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Grilling has been a preferred way to cook food while traveling since before the grill as a unique cooking tool existed. It is in many ways the simplest way to cook: fire plus food equals good cooked food.
But especially in some parts of the world in today’s society, you can’t just plop down and start a fire willy nilly without potentially causing a disaster, and having an actual grill always helps anyways, so what do you do? Buy a portable one, of course!
There are a surprising variety of potable grills on the market, with any number of features. So I’m going to do a quick breakdown of what kinds of portable grills there are and why some might be better than others for certain kinds of trips.
Here are the best portable charcoal grill you can buy:
- Weber Go Anywhere Charcoal Grill
- Char Broil American Gourmet 18 inch Tabletop Grill
- Lodge Cast Iron Sportsman Grill
- Oklahoma Joe’s Rambler Portable Charcoal Grill
- Isumer Stainless Steel Folding Charcoal Grill
- Weber Jumbo Joe 18 inch Charcoal Grill
- Raptor Grilling Optimized Portable Charcoal Grill and Smoker
7 Best Portable Charcoal Grills Reviews
This is the best example of one of the two big styles of portable charcoal grill I typically think of. This one falls into the ultra compact variety, giving you a very lightweight single package that doubles as both a storage box for all your relevant accoutrements (the charcoal itself, lighter, starter, utensils, etc.) and a grill.
It’s very light, weighing only 14 and a half pounds and being very easy to move with its combination of locking lid and both side mounted and a top mounted handle for easy gripping from any angle.
The porcelain coated cast iron material is very strong and sturdy without compromising its weight, while the small dimensions lend itself very well to portability; it takes up about as much space as a standard tackle box or large lunch box.
For the price it is very difficult to do better than this, especially for this style of lightweight compact portable charcoal grill.
Lightweight and easy to use.
Good handles make it easy to carry both in one hand and two.
Fold out legs are steady and convenient.
Locking lid makes for convenient storage of all your grill accessories and necessities.
Pretty low price.
A little small; doesn’t provide a ton of cooking area.
In terms of sheer total grilling power, this is a vastly superior alternative to the Weber Go Anywhere model above. It has a great interior grilling space, giving you a sizable 225 square inches to work with, enough for most grilling tasks short of huge roasts or a rack of ribs or something of that nature.
The design from Char-Broil is very nice for grilling, giving you a great pull out charcoal tray you can quickly and easily load and slide back into place to get started grilling as soon as it’s lit.
All of that is nice, as is the overall thick construction which increases heat retention (and therefore cooking power), but it does lend itself to this grill being less portable than it might otherwise be.
The rounded design combined with its relative bulk and heft doesn’t help. Ultimately it’s going to come down to this: do you prefer the ultra compact portable grill style, or a grill that is portable, but a bit more of a pain, bit has way higher performance?
It’s completely up to preference given its price is nearly identical to most other models of this type.
Great size and cooking area.
Convenient pull out charcoal drawer for easy loading and lighting.
Sturdy construction lasts a long time and retains heat well.
Excellent cooking power.
Heavy and bulky compared to other portable charcoal grills.
This is a very well designed cast iron travel grill. You have a lot of versatility in its fairly unassuming package, with it acting as an open air grill with two adjustable grate heights for different kinds of cooking.
It works as a regular grill of course and can be used for hibachi purposes if you’re so inclined. It doesn’t make too bad of a heat source on a cold say either, heating up and retaining but dispersing heat in equal measure.
The front flips down for easy loading or stoking of charcoal, which is very nice and convenient, but the same can’t be said of the handle, which is slim and uncomfortable to use with a 30 lb. weight hanging from it.
The performance on this grill is top notch (cast iron is an excellent cooking material, and it comes pre-seasoned), but it’s difficult to move around compared to some of the other units on the list, and it’s also a bit more expensive than some as well.
This makes a great tailgating grill, where you don’t have to carry it very far, but I would be leery of taking this on a hike or camping trip given the weight added onto everything else you need to carry.
Very sturdy and durable cast iron construction.
Good heat retention.
Doubles as a small heater.
Decent cooking area.
Easy to load with charcoal and tend to the flames.
Heavy compared to most portable grills.
A bit on the expensive side.
This extraordinarily sturdy charcoal grill has its main strength be its real downfall.
It is a squat, sturdy, and exceptionally well built steel grill, with good grates that are easy to remove and flip when needed, and a great seal on it for good heat and smoke retention. The charcoal tray slides out smooth and easy for fast and convenient charcoal loading or tending, and the slide out ash tray makes cleaning similarly less of a chore.
You even have a very good chimney with easily controllable air dampers for maximum performance.
Unfortunately this comes at the cost of the grill being barely portable, weighing in at a whopping 55 lbs. Movable, to be sure, but not conveniently or over long distances by hand.
This makes it, much like the Lodge grill above, good for tailgating and similar pursuits, but not so much for camping or hiking, which is where you typically might want a portable grill.
As they are roughly the same price, I’d say get this one if you intend to smoke food wherever you happen to go, or grab the Lodge cast iron grill if you don’t intend to smoke (since ei think it’s a little better overall for grilling).
Sturdy and well made.
Good side handles for easy grip.
Good cooking area inside.
Convenient slide out charcoal tray for easy loading and stoking.
Extraordinarily heavy for a portable grill.
A weird one this time, we have this very interesting folding grill.
Everything here collapses, making it easy to transport, but it gets put back together into quite a large and useful range grill, giving you a good mix between having a full sized grill and a portable grill.
It’s not quite as good as either, is the issue, with the size of its grilling surface being its main upside.
It’s lightweight for sure, about the same weight as the Weber Go Anywhere grill above, but a bit bulkier and harder to transport, being about 4 feet long.
This makes it okay for camping so long as you can park fairly close or don’t have a bunch of other stuff packed, but it definitely isn’t suitable for a hike.
What it is perfect for is beach trips, or get togethers at a park or some such.
Full sized grilling surface in a portable package.
Lightweight and easy to pick up and go with.
Folds up very well.
Somewhat short and annoying to use.
A bit too bulky for hiking trips.
Feels a bit flimsy given the light weight combined with the size.
This one really only suffers by being shown up by its more portably inclined cousin.
We’ve all seen a grill like this, and probably owned at least one in the past. There are few surprises here, save that this one has a decent quality of life improvement over the usual for portability.
You get a kettle lid with a decent cooking surface, an integrated drip tray and a very standard charcoal lighting arrangement. The damper holes are serviceable but not impressive (certainly not great for smoking), and it’s fairly cheap, with a focus on overall durability rather than any specific function.
This one comes equipped with a much better than average handle, and a lid lock (which doubles as a lid holder so you don’t need to set the lid on the ground).
All nice, but very standard stuff.
That’s really it, and why this grill is so low on the list. It’s not bad, by any means, but it certainly doesn’t “wow” in any sense of the word. It’s just a decent standard kettle grill that works pretty much anywhere you care to take it.
Rugged, easy to use, and portable, but ultimately just another face in the crowd.
Easy to use
Lightweight and portable.
Convenient dual purpose lid lock and lid holder for convenient travel and cleaner cooking.
Great cooking area for a portable grill.
A bit bulkier than some other options.
No unique features worth mentioning.
This is a great portable cooker at a really solid price.
You get a good cooking area and a tight seal, great for slow smoking wherever you head off to. It’s also a durable steel, well made, and very lightweight, making it in many ways the ultimate travel grill.
The real standout feature though is the “clean hands” design; every individual component part of the grill has its own set of side handles, save for the lid. You have handles on the grate, on the ash tray, and on the grill itself, plus the top mounted sturdy lid handle.
This means you never have to touch ash or get it everywhere to clean the grill out, which is a nice little touch.
The main issue I have is that steel construction. It’s sturdy, but not the best material for cooking. It’s designed largely to cool down fast (within an hour), but our winner does that without sacrificing heat retention while actually grilling.
That combined with its lack of locking lid make it significantly worse at serving the same purposes as the Weber Go Anywhere, unfortunately.
Lightweight and easy to use.
Great “clean hands technology” of individualized handles on each component part.
Cools of fast for quick transport.
Low heat retention leads to less cooking power.
I like all of these for different reasons. Even the one I like the least (Raptor Grilling’s model) has its own merits (the “clean hands technology” is quite a nice design).
Overall though, I think the Weber Go Anywhere is the best of all worlds, with the Char Broil American Gourmet a close second, and Weber Jumbo Joe a decent third option for all around good grills.
The others have a bit more specialization to them, or are flawed in some inherent way that might make them undesirable for certain types of trips; the heavier Lodge and Oklahoma Joe models as an example make for very poor grills to take on a hike.
Overall though, there should be something here for everyone that suits their needs.
What Should I Look For in a Portable Charcoal Grill?
Above all else, a portable grill should be small like a camping stove . You need to be able to toss it in the back of your truck, SUV, or even car and just get going. To that end, in general you’re looking for something no more than maybe a foot and a half per side, if that, with very few exceptions.
Beyond the overall size, you want to then look at why exactly you want a portable grill, because that will determine other factors, primarily weight.
A portable grill should always be lighter and easier to move than a full sized grill, of course, but depending on what you need it for it doesn’t need to be that light, just very small.
If you’re tailgating, going to a campground where you can just park near where you pitch your tent, or just heading to a friend’s house to cook some burgers and drink a few beers, you can get away with a grill that weights 20, 30, or even 50 lbs. as long as you don’t have to carry it far.
However, if you’re going hiking, biking, or some other endeavor that requires a lot of travel before you bed down for the night, you want something lightweight so you don’t kill yourself on the trip. You want something that weighs maybe 15 lbs. at most, and preferably way lighter than that.
The difference between 15 and 20 lbs. may sound small, but it really adds up when you’re carrying another 60 to 70 lbs. of gear with you on top of that and need to save room for other things besides.
Then look at the cooking surface area, usually tied directly to its overall size. You want at least about 150 square inches of cooking space. If you plan to cook something larger than a few burgers, you’ll want to spring for something with about 250 square inches at least, or even larger.
Keep in mind that the larger your cooking area, the larger your grill, and therefore the more weight you’re packing on, so plan accordingly.
Finally, look at the price, and see what you’re willing to pay. The above factors are not always related; you can have one grill that is much smaller than another costing about the same and it’s not necessarily a bad deal.
If it’s what you need, for a price you’re willing to pay, get it. Still, I’d say the hard cut off is $150. For a portable grill I wouldn’t drop more than $150 on just the grill itself.