What’s the best compact propane grill for small households, tiny yards, or travel?
Published Feb. 18, 2021.
There are plenty of reasons to consider a portable gas grill, whether you’re staying home or heading out on the road. They’re perfect for households of one or two people or for those with limited outdoor space. They’re also ideal for picnics, tailgating, and camping, since they’re designed to be compact and light enough to carry. What’s more, gas grills are quicker to start than charcoal grills, and there’s no ash to dispose of when you’re done.
We bought eight models, priced from about $69 to about $300, and grilled burgers and steak and grill-roasted pork loin. We evaluated their performance and versatility; how easy they were to carry, assemble, and cook on; and whether they were difficult to clean, fold, and put away afterward. We brought them all indoors to store between cooking sessions to see whether they were actually as neat and compact as claimed, given that this type of grill is often kept inside an apartment or RV. Nobody wants to carry, pack, and store a grill that’s cumbersome, greasy, or sooty.
All the grills we tested are fueled by propane. Most of the models used widely available 1-pound cylinders, which are about the size of a 2-liter soda bottle, but one required a 20-pound propane tank, the kind used with full-size gas grills. Some of the models in our lineup can be fitted with adapters (sold separately) for big tanks. This is something worth considering if you plan to use your grill mostly at home, since the 1-pound tanks run out quickly, sometimes after just a few grilling sessions. (If you are sticking with small tanks, be sure to keep extra on hand.)
All but one of the grills in our lineup were tabletop models, with legs just a few inches long. To use these grills, you either have to place them on the ground and bend down to cook on them or find a heat-resistant table (we used a metal table). We really appreciated the one grill that came with its own table-height cart attached, which folds to become a wheeled hand truck.
Once we were set up, we had no trouble hooking up any of the tanks; the instructions were clear and connections simple. Firing up the grills was a pleasure, because all the models had automatic battery-powered ignitions—no matches or lighters needed. A turn of a knob and a push of a button and they roared to life.
Actually, “roar” might be an overstatement. Portable propane grills have a reputation for wimpy heat output and cooking food unevenly. We fashioned a test to help prove or disprove this. We mapped their heat patterns by covering fully preheated grates with slices of white sandwich bread; this ...
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Lisa is an executive editor for ATK Reviews, cohost of Gear Heads on YouTube, and gadget expert on TV's America's Test Kitchen.