Best Tailgate Grills

The 8 Best Tailgate Grills in 2019

If you are an outdoors person, you need to frequently go camping outside or watch concerts or games. All you need is those situations is a warm, and delicious home-cooked sizzling steak, burger, or chicken to add sparkles to your celebration.

You may consider investing in a tailgate grill- a portable grilling system that you can carry easily in a carry bag or at the back of your car. It has lids for locking and handles for ease of transport and it is designed for functionality and convenience- prop it anywhere you can enjoy the night breeze with charred bacon, and this little powerhouse will come in handy.

​Best Pick

Lodge Cast Iron Sportsman's Grill (Hibachi style)

The Lodge Cast Iron Sportsman’s Grill is our best pick because of its solid construction, innovative design, and high functionality at a great price. If you want flavorful cooking and great heat distribution, this is the one to look out for.

​Budget Pick

Weber 10020 Smokey Joe 14-Inch Portable Grill

The Weber 10020 Smokey Joe is our budget pick because it is a lightweight, compact unit that is highly efficient and comes at an affordable price tag.


1. ​Lodge Cast Iron Sportsman's Grill (Hibachi style)  

Highlighted Features

  • Small door for air ventilation mechanism; flip-down door to access charcoal bed; two adjustable height levels for the grill grate; thin handle for ease of hauling

This rugged tough-looking grill from Lodge is all about traditional, flavorful cooking. It features a draft door for regulating heat and the flip down door to feed the coal and access it. Entirely made of cast iron, no external chemicals are used for seasoning and this grill just gets better seasoned with every use.

It is compact and a perfect size for camping, tailgating, and BBQ parties. It is easy to assemble, clean, and use but some food may slide and slip over. You have to put more oil for better functioning. Also to make your job easier cleaning it, try to recover some half-burnt coals: it can be used for the second round of cooking and the ash will also die down quicker.

This is ideal for fast cooking, greater heat distribution and distinct, flavorful charcoal cooking for small and medium-sized families. It stays hot and doesn’t stick meat to its surface. The grill is heavy duty and may not be the lightest but it will surely last you years. The unit has two adjustable height levels.

You must bear in mind that heating of cast iron grills weakens its structure to some extent, meaning that some parts may fall apart and it is also prone to cracking or fractures. Charcoal grills are made out of cast iron and thus prone to rusting; if you oil regularly and clean cautiously, you will increase its longevity.

​Pros

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    Great, heavy-duty grill with solid construction
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    Superior, even, fast heat distribution; large cooking surface
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    Durable, while lightweight enough to be carried at camping sites

​Cons

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    The unit does not have a lid to lock it down
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    A few lone cases of fatty food dripping grease into the coal are and out through the open door, thus, leaving stains on the patio or  porch
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    A few users reported of cracking or received products which were cracked or broken at the front (door, knob, etc.) or having missing pieces (the air vent door)
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    Small door for air ventilation mechanism; flip-down door to access charcoal bed; two adjustable height levels for the grill grate; thin handle for ease of hauling

2. Weber 10020 Smokey Joe 14-Inch Portable Grill 

Highlighted Features

  • Great ventilation system; compact, lightweight
  • Features a porcelain coated enamel lid with a plastic insulated top handle and a stainless steel grate

This grill from Weber may look extremely small and compact, but it is highly functional and can grill an entire chicken or a rack full of steak. The design of this unit is extremely innovative and stylish. Some users have pointed out that the grill doesn’t get sufficiently hot due to the large distance of the grate from the charcoal bed; you can, however, solve this problem by controlling the air flow. Open the ventilation lid all the way or lift the grate for some time to increase air passage.

This unit also reduces wastage of coal and the ventilation lid provides optimum use of them. It’s a safe backup unit in times of power cut or storm events- it can be used conveniently in the porch or even for table-top grilling. The unit is sturdy and can be bear heavy-duty use.

The porcelain coated enamel lid shows no signs of wear, chipping or rust even after being exposed to wind, rain, or sunshine for prolonged periods of time. At an affordable price tag, this is one of the handiest grills you can get.

​Pros

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    Require quick and easy assembly. Clean-up is a breeze
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    The unit is efficient in terms of heat distribution and material usage (reduces the amount of coal consumed)
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    Durable: stands up to harsh weather conditions

​Cons

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    The lip where the grate sits is quite shallow and some users have complained of the grate falling into the charcoal bed: it may be due to the imbalanced pressure from the food or can be fixed by bolting the sides like a shelf
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    Some users struggled with the assembly while some found it easy; the legs wouldn’t prop up securely; adhesive washers were useless
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    No side handles  and hence this affects portability
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    Some users complained of flimsy construction and inferior quality of materials used, with a few people receiving the product with missing parts

3. Weber 51040001 Q1200 Liquid Propane Grill

Highlighted Features

  • Foldable plastic side tables; additional accessories that can be purchased include adapter hose; griddle for buns and vegetable and a cover for the unit.
  • Porcelain-coated cast iron cooking grate, cast-aluminum body, and lid
  • 8500 BTU per hour of cooking and 189sq. in. cooking surface; runs on liquid propane and feature adjustable burner valve setting

This portable grill from Weber features an innovative and compact design and is available in multiple color variants- Fuchsia, Red, Black, Blue, Green, Orange, Purple, and Titanium. It has a cast aluminum lid and body, a sturdy nylon frame and porcelain enamel cast-iron cooking grate.

The lid has an embedded temperature gauge. There are two foldable side tables on either side of the unit. The removable catch pan is placed at the bottom to collect liquids, drippings, grease, etc.; it can easily be cleaned. It has various burner valve settings and electronic ignition. The unit will run on liquid propane from disposable containers. Using an adapter hose accessory, it can be connected to a larger tank of propane.

The grate is dishwasher safe. You may occasionally want to clean up residual grease to prevent clogging. The unit can be also used a tabletop unit: the bottom doesn’t heat up at all and is stable and steady.

​Pros

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    A compact, lightweight unit that doubles as a table top grill; portable; small; functional
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    Solid construction; innovative design; multiple color variants
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    Superior heat distribution: attains a high temperature very quickly

​Cons

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    ​It is hard to attain a lower temperature with the unit as it heats up quickly, to about 5000 degrees; the only way to lower it is to prop the lid open partially
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    ​The handles are a bit inaccessible with low space for some users

4. Weber 121020 Go-Anywhere Charcoal Grill 

Highlighted Features

  • Rectangular portable grill; porcelain enamel plated steel construction for durability
  • Lid includes a top handle made of glass reinforced nylon; dampers for ventilation

This rectangular plated steel portable grill takes innovation and compactness a notch higher. The unit looks like a briefcase: you can easily pack up, lay it out and grill on the go, whether tailgating, camping or just entertaining guests.

The entire unit is porcelain coated enamel to prevent rusting and ensure durability. The lid has a glass reinforced nylon handle that stays cool when cooking. The lid features two circular dampers, each with three vents for airflow. The handle at the top allows you to carry the unit easily.

The legs are foldable in such a way that it ensures the locking of the lid and is easy to fold out anywhere, within seconds, without requiring any assembly. Additionally, there are handles on either side for carrying. The grate provides 160 sq. in. of cooking surface.

Don’t be fooled by its small size because it can fit in a rack full of food and meet and provides ample cooking space. The heat distribution is superb and attains the heat very quickly.

​Pros

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    This unit is economical in terms of efficiently allowing you to use up remnant charcoal for a second cooking session- just close the air vents to extinguish the coals
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    Require no difficult assembly; functional; efficient

​Cons

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    It can’t hold much debris or ash so you need to clean frequently
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    Some users reported difficulty in getting the legs to snap in place over the lid when locking the unit
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    The grate has a low height above the charcoal bed and some users pointed out the chances of food getting burnt when in contact with burning charcoal
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    The legs, as reported by some users, are somewhat flimsy and wobbly.

5. Weber 1211001 Jumbo Joe 18-Inch Portable Grill 

Highlighted Features

  • Circular shape; porcelain enamel body; steel grate with handle for lifting
  • Aluminum air vents and catcher basin; Two handles at the top for ease of carrying

This highly portable and functional grill from Weber features a heavy-gauge steel grate which has lids for lifting, allowing you to access the charcoal bed- an excellent feature. Porcelain enamel bowl and body prevents rusting while making the unit look stylish and well-constructed.

The air vents at the top and ash catcher tray at the bottom are made of aluminum. It has two top handle- one thin and one regular sized. The legs are durable and solid. There is sufficient space inside the unit from the grate till the top of the lid- but a little more is highly desirable.

This unit is easy to assemble. It is also very easy to clean as the parts are dishwasher friendly. It may be a little awkward to carry due to its circular shape. The material of construction is superior and the unit is quite heavy. It provides ample cooking surface for a small to medium family.

​Pros

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    Superior heat distribution
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    Compact; portable; lightweight

​Cons

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    The screws and bolts were missing or difficult to fix during assembly for some users
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    The distance between the grate and the grill is quite low, deeming it possible for the food to get slightly burnt by the charcoal bed if you’re not cautious

6. Weber 54060001 Q2200 Liquid Propane Grill 

Highlighted Features

  • A few users pointed out that the fancy shape is difficult to pack into a compact shaped for locking into tight places; also, the lid cannot be locked into place
  • The burner doesn’t have a protective shield to stop food blocking the heat
  • The burner doesn’t work a lot of times- the heat setting either go up too high or too low to even sear a burger

The unit is made of rust-resistant cast aluminum lid and body and glass reinforced nylon frame. The stainless steel burner delivers 12,000 BTUs per hour input. The burner lights with the touch of a button and the removable tray collects drippings. The grate is made of porcelain enamel and has a cooking surface of about 280 sq. in.

There are two foldable tables to serve the food on either side and they can be folded for storage inside the unit. The temperature gauge is embedded inside the lid and measures temperature both in degrees Fahrenheit and degree Celsius. This unit runs on one AAA battery and provides infinite burner settings. It has a connector port for mounting LP cylinders (14.1 or 16.4 oz.).

The build quality is excellent and superior while the heat distribution is flawless. It heats up evenly and rapidly. The unit is best for camping, tailgating, for your porch or even home use- it is light, portable and can easily cook for 2-4 people. The design is stylish and innovative with a neutral color for greater appeal.

A few users reported of difficulty attaining the desired temperature-sometimes getting it over 300 degrees posed a challenge while at other times the lowest setting was about 450 degrees (thus, too hot). When contacted, the manufacturer sent replacement knobs or controls, but not a new unit. One or two users complained of the burner not fully heating up. You may be unlucky if you receive a faulty product.

​Pros

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    Excellent and rapid heat distribution
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    Durable, stable, sturdy construction; easy to assemble and clean up

​Cons

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    Stainless steel burner produces 12,000 BTUs; works on disposable propane
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    The unit is made of a cast aluminum body and lid, two plastic side tables.
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    The temperature gauge on lid measure in F or C; lights up instantaneously and various burner settings

7. Cuisinart CCG-100 GrateLifter Portable Charcoal Grill

Highlighted Features

  • A lift system for the grating grill and removable ash collection tray
  • Airflow system and vents; temperature gauge embedded on the porcelain lid.

This affordable charcoal grill features a grate for placing the meat, bacon, vegetables, etc. while the lift system allows you to change or access the charcoal bed without touching the grate. The 240 sq. in.  cooking surface can be covered by the porcelain enamel-coated heavy lid (green in color): the surface is big enough to fit about four burgers. There is superior heating and well-controlled heat distribution which can be monitored by the temperature gauge on the top of the unit.

The base is wide, and sturdy for stability while the ashtray at the bottom of the unit collects ash and can be removed for easy cleaning. The unit is easy to assemble and since the instructions are simple, it is convenient and simple to use. The air flow system is adequate.

The weight distribution for the unit is not well-designed causing it to tilt or stumble. The legs are meant to stand all the time, removing the portability of it. Also, some screws and bolts do not line up or go in at the right place: you may need to do some fixing yourself.

​Pros

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    The unit is very lightweight, portable and easy to assemble and use.
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    Superior heat distribution and well-controlled temperature

​Cons

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    The clamps on the side may not be stable or durable and the grate has very sharp edges which can cut if you’re not careful.
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    The lip where the grate sits is very shallow and one or two users complained of the grate falling into the charcoal bed or food falling into the fire
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    The legs are not stable and stumble with the load; assembly is a challenge for some as the screws and bolts don’t fit
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    The enamel lid chips and the material of construction is cheap and flimsy

8. Coleman 9941-768 Road Trip Grill LX 

Highlighted Features

  • Runs of 16.4-ounce propane cylinder; can be connected via adapted to up to 20lb of propane
  • Easy to set up and collapsible in minutes; four foldable legs with a stable, wider base
  • Two cooking surfaces made of aluminum- one griddle and one griddle

This highly efficient unit from Coleman is all about convenience – A small and compact unit, it is suitable for camping, tailgating, BBQ parties, or even for your home use. It has an accessory hose and using an adapter (separately purchased), you can connect it to a larger propane tank or a small gas canister without a hose.

This is easy to set up and use. It can be used with or without the foldable stand. The four legs spread out giving a stable support system and a wide leveler. It is not heavy for some but having a carry bag is helpful. You may want to get it with the bag accessory with the wheel for ease of carrying. It provides 20, 000 BTU of cooking and superior, fast, even cooking.

The unit comes with two sides- one is the grill for meat, burgers, hotdogs, bacon, etc. while the griddle is good for vegetables, pancakes, bread, buns, etc. Both the surfaces are made of aluminum. It has detachable side tables. The nonstick cooking surface heats up evenly without having any hot or cold spots.

Despite the unit appearing compact, there is a large cooking surface. The surface is very easy to clean- all the parts are washable and removable. However, a few users have pointed out about some or all accessories not fitting the dishwasher.

​Pros

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    Heats up fast, evenly, and to a greater temperature
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    Sturdy, durable construction; 5-year warranty
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    Comes with two cooking surfaces, instead of one
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    Innovative design and blue color

​Cons

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    A few users complained of difficulty to clean around the burner area and accumulation of grease at some places; also, you have to look for a place to dump greasy cleaning water
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    One or two users reported of cases of melted grate: the customer service, however, replaced it immediately
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    The legs are not that stable, they are not very sturdy and some users had theirs getting broken

Things to Consider Before Buying a Tailgate Grill

Gas or Charcoal?

The major question is whether you should buy a gas grill or a charcoal grill. You may want to invest in a charcoal one if you want to “sear” your steaks, have the smoky flavor and generally well-cooked meat, etc.

Not that the gas grill can’t cook meat well but it would not have a smoky, distinct flavor to it. Gas grills are cleaner, faster, is easier to use, and generally requires less maintenance than the charcoal ones.

Gas grills can work on a home connection or disposable liquid propane containers. You may purchase a separate adapter and accessory hose to make it work with a larger tank.

Material

Most grills are made of cast iron, cast aluminum, heavy-gauge stainless steel, or porcelain enamel coat on them. Try to make sure there are little if any, plastic parts on your grill to prevent melting due to the high heat generated.

Lid

Bitter as the truth sounds, some grill actually come without a lid and you must invest in a proper casing or cover for it or else the grill will succumb to the harsh weather conditions.

The ones that do come with a cover need some secure lockdown mechanism for greater portability. The lid usually also has one top handle for lifting it. The lid should not get very hot during grilling and it should provide ample headspace (of about 12inches or more preferred) to provide space to fit in a whole chicken, etc.

Ventilation

This is another significant aspect of a grill. The more the air flow, the better the charcoals will burn and hence, the greater the heat distribution. The grills usually have dampers (made of aluminum) at the top to let in air. The opening of the air vents can also be controlled.

Cleanup

Most grills have some parts that are dishwasher safe-like the grate, the lid, the ashtray etc. Some grills even allow easy disassembly of the unit so that individual parts can easily fit the dishwasher.

Some require more frequent cleanup than other. In order to maintain a grease-free grill, try to at least wipe it frequently using paper towels. For charcoal grills made of cast iron, the grill must be greased before and after use for better seasoning. Use and clean cautiously for your product to have longevity.

Ash collection tray

This feature is present in a charcoal grill or even is gas grills to collect grease, fats, liquids, etc.  There is a tray/bin/basket at the bottom of the grill to collect the drippings, and ash from the burnt coal.

The tray should be large to collect maximum ash without the need to recover and empty frequently. The tray should be removable for ease of cleaning.

Legs

The part of the grill makes it portable and convenient to prop up anywhere, especially for outdoor usage. The legs must open out easily without creating a fuss. It must be strongly and securely clamped or bolted to the grill itself reduing the danger of wobbling or toppling.

The legs should ensure the stability of the entire unit. Foldable legs are convenient to use because they make the unit more compact and portable.

Side Tables

Some grills have the added benefits of foldable plastic side table: you can place the raw materials here or even the cooked food. You may even remove it if you don’t require it at all.

Cooking surface

The grill cooking surface, measure in sq.in. varies between 160 sq.in. till about 240sq. in. or more. The greater the surface, the more amount of food you can cook at the same time.

Conclusion

Reading our detailed review above has probably tempted you to invest in a portable tailgate grill to meet your camping needs. This little powerhouse is easy to use, store, clean and cooks delicious meals in minutes.

We have shortlisted the best brands available in the market so you can pick your favorite. We have selected the grills based on affordability, portability, cooking times, heat distribution, durability, weight, ease of set-up, etc. Make sure to read all the reviews to make an informed decision.

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