Holds a Master’s degree in Linguistics, loves traveling and learning new languages. Fluent in Spanish, is learning French and Czech at the moment. Enjoys exploring national cuisines every time he visits new countries.
Claims that grilling is the art that he has been learning all his life long and is not planning to stop. Has been grilling for as long as he can remember. Author of numerous online and offline grilling masterclasses runs his own BBQ accessories shop.
Last updated: January 20, 2021
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One of the best things about going to big sporting events is not just the game itself, but actually the tailgating beforehand. Nothing beats spending time with friends and family getting hyped for the game, and, of course, grilling delicious food. If, however, you want to make great food while you tailgate, you need to get the best tailgate grill possible. Otherwise, your food isn’t going to be as tasty, which could ruin the party.
As you can imagine, there are lots of things you need to factor in before you get the best tailgate food grill. When we put together our comprehensive list, we first looked at the type, dimensions, and weight of each grill, since this will determine how easy it is to get your grill to the game. Next, we looked at the size of the primary cooking area to better determine the types of food you can cook. Finally, we checked out the BTUs for the gas grills since that will again tell you the types of foods you can cook.
We spent tens of hours reading through hundreds of reader reviews to create our comprehensive list of the best grills for tailgating. We then completed in-depth reviews of each of these grills to help you find the perfect grill for your tailgating needs. Of course, if you still need more information before you make your final decision, please be sure to read through our buying guide and frequently asked questions so that you can buy with confidence.
When it comes to finding the perfect grill for tailgating, the first thing that you need to look for is a highly portable model. A grill that can be easily moved from place to place at a sporting event is a great thing to have, mainly because it makes it that much easier to get set up and grilling quickly. This model from Coleman fits the portability bill quite nicely. It features a set of foldable legs that allows to fit it into pretty much any vehicle. It also has rugged wheels so is extremely easy to move around by yourself.
Of course, portability is not the only thing that you need to look for in a great grill. You also have to consider the amount of heat a grill can put out. This model has three independent burners, which are able to give off 20,000 BTUs when operating at full power. This amount of heat is more than enough to cook pretty much anything, from burgers and hot dogs to ribs and hot wings. This grill’s sizeable primary cooking area is another great asset when it comes to cooking lots of food all at once. It also features side tables for your cooking gear or a cold beverage.
There is, however, one thing that you need to keep in mind with this grill. As with all grills, it has a drip tray underneath the burners that will need to be emptied after each use. This tray can be a bit difficult to get to, which can make emptying it pretty hard. You need to be sure that you have the grill perfectly balanced, and allow it to cool down all of the ways before you try to empty this tray.
Wood pellets are one of the newest fuels that folks are using for their grills. This type of fuel burns very cleanly. Pellets also make temperature control very easy, even if you have to do it manually. This model, however, makes this process extremely easy. First of all, it features an electronic feeder system, which automatically feeds the pellets into the stove to keep it running for a good long time. The only downside of this type of fuel is that it adds a bit of weight and size to the grill. This might make it tricky to fit into some smaller vehicles, even when the grill is collapsed.
That is not the limit of the electronic features on this stove, however. This grill also uses an electronic thermostat, which helps to make setting, achieving, and maintaining the proper temperature extremely easy. This easy temperature system makes getting great grilling results a breeze, giving you more time to focus on hanging out with friends and family.
This grill is also WiFi enabled. With the proper app, you can set the temperature from a smart device, making grilling an almost hands-off experience. This will, yet again, make it so you can focus on other activities, rather than having to monitor the grill every second.
Of course, the only downside of all of these modern electrical advancements is that you need electricity. Unlike all of the other grills on our list, this model will need to have an electric hookup to use all of the features properly.
Charcoal grills have long been a staple of homeowners and tailgaters alike and for good reason. Charcoal is easy-to-transport fuel that does a great job of creating smoky flavored and extremely juicy meals. This model from Weber is no exception. It can be used with a griddle plate or grill trays, which gives you the versatility you need to make pretty much any meal you can think of.
The only real issue with charcoal is that it can be quite challenging to get started. Charcoal requires a ton of air to get going properly. Thankfully, this grill has four different ventilation slots on its top that will allow a ton of air to enter into it so that the charcoal can light without issue.
Once you have the charcoal burning, you will need to close up some of the vents to allow the grill to get to the right temperature. This can be an issue as well, especially since this model does not come with any sort of thermometer. For the best results, you will want to purchase one separately. While this does add a bit to the purchase price, it shouldn’t be that big of a deal, since this grill is so affordable.
As you would expect from a quality company like Weber, this grill is very well designed. It is extremely easy to set up and put together. It is also quite lightweight and compact, making it very easy to take with you wherever your next tailgate party might be and whatever vehicle you intend to use.
As we have mentioned before, portability is key when it comes to finding the right tailgating grill. Having a portable grill becomes even more critical if you have a smaller vehicle since every inch of space is going to be loaded down with all of the gear you need for a good time while you tailgate. This model is, by far, the most portable of all the different grills that we looked into. One of the reasons for this is its excellent briefcase-style carrying handle. This handle, along with the grill’s lightweight design, makes this one of the easiest to move grills on the market today.
One of the biggest issues with smaller grills is that they are not usually all that stable. This model, thankfully, has extendable and very sturdy aluminum legs with stabilizing feet. These feet help to keep the grill in place, no matter if you are using it on a flat or less than level surface.
Another great feature of this model is its efficient cooking system, which takes a bit of practice to work properly. The knobs are somewhat finicky, and the starter doesn’t always work correctly so you might want to get an external one. This grill might only put out 5,500 BTUs, but it still can cook most foods effectively and for a long time. Unlike most models that will only last for about one or two hours on a one-pound cylinder of gas, this grill can last up to six hours, even if you cook on high setting. This makes it an excellent option for anyone looking to save some money on propane.
Tabletop grills are a great option for tailgating thanks to their smaller size. The biggest issue with these smaller grills is that they can’t put out enough heat for certain meals. This can make it impossible to cook some of the meals that you have in mind. If this sounds like you, then you might want to check out this tabletop model. While it is certainly compact, lightweight, and portable, it is actually quite powerful. It has a maximum BTU output of 10,000, which is quite impressive for a grill of this size.
Obviously, when you are thinking about a portable tabletop grill, then you are going to want to get one that has well-designed legs that are easy to fold up when the grill is not in use. This model’s legs are extremely easy to fold up and down, which helps to make the grill that much more portable.
This grill has a built-in temperature gauge that makes reading the temperature nice and easy. This gauge is especially beneficial, mostly because you will need to keep a close eye on the temperature while you are grilling with this model. It can be a bit tricky to control, so you will want to make sure that you monitor it so that you don’t have to worry about any of your food getting ruined.
Another thing that you’ll want to keep in mind with this grill is that it comes with a top rack. While this rack can be used to keep your food warm, it might also get in your way if you are cooking larger pieces of meat. This rack is very easy to get out of the way, however, so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
We’ve already mentioned that the Traeger Pellet Grills TFB30KLF Tailgater 20 is excellent for large groups. However, it does distinguish itself as the only dual-fuel option on the list. You can use electricity, pellets, or both for cooking and grilling your food.
Notably, being able to cater to large groups of people also comes at a cost in that the machine is relatively heavy. Couple that with the fact that you might need to carry pellets when going tailgating, and it becomes even more challenging to carry. However, if you have a truck or car with enough trunk space, you should be good to go.
The machine has folding legs that are ideal for storage in small spaces. They should also be useful when putting the tool into the trunk of a car. In addition to that, two of the legs on the device have wheels. As such, you can drag the grill on the ground once you get to the tailgating venue.
For cooking, you get the arc controller, which is an amazing feature. It allows you to set and change the temperatures for the machine at will. You have five different temperature settings to choose from, which should allow you to grill various foods. That said, there is a 450-degree Fahrenheit limit to the temperature.
To further enhance your cooking ability, the grill is fitted with a meat probe. You can use this to check the internal temperature of your meats without having to lift the lid. Also, there is no rush to eat the food immediately you finish cooking. The machine has a warm mode to keep the food at the right temperature for later.
What we liked:
Includes a food warming mode
Offers precise temperature controls
Relatively large cooking area
Features folding legs
Uses both electricity and pellets for fuel
Includes wheels for easier movement
What could be better:
Grill is heavy
Things to Consider
In this section, we will go through everything that you need to know to find the best portable grill for tailgating. We have also taken the time to answer several frequently asked questions, so be sure to read through these as well if you have any further questions.
Features to consider while choosing a tailgate grill
As you can imagine, there are several different features that you need to take into consideration when you are looking for a great tailgating grill. In this section, we will go through all of these factors so that you can make an informed decision.
When it comes to getting a perfect tailgating grill, there are several different types that you can choose from. This includes the following:
Propane – Propane is one of the most common fuels for any type of grill, including models for tailgating. It is easy to transport and burns very cleanly. It is also very good for heat regulation and effortless to control. The Coleman RoadTrip 285 is an example of a high-quality propane grill.
Charcoal – Charcoal is another favorite fuel for tailgating grills. It gives food a delicious smoky flavor, making it a grill master’s preferred fuel. It can be a bit tricky to get going, however, though the best charcoal tailgate grills are usually pretty simple to start. For instance, the Weber 10020 is easy to fire up and get to the right temperature.
Wood pellets – One of the newer fuels for a tailgating grill is wood pellets. These pellets burn very cleanly, making them excellent for use when tailgating. The best tailgate pellet grills, such as the Green Mountain Grill Davy Crockett Pellet Grill, are usually going to have a feeding system for loading the pellets so that the grill can be kept running at the right temperature.
Primary cooking area
The size of the primary cooking area that you need on your new grill is going to depend on how much food you intend to cook with it. Basically, the bigger the primary cooking area, the more food you can grill at a time.
If you have a smaller group and don’t need quite as much space, then you could probably get by with the Cuisinart CGG-180T. On the other hand, if you have a large group of tailgaters, then, obviously, you’ll want a larger grill. The Traeger TAILGATER TFB30KLF would be a good option in this case.
If there’s a warming rack
Something else that you might want to have included with your new grill is a warming rack. This rack will allow you to store any food that has already been cooked inside the grill.
It serves two different functions. The first function is that it helps to free up the primary cooking area so that you can grill more food. The second function of a warming rack is to keep food warm for anyone that can’t eat it right away.
Number of burners (for gas models)
The number of burners on a gas grill is going to determine how many different types of food you can grill at one time. Since each burner on models like the Coleman RoadTrip 285 can be set to different temperatures, you will be able to cook different types or cuts of meat to various specifications. This level of control will help you to make especially delicious foods on your grill.
BTUs (for gas models)
The amount of heat that a grill puts out is measured in BTUs. The more BTUs that a grill has, the more quickly you can get your grill to heat up, and the faster you can start grilling your food.
Obviously, if you have a large party, then you will want to get a grill with more BTUs. Of course, the higher the amount of heat your grill puts out, the more fuel you will need, and the more the grill will cost.
Hopper capacity (for pellet models)
Pellet grills come with a hopper to hold the pellets that have not been fed into the grill yet. The larger the hopper is, the more fuel you can load into the grill. This, in turn, will save you from having to fiddle with the grill constantly and miss out on any fun with your friends and family. Of course, if you get an overly large hopper, it could make the grill a bit cumbersome for you to load into your vehicle.
Since you are going to be using this grill for tailgating, you need to make sure that you take the dimensions into consideration. The grill you select shouldn’t be too big so that it could fit in whatever vehicle you are going to take tailgating. If space is at a premium, then the Cuisinart CGG-180T is an excellent option. Of course, if you use a larger vehicle, then the Traeger TAILGATER TFB30KLF might be the right fit for your needs.
Something else that you need to consider along with the dimensions of your new grill is how much it weighs. The last thing that you want to do is get a grill that is too heavy for you to get in and out of your vehicle on your own. If it is too heavy, you might not want to take it along with you at all, which is, obviously, less than ideal.
One of the biggest features that you will want to keep in mind when looking for a tailgating grill is whether or not it has a table/stand. A table or stand will make grilling a lot easier, especially if you don’t bring along tables since you will have a nice sturdy spot for your grill. Side tables are also a great help while you tailgate since they give you a place to keep your grilling gear without risking it falling on the ground.
If you are looking for a grill that doesn’t require any electricity to run, then you should stick to a gas grill like the Coleman RoadTrip 285 or a charcoal model like the Weber 10020. The only tailgating grills that require any electricity are wood pellet models usually since they need electricity for their feeder motor to run correctly.
When it comes to tailgating, there is no limit to the types of food that you can grill up. Of course, if you want to stick to the most popular staples of the tailgating world, you can’t go wrong with ribs, burgers, hot dogs, sausages, chicken breast, or wings.
The amount of time that your grill will be able to run on a single one-pound cylinder of propane will depend on how many BTUs it puts out. If it is a higher amount, then the runtime will be shorter than with a grill with a smaller amount of BTUs. On average, however, you should expect one cylinder of gas to last you for about two hours of grilling time.
Tailgating grills need to have a combination of functionality and portability. The Coleman RoadTrip 285 is perhaps the best model on the market for this purpose. This is thanks to its large cooking area, lightweight design, and high BTU output. We highly recommend that you check this model out if you are looking for a great tailgating grill.
Of course, if you are looking for a more advanced grill that makes setting the temperature a breeze, then the Green Mountain Grill Davy Crockett Pellet Grill might be worth a look. Its electric, WiFi enabled hopper helps to make it one of the easiest grills to operate, which will free you up to spend more time with your friends and family while you tailgate.
Lots of people feel like the best tailgate grill is always going to be a charcoal grill. The Weber 10020 is a great option if you want to use charcoal to make mouthwatering dishes while you tailgate thanks to its straightforward and lightweight design.