10 Best Portable Grills (2024): Charcoal, Propane, Electric, and More

Nothing says summer like cooking over an open flame. Whether it’s the salty sweetness on that lightly charred corn or the rich smoothness of smoked meat, warm weather begs us to get outside and light a fire.

This is time of year when, like a groundhog, the grill starts to poke out of the snow and show its rusty, neglected self. If you’re in need of a new grill this year, here’s our guide to the very best portable grills. We’ve researched and tested dozens of them to see which can brat the best.

For your other outdoor needs, check out our guides to the Best Camping Gear, Best Tents, Best Rain Jackets, and the Best Binoculars.

Updated May 2024: We’ve added the Skotti grill, some accessories for the Nomad grill, and the Ignik propane growler, and we’ve updated prices throughout.

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The Best Portable Charcoal Grill

Of all the charcoal grills I tested, the Weber Jumbo Joe strikes the best balance of affordability, features, and ease of use. It’s big enough (18.5 inches in diameter) to smoke two racks of ribs or to fit burgers and corn for six people (admittedly, this was crowded) but small enough that you’ll still have room in the trunk for a cooler and camping supplies.

It’s one of the most versatile grills I tested. Grilling, barbecuing, smoking—you can do it all with ease. Thanks to its dual-vent system (one at the bottom, one at the top), you get the same fine-grained level of temperature control you’ll find in Weber’s full-size kettles.

It weighs 22 pounds and has a handle with a bar that fits over the top to keep the kettle and lid together for easy carrying. I tossed mine in the back of the car for trips to the lake and the park and it never tipped over. The ash catcher at the bottom makes cleaning less of a hassle by allowing you to dump the excess without removing the grill grates.

The Jumbo Joe has a considerable following on the internet. Fans have added thermometers, fastened knobs to make it easier to open and close vents, attached hanging ashcans, and come up with creative ways to cook taller items, like beer-can chicken.

It’s not perfect, though. No thermometer is included, and Weber does not make a storage cover for the Jumbo Joe. If you want to do any indirect-heat cooking, you’ll want to buy the hinged grill grate for $40 so you can feed in fresh fuel without removing the top grill, and the $26 charcoal basket is also useful. Do yourself a favor, throw away your lighter fluid and get a charcoal chimney starter ($28).

Smaller Alternative:

  • The Weber Smokey Joe Premium costs $46 at Amazon and $57 at Weber. This is our top pick for anyone who doesn’t need the larger Jumbo Joe. The downside is you lose the lower vent, which means less temperature control. That’s not a huge deal unless you’re slow-cooking. The Smokey Joe was also more difficult to clean. But if you want a smaller kettle, this is a good option.

Best Luxury Upgrade Charcoal Grill

Nomad’s striking, suitcase-style cooker (8/10, WIRED Recommends) is to grills what the Yeti is to coolers: better in every way, but expensive. The Nomad is well built, sturdy, and easy to carry. It is heavier than the the Jumbo Joe at 28 pounds, but the shape and large handle actually make it easier to carry in my experience. Like the Jumbo Joe, the Nomad uses a dual venting system to achieve good airflow even when the lid is closed. The vents, combined with the raised fins on the bottom of the grill (which elevate your charcoal allowing air to flow under it), allow for every precise control of both high and low temperatures.

The Nomad ships with a single grate, giving you 212 square inches of cooking space, slightly less than the Jumbo Joe above. In practice, this isn’t a big difference. I managed to smoke nine chicken breasts, and another time I fit two racks of ribs. If you need to grill for a crowd, pick up the second grill grate for $158, but even without it I never felt cramped while cooking for five (two adults, three ravenous children). For 2024 Nomad has introduced some new accessories, one of which is essential: the ash and coal shovel ($88). The shovel greatly simplifies cleaning out your Nomad and frankly should be included when you buy one. The other thing I really like is the Carbon Steel Griddle ($168). It requires seasoning, but once you have it set up it turns your Nomad into a flattop that would make a Waffle House chef proud. Ventilation holes around the sides of the griddle help keep the air flowing and the heat up. Nice as it is, using the griddle made me realize what I’d really love is a half-grill, half-griddle option for maximum cooking flexibility. (Technically you can get this by using your grill plate on half the grill and griddle on the other, but that requires double the charcoal.)

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