Grills are the centerpiece of every tailgate party. There’s no better way to showcase your pregame spirit and delight the senses of your fellow fans than with one of the best tailgate grills. Dependable in all weather, easy to load up and quicker to assemble, having the best tailgate grill won’t slow you or the party down.
Ready to fuel up for the game with delicious burgers and juicy steaks that your family and friends will love? Our list of the 8 best grills for tailgating has something for everyone no matter your budget or grilling experience. Keep reading to find your next new portable tailgate grill.
Key Features to Consider
Beyond propane vs charcoal, it’s important to check the following features when choosing the perfect tailgating grill for your next party.
- Cooking Area. Are you planning to grill for two or ten? Grills sized around 150” are best for 2 to 4 people. For ultimate tailgating glory, go for a grill with 200” or more. Remember that the more you load onto a grill, the longer things take to cook, so don’t depend on filling every square inch when you choose a size.
- Portability. Tailgating is about having fun, not struggling to set up your grill. Portability is a key feature every buyer should consider, even if you have plenty of room in your truck or SUV. The best grills for tailgating are lightweight and compact. They will fold down to a smaller size and can be put up in a moment’s notice. While many of the best tailgate grill options on our list are table top models, there are also those with full sized stands depending on your needs.
- Weatherproofing. Depending on where you live, football season can bring rain, sleet, snow, and harsh winds. Stainless steel, aluminum, chrome, and enameling are all major bonuses that ensure your grill will last for years to come.
Best Tailgate Grill Top 8 Comparison Guide
Propane vs. Charcoal
Experienced grill masters probably already have a favored fuel, and we’re not trying to change any minds. Instead, this is a quick guide for anyone new to grilling or who is undecided. Both fuels have their pros and cons, and either can make for one of the best tailgating grills.
Propane. Clean burning propane makes grilling easy. Propane grills heat up more quickly than charcoal grills, require less cleaning and maintenance, and allow you to control the temperature with the turn of a knob. Propane costs about $1 to $1.50 per cooking hour. Most of the best propane grills for tailgating take 1lb propane tanks, which are easy to carry and will last the whole party (4 to 5 hours). Propane does lack the potential high (700°+) heat of charcoal, and will never be able to achieve the classic smoky flavor of charcoal grills.
Charcoal. Just the smell of charcoal is enough to evoke memories of BBQs past. Many experienced grillers swear by charcoal because of its unique flavor and superior “low and slow” cooking compared to propane. Charcoal grills are also cheaper than propane grills. Even the best charcoal grills for tailgating cost under $100. Controlling temperature with a charcoal grill takes some skill, however, and cleaning the ashes is a pain.
Reviews of the Top Rated Tailgate Grills
The Weber Q1200 is a tailgater’s dream, featuring the raw heating power, convenient portability, and large cooking area you need before the game. With one touch ignition, the single burner Q1200 produces up to 8500BTU. Heat is quickly and evenly dispersed over the included porcelain enameled grill plate. This ingenious grill plate won’t stick to your food, is easy to clean, and helps resist rust.
Thanks to the large domed lid, you can fit anything from whole chickens to giant racks of ribs within the 189” cooking area. This tailgate grill’s body is made from cast aluminum to resist rust and keep this unit light. Even with the side tables, the Q1200 weighs just 30lbs and can easily be carried by one person. Setup is as simple as locking the legs in place. If you prefer a standalone grill, there’s an extra portable cart attachment available that doesn’t add much bulk or weight
The Weber Q1200 comes fully assembled in a wide range of colors. It uses 1lb propane tanks, though can be adapted to use 20lb tanks. We found this best tailgate grill to be incredibly efficient with fuel, perhaps due to the high quality, single piece stainless steel burner tubes. We’d expect this grill to last for years with proper maintenance. Weber agrees, awarding the Q1200 their 5-year warranty and earning it a place as our best tailgate grill this year.
The best grills for tailgating aren’t always the biggest and shiniest. The Weber Jumbo Joe is a perfect example of this, and is the beloved choice of tailgaters everywhere. This best seller features a classic round, domed lidded shape made of porcelain enamel coated steel. That creates a rust-free finish, and when combined with the aluminum damper and nylon handle protects this grill from the harshest elements.
The Jumbo Joe has a massive 18.5” diameter cooking area, or about 240”. Feed your whole family and a few other fans without running out of room. Like the rest of this grill, the grill plate is weatherproof and rust resistant, made from triple nickel plating. This grill sits on three short legs, raising the coals a safe distance from the ground or table. At about 20lbs, you can take this grill with you for more than just tailgating. This grill is also ideal for camping, beach BBQs, and backyard grilling.
One thing we love about charcoal grills is that you can store all their accessories inside until you need them. This is especially true with the Jumbo Joe. This best tailgate grill features such a large internal area that you can keep coals, utensils, lighter fluid, and anything else you need safely organized in the grill until you reach your destination. Also backed by Weber’s 10-year warranty, this grill is one of the best investments you can make this football season.
For less than half the price of the Weber Q1200, you can still enjoy many of the same great features with the Coleman NXT Lite. Like the Q1200, the Coleman NXT Lite is a single burner 8,500BTU propane grill with one touch ignition. The NXT Lite also has a comparable cooking area of 169”, just a few less than the Q1200.
So, what’s the difference? The NXT Lite weighs just 15lbs, and can be carried with one hand with its compact design. It sits on four textured legs which keep the grill from sliding around, but which can be difficult to level. Thankfully, grease management is very efficient in this best tailgate grill. It’s safe to use on almost any surface, including grass and plastic fold out tables.
For its bargain price, this isn’t the most fuel efficient or evenly burning tailgate grill that we tested, but it is ruggedly constructed with a large enough cook area for 2 to 5 people. We suggest testing different areas of the grill to find hot and cold spots, but after learning your new tailgate grill’s quirks the Coleman NXT Lite won’t disappoint.
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