Analysis and Test Results
Travel BBQ's are your ticket to a great meal on the go. Whether you are camping, picnicking, spending a day at the beach or tailgating before a football game, portable grills are a simple solution for cooking an excellent meal away from home.
There are two types of portable grills: portable propane gas, like all of the models in this review, and portable charcoal models like the Weber Smokey Joe
or the Coleman RoadTrip Sport Charcoal
We consider a grill portable if it weighs less than 45 pounds and is relatively easy to transport (one person can carry it up and down stairs).
Models in Our Tests
We selected the following portable grills based on their popularity, user reviews and our own experience.
Editors' Choice Award: The Cuisinart Petit Gourmet
Cuisinart Petit Gourmet
The only portable grill tested
that came with a bag for transport. The Petit Gourmet is super portable, light and easy to carry with one hand. Its legs tuck in nicely and flush to the rest of the design, which made it the easiest grill to transport even without its bag. The Petit Gourmet got to join a lot more fun adventures than the other grills tested because it is so ultralight and convenient to carry. The bag is nice, too, just in case a few crumbs spill out. Though this grill isn't extremely powerful, it does grill nice and evenly.
This grill has a tiny little grease drip tray that attaches securely to bottom of the grill.
The drip tray didn't seem to catch much grease but then again it didn't leak grease either. The Cuisinart's porcelain-enameled cast-iron grill grate was the easiest to clean by far. This grill was our least favorite to start up as it often takes two to three tries before lighting. This was disappointing, especially since we had this ignition problem with none of the other grills. Once it is lit, a nice feature is that when turning from high to low there is no way to accidentally turn the fuel off – you have to push in the dial and twist it in order to turn it completely off.
The low setting on this portable grill is very low and it
doesn't really have much of a medium setting either. The highest setting isn't too high; there is no flare-up and nothing gets stuck on the awesome nonstick grate. It didn't cook the most amount of food of all the grills tested here but it was by far the most portable. It grills evenly with a slightly warmer (by just a few degrees) area directly in the middle row horizontally across. Its maximum output
high was 336 degrees. When set on the low setting it nicely grilled vegetables slowly or roasted garlic without worry. Our testers might prefer the slow and low method of grilling rather than the hottest temperature searing methods. If hot is the style of grilling you prefer, further investigate the Coleman XLT and the Char-Broil.
Top Pick: Weber Q 1000
Weber Q 1000
The Weber is a good, sturdy portable grill with an effective
porcelain-enameled, cast-iron, non-stick cooking grate that was the second easiest of all the grills tested to clean. Its ignition system was flawless. It didn't have a lid latch, which bothered us at the start. But after completing the testing for this grill we realized that the absence of a latch wasn't as much of a problem as we had anticipated. Due to
the fact that this grill is very sturdy and the lid is heavy and fits securely, a missing latch wasn't actually a problem. This grill has a very low center of gravity and small squares of black rubber on the bottom of its legs that make it stable and bump proof.
You must pull down on the regulator for there to be enough room to attach a 16.4 oz propane canister or even a hose to a one or five gallon tank. See the "Ease of Transport" below for more details on this subject.
This grill came with a disposable aluminum insert that goes into the drip tray. We suspect that this was intended for ease of cleanup. However, the aluminum tray liner was not wind resistant and ended up blowing around a bit.
The 189 sq in cooking surface of the Weber Q 1000 holds a surprising amount of food for its size. It held everything in our test piece with room to breathe. Our normal setting of medium heat for cooking the test pieces was not enough for this grill. Even on medium high it took over 34 minutes to grill
our test piece on the Weber. Though this grill runs a bit cooler than most of the grills tested here, it is still a very nice grill to cook on. The temperature was easy to regulate, the grilling surface was evenly heated and the porcelain-enameled, cast-iron non-stick cooking surface made it easy and nearly effortless to grill on.
Coleman NXT 50
. This grill is light and easy to transport.
You can easily carry it with one hand, which is nice, but the legs stick out slightly awkwardly when doing so. Construction sturdiness leaves something to be desired and this grill is rattly and noisy when bering transported. The lid goes back quite far when resting in the open position, which is oddly awkward and contributes to it taking up a slightly larger amount of table space. The Coleman NXT 50 has a very long fuel tube. Because the fuel tube is so long, moving it even a small distance, like from one end of a picnic table to the other with a small container of propane attached, felt dangerously floppy and required detaching the canister first. The fact that the propane
canister or hose attaches quite far from the grill also causes it to take up more table space. However, the position the regulator ends up in when the grill is set up does feel very comfortable and user friendly. One nice feature of the temperature controls of NXT 50 is that you must twist and turn the control knob in order to turn it completely off. Some of the other grills tested didn't have this feature and were often accidentally turned all the way off when going from high to low setting.
The NXT 50 can grill a large amount of food and it doesn't have any flare-up. It has a low flame heat output even on high and
there isn't much difference in the size of the flame between the high and low settings. The temperature was easy to regulate, but when set to medium with the lid closed, it did heat up. Its maximum output is 180 degrees. The NXT 50 does not have an even temperature throughout the entire grilling surface. The top left area of the grilling surface stays cooler than the rest of the surface and the very center of the grill was definitely the hottest place. The right and left sides of this grill surface have slatted holes that allow for the food being grilled there to be directly over the flame. These were also very hot grilling areas where food being grilled got a bit charred even if test chefs were extra careful. The non-stick surface on this grill is not extremely effective.
The drip tray on this grill didn't catch all of the grease, causing it to leak grease onto the surface underneath. So be careful if you place it on a resin or plastic coated table or surface.
The porcelain-coated stamped steel cooking grate of the Coleman NXT 50 is fairly non stick and in the middle of the test group for ease of cleanup.
One nice aspect of this grill is that you can set it on end, with the handle up, in order for it to take up less space in the back of a car or a trunk. Just make sure to take the grease tray out first.
Amount of time to cook test piece ~ 20 min. The sliders had to be grilled separately as there was not enough room.
Coleman RoadTrip LXE
The only grill tested with its own stand and wheels.
The stand that comes attached to this grill is very convenient, especially if there is not a picnic table or sufficient surface available to place a grill. Because of the cumbersome stand and wheels this grill is heavy and awkward to lift in and out of a trunk/car. Once unloaded the wheels do make it easy to roll this grill to your desired cooking area and it is nice not to have to carry it from car to picnic table like the others. It does make a lot of noise when rolling over uneven surfaces.
This grill is easy to roll from place to place in the folded or even upright standing position, but take caution when attempting to lift it from its folded position to the standing upright position without reading the directions first. In order to properly set this grill in the upright position, one must first step on the handle and carefully lift it up, which causes the legs to be in the proper position for latching. See the Safety Note about the Coleman LXE below.
This was the only grill tested with two burners, which made it easy and fuel efficient to turn off one burner if you only have a small amount of food to cook. The RoadTrip LXE grilling surface was relatively the same temperature throughout thus grilling evenly throughout. However, it was a just a few degrees hotter on the top left corner. It was easy to light and regulate the temperature of this grill. At 285 sq in, this grill fit the largest amount of food by far of all the products tested. It's maximum output was 222 degrees on a low setting. This grill took ~ 22 min. to grill our test piece.
Char-Broil TRU-Infrared Grill2Go X200
Char-Broil TRU-Infrared Grill2Go X200 is a tank of a grill. Most testers and even people passing by were immediately intrigued by the look and design of this rugged and beefy looking grill. This grill has a unique non-stick stainless steel grill that leaves interesting grill marks on the food. The Char-Broil was the only grill tested that had immediate flare up when grilling veggies with a light coat of olive oil.
This grill gets really, really hot, very fast. This quick and dramatic increase in temperature could be great for certain applications like searing or flash broiling, but overall we thought that it was just too hot. There is barely a visible difference in the flame size between the lowest and the highest temperature settings. We took this grill camping on Memorial Day weekend and were disappointed that occasionally we had to turn the entire grill off in order to maintain a workable temperature. This grill did easily and quickly fry up a pan full of bacon (provided it was turned off periodically in order to maintain a workable temperature) in the morning.
The Char-Broil does have the best drip catch system of all the grills tested in this review.
One needs to be very careful when using this grill. We found the Char-Broil TRU-Infrared Grill2Go X200 went from zero to 650 degrees or more in just ten minutes. This was the case even with the grill on low and the valve of the one gallon propane tank also turned down as low as possible. At 650 degrees we were able to start to smell the coating on the outside of the grill, at which point we turned it off. But we worry that it could have potentially gotten even hotter.
Unfortunately the Char-Broil did not end up being included in our test piece. We did test it and it does work, but make sure you want to cook something very fast at a very, very hot temperature. During our test piece project, this grill smoked, had flare up and got just plain too hot. If felt dangerous to use and we didn't want to potentially ruin our food either. It reached a temperature of ~ 650 degrees in under ten minutes on low. We suspect this grill might perform much better with a higher quality regulator. This grill also uses a lot of fuel.
We tested our contenders both with the standard Coleman 16.4 oz Camping Fuel Cylinder
and the Worthington 1-Gallon Propane Tank
with the Stansport Propane Bulk Hose
. We prefer the 1-Gallon set-up because it's more cost-effective, more environmentally friendly and less hassle than constantly buying the 16.4 oz green bottles. Also, the bigger tank delivers more BTU's.
Criteria for Evaluation
Each of the models in this review is evaluated and scored on the following criteria.
For this metric we looked at the number of BTU (British thermal units) each product generated.
The BTU is a unit of energy equal to about 1055 joules. It is the required amount of energy to heat or cool one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.
According to the specs the Coleman RoadTrip LXE
leads this category with 10,000 BTU. The Char-Broil TRU-Infrared Grill2Go X200
is next in line at 9,500 BTU. The Weber Q 1000
and the Coleman NXT 50
both put out a moderate 8,500 and the least powerful model is the Cuisinart Petit Gourmet
that manages 5,500 BTU, but keep in mind that it only weighs 13 lbs.
The Cuisinart Petit Gourmet with its mere 5,500 BTU didn't seem to have a problem grilling anything we cooked on it, didn't take any longer grilling time and used the least amount of fuel.
The Char-Broil TRU-Infrared Grill2Go X200 had the highest maximum output. It reached a temperature of ~ 450 degrees in under ten minutes.
Higher BTU equal more heat but it is challenging to determine the heat output from the BTU rating alone. Size, construction materials and design all contribute to how much heat will be produced on the actual grilling surface.
The Char-Broil TRU-Infrared Grill2Go X200 has the least favorable burner control of the grills tested. This Grill2Go gets very, very hot even on the lowest setting and it is challenging to keep the temperature low enough to avoid charring without periodically turning the grill completely off. The Weber grills a bit cool. The burner controls on the Cuisinart and both Colemans worked great.
The lightest product, the Cuisinart Petit Gourmet, at 13 lbs was by far the lightest product tested in this review. The Cuisinart had sturdy little legs that folded up neatly and was easily carried in one hand. This grill was so light and easy to transport, it got to come on extra adventures. Second lightest was the Coleman NXT 50 at 20 lbs, which was also light and easy to transport. Next were the Char-Broil TRU-Infrared at 25 lbs and the Weber Q 1000 at 27 lbs, but the Infrared Grill2Go generates 1,000 more BTU's (9,500) than the Weber Q (8,500) even though it is lighter. Interestingly, the Coleman RoadTrip LXE was the heaviest product tested at 35 lbs and puts out 10,000 BTU's.
Ease of Transport
The Cuisinart Petit Gourmet was by far the easiest grill to carry and transport. It's the lightest grill tested in this review at a mere 13 lbs, which is 7 lbs lighter than the next lightest grill, the, Coleman NXT 50. With the Cuisinart and the NXT 50 note that both are very light and
you can carry each one with one hand. The Weber and the Char-Broil had to be carried with two hands, which wasn't too much of a problem as they are not that heavy. The Char-Broil has two very secure latches to keep the lid secure when traveling and the Weber had none. The lid on the Weber is fairly heavy for its size though, and the lack of lid latch didn't pose much of a problem. The Coleman RoadTrip LXE was most definitely the heaviest product tested. It is heavy and cumbersome and not much fun to get in and out of a trunk or hatchback. It was the only grill tested with legs and wheels, which proved to be very convenient if we were grilling somewhere without picnic tables.
The Coleman NXT 50 was the only grill tested that on which we had to take the propane canister completely off of in order to move it from one end of a picnic table to the other. The fuel line is so long on this grill that it leaves the fuel canister dangling. However, this long fuel line could also attach the propane canister as far from the hot cooking surface as possible, which could potentially be a safer place to attach to the grill.
An interesting note regarding the Weber Q 1000:
One must pull down on the regulator in order for there to be enough room to attach a 16.4 oz propane canister. At first we thought this was inconvenient and slightly annoying, but it quickly became clear that this secure connection was actually an extreme asset when lifting or moving this grill from one cooking surface to another (not travel mode, say just one picnic table to another) because the propane canister is so securely attached you are able to do so without worrying about it flopping around.
about the Coleman RoadTrip LXE
. This grill is easy to roll from place to place
in the folded or even in the upright standing position. However, it is a bit of a challenge to lift it into and out of a trunk and it is downright dangerous to attempt to lift it from folding position to upright position without reading the directions first. In order to properly lift this grill unit up and lock the stand into the upright position one must first step on the handle. Yes, that's right folks, the handle. One must step onto the handle and very carefully lift up the grill unit, which causes the stand legs to be in the proper position for latching. One's instincts are to grasp hold of the handle and attempt to disengage the locked-together stand legs and attempt to set the unit upright. Bad idea. This can cause the whole unit to become extremely top heavy and flip over backwards, This can be downright dangerous if the lid is not locked and the heavy grill plates are inside. Unfortunately this happened to us on two separate occasions before we got the hang of it.
Size of Cooking Area
The Coleman RoadTrip LXE has the largest cooking surface area by far at 285 sq in. The Char-Broil Grill2Go's cooking surface size is 200 sq in and the Weber Q 1000 follows close at 189 sq in. The Cuisinart Petit Gourmet has the smallest cooking surface size measuring 145 sq in.
Weber Q 1000 came with an aluminum disposable drip tray insert that goes into the more permanent drip tray. This was nice for ease of clean up,
but it's not wind resistant and usually ended up in this position (blowing away) in windy conditions. This can be easily remedied by doing without the disposable part – it is actually not necessary.
How We Test
We had a lot of fun testing these grills. We took them on campouts, cookouts and even had a few grill parties, but in the end we were determined to see how they compared side-by-side.
We prepared a test piece of a five batches of food, each containing the same items to test on each grill. Then we fired up each grill with our camera, temperature gauge and notebook in hand to see and document how each one handled our designated test piece.
Minimum test piece:
1 ear of corn
1 yellow squash
1 sirloin & veggie kabob
1 chicken & veggie kabob
1 prawn, pineapple & pepper kabob
2 ground beef sliders
How well each grill fit our test piece. Clockwise from top left: Coleman RoadTrip LXE, Coleman NXT 50, Cuisinart Petit Gourmet and the Weber Q 1000.
Test piece grill time measurements are based on the medium setting unless otherwise noted.
About Drip Trays
They are not all created equal by far. Some portable grill designs definitely put more thought into the design and functionality of their grill drip trays. The Char-Broil TRU-Infrared Grill2Go X200 had the largest and most user friendly drip tray. The Weber Q 1000's drip tray wasn't very wind resistant and the Coleman NXT 50's drip tray leaked. The Coleman RoadTrip LXE has a drip tray that you cannot take out with a 16.4 oz propane canister attached and the Cuisinart Petit Gourmet had the smallest drip tray of all the grills tested.
Top row: Weber Q 1000, Coleman NXT 50, Coleman RoadTrip LXE Bottom row: Char-Broil TRU-Infrared Grill2Go X200, Cuisinart Petit Gourmet
Nice Bonus Features
The Coleman RoadTrip LXE and the Cuisinart Petit Gourmet both came with a backup burner lighting chain system in case the automatic ignite starting mechanism were to go out. The ideas is that if you go on a longer camping excursion and the ignition starter were to go out, and
you can't get to a hardware store, you can place a match or stick or piece of paper into the empty coiled end in order to place an increased amount of distance between your fingers and the burner when lighting.
The RoadTrip LXE also has nice slide out side tables and hooks in the front for hanging your grilling tools.
Best for Specific Applications
The Char-Broil TRU-Infrared is burly. It looks like the tank of portable grills and its "TRU Infrared" heat technology acts like somewhat of a convection oven without drying out the food being grilled. This grill would be great for an off road or four wheel drive trip where the contents of a vehicle might get jostled around a lot. It locks up tight with its two very secure latches and it isn't wobbly. This grill is great for anything that needs to be grilled fast and very hot.
The Cuisinart Petit Gourmet is super light and extremely easy to transport and does a great job of grilling a smaller amount of food. It went on extra adventures because of its ultralight and non bulky design that travels great. When folded up it doesn't have any pointy legs that stick out and it gets kudos for having such an easily stowable design.
In conclusion we think the best portable grill for the ultralight adventures is the Cuisinart Petit Gourmet, the most portable grill in this review. It's easy to carry, transport and clean. If you want something extremely durable for grilling things extra hot, try the Char-Broil. The Coleman RoadTrip LXE is perfect for tailgating. The Weber Q 1000 is great for car-side camping or picnicking as it is sturdy, stable and grills evenly, but does take just a bit longer.
You might want to also check out our Best Camping Stove
and Best Cooler and Ice Chest
reviews. If you're feeling extra chillax, also check out our Best Flip Flop
and Best Hammock
reviews as well.