When it comes to a half-day or even a day hike, chances are you prepped your food ahead of time so as not to have to cook on the road: sandwiches, fruit, chips, finger food, and more. But when summer vacation hits and you start planning your multi-day camping trip—perhaps even at a rustic or completely unserviced campsite—you’re going to want the best camping grill ever to insure hot, delicious meals. Portable camping grills are a great cooking companion to bring along even when traveling with an RV!
Read on to find out more about camping grills, and our list of the best camping grills on the market.
What is a Camping Grill
Let’s get one thing straight: what, exactly, is a camping grill? With an overwhelming amount of portable and lightweight cooking materials available to campers these days, it’s easy to get them confused, especially when people start using camping grill and camping stove interchangeably. They might sound like the same thing, but they’re not—just like your stovetop at home is different from your backyard barbeque.
Years ago, the difference between a camping grill and a camping stove lay in the kind of energy source. Camping grills used a live fire and charcoal to cook food, while stoves used propane. These days, however, camping grills (and any kind of grill for that matter) can also run on propane. So what’s the difference?
The difference between camping grills and camping stoves is how your food is cooked. With camping grills, the raw food is laid directly onto the metal grill, which keeps it suspended just above a live flame. That means the food is cooked by roasting—you can sometimes tell if food has been roasted if it has slightly darker parallel lines, which are imprinted by the grate it was cooked on.
When cooking with a camping stove, you place your food in a pan or a pot, which itself sits atop the stove, just like it would in your kitchen at home. That means the heat is transferred from the stove to the pan or pot, and then to your food.
You might be wondering: does food taste different when it’s cooked on a camping grill? Food cooked on a propane camping grill tastes no different than food cooked on a camping stove. However, food cooked on a charcoal camping grill usually takes on a smokey flavor that makes the hassle of setting up and then cleaning after the meal worth every bit of the effort!
Now, what’s the difference between a home grill, like a barbeque, and a camping grill? The biggest difference lies in its size and weight, and consequently, its portability. Imagine lugging your giant barbeque to a campsite! That would be pretty ridiculous. Camping grills are designed to be light, easy to carry, and simple to work. Because of this, they are small, and usually made to use on a tabletop!
When to Use a Camping Grill
So when should you use a camping grill? Camping grills are perfect for camping trips that stay in one location the entire time, where there aren’t public grills, or you don’t want to use them if there are. But even if your outdoor adventure is itinerant, don’t immediately toss out the idea of bringing along a camping grill. If you’re traveling from location to location with a car or an RV, you can certainly find a corner (and will want to!) for the best camping grill ever. It’s not like you’ll be carrying it around in your backpack!
Different Types of Camping Grills
Though all camping grills strive for portability, not all camping grills are created equal, and many are quite different from each other. The most obvious difference among camping grills is the energy they run on. Grills in general run on charcoal, electric, propane, or natural gas. Electricity is hard to come by on campsites, and natural gas is not easily portable, so that leaves camping grills that run on either charcoal or propane.
Moving forward, we’ll refer to propane grills as gas grills—most gas grills on the market run on propane, anyways.
Gas Camping Grills
There’s no denying that gas camping grills are simply more convenient than charcoal camping grills. They’re easier and faster to get up and running, and the heat and flame is consistent. That means you can get your hot meal faster and easier (not to mention fully cooked!). Does that mean the best camping grills are all gas-powered? Read on to find out.
Charcoal Camping Grills
Charcoal camping grills are certainly less portable (you don’t just bring the grill itself, but also the heavy bag of charcoal!), and if you’ve ever started a fire, you know that it takes time and patience to get a good one going (even with treated, easy-start charcoal you can find at the supermarket these days). They’re also more frustrating to clean!
Then why does anyone bother with charcoal camping grills? There is one answer, and one answer only: the flavor. Food cooked over a charcoal grill absorbs a rich smokey flavor that you cannot replicate with any other cooking method. Even dousing your food with a smokey sauce just won’t taste the same!
For many, this one element makes everything else worth it. It also helps that charcoal camping grills are usually cheaper than gas camping grills. What more could you ask for?
Now that we’ve thoroughly explored what a camping grill is, and what types of camping grills are out there, let’s get to my list of best camping grills on the market, and a few considerations for each!
The Best Camping Grills for 2022
Best Camping Grill Overall
Weber Q 1200 Gas Grill
This 30-pound Weber propane camping grill is our number one pick overall because of its quality and reputation, along with a lot of other people’s, too. Just take a look at its thousands of phenomenal reviews!
- Porcelain-enameled grill
- Electronic ignition
- Folding side tables
- Easy cleanup with removable catch pan
- Made in the USA
- Small cooking surface
Best Camping Grill that Runs on Charcoal
Weber Smokey Joe Premium 14″ Charcoal Grill
If you’re looking for that smokey taste, then this Weber charcoal grill is the best choice for you. Perfect for camping, outdoor eating, and even tailgating, the only downside is that you’ll have to bring charcoal along.
- Can cook around five burgers at a time
- Dampers allow for temperature control, which is one of the hardest parts of charcoal grilling
- Messier meal—charcoal makes for longer start and cleanup
- Stand is short
Best Camping Grill in Heavy Duty
Camp Chef Big Gas Grill 3
Preparing to do some outdoor cooking for a large group of people? A tabletop grill is not going to cut it. What you need is the Camp Chef Big Gas Grill 3 with over 600 square inches of cooking space which actually functions as both a grill and a stove!
- Foldable side shelf
- Heat diffusion technology
- Large cooking surface
- Aluminum and stainless-steel construction
- Matchless ignition system
- Heavy—49 pounds
- Takes up more space than traditional camping grills.
Best Camping Grill for Versatility
FIRESIDE OUTDOOR Trailblazer Fire Pit and Grill
Not sure if your campsite destination has firepits or not? Then this charcoal Trailblazer grill is the best camping grill for you! Super versatile, it can function as either a fire pit or a barbecue grill, depending on what you desire at that moment!
- Collapsible and comes with a bag for easy carrying
- Aluminum and stainless-steel construction
- Lightweight—just three pounds!
- Produces 80% less smoke than most fire pits
- Charcoal requires cleanup
- Hard to control the temperature
Best Camping Grill that Runs on Gas
Char-Broil Portable 240 Liquid Propane Gas Grill
If you’re looking for a good quality table-top gas camping grill without breaking the bank, then you should seriously consider this Char-Broil gas grill as the best camping grill for you. With an easy cleanup and handles for easy carrying, it’s the best of every world!
- Great reviews
- Lid-mounted temperature gauge
- Carrying handles for easy transportation
- Short legs—requires tabletop
How to Choose the Best Camping Grill
Now that you’ve looked through my list of best camping grills out there, it’s time to make up your own mind! But if you’re still feeling overwhelmed, know that you’re in good company. There are just so many options out there. Here are some things you should consider while making your decision about the best camping grill for you and your family:
- Flavor: At the end of the day, this element will help you determine whether you should be looking at a charcoal camping grill, or a gas camping grill. How much do you really value that smokey barbecue flavor? For some happy campers, it is the only thing that matters. Is the flavor worth the longer starting time, and the inconvenience of having to lug around heavy bags of charcoal? For many people, the answer is yes, and that quite literally halves the number of options left for them to choose the best camping grill from.
- Heat: It goes without saying that the best camping grill should be able to give out consistent heat that cooks your food thoroughly. So this section is less about how long it takes to generate enough heat to start cooking (you already know that charcoal camping grills take longer) but exactly how much heat a good camping grill should be producing. You should be looking at an output of 60 to 100 BTU (British Thermal Units: the universal standard measure for energy use related to heating) per one square inch of a grill—so don’t forget your calculator when you go shopping for the best camping grill! The last thing you want is undercooked or burned food on your camping trip.
- Space: Think about your typical camping trip—that yearly adventure that your kids look forward to and daydream about during school. Where do you usually go, and how do you get there? How big is your car? What size camping grill can you fit in the trunk (or on someone’s lap!) along with everything else you need to pack? Can you park the car close to the campsite? Does the campsite have picnic tables on which you can use a tabletop camping grill? If not, your best bet is a camping grill with legs—as long as you can fit it into your car!
- Quality: As with anything you wish to buy that you can’t test ahead of time, you want to do some research on the quality of your camping grill before you put your credit card down. This doesn’t just include the materials used in the creation of the grill, but also its durability and sturdiness. Camping grills are used outdoors and lugged back and forth between your home and campsites—they have to be able to uphold a good amount of wear and tear! I suggest you refer to blog posts like this, and also look into reviews from buyers to see what they think. Steel is usually a safe bet; aluminum is more lightweight, but sometimes has trouble maintaining the camping grill hot.
- Features: Think about what features in a camping grill will make it the best camping grill for you. What do you value most? Is it have sturdy legs at a particular height? Quick ignition? The lightest weight possible? LED-lit controls? Think about what you need to make the experience best for you. After all, if you get irritated every time you use your camping grill, chances are you’ll just start leaving it at home.
- Cost: Though perhaps obvious, it’s still worth mentioning that you should carefully consider what kind of budget you allow yourself for buying the best camping grill for you. While it’s true that you usually get what you pay for, do some research into which of these best camping grills provides the best bang for its buck. The last thing you need is to overspend on a camping grill, and then not have any money left in your camping budget for other important materials—like food!
- Warranty: Having a warranty for any appliance is an important backup. While a quality campsite grill is less likely to be damaged or break from predictable long-term camping use, there’s no predicting what sort of things can happen on remote campsites. You should ask yourself how comfortable you are with the risk of the appliance breaking. A warranty makes sure that you can repair any problems, or even replace the whole grill if you have to!
- Portability: Ask yourself, just how portable does the best camping grill for you need to be? Will you be whipping it out just a couple of times a year, and setting it up near your car or RV, or do you plan on using it regularly and carrying it across the long distance between the parking lot and the campsite? These are important questions to ask yourself. If you fall into the former category, the question of portability is less of an issue. But if you’re in the latter group, then this is something you have to keep in mind while choosing your best camping grill, and it will help narrow down your options.
- Hungry mouths to feed: Though it comes as a surprise, people usually forget this element! Is it just you and your significant other camping, or do you usually go with the whole family—plus maybe distant relations and friends? If you plan on cooking for a big group, you might want to consider one of the bigger best camping grills with a greater grilling surface in order to make more food at one time, so everyone can eat together!
How to Care for Your Camping Grill
Congratulations! You’ve chosen the best camping grill for your family’s every camp grilling needs. But the work doesn’t stop there, and not even after eating. You should take good care of your camping grill to ensure its durability and hygiene—you’re not going to want your meal to taste like last season’s crusty sausage.
And if you need any other motivation to clean your camping grill, consider the fact that the smell of food residue might attract wild animals, like bears. It’s a matter of safety!
Here are some tips for taking care of your best camping grill:
- Consider grilling your food on an aluminum sheet in order to avoid juices and bits of food from dripping down into the grill. Some people even use special baskets and planks for the same purpose—this keeps your grill cleaner to begin with, will make the deep cleaning process later on easier, and is also better for the environment, because the baskets and planks can be reused, as opposed to aluminum sheets.
- Do some light cleaning right after each use to avoid the buildup of charred food remains and grease. Wait until the grill is cool enough to touch, and then use a grill brush to clean the worst of the grime before soaking it in a pan of hot soapy water. If you’re impatient, you might think about putting the grill under cold water to cool it down faster and speed up the whole process, but this might actually warp the metal.
- Nervous about using a public grill, or if the neighbor you lent yours to truly cleaned it as much as they claim? Extreme heat and fire is sure to kill off any germs or bacteria the last user left behind. So you can either let the flames run a little high before you start cooking, or you could even take a blow torch to it!
- Deep clean your grill at least once a year. If you use it very frequently, I even recommend deep cleaning it twice a year.
- Let all the parts of the grill dry completely before you store it!
Wrapping Up the Best Camping Grills for 2022
I hope this post has inspired you to be intentional in your decision for the best camping grill for you! My number one choice remains the Weber Q 1200 Gas Grill because of its high quality, great reputation, and beautiful colors. Check out the rest of our website to find more guidance on deciding what camping gear to purchase for your next camping trip!