Tabletop gas grill purchasing advice: How to choose the right product

  • The most important facts in brief
  • Thanks to their compact dimensions, tabletop gas grills are suitable for use on the balcony or when camping.
  • They are operated with a large gas bottle or a small gas cartridge.
  • While tabletop gas grills for private use usually have only one or two burners, models for the catering trade can have up to six.
  • The total power is divided between the individual burners.
  • With several burners and a lid, food can be grilled indirectly and baked goods such as pizza can be prepared.

Barbecuing without coal

For many, no summer can go by without a perfectly grilled steak or sausage. Barbecuing is one of the most popular activities for spending time with friends and family. However, not everyone has their own garden or terrace where there is room for a large barbecue. Sometimes there are spontaneous barbecues in a small circle. Tabletop gas grills are ideal for this.

Tabletop gas grills are basically conventional gas grills in a smaller version. They are usually equipped with one or two burners. Despite their name, tabletop gas grills are not intended for use on the kitchen table, but for outdoor use. There they find enough space even on balconies. To light the table barbecue, users connect a gas bottle or cartridge with a hose and operate the ignition mechanism, often a piezo ignition. A pressure reducer adjusts the pressure of the connected gas container to the operating pressure of the barbecue.

Unlike charcoal grills, tabletop gas grills do not require a long heat-up time and are therefore quickly ready for the first dishes. In addition, there is no unpleasant charcoal smell. On the other hand, the grilled food does not have the typical smoky flavour that is familiar from charcoal grills. Another advantage of tabletop gas grills is that they are easy to clean: There is no ash that has to be disposed of after grilling. The compact appliances are easy to transport to the place of use and can be set up to save space. They are therefore suitable for both the balcony and the next camping trip.

man prepares food on grill

In addition, many models allow indirect grilling: the food is not placed directly over the embers, but next to them, so it is cooked from the side. Even pizza can be prepared on a pizza stone. However, liquid gas also harbours dangers. Improper handling or if the gas container is damaged can lead to poisoning and, in the worst case, explosions.

Advantages

  • No long heating time
  • Easy cleaning
  • Easy to transport
  • Space-saving
  • Indirect grilling possible

Disadvantages

  • No characteristic smoky taste
  • Sometimes danger due to liquid gas

What matters when buying

The ideal tabletop gas grill heats up quickly and distributes the heat well. The most important factors are the grilling surface, the power and the burners. In addition, the location and purpose of the appliance is important.

Location and purpose

There are models that are particularly suitable for camping and those that are ideal for the balcony and garden. They are then called camping gas barbecue and balcony gas barbecue respectively. However, there are only minor differences between the types of grill: the weight, for example, is between 10 and 15 kilograms. Camping gas grills usually weigh a little less than tabletop gas grills for the balcony so that they are easier to transport.

In addition, mobile tabletop gas grills use compact cartridges, while stationary versions rely on large gas cylinders. Both types are similarly powerful and suitable for about two to four people.

There are also tabletop gas grills for the catering sector, also known as gastro grills. They are larger and more powerful than those for private households in order to provide perfectly prepared barbecue food quickly to as many guests as possible. With the gas bottle and accessories, particularly large models can reach a weight of more than 50 kilograms. In contrast to models for normal consumers, which can be round or rectangular in shape, professional tabletop gas grills are usually exclusively square.

Barbecue surface

The majority of tabletop gas grills serve about two to four people. Only models for the catering sector are suitable for larger groups. How much surface area is required per person is difficult to determine. After all, not only is everyone’s eating behaviour different, but the food being grilled differs from time to time. We recommend about 140 to 200 square centimetres of grilling space per person for meat or alternatives. If many side dishes are to be grilled at the same time as the main course, up to 500 square centimetres per person may be advisable.

If four people are grilling together according to the guideline, they need up to 2,000 square centimetres of total surface area. Only very large tabletop gas grills for private use offer more than 1,500 square centimetres of grilling surface. Typical dimensions are between 30 x 40 centimetres and 45 x 50 centimetres.

The surface is smooth or ribbed, depending on the model. On some tabletop gas grills, one area is smooth and another is grooved. The grooved indentations give the food its characteristic striped pattern.

woman prepares sausages and vegetables on the grill

Burners

While some large gas grills are even equipped with six burners, tabletop gas grills for gardening and camping usually have no more than two. Many gas grills are equipped with at least three burners, some even with six. Multiple burners have the advantage that they can be controlled separately. This allows users to divide the grilling surface into two different temperature zones. Fish or vegetables cook gently on one half, while meat grills at high temperatures on the other. Keeping warm and roasting at the same time is also no problem with different temperature zones.

Power

The power of gas grills is measured in kilowatts. The higher it is, the faster the grill heats up and the quicker the food is ready to be served. However, powerful grills also burn more gas. At maximum power, the consumption is about 80 to 100 grams of gas per hour.

Tabletop gas grills with a large grilling surface require higher wattages to grill food evenly than smaller versions. While values of less than 1,500 watts are perfectly acceptable for an 800-square-centimetre grill, they are far from sufficient for a grill surface of 1,500 square centimetres. Here, wattages of more than 3,000 are recommended.

If the tabletop gas grill is equipped with several burners, the total power is divided among them all. It is advisable to check the product descriptions to see what the wattage refers to. Conveniently, many two-burner tabletop gas grills already state how the power is distributed.

Other features and functions

A so-called piezo ignition is recommended for easy lighting: Users only have to press a button or switch. Such an igniter consists of a tensioned spring, a plunger and a piezo crystal. When the push-button is pressed, the spring relaxes and the plunger strikes the piezo crystal at high speed. This builds up the necessary voltage to ignite the grill. In some products, the piezo ignition is integrated into a rotary control. This can be used to regulate the temperature of the burners. Thanks to a thermometer on the lid, the setting is very precise.

In multi-burner tabletop gas grills, each burner has its own regulator. With these models, it is particularly practical if the grilling zones can also be removed separately. This allows users to grill on one side and place a fondue or soup pot on the other, for example.

If a tabletop gas grill with at least two burners has a lid, the range of applications expands to include indirect grilling and even baking. With indirect grilling, the burner under the food is switched off and the heat hits the food from the side. With a lid, the heat is distributed over the entire interior. This is also ideal for preparing pizza and other baked goods.

principle of indirect grilling
This is how indirect grilling works on a two-burner tabletop gas grill.

Thanks to a grease drip tray, liquids such as fat and juice do not get onto the burners. If the tray is removable, emptying and cleaning is particularly easy. Tabletop gas grills are often equipped with side shelves. These provide space for spices or food to be grilled, among other things. In many cases, they can be easily removed for storing and transporting the barbecue.

Some tabletop gas grills have a so-called aroma burner. This is a small box that is equipped with its own burner. Aroma carriers such as woods can be placed in it to give the grilled food a special flavour.

Gas supply

Tabletop gas grills get the gas they need either from a bottle or a cartridge. These are usually filled with propane, butane or a mixture of both. At an average of five to ten kilograms, the capacity of gas bottles is far greater than that of gas cartridges. The latter are usually only filled with 200 to 500 grams and only allow a burning time of a few hours. With a gas cylinder, budding barbecue masters are supplied for far longer.

Due to their size and weight, however, they are less suitable for taking along than cartridges. If you want to use the table barbecue when camping, for example, you are sometimes better off with several gas cartridges than with a gas bottle. For those who only barbecue at home, the weight of the gas containers is less important. Long-life cylinders are ideal here. Ideally, the tabletop gas grill is compatible with both cartridges and gas bottles. This makes it easy to adjust the gas supply to the place of use.

sausages and ham are prepared on the grill

Material

Tabletop gas grills are often made of stainless steel. It is not only rustproof, but also durable and easy to clean. Other materials include cast iron and cast aluminium. Cast iron is characterised by high heat conductivity and durability. Cast aluminium is above all inexpensive.

Many tabletop gas grills come with coated grilling surfaces. On the one hand, the coating ensures that the food does not burn and, on the other, it makes cleaning easier. If a cast iron grill surface is coated, it does not have to be baked in like raw cast iron before first use. Enamel or ceramic are often used. Ceramic is not only heat-resistant, but also conducts heat. However, the coating is not as durable as enamel, which forms an inseparable bond with the base material.

Accessories and scope of delivery

When buying a tabletop gas grill, it is advisable to pay close attention to the accessories supplied. Some appliances already come with a gas bottle or cartridge. A hose for connecting the appliance or a pressure reducer are also essential for using the tabletop gas grill.

Furthermore, some manufacturers add various grill inserts such as grill grates, hot plates or a pizza stone to the tabletop gas grill. A practical option are reversible plates with a smooth side for delicate foods such as fish and a ribbed side for sturdier foods.

Flame protection plates, also known as grill protection mats, serve as a base for the tabletop gas grill. They not only ensure a firm footing, but also catch splashing fat and barbecue juices. Some tabletop gas grills come with a cover. They protect the barbecue from dirt and, when used outdoors, also from uncomfortable weather conditions. Ideally, they are UV-resistant and waterproof.

Anyone who misses the smoky taste of barbecue can find a remedy with wooden smoking chips. They are first moistened and then wrapped in aluminium foil and placed on the grill surface with the food. This causes the food to absorb the aroma of the wood chips. Afterwards, the grilled food tastes almost like fresh from the charcoal grill. There are even smoking chips with different flavours, including apple wood, pecan wood or whiskey.

wood chips for grill

Safety: Handle gas cylinders and cartridges correctly.

Store gas containers in a well-ventilated and shaded place. There must be no sources of ignition in the vicinity. Cars, cellars or garages are not suitable places to store gas. This is because gas is heavier than air and therefore accumulates at the bottom of unventilated places. If a leaking gas cylinder leaks gas over a long period of time, even a small spark is enough to trigger an explosion.

It is important to inspect gas containers before transport and use: The valve must be tight, closed and covered with a protective cap. In addition, the seals must not be worn or the hoses porous. Pay particular attention to the rubber seal on the pressure regulator when connecting it. When transporting gas cylinders, road law also stipulates that the gas cylinders must be secured so well that they do not slip when braking or cornering.