Top 2 Grillers’ Pick for the Best Portable Charcoal Grill

Are you a pack-and-go person? I’ve always loved the idea of having everything portable. From power banks to a cooking grill, I want it to be ready in just one packing. And during fishing weekends with my family, I make sure to bring this one thing: a portable charcoal grill.  I didn’t mean to brag but I always get compliments whenever I host barbecue parties and gatherings of family and friends. As a self-confessed grilling enthusiast, I want to extend the fun even if we’re outdoors.

ATTRIBUTESWEBER GO-ANYWHERE
GRILL
CUISINART CHARCOAL
GRILL
Portability level9/108/10
Construction quality8/108.5/10
Convenience9/108/10
Cooking surface160 sq. in.150+ sq. in.
Satisfaction level8/107/10
Reliability8/108/10
PriceCheck Price on Amazon.comCheck Price on Amazon.com

I love attending tailgating events too, which is one big reason why I got a portable grill. And if you prefer RV or tent camping, a portable grill will be the star of the vacation.

What to look for a portable charcoal BBQ grill

The only way to be satisfied with your portable grill is to be meticulous in checking your options. The features will depend based on the convenience you’re looking for. There are more aspects to consider here including the following:

????Size

When we say portable grills, you don’t expect a 500 sq. in. cooking surface, right? The maximum size of portable grills shouldn’t be more than 300 sq. in. Such size is enough to grill food for about 2-4 people. As you see, it’s perfect for small families and group of friends who are camping or staying outdoors.

Always consider the amount of food you want to prepare in a single batch in comparison to the space you have for storage. If you’re just cooking for yourself and another person, a small grill would do the job.

????Cooking power

Just because it’s compact doesn’t mean it will be a slow cooker. More often, the speed of cooking will rely on the type of charcoal you’ll use and the temperature of the environment. Get one that can beat the cold weather.

????Features and design

Since you’re looking for a charcoal grill, make sure that what you’ll get has dampers and/or vents. These parts allow you to control the air that goes in and out of the grill’s lid. Too much oxygen and it will cause the charcoal to ignite more, less and it will be choked. Without the dampers, you’re only cooking with blazing heat. There’s a chance that your barbecues will get burnt ends. If you want slow cooking, dampers are indispensable.

Also, you should check how stable the grill is on different surfaces. Does it have strong legs that don’t wobble when placed on top of the table? If you noticed that the legs of your grill are malfunctioning, look for another one. It will ruin your cooking when the leg breaks off. It’s also a fire hazard and a danger to the person around.

????Convenience

Is it easy to clean? Is there an ash catcher? Can you transport it easily? The answers to these questions are crucial if you want the best portable grill. Some users feel that rectangular grills are easier to use while others prefer circular, dome-like models. It all boils down to personal preference.

Also, make sure that the lid is tight fitting. This will ensure that the function of the damper will be optimal. It’s best if the lid can be locked when transporting it.

????Ease of packing

The reason why we look for a portable charcoal grill is that we want something that’s easy to carry. If you can shove it inside a bag or grab it without a falling lid, lose trays, and stuff, you have a nice model. A portable grill that can be placed on a small box is easy to carry and store away. Storage bags would be great too given that it’s strong enough to handle the weight of the grill.

????Durability

Just because you’re getting a compact grill doesn’t mean it has to be rickety and foil-thin. The best portable grill should be as durable as a full-sized one. A model that’s made from cast iron is usually long-lasting.

????Reliability

You wouldn’t want a grill that will crumble into pieces once it’s in full heat. Your choice of a grill should be reliable and proven to last for years.

????Bonus accessories

A portable charcoal BBQ grill that comes with a free tong, tray, skewers, and so on would be excellent. Still, don’t purchase a grill just because it comes with freebies. Some models don’t have these bonus stuff but still worth the money.

Best Portable BBQ Grills – Our Top Picks!

Now that you have the idea of what to look for a compact grill, here are two of the best options I personally tried during camping trips and RV vacations.

—>Weber Go-Anywhere Charcoal Grill<—

Specs

Rectangular-shaped cooking grates

3 vent holes, 2 dampers

Porcelain-enameled coating

Pivoting legs and built-in lid hangers

portable charcoal grillI’m the type of person who doesn’t want the fuss of securing things with stretch films and bags. This is the reason why I can’t get enough of my Weber Go-Anywhere Charcoal Grill. It’s like a toolkit with handles on the sides and on top of the lid. When you open it, there’s a 160 sq. in. wire grill grate where you can cook burgers, steaks, ribs, and so on.

It looks like a chafing dish with steel legs. These steel plated legs can be maneuvered to lock the lid in during transport. If you’re on the go, this would be an excellent choice. This grill has no nuts or bolts that might unscrew anytime. It has a solid built which is pretty long-lasting, I must say.

With its unique design, this portable charcoal grill definitely lives up to its name of “go-anywhere”. You can toss it at the back of your car and not worry about clanking lids or trays.

When cooking, you just have to light the charcoal on the bottom dish and place the grate back. I can actually grill 6 burgers all at the same time with this Weber model.

What could be done better:

When using lump charcoal, large pieces could be too close to the food. I personally place a sheet of foil with holes on top of the charcoal to prevent it from getting to the meat I’m cooking.

—>Cuisinart Compact Charcoal Grill<—

Specs

150+ sq. in. cooking surface

Dual dampers and vents

Three lid locks

Lightweight but solid

Built-in ash catcher

portable charcoal grillFor those looking for the classic and portable charcoal BBQ, nothing beats the Cuisinart Compact Charcoal Grill. The cooking surface is chrome plated and the firebox has an enamel coat. It does well with temperature control through the same damper design as the one from Weber.

This Cuisinart grill is excellent as a tabletop grill or if you’re cooking on the ground. It has fixed legs that hold the ash catcher. I’ve tried using this during our weekend camping and I’m impressed with the construction. As for the cooking, it does great and the grate is a bit higher from the firebox.

It’s lightweight too and you can carry the whole thing through the lid handle. Just make sure that you lock the lid well to avoid the firebox from falling off when hand-carrying.

What I love the most here is that the dome can accommodate split chicken and larger meat cuts. You just have to be very careful with the body as it gets intensely hot while cooking. If you’re camping, don’t cook near your tent (I think that’s a pretty obvious advice).

What could be done better:

The most common issue I have for dome charcoal grills is the shallow ash catcher. If you happen to be grilling in a windy place, all the ashes will be carried by the wind. You can wrap a sheet foil around it for a temporary fix.

Why charcoal?

One of the most common questions I get is why get a compact charcoal grill if you can get a butane unit. Yes, butane is easier to use, mess-free, and not temperature-sensitive. Still, it doesn’t give off the same smoky flavor that I love about charcoal cooking. It doesn’t heat up as good as charcoals do.

Of course, you can opt for compact butane grills. The fuel supply is out of the question since both can run out anytime. I guess this boils down to personal preference. But if you’re into tailgating or mini BBQ competitions, charcoal grills might be a requirement.

Limits of a portable charcoal BBQ grill

The number one limitation of portable charcoal BBQ grills is its cooking surface. It’s small and can only accommodate a few slices of meat in one batch. Aside from that, the firebox is smaller and you have to refill it a few times if you’re cooking for many people. Also, food will take a little longer to cook due to the lower heating power of compact grills.

If you’re always on-the-go, portable charcoal grill like these would take a long time to cool down. That means you can’t toss it right away to your car’s trunk.

You simply can’t demand tons of features on portable grills like these. Personally, I’ll be contented if I get a compact grill with a strong construction and decent warranty. If you want more aside from that, you might as well invest on a bigger model with side tables and foldable stands. But that won’t live up to the compact sense of portable options.

Tips to remember

If you now have a grill and planning to use it on your next beach getaway, I have some suggestions here:

☙Use it right away. Upon purchasing the grill, make sure that you test it right away. This is so you can send it back or avail whatever warranty there is if you’re not happy with it. Also, you shouldn’t take chances of using the grill for the first time during your vacation.

☙Manage the flare-ups. This is common among charcoal grills. One way to manage flare-ups is to maximize the purpose of the damper. The less oxygen, the less fire there would be.

☙Check your location. Take note that not all places will allow you to churn smoke. Some only allow butane-powered cookers to avoid air pollution. Check this out to stay dodge trouble.

☙Find a stable spot. If you’re grilling on the ground, make sure that the surface is even and not prone to tilting. For tabletop use, prevent spots where kids can run it over. Remember that charcoal grills like these are fire hazards if not used properly.

☙Oil the food. One common mistake here is oiling the grate instead of the food. I’ve seen the result of this and it’s an ugly, burned chicken with a sooty layer.

☙Pack ahead. If you’re bringing a grill with you, pack it ahead together with the accessories. I know it’s hard to believe (due to its level of stupidity) but I once left the lid at home when we went on a weekend stay at the beach.

☙Don’t pack it when it’s hot. No matter how in a hurry you are, never pack a hot charcoal grill in your car. It will be an extreme hazard.

☙Opt for portable food. Since you have a small grill, I suggest that you choose food items that are easy to cook. You can try grilled shrimps or thin meat slices.

Maintenance of the compact charcoal grill

Small grills are pretty easy to maintain. Always store it clean by removing the ash and washing the grates, firebox, and lid. Make sure that it’s bone dry before storage to prevent the formation of molds.

If you shared your grill with another group in the park, make sure that you scrub it well to remove the food bits. If you don’t want to endure the scrubbing, you might as well wrap your food in foil sheets. This is also great to maximize the heat from the charcoal.

When you’re about to grill again, give the grates a nice wash.

A portable charcoal grill is excellent for grilling while on the road. You no longer have to miss the smoky goodness during your vacations and weekend getaways.

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Top 2 Grillers’ Pick for the Best Portable Charcoal Grill

by George Miller time to read: 8 min
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