Which portable grill cranks up the heat?
Char-Broil Table Top Portable Propane Gas Grill, $30 This executes better than its charcoal sibling but is still occasionally problematic. After a hitchless assembly, we lit the grill from its underside, a slightly awkward process. The knob regulating heat worked smoothly but involved decoding a needlessly complex graphic. All the same, we turned out some quality grillables with little trouble.
The only real flaw is the flat grease pan under the grate. It should guide grease down and away from the flame. (The Weber Go-Anywhere Gas Grill's tented grease pan did this beautifully.) Instead, it let grease drip hazardously close to the flame, causing alarming flare-ups. Correct this obvious design flaw, and you'd have a solid player at a respectable price.
George Foreman GBroil for Two to Four, $40
Purists, scramble down from your bully pulpits: I realize electric grills are mere grilled-cheese warmers in your estimation. I included the George Foreman GBroil for one reason: Every time I mentioned this article to someone, they'd respond: "Oh, like the George Foreman grills?" Clearly this grill appears in enough buyers' selection sets to warrant a test-run.
I begrudge the GBroil's success out of stubborn romanticism: This sleek machine squeezes out all need for grilling finesse. It won't evoke the great outdoors, and you won't feel like "Wild Bill" Hickok astride his saddle. In fact, you will feel like a wimp whose urge for convenience has drained the color from your days. But food of all stripes will cook up nicely if you watch the clock, it requires zero assembly, and cleaning its nonstick surface couldn't be easier.
Convenience: 9 (The only reason the GBroil didn't score a 10 is that electricity limits where you can use it.)
Coleman RoadTrip Party Grill, $44 With its Jetsons-esque body, this grill had the boys scoffing until we fired it up. Our grillmaster liked its broilerlike grate; the thick bands of metal heated up much more than the skinny ribs of the other grills and locked in more juice. While mostly a plus, the grate also didn't fix firmly onto the grill's body and was a real pain to clean later. It also didn't create those beautiful hash marks that the skinnier grates did.
Its major problem is size: Good luck cooking for more than two finicky supermodels. At the same time, you could easily toss this tiny grill in your backpack, hike a ridge, and then grill for your honey all alone at the summit. If you and your honey are both finicky supermodels, so much the better.
Weber Go-Anywhere Gas Grill, $55 Now we're talking. After a straightforward assembly, this unit's push-button igniter didn't work, a problem readily solved with a manual lighter. After that, it was smooth grilling. We dug the thoughtful design touches: the tented grease pan, the clasp locking its legs into sturdy position, its slightly deeper cover, which allowed heat to build gradually. It also has a generous cooking surface in a still-portable size. If you dream of folding up your Viking stove and inflating it in miniature in the great outdoors, this grill's for you.
Weber Smokey Joe Gold, $30 What a beaut. The boys flocked around this like it was a Bettie Page flipbook. With rock-solid, simple construction, its roomy basin holds more glowing coals than the others', so you can continuously add fresh coals to the spent ones, minimizing the need to dump ashes. At the same time, it's easily portable, with elegantly bolted steel carrying arms. Its proportions also keep the food the right distance from the heat. Finally, the Smokey Joe's ventilation is tough to beat: Two pairs of adjustable holes in its body and four on the top come pre-assembled and work flawlessly. Standing astride the Smokey Joe in his Panama straw hat, lazily flipping a salmon steak, our grillmaster Ivan was in hog heaven. What more can you ask for than pure contentment?