CAMPING & HIKING

Best Portable Charcoal Grill: What’s Cooking, Good Looking?

Jerry Mueller
Written by Jerry Mueller

Nothing beats the sunset at a campsite with your best friends and great memories in the making. The best part of sitting back in your lawn chairs or relaxing on those stumps around the fire is knowing that you’re belly and your heart are full to the brim.

A full belly when you’re camping is one of the few pleasures that campers will never do without. There are many ways to cook meals when you’re in the wilderness but portable grills are often the best way to get a really great meal.

The best portable charcoal grill will pack easily and provide everyone with a great meal with little to no hassle.

A portable grill is very similar to the charcoal grill you may have in your backyard, but there are a few key differences. First is that it’s portable. These are fairly easy to move, fit well into trucks, truck beds, or even back seats to make for easy travel.

They are fairly light, too. Obviously not all are as light as a mini cooking stove, but they are portable enough when you’re considering that you are carrying an entire grill to your campsite. These factors are just two of the many features that the best portable grills have.

Qualities of The Portable Grill

Brining a portable charcoal grill with you on your next camping trip will make you the most popular person and will make any camping trip more enjoyable.

Qualities of The Best Portable Grill

There are a few key qualities to consider before choosing a portable charcoal grill to buy. Each grill will have similar qualities but which are better and which are more desirable? Let’s take a closer look and examine each of the main features to get the best picture of what’s out there in the market.

Weight

Weight is almost always a factor when we make the decision to go hiking, camping, or anywhere in the outdoors. Often, camping comes in the form of a tent or a camper van of some sort. You are foregoing electricity and other conveniences of the modern life. Finding a portable grill is no different.

It has to be something that fits well into a vehicle and then can be carried to your campsite. The grill will come in a range of weights based on what its made of, so depending on the material, each buyer has to consider if they would be able to carry and move that grill from location to location.

This is not a grill you would take backpacking, but camping at one site for a few days makes carrying a grill doable.

Material

As stated above, these portable grills come in two main materials: steel or cast iron. There are pros and cons of each, and the weights will range a lot within each type of metal used.

Charcoal Grill outdoor

Whether you have a preference for one material or the other, they are different in a lot of ways.

  • Cast Iron: To start, cast iron is one of the best materials to create heat, but it is also highly corrosive if not seasoned or treated correctly. Cast iron grills may be coated with enamel or porcelain to aid the grill in lasting longer and avoiding rust over time.
    However, with the amount of heat this material holds, this coating is prone to cracking or chipping. This happens especially if the grill or just the grate is dropped on a hard surface.
    Likewise, cast iron is much heavier so they are simply more prone to being dropped which is detrimental to their performance. Cast iron grills do last a long time and they cook food extremely well.
    They can withstand searing heat and will give your steak or chicken the beautiful seared lines after one turn. With their ability to hold heat, though, they are much more prone to having meat or food stick to them which requires more intense cleaning without removing the coating.
  • Steel: In contrast, steel will not give you the searing heat, but it is better able to retain that heat over periods of time. Steel is more likely to fight off corrosion and is able to withstand lots of heat and lots of cleaning. The steel will not need to be seasoned like cast iron and is easy to clean in regards to maintenance.
    The steel grates will darken over time but are much more likely to last since they do not have corrosive qualities. Steel grills will be more lightweight to carry and move from place to place, and also tend to perform better with gas as opposed to charcoal.

Cooking Surface Area

The cooking surface area refers to the square inches of actual cooking surface. This is important based on how many mouths you have to feed. If you plan to take this grill on hunting trips with large groups of friends, then spending a little more money for a larger cooking surface area would be worth it.

Likewise, if you are only planning to take your family of four on camping trips, then a smaller cooking surface area might do just fine.

Depending the material used in accordance to the cooking space the grill will hold heat differently. For example, steel grills need a larger cooking surface because the steel material holds heat much better than a cast iron. Similarly, the cast iron is able to perform with a smaller cooking space because it gets much hotter than the steel but doesn’t hold the heat well over a large surface area.

Shape & Dimensions

The shape and dimensions are simply based on preferences. The shape of the grill can vary from barrels, to circles, to squares or rectangles. There are no steep benefits or disadvantages to any shape, but packability comes into play.

Shape & Dimensions

A square or rectangle grill might fit better in cars or trucks but they tend to be heavier as well. A circular grill may not pack as well but is easy to carry and offers the safety of approaching the grill from any side. Dimensions play a bit more of an important role in regards to height mostly.

You want a grill that is high enough to work well if it is sitting on the ground or sitting on a table or bench. A grill that is easily accessible from all angles when adding or cleaning out charcoal and reaching the cooked food is important.

A grill that is deep enough to hold the right amount of charcoal yet shallow enough to ensure the food is piping hot when cooking is another consideration. However, the larger the dimensions, the more weight you will be adding as well.

The Best Portable Grills

It’s time now to use what we know about comparing the weight, materials, surface area, and dimensions to put these grills head-to-head. Each grill with have its differences and may have a few other features that catch our eye.

Char-Griller Table Top Charcoal Grill

Weight: 40 Pounds

Material: Steel Construction & Cast-Iron Grates

Cooking Surface Area: 250 Square Inches

Shape & Dimensions: Barrel & 18½ in. x 17 in x 16 in

Best Use: Camping, Hunting, Outdoor Recreation

Description: The Char-Griller table top charcoal grill is one heavy hitter. Made from both steel and cast iron, this portable grill is heavy and really only portable for the strongest. That said, it has an incredible amount of cooking surface area that is sure to feed many hungry mouths.

This grill is barrel shaped and is about 16 inches tall. It will perform on the ground just fine, but is best accessible from a table top or step of some kind.

This grill has a convenient removable pan for easy coal cleanup and a sliding drawer for access to the coal beds. It also features a ash pan and a handle that stays cool the entire time you’re cooking.

Maybe the coolest feature of this grill is that it actually doubles as a smoker. It will grill any food you like but also has the ability to smoke food over long periods of time.

Lodge Sportsman’s Charcoal Grill

Lodge Sportsman’s Charcoal Grill

Weight: 27 Pounds

Material: Cast Iron

Cooking Surface Area: 150 Square Inches

Shape & Dimensions: 1/2 Barrel & 19 in. x 10¼ in. x 8¼ in.

Best Use: Camping, Hunting, Outdoor Recreation

Description: The Lodge Sportsman’s charcoal grill is made of the strong cast iron. It weighs almost 30 pounds so this grill isn’t highly mobile either unless you have friends to help. It has 150 square inches of cooking surface area which is enough to feed a family, but might not be quite enough for a full party of people.

This grill has two adjustable heights for cooking. It has various doors for a variety of purposes too. First, a draft door opens and closes to regulate the heat on the inside of the grill and secondly, there’s a back door for adding more coals and cleaning them out when you’re done.

This grill comes to you seasoned and ready to go right out of the box. It has sturdy carrying handles and a built-in shelf to hold your cooking utensils.

Weber Go-anywhere Charcoal Grill

Weber Go-anywhere Charcoal Grill

Weight: 14.5 Pounds

Material: Steel

Cooking Surface Area: 160 Square Inches

Shape & Dimensions: Rectangle & 21 in. x 12¼ in. x 14½ in.

Best Use: Camping, Hunting, Outdoor Recreation

Description: The Weber Go-Anywhere charcoal grill is much more manageable than the first two. At only about 15 pounds, this steel grill is much easier to maneuver without losing the durability.

The legs are one of the best features on this grill because they actually fold upwards and pivot to lock the lid closed when you are moving or carrying this grill.

This adds safety and convenience all in one. It has a nylon handle that resists all heat and will be cool to the touch not matter what’s cooking.

In addition to that, this grill has two adjustable dampers that regulate heat and each features three ventilation holes for ultimate control. This grill stows nicely when folded, and with the porcelain enamel coating, this grill will last a lifetime.

Cuisinart Portable Charcoal Grill

Cuisinart Portable Charcoal Grill

Weight: 2 Pounds

Material: Steel

Cooking Surface Area: 150 Square Inches

Shape & Dimensions: Circle & 14½ in. x 14½ in. x 15 in.

Best Use: Camping, Hunting, Outdoor Recreation

Description: The Cuisinart Portable charcoal grill is the lightest grill we will see. At only 2 pounds in weight, this grill is easy for almost anyone to move or carry. That being said, a stiff wind might actually be able to knock this little grill over with one gust.

However, the circular shape does make it harder to pack and stow away nicely but also allows this grill to have over 150 square inches of cooking space for the whole family. The grates are coated in chrome to ensure durability and the firebox is coated in enamel.

Both make this grill highly durable and long-lasting. It features an ash catcher for easy cleaning and a dual venting system for temperature control. It boasts three securing lid locks for easy and safe carrying as well.

Flamen Portable Charcoal Grill

Flamen Portable Charcoal Grill

Weight: 3 Pounds

Material: Steel

Cooking Surface Area: 150 Square Inches

Shape & Dimensions: Circle & 13¾ in. x 13¾ in. x 15¼ in.

Best Use: Camping, Hunting, Outdoor Recreation

Description: The Flamen Portable charcoal grill is just a bit heavier than the Cuisinart, coming it at 3 pounds. It’s light enough to carry and move easily, but can also cause problems on a windy day.

It is coated with easy-to-clean porcelain that also provides protection from rust. It is easy to assemble and has adjustable vents for full temperature control.

It is a circular shape and provides around 150 square inches of cooking surface area which is sufficient for a family of around four, but won’t do the job for a larger party.

The steel frame is durable and will last for years to come on any of your families camping adventures.

Cuisinart Gratelifter Portable Grill

Cuisinart Gratelifter Portable Grill

Weight: 23 Pounds

Material: Steel

Cooking Surface Area: 240 Square Inches

Shape & Dimensions: Rectangle & 18½ in. x 17½ in. x 15½ in.

Best Use: Camping, Hunting, Outdoor Recreation

Description: This Cuisinart portable grill is the Cuisinart GrateLifter. As its name suggests, this grill has a unique lifting system that allows easy access to the charcoal bed without ever touching the grates.

This adds an element of convenience but also an element of safety which is essential. This grill has a precision air flow system that allows for great ventilation and ideal temperature control during cooking.

This is also helpful when there is a temperature gauge mounted on the lid to help you keep the exact temperature you want. This grill is double coated in a porcelain enamel coating to resist rust and heat damage over the length of its life.

It has a large ash bin for easy cleaning and a super sturdy base that it stand on that welded together into one piece. No tipping over here. It has a heat resistant lid and handle for safety while cooking and has enough cooking surface area for large family or party.

Char-broil Portable Charcoal Grill

Char-broil Portable Charcoal Grill

Weight: 41 Pounds

Material: Steel

Cooking Surface Area: 190 Square Inches

Shape & Dimensions: Rectangle & 24 in. x 15¾ in. x 16 in.

Best Use: Camping, Hunting, Outdoor Recreation

Description: The Char-Broil Portable charcoal grill is another heavy grill. Coming in at just over 40 pounds, this grill will need assistance when being moved or stowed. Its rectangular shape makes it easy to stack and stow away, and packs well with other items.

It features a chrome-plated steel grate that is durable and rust-resistant. It has heat-resistant handles in the sides and a hanging hook on the side of the lid for utensils.

It has two access points: a removable ash catcher and a front access door to add or remove charcoal during or after cooking.

It boats about 190 square inches of cooking surface area which is great for a larger family, and it features a temperature gauge that will ensure your foods are cooked to perfection to make everyone in the family happy and full.

Time to Face The Flames: Choosing The Grill for You

Grilling is something that people do together. Choosing a portable grill will make you the star in the family, and everyone will want to invite you! Grills come in many shapes, sizes, and weights and each of those are important factors to consider.

You must always determine what this grill will be used for most. This will help make a decision that is informed and reasonable. If you are going to be camping with no more than three other friends, hauling a 40-pound grill around that can feed 20 people is going overboard.

Portable Charcoal Grill

Likewise, if you are an avid camper with a group of 20 friends who meet up every other weekend all summer long, you want a grill that will get the job done without fuss.

Keeping the weight, material, size, and uses in mind, choosing a grill is an investment. You want something that is durable enough to stand the test of time but also something that will perform well when it is being used. Each grill has great features and choosing one that fits you best will bring you and many other mouths immense joy!

Do you have a portable grill? Which do you use? What are your thoughts on cast iron vs. steel?

If you found value or good information in this article please share this with your friends and family! If you have experience with any of these grills leave a comment below. This helps others read and share experiences to make an even more informed decision.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jerry Mueller
Jerry Mueller

Jerry ‘Boy Scout’ Mueller spends 99% of his time camping or teaching others how to live in the wild. He became an Eagle Scout which is the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouting division when he was 17 and after that he still lives the scout life. Jerry always plans neatly every trip, takes leadership very seriously and if you listen to his tips and stories, you can learn tons of useful things.

  • Julie Stuart

    Ive heard a lot of really good things about Weber. I personally have a small cheap charcoal grill but the portable one looks nice. Especially for quick trips to the national park or just a regular park for a get together. Much better than lugging mine around or using one there.

  • Mark Watson

    This is the perfect article. I enjoy hiking and camping. I like to rough it, but not too much. This is great for those leisurely times spent around a simple campfire in a campground, cooking up some hot dogs. I certainly wouldn’t want to be lugging around anything heavy.

  • Jerry Mueller

    Maybe it’s time to switch to a Weber? The great thing about this portable grill are the legs since they fold quite nicely. This means you can take the Weber anywhere – it’s so compact and doesn’t weigh a ton!

  • Jerry Mueller

    Thanks for dropping by Mark! Don’t you just love the portability and lightweight feature of this grill? It beats lifting the heavy, traditional ones and yes, they work too! They’re also affordable and a great value for the money.

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