Bigger isn’t always necessarily better. Even if you already own a large grill, there’s a multitude of reasons to invest in a small portable model.
Not only are they perfect to take on trips to the beach or park with friends, but the best portable charcoal grills are also easy to store and won’t take up much space in your backyard.
How to Choose the Best Portable Charcoal Grill
Here’s a quick rundown of all of the features that I personally recommend checking out for convenience, performance and ease of use:
1. Grilling Surface Area
You’ll need to make sure that your grill has enough space to fit enough food for everyone. I think it makes sense to go for a bigger portable model for beach get-togethers and smaller models for solitary camping or fishing trips. Always make sure you check the actual grilling area dimensions as this may be significantly smaller than the box it comes in.
I just love the extra smokey taste you get from grilling with the lid on, don’t you? Not only does grilling with the lid down improve the flavor, but it can also be useful for keeping your food warm and covered if you’re still working on side dishes. As an added benefit, a lock-on lid is also great for traveling, meaning you can stick your grill in your truck with less mess to clean up when you get home.
3. Air Vents
I prefer models with adjustable air vents where possible, as this gives you much better heat control when cooking. Nobody likes burnt ribs or undercooked chicken. Also, being able to close the vents when transporting the grill helps to keep your vehicle clean.
4. Fold-up Legs
For compact storage and easy transportation, I think fold-up legs are definitely a great feature to look out for. Just be sure that they look sturdy enough – I don’t know about you, but I would rather carry a few extra ounces than risk a fire or a burn from a grill with a faulty leg.
Unless you’re a fitness fanatic and relish lugging heavy weights, I think it makes sense to go for a lightweight model. However, if you’re not planning on carrying your grill far, then don’t sacrifice build-quality for weight.
6. Carry Handle
Whether you’re packing away your portable grill at home or carrying it down to the beach, carry handles are essential. I recommend looking for a model with sturdy, thick handles, rather than the narrow ones that tend to dig into your hands.
Where Will You Be Using Your Portable Charcoal Grill?
Aside from the features above, to choose the best portable charcoal grill for you, I recommend stopping for a while to consider how you’ll be using it.
Are you looking for a model for traveling, tailgating or home use? Your needs will best determine which features you need to prioritize.
Home Use – if you have a small backyard or balcony and don’t have space for a large grill, I believe a portable charcoal grill makes a great space-saving solution. If this is your case, I would advise focusing upon a model with good sturdy construction.
While features like a lock-in-place lid are less essential, don’t underestimate the importance of carry handles and a good fold-away design to help you save on storage space.
Occasional travel/tailgating/RVing – in this case, I think you would be better off prioritizing a model that folds up neatly with a lock-on lid to minimize mess in your vehicle. If you’re not going to be carrying it far then the weight isn’t much of an issue.
I find that a heavy-duty model is best for this kind of use. Not only will it last longer, but it will stand up better to the stresses and strains of being bounced about in your truck.
Frequent trips to the great outdoors – I would prioritize a lightweight grill here. It’s no fun lugging a heavy model half a mile off the beaten track to your campsite, so look for a lightweight, compact grill that you can carry with ease.
Check the dimensions and weight, as well as the shape and size of the carry handles. I find that thin handles tend to dig in and are pretty uncomfortable, so look for grills with larger, thicker handles for better portability. This video offers some great tips on how to quickly light a portable charcoal grill when out camping.
Are you looking for a full-sized grill instead? Then check out our other review article, The Best Charcoal Grill.
The 5 Best Portable Charcoal Grills Reviews 2019
This is one of my favorite portable grills. Not only is it great value for money, but it also packs up real neat and tidy for transportation. Simply fold the legs up and over to secure the lid in place for hassle-free, compact storage and no more mess in your trunk.
Portability aside, this grill provides all the space I need for lunch for two to three of us down at the beach. With 190 square inches of cooking space, you can fit a fair amount on, a couple of chicken breasts, plus five or so burgers and then you can always load it back up if anyone’s still hungry.
I also love this model’s durable steel construction, straight away I could see this portable charcoal grill is going to last for years. Thanks to its heat-resistant handles, it’s easy to pick up and store, even if you’ve just finished using it. So you can put it away out of your backyard should bad weather come in. The smooth finish on this grill is also a great feature, making cleaning up much easier.
If I could make a couple of changes, I would add adjustable air vents and a height adjustable grill rack to be able to better alter the heat and cooking time. Also, the folding legs, while convenient, could be a little sturdier. However, for the price, this compact portable grill is one of my all time favorites.
- 190 sq inch cooking area.
- Compact folding design.
- Lid locks in place for travel.
- Durable steel construction.
- Heat-resistant handles.
- Easy to clean finish.
- No adjustable air vents.
- Non-adjustable height grill.
- Legs could be sturdier.
Tailgating, apartment living, camping trips or just grilling in your tiny backyard; this handy grill by Weber combines great design with high-quality materials. I sure wish I had one of these when I was living in my condo!
It’s such a great size with almost 150 square inches grilling surface. Cook on it just for yourself or, as I’ve done, for up to four people. You can even fit a whole chicken or a rack of ribs, perfect for firing up just before the game starts at home or down at the stadium. Personally, I love this model’s durability and smooth, clean finish. Everything about it is well-designed, from the aluminum no-rust dampers to the heat-retaining porcelain-enameled interior – great for quickly getting your coals up to the right temperature.
Everything about this grill speaks quality, even the lid handle has a good sturdy grip. However, while I truly love this model, I wish that the lid would lock in place. This would make it so much easier to transport. Also, there are no side handles. So, if you want to move it after use you’ll have to wait a while for it to cool down. It’s also a little low, but that’s no big deal.
If you have a small backyard and want a compact, high-quality grill then this would make an excellent choice. It’s also good for the occasional excursion. However, if you want a grill to travel all over with, I’d recommend looking at another model with a locking lid.
- 14-inch grill – approx 150 sq inch cooking area.
- Aluminum heat-control dampers.
- Porcelain-enameled bowl and lid.
- Easy-clean steel grate.
- Sturdy lid handle.
- A little low.
- Lid doesn’t lock.
- No side handles.
Looking for a basic, no-frills grill that’s inexpensive, compact and portable? Look no further than this model by Evoland. Now, it does have a few disadvantages, but I still find it to be an excellent little grill to have around.
Firstly, you get 130 square inches of cooking surface, so you can easily cook for two to three, or more if you load it back up. However, the thing I really like the most about this cheap portable grill, is it’s extremely lightweight. Going to the beach? Grab it and stick it in your holdall. Want to cook fish for supper without stinking out your apartment? Simply get it out, unfold and use it on your balcony. Its easy fold-up legs means this grill is super easy to store and I found it takes up next to no space.
Complete with numerous air vents, this model burns really well and you’ll be grilling away in no time. If like me, you’re not too into following fiddly assembly instructions, this model would make a great choice as it comes pre-assembled. On the downside, there is no lid, so you won’t quite get the same smoked flavor as with a lidded model.
Also, the legs could be a little more robust and I personally found the thin carry handles to be uncomfortable – although, as this grill’s so light, it’s still easy to transport.
- 130 sq inch cooking surface.
- Very lightweight.
- Fold-up legs.
- Numerous air vents.
- Comes pre-assembled.
- No lid.
- Legs could be more stable.
- Thin, uncomfortable carry handles.
I love Weber grills and I was really excited to try out the Smokey Joe Premium.
This portable grill has the fantastic build quality of the standard Smokey Joe, including a porcelain-enameled bowl and lid for excellent heat retention and easy cleaning.
It has a generous 150 square-inch cooking area and locking lid handle, perfect for keeping everything secure when on the road.
However, as much as I really wanted to love this grill, it has one huge design flaw – the side vents. Now, at first sight, I was thinking, “great, that will mean less mess in my truck and there’s also the handy locking lid handle, so it will be really easy to transport”. Unfortunately, the side vents are just too high up and the coals went out every time I replaced the lid. The air flow needs to be much lower as provided by the bottom air vents in the standard model. Also without the bottom vents, you’ve got no easy clean-out to dump your ash.
That said, however, if you’re looking for a portable grill for slow cooking at lower temperatures, then this design flaw could really work in your favor. I’m going to try this out with a few baked potatoes in my yard this summer.
- 14-inch grill – approx 150 sq inch cooking area.
- Locking lid handle.
- Durable, high-quality build.
- Side vents for no mess in vehicle.
- Heat-retaining porcelain-enameled lid and bowl.
- Side vents are too high.
- Temperature drops with lid on.
- No clean-out option on the bottom.
I was impressed with just what I could fit on to its 170 square inch cooking surface, plenty enough for me and two of my buddies. Temperature-wise, I had absolutely no issues, the double-sided air vents worked a treat keeping the coals burning with plenty of oxygen. Once you’re done and it’s time to pack up, just grab the side handle to carry this grill back to your truck, RV or into your home for storage.
While I think this makes an ideal compact portable grill for travel or use at home, bear in mind that it does not come with a lid, so you won’t be able to enjoy that full smoky flavor. Also, I felt that the legs were a little short, so make sure you’ve got a pretty high platform on which to use it.
Lastly, although I’m a firm believer in you get what you pay for, I’ve got to say I think that this grill is a touch expensive for what it is; especially when compared to other models on our list.
- 170 sq inch cooking surface.
- Double-side air vents.
- Fold-up legs.
- Side carry handles.
- No lid.
- Short legs.
- Expensive for what it is.
So, there you have it, my top 5 best portable charcoal grills of 2019! If you want to know my top pick, it simply has to be the Char-Broil Portable Grill. This robust grill is great for both traveling and grilling in your backyard. I’ve used mine at my friend’s house, out camping, at the beach, pretty much everywhere.
It’s so handy for me because it folds up locking the lid on, so you’ve got virtually no mess. It also has heat-resistant carry handles, an essential feature wherever you’re thinking of using it. The generous grilling surface area is considerably larger than the others I’ve reviewed, while also remaining compact and super-easy to store.
In short, this model beats the others hands down in terms of features and quality in my book – thus making it my favorite portable charcoal grill of 2019.