Grilling opens up an entirely different—and delicious—way to prepare food, but some homes don’t have the space for a full-size grill. There’s no need to worry, though, because plenty of compact grills work great on balconies and small decks. Plus, even if you do have the space, a portable grill is always nice to take along when camping, heading to the park, or setting up at a tailgate party.
Small grills come in a variety of types, so you won’t be restricted to using only charcoal or propane. The best models also come with a range of features, including ventilation for heat control, adjustable grates, covers, and even integrated smokers. So, before you settle for an electric indoor grill, take a look at this list of the top compact-size grills on the market and read on for more information to help you find the best small grill to fit your home and lifestyle.
- BEST OVERALL: Weber 51010001 Q1200 Liquid Propane Grill
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Cuisinart CGG-306 Chef’s Style Propane Tabletop Grill
- BEST CHARCOAL: Weber Jumbo Joe Charcoal Grill 18 Inch
- BEST ELECTRIC: George Foreman Indoor/Outdoor Electric Grill
- BEST PELLET: Green Mountain Davy Crockett Electric Grill
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Small Grill
When shopping for a small grill to add to the patio, the deck, or an apartment balcony, consider several important factors. Determine the best type of grill and fuel source for the situation, but also consider the size of the grill, the cooking surface, and a few key features mentioned below.
Size stands out as a key consideration when choosing a small grill, since space limitations or portability demand that the grill is small enough to fit, say, on a patio or in a vehicle. Check length, depth, and height measurements before selecting a grill, and determine whether the grill legs fold or if they remain in a fixed position.
As the size of the grill decreases, so do available cooking space and fuel capacity (except for gas grills). So, balance the amount of food typically prepared with the space on the patio or balcony to choose a small grill that’s the right size for the family or cooking on the go.
Grills come in a variety of types; a smaller size doesn’t decrease the range of grill types. In fact, it’s common to find kamado, kettle, flat-top, and smoker grill combos in compact sizes appropriate for a small patio or deck.
- Kamado grills, also called ceramic grills or egg-shaped cookers, take longer to heat up than other types. However, they also hold and radiate the heat longer than standard grills. The narrow shape helps reduce airflow around the food so that steaks stay moist while grilling.
- Kettle grills have a rounded shape and commonly cook via charcoal. The grill is essentially a steel cooking chamber that sits on a wire base. The bottom holds a charcoal grate and cooking grates. Cooks control the temperature through dampers in the bottom of the grill and in the top of the removable lid to adjust the airflow through the grill and, therefore, the cooking temperature.
- Hibachi or flat-top grills feature grill grates suspended over a rectangular metal base that holds charcoal. Some flat-top models have one or more burners in the base, replacing the charcoal with propane for fuel. They typically do not come with lids, so the cook can access the food from any side of the grill.
- Smoker/grill combos can grill food at high temperatures in a short time or smoke food over low heat for hours for a nice, tender result. Combining a smoker and grill into one device helps save space on a cramped patio or deck.
Small grills get their heat from different fuel sources, including charcoal, propane, pellets, and electricity. Larger grills also can use natural gas, but it isn’t common with small grills due to the expense involved in running a natural gas line.
- Charcoal is a classic fuel appreciated by grill enthusiasts across the country. The popularity stems from its ability to burn at a high temperature, grilling food quickly and imparting it with a smoky flavor that propane cannot provide.
- Propane is another common fuel for small grills. This type of grill generally relies on a small 1-pound tank of propane gas. However, some might prefer to connect a home grill to a larger 20-pound propane tank so they can refill when necessary, instead of investing in multiple small tanks.
- Pellets burn to produce convection heat and to flavor the food on the grill. They provide an excellent fuel source, but pellet grills can cost more than other types. The automatic temperature control and pellet-feed system common to this style of grill add to its cost.
- Electricity is the only acceptable fuel source for indoor grills, so it’s not surprising that many small tabletop and outdoor grills plug in. Users will want to check whether the grill has a smokeless design before trying it indoors. Electric grills are lightweight to transport and suitable for apartment balconies because they don’t use potentially hazardous fuel sources like propane or charcoal.
Small grills come in a variety of materials, including stainless steel, powder-coated steel, and ceramics.
- Stainless steel is a high-durability material and usually the best option for the exterior of a grill. It resists water, UV radiation, and impact damage, despite its light weight and easy maneuverability.
- Powder-coated steel holds up as well as stainless steel and resists water damage, corrosion, and rusting even better than stainless. However, when powder-coated steel chips, it peels quickly and exposes the vulnerable metal underneath, so users must properly clean and maintain the grill to make it last.
- Ceramics are the best option for high-humidity, rain-prone locations, since these grills do not rust. Ceramic grills heat up slowly and cool down gradually, an ideal process for long, slow cooks. However, ceramic is fragile and can chip easily, so these grills need to be handled with care.
The cooking surface of a small grill ranks high among considerations when choosing a specific product. Too small, and the cook will still be stuck grilling while everyone else takes turns eating. Think about the number of people in the home—or when entertaining—and the amount of food each person typically eats. Account for the average amount of food per meal.
Cooking surfaces can range in size from small portable models with only 100 square inches of cooking space to large smoker or pellet grills measuring up to 300 square inches. Those who need a cooking surface larger than 300 square inches might be better off looking for a full-size grill, which can accommodate a cooking surface exceeding 1,000 square inches.
Heat Output and Control
The heat output of a small grill depends primarily on the type of fuel it uses.
- Charcoal grills require the user to control the temperature through dampers located in the base and lid of the grill. As the airflow adjusts, the temperature increases or decreases as needed.
- Propane grills have dials that control the flow of propane. The number of burners also influences the temperature of a propane grill.
- Pellet grills have an automatic feed system to move the wood pellets from the hopper to the firepot, where they burn at a controlled rate to maintain the set temperature.
- Electric grills operate much like a stove. Turn the dial and the heat increases to the selected temperature. These grills also can include one or more burners to help disperse the heat across the entire grill.
Small grills are built for portability, with an average weight of less than 50 pounds. However, some small ceramic grills weigh up to 100 pounds due to their hefty material. For those using a small grill primarily at home, ensuring that the size fits the patio or deck ranks as the main concern. Still, a set of handles always helps when having to pick up or move the grill.
Small grills intended for frequent camping or tailgate parties should be lightweight and easy to carry. These products might have foldable or removable legs for easier loading of the grill into the back of a car or truck. Those who like to grill while on the road should look for a small grill with a lid lock to prevent shifting while driving.
Small grills can come with a variety of features, including built-in thermometers, warming racks, griddle plates, and side tables.
- Built-in thermometers typically sit in the lid or on the front of the grill. They help cooks keep an eye on the temperature inside the grill so that that food doesn’t burn.
- Warming racks aren’t common with small grills, but some products have an extra surface for keeping grilled food warm until serving or to prepare lighter foods, like toasted buns.
- Griddle plates replace standard grates in some small grills. The flat griddle surface makes it easier to prepare several favorite breakfast foods like hash browns, eggs, bacon, and sausages.
- Side tables come with some small grills to offer the user a place for plates, grill tools, and other items. They typically fold up or down to help keep the size of the grill small enough for easy carrying and transportation in a vehicle.
Our Top Picks
The following list contains top small grills in terms of quality, features, and versatility. The important shopping tips and considerations noted above will help determine which of these products is the best small grill for each cook’s particular needs.
This compact Weber 51010001 propane gas grill weighs just 29 pounds and has a sleek design for portability. The cooking portion attaches to a broad, shallow grill stand made of heat- and water-resistant glass-reinforced nylon. The grill features two side tables that can fold down to reveal built-in carrying handles. With its compact design, this grill can go along to the park, a campsite, or a tailgate party, saving the trouble of packing up a full-size grill.
The small Weber grill has a single stainless steel burner with an elongated shape for evenly distributed heat across the entire 189-square-inch grilling surface. The grill measures only 20.5 by 40.9 by 24.6 inches and comes in six color options, including black, orange, blue, red, green, and titanium, so users can choose the ideal grill color to suit their tastes.
The small Cuisinart CGG-306 propane tabletop grill is made of water-resistant stainless steel and features a two-burner system controlled by simple dials on the front. The dials work much like those common to full-size gas grills. It has a large, nearly 277-square-inch grilling surface that suits preparing a meal for the entire family—a claim not all small grills can make. Despite its many features, this tabletop grill that measures 21.5 by 19 by 15 inches has an affordable price point.
The Cuisinart small grill uses a built-in hose to connect to standard 20-pound or 1-pound liquid propane tanks for fuel. It weighs just 22 pounds and has foldable legs for a compact and portable profile when loading into a vehicle. The top secures to the base with four separate latches, so the lid handle can double as a carrying handle; this is much easier than someone trying to wrap their arms around it while walking.
The small Weber Jumbo Joe kettle grill uses charcoal for fuel to moderate the temperature by manipulating a bottom vent that draws in oxygen and a top vent in the lid that releases heat and smoke. The small grill has a 255-square-inch round cooking surface that features a stainless steel grate with two side handles for easy lifting up, giving the user access to the charcoal below.
This small grill measures 19.75 by 20.5 by 19.75 inches and has a stainless steel wire attached to the base that can flip up to secure the lid in place packing up or transporting. The wire also can hold the lid while the cook checks the food, eliminating the need to find a place to set the hot lid.
This George Foreman small grill has a single circular cooking surface with 240 square inches of space to make food for an entire family. It operates on electricity and connects through a standard power outlet. Cooks control the heat with a simple dial that indicates broad settings ranging from 1 to 5, though the manufacturer does not list a specific temperature for each setting.
Measuring 22.2 by 20.5 by 13 inches, this small grill comes with a pedestal stand and base for setting up outside in a standing position. It also comes apart, and the top can sit on a tabletop indoors or outdoors. The George Foreman grill weighs 21 pounds and disassembles easily for maneuverability.
The small Green Mountain Grills’ Davy Crockett smoker/grill combo runs on wood pellets loaded into the side hopper. It comes with a digital Wi-Fi controller, so users can monitor and adjust the grill’s temperature through the company’s app. The small grill has a temperature range of 150 to 550 degrees Fahrenheit and a 219-square-inch cooking surface. Two stainless steel legs support the 58-pound weight of the grill and fold during transport to a tailgate party, camping trip, or other adventure.
This grill measures 29.92 by 14.96 by 21.65 inches. The Davy Crockett features both a 110-volt and 12-volt connection for powering at home, through a portable generator, or with a car’s 12-volt outlet. A handy meat probe, stainless steel wire side table, and five hooks for hanging grill tools are useful extras for keeping necessities close at hand.
FAQs About Small Grills
Peruse the answers below to some common questions for more information on how to use a small grill as well as grill-cleaning frequency and maintenance tips to help produce great-tasting food on a grill.
Q. What type of gas should I use for my small grill?
Propane is the most commonly used fuel for small gas grills. Very few small gas grills operate on natural gas.
Q. How often should I clean grill grates?
Clean grates with a grill brush before and after every use. In addition, scrub them with grill cleaner at least once per month, or more often if the grill is used several times each week.
Q. How do I clean my small grill?
Clean a small grill with a grill brush before and after every meal. For monthly deep cleaning, use a grill cleaner and a soft cloth to remove stuck-on food and grease from the unit’s interior and exterior.
Q. How long will my small grill last?
Small grills will typically last 5 to 10 years, depending on whether they are properly maintained, cleaned, and stored when not in use.