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7 Types of Tailgating Grills For the Next Big Game

Football season is well underway, and you know what that means—it’s time to break out your tailgating grills, coolers, and camping chairs, and settle into the stadium parking lot for some pre-game fun, food, and festivities.

When it comes to tailgating, size matters—and less is more! Choosing the right tailgating grill is all about finding the perfect blend of functionality and portability. Generally, small grills are ideal for tailgating because they are easier to transport.

For most of us, bringing a full-sized barbecue grill along to a tailgate probably isn’t a viable option. Good news—most tailgating grills are easily portable, and they can run on just about any fuel source, including propane, charcoal, wood pellets, propane, or electricity. However, if you’re cooking for a crowd and you have the means to transport a large tailgate grill, by all means, go big.

There are many choices when it comes to portable tailgate grills, so you’ll need to weigh all your options carefully before making a decision on which one is right for your needs. In this post, we’ll talk about 7 of the most popular portable tailgating grills, including:

  1. Propane tailgate grills
  2. Charcoal tailgate grills
  3. Electric tailgate grills
  4. Pellet tailgating grills
  5. Kamado tailgating grills
  6. Tailgating griddles
  7. Disposable tailgate grills

Our resident grill experts also weighed in on some of the best tailgating grills on the market. Let’s get started.

1. Propane Tailgate Grills

Propane tailgate grills are a popular choice because of their convenience, portability, ease of control, and versatility. They may lack the classic smoky flavor of charcoal or pellet grills, but propane tailgate grills are generally safer for outdoor cooking because you can easily control the heat while you cook and socialize. Plus, they’re easy to light, heat up quickly (typically in less than 15 minutes), hold a steady temperature, and they’re easy to move around.

The other great thing about propane tailgate grills is that they come with plenty of accessories so you can cook what you want when you want. With everything from grill mats and baskets to smoker boxes, propane tailgate grills offer serious versatility.

Advantages Disadvantages
  • Easy to light
  • Easy to control heat
  • Can be used anywhere as long as you have a propane tank
  • Easy to clean
  • Large enough to cook for a crowd
  • Comes with accessories to cook a variety of foods
  • Flavors may taste less smokey than charcoal
  • Can be more expensive than other tailgating grills
  • Larger sizes will require more space
  • Can run out of fuel mid-cookout
  • Propane tanks have to be monitored and refilled

Who should use a propane tailgate grill?

Propane tailgate grills are best for those looking for easy and convenient tailgate grilling because they heat up and cool down quickly, and it’s easier to manage the temperature. If you’re planning to cook a wide variety of foods on the grill, propane may also be your best option.

Learn more about gas grills in The Complete Gas Grill Guide.

Best propane tailgate grills

2. Charcoal Tailgate Grills

Though they typically take longer to heat up and offer less control over heat levels, charcoal tailgate grills are easily portable, are fairly easy to use, and may even cost less to purchase than their propane counterparts. Ultimately, the choice between propane and charcoal tailgating grills comes down to personal preference. Some connoisseurs swear by the smoky flavors that come with charcoal grilling, while others prefer the cleaner burn of a propane grill.

Advantages Disadvantages
  • More fuel efficient than propane
  • Less expensive than propane tailgating grills
  • Gives food a smoky flavor
  • No max temperature setting, which is better for high heat
  • Easy to carry and set up
  • If used, starter fluid can impart unwanted flavor to your food
  • Requires longer cooking time
  • Less control over heat
  • Takes longer to cool than propane grills
  • Hot coals should not be left unattended

Who should use charcoal tailgate grills?

If you have a good amount of space (so as not to smoke out your neighboring tailgaters), and if you have plenty of time to cook and cool down your grill, then a charcoal tailgate grill may be your ideal option, especially if you’re after that classic smoky BBQ flavor.

GRILL SPOT TIP: Some stadiums don’t allow charcoal grills—be sure to check before you hit the road.

Learn how to clean a charcoal grill.

Best charcoal tailgate grills

3. Electric Tailgate Grills

Electric tailgate grills often come outfitted with wheels and are generally light enough for one person to carry. However, the perhaps obvious downside of electric tailgating grills is that they require electricity—something that may be less accessible in a stadium parking lot. You can run an electric grill off a car engine or a generator, but that makes them more complex than other options, and you run the risk of draining your car battery.

Advantages Disadvantages
  • Easy cleanup
  • No need to pack fuel like propane or charcoal
  • Inexpensive and easy to use
  • Small and lightweight
  • Heats up quickly
  • Produces less smoke
  • Requires a source of electricity
  • Can lack that classic smoky flavor
  • Can’t get wet—you’ll need a tent if rain is in the forecast

Who should use an electric tailgate grill?

Tailgaters with access to a source of electricity, such as their vehicle or a generator. They’re also ideal if you enjoy grilling at home but don’t have space for larger propane or charcoal grills, or your building doesn’t allow grilling with these fuel sources.

Best electric tailgate grills

4. Pellet Tailgating Grills

Pellet grills are powered by hardwood pellets and a system of fans and act more like outdoor ovens than traditional gas or charcoal grills. These grills can be used to smoke, grill, bake, and even braise food.

Tabletop pellet grills are ideal for tailgating thanks to their portability, but larger models with folding legs are also available if you expect to have large tailgate parties. Electric pellet grills are also available if you prefer to avoid gas or charcoal, and some even have wifi connectivity for even more precise temperature control.

Advantages Disadvantages
  • Versatile—you can smoke, grill, bake, and even braise food
  • No open flame—no flare-ups!
  • Great for getting that classic smoky flavor
  • Superior temperature regulation—no tending the flame or coals by hand
  • You can cook just about everything, from hotdogs and burgers to brisket, pulled pork, and even pizza
  • More expensive than other types of tailgating grill
  • Food often takes longer to cook
  • Require more maintenance than gas or charcoal tailgating grills
  • Requires pellets—2 lbs for every hour of low-and-slow smoking, or 4 lbs for every hour of hot-and-fast grilling
  • Can be heavy—lighter models begin at about 50 lbs, but up to 100 lbs or more is common

Who should use a pellet tailgating grill?

Tailgaters looking to cook low and slow, or who are hoping to cook less conventional tailgate dishes such as pizza, or other things you might normally cook in an oven.

Best pellet tailgating grills

5. Kamado Tailgating Grills

Kamado grills combine the best of both worlds—smoky charcoal and efficient propane. These grills are easier to light than charcoal tailgate grills because they use propane and allow air to circulate efficiently, but if you’re still looking for that classic smoky flavor, they are also a safer option than traditional charcoal grills because the ceramic surface doesn’t get as hot as a metal charcoal grill.

Kamado carriers are also available to make these grills easier to transport, and some grills even come with built-in attachment hooks to hitch your grill directly up to your truck’s hitch.

Advantages Disadvantages
  • A larger surface area allows you to cook more food
  • Better for large groups of people
  • Easy to light
  • Great for achieving a smoky flavor
  • Requires more space
  • Heavier and more difficult to move
  • Takes longer to cook your food

Who should use Kamado tailgating grills?

Kamado grills are best for those that have the ability to transport larger or heavier grills, or for when you’re feeding a large group of people.

Best Kamado tailgating grills

6. Tailgating Griddles

A compact tailgate griddle might be a convenient option if you have a smaller space and fewer hungry tailgaters to feed. It’s a great option for casual tailgaters who want a multi-purpose, easily-portable griddle they can take camping or use at home.

Advantages Disadvantages
  • Easily portable—tailgating griddles are small and light and easy to set up
  • More affordable than other types of tailgating grills
  • Can also be used on balconies, for car camping, and for picnics
  • Smaller cooking surface—not ideal for large groups
  • No lid—you can only grill uncovered
  • Not suitable for smoking

Who should use a tailgating grill?

Casual tailgaters looking who don’t need a large surface area, and tailgaters who are looking for one grill they can take to tailgate parties, as well as camping or for other outdoor uses.

Best tailgating griddles

7. Disposable Tailgate Grills

Disposable tailgate grills are not really designed with the avid tailgater in mind, but they’re perfect for one-time charcoal grilling. Simply set up, cook, and toss the disposable grill when you’re done.

Advantages Disadvantages
  • No clean-up or storage is necessary
  • Inexpensive and easy to use
  • Small and lightweight
  • Coals heat up quickly
  • Generally not environmentally friendly
  • Not recyclable
  • Very small cooking surface
  • Short cooking time (up to 90 minutes)
  • Typically don’t come with a stand

Who should use a disposable tailgate grill?

If you’re new to tailgating and want to give it a try without investing a ton of money, disposable tailgate grills are the perfect option. They’re also ideal if you’re not a traditional weekend warrior, but do enjoy the occasional tailgating party. When you want an inexpensive, simple grilling experience, disposable tailgate grills are the way to go.

Conclusion

Deciding which tailgating grill is best for you comes down to your personal preferences, how much space you have, and how many people you’re going to feed. As you can see, there are plenty of options, including:

  1. Propane tailgate grills
  2. Charcoal tailgate grills
  3. Electric tailgate grills
  4. Pellet tailgating grills
  5. Kamado grills
  6. Tailgating griddles
  7. Disposable tailgate grills

Whether it’s the smoky, mouth-watering flavor of charcoal or wood-pellet grilling, or the convenient ease of use that comes from a propane and electric grill, weigh the pros and cons of each then get cooking!

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Grill Spot Team

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