There’s no tailgate party without real grilling, which is why I have prepared a guide to the best tailgate grills.
Tailgate grilling is a social event that usually takes place on parking lots before sport games/concerts. Plenty of people gather at an open tailgate and around it in order to spend quality time with others.
The integral elements of tailgate parties are such things as grilling and consumption of different types of alcohols. As a grilling enthusiast, I have decided to prepare a handy guide for beginners.
I have picked several tested grills for you that I have personally used at many parties of this sort.
The 4 Best Tailgate Grills Reviewed
I know that everyone’s tastes are different, which is why I’ve prepared such diverse offer. A good tailgate grill is above all one that suits your expectations. Depending on the budget, type of fuel or size, you will certainly find something perfect.
The Weber kettle is one of the most recognizable grills even among those who have nothing to do with grilling. It’s an offer of a minimalistic kettle in the portable version, perfect for this exact type of events.
The Weber Jumbo Joe attracts with its effectiveness, efficiency, mobility and great price.
It’s a greatly made grill that, contrary to a popular belief, can last for as long as a full-sized kettle (the same high quality of workmanship).
Of course it’s not among the most lightweight and smallest grills but it’s a great combination of mobility, functionality and high quality of workmanship.
Despite small-sized construction, it has 240 square inches of the cooking area.
It is great at grilling and at smoking too, especially with use of additional accessories. I suggest looking for multiple interesting accessories that enhance the versatility and convenience of cooking on this grill.
It’s a little shame that it only has one handle, but the upside is the lid lock. I have my reservations about the lock, it could have been made better, but what matters is that it works.
It has an aluminum ash catcher so ash removal shouldn’t be a problem.
The greatest advantage of Jumbo Joe besides the workmanship and durability are the great air flow control. The Weber kettles are famous for their very easy and effective temperature control thanks to their specific construction.
It’s a compact kettle that ensures effectiveness and quality like in a full-sized kettle.
A great mobile option for a tailgate party, especially when you need to prepare food for more than two people.
The same grill takes equally high positions in my other guides, including as one of the best portable charcoal grills or a solid and inexpensive tabletop grill.
2. Weber Q2200
A very big, solidly made and versatile propane tailgate grill.
If you care more about fast and convenient grilling than about taste then this is a great option for a tailgate party. Especially when you want to quickly and easily prepare a large amount of food for hungry people.
Weber Q2200 fits in the portable grill category but seeing the 280 square inches of the main cooking area, one could think that it’s a full-sized grill.
You can buy a separately sold Q Portable Cart and then you indeed get the comfort and convenience of cooking like on a standard grill. The stand folds, so it doesn’t take much space and can be easily brought along on the road.
It has many other interesting accessories available at stores, like a griddle.
Therefore, with this grill you can conveniently cook on a car’s tailgate or next to the vehicle on a stand.
It only has one burner of a specific shape which allows it to achieve high temperatures very fast. I recommend watching a video on YouTube where you will see how easy it is to prepare a great steak on a grill.
It doesn’t cost as much as a full-sized grill, but it certainly offers equally great quality of workmanship and durability.
The Coleman RoadTrip 285 comes with folding legs and two wheels, which makes it stable upon unfolding and very convenient to transport when folded.
A good option to consider at a tailgate party due to the large cooking area, features, stand and mobility.
The name itself suggests that the grill comes with 285 square inches of the cooking area divided into two separate parts. There is one burner under each of them plus another one at the center of the grill that, when combined with the others, can generate a whole lot of heat in a short time.
I like the ability to replace the grill grates with separately sold stove grates or griddle.
You can create different configurations using one side for grilling and the other for frying small vegetables on the griddle.
The side shelves offer some work area, whereas the handles on either side make it possible to easily move the grill from one place to another.
The RoadTrip 285 is a versatile grill that has all the essential portable features that allow for easy and convenient transport (it even comes with a lid lock).
It has a cooking surface comparable to a small full-sized grill despite being a portable grill.
I really like that grill due to its versatility, but sadly I have my doubts about the quality. At first glance, it’s a well-built grill, but certain elements like the wheels for example are far from the best.
A very interesting alternative to regular grilling on a tailgate party is griddle grilling.
I know that it’s not a typical grill with grates, but a griddle makes it possible to prepare food more diverse than classic grilled meat. I thought that in such places, the abilities of this kind might be very useful.
Blackstone Table Top Grill 22” offers large cooking area, versatility and mobility.
The flat plate makes it possible to cook completely different types of food than just the classic meat from a grill. There are no grill grates here so you don’t have to worry about food falling through. Instead, a flat plate makes it possible to cook small vegetables, pancakes, eggs etc.
The grill has 330 square inches of the cooking area and two independently controlled burners. Such combination makes it possible to create two heat zones, which you can use to cook different types of food at the same time.
You can for example grill wieners and burgers on one half and sides on the other half, such as veggies, pancakes and such.
On the back, in the middle, there’s a hole where all the grease goes through when cooking. Right below it is a container that can be removed when cooking is over in order to be emptied.
It’s a solid and durable grill intended for cooking away from home. The simple construction is functional and unlikely to malfunction while also maintaining the key portable features.
Tips for buying tailgate grill
In this situation, one should take several aspects into account that are different compared to a traditional grill. Cooking on a vehicle’s open tailgate requires the right grill to make it convenient and effective.
Budget – Due to the large price range, I suggest starting with defining the budget. A little tip, if you have a very limited budget then go for a simple portable charcoal grill. If you have more cash and expect functionality and convenience, the perfect option will be a portable gas grill.
Type of fuel – That’s a pretty extensive topic that I have touched upon in detail below. There are many types of tailgate grills, they differ in the source of power. Among the most popular ones are charcoal and gas, but there are also other options. You need to learn their upsides and downsides so that you can make an informed decision on which type is the best for you.
Temperature control – You value convenience and simplicity? Or maybe you want to interact with the grill when cooking. Depending on the type of fuel you choose, you will have to spend a lot of time or none on temperature control.
Size – A tailgate is fairly big and can accommodate a lot, so when choosing the size you should take into account how much you cook and for how many people. By choosing the right size of cooking area you save money and cleaning time etc.
Cooking style – Are you interested in classic fast and very hot grilling or you’d like to try something more? I recommend griddle grilling, which makes a great alternative or expansion of classic grilling.
Portable features – Mobility is a very desirable characteristic in a grill used at a tailgate party. It’s a good thing for the grill you’re interested in to have useful handles, folding legs, a stand, side shelves etc. All of that allows for convenient transport and comfortable cooking on site.
Cleaning – Remember that when you’re done cooking you also need to clean after yourself. Depending on what grill you have, you’re going to have to take adequate steps to remove things like ash or grease and food remains. In both cases, it is the best for the grill to have adequate features that make cleaning much easier.
Accessories – Plenty of brands offer useful accessories, especially for those who cook away from home. For example, most grills have a separately sold griddle that is great for preparing sides for classic grilled meat. Certain tabletop grills make it possible to buy a separately sold stand that allows you to achieve comfort and convenience like on a stationary grill.
Choice of Fuel to Use
The first thing to do is think about whether the food flavor is that important to you, if yes then there’s nothing better than a charcoal/wood pellet grill.
Next think about your budget and take into account that the charcoal options are the cheapest whereas pellet, gas and electric ones are much more expensive.
In the next stage, think about whether you have time and willingness to control the temperature or maybe you care more about very simple and convenient cooking.
Charcoal requires a lot of attention from starting the fire to air flow/temperature control and all the way to ash removal.
I know that interaction with the grill is very important to many people, even more than the food’s flavor, which will make charcoal the best option in this situation.
If convenience is what you seek, however, you need to check out gas, electric and wood pellet grills. These types of grills have a very easy temperature control or there’s a system taking care of that. On top of that, you don’t have to worry about starting the fire, just start the grill/burner and after about a dozen minutes you can start grilling.
Durability is worth mentioning, the charcoal as one of the simples types of grills is the least likely to malfunction. The others, like a gas, pellet or electric grill have a lot of elements they can’t function without. One has to take into account that sooner or later something will break down, it is bound to happen much sooner than when it comes to the simplest charcoal grill.
Analyze the most popular upsides and downsides of different types of grills and think carefully which of them best matches your expectations.