summer

I’ve Tested Hundreds of Grills — and This Space-Saving $46 Model Is Hands-Down One of the Best

published May 24, 2024
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A woman grilling as a man looks on
Credit: Andria Lo

Summer season is upon us, which means it’s time to get our backyards, patios, and outdoor spaces ready for grilling. Summertime grilling is something everyone should enjoy, whether you have a big backyard or a small patio

For those of you who have small outdoor spaces, we’ve got you covered with plenty of options to choose from. From charcoal grills and gas grills to pellet grills and electric grills, there’s something for everyone. Find out which one is right for your summer cookout below.

Quick Overview

The Best Grills for Small Spaces

Types of Grills

  • Charcoal: Simply put, charcoal grills use charcoal as a fuel source. Charcoal grills provide that unmistakable smoky flavor and aroma to anything you grill. If you love all things barbecue, you should have (at least one!) classic charcoal grill.
  • Pellet: Pellet grills are fueled by wood pellets, using a PID electric control panel to regulate and maintain consistent grill temperatures. You can grill, smoke (like this smoked whole turkey), roast, and bake on pellet grills, making them one of the most versatile outdoor cookers you can get.
  • Gas/propane: Gas grills use liquid propane or natural gas as the fuel source (although the types of gas will vary depending on the country you live in). Gas grills are quick to light, easy to use, and convenient for everyday grilling.
  • Electric: Electric grills are perfect for apartment dwellers — especially if there are restrictions on using charcoal or gas grills. Electric grills are just as convenient and easy to use as gas grills — just make sure you have an outlet nearby!
  • Smoker: Smokers come in all shapes and fuel types, but wood, charcoal, and pellets are commonly used as the fuel source. They’re used for smoking foods low and slow (lower temperatures and slower cooking), such as ribs, pork shoulder, and brisket (but you can smoke anything, from mac and cheese to meatloaf!).
  • Griddle: Griddles are flat cooking surfaces that commonly use gas as the fuel source (but stand-alone griddles can be used over gas stovetops and campfires, while many electric griddles are for indoor use). Griddles are perfect for flat cooking, such as smash burgers, fajitas, pancakes, and bacon.
  • Japanese: Japanese konro grills — also known as yakitori, hibachi, or shichirin grills — are earthenware grills that are often narrow and rectangular in shape. They typically use binchotan charcoal, which is a Japanese hardwood charcoal that burns hot. That intense heat is perfect for yakitori and other types of skewers.

What to Consider When Buying a Grill

When buying a grill, you’ll need to consider the fuel source that works best for you (and always refer to building codes if you live in a condo or apartment). If you’re looking for something quick and convenient, gas and electric grills are a good choice. They start up easily and heat up quickly, and they help you get dinner on the table in no time. 

On the flip side, if you love the whole process of using a chimney starter, setting up the charcoal, and monitoring and maintaining grill temperatures, then a charcoal grill or smoker is the clear choice.

I’ve tested hundreds of grills in every category (and in all weather conditions!) for nearly eight years in a research and development test kitchen. I also grill year-round at home, from quick weeknight dinners to summer BBQs with friends and family. Out of all the grills I own (and I have many!), I use my compact gas grill the most throughout the year. It’s quick, easy, and convenient.

The Best Grills for Small Spaces

Here are the seven grills that I’d recommend for small spaces. Bonus: Many of the grills are also portable, which means you can take them on road trips, camping trips, and more.

Do you have a small-space grill you love? We want to hear all about it! Tell us about your favorite grills in the comments below! 

A Closer Look at the Best Grills for Small Spaces

The Best Charcoal Grill for Small Spaces

When you think of charcoal grills, Weber is the iconic brand that you’ll likely see in people’s backyards across the country (and around the world!). They’ve been making classic kettle grills since 1952, with a durable design that’s built to last. This compact charcoal grill is a smaller version of the kettle, perfect for small backyard spaces, tailgating, and road trips. There’s enough cooking space to grill your favorite summer foods (like burgers, hot dogs, sausages, and chicken wings), plus it has a small tray underneath that catches the ashes for easy cleanup, and dampers that allow you to control the temperature of the grill. When it comes to charcoal grills, Weber can’t be beat.

The Best Pellet Grill for Small Spaces

If you’re looking for a grill that can smoke, sear, and roast, then this super-versatile pellet grill is for you. It features a full temperature range from 180°F to 600°F for smoking, searing, and everything in between, such as roasting (and even baking!). You can smoke brisket, pork shoulders, and ribs low and slow, plus the SmokeBoost setting intensifies smoky flavor into anything you’re smoking (try it on salmon!). The full grate sear zone heats evenly and is hot enough for searing, browning, and crisping (without a large sheet diffuser that many competitors have, which blocks the heat). At 38” wide, it’s compact enough for small backyards, but there’s plenty of cooking space on the main grate and upper rack to cook for big parties.

The Best Propane Grill for Small Spaces

Gas grills are great for weeknight dinners when you want something quick and easy. They’re easy to light, easy to control the heat, and so convenient (especially when you’re short on time). This compact portable gas grill is 32 inches wide and only 37 pounds, making it the best choice for small spaces. The gas-spring controlled design allows you to raise and collapse the grill with one hand, with a lid that locks automatically when the grill is folded down. This grill fits easily into the trunk of most compact cars, with durable all-terrain wheels that you can take anywhere from tailgating to camping. 

The Best Electric Grill for Small Spaces

If you’re an apartment dweller with a small balcony, this compact electric grill is perfect for you. This small but mighty electric grill reaches temperatures over 600°F and has porcelain-enameled cast iron cooking grates, achieving high-quality searing for that unmistakable grilled flavor on steaks, veggies, and more. The versatility of this grill also allows you to smoke, steam, or boil with various cook settings. Add wood chips to the reservoir tray to infuse smoke flavor into salmon fillets, chicken, pork chops, and more. Its space-efficient design is easy to store anywhere, too.

The Best Smoker Grill for Small Spaces

The classic Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker that dedicated smoking enthusiasts swear by has a compact 14.5-inch wide version that’s ideal for small patios. It has extra smoking capacity and ample room for smoking multiple foods on the two cooking grates. The fuel door allows you to easily add more charcoal and wood, while the water pan helps regulate the temperature inside the smoker and adds moisture to the heat. This old-school smoker is tried-and-true for good reason.

The Best Griddle for Small Spaces

If you’re a fan of smash burgers, chicken or steak fajitas, and stir-fries, this portable griddle is a great pick. It reaches over 500°F for searing, heats evenly, and has adjustable feet that allow you to level the griddle on uneven surfaces. Griddle cooking is so versatile, too. Making breakfast on a griddle is a breeze, from fluffy pancakes and crispy bacon to fried eggs. At 17 inches wide, this griddle is also the perfect size to bring on camping trips with family or friends (it makes the best breakfast sandwiches!).

The Best Japanese Grill for Small Spaces

One of my favorite grills for entertaining is this Japanese yakitori grill. This tabletop ceramic grill is perfect for grilling yakitori, satay, or any type of skewers. I also love to grill shrimp, scallops, veggies, thinly sliced beef, and anything bite-sized. Everyone at the table grills their own food for a fun, interactive meal. Don’t forget the dipping sauces, too! Because this is a charcoal grill, I highly recommend using Thaan charcoal, which is 100% natural hardwood binchotan-style charcoal that burns hot, is low in smoke, and lasts long. A few pieces of Thaan charcoal will last a couple of hours of grilling — perfect for an outdoor party with friends.