Grilling on the Go: Tips for Portable Grilling
For me, no beach party, picnic or even a simple outdoor get-together is complete without the smell of something grilling. The aroma of smoke is what tells my brain that a good time is about to be had!
For grilling on the go, I would definitely recommend a portable gas grill (propane), for easy clean up. If you’re going to camping for days at a time, a charcoal grill may be an option, but you’ll still get a lot more “packing space” bang for your buck from propane.
What type of portable grill do you need? 3 questions to ask yourself:
1. How much space do I have?
2. How many am I cooking for?
Cooking for one or two is a snap on pretty much anything that’s going to throw heat. However, if you’re the Brady Bunch, you’re really going to need to think about how much food you’re going to be able to crank out. Look for a large portable grill with higher BTUs and bigger grilling surface. Throw a couple of teenage boys in there and…well…via con dios!
3. What am I going to be cooking?
Burger, dogs, and steaks don’t require much space, but if you’re looking to do some real bbq, like pork shoulders, or briskets, you’re going to need a lot of surface space, multiple burners, and accurately controllable temperate settings.
Other grill questions to consider:
Will you be lugging this thing down half-mile long sandy trails to the beach, or just from the car to the picnic table? If it’s going to be a trek, consider a light, compact grill.
Speaking of picnic tables… are you planning on packing a heat-resistant table or cooking on the ground, if you find yourself without a picnic table? If you need a table-free option, consider a grill with legs. And if it does have legs, are they compatible with your height?
How “expandable” is this grill? Burgers might be fine right now, but next summer you might be on a whole chicken kick… can you upgrade/incorporate a rotisserie, smoker box, side burners, additional outer shelving, clip on lighting (strongly recommended) or removable secondary grill racks?
photo: good grilling = happy campers
My number one piece of advice, above everything else…is to buy the best quality grill you can afford. Nothing can make or break a great day in the outdoors like the quality of (or lack of) dinner. Read online reviews, ask around, and if possible, borrow a similar model from a friend.
(Side note: Perry’s 11th commandment…no matter how fancy/expensive/high-tech your grill is…Thou shalt never put thy faith in an electric ignition. Pack a cheap plastic “trigger-style” butane lighter with your cooking gear at all times. In fact…pack two.)
Cooking on the go:
Here are a few tips I’ve gathered, mostly the hard way, over several decades of cooking on the go.
Photo: the author in his happy place
- Be flexible. Don’t flip out and drive the next town to get that one green onion that the recipe calls for, but you forgot. Improvise, use an alternative ingredient, or skip it. As long as you have meat and fire…chances are good that it will still be delicious.
- Bring small amounts of seasonings, condiments, and other food supplies to save packing space. Instead of bringing the huge bottle of ketchup, transfer just enough for the whole family in a smaller container.
- Use block ice in your cooler. It lasts WAY longer than cube or ice.
- Never leave food outside unattended, day or night, to prevent attracting bears, bugs, or other animals.
- Don’t forget to bring a heavy duty aluminum foil and a couple of zip bags. They don’t take up much space and have a wide variety of uses.
- Cover pots and pans during cooking so the meals will get done faster and to save fuel. This will also keep unwanted critters out of your food.
- Have fun! Yes, we all love good food…but this ain’t Chopped…it’s your vacation. Enjoy your surroundings, take a hike, take a nap…if it’s going to create stress, well…sometimes a simple burger or hotdog is just what the doctor ordered!
For many of us, outdoor cooking, especially in a camp or on-the-go, is one of the best parts of being on vacation. The thrill of putting up a menu of different sumptuous meals, of putting together ingredients, of smelling the sweet aroma of meat, seasonings and vegetables, cooking and eating outside, surrounded by the smell of the forest, or the sea, and seeing that satisfied look on your family’s faces after feasting on the dinner you’ve prepared…
Well, that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it?