Portable grills: Experts helped us shop for the best models to buy this summer

Grilling experts helped us find portable grills that are worth your money.

April 17, 2024, 4:05 AM
Shop the portable grills experts helped us select
Shop the portable grills experts helped us select
ABC News Photo Illustration

Summer is coming up soon which means it's prime time for grilling. If you haven't invested in a great portable grill yet, now is the time!

To help you start shopping, we consulted with experts in the grilling field to find out what to look for when beginning your grill-shopping journey. From the materials used in its construction to the age-old charcoal vs. propane debate, here's what they had to say.

Meet our experts

First up, we spoke with Myron Mixon who is known as "the winningest man in BBQ" thanks to five world champion titles alongside " 200 grand championships resulting in over 1,800 total trophies, 30 state championships, 8 Team of the Year awards, and 11 national championships," per his official bio.

Mixon is also a New York Times best-selling cookbook author with a portfolio including such popular titles as "Smokin’ with Myron Mixon: Recipes Made Simple, from the Winningest Man in Barbecue" and "Myron Mixon’s BBQ Rules." You may also know him from television shows like "BBQ Rules," "Smoked" and a judging stint on "BBQ Pitmasters."

Our second expert is Gordon Maywald, general manager at Jetmore Fireplace and Barbecue Center in Wantagh, New York. The shop has been servicing customers in the New York area for more than 40 years and has grown to become the largest independently owned barbecue and fireplace center on Long Island.

PHOTO: Shop the portable grills experts helped us select
Shop the portable grills experts helped us select
ABC News Photo Illustration

Who is the best candidate for a portable grill?

In short, anyone who likes grilled food! Mixon noted there are generally two kinds of grillers: One who wants to create an elaborate setup in their backyard to show a bit, and another who wants to bring the grill out for events and then store it in the garage. The latter will doubly appreciate the portability factor of these grills, as most are compact enough to stash away easily and won’t take up too much space.

Portable grills are also incredibly handy for camping, tailgating, fishing, and any other outdoor activity where you and your friends or family can enjoy a delicious meal together.

As Mixon pointed out, you can expect the same results from a portable grill as you would a standard-sized model. The only difference is how many people you plan to feed, so couples and smaller families can save thousands and experience the same great taste with a portable option.

What are the different types of portable grill?

Portable grills come with many different cooking methods from wood pellet-burning to electric. This roundup focuses mainly on propane and charcoal portable grills since they tend to be the most familiar and popular among buyers.

Should I choose a propane or charcoal portable grill?

Some of the main issues to consider with propane vs. charcoal are taste, ease of use, and the repairs they'll need.

"With a charcoal grill, there's no real working parts per se," Maywald explained when we asked about the repairs he sees for various types of grills, calling those the most "trouble-free" to invest in.

Pellets grills are slightly different though, as Maywald says users frequently don't maintain them through proper cleaning (such as a weekly ash vacuuming) or they store pellets in a way that allows moisture to seep in and cause incorrect heating and jams in the auger, a piece that helps move the pellets through the machine.

He also cautions users that "the number one thing that goes wrong with gas grills is usually the ignition." Moisture in the air can corrode battery components in ignitions; grease can also pose issues over time. Plus, periods of inactivity (such as winter) allow spiders to build nests in burner tubes which can cause a backfire and ruin the grill controls.

Taste-wise, Mixon offered an easy question to ask yourself when choosing between charcoal and propane: Do you prefer Big Macs or Whoppers? If the answer is Whoppers, consider a charcoal grill while Big Mac lovers should consider propane.

As both of our experts pointed out, propane grills require a commitment to safety and following guidelines that buyers should familiarize themselves with. As long as you read the directions thoroughly before attempting to set up your grill and keep safety in mind, propane grills are a perfectly safe way to cook foods with heat only.

Speaking of safety, Mixon offered another bit of advice: Invest in a meat thermometer. He noted they're easy to find and can be purchased for cheap, and doing so can help prevent foodborne illness when you follow proper heating guidelines such as those outlined by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

Using advice from both experts as well as real-life reviews from across retailers, we've selected a variety of grills that use both cooking methods to help you select the perfect portable grill ahead of summer.

Keep reading to shop our picks!

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Portable charcoal & wood grills

15% off

PK Grills Portable Charcoal BBQ Grill and Smoker with Lid

Our first pick comes from Mixon's preffered brand of portable grill, PK. Weighing in at just over 45 pounds, this aluminum grill offers two grilling zones so you can use direct high heat for your steaks or pork chops or indirect low heat for your more delicate meats. It also has a rust-proof top and bottom so with proper care, this should last a very long time.

  • $337.49
  • $399.99
  • Amazon
Williams Sonoma

Berghoff Tabletop BBQ

Design lovers will greatly appreciate the sleek, sophisticated design of this tabletop grill, and BBQ lovers will love the adjustable airflow, quick setup and rust-resistant, powder-coated steel construction. You can use charcoal or wood, too, which makes it easy to customize every meal to taste.

  • $279.95
  • Williams Sonoma
Home Depot

Akorn Jr. 14 in. Portable Kamado Charcoal Grill in Red

With 155 square inches of cooking space, a 200- to 700-degree temperature range, triple-walled build for maximum heat insulation and easy-carrying handles, this is a fisherman's or camping enthusiast's dream. It's not the lightest option on our list -- weighing in at 33 pounds -- but it's sturdily built and can handle up to seven hamburgers or similarly sized foods at once so you can cook for a small crowd no matter where you are.

  • $169
  • Home Depot
12% off

PK Grills PK300-BCX Portable Charcoal BBQ Grill and Smoker

Another from Mixon favorite PK is this larger grill and smoker combo that provides 300 square inches of cooking space, a four-point venting system for optimum heating control and free-standing capability that makes it great for tailgating and backyard use. Some reviewers note that assembly could be easier, but they also praise its rock-solid heat holding and the ability to switch between intense direct grilling and low-and-slow style cooking.

  • $524.99
  • $599.99
  • Amazon
15% off

Country Smokers 24.4'' W Wood Pellet Grill

Those who prefer the taste of wood-fired meat will love this sleek, tabletop grill that has an attractive black sand finish and can hold up to five pounds of pellets at a time for long cooking times that don't require constant reloading. It has a dial-in digital control type so you can adjust easily between the 180-degree and 500-degree heat range, plus you have a large cooking area of 256 square inches.

  • $219
  • $259.99
  • Wayfair

Portable propane grills


Nexgrill 1 Burner Cast Aluminum Tabletop Propane Gas Grill - Black

As Mixon told us, cast aluminum is as good as it gets when it comes to building grills. This grill comes in a budget-friendly array of options such as the $99 single burner model or $199 version for double the size. You'll get rapid, controlled and intense heat, as well as foldable legs and lightweight construction for taking on the go.

  • $99
  • Walmart
Williams Sonoma

Cuisinart Chef's Style Two Burner Tabletop Gas Grill

20,000 BTUs of heat, 275 square inches of cooking space and two independently controlled burners make it a cinch to create two totally different dishes at the same time. This grill has an easy twist-start ignition for effortless start-up, and the stainless steel finish is durable and resistant to weather, rust and other environmental dangers. This one requires a bit more in-depth cleaning than some simpler models due to its various moving parts, but proper care will ensure this lasts many, many seasons.

  • $199.95
  • Williams Sonoma
11% off

Weber Q1200 Liquid Propane Grill, Black

This impressive-looking grill from Weber comes with one stainless steel burner that offers 8500 BTUs of heat with an electronic ignition and an infinite control burner valve. It ranks high among users, averaging 4.8 stars among more than 7500 buyers who frequently cite its heat control, size, quality, cleanability and versatility among some of their favorite attributes. Cast iron and aluminum outer construction also offers strength and longevity, as does the glass-reinforced nylon frame.

  • $254.94
  • $286.80
  • Amazon