports hassle-free cleanup.
Users seeking a portable system should consider the nomadiQ 762253914873 226 sq. inch grill. This device weighs just 12 pounds, so it’s easy to carry around. Despite its expansive 226 sq. in grilling surface, this device is foldable for hassle-free transport and storage. It has a stick finish that is pleasing to the eyes, and an advanced electronic ignition system starts up this device at the push of a button. However, this model doesn’t have wheels.
Featuring non-stick cooking grates with a ceramic coating, this grill can be cleaned easily and it cooks food evenly. It has rust-resistant parts that stand up to the elements, and the grates are removable and have dishwasher-safe construction for simple cleaning. With stainless steel burners, this device offers durability, and the 4,600-BTU burners on this unit have independent controls, allowing users to prepare two different recipes at the same time. This grill has removable drip trays and a grille system.
Award: BEST HEATING SYSTEM
WHY WE LIKE IT: A 339 sq. in. The cooking surface allows preparing family-sized meals in one go. This grilling system has two independently controlled propane burners that support customization.
The Blackstone 339 sq. inch grill is a tabletop BBQ system perfect for tailgating. This 22-inch wide unit is easy to transport and store and it boasts a remarkably large grilling surface that is ideal for families and entertaining. With two gas burners that produce a combined total of 24,000 BTU, this grill cooks fast. The burners have H-style construction for even heating, and they boast built-in igniters for simple starting. However, this unit doesn’t come with grates.
A griddle supports cooking anything from meats to vegetables and soups. An advanced grease management system with a heavy-duty grease tap on the rear of the griddle simplifies cleanup. This system is made of premium metal parts that offer durability. With high-quality knob controls, this system is easy to ignite and control and it has a stainless steel finish on the front that adds visual interest to any space. This model features sturdy feet that offer stability.
Award: BEST FOR FAMILIES
WHY WE LIKE IT: An expansive 352 sq. in. cooking surface and two independently controlled heaters enable preparing large meals for entertaining. This device has a non-stick skillet that contains plenty of food in one go.
With a whopping 352 sq. inch cooking surface, this Camplux GG302S supports entertaining large groups on picnics, camping trips, and tailgating parties. This unit has a wide 22-inch cooktop that easily accommodates 10 hamburgers or 30 hot dogs. It has a tabletop design that can be used at home, in RVs, and for trips and features a 22,000 BTU heating system with H-shaped stainless steel burners optimized for even cooking. However, this cooking system is a bit heavy.
This grilling system comes with a non-stick griddle that allows the grilling and simmering of various meals. Detachable grease cups enable managing oil and cleaning up easily. This model is compact enough to be transported in small car trunks and it works with 20 lbs gas tanks. Independently operated knobs ignite the system fast and they enable precisely controlling the heating. It comes with a 1 lb gas regulator for connecting to 5 to 40 lb propane or RV tanks.
Tailgate grills are portable grills that are small and light enough to set up on the tailgate of a pickup truck. Popular for grilling at tailgate parties, outdoor events, and camping trips, these portable grill units strike a balance between square inches of cooking space and weight. Most top performers, such as the versatile Traeger grills, offer at least a 200 square-inch cooking surface. Some portable models, as you’ll find in our Blaze Kamado review, include expandable prep trays and folding sideboards to pack the most utility possible in a compact design.
Compared to other types of grills, pit barbecues, and smoker grills, the best portable grills for a tailgate party must effectively balance cooking space and ease of transport. This means that tailgate grills are more likely to include lightweight design and construction elements than other grills. They often feature a cast aluminum body instead of an iron chassis, and they often have sturdy carrying handles and folding legs.
Tailgate grills more often come with heavy-duty wheels and pneumatic tires, while less-portable charcoal grills and pellet grills may not come with wheels at all. In addition, tailgating grills can typically fold up for easier transport. They may have locking clamshell lids and a compact, slide-out aluminum ash catcher to save your truck bed liner.
Like other types of grills for home and travel use, the top-rated tailgating grills use durable materials. They have smart designs that optimize heat distribution and help maintain a consistent internal temperature. Also common to most popular charcoal grills and gas grills today, the best tailgate grilling models come with coated steel, iron, or aluminum grill grates that allow easy clean-up.
Tailgate grills typically offer the same fuel types as a home grill might. Which fuel type works best for your needs depends on your preferences and your particular tailgating setup.
Tailgate grills are portable cooking appliances that work well when set up on the tailgate of a truck. They don’t require a truck, of course, but they do well at tailgate parties and outdoor events, and they may also excel at camping or travel grilling.
Most affordable grill options in tailgate-friendly sizes use charcoal, wood pellets, electricity, propane, or natural gas. Regardless of fuel type, tailgate grills include a heat source, a grill grate or grilling plate, a vent for smoke, and a heat-resistant shell. Typically, the shell includes a lid. A lid handle helps with portability, and a lid vent allows for better smoke and temperature control.
Most of today’s gas and propane grill models have adjustable burners that help the grill heat quickly and maintain a chosen temperature. Many units come with the option of a built-in thermometer in the lid, and high-end models may come with various temperature probes and digital temperature settings. A portable propane gas grill for camping and tailgating usually uses burners that accept small 1-lb propane canisters, but some liquid propane grill models can adapt to take natural gas lines or larger gas cylinders.
Some gas and electric-powered grills use infrared heating elements and heat-reflective internal coatings to help maintain consistent performance in varied outdoor conditions. These infrared grills may provide an advantage for windy days and cold weather.
Portable charcoal grills for tailgating are often lighter and cheaper and can produce great smoky flavors, but the setup and clean-up processes may take longer when charcoal grilling. Unlike propane and gas grills, charcoal grills require careful flame monitoring and may be harder to light.
If you’re a frequent griller looking for something more convenient for tailgate parties, but you want more capacity than a typical tabletop grill provides, consider a new tailgate grill. Thanks to clever designs and sturdy construction, the top-performing tailgate grills provide more inches of cooking space than the typical camp grill, and are easier to carry than a regular yard bbq grill.
Upcoming sports events, kids’ birthday parties, and road trips can all be great occasions to break out the tailgate grill. Even if you already have a home grill or barbecue setup, a specialized tailgate grill can make the process more convenient and easier.
New grills provide more reliable ignition, more consistent temperatures, and easier clean-up compared to older tailgate grilling solutions. A new, good-quality gas model will typically use adjustable stainless steel burners with replaceable electric igniters, making it easier to fire up in all weather.
Tailgate grills span a wide range of grill types with varying complexity and lifespan expectations. While most grills for tailgating should last at least 10 to 15 years. Simple charcoal and wood grills with durable metal bodies can last a lifetime or more. At the same time, more complex models may require more maintenance or have a shorter average lifespan.
As with other types of grills, proper cleaning and maintenance is key to boosting the service life of your tailgate grill. Experts recommend cleaning the grill grate with a cleaning brush each time you use the grill and regularly disposing of any ash residue and carbonized wood pellets from charcoal grills and wood-burning grills.
Gas grills with push-button ignition may need replacement igniters after a few years. Fortunately, most tailgating grills that use propane or natural gas allow easy igniter replacement. A portable propane grill with a stainless steel burner will resist corrosion.
Proper storage also helps get the most longevity from any outdoor grill. Experts suggest metal grills last longer when kept from excess moisture and humidity. You can usually store your grill outdoors, but ensure you follow the product guidelines for year-round storage.
Various factors can help determine the best tailgate and tabletop grill for your outdoor cooking needs. You’ll likely want to consider how many people you typically feed at a tailgate party, what type of fuel you want to use, and whether you’ll be using the grill mainly for travel and camping or primary cooking as well. You might also want to consider your cooking style, what flavor profiles you’re aiming for, and what your favorite items for grilling are.
If you typically take your grill on trips into the wilderness or if you plan on grilling at beach parties, then you might prefer a smaller, more portable model with features like a briefcase-style carrying handle and folding side tables for cooking utensils. Smaller grills trade cooking capacity for portability, so if you need lots of grill space, you might want a larger free-standing tailgate grill.
Depending on how much food you need to grill at once or how many people you usually feed at your tailgate parties, you might want a versatile, spacious grill with 18-inch or larger cast-iron cooking grates. If you’re only cooking for a few people, a smaller grill may be an ideal choice since a smaller grilling area allows for a more consistent cooking temperature given the same heat output.
While they all have distinct advantages, some grillers have a clear preference for charcoal, wood, electric, gas, or liquid propane. If the authentic, smokey flavor is most important, you might go with charcoal or wood pellets. Consider gas or propane-powered model with infrared burners if you want a grill that makes it easier to keep a consistent cooking temperature and heats up quicker. If your tailgate location typically allows access to a power cord, you might also want to go with an electric grill.
Free-standing grills can provide more cooking areas and may be more comfortable for longer grilling sessions, while tabletop grills are easier to carry. Which configuration works best for you may depend on your vehicle, your preferences, and how much food you like to cook at one time.