It’s officially summertime, aka outdoor eating season. No matter your cooking style, having a grill in your arsenal is key to summer entertainment—after all, there’s nothing quite like grilling dinner with friends outside on a warm night. Even if you’re lucky enough to have a yard large enough to house a full-size grill, the portable versions are great to bring along to the beach or a campout. If you live in an apartment or small space, though, portable grills are pretty much your only option for regular usage (though be sure to check with your landlord first!). We rounded up our favorites, from charcoal to gas to electric, so you can find the grill of your dreams and start entertaining—no backyard necessary.
Not everyone needs a grill, but there’s no doubt that they can add some joy to summertime cooking. Portable grills are especially convenient to have for when you want to cook out on the beach or in a park (or just don’t have the space for a full-size one at your own home). We looked at 12 grills across the board and whittled that number down to our top favorites in three categories: electric, gas and charcoal.
I chose the George Foreman grill as my favorite for its great price and durability, plus I’ve heard from so many people over the years that this is the portable grill you need to have. It might not be the prettiest, but it’s guaranteed to get the job done this summer and for many more to come.
Your average grill has a separate searing section for steaks and burgers that gets extra hot to lock in flavors. This grill from Hamilton Beach, however, is specifically designed for searing—just plug it in, turn the dial to “sear” and let it do its magic. If you’re preparing food that doesn’t need seared first, just adjust the temperature accordingly and you’ve got a perfectly functional electric grill that can used anywhere. Best part—all of its parts are dishwasher-safe.
This Crate & Barrel exclusive combines the best of both worlds, with an electric mode for indoor usage and charcoal mode for everywhere else. With two functionalities, you’ve got a lot of flexibility—charcoal grilling takes longer than electric, plus necessitates buying charcoal, so having the option of using the electric function outdoors as well as indoors is a great perk.
This little drone-like grill from Cuisinart has folding legs, a large carry handle, and a secure lid hatch for optimal portability. It doesn’t skimp on performance either, with room for eight steaks, eight hamburgers, six to 10 chicken breasts, or over four pounds of fish. While this pick is meant for tabletop grilling, you can also purchase a stand that can easily be attached on or off depending on your preference.
If you’re looking for something sleek and sturdy, check out this option from Pit Boss. With two burners and a stainless steel construction, this grill is easy to clean, easy to use, and impressively durable. In terms of portability, it has folding legs and a locking lid for stress-free storage, plus a built-in dome thermometer. Considering the high quality and features, the Pit Boss’s price makes this a major steal.
Another great pick from Cuisinart, this attractive grill looks like a picnic basket and is just as compact. The base has a propane tank storage space complete with a flip out rack that will hold the tank upright during grilling (as you can imagine, this makes the whole thing pretty heavy, but it’s worth it). The wooden lid actually doubles as chopping board/serving plate, a thoughtful touch that really makes this grill stand out in terms of practical design that looks great.
Weber grills have long been a consumer favorite, and the budget-friendly and portable Smokey Joe model is no exception. It’s a perfect size for those buying their first grills, or for those who need something smaller and portable for traveling. It performs just as well as the full-size Weber grills, but requires less charcoal and serves a smaller group (around six people)—plus you can’t beat that low price.
If you’re seriously tight on space and need something that can easily be hidden, check out the Stealth. This little grill folds up completely flat, making it the easiest grill to transport and store away on our list. It even comes with a lifetime warranty so you can be sure your investment will last, all for a pretty decent price.
Similar in appearance to the Smokey Joe but made with upgraded materials, this sleek chrome grill from Danish company Bodum is a fantastic option for the design-friendly crowd. It’s large enough to fit about four burgers or small filets, and has a silicone handle that stays cool to the touch as you grill.
Another gorgeously designed pick, the Mon Oncle is fashioned to look like a suitcase, complete with leather straps and handle that make for easy portability. Additionally, it comes in four muted colors that are a welcome relief from the black or gray grills you typically see (although gray is still an option if that’s what you like!) It’s definitely small, making it ideal for travel for one or two people.
If you’re serious about grilling then you’ve probably heard of the Big Green Egg, which markets itself as “the ultimate cooking experience.” Totally versatile, these ceramic kamodo-style cookers don’t just grill—they can also be used as an oven or a smoker, cooking anything from appetizers to entrees to desserts. There are seven sizes to choose from, but we love the MiniMax for its portability—it comes with its own carrier, and can cook a 12-pound turkey, four burgers, one chicken vertically, two steaks or one rack of ribs. Online downside is that it’s not sold online, but they can found at a variety of retailers (also keep in mind that the price will vary depending on seller).
Tips for Choosing the Right Grill
- Go electric if you want to grill everywhere. Gas and charcoal grills are typically not allowed in apartments or on small balconies/decks due to safety hazards. If you live in a city and lack a backyard, then electric grills are definitely for you.
- Go charcoal if flavor is your top priority. Most grillers would agree that charcoal grills provide the best flavor, but they do take longer to heat up and are not as cost-efficient as electric or gas grills due to charcoal prices.
- Go gas if you value convenience. Gas grills are common and seriously convenient—they’re easy to turn on and use, plus the propane tanks are easy to replace. Just make sure you have the space for them, as they pose a fire hazard and shouldn’t be used in close proximity to anything that could catch fire.