A Comprehensive Guide For Finding
The Perfect Tailgate Grill

The Best Tailgate Grill For Your Needs
The perfect tailgate grill is not the one that’s the most expensive…

Or the largest…

Or the one with the most features.

It's the one that suits your needs, your tastes, and your budget.

Tailgating grills are the type of manly purchases that seems to temporarily rob guys of their senses, not to mention their savings. So if you’re not careful, you could end up spending more than you planned on something that’s more than you need.

To find a tailgate grill that’s ideal for you…

Start by asking yourself:

  • How many people do you usually cook for? If it's less than five, a tailgate grill with a single 200-400 square inch rack is all you need.

  • What do you usually grill? If you stick to basic stuff like steaks, chicken, & burgers, then you don't need a built-in smoker. But if you find that you really want that genuine smoky flavor and don't want to spend extra, learn how to turn an ordinary grill into a smoker for just pennies.

  • Must you have the biggest and the fanciest grill? Use the following guidelines to make a sensible decision, and then treat yourself afterwards to something special with the money you saved.

Secondly, there are these comparison points to consider:


Gas grills are generally more expensive than barbeque charcoal grills. A full-size gas grill will cost upwards of $200 while their charcoal counterparts are typically in the $100-$200 range.

The price difference is less pronounced for a tabletop or portable grill as you can get both portable gas or charcoal grills for under a hundred bucks. If cost is not a major concern then you can enjoy the best of both worlds with a charcoal/gas combo grill ($300 and up).

Personal Convenience

Whereas charcoal grills take about 30 minutes to preheat, gas grills are ready in about ten. When using charcoal there are also times that a considerable effort is needed to maintain the fire - with gas, just turn the knob and you're set.

Disposing used charcoal briquettes can also be a hassle; you should also take note that many stadiums do not allow charcoal grilling.

Number Of People

The number of people that you'll be cooking for will determine the grill size as well as price, but there are other things to consider…

A cheap (under $100) gas grill or charcoal for that matter, will suffice for a small group with basic needs - a 160-square inch cooking area can fit 4 medium steaks or 8 burgers. If however you want to barbeque some ribs, you'll need a gas grill in order to regulate the temperature & distribute the heat.

Planning a marathon tailgate party? Larger gas grills offer multiple heat sources for cooking different types of food at the same time as well as side burners (for slow cooking) and warming racks.

Here is a rough guideline for determining grill size:

Number of People Grill Size/Cooking Area
1-2   less than 200 square inches
2-4   200-400 square inches
5-8   400-600 square inches
8 or more   over 600 square inches

Portable gas grills use propane cylinders - you can also file this under the convenience category - and naturally the longer you use the grill the more gas you'll need.

Most portable grills use a standard 1-lb propane cylinder that will last up to 60 minutes (approximate) which means swapping cylinders several times if you're planning to tailgate for several hours.

Not only is this a pain in the rear, but it also negates the convenience factor so your best bet is to purchase an adapter for a full-size propane tank which will last an entire day.

If you'd rather not lug around a 30+ pound fuel tank than you need to know just how long the standard 1-lb. cylinder will last for the grill you're using.

To figure this out, first find out the BTU rating for your grill. Divide 21,500 (1 lb. of propane contains 21,500 BTU) by that rating then multiply by 60. For example, if your grill is rated for 20,000 BTU then one cylinder will last (21,500/20,000) x 60 = 64 minutes.


Finally there is the taste factor, and this is the main reason that the charcoal grill is still so popular. You just cannot get the same smoky flavor, heavenly aroma, or flame-broiled texture with a gas grill that you can when using charcoal.

Fact: only charcoal grills are used at major barbeque competitions & cook-offs.

So don't fall victim to “grill envy”… the tailgate grill that's perfect for you will save money without sacrificing the features you need to get the job done.

Next: The best portable tailgate grills for less than $100.

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