How to Buy Tailgate Grills

Grilling and tailgates go together like peanut butter and jelly. Learn what factors to consider when choosing one so you can be a grill master on game day.

It’s game day, and nothing stimulates the senses quite like a tailgate before the on-field festivities. The music and cheers can be heard from end-to-end in the parking lot, team colors catch your eye with every turn and, of course, the sweet smell of barbecue and burgers fills the air. In fact, nothing makes a tailgate quite like the sizzle and scent of that grill.

Before you choose just any grill, though, there are some questions that you should ask yourself. What fuel are you looking to cook with? What additional features are you looking for? What are your size restrictions? By answering these questions, you’ll be strapping on that apron and flipping patties in the parking lot in no time.

FUEL SOURCE

Just like with your backyard barbecue, there are a few fuel source options available for tailgaters from which to choose. Because of their portability and general ease of use, gas and charcoal grills make up a majority of the tailgate scene. There are pros and cons to each fuel source, though, and weighing each one is the best way to select the best grill for you.

GAS GRILLS
Gas grills can be simply set up by attaching the fuel tank and hitting the ignition button. They efficiently allow for controlled flame and heat while you’re cooking, unlike the open fires used in charcoal grills. Most gas grills also leave little mess, which can be a huge pro when it comes to cleanup. Simply shut off the gas, unscrew the bottle and wipe down the grates. Some argue, however, that gas grills don’t provide the same flavor as other fuel options.

CHARCOAL GRILLS
When it comes to charcoal grills, flavor is the driving factor. That charred, smoky taste created from this style of cooking can be a crowd pleaser among the barbecue community. To set up a charcoal grill, simply pour the briquettes into the grill and light. When it comes to cleanup, you need to allow the ashes time to cool and also need to discard them properly or transport them home.

You might also find smokers and wood pellet grills available for use, but while these cooking structures are great additions to a backyard patio or deck, they are not the best fit for tailgaters. Many smokers and wood pellet grills require electricity to operate, which is a rarity in parking lots, and the structures are too large to efficiently transport from your home to the pre-game. It is within your best interest to focus on deciding between gas or charcoal grills for your tailgating needs.

A final option available to newcomer tailgate grill masters is a camping stove and grill box combination. Camping stoves are a great way to cook up a campfire dinner with the efficiency of gas burners. These stoves can be converted into grills themselves with the addition of a grill box, which sits right on top of the burners and diffuses the gas heat over metal grates. If you already own a camping stove, grill boxes are a smart option as they come in multiple sizes and can eliminate the need of buying another cooking structure.

PRO TIP: Before making any decision on which fuel source to use, check with the stadium parking authority for rules and regulations on the types of fuel allowed on site.

SIZING

When choosing your tailgating grill, bigger does not necessarily mean better. After all, you not only have to transport this contraption from your home to your parking space, you also have to load, unload and maneuver the grill to a location that will allow for a feasible cooking experience. So it’s a good idea to take into consideration your lifting threshold as well as your available trunk, bed or cab space.

Ultimately, you should consider purchasing a tailgating grill that will fit into your vehicle and is easier to move. It should offer features that fit your needs and should be lightweight, easy to carry and easy to store.

Don’t forget to take your cooking surface area into consideration as well. While a small, portable grill might easily fit into your car, consider how many people you may be feeding. You’ll probably want something large enough to cook more than one burger at a time. Generally, a good starting point is to look for a grill that’s roughly 190 square inches or more. This should provide enough room to cook six 1/3 lb. hamburgers at once; plenty for the average tailgater.

ADDITIONAL FEATURES

Once you have your fuel source and sizing determined, it’s time to look at the additional options and accessories offered with tailgate grills. If you don’t have a truck bed or a sturdy table top to cook on, consider purchasing a grill that offers a stand or fold-up legs. Wheels are also a good option for the tailgater on the go and makes setting up the scene that much easier.

Other additional features to look for include side tables and an easy-to-read thermometer. Keeping all of your cooking essentials at the ready nearby and being able to monitor your grill heat can be added pluses when  feeding your friends and family.

With all of these details in mind, you can successfully add a tailgating grill to your festivities. This can be a great way to expand your gameday menu and amp up the fun. Pick yours up today and get to grilling.