Best Camping Grill
Cooking the old-fashioned way while camping certainly makes any camping experience more memorable. For outdoor adventurers, cooking over an open fire is part and parcel of any camping trip. However, this requires much time, effort, and skill. You’d have to keep an eye on your food to make sure that it cooks properly. Moreover, campfires aren’t that easy to manage and can even pose hazards for the inexperienced.
This is why many opt to bring their own camping grills. The chances of ending up with charred, tasteless food is almost nil. Wet climate and damp air won’t be any problem as well. Most importantly, a variety of food can be conveniently cooked with a camping grill.
Then again, with the hordes of camping grills out there, it can be confusing to choose the best one to use. Here, we’ll go over a few things you should consider when buying a camping grill, our top picks, and how to take care of your grills so they last a lifetime.
What You Must Know
Basic Types of Camping Grills
While there’s a plethora of camping grills you can choose from, they all basically fall into two types according to the kind of fuel they use.
Propane camping grills are the quickest and most convenient way to cook while camping. Compared to other types, they’re easier to light, heat faster, and able to maintain constant heat throughout the cooking process.
Liquid propane is affordable and comes in handy cylinders that don’t take up too much space. Just one 16-oz cylinder can last two to six hours, depending on the BTU (British Thermal Unit) of the grill. Moreover, propane burns clean and doesn’t add any unwanted flavors on your food.
The only downside to propane camping grills is that they tend to be heavy and aren’t that portable.
Charcoal camping grills are often the choice of backpackers because they’re lightweight and portable. They’re also ideal for those who avoid gas for ecological reasons.
However, carrying a load of charcoal can be a hassle. One 16-oz canister of propane would be equivalent to about 5–10 pounds of charcoal. So while the grill itself is handy, lugging that much coal may not be that easy. Another downside to charcoal grills is that they require more attention when cooking. You need to get the charcoal hot enough, manage airflow to maintain a constant temperature, and watch the food to make sure it doesn’t burn.
Nonetheless, even with these disadvantages, they trump propane grills when it comes to flavor. You can get that rich smoky flavor and unique taste of charcoal-grilled food only from using real coals.
Aside from these two types of grills, there are also those that you can prop right over the campfire such as grill grates or tripod grills. While they’re smaller and easier to carry, you risk getting charred or unevenly cooked food because campfires are hard to regulate.
What to Look for in a Camping Grill
With hundreds of options available in stores, choosing a camping grill can be daunting. Before making your purchase, there are several factors to consider. Among these are:
Grate size or grilling surface
This determines how much you can cook at a time, how fast the grill heats up, and how much fuel you’ll need to cook all your food. The bigger the grate size, the more fuel it needs, and the more people you can feed.
Stainless steel types are easy to clean and rust-resistant. Porcelain-enameled ones are the easiest to clean but also require much care. They lose their nonstick ability when they get scratched or worn away. Another option are cast-iron grates which are durable and have excellent heat retention.
With built-in thermometers, you avoid undercooking or overcooking your food even without hawking over it while it’s cooking.
If you prefer a gas grill, look for one with an ignition button or switch. These no-flame ignitions are easier to light up. Plus, you can use them even if you forget to bring matches.
Among the most common problems campers face is having to haul too much equipment to the campsite. You can avoid this problem by choosing a grill that’s compact, lightweight, and easy to carry.
Ease of use
You don’t want to waste hours of your precious camping time setting up the grill instead of enjoying the great outdoors. Get something you can set up in just around five to ten minutes.
Ease of cleaning
Avoid the stress of having to clean messy grills by choosing ones that are in stainless steel or are porcelain-enameled. Non-stick surfaces make clean-up a breeze. Removable drip trays or grease traps also shorten clean-up time.
Space for food preparation can be limited while camping. A grill with side tables that extend or fold away can give you much needed space to prepare your food or hold your cooking utensils.
The amount of heat that a grill fuel source puts out is measured in BTUs. The more BTU a grill has, the hotter it can get, and the faster you can cook your food.
Aside from these, there are also other features unique to individual grills. With so many features and options to consider, how do you know which grill is the best for you? You can narrow down your choices by asking the following questions:
Where will you use the grill?
If you’re going to a car camp or an RV camp, you can opt for bigger grills that are highly versatile. Choose one that can also be used with pots and pans and even as an oven. Size wouldn’t matter much in this case because you’d have plenty of storage space in an RV or a tailgate.
However, portability becomes an important factor if you’re trekking to your campsite. For this, you’ll need a lightweight grill that you can easily pack in your bag along with other essentials. In either case, charcoal grills that can double as a firepit for campfire are good choices.
How many people will you be cooking for?
It’ll be cumbersome to cook so many batches on a small grill if you’re feeding a squad. So, take note of the amount of food you’d be cooking, and get a suitably sized grill.
Which do you prefer, gas or charcoal?
Grills that work on propane gas are the most convenient to use. You can easily control the cooking temperature, and there won’t be any ash or residues to clean up after. On the other hand, charcoal gives your food that wonderful smoked flavor and aroma. So, decide which one is more important to you: convenience or smoky flavor.
What other features do you really need?
Depending on where and how often you’ll be using your camping grill, some features may be necessary while some may not. Make sure you consider how you’re going to use the grill long-term and not just for the first camping trip.
How to Make Your Camping Grill Last a Lifetime
When you invest in any camping equipment, you’d want to get your money’s worth and make it last as long as possible. That’s why durability is among the factors we all consider when buying equipment. To make your grill last longer, here are some precautions and care you should take:
Always observe proper safety practices when using your grill.
Keep away from hanging branches. Set up your grill about 12 feet away from any hanging branch.
Ensure stable footing when setting up your grill. Stomp the topsoil into the ground. Adjust the grill legs properly to prevent it from tipping over when you load your food on it.
Clear leaves and twigs nearby.
Keep your grill clean.
Clean your grill before you use it. Any grease or dirt left on the grill can send pillars of smoke and tongues of flame into the sky.
Clean your grill after using it. Use a grill brush to remove fat. Wipe the rest of the parts clean.
Store your grill properly.
Thoroughly clean your grill before putting it in storage. Brush off leftover food scraps and grease. Soak and scrub removable burners, and clean out all debris.
Coat burners and other metal parts with cooking oil to repel moisture and prevent rust.
If you’re using a gas grill, remove the propane tank, and tape a plastic bag over the opening to keep insects away from the gas line. Store the propane tank upright.
Cook a wide variety of food in this sleek cast-aluminum gas grill. An electronic ignition brings the burner to life in just one click. It has an infinite control burner valve that enables you to adjust the heat setting from low to high and a large built-in thermometer that helps you monitor the temperature inside.
The Weber Q1200 is great for grilling greasy or juicy food. Its grill area has enough space for four decent-sized steaks, and the tall lid gives you ample space to grill small roasts. Its split grates allow you to cook on a grate and a griddle at the same time. This means, you can cook anything from steaks for dinner to pancakes for breakfast – all on one grill.
Other fun and functional features of the Weber Q1200 include large grip handles and control knobs, ergonomic side handles, sturdy front and rear cradles, and fold-out side tables. It comes in seven designs: black, blue, fuchsia, green, orange, red, and titanium. Use it with disposable LP cylinders when camping or with an adapter hose when at home.
Dimensions: 20.5 x 40.9 x 24.6 inches
Weight: 29 pounds
Burner power: 8500 BTU-per-hour to heat 189 square-inch cooking area
Material: cast-aluminum lid and body, porcelain-enameled cast-iron grates
- Big capacity.
- Comes pre-assembled.
- It requires minimal care and maintenance.
- It can withstand high heat for grilling.
- Built-in thermometer and temperature regulator.
- A bit on the costly side.
- Heavy and bulky.
- Attaching propane tanks can be difficult.
The main selling point of the Coleman Road Trip LXE is probably its PerfectFlow Pressure Control System that can effectively maintain steady heat even during the cold seasons. It has dual burners with separate controls. This system creates two different temperature zones so you can cook food with different temperature requirements at the same time. Like other Coleman products, the LXE also has the InstaStart matchless ignition that starts your grill going in one push of a button.
This grill is ideal for those who are cooking for several people. It has plenty of grill space for cooking hefty amounts of food. There are two slide-out tables, one on each side, that create extra space for food and supplies. You can also purchase cooktop accessories so you can easily switch from grill grates to griddle or stove grates.
The LXE has a collapsible stand that easily folds out for camp use and folds down for compact storage. It comes in eight basic color designs and has wheels that enable you to roll it like a carryon suitcase.
Dimensions: 33.8 x 13.5 x 19.1 inches
Weight: 48.5 pounds
Burner power: 20,000 BTUs (10,000BTU each burner) across 285 square inches powered by 16.4-oz propane cylinder
Material: porcelain-coated cast-iron grill grates
- Quick setup
- Built-in table and wheels
- Interchangeable cooktops
- Value for money
- Easy to clean.
- Ignition can sometimes take multiple attempts.
- No thermometer.
- Heavy and bulky.
Don’t be fooled by the word ‘petit’ in its name. While the Cuisinart Petit Gourmet Tabletop Gas Grill is compact and light, it’s still spacious enough to cook eight burgers at the same time. The cooking space is sufficient for cooking for three to four people.
The grill has folding legs for added height. Four corner feet stabilize the grill for cooking on a higher surface. It can also be easily and securely transported because of its integrated lid lock and brief-case style carrying handle. It allows for quick setup and has a grate that’s removable.
Because of its portability, you can bring the Cuisinart Petit Gourmet with you anywhere for any outdoor adventure. You’ll have no problem taking it with you to beach cookouts, mountain treks, camping and fishing getaways, and tailgates. This Cuisinart grill comes in three basic styles: black, red, and stainless steel.
On the downside, its drip pan is smaller than the standard size. You’d have to bring extra disposable drip pans for mess-free grilling.
Dimensions: 18 x 17.5 x 11.5 inches
Weight: 1 pound
Burner power: 5,500 BTU across 145 square-inches
Materials: porcelain-enameled grate, stainless steel burner, steel body
- Adjustable height.
- Folding legs.
- Electric ignition.
- Drip pan is too small.
- Plastic components are near high heat.
This grill is ultra-portable and lives up to its name of Fold N Go. It folds easily for compact storage and transport and includes a built-in handle for portability. It’s light enough to carry with just one hand and small enough that you can just easily toss it on the passenger’s seat.
Even with its small size, the Coleman Fold N Go does a great job cooking your food evenly with its adjustable burner and PerfectFlow technology. Precise temperature control and consistent heat distribution makes cooking more efficient. Aside from being portable and easy to use, this grill is also easy to clean. The non-stick porcelain-coated grate can be wiped clean in a jiffy. Grease isn’t a problem as well with the removable grease tray that can be quickly soaped and rinsed. The Coleman Fold N Go comes in a sleek black design and has a limited warranty that lasts for three years.
The only downside would probably be its limited grill space. It’s good for cooking for two only.
Dimensions: 14 x 16 x 4.5 inches
Weight: 10.27 pounds
Burner power: 6,000 BTUs across 105 square inches
Materials: steel body, porcelain-coated grate
- One of the most affordable portable grills.
- Lightweight and portable.
- Minimalist design.
- Porcelain coating can chip
- No ignition button
- Flimsy piping to propane tank.
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You can literally go anywhere with the Weber Go-Anywhere Charcoal Grill. It’s about the size of a portable toolbox and can be easily packed with other camping gear in your vehicle. It’s so compact that you can easily take it to the beach, the park, and even to festivals.
It’s designed to work on minimal charcoal and can be used with smoking chips. The grill’s surface for cooking measures 160 square inches. You can fit around four medium steaks or six burgers in its grate so it’s good enough to grill for just a couple of people. Rounded legs give it some height and provide some stability, but these are not that sturdy. So, avoid using heavy pots on the grill or loading it with too much food. The plated steel legs also pivot to lock the lid in place for safe and easy transport.
Other features of the Weber Go-Anywhere are glass-reinforced nylon handles, rust-resistant aluminum dampers, and angled lid hooks for secure transport. Made from premium-grade steel, the design of this charcoal grill comes in classic black.
Dimensions: 12.2 x 21 x 14.5 inches
Weight: 14 pounds
Materials: porcelain-enameled steel lid and base; plated steel cooking grate, heavy-gauge steel charcoal grate
- Easy to pack and store.
- Easy to assemble.
- Not sturdy enough for heavy cookware.
- Grate height is not adjustable.
- Limited cooking space.
Among these top five grills, we love Coleman Road Trip LXE the most. It’s the only grill that has dual burners with independent controls. Moreover, the interchangeable plates make cooking different varieties of food at the same time possible. What makes it perfect as a camping grill is that it’s spacious enough to cook for a small group while still being compact for easy transport to the campsite.
In terms of grill size, versatility, ease of use, and portability, no other grill beats the Coleman Road Trip LXE.
Why we love it:
- Allows cooking at two different temperatures at the same time.
- Has interchangeable cooktops.
- Has extra space for food preparation.
- Has attached wheels for convenient transport.
- Highly easy to clean, pack, and store.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What’s the difference between a camping stove and a camping grill?
Many people confuse grills and stoves, and while they’re similar in some ways, they have distinct uses. Both camping grills and stoves use either gas or charcoal for cooking food.
Their difference lies mainly on how heat comes into contact with the food. In a camping stove, heat is conducted from a pot or a pan to cook your food. On the other hand, heat or flame has direct contact with your food in a camping grill.
Q: How do I cook on a camping grill?
Whether you’re using a gas or a charcoal grill, you need to build the heat first before placing your food on the grill. If using gas, wait around 10 minutes for the grill to reach constant temperature. Wait twice or thrice longer than that if you’re using charcoal.
Proper timing is key to perfectly cooked food. Different types of food cook at different times. Start with food that cooks the longest, and add others as you go along.
Q: What food can I cook on a camping grill?
You can actually cook whatever food you want as long as you have the proper accessories. Most camping grills come with interchangeable plates that can be used as griddles or stove tops. You can also use aluminum foil for small bits of food or those with sauces. You can practically cook anything from steaks, fish, veggies, and soups.
To have gourmet camp food, use the freshest ingredients you can get, and bring condiments and sauces that pack awesome flavors.
Q: What cooking essentials should I bring for cooking in camp?
Packing light is essential when you’re camping, but you can make decent food with just a few tools. Aluminum foil is a must. You can wrap veggies and fish in it or fold it into a bowl and use it for sauces. Skewers are good to have too and won’t take up much space. They make cooking little bits of food easy and can also be used to turn meat over. Make sure you pack condiments and seasonings in small packets. Even well-cooked food won’t be fun to eat if they’re flavorless.
Q: How long does it take a camping grill to heat up?
The heat output and retention of your grill depends on its BTU. Heat is also affected by the design of your grill. Generally, the higher the BTU, the more burners you have, and the more compact your grill is, the faster it heats up. As a rule of thumb, gas grills heat up for approximately 10 minutes and charcoal grills for about 30 minutes.
Q: How to avoid transporting a messy grill when camping?
The best way to avoid transporting messy grills is to clean them well after use. A grill scrub and damp cloth should be enough to get most of the residue and grease off.
Q: How do I connect a camping stove and grill to the same propane tank?
You can connect either a camping stove or grill to a propane tank using an adapter and a high-pressure propane hose. If you want to connect both equipment to the same tank, use a propane tank Y splitter adapter.
Q: How do I clean a camping grill?
A power washer would be handy but some dish soap and a sponge will be enough to do the trick. Fill a bucket with warm water (you can heat water on a pot in your campfire) and a few spritzes of dish soap. Wet the cloth or sponge with soapy water, and wipe down the exterior and interior of your grill.