There is a lot to think about when you’re planning a camping trip. One of the biggest decisions you will have to make will involve cooking. While most campsites have basic charcoal grills at your disposal, who wants to cook on those? 

Lugging bags of charcoal to the campsite and then waiting for the coals to heat up is a hassle. That’s why choosing to cook on a portable propane grill may be a smarter option.

In this article, we will review our picks for the 7 best portable propane grills for camping from the list below:

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How To Choose the Best Portable Propane Grill for You

Portable propane grills have increased in popularity because they are convenient to use, they burn clean, and they are a more efficient heat source than charcoal or wood. Refillable propane tanks can be found almost anywhere and can be easily connected to your grill in a matter of minutes. Not having to haul cords of wood or bags of charcoal to your campsite is worth it.

If you’re thinking of buying a portable propane grill, here are some tips to keep in mind while you shop:

BTUs and Grill Heat

A British Thermal Unit or BTU is a unit of measurement. BTUs measure the energy consumption needed to heat your food. The BTU number associated with a particular grill is an indicator of how much fuel will be consumed to bring the grill to max heat. It is not an indicator of how much heat will be produced by the grill.

A BTU rating will tell you the max output of the main burners that lie beneath the cooking grate. This rating does not apply to side burners or smoker burners. The more BTUs, the faster you will burn through fuel. 

This being the case, a grill with a large amount of BTUs may not necessarily be a good thing. Other factors such as available cooking space, grill design, the quality of the components, and the way the burners are made will impact energy consumption.

Infrared and BTUs

The difference between a standard gas grill and an infrared grill lies in the way it converts heat. Standard grills use convection while infrared grills rely on radiant energy to cook food.

Most infrared grills use propane or natural gas to heat a ceramic tile which in turn gives off infrared radiation to cook the food. Whereas conventional gas grills will use the hot air generated by the flames to cook the food, infrared relies on the heat given off by ceramic tile or other material sandwiched between the flame and the grate to cook the food directly.

As a result, the heat is more evenly distributed across the cooking surface and there is less fuel consumption. Other benefits include less time is needed to preheat the grill and the quality of the food is enhanced.

Generally speaking, infrared grills will consume less fuel – about 30% less – to maintain the same temperature as a standard propane gas grill. Again, since BTUs are about fuel and not heat, you will burn less fuel using infrared.

Available Cooking Space & Grill Size

Since portability is a big consideration, you will be limited by the overall size of the grill and its available grilling surface. The smaller the grill the smaller the cooking surface. 

Grill size will also affect weight. Not just the weight of the grill itself, but you also have to factor in the weight of the gas canisters. Most portable propane grills will use 14 or 16 ounce canisters. But some units will allow you to connect 20 pound gas tanks to the grill. 

How Many Burners Do You (Really) Need?

If you have a big family or will be using your portable grill to cook for large groups, then you may want to consider a unit that has dual burners. Having two burners will give you the option of cooking two different types of food with the convenience of independent temperature adjustments. 

Keep in mind that dual burners also mean more fuel. In most cases you will need to carry with you a 20lb propane canister to fuel your grill. You have to ask yourself if the added weight is a plus or a minus in terms of portability.

Compare BTUs to the amount of available cooking space. A good rule of thumb is to watch for 80 to 100 BTUs per square inch of cooking space. If your unit has dual burners, look for the BTU per burner information on the box

Quality of Construction

The way a grill is built and the materials used to construct it should be at the top of your list of priorities in choosing which one to buy. Here is a list of things to consider:

  • The Grate: porcelain enamel cast iron and stainless steel are best because they transfer heat well.
  • Burners: look for grills will burners that run the full length of the cooking box; avoid stamped steel if possible.
  • Lid construction: a heavy, snug fitting lid will help the grill retain heat.
  • Ventilation: top and side vents help control airflow in the cooking chamber so food can cook slowly and evenly.
  • Heavy metal: the sturdier the metal, the longer your grill will last and hold heat while cooking.
  • Cleanup: how hard will it be to keep clean?

Is The Grill Easy to Clean?

My least favorite part of grilling outdoors is the cleanup. I hate it. But if you want your grill to last a long time and cook well, then this is a necessary evil. Failure to maintain and clean your grill may can lead to health issues and mechanical breakdowns. Here is the short list:

  1. Your food will taste bad.
  2. You will create a grease fire hazard.
  3. Built-up dirt and grease can hide mechanical issues.
  4. Regular cleaning will kill bacteria inside the cook box.
  5. A clean grill discourages rodents from nesting inside the unit.

 

Our Best Propane Grills for Camping Roundup Reviews

Cuisinart CGG-059 Grillster 8,000 BTU Portable Gas Grill

 

Burner Dimensions [inches] Weight [pounds]
8000 BTU 19Hx11.5Wx10D 10

This is a nice little grill for trips to the beach, campsite, or tailgating. The unit is compact, which makes it easy to stow away and transport. The hood handle doubles as a carrying handle. Since it weighs only 10 pounds, lifting it should not be a problem for most people. 

The 8,000 BTU burner works with a 1 pound propane tank that attaches to the side of the unit. You can also use it with a 20 pound tank with an adapter (not included). Cooking temperatures can get up to around 600F.  

Setup is easy, as is assembly. Just fold out the legs underneath the unit and set it on a table or stand. The lid is hinged so it moves out of the way to give you access to the porcelain enameled grilling grate.

Pros Cons
 Easy to assemble  Temperature control a bit quirky
Easy cleanup  Feet do not fold flat
Quality construction
Lightweight, easy to transport
Legs fold for easy storage

Weber 51010001 Q1200 Liquid Propane Grill, Black

 

 

Burner Dimensions [inches] Weight [pounds]
8500 BTU 20.5Hx40.9Wx24.6D 29

 

The Weber Q1200 comes in a variety of color styles and is a versatile little grill for at-home or away. The cookbox is made of cast aluminum and houses the grease management tray, cooking grates and burner tubes. 

The grates come in three types of materials: porcelain-enamel steel, stainless steel and cast iron. Together they help maintain and hold heat and give you a nice sear. The burners are resistant to rust and burn-through because they are made of a single piece of high-grade stainless steel (no welds). 

The bottom of the cookbox is angled to allow the grease from the meat to drain down to the grease tray and catch pan. To clean it all you have to do is remove the disposable pan and toss it in the trash. Easy peezy lemon squeezy.

There is a built in thermometer on the hood for easy cook temperature monitoring. Some people complain that controlling the temperature may be a bit challenging. Wind may pose a problem with keeping the heat in and you may struggle with high altitude cooking.

The grill has enough room to cook up to about 4 rib eyes at a time. Cleanup is easy.

Pros Cons
Lid thermometer  Temperature control issues
Electronic ignition  Issues with attaching gas canisters
Removable grease catch pan
Fold down side tables
Rust resistant burner

 

Coleman NXT Lite Tabletop Propane Grill

 

Burner Dimensions [inches] Weight [pounds]
8500 BTU 18.25H x 16W x 11.25D 20

The Coleman NXT is perfect for camping trips. This portable grill is good for cooking up traditional cookout meals like burgers and BBQ chicken. But you can also swap out the grill for a griddle (plate not included) to make breakfast pancakes, eggs or sausage.

You will have to do some assembly, but it the instructions are pretty straight forward. The surface area for grilling is adequate, allowing for about 4 medium-sized steaks. It you’re only cooking for two, then no problem.

One major complaint is the unit is wobbly and top-heavy without the grates. Another issue concerns the temperature regulator. The unit gets really hot even with the lid closed. 

The unit comes with a drip pan but the design of the grill causes too much grease to accumulate inside. This makes clean-ups a bit messy and time-consuming.

Pros Cons
Removable drip tray  Wobbly legs
Matchless ignition  Uneven heat distribution
Grate can be swapped for griddle plate  Burns hot
 Hard to clean

Char-Broil Portable 240 Liquid Propane Gas Grill

 

Burner Dimensions [inches] Weight [pounds]
9500 BTU 13.3H x 24.8W x 16.2D 28.2

The Char-Broil 240 portable grill is built to travel and is a good option for small family campground cooking. The wide stance design of the legs give the unit good stability. Unfortunately the legs don’t collapse.

The matchless Piezo push button ignitor is located on the leg crossbar near the propane tank regulator knob. The temperature gauge is in full view on top of the lid which also supports a carry handle. It is recommended for use with a 1LB canister although you can use a standard 20LB canister but you will need a 4’ hose and adapter (not included).

The 240 square inch cooking surface of the grill can hold up to 8 burger patties. Feel free to use small pots and pans on the grill too; just don’t cook indoors. You can remove the lid to make cooking with pots easier by removing the lid clips.

Pros Cons
 Lid mounted temperature gauge  May cook “hot”
 240 square inch grilling surface  No carrying case or grill cover
 Push ignition system  No latch for hood
Carry handle
Giantex Propane Tabletop Gas Grill Stainless Steel Two-Burner BBQ

 

Burner Dimensions [inches] Weight [pounds]
9500 BTU 13.3H x 24.8W x 16.2D 26

This is a hefty, 2 burner portable grill that travels pretty well. The Giantex grill weighs about 26 pounds and is designed to work with 20 pound propane tanks. This may be a deal breaker if you have issues with packing/carrying a large canister with you. The hose and regulator are included.

With the legs extended, it is about 15 inches tall; 10 inches with the legs folded under.

The ignition system is ‘push-and-turn’ and each 10,000 BTU burner has its own control knob for independent temperature adjustments. There are several air inlets on the sides of the unit to help make the grilling process more efficient. The lid has a handle and is lockable for easy transport.

The lid doesn’t have a lot of clearance so if you are planning to cook with a skillet, make it a small one and keep the lid open. The clearance above the grate to the lid is about 4 or 5 inches.

You will need to take care and not leave the unit outside exposed to moisture as it may damage the thermometer. There is a slide out grease pan. Just be sure to empty it and clean after each use.

Pros Cons
Dual burners @ 10,000 BTU each  Hard to clean 
Folding legs Rated only for 20lb propane tanks  
Locking lid Uneven, wobbly legs when extended
Portable Poor customer service

Char-Broil Grill2Go X200 Portable TRU-Infrared Liquid Propane Gas Grill

 

Burner Dimensions [inches] Weight [pounds]
9500 BTU 13.6H x 23.7W x 15.7D 20

The Char-Broil Grill2Go ticks off all the boxes of what defines a good portable grill. First of all, it sets up quickly and doesn’t take up a lot of space. The unit has two heat-resistant carry handles that are a part of the frame, which includes the legs. If you like, you can purchase the Grill2Go carrying case (not included) to prevent BBQ crud from messing up the interior of your vehicle.

The firebox is made of die-cast aluminum. The lid is hinged with a temperature gauge on top, a large handle, and two latches to lock the cover down for transport.  

This is an infrared grill, so it is designed to cook evenly without drying out your meat. Char-Broil TRU-Infrared grills reportedly generate a minimum of about 65% infrared radiant heat. However, many have complained of the unit’s tendency to burn hot anyway, and of issues with the included regulator. Purchasing an aftermarket regulator may solve the problem.

While the unit is designed to work with a 16oz disposable propane cylinder, it can be converted to work with a 20lb tank (Model #5584623 which is sold separately). The grate will give you about 200 square inches of total cooking surface. But many users complain that the grate is apparently made using poor quality stainless steel so it may be prone to rust. Cleanup may also be a bit challenging.

Pros Cons
 Small and portable  Cooks too hot
 Lightweight  Regulator is problematic
LP conversion to 20lb tank possible  Grate requires extra work to clean
TRU-infrared cooking
  Temperature gauge on hood
Hood locks

Cuisinart CGG-180T Petit Gourmet Portable Tabletop Gas Grill

 

Burner Dimensions [inches] Weight [pounds]
9500 BTU 13.3H x 24.8W x 16.2D 26

If you do a lot of cooking on the road, the Cuisinart CGG-180T is a small grill worth your consideration. Its portability is enhanced by a briefcase-style carrying handle and aluminum legs that fold under the unit for travel. This is a tabletop model. If you want expandable legs so you can cook while standing, you will need to purchase the Cuisinart CGG-180T with VersaStand.

The Petit Gourmet comes assembled right out the box. You can either use a twist-on 1lb propane canister or attach it to a 20lb tank (see manufacturer’s recommendation) with a hose. It heats up quickly and maintains an even heat. The grill has about 145 square inches of cooking space, enough for a burgers or 8 chicken breasts. So, if you’re cooking for 4, then you should be OK.

It has twist-start ignition (Piezo) but you can also use matches to light the gas if the starter gets wet. The Petit Gourmet heats up fast and cooks evenly. The stainless-steel burner cranks out 5,500 BTUs of power. 

The grate is dishwasher safe and removable, making for easy cleanup. There is a built-in grease catcher tray. But if you cook a lot of burgers, the tray capacity is limited and fills up fast. You may also get some grease spillage out of the bottom vent holes.

Pros Cons
True portability  Cooks hot
 Cooks for up to 4 people  Burner not replaceable
 Comes assembled out-the-box  Grease catcher has limited capacity
Can also use with 20lb LP tank
Lockable lid
Front, centered gas control knob

My Favorite Portable Propane Grill Is…

The propane grills reviewed here are mostly designed for table-top use and were chosen because they won’t take up a lot of real estate in your car or SUV. They were selected because they’re small and compact and have great features. My personal favorite is the Weber Q1200. I like it because of the dependability of the Weber brand and it has many of the features that make for a good gas grill. Such as:

  • Built in thermometer
  • Single piece stainless steel burner
  • Porcelain-enameled cast-iron cooking grates
  • Cast aluminum lid and body
  • Angled cook box for grease management
  • Easy cleanup
  • Foldout side tables for cooking

There are many variables to consider when buying a portable grill. Your personal best will depend on your lifestyle. I hope the information offered here will help in your research and decision making.