The smell of steaks, burgers, or veggies sizzling on a camp grill or griddle can be intoxicating. Especially when combined with the sounds of nature, a crackling campfire, laughter, and great conversation. But before you find yourself in camp-kitchen nirvana, you have some tough decisions to make: Should you get a grill or a griddle—or both? Should you cook with propane or kick it old-school and use charcoal? Or should you just get completely primeval and cook over an open fire?
I’ll walk you through a variety of options and then share my five favorite grills and griddles from my personal arsenal. Before you know it, you’ll be cooking up delicious food under a canopy of stars with your loved ones nearby. But like so many of life’s great adventures, the journey starts by choosing the right gear.
Major Players in the Grill and Griddle Game
There are plenty of grill options by iconic brands like Weber (propane and charcoal) and Lodge (charcoal only), and increasingly popular propane griddle, grill, and combo options by reputable companies like Blackstone, Camp Chef, and Coleman. Some RV owners also swear by niche products like the Traeger Ranger Pellet Grill or Char-Griller’s Akorn Jr. Kamado Grill. You won’t see many of these at the campground, but those who have them tend to love them.
Should You Get a Grill or a Griddle?
A traditional camp grill is terrific for cooking steaks, burgers, dogs, chicken, and veggies. The taste of food cooked over flame is hard to beat, and grills are relatively easy to clean and maintain. But they fall short when it comes to making breakfast foods like scrambled eggs and pancakes. A separate—and often clunky—griddle-top is needed to make those camping staples on a grill. Portable flat-top griddles can cook up your breakfast favorites and still make dinner. In that sense, they’re more versatile than grills. But they need a good cleaning between meals if you don’t want your pancakes to taste like last night’s steak. Griddles also require more maintenance than grills—if you don’t season them regularly they rust, and restoring them can be hard work.
If you can’t decide between a griddle or a grill, then you may want to purchase one of each. Or you can buy a combo unit from brands like Camp Chef, Blackstone, or Lodge.
Features to Look for in a Camping Grill or Griddle
When shopping for a grill or griddle you can quickly narrow down your options by choosing between propane or charcoal. Propane is cheaper, easier, and cleaner to use. Propane devices turn on and heat up quickly. Charcoal requires more preparation to heat up and more time to cool down, plus it can be messier. So why does anyone use charcoal? Because they love the smoky taste and the ritual of preparing the briquettes.
Whether you choose propane or charcoal, pay close attention to the size and weight of the unit that you’re considering and make sure your RV has room to store it.
Also, pay attention to whether your potential grill or griddle comes with one or two burners. Single burner models are smaller and easier to store, but two-burner models allow for dual zone cooking so you can cook two different foods at once.
My 5 Favorite Grill and Griddle Options for Camping
Blackstone 22” Tabletop Griddle
Cooking Space: 330 square inches
The Blackstone 22” Tabletop Griddle has two burners and makes cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner a breeze. It requires regular seasoning and is a bit heavy to move around, but most campers love every inch of it. Some retailers sell this model with a hood, and some don’t. I have a slight preference for the hoodless model because it’s less bulky and easier to store. I use a basting cover to melt cheese and steam veggies.
Want something smaller? Check out the single burner Blackstone 17” griddle.
Cooking Area: 189 square inches
The Weber Q1200 is legendary among outdoor enthusiasts who love to cook. It may cost more than other portable propane grills, but it’s built to last for decades and makes delicious food in a relatively small package. The porcelain-enameled grates make those coveted grill marks and they’re also easy to remove and clean. The only downside to the Q1200 is that it relies on a single burner, so no two-zone cooking. Choose from a variety of cool colors to personalize your grilling experience.
Need more grilling space? Check out the Weber Q2200.
Weber Jumbo Joe Charcoal Grill 18”
Cooking Area: 240 square inches
If you want to cook with charcoal it’s hard to beat the Weber Jumbo Joe for its compact design, durability, and affordable price point. The plated steel cooking grates last for years and are easy to clean. The Jumbo Joe also comes with a handy lid holder. Weber’s legendary porcelain enamel doesn’t rust, ensuring years of delicious meals at the campground.
The Smokey Joe is a smaller and more affordable option by Weber. And, it’s half the price.
Char-Griller Akorn Jr. Kamado Grill 14”
Cooking Area: 153 square inches
If you want to cook ribs or wings “low and slow” at 225 degrees Fahrenheit, or bake camp pizzas at 500 degrees, this baby Kamado can handle both tasks—and it’s still small enough to be stored in most RVs. Temperature range and control is more dynamic on a Kamado grill. Plus, the Akorn Jr. is pretty darn cute if you ask me.
Lodge Cast Iron Cook-It-All
Cooking Area: 148 square inches
If you want to cook directly over a campfire, there’s no better option than Lodge’s multi-functional Cast Iron Cook-It-All. It can be used as a reversible grill or griddle, and also as a skillet, wok, Dutch oven, or pizza oven. As long as you clean and season properly after each use, this swiss army knife of camp cooking will last for generations.
More About Camping Grills and Griddles
Is a griddle healthier than a grill?
Some make the case that food cooked on a grill is healthier than food cooked on a griddle because meats can end up cooking in their grease as opposed to the grease falling in between the grates on a grill. But adjusting your technique and pushing grease into the grease trap of a griddle provides an easy remedy.
Is it cheaper to grill with propane or charcoal?
Propane prices have risen during the COVID-19 pandemic, but typically charcoal is more expensive; sometimes even twice the cost.
What types of grills can you use with your RV?
With the proper adapter, most propane grills and griddles can be plugged directly into your RV’s propane quick-connect.
If you want to up your outdoor cooking game, you’ll need a quality camping grill or griddle. Because almost every good campground meal starts with the right gear. And the right seasonings—but that’s a story for another day.
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