I love the great outdoors, but only when it comes with great food. I have nothing against camping: I love lakes, and I love mountains. My gripe isn’t against sleeping in tents dwelling or traveling around #vanlife-style. My problem with roughing it in the wilderness is those dehydrated meals that have somehow become standard camping cuisine, and which deprive my taste buds of joy and pleasure. Why go for powdered stews when you could be grilling ribeye and searing salmon (or at the very least, feasting on buffalo sausuage and lemon-herb mussels)? Lucky for me—and all the other humans who agree that going off-grid doesn’t mean you have to eat garbage—summertime grilling isn’t restricted to suburban backyard bashes, and can bring all the smoky dogs and cheesy smashburgers you can eat to wherever you lay your sleeping bag, from the forest to the beach, or, hell, the empty lot behind the 7-Eleven. There are now tons of styles of portable grills that are compact and easy to set up, and let you bring the flavor to the campground, lakeside, backcountry—or even your tiny studio apartment.
If you’re looking for the best portable grill for summer cheffin’, and you don’t trust the recommendations given to you by your Thoreau-loving uncle (or your National-Park-hopping bestie who seems to live off jerky and dried bananas), then you’ve come to the right place. I’ve scoured the web to find the best portable grills for every situation. Need a grill that can fit in your travel backpack? Found it. Don’t want to deal with propane? That’s what solar-powered grills are for, bud. Only have a hundred clams to spend? No problemo. So, pack up the cooler with burgers and (preferably homemade) hot dogs and get ready to grill all summer long.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire (BBQ)
Ignore the hefty price tag for a moment, and picture this: “a grill smoker James Bond would be proud of.” That’s how Lucas G (just one of many happy reviewers) describes the Nomad Grill and Smoker, a portable grill that can sear steaks or smoke your favorite meats low and slow, all day long. The briefcase-like construction makes it easy to carry—simply flip open to grill up to 30 burger patties or two racks of ribs, or keep closed and smoke up to 28 pounds of tasty meats.
The Napoleon TravelQ is perhaps the best portable propane grill out there. With cast-iron cooking grids, this bad boy leaves mouth-watering grill marks on whatever you’re searing. It weighs just 30 pounds, making it the perfect grill for tailgates, RV trips, or visits to local beaches or parks. An optional stand allows it to convert into a cart, so you can wheel it from the backyard to the parking lot of the big game with ease.
Ready the charcoal
If you prefer the flavor from charcoal grills—we feel ya—look no further than GoBQ’s portable grill. It weighs nine pounds, folds into a cylinder-shaped carrying pack, and has a spacious 14-by-14-inch grilling surface area. It’s also TSA-friendly, though we don’t suggest trying to BBQ while airborne.
Affordable and effective
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a high-quality, portable grill. Weber’s Smokey Joe charcoal grill is just under 60 bucks, weighs less than 10 pounds, and will keep you and your buds fed and happy all summer long.
Seasoned with the sun
Refilling propane tanks seems like too much responsibility, and I don’t trust myself with fire after a few pints. That’s why this solar-powered BBQ cooker is so appealing: By the sun’s good grace, this stainless steel stove cooks veggies and meat alike in less than 30 minutes. Just note whatever you want to cook will have to fit into the grill’s long, narrow cooking chamber—but that just means more skirt steak and corn cobs for us.
For your studio apartment
If you can’t get away this summer, that doesn’t mean that you, too, don’t deserve some grilling goodness in your life. The George Foreman grill plate can transform your sad studio apartment “kitchen” into a culinary haven. Plus, if you snag a car outlet adapter, you can even take it to the tailgate or campsite.
Grill’s got wheels
This may be the closest thing you can get to a stationary, at-home grill setup while on the go. The Weber Propane Travel Grill has a side tray, hooks for your BBQ tools, a large cooking area, and a built-in thermometer. Unlike those other grills, however, this one collapses and travels on its own set of wheels. Vroom-vroom, people.
You’ll need to start a campfire to get this grill going, but that just means you get to flex your lumbersexual woodsman skills in front of your buds. The grill grate also has retractable legs, so when you’re not cooking over the open fire, it collapses and folds to dimensions so small it can be stashed in your backpack.
Foldable fire pit
L.L.Bean knows what we need when it comes to the outdoors. This flatpack grill is a great companion for beach days and camping trips alike, since not only does it have a stainless steel grilling grate, but it also doubles as an above-ground fire pit. You can safely get a bonfire going without disturbing the site, no matter where you are—or how wet the ground is.
One that weighs less than a pound
Light packers, this is the portable camping grill for you. It doesn’t even weigh a pound, and can be used as both a grill and a stove. Plus, you don’t have to deal with propane or charcoal. This is a woodfire grill, and you can actually use found twigs and branches to get the fire going, as long as you know what you’re burning is food safe. It can also be used to cook using a cast iron skillet, or to brew a pot of your favorite campsite coffee in a fire-safe kettle.
Grilling, but make it boujee
This cannot be said for just any grill, but it applies to the Everdure CUBE from Food52: This grill is beautiful. The aesthetics aren’t the only thing that this baby has going for it, either—it holds heat in, cleans up easily, and has a storage compartment for everything in your culinary arsenal.
Happy grilling—and don’t forget to scoop a dope apron so you don't get sausage grease splatters on your summer 'fit.
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