4 Portable Grills for Camp Cooking

Chill Grills | Shooting Sportsman Magazine

If you are setting up a group camp or really want to tailgate in style, these grills will up your culinary game.

There are few things I love more than a campsite brunch or a big lunch after an early-morning hunt. In the pre-dawn dark of bird camp, I’m often content with a granola bar and instant coffee; but later I’ll take bacon and tortillas with eggs and salsa or burgers piled high with cheese and mushrooms.

Having made do with smaller, traditional two-burner stoves and a skillet for years, I decided to try some more robust, all-in-one systems designed for group cooking. All of these grills are large and designed to cook for a small army. All will work using a portable, one-pound propane canister, but they function much better and run far longer with an adapter hose and bulk propane tank. To be clear: Even without the adaptor hose and 25 pounds of propane, all of these systems are big and heavy. But if you are setting up a group camp or really want to tailgate in style, these grills will up your culinary game. We tested four grills—two flat-top griddle systems and two disc cookers—on trips with six to eight people to see which could handle the heat.


CAMPCHEF VERSATOP 2X GRILL

The Campchef VersaTop Grill system comes in two models: a single-burner, 14"-wide version and the two-burner, 16" flat-top griddle (shown) that we tested. The 2X is big and heavy, but it heats evenly and predictably across the large flat surface. We really liked the flush front drain channel and 24-ounce grease cup. There is plenty of surface area for cooking burgers, sautéing onions and toasting buns all at once. The powerful burners; the design of the non-stick griddle; the even heating; and the large, flat cooking surface make the 2X far and away the best choice for steaks, burgers and pancakes. Separate controllers for the burners allow for the creation of two different heat zones. A carrying case, bulk-tank-adapter hose, grill box and pizza oven are available but not included. This is not a small grill, and it doesn’t pack down for travel, but it’s like bringing a commercial kitchen to camp.

Dimensions: 25¼" (l) x 21" (w) x 8¼" (h).
Griddle surface: 416½ square inches.
Weight: 39 pounds.
Output: Two 16,000 BTU burners for a total of 32,000 BTUs/hour.
Price: $240.


FIREDISC 36" TALL

The FireDisc is based on a classic Southwest cooking tool called a discada, which is generally a plow disk with the hole welded shut that is used over an open fire or propane grill. The FireDisc brings that idea forward by adding an integrated, two-piece collapsible stand with a propane burner. There is the 36"-tall stand (shown) that we tested and a 24" version. The cooking surface is dished, and the single burner concentrates heat in the center, with cooler areas toward the edge. The 22"-diameter carbon-steel pan holds up to 5 gallons of liquid and is a pleasure to use once you figure out the heat. The FireDisc excels when cooking things like stir-fry, pan sausage and scrambled eggs and is ideal for deep-frying. Burgers and steaks can be cooked, but the focused heat makes consistency a challenge. A cover, carrying case and bulk-tank-adaptor hose are available but not included. The stand saves camp-table space and separates into two pieces, but the unit is still large.

Dimensions: 22" (diameter) x 36" (h).
Griddle surface: 380 square inches.
Weight: 57 pounds.
Output: 15,000 BTUs/hour.
Colors: black and red.
Price: $350.


BLACKSTONE 22" TABLETOP GRIDDLE

The Blackstone Tabletop Griddle comes in two sizes: the 22" two-burner unit (shown) that we tested and a 17" single-burner version. It has a heavy-duty griddle with a raised lip and comes with a Rear Grease Management System with replaceable drip tray for easy cleanup. It has fewer BTUs than the CampChef, but the heat is even and consistent across the surface. The Tabletop Griddle excels at cooking steaks and burgers, and it produced some perfect patty melts on a cold day. Separate controllers for the burners allow for the creation of two heat zones. The Tabletop Griddle also includes a hood, which comes in handy when it rains and especially when windy conditions kick up dust. The hood also helps retain heat, which is nice when cooking thicker cuts of meat. This griddle is the most affordable in the group, and it cooks like a pro. Several different covers, carrying cases and a bulk-tank-adaptor hose are available but not included. The griddle does not pack down, so it requires commitment to travel with; but it is worth taking along for large groups.

Dimensions: 22" (l) x 26" (w) x 9" (h).
Griddle surface: 360 square inches.
Weight: 32 pounds.
Output: Two 12,000 BTU burners for a total of 24,000 BTUs/hour.
Price: $199.


RTIC KING DISC GRILL

The King Disc Grill is made by RTIC, well known for its direct-to-consumer rotomolded coolers. The King Disc is another discada design with an integrated burner and stand. As with other discada-type cookers, the King Disc has a concave cooking surface and the heat is concentrated in the center. Additionally, the disk itself has a raised edge that increases capacity to 5 gallons of liquid. This cooker works for steaks and burgers but, like the FireDisc, the different heat zones make it tricky to keep multiple items at the same temperature. The King Disc really excelled for paella, where it was helpful to have meat cooking in the middle and veggies on the edges and then add rice and liquid to cook things to perfection. A bulk-tank-adaptor hose is available but not included. The two-piece integrated stand is handy, and the design allows it to twist nearly flat while remaining connected. The stand is a bit bulkier than other designs, but the integrated pieces make it easier to move around.

Dimensions: 22" (diameter) x 36" (h).
Griddle surface: 380 square inches.
Weight: 50 pounds.
Output: 15,000 BTUs/hour.
Price: $300.


Greg McReynolds works in wildlife conservation for Trout Unlimited. He writes for a variety of magazines.


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