Best Tabletop Grills: How to Find the Best Grill for Your Needs

Cooking outdoors is a fun activity and we all love a great backyard barbecue! Food always tastes better when it is cooked outside. Tabletop grills are easy to carry with you on the go so that you can have BBQ on those family road trips or in the park for special occasions—or any occasion. But how do you choose the best tabletop grill? It all depends on your needs—do you want to barbecue on camping trips, picnics, or maybe just your patio or deck? Whatever your grilling needs, this article 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

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.

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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 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

You need to consider many things when shopping for a grill—other than where to find the best meat for your barbecue! 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, or British Thermal Units, measure the 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 70 to 100 BTUs per square inch rating.

Cooking Surface Area

The cooking surface area 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 need. A single burger takes up about 32 square inches, so a grill with 200 square inches can cook about six burgers simultaneously. Since we are talking about the best “tabletop” grills, the recommendations tend to be small 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 rusts if the grill is not used frequently. Many cast-iron grates have a porcelain coating that prevents rust and retains 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

A gas grill generally has two heating methods—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, emitting infrared radiation to heat the food directly. 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. Using an infrared heat source without burning the food can take some practice. So before choosing an infrared grill, ensure you will mostly grill meat and are okay with the learning curve.

Available Tabletop Grill Accessories

Many accessories, such as covers and cookware, are available for the best tabletop grills. Be sure to check out which accessories might be available for the grills you are considering. If you believe they will be helpful 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 to use disposable cylinders instead.

Best All-Round Tabletop Grill for Your Barbecue Needs

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 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.

Best Infrared Tabletop Grill for Your Barbecue Needs

Magma Newport 2 Infrared Gourmet Grill

Like all the Magma grills, the Newport is designed mainly 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 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

Simplest Tabletop Grill for the Everyday BBQ Enthusiast

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 those burgers and hotdogs for any outdoor barbecue. 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

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, you are getting a lot for your money at a fraction of the cost. This is the best tabletop grill for the cost-conscious griller who wants to heat up the BBQ at a fraction of the cost.

  • 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.

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

Most Portable Grill for Every Barbecue Need

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

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 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. Have fun with your barbecue adventures and happy grilling with one of the best tabletop grills.

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.


Written by Bill Graham

While pre-packaged experiences like tours, parks, and museums with well-marked sights and interpretive signs are great, the experiences that Bill Graham craves are those where you can escape the crowds and be with nature and history untouched. Whether it is an adrenaline rush like driving a dune buggy across the wilds of Baja or the humble experience of discovering the variety of mushrooms in the forests of the Blue Ridge Mountains, he seeks opportunities to be as close to the experience as possible. Bill was inspired by his father who was an avid outdoorsman and spent time as a Ranger for the National Forest Service. Bill has hiked and backpacked in dry deserts below sea level and in mountains above 12,000 feet. He has explored deep into caves where he saw fish with no eyes and spent long nights studying the night sky to see the rings of Saturn and the spiral of distant galaxies. Bill went diving to explore tropical reefs and hiked mountains to cross glaciers. In addition to the natural world, Bill is a student of history and seeks out experiences that connect us with the past. He has walked among the ruins of a Bronze Age village in France, stood before petroglyphs carved by ancient Americans, and read graffiti left by citizens of the Roman Empire. He has trod in the footsteps of crusaders, outlaws, and explorers. In the technological world, Bill has traveled onboard vintage railroads, driven race cars and 18 wheelers, gazed at the antennas of the Very Large Array, and even flown an F-15 fighter. Bill’s passion now is to share these experiences with others in a responsible way that will allow future generations to have the same experiences.

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