Cooking outdoors is a fun activity. Food always tastes better when it is cooked outside. Tabletop grills are easy to carry with you on the go. This article will help you choose the best tabletop grill for your needs. It may be for camping trips, picnics, or even on your patio or deck. Whatever your grilling needs, this helps you understand what to consider when shopping for the best tabletop grill.

best tabletop grill

This guide will help you figure out what you need to know to pick the best tabletop grill. Photo by AlexRaths via iStock by Getty Images

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Different Types of Fuel for Your Tabletop Grill

Fuel is the most important thing to consider when choosing the best tabletop grill. The primary fuels for tabletop grills are propane, charcoal, and wood pellets. For ease, propane beats the other two hands down. The fuel is not messy and it doesn’t produce ash that you need to safely discard. For that reason, the majority of the grills in the list of best tabletop grills are gas grills.

Propane gas comes in 14.1 and 16 oz disposable canisters. It also comes in refillable tanks. As a rule of thumb, a disposable canister will supply a 20,000 BTU grill for about an hour. A 20-pound refillable tank will last about 20 hours.

When choosing a grill, it is important to remember that disposable canisters and refillable tanks have different connections. It is a good idea to know which connector is on your grill. If you want to use a type that your grill is not equipped for, you can buy an adapter to make it fit.

Things to Look for When Choosing the Best Tabletop Grill

There are many things you need to consider when you start shopping for a grill. To find the one that is the best tabletop grill for your particular needs, consider things like BTUs, the available cooking surface, the type of grate, the ignition source, the heat source, and available accessories.

BTUs

BTUs, or British Thermal Units, are a measure of the amount of energy the grill uses. This relates to the amount of fuel the grill uses. It is also a guide to how much heat the grill produces, although many other factors affect heat including the cooking surface area. For the best tabletop grills, you should look for a rating of 70 to 100 BTUs per square inch.

Cooking Surface Area

The amount of cooking surface area that you need depends on the size of the crowd you are trying to feed. The more burgers you need to crank out, the more cooking area you are going to need. A single burger takes up about 32 square inches, so a grill with 200 square inches can cook about 6 burgers at the same time. Since we are talking about the best “tabletop” grills, the recommendations tend to be on the small side but should work for a family of four.

Type of Grate

The grates in the grill keep the food from falling into the flames. You want the bars in the grate to be close enough together so that your food doesn’t fall through, but far enough apart to allow the heat and smoke to come through.

Stainless steel bars are the premium choice. They are tough and easy to clean.

Many expert cooks prefer cast-iron grates. They absorb heat from the flame, which distributes the heat more evenly. Cast iron is also good at creating those grill marks on the food. Cast iron requires more maintenance than other grate materials. It is more difficult to clean and tends to rust if the grill is not used frequently. Many cast-iron grates come with a porcelain coating that prevents rust and still retains the heat distribution properties.

The economy option is chrome or nickel-plated wire. This option is not as popular as it once was. It provides no heat distribution and you can easily damage it when you clean it with a wire brush.

Type of Ignition

While you can light all gas grills with a match or lighter, the best tabletop grills have a built-in igniter.

Heat Source

There are generally two heating methods in a gas grill—convection and infrared. Convection, which most of us are familiar with, heats the air under the cooking surface. Then, heat transfers to the food.

Infrared uses a conductive element. The gas flame heats the element, which then emits infrared radiation to directly heat the food. Since infrared does not depend on heated air that can dry the food, the food tends to retain more natural juices.

Infrared is typically more expensive than convection. It can take some practice to use an infrared heat source without burning the food. So before choosing an infrared grill, make sure you will be mostly grilling meat and are okay with the learning curve.

Available Tabletop Grill Accessories

There are many accessories, such as covers and cookware, available for the best tabletop grills. Be sure to check out which accessories might be available for grills you are considering. If you believe they will be useful for you, that can be a deciding factor.

If the grill you choose is configured to use an external refillable propane tank, you may want to purchase an adapter so that you can use disposable cylinders instead.

Best All-Round Tabletop Grill

Pit Boss 75275 Portable Grill

The Pit Boss is good for all uses such as camping, picnicking, and tailgating. It creates a lot of heat and has a large cooking surface, but still weighs in at only 23 lbs. It also includes a built-in carrying handle and folding legs to make it easier to carry.

  • Propane (refillable tank)
  • 20,000 BTUs (72 BTU/Sq In)
  • 276 square inch Cooking Area (8 burgers)
  • 23 lbs
  • Stainless-steel Grate
  • Electric Ignition
  • Purchase the disposable cylinder adapter to make your grill even more portable.

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Best Infrared Tabletop Grill

Magma Newport 2 Infrared Gourmet Grill

Like all the Magma grills, the Newport is designed mostly for use on boats. This means they are built tough, with marine-grade stainless steel and no sharp corners. On top of that, the infrared heating element gets really hot, perfect for searing steaks.

  • Propane (disposable cylinder)
  • 11,200 BTUs (69 BTU/square inch)
  • 162 square inch (5 burgers)
  • 20 lbs
  • Electric Ignition
  • Stainless-steel Grate

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Simplest Tabletop Grill

Cuisinart CCG-190 Portable Charcoal Grill

The Cuisinart 190 is simple to use. Just add some charcoal, light it up, and in a few minutes, it is ready to cook. The grill has clips on the lid to keep all the parts together during transport.

  • Charcoal
  • 165 square inch (5 burgers)
  • 2 lbs
  • Chrome Plated Wire

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Best Value in a Tabletop Grill

Megamaster 820-0033

The specs of the Megamaster—while still great—are just a little less than some of the other grills. But, at a fraction of the cost, you are getting a lot for your money. This is the best tabletop grill for the cost-conscious griller.

  • Propane (refillable tank)
  • 16,000 BTUs (80 BTU/square inch)
  • 199 square inch (6 burgers)
  • 19 lbs
  • Pizeo Ignition
  • Stainless-steel Grate
  • Purchase the disposable cylinder adapter to make your grill even more portable.

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Most Innovative Design for a Tabletop Grill

Nomdiq Portable Gas Grill

The Nomdiq Portable Grill is designed from the ground up to be portable. Its clever design allows you to fold up the grill into a light and easy-to-carry package. This is the one to take on a road trip so you can grill up some burgers at a picnic area and then tuck it away until next time.

  • Propane (disposable cylinder)
  • 9,200 BTUs (41 BTU/square inch)
  • 226 square inch (6 burgers)
  • 12.3 lbs
  • Pizeo Ignition
  • Ceramic Coated Cast Iron Grate

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Most Portable Grill

UCO Flatpack Stainless-Steel Grill

The Flatpack folds down to about the size of a book and fits snugly in its canvas pouch. It also makes a very nice portable fire pit. For the ultimate in portability, there is a mini version.

  • Charcoal/Wood
  • 130 square inch (4 burgers)
  • 3.3 lbs
  • Chrome Plated Wire Grate

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Don't forget to keep all of your picnic supplies chilled and ready to use. Need some suggestions for a cooler that won't fail you? Be sure to take a look at our suggestions for the Best Coolers for Road Trips.

Once you are outfitted and ready to go, check out Wander With Wonder's suggestions for road trips.

Cooking outdoors is a fun activity. Food always tastes better when it is cooked outside. Tabletop grills are easy to carry with you on the go. This article will help you choose the best tabletop grill for your needs. It may be for camping trips, picnics, or even on your patio or deck. Whatever your grilling needs, this helps you understand what to consider when shopping for the best tabletop grill.

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