Buying a Boat Grill – What You Need to Know before Purchasing One
In the market for a boat grill? Not quite sure what you need, or what features will make or break your boat grilling experience? Our handy guide is designed to help you determine which features matter most and allow you to make an informed purchase decision.
What Is a Boat Grill?
We’ll begin with perhaps the most basic consideration of all – what is a boat grill? If you looked at most of the grills we touched on in our head-to-head comparison and reviews, you probably noticed that most of them were not designed specifically for use on a boat. Rather, they’re portable grills that are designed for use when camping, with RVs, in boats, and in other nontraditional situations.
So, what makes a good boat grill, then? It really comes down to a few key considerations. It should be small enough to easily fit on your boat while still being able to offer the right amount of grilling space. It should be stable enough to use on the water, where motion is almost guaranteed. It should also be able to be used without contacting areas of the boat that cannot deal with the heat produced by a grill.
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All of the grills we’ve covered in this guide are made from metal, but they’re not all made from the same type of metal. For instance, our top rated Coleman boat grill is made from painted steel, while there are several models made from stainless steel, and even mirrored stainless steel.
Generally, you want to look for all-metal construction with an additional layer of protection for a marine environment. Painted steel grills, like the Coleman boat grill we started with, offer ample protection in this area. Stainless steel is also a good option, as it is strong enough to withstand corrosive environments.
The cooking surface offered by your boat grill is also important. You’ll notice that none of the grills we reviewed had a standard cooking surface. Most used a porcelain enameled cooking grill. That helps reduce the chance of food sticking to the surface. However, a couple of our grills included griddle plates, and at least one of them (the Blackstone model) was a griddle only. Griddles offer the ability to cook a wider range of foods without worrying about flame-ups, food falling through the grill, and the ability to retain more juices in your meats and other foods.
Grilling Surface Size and Grill Size
Grilling surface size is usually measured in square inches, except in instances where the grill is round (we’re looking at you, Magma Products). The more square inches of cooking space, the more food you can cook at one time. However, larger cooking surfaces also usually mean larger grills, so you’ll have a tradeoff between how much food you can cook and how much grill you can fit on your boat safely. Most of the boat grills we looked at offered 200 square inches or more, which is a decent amount, but some offered less than that. All provide less cooking surface than what you’ll find with a standard grill, but that’s a given considering these are compact, portable models.
Ease of Use and Portability
Speaking of portable models, that brings us to our next topic – ease of use and portability. Boat grills should inherently be portable. They’re smaller than regular grills, and they should be designed for use in nontraditional areas. When choosing a grill, make sure you check the dimensions and the weight, as both will affect your ability to transport it. Many of the models we reviewed offered folding legs, sliding or folding side tables, and other portability features that make them easier to use on boats, while camping, with an RV, and in other instances.
While you’re checking out the weight and dimensions, give some thought to how easy to use the grill is. Most of the models we reviewed offer a push-button start (piezo electric starters) so you don’t have to use matches. A couple of models even offer twist to start knobs that include the push-start function within the turning of the fuel knob. There were a few that offered more complex operation – the Magma Products grills, for instance, offer swivel features that allow you to protect against wind from any direction. However, any boat grill worth your time will be simple and easy to use, even in terms of advanced features.
BTU stands for British thermal unit, and it is a measure of heat production. The higher the BTU rating, the more heat the grill produces. Generally, higher heat production means faster cooking time and the ability to cook more food at once. The smaller the grill, the lower the BTUs will be as a general rule. However, higher BTUs often mean faster fuel consumption. You’ll find that our range of products includes grills with BTU outputs as high as 24,000 and as low as 5,500 so you can get the right fit for your usage needs and fuel budget.
The number of burners offered on a boat grill is an important consideration as it has an effect on how much food you can cook at one time and how evenly that food cooks. Our list contains grills that offer both one and two burners. As a general rule, you want to avoid grills that have just a single conventional burner but a larger cooking surface area. These are often plagued by uneven cooking temperatures, which can ruin your experience.
Our recommendation is a two-burner conventional configuration, or a single U-shaped burner configuration for grills with larger cooking surfaces. A U-shaped burner actually offers more even heat distribution across the entire cooking surface than even a two-burner setup, so you experience fewer cold spots.
If you’ll be using your grill on a boat, then wind is something you’re going to have to contend with. All of the grills we listed include at least a modicum of wind protection, but some go beyond the norm. For instance, the Magma Products grills are designed so you can swivel the base in almost any direction to prevent wind from blowing out the flame on the burner. Because wind is such an issue with cooking on a boat, some camping stoves with side-mounted wind baffles are largely unusable, which makes it that much more important to choose a quality product that does what you need it to do.
Boats are inherently unstable. They rock with the waves and move with the wind. They rise and fall with the wake of other passing vessels. If you plan to grill while you’re out on your boat, make sure that the grill you choose will be stable in these types of conditions. Most of the grills we reviewed are either tabletop models, or they offer long legs that lock in place. That may or may not be sufficient depending on the environment in which you’re boating. Our recommendation is to always have a mounting system available if necessary, whether that’s a rail mounting system or a mount designed to work with a fishing pole holder. These tie the grill to the boat itself and offer significantly more stability and safety in windy conditions, higher seas, or heavily traveled waters.
In the end, there’s a boat grill for just about anyone’s needs, whether you’re hitting the lake with your pontoon boat, traveling the Intracoastal Waterway with a houseboat, or taking your fishing boat out for a weekend on the lake. Our guide to the best boat grills will help you find the right model for your needs and your budget.