You’ve probably heard of pellet grills. They are the latest trend in outdoor cooking, and they make food taste amazing. However, they don’t exactly have a reputation for portability, with most models being bulky contraptions that need to be plugged in.
Thanks to the popularity of pellet grills, there is now a range of excellent portable models on the market, with manufacturers including some clever features to help you take your grill on the road.
After spending several months smoking and grilling on a range of grills we recommend the Traeger Tailgater. Thanks to its excellent portability features, great grilling performance, and affordable price point, it’s the most versatile of all the portable pellet grills we tested.
Our recommendations for the best portable pellet grills
We reviewed six portable pellet grills in total and slimmed those down to our best overall, a close runner-up, and our ‘best for grilling’ choice.
1. Best overall – Traeger Tailgater
As you might have guessed from the name, the Traeger Tailgater is designed for portability, with foldable legs that can be latched onto the side of the grill.
The Traeger Tailgater has a built-in 15 Amp power source and comes with an integrated meat probe, making it perfect for cooking at your tailgate.
Where the Tailgater shines is its ability to grill. It has a cooking area of 429 square inches, which is enough to cook for your whole crew and can hold the kind of consistently high temperature needed for good grilling and searing.
The Tailgater can also be used as a perfectly good smoker, massively increasing its utility.
It does, however, have a few downsides. The folding legs are fiddly, its 8lb pellet hopper is one of the smallest of the portable pellet grills out there, and the controls require a bit of getting used to.
However, if you want a solid, portable, tailgate-ready pellet grill that does wonders with burgers, ribs, and chicken, then the Traeger Tailgater is the best choice.
2. Runner Up – Camp Chef Pursuit 20
Coming in a close second to the Davy Crockett is our second-place choice, the Camp Chef Pursuit 20.
We’ve already chosen the Camp Chef Woodwind as our choice for the best pellet grill and we were excited to try out their portable model.
Despite its competitive price point and portable frame, the Pursuit 20 doesn’t lack for features you’d expect on higher-priced modes, such as PID control, dual meat probes, and multiple custom smoke settings.
Unlike the Davy Crockett, this grill doesn’t come with its own built-in power source, so it will have to be connected to a generator or car battery.
It does, however, come with some concessions to portability, such as folding legs and wheels that operate when the legs are folded.
The Camp Chef Pursuit 20 is an excellent portable entry-level smoker grill, but it misses out on the top spot because of the lack of WiFi and an in-built power source.
3. Best Budget – Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett
The Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett gets our best budget pick because it has a fantastic set of features, all for an affordable price.
UPDATE: Green Mountain Grills has just updated and renamed the Davy Crockett. It’s now just called Trek and comes with thicker legs and an adjustable heat baffle to eliminate hot spots. We’ll update this post once we’ve had a chance to cook on the new model.
Billed by Green Mountain Grills as the “the go-to grill for small families, campers, tailgaters, RVers, or anyone who wants to cook two racks of ribs or 4-6 nice steaks or a bunch of burgers,” the Davy Crockett is a stainless steel pellet grill with its own built-in 120v power source.
You can also power the Davy Crockett using its 12v automotive power socket which comes with all the required battery terminal clamp and cables.
Some of the additional features include a side mount rack, cover, WiFi connectivity, sprung folding legs, and a meat probe.
The Davy Crockett is our choice for best budget because of its build quality, solid temperature range, and range of surprisingly high-tech features for the price you pay, all packed into a reasonably portable package.
How we tested
In order to get a proper idea of how the grill we were reviewed functioned, we spent several weeks cooking on each model mentioned in this guide, taking diligent notes as we went.
We used a variety of meats, cooking them at different temperatures over the course of several days to ensure that each grill was thoroughly tested from every angle. We also made sure to cook other food on these grills in order to get a well-rounded idea of how they performed under a variety of conditions.
Since pellet grills can be used to both grill and smoke, we looked at their performance when both grilling and smoking food.
We also looked at how user-friendly each model was, as well as their features and the quality of materials used.
Each grill was judged on a set of criteria including heating power, temperature range, cooking area, portability (both in terms of ease of storage and transport), assembly time/ease, and price vs value for money.
We also took diligent notes on the temperature recorded by our thermometers versus the temperature showing on the grill to analyze temperature stability.
The portable pellet grills we tested
Below are the six portable pellet grills that we tested, including those we’ve already covered as our top pick, runner up, and best for grilling.
1. Traeger Tailgater
The Traeger Tailgater really does what it says on the tin – it’s easy to use and portable, plus comes with a good range of cooking settings.
The only main downside is that there is no built-in temperature sensor (it instead has an external probe) which means your temperature control won’t be as accurate in the cooking process.
It also doesn’t have Bluetooth or WiFi like other models on the market, but it makes up for this with a good temperature range and excellent performance when grilling and smoking at higher temperatures.
While it still isn’t exactly single-person portable, this is still one of our favorite portable pellet smokers on the market – particularly if you have a small yard or deck to work with or spend a lot of time camping or RVing.
Read our full Traeger Tailgater review.
2. Camp Chef Pursuit 20
The Camp Chef Pursuit 20 is a durable, well-built pellet grill that performs consistently across all cooking styles.
Despite some minor issues with the controller and its connection to the hopper, we found this model easy to use, which is not always true of other grills in its price range.
The digital control panel eliminates guesswork from lighting up your grill, which reaches cooking temperature very quickly. The Pursuit 20 also smokes well and has a smoke control that can increase or decrease the desired level of smoke.
The only thing holding the Camp Chef Pursuit 20 back from the top spot is the lack of an in-built power source or WiFi.
Read our full Camp Chef Pursuit 20 review.
3. Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett
The initial Davy Crockett model we were shipped ended up having some faulty components that caused a number of problems.
The Green Mountain Grills tech support solved the issue by sending a replacement circuit board, but there were some issues with that, that you can read about in the full review.
Overall, despite some temperature fluctuations, we found the Davy Crockett to be well made, have a range of solid features, and, while still heavy, be portable enough for tailgating, RVing, or campground use.
Read our full Davy Crockett Pellet Grill review.
Pit Boss Sportsman
What really sets the Sportsman apart from other portable pellet grills is its dependability, which is something that grills of this size often lack.
This grill features an easy-to-use digital control panel making it very simple to use even if you’ve never used a pellet smoker before.
It also has a heat rod lever that can get this comparatively small grill up to over 450°F, which is great for searing.
It also has more than enough space on its porcelain-coated cast-iron cooking grates for a family’s worth of food and, with a 19 lbs pellet hopper, you won’t need to be constantly refilling it.
Read our full Pit Boss Sportsman Portable Wood Pellet Grill review.
5. Country Smokers The Traveler
Efficient, easy to use, and easy to maintain, The Traveler is an excellent portable pellet grill and smoker.
The grill can be used in conjunction with a 100-watt inverter to run the grill off of a 12-volt DC plug in your vehicle. Despite being a portable grill, The Traveler was also able to maintain a reasonably accurate temperature.
At 52.9 pounds, this is one of the lighter portable pellet grills on the market, probably because of its small 5 lb hopper and lack of legs.
The Traveler has some neat features, such as a searing zone and a removable grill grate for extra headroom, but it also has a few minor drawbacks, such as no backstop to stop the food from sliding right off onto the floor.
Overall, The Traveler is hugely portable, very easy to operate, and very easy to clean, just what you need in a portable pellet grill.
6. Traeger Ranger
The Traeger Ranger has more than enough cooking space for most people at 280 sq inches total, large cast-iron grates with no gaps between them for easy cleaning.
It features great temperature control using their digital Elite Controller which allows you to manage up to 12 different temperatures at once (so you can easily use both direct and indirect heat).
Features-wise, it also has just about everything else you could possibly want from a modern BBQ appliance including Wi-Fi capability so you can monitor your cook remotely on your phone or tablet.
There are a few drawbacks, such as the limited temperature range and a larger learning curve than other brands, but the Traeger Ranger still ranks near the top of our list for being an all-around quality portable pellet grill.
Why buy a portable pellet grill?
When it comes to buying a portable pellet grill, one of the more common questions we get asked is why not just get a portable gas or charcoal grill?
Surely pellet grills are large bulky things that require electricity?
Well, to be honest, that is true. You’re never going to get a portable pellet grill that’s as light and easy to transport as a simple charcoal grill like a Weber Go-Anywhere or a gas option like the Weber Q1000.
However, portable pellet grills come with a range of benefits that outweigh the fact that they aren’t quite as portable as the competition.
- Wood pellets as a fuel have a number of benefits, such as being all-natural and free of chemicals and liquids. As a result, it does not impart any flavors to your food – perfect if you’re looking for the best barbecue taste without the flue-cured overtones that are usually associated with gas or charcoal grills.
- Pellet grills are also remarkably easy to use, even if you’re a novice. The best models will come with digital controllers, which allow you to set and forget your temperature for an entire cook session – no babysitting required!
- Powering a portable pellet grill is as easy as using its onboard power source, if you’re using a model like the Davy Crockett, or connecting it to a battery, generator, or car, giving you a wide range of choices.
- Compared to charcoal or gas grills, pellet grills are capable of achieving high temperatures with ease. This will allow you to achieve a perfect sear on whatever meat or vegetables that you are cooking, all with the push of a button.
- Pellet grills are also multi-purpose, allowing you to grill and smoke your meat, adding a level of utility not found on other types of grills.
What to look for in a portable pellet grill
When buying your own portable pellet grill, there are a number of factors to take into consideration, such as:
Size and portability
How portable the grill you buy actually is is going to depend on how you plan to transport it. You’ll need to make sure the dimensions of the grill match up to the boot of your car or the back of your truck.
You’ll also want to pay attention to portability factors like how easy it is to fold the legs away, how heavy the grill is, and whether set-up and takedown requires more than one person.
As we’ve already mentioned, there are a number of ways in which you can power your portable pellet grill.
As well as standard power, you’ll the option to power your grill off a 12-volt DC plug in your vehicle.
Most models can be powered by a car hook-up, a generator, or a battery.
Cooking area and workspace
Portable means compact and compact means you’ll have less cooking area to work with.
If you plan on cooking for a large number of people or doing lots and lots of different things at once, then be sure to check the size and surface area before committing.
The last thing you want is people going hungry because you can’t cook enough food in one go.
Build quality is always paramount when choosing any kind of outdoor cooking equipment.
You’ll want something that is sturdy and durable so it doesn’t break or fall apart during use.
Look at the materials used in construction to get an idea of just how much punishment your new portable pellet grill can take before giving up on you.
It’s worth remembering that portable equipment tends to get knocked around a lot more than something that stays in one spot.
All the grills we reviewed had a range of features. Some, like PID controllers and meat probes, are pretty standard. Others, like WiFi connectivity, were not.
When it comes to choosing a grill, you’ll need to think about what features are important to you and compare it to what the models you are considering are offering.
If there’s a portable pellet grill that you really like the look of, but it’s missing a certain key feature, it’s always worth looking at what optional accessories can be bought for it.
For instance, the Traeger Tailgater owners can purchase an additional front folding shelf that makes it easier to prep and store food on. Other models have a more expensive option that does include WiFi.
It’s always worth looking into what additional you can add to your grill before discounting a certain model for lack of features.
Wrapping it up
Portable pellet grills are an excellent way to get the ease of use and utility of a pellet grill on the road.
Our Top Pick, the Traeger Tailgater, is a fantastic buy for those who are looking for all the benefits of a pellet grill in an easily transportable package.