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Best portable BBQ 2023: The top compact gas and charcoal BBQs for easy grilling

Whether you’re looking for something cheap and cheerful or an all-singing, all-dancing grill, these are the best portable BBQs you can buy

Nothing screams summer like the smoky aromas of an early evening barbeque. Whether it’s chicken skewers, ribeye steaks, grilled halloumi or corn on the cob, the best portable BBQs make cooking al fresco all the more enjoyable. The BBQ is not merely a meal, but an experience, and under no circumstances should you be denied one.

Cheap, disposable BBQs might well do the job for a few sausages, but anything more and you’ll be left disappointed. What’s more, if you’re road-tripping or enjoying a day out in the sun with friends, finding a table at the local pub or a restaurant can often feel a bit like hard work. Investing in a portable BBQ is a great alternative, and can also save you money in the long term.

As long as you’re prepared with the necessary utensils, ingredients and seasonings, these portable BBQs will elevate your outdoor dining experience to a higher level.

Best portable BBQ: At a glance

How to choose the best portable BBQ for you

What size should I opt for?

Size is important when purchasing a portable BBQ for a number of reasons. First, you need to consider how many mouths you’re going to feed. Most portable BBQs are fairly small, so won’t easily feed a whole family. But there are some larger ones out there that will do the job. You just have to find them.

You might also consider weight an important factor, depending on how you plan to travel and how much you’ll be carrying your portable BBQ. So it’s important to check this and its dimensions before you hastily ‘add to basket’.

How easy are they to assemble and pack away?

The best thing about many of these portable BBQs is that they’re incredibly easy to assemble. Most only take around five to ten minutes to set up, though that doesn’t include getting the charcoal going.

You also want to look for something with vents to help it cool down quickly when you’re ready to pack down and go home. Then there’s the design to consider. Do the handles make it easy to carry? Where will it go when it goes to hibernation in the winter?

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What kind of fuel is best?

Choosing between gas and charcoal is a matter of priorities. If you’re the sort of person who wants to get things going with as little fuss as possible, gas BBQs provide instant heat and offer greater control compared to charcoal BBQs.

The downside is that you’ll have to carry the gas too, which challenges the BBQ’s portability credentials. It’s far easier to pick up charcoal from shops and petrol stations and there’s definitely a delightful smokiness gas can’t achieve.

How we test portable BBQs

The first and perhaps most important test we carry out for all portable BBQs is how easy they are to transport. Every model on our list really is portable and can be taken outside, without you having to worry about any back-breaking labour. We consider weight, easy-carry features such as additional handles, and any extra cover protection.

We then look at how well the BBQ actually cooks. Most portable BBQs will never offer quite as much cooking power as full-sized ones, but you can still enjoy a decent cooking experience on the best ones. While taking size into account, we test portable BBQs the same way we do regular ones. We look at how quickly and evenly they cook things such as burgers, sausages and veggie kebabs, and whether the BBQ has good heat retention and distribution. We also look at how easy each model is to set up and put away after use. Finally we consider value for money, taking into account whether the build quality and the features each BBQ has matches its price tag.

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The best portable BBQs to buy

1. Weber Smokey Joe Premium Charcoal BBQ: Best two-person BBQ

Price: £91 | Buy now from Amazon

If there’s one friend we want to take along for any road trip, it’s Smokey Joe – the smaller version of Weber’s iconic kettle BBQ. Taking only ten minutes to assemble, it’s a well-built piece of cooking apparatus and is rust-resistant, too.

The porcelain-enamelled bowl keeps in heat and adds to the delightful smoky aromas. What’s more, your hands are protected from the blistering heat thanks to the lid-handle heat shield. Once appetites are satiated, it’s easy to pack away. Simply close the three vents to kill the flames and then shortly after, you’re on your way.

Size-wise, Smokey Joe’s steel cooking grate is only 37cm in diameter. That’s ideal for two people but doesn’t give you an awful lot of real estate for family cooking.

Key specs – Dimensions: 43.2 x 36.1 x 42cm; Fuel type: Charcoal; Time to assemble: 10mins; Weight: 5.1kg; Cooking area: 37cm

2. Char-Broil X200 Grill2Go: Best portable gas BBQ

Price: £143 | Buy now from Amazon

Built like a tank, the cast-aluminium Char-broil X200 Grill2Go is a rugged cooker you can trust. With its latching lid and hood-mounted temperature gauge, it will give you total control over your cooking. This powerhouse will ignite at the push of a button, and the unique TRU-Infrared cooking system promises even cooking, with fewer flare-ups and lower fuel consumption.

As it’s powered by gas, you’ll need to purchase a portable liquid propane cylinder, but this is a small price to pay. Setup is almost instant, temperatures are blazing hot and with a cooking space of 60 x 40cm, you should happily be able to feed a minimum of six people.

Key specs – Dimensions: 40 x 60 x 35cm; Fuel type: Gas; Time to assemble: 5mins; Weight: 9.7kg; Cooking area: 60 x 40cm

3. Everdure by Heston Blumenthal Cube Portable Charcoal Barbecue: Best-looking portable BBQ

Price: £179 | Buy now from John Lewis

Knowing Heston Blumenthal, he’d probably suggest grilling mustard-flavoured ice cream on here, but thankfully this little number is far more practical than his recipe books. It comes with both an integrated food-grade storage tray and a wooden chopping board for important food prep. The heat-protection shield is also a nice touch and keeps external heat to a minimum, so you can even move it while cooking.

The grill dimensions are on the smaller side, feeding up to three people at best, but its small form factor makes it easy to pack away. It’s a doddle to clean too, keeping the elegant graphite finish looking good as new.

Key specs – Dimensions: 23 x 35 x 43cm; Fuel Type: Charcoal; Time to assemble: 5mins; Weight: 8.9kg; Cooking area: 37cm

Buy now from John Lewis

4. Kamado Joe KJ13RH Charcoal Grill: Best does-it-all portable BBQ

Price: £467 | Buy now from Amazon

The Kamodo Joe Charcoal Grill is regarded as a direct competitor to the famous Big Green Egg. But at less than half the price, it’s a great option for serious grill fans looking for a slightly more affordable alternative. It does still come with a hefty price tag, but boasts almost all the same features as the much pricier Egg.

Most notable is the attractive dimpled ceramic design, which makes it incredibly hard wearing and allows it to retain heat for hours. Unfortunately, it also makes it one of the heaviest on the list, coming in at a whopping 31kg.

If that doesn’t scare you off, though, it’s well worth the investment. The Kamado Joe offers precise temperature control, allowing you to cook at both very high and very low temperatures. It’s ideal for a range of BBQ delights and you can even make cake in it. Whether it ever leaves your patio or not, it’s a great compact BBQ.

Key specs – Dimensions: 50.2 x 52.7 x 68.6cm; Fuel Type: Charcoal; Time to assemble: 5mins; Weight: 31kg; Cooking area: Not stated

5. Valiant Portable Charcoal Picnic BBQ: Best cheap portable BBQ

Price: £45 | Buy now from Amazon

There’s much to like about this nifty portable BBQ, even if it’s easily mistaken for a vanity case or accordion. It has similar dimensions to your average disposable BBQ but will provide a lot more heat, durability and general use.

When open, the funnel shape created pushes the heat out in an even manner, and the stainless-steel design is rust-resistant, so it’s fine to keep outdoors. The grilling rack is easy to clean, but wiping down the insides is a little trickier, given its incredibly compact size. Its size also means there’s no space inside to store your lighters and coal, but all things considered this is still a decent budget BBQ.

Key specs – Dimensions: 40 x 10 x 28.5cm; Fuel Type: Charcoal; Time to assemble: 5mins; Weight 3.3kg; Cooking area: 32 x 23cm

6. George Foreman Portable Gas BBQ: Best hard-wearing portable BBQ

Price: £90 | Buy now from Amazon

When the word ‘grill’ so much as enters someone’s brain, George Foreman gets an alert. So it comes as no surprise that his portable gas BBQ is up there with some of the best.

The BBQ sits on a set of castors, which protects surfaces and also helps with heat circulation. It also features a handy, built-in thermostat, so monitoring the temperature is a piece of cake – just close the lid and adjust accordingly.

As with most gas grills, you’ll have to purchase propane separately, so don’t forget to make room for that in the car boot and take it into consideration when assessing its portability.

Key specs – Dimensions: 34 x 70 x 50cm; Weight: 7.5kg; Fuel Type: Propane gas; Time to assemble: 5mins; Cooking area: 50 x 37cm

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