Outdoor cooking and grilling is a big part of any trip, and the grill you use can make the difference between enjoying some great grilled food, and wishing you’d stopped back at that gas station for sandwiches.
All gas grills are not created equal, and this is especially true with portable grills. Compact design, easy cleaning, and convenient is what most folks look for, but there are some other important considerations for your portable grill – There are a lot of options, and a wide range of pricing and sizes. Most portable grills cost less than $300, and last around 3 years. And in most cases, you get what you pay for. So what do you look for?
BTUs and Construction – BTUs are a guide to how hot your grill can get, and the higher the better. But construction of the grill plays a part as well. Thin metal, and lightweight materials on the burner and grill grate means the grill can’t hold the heat well. Many units have a high BTU rating to make up for lightweight components they are built with. Safety and stability are a concern with these units as well, and best to carefully examine them before you buy. Look for a clear assembly and instruction manual written in English – and always that “Made in the USA” label. Most grills now have built in spark-style igniters, but they’re not the best quality – Always keep a lighter handy!
Material – Look for units that are welded as opposed to bolted together. In most cases, welding means better construction, and durability. The best portable grill exteriors are made cast aluminum, cast iron, enameled steel and stainless steel. No matter the quality of the stainless steel or aluminum, after time it will discolor from the barbecue heat and exposure to the elements. The thinner the material used – The faster this will happen. Cast iron is extremely durable, and heavy. Cast iron grills will rust if not properly painted. Enameled steel comes in many colors, and won’t rust – But the finish will chip. Avoid aluminum burners, they burn out quickly. Cast iron or stainless steel is always better choice for internal parts and grills. 304 or 18-8 grade stainless is the best for corrosion and rust resistance.
Size – Grill size matters, based on how many (or how fast) you need to feed everyone. And the bigger the grill, the more expensive it is. 200 square inches is about the average, and adequate for grilling up some grub for 5 or 6 people. For the grate, avoid aluminum or nickel-plating, and go for cast iron or aluminum. They hold heat well, and give you those professional grill marks you’re looking for. You’ll need to make sure your grill will fit into your truck, trailer, or car, so double check the size when folded up for travel. Look for durable latches or clips, wheels (if needed), and how the grill needs to stow. Purchase a conversion kit, so you can use your grill with a standard 20lb propane cylinder – Saves money and space, and you can grill longer!
Whew, a lot to think about for a small grill – Now, what’s the best? Here are three you can’t go wrong with…
CAMCO OLYMPIAN – $229.00 – Features 12,000 BTUs and 180 sq. in. of grill space. The unit measures 24”x15”x12”, stainless steel construction, locks for transport, and can be converted to a 20lb propane tank. Comes as a tabletop grill or with an optional stand. I love this grill because it has an RV mounting rack, and clamps onto the side of an RV or trailer, and hooks into the RV propane supply! Saves room, hassle, and easy to use. You may be able to get a cheaper price on Amazon here.
COLEMAN ROAD TRIP LXE – $159.00 – This grill has 2 independent burners for 20,000 total BTUs, and large 285 square inch grill space. The Coleman measures 46”” x 18 x 35”, and is large for a portable grill. But with fold down wheeled legs, it sets up and stores easily. The Coleman is a good looking grill, comes in numerous colors, and great for extended trips, or feeding a bigger group. Another favorite of the RV crowd.
WEBER Q2200 – $279.00 – 12,000 BTUs and 280 square inches of cooking space, and the Weber name set this one apart. It measures 21”x27”x24”, has an optional collapsible cart, stores well, and is easily portable. The Weber comes fully assembled, with solid construction, and made in the USA. The quality or this grill, and Weber’s legendary customer service make this grill a top pick – And my personal favorite! Amazon has the Q2200 here.
All right, let’s load up and go! Pack up the grill – Don’t forget the dog – And if a stranger wanders over to see what you’re cooking, I like my burgers medium…