Best small portable barbecue 2021: choose from gas, charcoal or pellets
Welcome to our roundup of the best small barbecues and portable barbecues around (or ‘BBQs’ if you’re illiterate). Looking out the window, it seems clear that summer is here and the time is right, for grilling in the streets – or the garden, more realistically. We have charcoal and gas options, so there’s something for both purists and those who value convenience.
Remember, though, that this is our list of the best small barbecues, so if you want something larger, then head on over to T3’s best barbecues buying guide. This guide is filled with charcoal, gas, pellet and electric barbecues of regular and large proportions.
And, if you’re thinking of buying a portable barbecue, be sure to also check out T3’s best meat thermometers, best BBQ accessories and best pizza ovens buying guides, too. These will help outfit your garden with the very best food cooking equipment.
The best portable barbecues you can buy today
Buy the Traeger Ranger directly from Traeger [USA]
Buy the Traeger Ranger from HotBoxStoves [UK]
Of all the barbecues we’ve reviewed – both large and small – this is this writer’s current go-to model for compact size, ease of use, efficiency and reliability. It is, to all intents and purposes, a veritable stonker.
Like the larger Weber SmokeFire and Traeger 575 Pro that feature in T3’s best barbecue guide, the new Traeger Ranger uses wood pellets, electricity and a computer processor instead of charcoal or gas, and this means you can load ingredients on to the ample four-to-six person grate and leave it for pretty much the entire cooking process while you chat to your guests.
Although it’s table-top friendly and essentially portable, this suitcase-shaped barbecue does weigh a small ton that makes it nigh on impossible to carry more than about 10 metres without developing a hernia. However, for RV, caravan and tailgate use, it’s the perfect take away model – but only if you have access to an electricity supply or you’re able to use Traeger’s specialised power inverter.
The Ranger’s interior is divided into two sections: a 3.6kg pellet hopper on the left and a 184 square inch non-stick porcelain grill on the right, with a short auger to deliver the pellets in between. It’s all controlled by a Digital Arc controller that allows you to set the cooking temperature in five degree increments. Also featured is a handy timer, a ‘keep warm’ function that works brilliantly well and a single port for the supplied meat probe. It also comes with a heavy duty flat cast iron griddle plate for whipping up camp side breakfasts of bacon and eggs or even pancakes if you wish.
We tried a number of ingredients on it – burgers, sausages, chicken legs – and they all cooked perfectly well with only one visit to turn the food over. We even took a flier and lobbed on a whole medium chicken which was more succulent than any we’ve cooked in the indoor oven. We calculated that one fully loaded hopper lasts well over an hour at about 200˚C – much longer if cooking low and slow.
Although Traeger says its maximum temperature is 230˚C, we noticed that the actual highest temperature reaches about 241˚C and with a roaring flame beneath the heat shield. This means it could feasibly be used to sear steaks, too; something pellet grills usually don’t excel at.
Aside from camping use, the Ranger is absolutely ideal for balconies and patios. In fact, if you’re a family of four, it might just be the only barbie you’ll ever need. It’s just so easy to use and so reliably good at grilling without burning everything to a crisp. Warmly recommended.
The Cube is the cheapest and smallest model in a sextet of Heston Blumenthal-branded charcoal and gas barbecues that screams style and sophistication
This eminently portable charcoal burner doesn’t sport any groundbreaking technological features because it is, to all intents and purposes, just a square container with a shallow charcoal tray and a steel grill on top.
However, there are plenty of refined Heston touches here to whet the appetite, including a beautifully molded porcelain enamel interior with walls that are raised about an inch above the grill so sausages can’t roll off and a heat guard fitted to the bottom so it doesn’t scorch grass or ruin the patio table
The firmly secured lid, too, is a clever design flourish since it encompasses both a sealed plastic storage tray with room for a few cuts of meat and a bamboo food prep board.
So what you have is a proper barbecue that is also properly portable – most of the others in this list, although excellent at cooking, are either a little flimsy, or not actually all that portable once removed from the boot of your car.
As a result, the Everdure admittedly, only provides enough real estate for a romantic picnic for two… But what a stylish and tasty picnic it will be.
This efficient gas-fired portable barbie from outdoor experts Primus is a perfect cooking companion for campers, boaters and picnic fiends, and a handy table-top griller for balcony use, too.
Despite the very slim legs, the compact Kuchoma is exceedingly well built and runs off both mini camping gas canisters or large Patio Gas cylinders (with optional adaptor). It also comes with an integral hinged lid – with carry handle – for either direct or indirect cooking; a very good thing indeed.
The Kuchoma’s non-stick 40cm x 24cm grate will comfortably accommodate about 20 sausages or a dozen chicken legs – enough cooking estate for a cult of campers – and, at 4.5kgs, it’s light enough to carry a fair old distance without your arm falling off. Highly recommended.
With its rugged military looks and superlative build quality, this new portable gas-fired barbie is the perfect choice for patios, balconies and camping and caravanning where the campsite doesn’t allow the use of charcoal. Granted, the Grill2Go isn’t as compact or as light as the Primus Kuchoma reviewed above, but it isn’t too heavy to carry short distances; the two fat handles are a big help in this respect.
Char-Broil is justly famous for its TRU Infrared grilling technology which ensures food is cooked evenly across the grill plate. The slight downside is that the corrugated infrared grill requires burning off after each barbecue session and scraped down using the supplied cleaning too. If you neglect to do that, the tiny holes in the infrared plate could become blocked and the system won’t work as well. The Grill2Go’s grate will accommodate about 12 hamburgers so there should be enough grilling space for two to possibly four adults.
Like the Primus, Weber Q 1200 and Napoleon TravelQ, this model is designed to be used with small camping gas canisters which simply screw onto the gas regulator. It can also be used with large traditional Patio Gas bottles but you’ll need to invest in the special adaptor.
This model performed exceptionally well, grilling everything we threw at it with consummate aplomb. It’s also built like a brick outhouse so it should easily withstand the bumps and scrapes of outdoor living.
Most professional chefs will choose charcoal over gas but sometimes gas is better, like on a campsite, the local park or perhaps the deck of your yacht.
This portable model uses small, easily acquired, disposable camping gas-type cartridges and features a porcelain-enamelled, cast-iron cooking grate big enough for six or more placements, a tall aluminium lid with built-in thermometer, two fold-out side tables and push-button Piezo ignition.
On-trend bonus: it comes in a range of cool colours including orange, fuschia, green, blue and purple.
Ageing lad-chef Jamie Oliver has applied his culinary knowledge to an own-brand portable that sports quite a few unique design features, including a curved grill tray that prevents food from slipping into the inferno, a removable charcoal container, adjustable air vents, grippy lid locks for easy transport and a chunky rubberised lid handle that won’t scorch your hand when you grab hold of it.
The Adventurer is a doddle to control (simply use the long lever to open or close the air intake vents), large enough to accommodate about 16 sausages, and light enough to carry to a beach, campsite or picnic spot of your choice (as long as it’s not too far a walk). It’s also perfect for small patios or as a second standby barbecue.
This 1,600 watt electric grill brings outdoor cooking indoors by dint of a simple smoke-free design that encompasses a dishwasher-safe ‘Titanium Infused’ non-stick grill plate positioned a few inches above a drip tray that cools the dripping fats, reducing the amount of smoke by about 80%. Although it does indeed produce very little smoke, if using indoors we would still recommend placing it on the cooker hob below the extractor fan for completely smoke-free grilling.
This is a great grill for burgers, sausages and other fatty foods because most of the fats drip away and that means healthier eating. It also does steaks pretty well though it’s best to halt grilling until the heating element is up to its highest temperature.
If you live in a bedsit with no cooker, regularly go on caravanning trips (and your caravan or RV has 240v power), or simply like the idea of smoke free grilling, then this is a worthwhile choice that delivers the goods for a very modest outlay.
Table-top grilling has two main bonuses: it’s more enjoyable grilling one’s own cuts and it’s much more sociable, especially for the bloke in the household who usually has to stand alone for 90 minutes in front of a blazing inferno while wrestling with exploding sausages and a mushy fish that’s fallen through the grate.
This elegant two- to four-person patio barbie uses just a simple charcoal tray, a 26cm stainless steel grill and a cup of water to save the table from scorching, so you couldn’t exactly call the Barbecook Joya sophisticated, but it cooks food perfectly well.
The Joya’s attractive white ceramic base remains cool to the touch while guests slap on their own kebabs and sliced steak using the supplied bamboo tongs. A preloaded handful of charcoal gets you started.
And now for the smallest, most portable grill in the world. This barbie in a stainless steel tube is just the ticket for the picnicker, beach bum, hiker, climber, Bear Grylls wannabe or anyone with very little room in the backpack.
To build it, simply empty the tube of its contents – 12 stainless steel struts, four short legs and a second, slightly narrower steel tube – thread each strut through both tubes and then attach the legs. Now place it on a non flammable surface and stuff some wood or charcoal under it and, voila, instant campfire barbecue.
The Grilliput’s is available in two sizes: the Duo serves two-to-three gannets and the larger Quattro will handle up to six. Once it’s cooled down, disassemble it and you’re good to pack up and go.
Buy the Firepod directly from Firepod
Although this model is essentially a gas-fired pizza oven (and our favourite one at that), Firepod also provides an optional double-sided grill plate – ridged on one side, flat on the other – for this cute homegrown creation. Simply remove the supplied pizza stone, fit the grill plate, turn on the gas and whip up an al fresco lunch or even a full English breakfast.
Another great thing about this model is that it will accommodate Firepod’s new range of Lava Stones and Himalayan Salt Blocks. Just pop either on top of the pizza stone, heat up for about 40 minutes and, using the supplied gloves, place in the stone or block into the bamboo tray and take to the table. Although they’re not the largest stones we’ve seen, they’re a perfect size for a two-person al fresco or indoor steak-on-the-stone nosh up. Highly recommended.
Buy the Kikkerland Portable BBQ Suitcase from Beaumonde
For two-person picnics, this natty barbie-in-a-case is a better bet than the disposable variety. It won’t scorch the grass for start – well not much. To use, simply unclip, fill the titchy charcoal grate with a very small amount of charcoal (four or five broken briquettes may be best in this instance) and a couple of firelighters, and rest the steel grill on top. Voila, instant barbecue.
Now it has to be said that the Kikkerland’s 16x25cm grill area is tiny and only good for about 10 sausages at a squeeze or three hamburgers or possibly even two 6oz steaks. Nevertheless, once it’s up and running, the Kikkerland makes a surprisingly good fist of grilling on the go.
At under 2kgs, it’s one of the lightest portable grills on this page though you will need to wait for it to cool down before you can fold it up and be on your way. Be aware that the cooking grate it comes may be different to the chicken wire variety shown in the images but this won’t impact on the way it grills.
What is the best portable barbecue?
Our new number one contender is the excellent Traeger Ranger which uses wood pellets instead of charcoal or gas. If you’re looking for fuss free grilling on the go, this is the model to choose.
Everdure ‘by’ Heston Blumenthal has disrupted the barbecue market to highly impressive effect in recent years. For the not inconsiderable feat of making what is essentially a metal box that you put charcoal in stylish, the Everdure Cube is our #2 pick. But don’t rule out the excellent gas-fired Primus Kuchoma, our top choice for campers and boaters and the rugged new RV-friendly Char-Broil Grill2Go.
Anyone with an interest in barbecues will probably not be surprised to see that we’re also big fans of the Weber Q W1200. Weber is the world’s number one for a reason and its grills are always a very, very safe choice.
But there are plenty of other great options here and whichever you choose, they’re all leagues ahead of a disposable aluminium tray that you pick up by the entrance to the supermarket.
How to buy the best portable barbecue
First of all you’ll need to decide if you want to use charcoal, gas or wood pellets.
This makes a difference in terms of flavour, as gas doesn’t create the smoky flavours that you only get with charcoal and wood pellets. Gas certainly has its place in terms of consistency and convenience when cooking outside, but it does also reduce the authenticity of the results to some degree. That said, if camping or barbecuing in the wilderness, then gas is far and away the safest option. In fact most campsites in the UK and France forbid the use of charcoal.
Secondly, you need to look out for the grill size with these portable units – as well as how much they weigh if you really are after something you can carry down to the beach.
Equally, you don’t want something you can carry but you can’t cook what needs to be cooked – especially if it means you need to do two or three batches of cooking. That’s no fun.
There are two different methods of cooking on a barbecue. Without a lid is known as grilling or direct cooking, and you’ll need to keep an eye on the food as it’s hard and fast and there’s a danger of over cooking or burning quickly. Indirect cooking under a lid is what purists call proper barbecuing – using convection currents and smoke to flavour and slow the cooking process. Try using a plant spray or mister to tame any flare-ups.
Ben Tish, Chef Director of the Salt Yard Group, gives his verdict on that age old question – what’s best? Charcoal or briquettes? “Lump wood charcoal is superior in flavour to briquettes due to the fact there aren’t any chemicals or binders in there to mask or skew the flavours.
“Most charcoal is from South Africa and will have been compressed so it travels better and doesn’t break up in transit. I’d suggest British charcoal which is much lighter and burns better. Apple, hazel and oak all have their differing flavour qualities.”
Barbecues out of stock?
If stocks of the very finest barbecues have run out, the best barbecue becomes the one that is actually available. Try these fine retailers in the UK and USA. If you like to play a longer game, our Amazon Prime Day hub and Black Friday page might unveil some cheap barbecues too.
In the UK:
John Lewis & Partners
In the US:
Published at Thu, 20 May 2021 08:40:43 +0000