In the gas vs charcoal barbecue debate, you’d think that charcoal – with its authentic taste and hunger-inducing smells – would win hands down. Think again. Today’s gas barbecues are no longer a gas hob on wheels, but instead give you the best of both worlds: flame-grilled food, carbon flavour and that mouth-watering, traditional barbecue aroma. And it’s all produced by a machine that’s ready to go pretty much instantly, with precision cooking available so you don’t burn and dry out the food.
While some boast a seemingly infinite number of whizzy features, your first box to tick is that the machine is robustly made. It’s no good having lit-up buttons and a whole bunch of accessories, if the whole thing feels so shoddy that it might not see you through to next summer.
Also think about the size of the cooking area, whether the gas canisters (butane or propane) are expensive and easy to buy from DIY stores, as well as how long they last. Think about manoeuvrability too. Do you want your barbecue to become a permanent fixture on your patio or deck, or do you want to be able to store it in the garage in winter? You might even want to take it on camping trips. Also think about whether you will need to build it yourself or if it’s already self-assembled. For the high-end ones, take time to read through the features, checking you’ll really benefit from them.
- 1 PORTABLE GAS GRILL FEATURES
- 2 Top Rated BBQ Grills for the Money in 2018:
- 2.1 Weber Q 2200
- 2.2 Solaire Anywhere Portable Infrared Grill
- 2.3 Napoleon TravelQ TQ285 Portable
- 2.4 Zippo All Terrain
- 2.5 Weber Propane Gas Go Anywhere Portable Grill
- 2.6 Cuisinart Petit Gourmet Portable
- 2.7 Char-Broil TRU-Infrared Grill2Go X200
- 2.8 Element Portable by Fuego
- 2.9 Cuisinart All Foods Portable Gas Grill
- 2.10 Char-Broil Grill 2 Go Ice Portable Grill
- 3 Buying Guide For Barbecue Propane Gas Grills
- 4 Do the Outdoor Models Require Installation?
- 5 What Barbecue Accessories Do I Need?
- 6 How Do Heavy Duty Propane Gas Grills Work?
PORTABLE GAS GRILL FEATURES
British Thermal Units determine the output of gas to heat up your grill. Theoretically, the higher the number of BTUs, the hotter the temperature will be. On a grill, the BTU rating is indicative of the maximum amount of heat available for the main grill area only, or per burner.
It does not cover side burners, warming trays, rotisserie burners, etc. And you’ll want to have a close look at this rating – some product manufactures will lump all the burner output ratings together to make it look like a bigger number.
But the BTU rating doesn’t get the final say in determining how hot the model will get. An inefficient unit, made of thin materials that can’t hold the heat, will lose a lot of those thermal units to heating the great outdoors. As a result, you’ll need a model with a higher BTU output to grill a steak in the same amount of time.
A barbecue with a very high BTU rating for its size may be trying to compensate for lightweight components, such as the grill, lid or open side construction not being able to hold the heat.
And one with low BTUs may take longer than usual to preheat, or it may have slow recovery times after loading the grate with food.
Most portable units will only have one temperature control, due to their size. But if you’re considering any that have dual burners, look for dual temperature controls as well to accommodate two different temperature zones when cooking.
SURFACE COOKING AREA
As most portable grills don’t have a large warming tray or holding area, predetermine how much surface area you’ll typically need. If you plan to cook your entire meal on the grate, you’ll need more space than you might for grilling up some burgers. And of course, the larger the size, the more expensive they get.
A 200 sq. in. cooking grate will hold approximately 12 burger patties (based on an average patty being roughly 4 x 4”) with adequate room left between them for proper cooking. Or, this is enough space for a meal consisting of 8-10 ounce steaks, with baked potatoes and corn on the cob for two. So, about 100 sq. in. per person is a good guesstimate to help you to determine how much space you might need.
For gas grills, look for burners that are made out of stainless steel or brass, since aluminum will burn out and cast iron will eventually rust. Stainless with an 18-8 rating, or 304 grade, is the best for corrosion resistance.
To protect the burners from dripping grease, most gas grills will have a metal deflector between the grate and burners. This also helps to produce a more even heat, reducing “hot spots” on the grate.
A good grill is important for a couple of reasons. It will help to hold the heat within the cooking area, and it conducts the heat into the food for cooking – which leaves the characteristic char marks.
Chrome and nickel plated grates usually have a wire core, they’re lightweight and therefore don’t hold the heat well, the plating can chip, and they tend to rust. Cast iron grates are excellent for holding and conducting heat, but will rust without a treatment of oil (a shot of cooking spray on both sides after cleaning is an easy solution).
Stainless grates work very well and are easy to clean, and heat-treated porcelain on cast iron is superb. But, they’re very heavy and porcelain can crack or chip. If portability is an important factor, you may want to reconsider in favor of a stainless grate.
Most gas grills are now equipped with spark ignition systems. Some of these run on a battery and others will use the friction of a push button or dial to kindle a spark. Plus, for the times when the starter fails, there’s usually a “Plan B” in the form of a manual ignition hole on the side, which will take a candle lighter or long, wooden fireplace matches.
QUALITY OF CONSTRUCTION
Lightweight materials and parts are important for transporting portable grills; however, sometimes lightweight can also mean flimsy in terms of construction. Because we’re dealing with flammable liquids, safety is a top concern. So, the more stable the barbecue and stand, the better.
Test the model for stability by gently pushing against it from different angles, to see if it’s unstable or prone to tippiong. Units that are welded will have greater stability than those held together with nuts and bolts or cotter pins.
Check working areas and all surfaces for sharp edges and corners that can cut or get snagged on clothing, oven mitts or aprons. Test the handle to ensure that there’s enough grip room – you don’t want to burn your knuckles on the lid when you’re opening it.
The best materials for gas grills are cast aluminum, cast iron, enameled steel and stainless steel. A few points about the metal used will help to clarify:
- Regardless of the quality of the stainless steel or aluminum, after time it will discolor from the barbecue heat and exposure to the elements. And the thinner the material used, the quicker it will lose its good looks.
- Cast iron is extremely durable but will rust if not properly painted, and its weight can make transportation a bit of an issue.
- Enameled steel won’t rust, but it can chip. Again, this is perhaps a question mark in terms of changing locations often.
In terms of construction, you often get what you paid for. So have a look at the quality of the painting, the heft and gauge of the metal used, and the welds or nuts and bolts.
If you’re buying an accessory cart, is it sturdy enough to get bumped against without a disaster? How many plastic parts are there? And what about hinges or any moving parts – do they look durable enough to last a few years?
Top Rated BBQ Grills for the Money in 2018:
The Weber Q 2200 is the cornerstone of Weber’s popular Q line of portable grills. I say portable because that is what it was built to be but at 42 pounds and requiring two hands to carry, this isn’t the most portable of portable gas grill. What it is, is a good gas grill that just happens to be small enough to be perfect for the balcony or the trunk. The single burner design doesn’t give a great deal of versatility, but with 280 square inches of cooking this little grill can cook up burgers, steaks, and chicken for several people. Efficient design and Weber quality make this a good investment.
Imagine the power of an infrared grill in a portable. This 14,000 BTU infrared grill packs more heat than any other portable grill and at 20 pounds you can take it almost anywhere. All stainless steel construction you can even get this grill in marine quality steel with a railing mount for boating. 155 square inches of grilling area. Uses either disposable propane bottles or can be converted to a full 20-pound tank or even natural gas.
The TravelQ is the new portable gas grill from Napoleon. Lightweight and very compact this 20-pound model can be carried with one hand, yet has plenty of grilling space on heavy cast iron cooking grates. In most ways, this is comparable with similar portables including heat output and capacity. One advantage this little grill has over many similar sized grills is the twin burner design allowing for greater versatility in cooking. While not inexpensive, this is a well-built portable that will work well at the park or on the beach.
The Zippo All-Terrain Grill is Zippo’s entry into outdoor cooking and it is impressive. Certainly, the nearly $400USD price tag puts it on the high end of the market, but the powerful heat output and solid construction make it one of the better ones. This grill is new to the market and comes from a company that hasn’t made something like this before, but there is attention to detail. At 45 pounds, it is heavy, but the cart design makes it easy to transport. like this before, but there is attention to detail. At 45 pounds, it is heavy, but the cart design makes it easy to transport.
When you want to hit the beach with a dependable gas grill, you want something that you can carry in one hand and doesn’t weigh a whole lot. The Weber Go Anywhere weighs in at 14 pounds and folds up into a tool box shape that makes it one of the most portable and popular little gas grills on the market. These days there are a lot of sophisticated portable gas grills on the market, including several from Weber, but this classic is simple, dependable, and capable of grilling up a few steaks, burgers, or hot dogs on the beach or in the park.
Cuisinart is, of course, synonymous with quality kitchen appliances. Of course, a good brand name can be used to sell anything, right? In recent years, Cuisinart has had a line of portable gas grills. This little unit is lightweight and very portable. It doesn’t produce a lot of heat so it isn’t a powerful grill, but so small and easily transportable it is perfect for those events where weight and size is an issue.
There is a lot to like with this portable gas grill, particularly the construction. For a little grill, this is well built of mostly cast aluminum. The lid locks tightly in place and the legs and handles are sturdy. Typically portable grills are not as powerful as their full-sized cousins, but this little wonder is very powerful. The problem is that is is actually too powerful and thanks to its infrared technology, there is no way to dial it down for slower grilling without the risk of the…
From the grill design team at Fuego comes this new, 15-pound portable gas grill. This little grill sells for $150USD and features a single 8,000 BTU stainless steel burner fed by either 16.4 or 14.1 disposable LP tanks. The whole unit folds up into a briefcase-size with a large silicon band holding the whole thing together. The Element Portable has 159 square inches of cast iron cooking space, push button ignition, lock in place folding legs, and a shoulder strap for hands-free carry. This in not a large portable, but then, that’s the point. Carry this grill down to the beach or even take it hiking and you can grill up a couple of steaks or burgers. The power output is good and the cast iron cooking grates give excellent heat transfer.
Cuisinart is, of course, synonymous with quality kitchen appliances. Now they have an outdoor portable gas grill. This unit is built, in many ways, like a small version of a full sized gas grill. The single stainless steel tubular burner runs around the firebox providing pretty even heating (mine is hot in the front left corner). The grill generates good heat output and is certainly hot enough for most any grilling task. With the vegetable tray (basically a grill topper for small foods) you get a lot of versatility out of a small but powerful gas grill.
You want to head out to do some tailgating or grill up some burgers at a picnic. You need a grill and a cooler. What if these two bulky items were built into one unit? Well, now they is. The Char-Broil Grill 2 Go Ice is a large portable grill, built into an extendable frame with two soft pack coolers in the bottom. With two large wheels and a handle so you can cart it around easily this unit is the answer to the needs of many people who want to hit the road and do some grilling. Unfortunately, this unit is limited by design and construction issues that just might make it more hassle than it is worth.
Buying Guide For Barbecue Propane Gas Grills
So, you have decided that you would like an outdoor grill, and you have decided on gas over charcoal. Good choice – you don’t have to worry about struggling to control the temperature like with charcoal, and lighting one up is as easy as flicking a switch! But there are so many different grills on the market that it can get overwhelming when it comes to choosing one. Should you purchase freestanding grills or a portable table-top? What size exactly? There are so many different options and considerations, that we have broken them down for you here. You will be master of the grill in no time, no matter which option you choose.
Size. The first consideration you need to make is just how large you want your grill to be. Size is where competing grills are going to differ the most. Number of burgers able to be grilled at any one time is a great way of comparing different sizes – after all grilling burgers is a typical activity for grill masters like yourself. For example, small grills will comfortably cook up to ten burgers. Whilst mid-size grills cook up to twenty, and a larger one will easily do thirty or more burgers at any one time.
So, have a think of the maximum number of burgers (or whatever else you are likely to make) at any one time, and this will give you an idea on the size required. A young couple in an apartment will do fine with a small grill, however the large entertaining family will definitely need a larger grill (see a study here).
Igniter. There are two main types of igniters found on propane gas grills – electronic and push button (battery). Both have the same result – they cause the grill to be lit and allow for cooking to commence, however many people find that they have a preference to a particular igniter. Electronic igniters are by far the most common for good reason – they are the most reliable. They do not actually require external power – simply push the igniter and a spark will be generated, lighting the grill.
Push button igniters on the other hand require a battery pack, and while they are reliable when the battery is full, they will stop working after a while and will require a battery replacement. So this may not be the best solution for a grill that is used regularly.
Extra Features. You may be surprised to learn about the extra features included with many of the larger grills, and the different accessories that can be purchased. A common additional feature is a side burner, which is literally an additional burger on the outside of the main grill. This is often used to head up side dishes, and does not affect the main grill at all. So you can have a whole chicken roasting in the main grill, and heat up vegetables or cook potato on the side grill. These are only found on the larger grills of course, and may require a second propane gas bottle.
Other popular accessories include heating racks which allow the food to stay warm after cooking, and spit rotisserie prongs which turn your grill into a rotisserie. Many grills on sale require special in-built parts in order to become a rotisserie (a special motor is needed), so if this is a particular feature that you would love, then you need to check whether it is possible before you purchase. Also look for grills with temperature gauges as this will make it easy to control the internal temperature when the lid is closed.
Do the Outdoor Models Require Installation?
Whether or not a grill requires installation depends on the grill purchased. There are propane grills available that can be in-built, and basically become part of the house (although still needs to be outside in a well ventilated area). These will require professionals to properly install and build it in. Standard, free standing propane grills on the other hand will require no installation at all.
They may require assembly, but no particular skills (other than patience) is required. The build of a propane grill is very simple and generally made up of two parts – the actual grill and the propane bottle (see this study). Attaching the natural gas bottle to the grill is all that is really needed to get it started. You can purchase a freestanding grill and arrange for it to be built in if you prefer, but this is not necessary for use.
What Barbecue Accessories Do I Need?
There are no accessories that are needed for a propane gas grill to be used. The most basic of grills are nothing more than a gas bottle and heating elements (burners). You will have to purchase a separate gas bottle, and this will need to be replaced regularly when the gas runs out, but other than that, no other accessories or extra parts are needed.
Of course, there are many different accessories on the market which can add to the grilling experience, but these are simply extras and not necessary. These include racks, temperature control lids, extra gas elements, rotisseries and different style hot plates.
How Do Heavy Duty Propane Gas Grills Work?
Some heavy duty natural gas grills do exactly as the name suggests – they grill using propane gas. They are essentially a barbecue, but rather than requiring coal or wood to burn, they use gas. So if you have a gas stove in your outdoor kitchen, then you will know what to expect – it is essentially the same idea, just made portable and used outside. The main benefit of propane gas grills over the traditional coal and fire grills is that because it is gas, the heat and flame can be easily controlled.
The temperature can be monitored (again just like an in-home gas stove top), and lighting is as simple as pressing a button. No more needing to light a match and working hard to get the small grill to catch alight. Also, they are safer as turning off the flame is as easy as turning a dial, or switching off the gas bottle – no risk of rogue flames causing fires. They work by having a propane gas bottle connected to the grill – turning a switch will allow the flow of gas, and a spark from an ignition source (usually part of the grills) will light it and cause a flame.
The size and heat of the flame is easily adjusted by adjusting the flow of gas – less gas means less flame, and more gas will make the flame bigger and hotter. When you are finished, simply stop the flow of gas, and the grill will turn off. No more fussing around with the old-style electric barbecues, and there will not be any soot or mess from stray embers or hot coals.
To conclude our review of the top rated propane grill in 2018, we have shortlisted the top three, depending on your budget and needs.