When it comes to portable grills then you’re going to be looking mainly at two types of grill and that is propane and charcoal. Both of them have their advantages and disadvantages which we will go through here so you can decide which is going to be the best portable bbq grill for you.
Propane – Of the two models propane is probably the more convenient of the two as you are able to get it going much quicker. Most of them have electronic ignition systems which will start at just the push of a button where a portable charcoal grill takes a lot longer to get going. When they do get going you are also able to control the temperature a lot easier as you can alter the amount of gas getting to the grill.
This means that you prevent common problems such as flare-ups, your food not being cooked properly or excessive charring as well. The gas will also burn a lot more cleanly and won’t produce smoke meaning these types of grills can also be used indoors. The ease of use is also helped by the fact that the grill cools down a lot more quickly and you don’t have to worry about getting rid of any embers or ashes.
Those are significant advantages but propane doesn’t burn as hot as charcoal meaning that you can’t cook food in quite the same way and also these propane grills won’t allow you to impart a smoky flavor that some people love about charcoal grills so your food might not be quite as tasty and this is probably the biggest reason as to why people buy these type of grills.
There is also the matter of cost as well as the initial set up costs of a propane grill are going to be higher an then you always have to worry about always replenishing your propane tanks and this is generally a lot more expensive than charcoal. Also those tanks are disposable so you have to take them with you wherever you go until you find somewhere to recycle them.
Charcoal – Probably the biggest advantage when it comes to a charcoal grill is one of taste as most people would say that they prefer the taste of food that comes for a charcoal grill as opposed to a propane model. That is partly due to the fact that you can sear food a lot better with this type of grill as it’s something that can’t be done with propane.
As we referred to there as well, charcoal is a lot more readily available than propane and is a lot cheaper too. In transport you have to make sure that your propane tanks are stored in the correct position and are well ventilated. With charcoal you don’t have any of these worries as you can just throw them into your car and you also don’t have to worry about recycling once done.
While the smokiness of a charcoal grill can be an advantage in many respects in terms of flavor, it can also be a downside too as this smoke can fill your area and obviously means that the grill can’t be used indoors as well. In smaller spaces this makes getting a propane grill a more sensible solution to your grilling needs.
There is also the factor of the mess as well. If you have ever touched a briquette of charcoal then you will know how easily it can stain your hands and how quickly it can stain your clothes as well which are factors you don’t have to worry about with propane. Once you have finished then you can just shut off a propane tank whereas with charcoal you need to snuff those hot coals as well as clearing and ashes out of your grill as well.
The best type for you then often comes down to a balance between a more authentic and flavorsome experience and one that is cleaner and easier to use. There are distinct differences between the two so it depends which one suits your style.
As you can imagine from the types of grill that they are, a gas grill is going to be a lot easier to use than any charcoal model as they are a lot quicker to get started and a lot easier to control the temperature as well. Having a push button ignition is something to look out for as this will get you started straight away but it’s wise to pack some matches or a lighter in case this fails.
Once you have attached the propane canister to your grill then you’re not going to have much trouble in using it and there should be a temperature for easy control. Temperature control on a charcoal grill takes a lot more practice and experience which doesn’t make them as user-friendly.
With charcoal grills though, some simply love the experience of being out there in the open air and firing up your grill and others will be happy to deal with that extra time required in order to have better tasting food. If you want to cook something quickly though, then the gas grill will be the better option every time.
With any type of grill you want to make sure that the heating elements are designed in such a way that you will be able to reduce the risk of any type of flare-ups which occur when a naked flame is exposed to anything that might drip down from your pan. This is grease which adds fuel to the flames which are not only dangerous but it can affect taste as well.
This is especially important on these types of grill as the distance between the grates that you’re cooking on and the flames below is very close so there isn’t really any time to react. Some features that can help to avoid this are a grilling plate which will divert and grease away from the fire and also an insert which will sit over the flame ports.
Quality of materials
When it comes to grills the quality of the materials are important for a few reasons. Durability is one of the key reasons as you want a grill that is going to be able to last you for a long time. You also want other factors as well such as it being light and easy to use as well the ability to cool down quickly.
With the firebox cast aluminum is a great material as it will give you that durability while also being resistant to any rust as well. It also has the properties of evenly absorbing and reflecting heat as well which will aid the cooking process. A lot of the grates that you see here are porcelain-coated which will allow you to sear foods in the most effective manner to provide that great taste.
Stainless steel grates are fine but don’t brown the food to most people’s satisfaction. When it comes to a material helping the cooking process though then there’s not much better than cast iron which will help season your food to a great taste. The huge downside to this though is weight but there are devices here with are portable enough for that to only be a small problem.
With a propane tank there is the question about exactly how much you should take on your trip so that you’re not carrying excess weight and also not running out of gas. Taking a few one pound tanks would be a good idea if you are looking for a higher degree of portability.
If you are camping from a nearby car then it might be a good idea to have a few spare tanks close to you or there is also the option of having a refillable larger propane tank as well. A lot of campsites will give you the option of buying further propane tanks which is something to look out for.
With charcoal this is simply the case of taking a few bags with you wherever you go. This will give you more than enough fuel for your fire and you don’t have to sweat as much about exactly how much you’ll be using as you do with propane tanks.
Vents and airflow
When it comes to charcoal grills you need to make sure that they have great vent placement as this is how you are going to be able to control the temperature that is coming in and out of the grill. Obviously charcoal grills don’t have a knob which can turn the temperature down so instead you have to be able to control the oxygen getting to the fire.
In order to provide a fire with the best circulation it’s usually for the best to have some sort of ventilation at the top of the grill as well as having another in the heart of the firebox as well. These vents though need to remain easy to access so you’re able to control those flames effectively.
The firebox is an important part of any grill and generally the more space that you have, the easier it’s going to be to cook the food that you want. This is due to the fact that you’ll have a greater distance between the hot coals below and the food so there is less chance of charring it.
The extra space in your firebox can be useful for a few other things as well as it will enable you to put more coals in the fire which can evenly distribute the heat and ensure that you have a more gentle flame for longer cooking times. Having more space will also allow you to have a cold spot as well where you can move food to cool down to protect it while you reduce the temperature of the flames.
A lid can play an important role in controlling the heat of your food as if it has an air vent then this will be able to help with the air circulation so you are better enabled to control the temperature. When the cooking as done, you want a lid that will be able to lock down into place for high portability with a handle that is easy to transport. It helps if this handle is made out of nylon as it will always remain cool to touch.