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Portable grills are perfect for camping, cooking out at a park, or grilling on a small deck or patio that lacks the real estate required for a larger, stationary gas grill.
Just because these grills are modestly sized doesn’t mean you have to skimp on performance. On the other hand, don’t assume they can all handle basic tasks, such as browning burgers and brats, effectively.
The portable grills in our ratings range in price from about $80 to more than $400, and we test models from Broil King, Char-Broil, Coleman, Cuisinart, Landmann, Napoleon, Nexgrill, and Weber, among others. If you’re not sure whether a portable grill is the best type for you, start with our grill buying guide. CR members can access our comprehensive grill ratings of all the portable and full-sized grills that have come through our labs.
“We see sizable performance differences between portable models,” says Cindy Fisher, CR’s test engineer in charge of grill testing. “The worst portable grills are only suitable for burgers and hot dogs, but the best can actually cook 90 percent of what you’d make on a larger grill.”
Those differences are meaningful, particularly if you’re cooking for a hungry crowd while tailgating or a grumpy family back at a campsite after a day spent hiking.
How CR Tests Portable Grills
Our tests of portable grills are similar to our evaluations of larger models. But we place much more emphasis on key convenience factors, such as how easily a grill lights and folds up for transport, because we know that’s crucial for using a portable grill on the go.
To see how each model cooks, we wire the surface with thermocouples to record the temperature across the grates. We also perform these tests at low and moderate temperatures and capture the range of temperatures at which every single model can cook.
The fact that a grill is small—or inexpensive, for that matter—doesn’t mean you should lower your expectations. Our predicted reliability and owner satisfaction ratings, derived from the results of our annual CR member survey, indicate how likely a grill is to stand the test of time and how happy folks are with their portable grills.
Here are some of the best portable gas grills from CR’s tests.