It?s not really a tailgating party unless you can sit back, chill with your friends, and enjoy some well-grilled meat. Some hot food, a couple of cold ones, and good company; it doesn?t get much better than that.
Of course, to make it all happen, you?re going to have to come equipped, and getting the right grill for tailgating is essential. But, how do you make sure you find one that can meet all your needs?
There?s no need to stress. I?m going to take a look over six of the best grills for tailgate parties and why each of them deserves to play that all-important role at your party.
Here, we?re going to take a closer look at the six grills, their pros, their cons, and which might be the best fit for you.
What To Know About A Grill Before You Buy It
I?m going to dig into the different grills for tailgating in just a moment, but first, we need to take a closer look at what, exactly, you?re getting yourself in for. There are a lot of different types of grills, out there, so how do you know which is the best for you? What?s a suitable fit for a tailgating party?
Here are a few factors you need to consider before making your final choice:
The Fuel Source
To some people, there?s nothing quite like the smokey flavor of a burger cooked on a charcoal grill. However, in most cases, people prefer to stick with an electronically powered propane gas grill.
This is, partly, because it?s a lot more convenient. You don?t have to bring quite as many resources with you. There?s also a lot less clean up to worry about, after. Some places may outright ban the use of charcoal grills, too, because they?re a potential fire hazard. Those coals stay hot a long time after you?re done cooking, after all.
Pretty much all grills you?re able to buy can whip up a few hot dogs and burgers with no problem at all. However, they don?t all reach the same temperature quite as easily. If you?re going to want some fat steaks with those delicious dark sear marks, you need a grill that can go above and beyond the usual.
It?s always important to pay any attention to details the manufacturer or other users give on how well it?s able to cook different foods. With a grill with a lower temperature range, you might end up waiting longer than expected for your meal.
Portability and Size
Naturally, the grill has to be small enough to be able to bring on the road with you. You?re not going to show up to a tailgating party with it being wheeled behind the car. So, consider your trunk space and whether or not you can get the grill in there.
Of course, some grills have features to help that along. If it has folding legs or retracting side tables, it will be much easier to bring around with you.
There are some grills that come with no legs at all, that you can put on a table. Of course, that means you need to find a suitable table, too, so it could mean more hassle to some.
Where possible, you want to get hands-on with a grill to see if it?s really made of sterner stuff. You?re going to be transporting it to and from the tailgate party location, so it needs to be sturdy.
Get your hands on the lid, cart, wheels, and firebox and feel if they?re firmly in place or if they rattle or wiggle. When it comes to materials, stainless steel tends to be more reliable than painted steel. For construction, seamless and welded joints tend to be hardier than those using nuts and bolts.
Keep an eye on the burners, if it?s a gas grill, too. Those are the most frequently replaced parts, but they can be truly flimsy on some lower quality grills. If possible, you want to get burners that have a warranty.
No-one wants to stand around all day, watching you struggle with a grill. Give yourself a much easier time by looking for grills that are easy to assemble.
Don?t underestimate just how much of a pain assembly can be, either. It can easily take hours to put together some of the more complicated grills.
Lastly, you should think about how many people are going to be at the tailgating party and how many you need to cook for. Portable grills do usually have a smaller grilling area, but you might be able to find some wiggle room to fit more food on there at once.
Best Grills for Tailgate Parties
Now that you know what you should be looking for, it?s time to take a closer look at the six grills themselves:
My rating –
Size matters when it comes to grilling. And, the 285 square inches of grilling space offered by the Coleman Road Trip makes a big difference. Compared to the average portable grill size of 200 inches, that?s a few more burgers you can throw, no problem.
The 20,000 BTUs make sure it?s able to cook plenty of different kinds of meat. However, the real versatility comes from the top design. You can switch it over for a griddle to fry up some bacon, sausages, eggs, or whatever else your heart desires.
Added to all of that is a focus on convenience I much appreciated. The collapsible legs don?t have to be detached. It has an insta-start button so there?s no need for a lighter. And the side panels give your food a nice place to cool before serving.
Pros and Cons:
|Spacious grill area of 285 square inches||At 24kg, it?s heavier than many others of its type|
|20,000 BTUs of heat will cook just about anything||The burners aren?t covered, so grease can get into where the heating element is, necessitating a little more clean-up|
|Interchangeable griddle top is excellent for cooking different foods|
|Insta-start button means no need for a lighter|
|Highly portable due to folding legs|
|Side panels are convenient when serving a party of people|
My rating –
For some people, Weber is the only name in grilling that?s worth thinking about. Their grills certainly do stand out, as you can see from the minimalist design of this funky option. It also helps that it keeps it highly portable and extremely easy to clean.
It?s sturdy despite its relatively simple build, however. Nickel-plated grill grates, porcelain enamel coated casing, and nylon and glass-reinforced handles mean that you don?t need to worry about it breaking apart as you handle it, despite the relatively small weight of it.
This is one of the few portable charcoal grills we?ll be looking at today. It?s convenience and ease of use make up for the extra hassle that charcoal normally brings. It has a single vent on the underside that makes cleaning out the ashes very easy, though you must be careful when emptying it.
Pros and Cons:
|Extremely portable and compact||Smaller grill area than most portable options|
|Light, so easily carried in just about any vehicle||The charcoal grill does also mean more clean-up and safety precautions|
|Charcoal, so your meat gets a nice smoky taste|
|Hard-wearing, resilient, and built of quality materials|
My rating –
It can be hard to find a portable grill suitable for tailgating that offers a lot more cooking space. The Blackstone Grills Tailgater is a deal bigger than the others we?ve looked at here. However, it trades some portability for an excellent 512 square inches of grill space. No party?s going to be too big for this bad boy.
Despite the grill area, however, it is still portable and highly mobile. Legs can be adjusted on the fly, as well as folded completely. The grill itself even folds flat. While it?s the largest and heavier grill we?re looking at, you should still be able to get it in your car, no problem.
The Tailgater is a heavy-duty cooking machine. It has a combined output of 35,000 BTUs between its cast iron and steel burner. This means it should sear whatever you want without issue. Add to that the fact you can grill, griddle, or cook over the open burner, and you have a grill that?s good for much more than tailgating parties alone.
Pros and Cons:
|Huge 512 square inches of grill space||Easily the heaviest grill we?re reviewing here|
|35,000 BTUs of cooking power||No wheels on the legs, so set up and moving it can require a few extra pairs of hands|
|Designed to be stored and transportable with adjustable legs and a foldable grill|
|Cast iron and steel burners are likely to last through many parties|
|Versatility, able to grill, griddle, or sear over an open burner|
- Huge 512 square inches of grill space
- 35,000 BTUs of cooking power
- Designed to be stored and transportable with adjustable legs and a foldable grill
- Cast iron and steel burners are likely to last through many parties
- Versatility, able to grill, griddle, or sear over an open burner
My rating –
As the name suggests, this is amongst the smaller of the grills I?ve taken a look at. That comes with some benefits and some drawbacks, naturally. There?s a significantly smaller grill area of 145-square inches. So, you won?t be flipping more than a few steaks at a time. However, it?s also much more portable than the other options.
Due to its size, it?s relatively easy to keep things on a foldable table that you can take with you to the tailgate party, too. The thing itself weighs only 17 lbs. and despite its size, it offers a very respectable 5,500 BTU cooking power. This is delivered through a porcelain-enameled grill that ensures a nice even cook. Even your thicker slabs of meat are going to be no problem.
Ease of use is another key to this grill?s success. It has an ignition twist button that gets things started without too much work. The clean-up is nice and simple, too, thanks to the nonstick porcelain coating. I was able to wipe it clean with a wet dishcloth after it had gotten cool enough.
Pros and Cons:
|Extremely portable and quite a stylish, sleek design for a grill||You?re going to need to bring a table with you to use it|
|Ignition twist button makes it easy to get started||Rather small 145 inches of grill area|
|Aluminium legs keep it nice and stable (as long as the table isn?t shaking)|
|Decent 5,500 BTU for such a small grill|
Lodge Cast Iron Sportsman?s Grill
Want to eat hibachi-style? This ultra-portable, ultra-lightweight grill is designed with that in mind. It?s compact and truly tiny, meaning that it doesn?t have the grilling space that many of its competitors do. However, if you?re accommodating a smaller party, few grills are quite as convenient to transport and set up like this.
It?s versatile in how it can cook your food, as well. The grill height can be adjusted, so you can grill or sear by getting the food much closer to that charcoal flame.
Despite its diminutive design, it?s a high-quality grill built with quality in mind. The cast iron grill material ensures that it can withstand the heat. It also won?t get banged up from being driven from place to place. The vegetable oil coating on the grill ensures no contamination of synthetic materials in your meat, too.
Pros and Cons:
|Very portable||Minimal grill space, so might not be suited for any more than groups of 2-4|
|Adjustable grill height|
|Sturdy and resilient|
Which grill you find best for tailgating is all about finding the one that makes your needs. In particular, you need to think about whether you prefer gas grills or charcoal. If you prefer charcoal, then the smokey taste offered by the Weber Smokey Joe is pretty hard to beat.
For those who prefer a more compact option, then both the Lodge Sportsman?s Grill and the Cuisinart Petit Gourmet Gas Grill are going to take up next to no space in your car.
If you?re really holding court, with up to a dozen or more friends around you, however, then it?s hard to argue with the sheer space and power offered by the Blackstone Grills Tailgater.