The 9 Best Tailgate Grills for Your Next Game Day in 2021

best tailgate grill

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A great tailgate grill gives you the opportunity to enjoy your favorite food and drinks while cheering on your favorite team.

For our round-up of the best tailgate grills, we looked at grills that were easy to transport and set up. They had to also be good grills, but

Out of the portable grills we looked at, we found the Traeger Tailgater to be the best option for most people due to the ability to grill and smoke, the set and forget nature of cooking with pellets the ease of transportation.

Traeger Tailgater Portable Pellet Grill
Pros:
  • Great at grilling and smoking
  • Folds down to easily fit in the trunk
  • Easy to clean
Cons:
  • Folding legs can be tricky for one person to deploy
Check Latest Price at Traeger

Here are the best tailgate grills reviewed for 2021

Everyone has a different budget so we’ve included a few different options and fuel times for your next tailgate grill.

1. Best Overall – Traeger Tailgater Pellet Grill.

Read our full Traeger Tailgater review.

traeger tailgater portable pellet grill

We decided to go with a pellet grill as our top pick because they make for some of the most forgiving grills that allow for hot and fast or low and slow cooking for added versatility.

They do require electricity to run, so if that is a problem for you, I suggest looking at one of the next choices.

The Traeger Tailgater tops our list of best portable pellet grills thanks to its generous 429 square inch cooking surface, temperature consistency and it’s portability.

The Tailgater has some excellent features that make it ideal for tailgating, including folding legs and a compact but durable chassis which makes it more than sturdy enough for taking on the road.

This is the largest of the grills we’ve reviewed, so you have plenty of space to churn out burgers and brats for the whole squad.

The digital controller is a great addition, allowing for consistent internal temperatures. It also has an intuitive control system that remains simple even when things get busy at your tailgate so it won’t be difficult to manage throughout the day.

As a pellet grill, the Tailgater is easy to light, burns consistently, comes up to temperature quickly, and even has a 10-minute shutdown cycle, so you can enjoy the game and not worry about fires.

Pellet grills do have some drawbacks when compared to gas or charcoal grills, but I think the advantages outweigh them so long as you will have a reliable electricity source.

What we like:

  • Consistent temperature – There is bound to be fluctuations in these portable pellet grills, but far less in the Tailgater than in some others.
  • Portability – The unit is quite small once folded and can fit in most trunks and doorways.
  • Easy to clean – Interior parts are easily removable and it does not produce much ash.

What we don’t like:

  • Grill legs – While stable once completed, the folding legs are awkward to deploy and break down, especially with one person.
  • Small pellet hopper capacity – The 8lb pellet hopper is one of the smallest in its class so you’ll need to refill it every few hours.  

Portable, reliable, easy to use, and easy to clean, the Traeger Tailgater really lives up to its name.

2. Best gas tailgate grill – Weber Q2200 Portable Propane Gas Grill

If you don’t want to rely on having access to power, then going a gas grill like the Weber Q2200 is a great bet.

Weber is known for making some of the best grills on the market and this portable grill does not disappoint!

It’s one of the best tailgate grills if you are looking for something small and compact enough for one person to handle on their own and to fit inside your vehicle.

Gas grills have certain advantages over pellet and charcoal grills. They are generally more lightweight, don’t require pellets or electricity and generally perform better at searing.

They also require a little easier to clean when it’s time to go home.

This Weber grill is perfect for grilling on the go with its sleek design and a stand that takes apart and packs up nicely. As with all portable grills, the Q2200 isn’t huge, utilising the simple and effective one burner system, it can still produce enough food for eight people.

The stand provides an excellent cooking height so you don’t need to hunch over to cook your burgers and steaks.

What we like:

  • Lightweight – The last thing you want is a tailgate grill that is too heavy to move around, thankfully, the Q2200 is just 22kg.
  • Foldable stand – The stand is easy to assemble, easy to pack away, and has a good cooking height.
  • Potential full BBQ cart – If you want a full BBQ cart for home use, you can buy one for the Q2200 as an added extra.

What we don’t like:

  • Small cooking area (280 square inches) – While not the smallest grill out there, the Q2200 still has a compact cooking area to keep it portable.
  • The regulator and hose – The regulator and hose of the Q2200 are designed to couple with a large patio-style gas bottle and are a little chunky for a portable model.

For anyone looking for a small travel grill, the Q2200 is an excellent choice. It has enough space to feed up to eight people and minimal clean-up is needed afterward.

3. Best charcoal – Weber Jumbo Joe Charcoal Grill

It’s hard to beat the flavor of food cooked over charcoal. This type of grill is also the most affordable.

The Weber Jumbo Joe Charcoal Grill is made from cast aluminum with steel components and has an adjustable airflow system to control cooking temperature, plus a foldable design for easy storage in tight spaces or getting it into the boot of your car.

The Jumbo Joe is a relatively compact, portable grill that weighs only 22 lbs so it can be easily transported from place to place without needing to put it on the back of a flatbed for the journey to the game.

The porcelain-enameled lid and bowl retain heat, and won’t rust or peel, while the Tuck-N-Carry lid lock doubles as a lid holder to avoid placing the lid on the ground.

All you need to do is add charcoal and heat!

What we like:

  • Easy assembly and portability – The Jumbo Joe comes mostly assembled straight out of the box; the only addition that needs to be done is adding the legs with a simple twist.
  • Removable coal tray – The removable coal grate allows for easy ash cleaning, and works great in windy conditions since it blocks most of the air from blowing around your coals or embers.
  • Locking holder – The lid lock doubles as a lid holder, so you don’t need to hold it or put it on the ground.  

What we don’t like:

  • No temperature gauge – The Jumbo Joe has no built-in temperature gauge, which is a useful feature many other grills offer.

The Weber Jumbo Joe brings the classic Weber quality with some modern functionality to your next tailgate party.

4. Best splurge – Weber Traveler Portable Propane Gas Grill

Weber Traveler Portable Gas Grill

If you’re looking for something a little more high-end for your next game day cookout, then the Weber Traveler is the grill for you.

A highly portable gas grill with a one-handed setup and collapse cart with two chunky caster wheels for easy storage. Despite its small size, the Weber has a comparatively large cooking surface that fits up to 15 burgers or 20 sausages so that the entire meal is grilled, and everyone gets to eat, at the same time.

While the grill itself is relatively uncomplex, the main selling point of the Weber Traveler is that quick and easy fold-down design that makes it super portable.

What we like:

  • Extremely portable – A one-handed setup and a foldable cart with two chunky caster wheels make it easy to store.
  • Huge cooking surface – The grill has enough space to fit up to 15 burgers or 20 sausages, ensuring that everyone gets fed at once.
  • Prep shelf – The Weber Traveller has an added preparation shelf, which gives it a little extra utility. 

What we don’t like:

  • Separate adapter house – The Weber Traveler fits a 16 oz. liquid propane cylinder as standard, but if you want to use a different size cylinder, you’ll need to buy a separate adapter.
  • Pricey – For those looking to keep it simple and possibly save some money on their grill purchase, the Weber Traveler might be a little too much of a splurge.

Overall, the Weber Traveler is a durable and well-built grill that would make for the perfect addition to any tailgate.

Also worth considering

While the Traeger Tailgater, Weber Q2200, Weber Jumbo Joe, and Weber Traveler are our top picks for the best tailgate grill, there are some other contenders we thought were worth mentioning:

  • 5. Green Mountain Grills TREK – Though the Green Mountain Grills TREK isn’t technically a tailgate grill, it has some unique features that would make it perfect to bring along on your next trip. It’s chunky, compact but big enough to cook a rack of ribs on, and you can control and monitor your grill from your lounger or on the go with GMG Smart Control.
  • 6. Traeger Ranger – The Traeger Ranger is a great grill for camping. It’s small and compact, so it’ll fit in your trunk, but you can still cook up some delicious food on it with the powerful burners that have been designed to use less fuel.
  • . Char-Broil Grill2Go X200 – The Char-Broil Grill2Go X200 is a sleek, portable grill that’s perfect for tailgating. It comes with its own carrying case and is designed to fold up when you’re done cooking so it doesn’t take up much room in your car or trunk.
  • 8. Cuisinart CGG-180TB – Cuisinart makes some excellent grills and the CGG-180TB is no different. It’s a powerful grill that can cook up food really quickly and is easy to clean.
  • 9. Coleman RoadTrip 285 – The Coleman RoadTrip is perfect for those who want something they can use at home as well as the great outdoors because it comes with four different burners so you can adjust your cooking power and fuel consumption based on where you are.

What makes for a great tailgating grill?

When buying a tailgating grill, there are certain specific considerations you need to address to make sure you get something that is both portable and utilitarian, such as:

Type of fuel

The type of fuel is important because it will dictate both the suitability of the grill for tailgating and impact the taste of the food.

  • Propane – Propane is easy to buy, easy to transport, and easy to use. The only downside is that the larger propane tanks can become quite heavy and unwieldy.
  • Charcoal Charcoal is a classic fuel choice for tailgating because it imparts such great flavor. The downside of charcoal is that it has a reputation for being tricky to control the temperature and it takes quite a lot of time to reach cooking temperature.
  • Electric – Electric grills are easy to store and move around, but they’re not as effective as a tailgating grill because they’re not as versatile. You can run an electric grill of a car engine or a generator, but that makes them more complex than other options.
  • Pellet – One of the reasons that we’ve chosen the Traeger Tailgater as our top pick is that wood pellets ride the line between convenience and utility. The pellets are becoming increasingly easy to find, they are portable and pellet grills are easy to light, come up to temperature quickly, and are easy to keep at a consistent temperature.

Cooking capacity

How many people do you need to feed? The answer is going to determine how much space you’ll need. If you can’t get enough food cooked at once, people will have long waits before their meal is cooked.

Tailgating grills need to ride the line between portability and cooking capacity. You can go too big and lose some of the convenience factor which is why we’ve chosen to focus on models that are smaller and more portable.

burger patties grilling on traeger tailgater
Traeger Tailgater has enough cooking space to grill multiple burger patties at once

Ideally, you’ll need to be able to feed everyone at the same time, so you’ll want enough space to get everyone’s food cooking at the same time so people aren’t left waiting.

Portability

Portability is the key faculty of any tailgate grill, and these four models all excel in this area. However, some are better than others and we’ve taken the time to highlight some of the reasons behind that. These are some of the factors that tie in with the portability of a tailgate grill.  

  • Lightweight – Unless you want to be lugging this grill around on foot, it needs to be able to fit in the boot of your car, which means it has to be light enough to easily lift into place and then move around once you reach your destination.
  • Folding cart/stand – To be truly portable, your tailgate grill needs to have a cart or stand that can be folded or disassembled and then reassembled with relative ease. The Weber Traveler is an excellent example of this.
  • Chunky wheels – If you’re going to be moving your grill around a lot, then you don’t want it having a cheap set of casters, but rather something that is durable and moves smoothly over uneven ground.
  • A sturdy handle – A strong, well-made handle makes it easier to move your grill around when you’re at the tailgate party or other event.

Construction quality and warranty

As with all grills, construction quality is paramount. You need to make sure the grill is both sturdy and well made.

The length of warranty provided by a manufacturer will give you an idea about how much they stand by their product’s durability.

When it comes to tailgating, this can often mean that something might happen outside of what would be considered “normal” use for your household grills.

For example, wind may cause flames on some models to spread more than intended while or your grill could get knocked over during transport, where poor construction quality could cause damage beyond simply cracks in the bodywork.

These things aren’t not covered under most warranties so if you’re going to invest in one of these items for yourself or as a gift, then check out the company’s warranty policy and details on what is and isn’t covered.

Clean up

Nobody likes cleaning a grill after a fun day of tailgating.

However, with the best grill available then this isn’t something that you will have to worry about at all!

These grills are designed with ease-of-use in mind and include ways to make it easier to clean them once they cool down completely.

Keep an eye out for removable grease traps, ceramic grill grates, ash catchers (for charcoal grills), and easy to empty fireboxes and pellet hoppers on pellet grills.

Easy Maintenance for your Weber® Q™

Grill safety while tailgating

When it comes to grilling safely while at a tailgate party, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • For charcoal grills, it’s important to let the coals burn out completely or to extinguish them yourself, so be sure that you keep an eye on your hot coals and extinguish them as soon as you’re done with them.
  • When using a gas grill at home, it’s important not to leave any of its hoses exposed while cooking. The last thing you want is a hose being damaged or becoming a trip hazard.
  • Never use water inside pellet smokers for cleaning purposes as they have an eclectic auger motor. Instead, you should simply brush off the ash after each use.
  • If there are children around, always make sure to place your grill at a safe distance from them as the heat it produces could prove dangerous for anyone without proper supervision.
  • Try to avoid using lighter fluids to light your grill and do not be tempted to use gasoline in a pinch. Gas is far more explosively flammable than most people think and, best-case scenario, it’ll damage your grill and make the food taste terrible.

Check out these tailgate approved recipes

Tailgate recipes need to be easy to prepare but big on flavor. These are some of our favorite recipes to try at your next tailgate.

Wrapping it all up

The best tailgate grills are the ones that are easy to transport, use, and clean, just like the Traeger Tailgater.

The more convenient a grill is for you to use, the less of a hassle it will be when you’re out there at your tailgate party enjoying yourself with your friends or family.

Traeger Tailgater Portable Pellet Grill
Pros:
  • Great at grilling and smoking
  • Folds down to easily fit in the trunk
  • Easy to clean
Cons:
  • Folding legs can be tricky for one person to deploy
Check Latest Price at Traeger

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