What’s better than barbecuing in a garden? Easy: barbecuing on the beach with friends, at a campground with family, or in a field with fellow festival-goers. Grilling on the go encapsulates summer freedom. Particularly if you don’t have an outdoor space to call your own.
But in an age where disposable barbecues aren’t just bad taste – but, according to some, downright environmentally irresponsible – how do you get your barbecue kicks on the go? With one of the best portable barbecues out there.
We’ve rounded up the best portable barbecues on the market – each one has been rigorously tested, grilling up a variety of delights, from meats to fish to plant-based proteins and veg. While each ‘cue here will suit different needs, you can be sure that they all produce good food, wherever you are.
What makes a top portable barbecue is, to some degree, in the eye of the beholder. Putting aside whether you prefer charcoal or gas – some people have strong opinions on this – what matters is consistency, a decent burn time and the ability to cook simple food (no one expects the same features as a full-sized home barbecue). Finally, it should be easy to use, because barbecuing can be stressful enough, even in a familiar setting; when you’re cooking somewhere new and possibly remote, you need your kit to work.
“Portable” is largely defined by where you’re going – and how you’re getting there – so as well as a range of styles and price points we tested barbecues of different sizes and weights. While the heaviest on this list comes in at a chunky 43kg, the lightest barbecue weighs less than 2kg and is small enough to fit in a handbag.
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Lotus Grill BBQ
We may sound dramatic, but this grill has revolutionised portable barbecuing. And it’s so easy to use, even grill beginners can’t mess it up.
The main USP? It’s smokeless, or as near as a barbecue can be – making it perfect for crowded beaches or campgrounds where you don’t want to annoy the neighbours. And yet, food still has plenty of flavour: our steak, hake and asparagus gained a lovely, lightly charred profile.
But there’s more. Arriving packed in its own durable carrier case, it’s a breeze to tote around – the standard size, which can feed up to five people, weighs just 3.7kg (the mini, for one to two people, weighs 2.8kg). You only need a small amount of charcoal, which means it’s light even when loaded. Though it’s worth bearing in mind that you’ll have to use Lotus’s own (efficient-burning) charcoal if you want the smokeless effect.
The clincher? Thanks to a built-in fan (powered by batteries or USB) Lotus is ready to cook on in just three to four minutes from the time you light it – a joy if you’re doing an impromptu cook-out. Which, to be fair, is exactly what portable barbecuing is all about.
Everdure cube portable BBQ by Heston Blumenthal
When it comes to good-looking portable barbecues, we can’t look past Heston Blumenthal’s cube. It’s so slick, it almost feels like a fashion accessory.
And, as you might expect from Heston, the design is clever too. A sizeable white tray – perfect for storing pre-cook ingredients or post-barbecue waste – stacks on top of the barbecue base, followed by a bamboo serving board. With everything packed into one tidy parcel, there’s no need to lug separate cool boxes, or even plates (though we can’t help but feel like they’ve missed a trick by not making the board safe for cutting on).
As you’d expect, it cooks very well too, though on our test the heat faded a smidge faster than expected. Channel your inner Heston and try slow-cooking over gentler “indirect” heat by shifting the coals into different (Blumenthal-approved) formations.
BioLite campstove 2+
This brilliant little camping stove – light, clever and multi-purpose – is a must-have for hikers and, er, campers. And while you’ll have to buy it separately, a portable grill attachment (£54, Gooutdoors.co.uk) instantly transforms it into a barbecue to suit anyone.
Using wood and firelighters, you get it going as you might a normal fire. But then, the fire’s energy charges an attached battery – in turn powering a fan to sustain grilling, as well as charge your electronic devices. That means when you’re out in the wilds you can do away with other power banks, just packing this two-in-one.
When you’re ready to get moving again, it’s is easy to extinguish and cools to a pack-away temperature fast. And at less than 2kg, including the grill attachment, it’s as feather-light as it gets. The only thing you’ll have to consider is sourcing fuel – dried wood only – at each cook.
Campingaz attitude 2go CV barbecue
Gas grills are speedy to set up – ideal when you’re on the move – and this sturdy model from Campingaz is the ultimate in simplicity. Snap on the gas canister (Campingaz brand, obviously) and you’re ready to cook in just 15 minutes.
Barbecue purists sometimes complain that gas cookers don’t lend as much flavour as charcoal ones, but this one has a cast iron grill. The more you use it, the more it seasons, in turn imparting a gorgeous savoury kick to your meals. Saying that, even on the first use our harissa grilled prawns were flavourful, grilled deliciously to perfection.
The downside to the cast iron is, as you might guess, weight. It’s 13kg – not as heavy as some – but you’ll need to be travelling by car to really consider it portable.
Weber smokey Joe premium
When it comes to portable barbecues, this is Old Reliable. Launched by barbecue giant Weber in the 1950s, it’s evolved somewhat, but the smokey Joe kettle-style charcoal barbecue remains simple, sturdy and durable. Unlike some other ‘cues, you can be a bit neglectful – drop it on the sand, toss it in the boot, expose it to the elements – and still, it’ll keep on working hard for you.
The Premium model differs from the standard in one notable way – it comes with a lid lock, making it easier to tote about (basically, you only need one hand, rather than two). This doubles up as a lid holder, ideal when you want to keep it off the ground or shelter your grill from wind.
There is some assembly required, but it’s nothing massively daunting. When it’s up and ready, just make sure you use good-quality (preferably Weber) charcoal. With such simple design, the flavour of your food depends largely on your fuel.
Char-Broil X200 grill2go
It’s not the most attractive barbecue there ever was – there’s an air of a toolkit to it – but this 15kg gas barbecue delivers in both performance and flavour. By keeping an eye on the lid’s handy temperature gauge, adjusting heat as needed, we ended up with honey-mustard chicken breast that was decadently juicy.
We loved the innovative ribbed grill – which keeps heat distributed evenly, prevents flare-ups and doesn’t let any precious morsels slip through. On other barbecues, green beans or small shallots would easily be sacrificed to the flames, but we whipped up both without a single casualty. The grill’s only downside? We found it a bit trickier to clean than standard jail-bar styles.
Morso balcone electric BBQ
Smooth, curvaceous, graphite-hued exterior. Inside, a single cast iron grill – roaring hot at one end, with a cooler “keep warm” area on the other. Only the Scandinavians (yep, it’s Danish) could design a barbecue this elegant.
A dial lets you adjust heat as you would on a stove, with precision. Flip it to full and it doesn’t take long; Morso ballparks 15-20 minutes to warm up, but we found it was ready to cook on in just over 10.
There’s one big drawback for portability: as it’s electric, you need a plug, so trips to the beach are out. It’s designed in particular for fixing on an apartment balcony – great if you live in a city flat. Which reminds us; unlike other barbecues, this one can even be used (carefully) indoors.
Snaffling Pig bluey mini BBQ
At 43kg it’s stretching the limits of what’s considered portable – even with rippling muscles, you won’t be moving the bluey on a whim. And yet, if you’re after top-quality food, this “kamado-style” barbecue is worth the effort it takes to lug around.
Sitting somewhere between a barbecue and an oven, kamado barbecues keep food deliciously moist and lock in flavour. This one nails “direct cooking”, or grilling (for example, sausages), but also lets you cook things slowly – think pulled pork, roast chicken, or even bread. If your alfresco meal demands far more than an average burger, this should be your weapon of choice.
It’s not cheap, but you’ll save on charcoal in the long run: it heats up in just 15 minutes and burns efficiently for hours. And, unlike some barbecues where you’ll have to scrub everything by hand, cleaning it is just a case of cranking it up to 200C, closing the lid, and letting everything burn off.
Sommen black charcoal bucket barbecue
You can’t expect barbecue miracles for £11, but actually, for the price, this thrifty bucket-style barbecue is hard to complain about. Quick beachside grills, like burgers, kebabs and sausages, are whipped up without complaint. With decent charcoal, it stays lit long enough to cook for four people. Remove the grill, and it can double as a fire pit for roasting marshmallows as the sunsets.
If you’re tempted to grumble – and you shouldn’t be – remember this: it’s only the cost of three or four disposable barbecues, and it’ll last a whole lot longer.
Kikkerland folding portable BBQ grill suitcase
There are very specific life circumstances in which one might require a barbecue built into a suitcase, and so – in truth – one of the other options listed here might be a better choice for most people. But if you’re especially short on storage space (say, in a beach hut, tiny flat or squeezy shed), and you only ever cook for one or two people, then this is a decent buy.
Just 1.8kg, the wee silver briefcase folds out to create a tiny grill, suitable for a couple of burger patties, sausages or skewers. And actually, paired with good quality charcoal, it burns longer than you might think. We managed two full rounds of chicken kebabs before the heat levels started to drop.
The verdict: Portable BBQs
Affordable, light, easy to use – and quick to set up – the clever Lotus is a brilliant buy for most people. We can’t really think of an occasion when we wouldn’t want to cook on this, either out and about or in our own garden.
But if you need something even more compact? BioLite, which is so small it could even fit into a handbag, is the smallest, lightest barbecue we’ve ever used. And, possibly, the most ingenious.
Finally, if you prefer gas barbecuing to charcoal, you simply cannot go wrong with Campingaz. Simple to set up, cook on and clean, it makes barbecuing easy – so you can sit back and enjoy that moment of summer freedom.
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For more summer must-haves, read our round-up of the best secateurs and shears for pruning your garden
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