Cooking over a fire is part of the quintessential camping experience. However, if you’ve ever tried to make a meal over an open flame, you know that there are many variables that can make getting the food to your mouth quite an obstacle.
The best camping grill can help you make dining easier whether you’re making burgers in the backyard or the great outdoors.
Besides making sure that you have enough firewood, you might have to contend with the elements when you rely on a fire for cooking. Wind and rain can quickly put a damper on your plans for a delicious dinner. Simply starting the fire can be challenging in some circumstances.
It’s tough to control a fire. You might end up burning the food because the flames were too hot. So you keep what you’re making too far from the heat source, and it never cooks all the way through.
A camping grill is easier to regulate, quick to use and delivers predictable results every time. Plus, the best grill for camping is portable and easy to set up whether you’re tailgating, holding a backyard barbecue or pulling up to a campsite in your favorite state park.
Our Picks For The Best Camping Grill
We have chosen these camping stoves based on their features, ease of use and versatility.
Winner: Big Gas 3-Burner Grill
The best propane camping grill that we reviewed is the Big Gas 3-Burner Grill. It has many features that anyone would want in a backyard grill in addition to characteristics that make it perfect for camping.
One of the main things to look for in a camping grill is portability. Although this grill has an ample cooking surface, it’s slim once the legs are removed. That makes it easy to tuck into the trunk of your car anytime you need to cook outdoors.
When it’s time to cook, you can assemble this camping gas grill and start making your meal within minutes. The full-sized legs bring the grill to a comfortable cooking height and provide plenty of room for a propane tank underneath. You don’t have to look for a suitable surface on which to place the grill because it stands on its own.
The Big Gas 3-Burner Grill is heavy, which makes it difficult to use anywhere that you need to trek to a campsite. Its weight makes it less likely than flimsier grills to fall over in a storm. This is made from such heavy-duty materials that many users say that they use it outside their homes for everyday grilling.
The grill box that comes with the product lets you use this as a stove or a grill. Without the box, you can place a griddle or pot directly over a burner.
A barbecue box works by diffusing the heat that comes from the burners below. It provides more even heating and redistributes the grease that falls through the grates. This gives intense grilled flavor to your food though you’re not using charcoal. The vented lid of the grill box gives you even more control over your cooking.
The barbecue box has pre-seasoned cast iron grates that are ready to cook with. It also has an incorporated temperature gauge that lets you refine your cooking by controlling the heat.
While a sloped surface might not affect your grilling if you cook directly on the grates, it can lead to messy grease spills when you’re using a griddle. If you’re on uneven terrain, you may want to use leg levelers to keep your cooking surface parallel to the ground. Those can be purchased separately.
That’s one of the best features of this grill. You can buy a griddle, windscreen, additional shelf, grease cup and even a pizza oven to fit this grill. With so many options, you might have more fun cooking outdoors than you do in your kitchen.
Runner-Up: Smoke Hollow 205 Stainless Steel Tabletop Propane Gas Grill
With a cooking surface of 11.25” x 18.5”, this tabletop propane grill is ideal for bringing to any outdoor gathering. If you’re cooking for a large group, you might not be able to grill everything at once, but the product has a warming rack that lets you keep everything warm until you’re ready to eat.
The stainless-steel construction won’t rust, which means that you can leave this out at your campsite without worrying about it deteriorating from the elements. The grilling surface is also made of stainless steel, which is easy to clean.
The short, folding legs allow you to set this grill up on just about any surface. It’s ideal for use on a picnic table or other heat-resistant surface. The drawback is that if you have to set it on the ground, you’ll have to bend over to do the cooking.
Still, the grill is easy to set up, and you can remove the interior components to do a deep cleaning. The grease tray prevents drippings from ruining your surface. However, some users say that they get better results when they line the bottom with aluminum foil.
Use this as a stove by placing a pot or griddle on top of the burners with the lid up, or close the lid to retain heat while you’re grilling. The temperature gauge will help you control the temperature as you cook your food.
Many users are thrilled with the heat level that they can get from this grill. It sears meat well, but it might be more challenging to slow-cook a roast. Nonetheless, this grill provides a more than adequate range of temperatures for most of the cooking that people tend to do at a campsite.
Although the Smoke Hollow stainless steel grill doesn’t come with a carrying bag, the lid locks for easy transport. It’s not too heavy to drag around your campsite or bring to the beach.
The fuel source is also versatile. It’s meant to be used with disposable 1 lb. propane bottles that you can purchase at any camping supply store. However, you can purchase an adapter to hook this up to a larger, reusable propane tank or RV fuel source.
Some reviews say that the igniter failed after many uses, but you can always light the grill with a portable lighter. We think that the grill’s compact size, ease of use and ability to use different fuel sources makes it perfectly portable for a day outside.
Alternative Option: Coleman Perfect Flow Grill Stove
If you want an alternative compact option for the best camping grill stove, you might want to check out the Coleman Perfect Flow. What it lacks in size it makes up for in versatility.
You can grill food directly on the 13” x 10” grated surface. While you’re heating that up, you can place up to a 10” pot on the single burner next to it. This is an ideal option for campers making coffee with breakfast or soup or pasta with dinner.
Unlike the other items listed here, you can’t cover the grilling surface. Therefore, you might have to get creative if you have food that needs to cook in a covered environment.
The instructions say that you shouldn’t place a pot or a pan on the grill grates. If you do, you could trap heat and melt the aluminum grates. That said, the side burner is perfect for boiling or sautéing.
The aluminum grates are easy to wipe clean, and they are removable so that you can wipe down the surface underneath.
This is the smallest grill in our lineup, which is important if you hike into a campsite or don’t have a lot of room in the car. It also weighs less than 13 pounds.
It works with 1 lb. propane canisters, so you don’t have to drag around a 20 lb. tank when you’re on the go. Some users have had success attaching the Coleman Perfect Flow Gas Stove to a larger tank using an adapter, though.
If you need to do a lot of cooking, you can be confident that your fuel will hold up. The grill’s PerfectFlow technology uses less fuel for consistent cooking.
One of the only complaints that we have about this grill is the lack of temperature control. The product is great for cooking over high heat. However, when you turn down the dials, the flames extinguish quickly. A slow simmer is hard to come by.
Still, this grill/stove combo is definitely a step up from cooking over an open fire. It’s smaller than our winner in this category, which means that it’s easy to bring along with you. However, it’s not our first choice for cooking a lot of food at once.
5 Reasons You Need A Camping Grill
Even though you may like to rough it when you go camping, it’s nice to be able to eat hot, well-rounded meals that give you plenty of nutrients. It’s also nice to be able to entertain guests at home or at outdoor events without having to pull out a huge grill. Here are 5 reasons you need a camping grill.
You Don’t Have To Worry About Firewood Or Weather
When you rely on a fire, you either have to find firewood on-site or pack it in with you. Dry, quality wood isn’t always available. If you pack it in, it takes up much more space than a grill would.
If it’s raining out, you might not be able to light a fire at all. You can still cook over a grill, though. You can even situate a grill under a canopy, which isn’t always possible if you rely on a campfire.
Fires Aren’t Allowed Everywhere
When you’re camping on the beach or hanging out in a parking lot before a concert, you probably can’t build a fire. Many recreation areas forbid fires, even in campsites. Any campground can prohibit open flames when there is a drought or increased risk of wildfire.
Having a grill lets you heat up your food even when you can’t build a fire. On chilly mornings, it’s nice to warm up with a cup of coffee. It’s even better when you have bacon and eggs to go along with it.
All of the products that we listed as the best portable propane grill for camping have a grill surface as well as a burner for pots and pans. This makes them extremely versatile.
If you’re having a dinner party, you don’t have to trek in and out of the house to watch the items on your stove as you monitor what you put on the grill.
You Can Start Cooking Instantly
Even if you have all the equipment necessary to start a great fire in a fire pit, you have to build it up and wait until the flames die down before you can cook. This can take 30 minutes or more.
These camping grills light up with the click of the ignition. You don’t have to wait for them to reach a certain temperature before you get your grill on.
You Can Control Your Cooking
If you’re already used to cooking with a gas grill, you won’t have to change up your technique when you go camping with a portable one. You can easily plan out your meals and forecast how long they’ll take to cook.
Using a grill can also prevent you from getting food poisoning from eating items that were cooked improperly over a campfire.
Factors To Consider When Buying A Camping Grill
Now that you have an idea of the best portable grill for camping, you might wonder which one is right for you.
How much space do you have available? If you normally transport firewood, you might find any of the grill options to work for you. However, if you’re adding an item to your list of gear, you might have limited space available. If that’s the case, then you might want to consider buying a smaller grill.
Think about the setup too. If you like to grill on the tailgate of your truck, you might not need a grill with long legs. However, if you end up at a space that doesn’t have a picnic table or a surface on which to put your grill, you might not want to have to cook close to the ground. In that case, you might want a taller camping grill.
The size of the grill also affects how much you can cook at once. If you’re responsible for feeding a large group, you may not want to spend hours slaving over the stove. Cooking everything at once is often preferable to rotating foods on and off the grill.
Some materials are more prone to rusting than others. Still, different materials have their pros and cons.
Cast iron cooking surfaces withstand heat and provide better heat transfer for direct grilling than other metals. However, they’re heavier, harder to clean and prone to rusting.
Stainless steel won’t rust, but it also won’t deliver a great sear if it’s used for the cooking surface. It’s extremely sturdy, though, and can withstand high heat.
Aluminum cooking surfaces are the least rugged. They can melt if they get too hot. Aluminum grates aren’t the best option for using under cast iron pots and pans.
If you’re planning on taking your grill on adventures, it must be portable. Some things to think about when you’re looking for the best grill for camping are:
Frequency Of Use
Think about what you’ll be more likely to pack and use on your outings. When you invest in any camping gear, you want to make sure that you use it often enough to warrant the purchase. If you’re not sure whether you need a camping grill, you might want to start small.
A big grill might just take up valuable storage space and get in your way. However, a larger grill may also be more convenient to use in your backyard.
Weighing in at 33 pounds, the Big Gas Grill is the heaviest of the three. However, it comes with a carrying case that helps you lug it around, and it offers the largest cooking surface of the grills we reviewed. The efficiency of the grill box combined with the large burners and accurate temperature adjustments add to this product’s likeability.
The other two grills are smaller, which makes them a little more portable. However, they don’t stand tall, and their cooking surfaces are limited. We recommend the Coleman if you’re really tight on space, but we prefer the Smoke Hollow if you want to be able to control your cooking by pulling the lid shut and checking up on the grill’s temperature.
Whatever you choose, we think that you’ll be happy if you select one of the best camping gas grills above.