Grilling in the open air is a great activity especially if it takes many different forms. Tailgate grilling is certainly something you should try as soon as possible especially if you like it when a lot of things are happening around you.
A tailgate party mostly differs in terms of atmosphere, the party usually accompanies different social events like before or after sport games and concerts. Grilling combined with talking, fun and drinking interesting alcohols are the main advantages of such party.
Pretty much everyone with the right car, conditions and most of all grill can enjoy this type of grilling.
In order to safely, conveniently and effectively cook, you need to have the right grill.
Seeing the number of different options on the market, choosing such grill is not an easy task. That’s why I have prepared a guide that will help you pick the best tailgate grill by reminding you of the key things to keep in mind when shopping.
At a glance:
- Best Overall: Weber Jumbo Joe (Check on Amazon | Read our review)
- Runner Up: Coleman RoadTrip 285 (Check on Amazon | Read our review)
- Very High Quality: Weber Q1200 (Check on Amazon | Read our review)
- Best Portable: Weber Go-Anywhere (Check on Amazon | Read our review)
- Versatile outdoor griddle: Blackstone Table Top Grill (Check on Amazon | Read our review)
The Best Tailgate Grills for 2020: Top picks
It is pretty obvious that there’s a lot to choose from when looking for a new tailgate grill. There are many types of grills which is why I first suggest to choose the type of fuel you are interested in, then to check the options presented by me.
1. Best Overall Weber Jumbo Joe
The best suggestions in the charcoal category ( one of the bigger options ), it offers very good air flow control, a lot of space and convenience of transport.
I think that lucky owners of a classic full-sized Weber kettle know what type of quality and what results they can expect – in simple words, you won’t be disappointed.
Weber Jumbo Joe comes with a lid lock so you don’t have to worry that it will end up on the ground or bouncing about in the car.
On the top of the lid, there are adjustable air vents and a handle that provides a lot of convenience, especially when combined with the lock.
240 square inches under the lid is really a lot of space to prepare large quantities of food.
It’s the best choice for those who love charcoal grilling.
You don’t need any mats under the grill, the main bowl that holds hot charcoal is separated from the ground with four aluminum legs that are stable enough.
Between them and the grill’s main body there’s an ash catcher that serves a very important role in a charcoal grill. It makes sure that ash ends up in one place ( the bowl ) that you can easily take out and empty once you’re done cooking.
It is a standard feature in full-sized grills and it’s nice to know that something like that is also used in small-sized models.
I know that it’s not the smallest model, but it has a good cooking area to mobility ratio. Tailgate grilling is associated with big events and large numbers of people so I think that a slightly bigger yet still portable charcoal grill is the best solution.
Last but not least, let me remind you of its low price compared to competitive gas models and actually high quality and durability for this kind of money.
2. Runner Up Coleman RoadTrip 285
Another great suggestion is a very big and versatile propane grill that will work great at a tailgate party, on a camping ground or whenever cooking away from home.
Let me start with a small note, it is much more expensive than most competitive models suggested in this guide.
For that kind of money you get whole 285 square inches of the main cooking area as well as several interesting solutions.
What is especially noteworthy is the folding stand that is integrated and yet still can surprise with how little space the whole grill takes when folded.
On top of that, the structure when folded is very convenient to transport, its shape is very reminiscent of a rolling suitcase with a handle.
Another upside is having as many as three burners, each of them is controlled separately, which allows you to create different heat zones.
Another great option is the ability to use a griddle instead of classic grill grates, it gives many more opportunities and opens to new, interesting recipes ( griddle or stove grates are sold separately ).
The price is pretty high yet adequate to what Coleman RoadTrip 285 has to offer.
For that kind of money you get a versatile grill that is perfect for all kinds of grilling away from home. In many other guides by me it holds an equally high place which confirms how versatile this grill is.
3. High Quality Weber Q1200
I’ll start by mentioning that this very model took the 1st place in my guide to the best camping grills and equally high spots in a few other guides. It only shows how versatile this grill is and how well built as well.
The Weber Q1200 model is characterized by very high quality of workmanship, durability and efficiency – to put it simply, a phenomenal grill for cooking away from home.
The main body of the grill was made of cast aluminum which guarantees better weight, durability and most of all resistance to corrosion.
The folding side shelves provide a lot of work space, while the thermometer on the lid allows to monitor the temperature pretty precisely.
Q1200 only has one burner, but you need to know that burners from Weber are famous for their great efficiency and durability. It can be seen in practice by how fast it can reach a very high temperature.
You can easily use it on any surface but if you wish to cook like on a full-sized grill, it is possible to buy a folding stand separately ( Q portable Cart ).
The folding stand increases the grill’s possibilities, it can be a small stationary grill for urban spaces where area is limited, or it might simply be a convenient grill for cooking away from home.
I believe that it will also work great as a tailgate grill, stand or not.
You are certainly not going to be disappointed in terms of efficiency as well as quality of workmanship. If you have any doubts, let me just remind you of the 5 year warranty and suggest checking reviews from other owners ( you will be surprised how high the positive to negative review ratio is ).
4. Weber Go-Anywhere
A simple, small-sized and very lightweight structure of a grill designed with traveling in mind had to be featured in my guide.
Weber Go-Anywhere, as the name suggests, was designed with cooking anywhere away from home in mind.
To do that, you need to take the grill along, and this model with its very low weight makes it convenient to transport by hand even for one person.
It’s a good grill if you need to travel a long distance on foot without getting tired.
Another very important advantage, besides the lightweight structure, is easy assembly.
The whole structure, with the legs folded ( thus locking the lid ) doesn’t take much space, whereas assembly literally takes a moment and doesn’t require using any special tools.
It is also a great choice for a tailgate party as long as you don’t need a large cooking area. The folding aluminum legs make it possible to cook on any surface, just set the grill on the back of a vehicle and start cooking.
In terms of mobility, this model is the best, but will such small area be enough for you? If you don’t plan to cook a lot of food then it’s no problem but for a bigger number of people 160 square inches is definitely not enough.
Taking all upsides and downsides of Weber Go-Anywhere into account, it is definitely a noteworthy model. It’s a solidly built grill made of high quality materials, even for this kind of money.
5. Blackstone Table Top Grill
It is not a typical grill due to not having grill grates, but when combined with a weber jumbo joe for example, it gives a lot of opportunities.
An outdoor gas griddle makes it possible to prepare plenty of meals you can’t prepare on a regular grill.
I recommend watching a few demo videos where you will see how diverse the food you can prepare on a griddle is ( tiny vegetables, eggs, pancakes etc ).
If you add meat from a standard grill, like a charcoal one, you get a delicious and complex meal that is hard to turn down.
Such combination can especially come in handy at a tailgate party or other events of this type.
It is actually great when it comes to cooking most of meats you can cook on a regular grill. Hamburgers, wings, wieners or even steaks are no problem, you can actually prepare a lot of different food on one grill – especially if you have whole 260 square inches at your disposal.
Contrary to common concerns, the cleaning problem was solved perfectly, all grease goes through a hole in the griddle to a special container that you can take out and empty any moment.
It is also a great option if, on top of tailgate grilling, you are also into camping for example, or any other type of cooking away from home. A Blackstone grill doesn’t cost much compared to other portable propane grills which is another reason to consider that option.
Thanks to the griddle it is a great alternative to regular grills, providing different cooking possibilities, which comes in handy at this type of events.
It takes first place in my guide to the best tabletop grills.
With all the different options available, it is hard to pick one particular model, especially if you actually have no idea what to pay attention to. I am aware of that, which is why I have prepared several valuable tips that are sure to come in handy for beginners, but not just them.
Here are several important aspects to keep in mind before choosing a tailgate grill.
Choice of Fuel to Use
I know that plenty of people reading this guide have their favorite type of fuel which makes it easier for them, but it’s a good idea to check out the upsides and downsides of other types, they may turn out better for this situation.
The most popular types right now are: charcoal and gas
Charcoal – Without a doubt, it offers the best taste, but it requires a lot of time to get the charcoal burning, control the temperature and clean up afterwards. An unquestionable advantage is very low prices for truly high quality models that can withstand a lot. Enforcing more attention during cooking is a plus to many as they actively participate in cooking from beginning till end and have a lot of fun doing that.
Gas – Convenience, speed and simplicity are the key advantages of grills that run on this type of fuel. By default, propane is available in small tanks but you can also use a converter for bigger tanks. All you have to do is turn a burner knob, start it and about a dozen minutes later you can begin cooking. You can stop cooking any time by turning off the burner, without having to worry about hot charcoal. It allows for a much better temperature control and most of all less cleaning ( no ash ).
As I mentioned before, both types have their upsides and downsides, which makes it the best for you to do your own analysis and pick what suits you best.
What to look for in Tailgate Grill
Fuel Type – The best thing to start with is to understand the differences between the most popular types of fuel, then choose the best one for your situation. That way you make searching shorter and easier, only focusing on one type of grill.
Budget – It is pretty obvious that what you can get depends on money. Define a specific budget and start searching. Here’s a little tip, if you have a very limited budget then go for charcoal tailgate grills as they are the cheapest while maintaining top quality and effectiveness. If you have a bigger budget, on the other hand, I really recommend gas models such as Weber Q1200 for example.
Mobility & Features – The fact that a grill is small doesn’t always mean that it is convenient and easy to transport. Check out if a grill’s structure was designed with easy and convenient traveling in mind. I’m talking about folding side shelves ( if there are any ), lid locks, folding legs etc. All of that makes transport much easier and prevents different elements from falling out of the grill, like when driving a car for example.
Size – Although a tailgate grill should be smaller, you still have quite a lot to choose from, even out of smaller models. Carefully analyze how much space you need and how much you cook. Maybe a better solution will be to buy two small tailgate grills instead of a single bigger one.
Temperature control – You want your cooking to be as convenient as possible? Then check out gas models. Tailgate grilling is accompanied by great atmosphere so I understand that most people would like to have time to talk and have fun instead of watching the grill all the time. Certain charcoal models also offer a decent temperature control but it also matters what you are going to cook as fast grilling doesn’t require temperature control.
Accessories and versatility – When buying a tailgate grill, you need to know that certain models are actually also great for many other places. For example, Weber Q1200 was designed with convenience and mobility in mind, but not everyone knows that it also has a separately sold stand ( Q portable cart ). That way it can be used as a convenient and small-sized stationary grill, as a camping grill, an urban grill or a tailgate grill. One price, one grill and so many possibilities – it is worth taking into account if you care about quality and versatility, although get prepared for a much bigger price.
Warranty – Like with any other shopping, you want the thing you bought to serve you for as long as possible? Then make sure that the model you’re interested in comes with a decent warranty, especially during the first years of use when all kinds of defects should have already made themselves known.