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Just because you have limited space, doesn’t mean you should miss out on the endless joys of grilling. These compact grills are ideal for smaller yards, patios, and balconies. Bigger isn’t always better, and these diminutive models will have you slinging burgers, hot dogs and veggies even in tight quarters.
Danielle Bennett, also known as Diva Q, is the author of "Diva Q's Barbecue: 195 Recipes For Cooking With Family, Friends & Fire" and host of Travel Channel’s BBQ Crawl. When choosing a small grill, Bennett urges us to, "get out of the mindset of inexpensive, disposable grills and see a grill as an investment, an outdoor appliance you will enjoy for many years." A high-quality grill will have you "feeling like a backyard rockstar all the time," says Bennett.
To help you decide which grill to buy, there are a few considerations to take into account. Think about how much food you'll really be cooking, whether or not it needs to be portable, and what kind of fuel source you'll feel comfortable using. Lastly, make sure to measure your area to make sure it'll fit.
With all that in mind, here are the best small grills for your barbecue cookouts.
Best Overall: Weber Spirit E-210 2-Burner Gas Grill
What We Love: Decent-sized cooking area, powerful heat and performance, electronic ignition
What We Don't Love: Inside of grill can be a pain to clean
Wanting a small grill doesn't mean having to give up on great features. The Spirit E-210 is a great small gas grill with a larger model’s bells and whistles from the beloved grill makers at Weber.
The 2-burner version can be cranked up to a hot 26,500 BTUs and lit with a push of the ignition system. Once it gets going, this has reversible porcelain-enameled cast-iron cooking grates and includes 360 square inches of cooking surface, which is enough room for a dozen hamburgers, plus a 90 square inch warming rack. The two side tables give more prep area and can fold down for storage, and it comes with a set of hooks to keep your cooking tools handy.
When it comes time to clean up, the enameled grease tray is accessible from the front, and a quick glance at the fuel gauge will let you know if you need more gas for next time. This small Weber is compact enough to fit in a small space but mighty enough to grill a 20-pound turkey or host a backyard cookout.
Dimensions (LxWxH): 50 x 32 x 45.5 inches | Cooking Area: 458 square inches | BTUs/hour: 26,500 | Weight: 117 pounds
Best Budget: Char-Griller E1515 Patio Pro Grill
What We Love: High-quality steel construction, side air vents regulate heat and smoke
What We Don't Love: Can be difficult to keep clean
If you're really limited on space or budget, you can still enjoy grilled fish with a side of vegetables. This 31-inch-wide Char-Griller charcoal grill is very affordable, will fit snugly into little spaces, and has the perfect shape for experimenting with smoking as well.
Once assembled, the cast-iron grates will retain high heat and produce a gorgeous, even cook on its 250 square-inch surface, which is plenty of space to cook up a feast for two. A side air vent allows you to control the heat off the coals, and its heavy-duty steel construction ensures serious durability. The shelf will come in handy while cooking, while the bottom rack is perfect for storing charcoal in between grilling sessions.
When dinner is done, an easy dump ash pan makes cleanup quick and efficient. Then this can easily be wheeled back into storage.
Dimensions (LxWxH): 31 x 21 x 44 inches | Cooking Area: 250 square inches | Weight: 50 pounds
Best Charcoal: Weber 18-Inch Jumbo Joe Charcoal Grill
What We Love: Easy to transport, well-placed vents, decent sized grilling area
What We Don't Love: No stand or side table
If you're in the market for a classic charcoal grill, of course from the fine folks at Weber have you covered. Head out for a day at the beach or the park with this lightweight grill with a convenient carry handle and lid lock.
Weber has been making classic, iconic grills since 1952, and this small model matches the searing and grilling prowess of its full-sized grills. The 18-inch Jumbo Joe has a nickel-plated steel cooking grate and a rust-resistant aluminum ash catcher. Its 147-square-inch cooking surface can fit about eight burgers. Weber did design this with its iconic aluminum dampers, on both the top and bottom, to help you control the smoke and heat. Bonus: the tripod base makes cooking on uneven surfaces perfectly doable.
Dimensions (LxWxH): 20.5 x 19.75 x 19.75 inches | Cooking Area: 147 square inches | Weight: 21.5 pounds
Related: The Best Charcoal Grills
Best Portable: Weber Q 1200 Portable Gas Grill
What We Love: Easy-start electronic ignition, heats up quickly and evenly, easy to clean, great heat control
What We Don't Love: Can be difficult to attach gas, need to use disposable drip pans
Portable grills need to be easy to transport, easy to assemble, and easy to cook on. The Weber Q 1200 Portable Gas Grill does all that. Great for picnics or camping, the grill's durable porcelain-coated cast-iron cooking grates and stainless steel burners create 189 square inches of cooking space. This translates to enough room for at least a half-dozen burgers. A split grate allows for switching out a grate for a compatible griddle. Meanwhile, its 8,500-BTU main burner cooks food evenly and effectively.
With the push of a button, the electronic ignition has your grill fired up and ready to cook in minutes, once you attach the gas. The two fold-out side tables, which conveniently tuck into the grill, provide prep space, and a built-in thermometer will help you cook your delicacy to the perfect doneness. When not in use, the 31-pound grill stores away nicely. It does use a standard 20-pound propane tank, so that’s where some schlepping will come in.
Dimensions (LxWxH): 41 x 20.5 x 24.6 inches | Cooking Area: 189 square inches | BTUs/hour: 8,500 | Weight: 31 pounds
Related: The Best Portable Grills
Best Pellet: Traeger Tailgater 20 Pellet Grill
What We Love: Digital temperature controller, easy to use, good-sized cooking area, "keep warm" mode
What We Don't Love: Pricey
"If you can operate an oven, you can operate a Trager," says Bennett, who swears by Traeger grills for their ease of use, versatility, and incredibly precise heat control. Most pellet grills are significantly bigger than the Tailgater 20, but the clue here is in the name. This is designed for handling a decent amount of food and can be stored away without too much effort.
From pre-game parties to weekends at the cabin, Traeger’s Tailgater 20 lets you grill, smoke, bake, roast, braise, or BBQ just about anywhere thanks to its portable size and stashable, foldable legs. If it’s classic grilling you’re after, the hardwood pellets will infuse wood-fired flavor into everything you cook. The porcelain grate can cook up to 3 racks of ribs at once, and a digital controller lets you set the temperature in 5-degree increments. There's also a "keep warm" mode once your food is done.
Dimensions (LxWxH): 37 x 18 x 36 inches | Cooking Area: 300 square inches | Hopper Capacity: 8 pounds | Weight: 62 pounds
Related: The Best Grills for Tailgating
If you're shopping for a powerful grill that will both fit a small space and readily tucks away into a corner, the Weber Spirit E-210 2-Burner Gas Grill (view at Amazon) should tick every box on your list. Whether you're on a budget or simply like the taste of food grilled over charcoal better, the Char-Griller E1515 Patio Pro Charcoal Grill (view at Amazon) is a surefire bet.
What To Look for When Buying a Small Grill
Size and the capacity of your grill are crucial factors in choosing a grill. Your ideal size will vary depending on your specific needs and the space you have. Approximately 200 square inches of cooking area is perfect for feeding one or two hungry people and typically falls within the dimensions for small grills. If you’ll be carrying your grill to tailgates, picnics, or events, you’ll want a portable model that’s not a major endeavor to move. If your grill is staying put in your backyard, weight is not much of an issue.
You’ll want to consider a grill's grate material. Look for a cooking surface that gives you excellent heat transfer, keeps the food from sticking, and is durable. Stainless steel grates are lightweight and heat up quickly, but they don’t retain heat as well as cast iron grill grates, which have excellent heat retention and produce an even cooking temperature, but they take more time to get roaring hot.
To make sure your grill performs its best for years to come, you’ll have to take good care of it. Keep it clean on a regular basis by cleaning the grates after every use and give it the occasional more thorough scrub-down. It's important to make sure your grill brush is compatible with your grate material. Charcoal grills are the simplest to maintain, but all grills require regular cleaning to ensure food safety and reduce fire risk.
Can you use a small grill indoors?
The answer is a resounding no. "Unless you have a professional restaurant-quality air filtration system, don’t use your grill in enclosed spaces, even a garage" Bennett explains. "The carbon dioxide exposure is not worth the risk." If you’re grilling inside, seek out an indoor grill.
How do you dispose of small propane tanks?
Your propane tank should last for many years. Simply have the tank refilled at your local gas station or convenience store. If you don’t need your tank any longer, the best move is to recycle it. Because there’s a possibility of propane remaining in the tank, most local recycling centers won’t accept it. A local propane supplier can direct you to a specialized recycler who will safely recycle your tank.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Hannah Howard has been writing about food and cooking for over a decade, including the memoirs “Feast” and “Plenty.” Her husband is a Kansas City Barbeque Society-certified barbeque judge, and they both spend summer doing as much grilling as possible.
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