The best portable barbecue 2018: mini gas grills and lightweight charcoal BBQs for taking everywhere

All the BBQs you'll ever need to cook meat on the move

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Welcome to our roundup of the best portable BBQs around (or 'barbecues' if you're French). 

Anyone with an interest in barbecues will probably not be surprised to see that we've opted for the Weber Q W1200 as our favourite portable grill. Weber is the world's number one for a reason and its grills are a very, very safe choice.

But there are plenty of other great options here and whichever you choose, they're all leagues ahead of a disposable aluminium tray that you pick up by the entrance to the supermarket.

How to buy the best portable barbecue

First of all you'll need to decide if you want to use charcoal or gas. 

This makes a difference in terms of flavour, as gas doesn't create the smoky flavours that you only get with charcoal and wood. Gas certainly has its place in terms of consistency and convenience when cooking outside, but it does also reduce the authenticity of the results. 

Secondly, you need to look out for the grill size with these portable units - as well as how much they weigh if you really are after something you can carry down to the beach. 

Equally, you don't want something you can carry, but you can't cook what needs to be cooked - especially if it means you need to do two or three batches of cooking. That's no fun.

There are different methods of cooking on a barbecue. Without a lid is known as grilling or direct cooking. 

You'll need to keep an eye on the food as it's hard and fast and there's a danger of over cooking or burning quickly. Indirect cooking under a lid is what purists call proper barbecuing - using the smoke to flavour and slow cooking process. Try using a plant spray or mister to tame any flare-ups.

Ben Tish, Chef Director of the Salt Yard Group, gives his verdict on that age old question - what's best? Charcoal or briquettes? "Lump wood charcoal is superior in flavour to briquettes due to the fact there aren't any chemicals or binders in there to mask or skew the flavours. 

"Most charcoal is from South Africa and will have been compressed so it travels better and doesn't break up in transit. I'd suggest British charcoal which is much lighter and burns better. Apple, hazel and oak all have their differing flavour qualities."

The best portable barbecues in order of preference

1. Everdure by Heston Blumenthal Cube

Best portable charcoal BBQ – so stylish

Specifications
Grill size: 10 inches
Type: Charcoal
Reasons to buy
+Elegant design+Easy enough to carry
Reasons to avoid
-Petite 10-inch grill

The Cube is the cheapest and smallest model in a sextet of Heston Blumenthal-branded charcoal and gas barbecues that screams style and sophistication

This eminently portable charcoal burner doesn’t sport any groundbreaking technological features because it is, to all intents and purposes, just a square container with a shallow charcoal tray and a steel grill on top. 

However, there are plenty of refined Heston touches here to whet the appetite, including a beautifully molded porcelain enamel interior with walls that are raised about an inch above the grill so sausages can’t roll off and a heat guard fitted to the bottom so it doesn’t scorch grass or ruin the patio table

The firmly secured lid, too, is a clever design flourish since it encompasses both a sealed plastic storage tray with room for a few cuts of meat and a bamboo food prep board. 

So what you have is a proper barbecue that is also properly portable – most of the others in this list, although excellent at cooking, are either a little flimsy, or not actually all that portable once removed from the boot of your car. 

As a result, the Everdure admittedly, only provides enough real estate for a romantic picnic for two… But what a stylish and tasty picnic it will be.

2. Weber Q 1200

Best portable grill for those who prefer gas BBQs

Specifications
Grill size: 13 inches
Type: Gas
Size: Small
Reasons to buy
+Great construction+Easy gas canisters
Reasons to avoid
-Pricey

Most professional chefs will choose charcoal over gas but sometimes gas is better, like on a campsite, the local park or perhaps the deck of your yacht.

This highly portable model uses small, easily acquired, disposable camping gas-type cartridges and features a porcelain-enamelled, cast-iron cooking grate big enough for six or more placements, a tall aluminium lid with built-in thermometer, two fold-out side tables and push-button Piezo ignition.

On-trend bonus: it comes in a range of cool colours including orange, fuschia, green, blue and purple.

3. LotusGrill

Best ultra-compact charcoal BBQ

Specifications
Grill size: 12 inches
Type: Charcoal
Size: Small
Reasons to buy
+Rapid heating+Incredibly compact
Reasons to avoid
-Messier than a gas option

Forget faffing about with hairdryers to fan the flames. This award-winning barbie uses a built-in battery-powered fan to get the whole thing up to cooking temperature in three and a half minutes flat, and with no choking smoke in the process. What's more, it'll go on grilling for up to an hour on only a small handful of charcoal.

LotusGrill works by creating a bellows effect that forces cool air over the charcoal, turning it into a raging inferno, albeit a safe one. 

Available in seven cheerful colours and is ideal for small patios, balconies, campsites, picnics and boats, its 32cm grill is good for up to four hungry gannets.

There's also an £89 Fondue Grill Accessory Kit for it, letting you rustle up delicious, 1970s, continental-style cheese-based meals. Deliceux!

4. Napoleon TravelQ 285

Best smaller garden BBQ (although not actually very portable)

Specifications
Grill size: 285 square inches
Type: Gas
Size: Medium
Reasons to buy
+Gorgeous looker+Quality build
Reasons to avoid
-Short gas hose-Too heavy to carry

This gorgeous powdered blue gas portable comes with two Piezo-operated, jet-fired burners, a clearly labelled lid-mounted thermometer, a pair of fold-out legs for table-top or camp floor use and enough cooking space on its cast iron wavey grill to handle up to 18 hamburgers.

It runs on easily-obtainable disposable screw-thread gas canisters (think Camping Gaz, Coleman, etc) though, with the addition of a longer hose, it can apparently also be adapted for large Patio Gas canisters.

Like the similarly styled Weber Q 1200, the TravelQ grills meats and fish exceptionally well and the heat is easily controlled when flare-ups occur.

This barbie’s perfect for camping trips in the car or caravan and ideal for balconies and small patios. Just don’t entertain the idea of lugging it across a field for a picnic, because it’s way too heavy for that.

5. Cobb Compact CO800

Another excellent portable charcoal option

Specifications
Grill size: 12 inches
Type: Charcoal
Size: Small
Reasons to buy
+Clever heating system+Highly portable
Reasons to avoid
-Slippery grill-Messy to transport

This is one of the most versatile charcoal-fired mini barbecues on the market and one of the most efficient. 

Invented in South Africa, the sturdy, kettle-style Compact Cobb is a small, portable cylindrical unit that can grill, fry, bake and even roast a whole chicken, albeit a small one. 

Its secret lies in a controlled ventilation system that keeps the briquettes (or Cobb's own proprietary Cobblestones) up to fiery temperature for more than three hours and without any heat being transferred to the BBQ's outer casing.

This particular model comes packaged with an overly slippery Teflon-coated griddle – whoops there goes another sausage – but there are plenty more grilling accessories available. A top buy for alfresco feasters, boaters and glampers.

6. Gentlemen's Hardware Compact Barbecue

A barbecue in a briefcase

Specifications
Grill size: 10 inches
Type: Charcoal
Size: Small
Reasons to buy
+Easy portability
Reasons to avoid
-Not one for families of 12, clearly

Going on a picnic? You need this natty barbie-in-a-case. 

Picture the scene… You arrive at the riverside looking for all the world like a businessman who's just stepped off the plane, stoop down and open your briefcase to reveal a fully functioning barbecue replete with charcoal tray and stainless steel 16x25cm grill. Only one problem: you forgot the charcoal.

But assuming you do remember to bring the fire-making essentials, this is a nifty little thing.

7. Barbecook Joya

Incredibly simple micro grill

Specifications
Grill size: 10 inches
Type: Charcoal
Size: Small
Reasons to buy
+Very portable
Reasons to avoid
-Very small

This elegant two- to four-person patio barbie grill brings steak-on-the-stone style personal alfresco cooking to the table top. 

It uses just a simple charcoal tray, a 26cm stainless steel grill and a cup of water to save the table from scorching, so you couldn't exactly call the Barbecook Joya sophisticated, but it cooks food perfectly well.

The Joya's attractive ceramic base remains cool to the touch while guests slap on their own kebabs and steak cuts using the supplied bamboo tongs. A preloaded handful of charcoal gets you started.