Sure, cooking over an open fire is a romantic notion, one that resonates deep in our medulla oblongata. But the reality of open flame is much different, with flaring hot spots blackening the outside of a hot dog while the inside remains cold. Maybe salmonella from undercooked pterodactyl is the real reason Neanderthals gave way to modern man.
We're here to help you avoid such an extinction event — or at the very least keep you from biting into an undercooked venison burger — by offering up five of the best camp grills.
Camp Chef Rainier Camper's Combo
At just under two feet long, about 13 inches wide, and a flat 5¾ inches high when folded, the Rainier
is the ultimate compact, full-featured grill. The grill and stove combo is a grower not a shower, with a propane-powered 8,000 BTU grill and a 10,000 BTU burner under the hood. It comes with a griddle that serves as a non-stick stand-in for the grill come breakfast, and the burner provides a place to brew a pot of coffee.
Bottom Line: Smaller isn't always better, but the Rainier breaks that mold — a must-own.
The largest grill in our test in terms of surface area, the NXT300 can feed a whole camp full of hunters with 321 square inches of hot space, enough for more than a dozen man-sized burgers or a couple of full-length whitetail backstraps. Coleman's
entry is extremely versatile as well — one or both porcelain-coated cast-iron grill grates can be swapped out for the optional griddle or a cooking grate that will support a Dutch oven or coffee pot.
The dual burners fire instantly with a push of the button and are independently controlled to dial in anything from a bare simmer to a 20,000-BTU boil. I really like how the NXT300
folds down into a flat package that rolls out of the way when not needed. I could do without the underglow effects that make it look like something off a bad Fast & Furious remake, but I suppose a little light isn't a bad thing in camp.
Bottom Line: Easy to store and transport, this innovative grill is all business.
Green Mountain Davy Crockett Tailgater
If you haven't picked up on the pellet grill craze, you're well behind the curve. It's the hottest trend in outdoor cooking since the invention of fire — and for good reason. Pellet grills are push-button simple to use and turn out a fine finished product in the form of perfectly cooked steak, burgers, chops, ribs...you name it. The problem, until now, was you could only go as far as your extension cord would let you.
untethers you from the wall outlet with true 12-volt DC operation via the standard 23-foot cord that plugs into a truck's accessory outlet or included alligator clips that hook right to the battery. The removable stainless-steel grills provide 219 cubic inches of cooking surface, plenty of room for a few thick-cut steaks. At 57 pounds, the Davy Crockett is a little hefty, but the legs fold up to serve as carrying handles for easier transport.
Bottom Line: Great for low, slow smoking or straight grilling — our go-to selection for tent camp.
Weber Jumbo Joe
I've owned a full-size Weber Kettle
for going on 20 years, and it still works, and looks, great despite season after season of hard use. With similar porcelain-coated construction and stainless hardware as the original in a not-so-pint-sized package, you'll get the same multi-decade performance out of the portable Jumbo Joe
. It features an impressive 294 square inches of cooking surface, with enough room for smoking a deer-sized backstrap over an indirect fire.
I particularly like how the wire lock folds down to serve as a handy lid holder, eliminating that Oh Shit! moment when you need a free hand to flip burgers without having to set down your beer. If you've mastered grilling on the full-size version, beware of burning as the compact nature of the Jumbo Joe puts the grill closer to the coals than what you might be used to.
Bottom Line: This grill ain't sexy, but it's reliable and cheap. Just grease up and go with it.