Watching your favorite sports team with a burger and a beer is one of life’s great pleasures. Being able to grill that burger fresh at a tailgate party ramps up the fun! But with so many portable grills on the market, which one do you choose? Take a look at our list and find the best tailgate grill for your needs.
Quick Summary (If You're in a Rush...)
- Our top pick, the Coleman RoadTrip is equipped with quick-fold legs, durable wheels, and two sliding side tables.
- The Blackstone Tailgater, which also has adjustable legs, provides both grill and griddle cooking surfaces.
- For a lighter option with superb fuel economy, the Weber Q1200 is a great choice.
- The stainless steel Smoke Hollow 205 might be the best looking grill in our roundup. Its folding legs and extra warming rack make it perfect for tailgates.
- If you prefer charcoal to propane, go for the Weber Smokey Joe.
What to Consider Before Purchasing A Tailgate Grill
Here are a few factors to consider in choosing the best tailgate grill for your needs:
The first thing to consider is fuel source. For tailgate grills, the most popular option is propane gas; however, we did include one charcoal grill on our list, since some folks just love the smokier flavor of coals (If you’re a charcoal fan, check out our top charcoal grills article).
Whatever you choose, be sure to check the rules of wherever you like to tailgate, since certain types of grills are sometimes forbidden. For example, charcoal can be seen as more dangerous since the coals stay hot after you’re done cooking.
When considering a grill, be on the lookout for foldable legs and sliding side tables. Also think about if you need it to have legs at all, or if you’re just going to put it on a table. Lastly, consider how far you’ll have to move your grill, if you’ll be able to carry it, and if you need wheels.
The five grills on this list range from roughly 10 pounds to 75 pounds. Check the weight before deciding on a grill, and think about how you might have to load it into your car, truck bed, etc. And remember that a propane tank will add a little bit more weight.
How many people are you planning on grilling for? Are you cooking a meal with meat and sides? Portable grills tend to have a smaller cooking areas and most do not have warming racks. For reference, a 200 square inch grill can cook about 12 average-sized burger patties with adequate cooking room.
Best Tailgate Grill - Top 5 Individual Reviews
Bearing these factors in mind, let’s take a look at our top tailgate grills:
1. Coleman RoadTrip Review
Our #1 recommendation for best tailgate grill, the Coleman RoadTrip has impressive power in a compact size. The sturdy quick-fold legs, with two wheels, make transporting the grill easy. The stand is also removable for additional portability. With a BTU range from 3,250 to 20,000, the Coleman has the capability to cook a wide variety of foods. And with 285 square inches of cook space, there is plenty of room if you’re grilling for a crowd.
The enhanced temperature control is designed to give you precision when you need it – three individual burners can create three different temperature zones. A gauge in the lid tells you the internal air temperature. The inclusion of a water pan catches grease for healthier grilling and is easily removed for cleaning.
Running on portable, 1-lb propane tanks makes transporting fuel along with the grill very easy. The one-touch ‘Instastart Ignition’ makes lighting the Coleman RoadTrip quick and simple, regardless of the weather. The cast iron grills retain heat well, making sure food cooks evenly. Additionally, the grill grates can be removed and interchanged with griddles and stove grills for versatility. Included are two sliding side tables, useful for prepping food and holding utensils and cooking equipment.
2. Blackstone Grills Tailgater Review
Super versatile, the Tailgater from Blackstone gives you the ability to grill, griddle, and cook over an open burner. The dual cooking surfaces offer an impressive 512 square inches of space, more than enough if you’re cooking for a group. On the Grill Box, temperatures reach 500°F+, allowing you to achieve that classic char grill and sear.
Easy portable setup and very little assembly make this grill very mobile. The legs of the stand are individually adjustable, ensuring stability on uneven terrain. This grill folds flat for ease of transportation and also storage when not in use. The heaviest on our list at 75 pounds and without wheels, this grill may need more than one person to move it.
Built to last, the Blackstone Tailgater Combo is heavy duty. With one stainless steel burner and one cast iron burner, heat retention and distribution is excellent. The entire unit has a powder coat finish, ensuring weather protection and durability. A combined output of 35,000 BTUs is powerful enough to cook a huge variety of foods. A built-in igniter provides easy lighting. Each side of the grill has independent controls for easy and precise temperature adjustment. This model has extra-large grease trays under each burner, which are removable for easy cleaning.
3. Weber Q1200 Review
At just under 30 pounds and without long legs, the Weber Q1200 is extremely portable and easy to carry. A cast aluminum lid and body allow for a lighter overall grill, despite the cast iron grill plates. Also porcelain-enameled, the grill plates are hardy and retain heat well, keeping the distribution even for perfectly cooked food. With a glass-reinforced nylon frame, this durable grill withstands frequent use and transportation.
189 square inches of cooking space make the Weber Q1200 compact but efficient. The relatively small output of 8,500 BTUs results in better fuel economy. Despite being less powerful, this grill is able to reach temperatures of 550°F, enough to cook and sear any foods. Adjusting the temperature is simple with the ‘Infinite Control’ burner valve, and the inbuilt temperature gauge tells you the internal air temperature.
Folding side tables are great for providing prep space and holding sauces, grilling tools, and other items. This model has a stand available for purchase separately, but the grill needs to be placed on a raised surface for comfortable cooking. A removable catch pan keeps grease contained away from food and is easy to clean. Electronic ignition removes the need for matches and shortens preheating time.
4. Smoke Hollow 205 Review
With fully stainless steel construction, the Smoke Hollow 205 is a visually stunning grill. Weighing roughly 20 pounds, it is the lightest gas grill on our list. Additionally, its small legs fold, and it has a carrying handle. Latches hold the lid closed during transport for safety and compact storage. Running on disposable 1-lb gas cylinders, fuel is readily accessible and also easy to bring with you wherever you go.
A built-in warming rack sets this grill apart. With a combined total of 310 square inches of cooking space, this model is spacious despite its compact size. The warming rack gives you the ability to cook sides and toast buns while grilling your main. A stainless steel drip tray is included to keep grease away from your food and help prevent flare-ups.
The 10,000 BTU output is powerful enough to cook your favorite foods and to keep preheating quick. A temperature gauge built into the lid allows for accurate monitoring. The control valve is less precise with Low, Medium, and High settings but allows for easy tweaking. An electric igniter gets this grill going with one touch. Both igniter and propane attachment stand out from the body of the grill. This means more space is needed for storage and transportation to prevent damage to these components.
5. Weber Smokey Joe Review
The only charcoal grill on our list, the Weber Smokey Joe is a compact version of a traditional kettle-style grill. At 9.5 pounds, this grill is easy for anyone to transport single-handedly. With a cooking area of 147 square inches, this grill is ideal when cooking for a small party. The porcelain-enameled lid and body retain heat well, even when exposed to cold and windy weather.
Though it takes a little longer to reach temperature, the compact size reduces the time needed to preheat. A smaller grill also means less charcoal with each use, boosting the fuel economy. Unlike a gas grill, charcoal will imbue food with a smoke flavor for a classic barbecue taste. There is no temperature gauge on this grill. Two rust-resistant dampers on the top and bottom control the air flow. These dampers are easily adjustable to keep temperature precisely maintained.
A plated steel cooking grate keeps heat evenly distributed during cooking, preventing hot and cold spots. An aluminum ash catcher is included to make clean up quick and easy. Due to the height, this tabletop grill is best placed on a raised surface for comfortable grilling. The underside of the grill gets hot so this model is not suitable for use on flammable or plastic surfaces.
To Sum Up...
Any one of these grills is an excellent tailgating companion, but the Coleman RoadTrip is our standout. Not only does it provide great portability with its wheels and collapsible legs, but it packs a serious punch with impressive output. It’s also quite lightweight considering its size and cooking area.
Let us know in the comments which grill you’ll be using on gameday!