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Half the fun of attending a major sporting event is hanging out in the parking lot beforehand, socializing with friends and cooking up good food, and that's why a tailgating grill is a must-have for any sports fan.
Whether you're partial to propane, charcoal, or even pellet grills, there's an easy-to-transport option that you can bring along to football games and other events. These portable grills allow you to serve delicious pre-game steaks, burgers, ribs, and any other tailgate recipes, and most of them can be operated right in the bed of your truck. (No truck? There are models with built-in stands, too.)
Here, the best grills for tailgating to bring along to the game this season.
Best Overall: Coleman RoadTrip 285 Portable Stand-Up Propane Grill
Three burners deliver 20,000 BTU per hour
Folding design with wheels
Durable cast iron grates
Lid lock is flimsy
Poorly designed water tray
One of the best grills for tailgating is the Coleman RoadTrip, which delivers powerful heat, operates three separate burners, and folds up into an easy-to-transport form. This propane-powered grill boasts 285 square inches of cooking space on its porcelain-coated cast-iron grates and provides up to 20,000 BTUs of grilling power. Each burner can be controlled independently so you can cook different tailgate recipes at the same time, and the grill features two sliding side tables for food prep and serving.
When you’re done cooking, the Coleman RoadTrip grill’s legs fold flat, allowing you to tilt it onto its two rugged wheels and roll it along behind you. Additionally, it comes in five bright colors, and you can purchase additional griddles to swap in.
Dimensions: 30.25 x 19.19 x 16.13 inches | Weight: 46.6 pounds | Fuel Type: Propane | Cooking Area: 285 square inches | BTUs: 20,000
Best Propane: Weber Q 2200 Gas Grill
Extremely easy to set up and operate
Spacious cooking area
Heavy-duty porcelain-enameled cast iron grates
Large folding side tables
Somewhat heavy for a portable grill
Catch pan doesn't fit properly
If you’re on the hunt for a propane-powered grill that will be the envy of any tailgate party, look no further than the Weber Q2200 Propane Grill. This portable grill has everything you need to cook up delicious meals on the go, including 280 square inches of cooking space, porcelain-enameled cast-iron grates, and two folding work tables for quick and easy food prep.
The Weber Q2200 runs on disposable liquid propane cylinders (not included), and our tester loved that it has a number of high-end features usually reserved for full-size grills—we’re talking a built-in lid thermometer, electronic ignition, and even an infinite control burner valve. The grill’s lightweight cast aluminum body and ergonomic side handles make it easy to move from your car to the grilling area, and the stainless steel burner gives off an impressive 12,000 BTUs per hour.
Dimensions: 25.1 x 51.4 x 26 inches | Weight: 42.5 pounds | Fuel Type: Propane | Cooking Area: 280 square inches | BTUs: 12,000
"The grill was incredibly easy to use—with a push of the ignition button, a blue flame quickly shot up all around the stainless steel burner, which circles the bottom of the grill body." — Camryn Rabideau, Product Tester
Best Charcoal: Weber 18-Inch Jumbo Joe Charcoal Grill
Tuck-N-Carry lid lock
Weighs less than 20 pounds
Ash catcher makes it easy to clean
No lid thermometer
Cooking grates aren't hinged
Charcoal grills deliver a wonderful smoky flavor that you can’t get with propane, and you can cook up delicious smoke-infused foods on the Weber Jumbo Joe Charcoal Grill. This portable charcoal grill is ideal for tailgating thanks to its lightweight design and Tuck-N-Carry lid lock.
This 18-inch grill can hold up to eight hamburgers at a time on its plated steel cooking grate, and it features an aluminum ash catcher down below for easy cleanup. The porcelain-enameled lid and bowl retain heat well, yet they won’t rust or peel. The grill has a heat shield on its lid handle, and there are dampers that allow you to control the inner temperature. It’s the perfect size for four to six people and easy to bring along to a sporting event, camping, or even the beach.
Dimensions: 17 x 14.2 x 14.5 inches | Weight: 9.5 pounds | Fuel Type: Charcoal | Cooking Area: 147 square inches
Best Splurge: Hitchfire Forge 15 Grill
Incredibly sturdy and well-secured
Doubles as a tabletop grill
Two burners provide high cooking temperatures
Doesn't block trunk/tailgate access
Interferes with back-up sensors
Expensive compared to similarly sized grills
If you're a tailgating regular, the unique HitchFire Forge 15 is a worthwhile splurge for your on-the-go cooking setup. This grill is designed to be mounted to the back of your car via a standard 2-inch hitch, and you can drive and cook without ever taking it off your vehicle! It's mounted on a swing arm that gives you access to your trunk or tailgate as needed, and our tester was impressed by how well the grill stayed in place while driving, even along bumpy dirt roads.
In terms of its performance, the HitchFire Forge offers 335 square inches of cooking space and two propane-fueled burners. It even has two fold-out side tables for extra prep room. Our tester found that the grill easily reached temperatures over 500 degrees with both burners on high, and it gets hotter faster and maintains a more consistent temperature than other portable grills. Plus, when you're not on the go, it doubles as a tabletop grill, as well.
Dimensions: 25 x 39 x 21 inches | Weight: 70 pounds | Fuel Type: Propane | Cooking Area: 335 square inches | BTUs: 15,000
"My boyfriend took the HitchFire Forge 15 on a four-day overlanding trip in Maine. He drove roughly 350 miles on the highway to reach the campground, and he said the grill stayed secure the whole time. He also drove another 200 miles on dirt roads and rough trails, and the HitchFire performed flawlessly." — Camryn Rabideau, Product Tester
Best Budget: Weber Go-Anywhere 1-Burner Portable Propane Gas Grill
Push button ignition
Legs lock lid in place during transport
Steel grates can be hard to clean
For those who only tailgate occasionally and don’t want to splurge on an expensive grill, the Weber Go-Anywhere Gas Grill is a budget-friendly alternative. This affordable grill comes from one of the most trusted brands in grilling, and it has all the features you need to cook delicious meals before the big game.
The Go-Anywhere Grill has 160 square inches of cooking space and one stainless steel burner, and it provides 6,500 BTUs per hour to help you cook burgers, hot dogs, and more tailgating favorites. The propane-powered model features a porcelain-enameled steel cooking grate, and it has a convenient push-button ignition and glass-reinforced nylon handles. Then when you’re finished cooking, the grill’s plated steel legs can be pivoted upward to lock the lid in place for worry-free transport. Overall, the compact form and affordable price make this grill an unbeatable option for your next tailgate party.
Dimensions: 12.2 x 21 x 14.5 inches | Weight: 13.5 pounds | Fuel Type: Propane | Cooking Area: 160 square inches | BTUs: 6,500
Best Portable Gas Grill: Char-Broil Grill2Go Infrared Portable Gas Grill
TRU-Infrared cooking system minimizes flare-ups
Delivers powerful heat
Grates are hard to clean
Lacks a temperature regulator
Gas grills are convenient to use when tailgating, as they come to temperature quickly and deliver even heat. The Char-Broil Grill2Go X200 is one of the best portable gas grills you can buy, as it delivers 9,500 BTUs per hour across its 200-square-inch cooking surface. With this grill, you can cook up to a dozen burgers at once using the TRU-Infrared cooking system, which delivers juicer meats with fewer flare-ups.
The Char-Broil Grill2Go has a durable die-cast aluminum construction, push-button ignition, and lid-mounted temperature gauge, as well as a porcelain-coated steel cooking grate and stainless steel burner.
Dimensions: 23.7 x 15 x 13.6 inches | Weight: 20 pounds | Fuel Type: Propane | Cooking Area: 200 square inches | BTUs: 9,500
Best Small: Cuisinart Petit Gourmet Tabletop Gas Grill
Small and lightweight
Porcelain-coated cast iron grated
Only 5,500 BTU
No low setting
Not a lot of room for your tailgating grill? Then you need a product like the Cuisinart Petit Gourmet Tabletop Grill. This propane-powered model weighs just 14 pounds, making it a breeze to transport, but it’s still large enough to cook meals for a group. The cooking area on this grill is 145 square inches, which can hold around eight burgers at a time, and it can reach temperatures up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Petit Gourmet grill runs on propane, and it has a number of features that make it convenient to take on the go, including folding legs, a locking handle and lid, and a spill-resistant drip tray. The grill grates are made from porcelain-coated cast iron, and it’s easy to set up and break down.
Dimensions: 18 x 17.5 x 12 inches | Weight: 14.6 pounds | Fuel Type: Propane | Cooking Area: 145 square inches | BTUs: 5,500
Best Pellet Grill: Traeger Ranger Wood Pellet Grill
Large pellet hopper
Built-in meat probe
"Keep warm" mode
If you love the smoky taste that you get from a pellet grill, you’re in luck because the Traeger Ranger Wood Pellet Grill is a compact portable model that you can bring along to the game. The tabletop grill boasts an 8-pound pellet hopper and 184 square inches of cook space that can fit up to six burgers at a time, and it even has a built-in meat probe to monitor your meal's temperature and a "keep warm" mode.
This portable pellet grill sports the brand's new Digital Arc Controller, which lets you set the grill's temperature in 5-degree increments and maintains precise control over its heat. The grill is equipped with porcelain-coated grill grates and even includes a cast iron griddle, and there are two locks on the front to keep the lid secure during transport.
Dimensions: 20 x 21 x 13 inches | Weight: 60 pounds | Fuel Type: Wood pellets | Cooking Area: 185 square inches | Hopper Capacity: 8 pounds
The Coleman RoadTrip 285 (view at Amazon) is an ideal choice for tailgating, thanks to its large cooking area, three individual burners, and compact folding form. Another top choice, especially for those who like cooking with propane, is the Weber Q 2200, which has sturdy cast iron grates, two fold-out side tables, and a convenient electronic ignition.
What to Look for in a Grill for Tailgating
Tailgating typically takes place in the parking lot before a sporting event, so one of the key factors to look for in a tailgating grill is portability. Since you're going to be bringing the grill to the big game, it needs to be compact and lightweight enough to put in your vehicle, and it should also be easy to set up either on the pavement, in your truck bed, or on a portable table. Some tailgating grills even come equipped with folding legs and wheels that make them easy to use on the go.
If your car is packed full of friends, you're not going to have much space for your tailgating supplies, so be sure to consider the type of fuel your grill uses. Propane grills are a popular choice for tailgating, as 1-pound liquid propane tanks are small and convenient. There are also charcoal and wood pellet tailgating grills available, but you'll likely need a bit more room to stash a bag of fuel in your car.
Ease of Cleaning
Once you're finished tailgating, the last thing you're going to want to do is a 10-step cleaning routine on your grill. Instead, look for a grill that offers fast and easy clean-up, which will allow you to get into the stadium ASAP.
Can you grill on your tailgate?
If you don't have a stand for your grill or a table to place it on, you might be wondering if you can operate a portable grill on the tailgate of a truck. This is a fairly common practice that you'll likely see other people doing at a tailgating event, and it is generally considered safe. Most portable grills don't get hot enough to cause damage to your vehicle, but you'll want to keep a careful eye on the grill to avoid flare-ups and grease spills and keep any flammable objects away from it.
What do you do with charcoal after tailgating?
Once you're done cooking, it's essential to properly dispose of hot coals before you put away your grill and leave to watch the game. Some tailgating facilities have designated metal barrels for this exact purpose—they're usually red and labeled as "hot coal barrels."
However, if there isn't a disposal barrel available, you'll want to let the coals burn down as much as possible, then transfer them into a bowl made from heavy-duty aluminum foil. From here, you can use water to douse the coals with water until they're 100% out. Once the foil is cool to the touch, wrap up the contents and dispose of the pouch in a metal waste bin.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
This article was written by Camryn Rabideau, a freelance writer and product tester who has written close to a dozen pieces on all styles of grills for The Spruce. She has done firsthand testing of a wide range of grills, including two included on this list—the Weber Q2200 and the HitchFire Forge 15.