Portable Gas Grills – Best Of Both Worlds
In many ways portable gas grills represent the best compromise in terms of convenience and flavor. While of course not as full featured as their bigger brothers they can do a fairly respectable job of grilling up some good food (assuming you’ve got the requisite skills). Add in the fact that you can take them far more places and store them in spaces that you can’t even begin to think of putting a full size gas grill and you’ve got a winning combination.
Portable Gas Grills vs Portable Charcoal Grills
While we do have a love for portable charcoal grills (see here) the fine folks here at LTB do know that sometimes gas is just so much easier than charcoal it isn’t even funny. Yes, charcoal does produce a better flavor on some foods (but not all). Yes there is a traditionalist/classical aspect to charcoal that can’t be ignored. But if you factor in the portability of the grill then portable charcoal grills, while awesome, can start to lose points quickly when compared to portable gas grills.
Places And Situations Where A Portable Gas Grill Can Shine
While they aren’t going to win over the “charcoal rules” crowd anytime soon, if you’re looking for a grill that is easy to transport, easy to setup and less messy, then here are some situations where the gas grill might win out:
- Car Camping
- The Beach
- The Park
- Pretty much any camping at all
- Tailgate parties/Tailgating
- Grilling on boats, docks, or on or near water
- When you don’t want to lug the charcoal around
- When you don’t want to hassle with the charcoal cleanup afterward
- When you want to grill at a certain place but the location’s rules forbid it
So when does a portable charcoal grill win out? Whenever you are willing or able to deal with lugging the briquettes around, hassle with the charcoal cleanup and are allowed to by whatever group governs where you are going to be grilling.
What To Look For
First thing is going to be fuel source. Most portable gas bbqs are going to run off of the standard 14 ounce gas canister that you can find pretty much anywhere. Make sure you can find them in your area, can order plenty to keep on hand, or can get them in the place you plan on going to. If your grill does not utilize the standard size canister, is there an adapter? Will you be able to get ahold of the canisters they require the next time you want to do some grilling? What about a few years down the road?
A fair number of these propane powered grills will have adapter hoses and connectors that allow them to be used with larger 20 pound propane tanks and canisters. Some can even be hooked up to the propane connectors on RVs. If that’s something you’re interested in or may be interested in, find out before you buy the grill, not after.
Next up is going to be cooking ability matched with what you are likely to cook. Most portable grills are going to do fine with hamburgers, hotdogs, kebabs, steaks, chicken pieces and the like. Standard grilling fare. Expect much more than this and you might be disappointed. If there is a special item you know you’re going to be cooking you might want to do some research specifically for that kind of food on the grills you look at. Other than that, take a look at reviews for the grill, make sure it can get high enough heat to do what you want and the design of it is a good one.
Finally you’ll be looking at the portability vs build quality balancing act. Making something lightweight and easy to carry is good, but if it doesn’t stand up to the rigors of your particular transport style and method, its not going to be a good purchase. When considering these things, keep the size of the grill in mind as well. Although great, you probably don’t need a Napoleon Freestyle gas grill if you’re just cooking for you and your honey down on the beach. While an awesome grill, you might be better suited with something smaller, lighter and far less expensive. However if you’re looking for something portable and compact but high quality with a warming area, the same Napoleon Freestyle might make an excellent choice.
Some of the Portable Gas Grills That We Like
We’re going to do a quick roundup of the grills we like the looks of or have heard good things about. We’ll be going in depth on many of these a bit down the road.
Weber Q Series and Go-Anywhere.
The Weber Q series of gas grills are pretty awesome. No, they aren’t cheap and there’s a reason for that – they are quality grills. They currently come in 4 flavors – the Q100, Q120, Q200 and Q220. They differ in a few areas, size and BTU output being the two major ones. While the Q100 does not come with folding side tables, all the others do. The Q100 and Q200 come with a push-button ignition – the others have electric. Like most Weber grills there are a plethora of accessories – covers, griddles, carts, etc. They also come with decent warranty as well as a backlog of available spare parts. If you haven’t picked up yet on the fact that LTB is a fan of most things Weber, then let’s spell it out – we’re fans of all things Weber.
Another Weber contender is the Go-Anywhere gas grill. A nice little rectangular grill, it cooks fine, is compact and more importantly, is inexpensive. While it may not have many bells or whistles and kinda looks like something your dear old dad may have owned, it’s a solid little grill. Underestimate it at your peril.
Cuisinart Portable Gas Grills
Cuisinart has a long reputation for making quality kitchen appliances and recently they’ve started putting out some portable gas grills that do fairly well. The three we here at LTB like are the Petit Gourmet, Everyday and All-Foods. The Petit Gourmet is a nice little grill in an attractive package that is fairly well designed and easy to transport. The Everyday and the All-Foods are more utilitarian in their look and less easy to transport. However they are bigger and as a result offer larger cooking areas; 240 sq. inches for both the Everyday and the All-Foods as opposed to 145 for the Petit Gourmet. The Cuisinart Everyday has a taller hood that can possibly fit a chicken under while the All-Foods has a more streamlined hood that pretty much rules out cooking taller foods. All three can be connected to a larger propane tank with attachments that are of course sold separately. Reviews and ratings of these grills are complimentary and speak highly of them.
One final note on the Cuisinart grills – the Petit Gourmet model is sold as a tabletop grill and also with an attached folding “Versi-Stand” for about 20 bucks more. The All-Foods offers a similar situation with the base model being tabletop and also available attached to a collapsible rolling cart, also for about 20 bucks more. Cuisinart also sells a stand for around 50 bucks that can also hold a propane tank. The Everyday seems to be only a tabletop model, so if you’ve got your heart set on it, but want a stand, you have an option or two.
Coleman RoadTrip Series
Coleman makes a number of gas grills and frankly the lineup is a bit confusing. We’ll sort it all out in a later post but basically you’ll probably be looking at the RoadTrip series, specifically the RoadTrip LX, LXE and LXX. They all are nice little grills that come with built in folding stands, some with wheels, some without. What’s the difference? Not much. We’ll get into it more in another post, but most people seem to like these decent little grills. Not everyone, but most. There are some problems that people have run into (warping lid mostly) that can usually be prevented by reading up about them and not doing the things that made the problems for other people (cover down, heat on high). Basically the LXE is the standard model. It is red and has wheels. The LXX is black with a built-in thermometor in the lid. It also has wheels. The LXE is blue, has no wheels and no thermomoeter. All three have the same cooking area – 285 sq. inches. All three put out 20,000 BTUs on 2 burners, except the LXX which puts out 22,000 (really? does that make much of a difference?).
Basically if you want wheels (and we recommend you get one with wheels – the beasts weigh about 40-45 pounds or so) then you’ve got the choice of red (LXE) or black (LXX). If you don’t care about the wheels or really really like blue, go for the LX.
Napoleon Freestyle Gas Grill
Napoleon is another favorite company around the Love That Barbecue headquarters because they generally make pretty awesome grills (at pretty awesomely large prices). Luckily for the portable gas grill seeking crowd, they also make a portable gas grill – the Freestyle Gas Grill (not to be confused with the Freestyle Electric Grill). The Napoleon Freestyle is all stainless steel, has a 215 sq. inch main cooking area and a 105 sq. inch warming area. Yup – a portable grill with a warming area. This little devil cranks out 14,000 BTUs, can be hooked up to bigger propane tanks and has a whole handful of different mounting options if you don’t dig the tabletop design. It’s a sweet grill that comes in on the top end of both quality and price – a shade under 300 bucks. Spendy for a portable grill.And if you want the infrared heating model, expect to pay in the mid 300s. Yes, they offer a portable grill with infrared heating. Now are you starting to understand why we like Napoleon?
Aside from the Webers, the Cuisinarts, the Colemans and the Napoleons of the world, there are a lot of other companies making portable grills. Some of the ones that we’ve heard mixed reviews on are Solaire, Holland and Magma. Solaire produces the Anywhere and Everywhere grills. They get good reviews but customers have had mixed experiences. Made in the USA but some have complained about the lack of decent customer service. Just sayin’. Holland is another brand that gets good reviews from professional reviewers but really mixed by customers – people either love it or hate it. Their Companion is probably their most famous/infamous grill. The last in the honorable mention category is the grills made by Magma. Stainless grills that cater to boaters and RVers, they have been American made for 30 years and running. We’ll be digging in to Magma grills a bit down the road because they seem to have a very devoted (almost fanatical) following. Prices are on par with what you’d expect for an American made stainless product.
There you have it – the Love That Barbecue roundup of portable gas grills. Go ahead and check them out and if you take a swing on one, let us know how it turns out.
One last thing – if a portable gas grill doesn’t float your boat and you’re looking for something a little more sizable, here are a few posts you might want to take a look at:
Good Luck! Check out any of our other posts and let us know what you think.