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Select the Right Grill for Your RV Lifestyle.

Updated on February 28, 2020
Don Bobbitt profile image

Don has been an avid traveler and motorhome owner for most of his life. He shares his experiences along with valuable tips for RV owners.

Cooking on a Grill at your Campsite

Most RV owners, especially those with motorhomes and "fivers" will have a nice multiple-burner propane stove in their kithen areas.

And, many will even have a nice gas oven or at least a Convection Microwave oven built in to the RV cabinetry. These appliances are the heart of an RV kitchen and they are used regularly for meal preparation.

But, when they are actually camping, most RV owners tend to prefer to cook outside, on some type of Barbecue Grill, as much as possible.

Regardless of whether you're cooking a couple of steaks just for you and your spouse, a pot of Chili, or a platter full of Hamburgers and Hot Dogs for your visiting family and friends, you want to have a grill that is up to the job.

So, the process of selecting that "Perfect" grill is an important one to perform.

Tabletop Grill - the most popular design for RV owners

This Coleman Tabletop Propane Grill is one that is very popular with RV owners.
This Coleman Tabletop Propane Grill is one that is very popular with RV owners. | Source

Outdoor Living and Cooking on a Grill go together

Owning and Cooking on a Grill is an integral part of the American Lifestyle, regardless of whether you own an RV or not.

In fact, Grilling is an important social event enjoyed by people in many countries, not just in America.

The thing is, when we are camping, we usually want to be outside and enjoying the great weather as much as possible, so we will tend to want to do much more of our cooking outside and on a grill.

As an RV owner, when you have invested in an RV for traveling and vacations you will want the experience to be fantastic. And one of your main entertainments while at your camper is eating. To make the meal experience more enjoyable you will find that you must have "the right" Grill for your outdoor cooking.

The problem though, is that so many of us just drive over to the closest outdoor equipment store and select a Grill just like we did when we purchased one for the backyard of our home.

The reality is, the selection criteria for a Grill for your RV is very different than it is for one you use at your home.

Often, at home, you want the nicest, largest, fanciest Grill you can afford. You want a grill that gets hot fast, has an enormous cooking surface and that you can use to show off to your friends what a great cook you are.

The very popular fold-away Coleman Propane Grill works great for Campers.

Coleman Propane Grill | RoadTrip LXE Portable Gas Grill
Coleman Propane Grill | RoadTrip LXE Portable Gas Grill
When I had a larger motorhome, and a larger storage space I used this popular Coleman Grill. It worked great for me and my wife and I could easily fold it and put it away, ready for our next campsite.

RV Grilling is different from grilling at home

But, for the RV lifestyle, your selection criteria must be much different that what you used at home.

At home you have very few constraints on your selection other than price.

When shopping for your RV, you have a number of special constraints that if ignored can make your RV Grilling experience, if nothing else, inefficient and not a lot of fun.

So, the smart RV owner will ask themselves a number of specific questions about their Grill needs before they even go shopping for the first time.

Your Grill must FIT your RV storage space

You need to have a storage space for your new Grill where it not only fits, but where you can also easily remove it and re-store it.

How much storage space do you have

The number one selection criteria for an RV owner is; where am I going to store my new Grill.

All RV owners know that storage space is at a premium in any camper. Some RV's only have a couple of small outside storage areas while some of the larger RV's have a number of very large storage areas.

But, whichever style you might own, you need to have selected a specific space to store your new Grill where it not only fits, but you can also easily remove it and re-store it.

RV owners have two uniquely designed sides on their campers. The side with the door, awning, and other accessories is considered the Entertainment side, and the other side, with the service connections, for electric, water sewage, etcetera, is considered the Service side.

I recommend that you store your Grill on the Entertainment side of your RV.

One reason is that Grills are often heavy and even the small ones can be cumbersome to handle, so you do not want to haul it any further than you need. Also, you always want to be cooking on this side of the RV anyway.

And you need to know the exact dimensions of that storage space. Otherwise, you can end up buying a Grill that just doesn't fit.

Or, as I once did, you can end up reorganizing your whole RV's storage plan just to make a too-large Grill fit where you need it.

So, measure the space that best suits your needs and keep within those dimensions in your search for your new Grill.

Too many people select a Grill that's too big

Camping people often select an oversized Grill that allows them to cook for a larger number of people than they actually feed, the majority of the time.

Electric, Charcoal or Propane Grill?

The second most important decision in your Grill selection is what are you going to use as your heat source.

There are three main methods to heat your Grill and here are some simple explanations of the good and bad of each.

Electric Grilling

Yes, they do exist. Electric Grills are available, especially in the smaller sizes. They work pretty good, but they do draw a lot of Current and many campers do not want a Grill that they cannot use even if they are "Rough Camping", without power.

Actually, it's the rare RVer who uses an Electric Grill. In fact, in my opinion, if you want to use electric, go and buy yourself an electric frying pan, or Griddle, and use it outside.

The food will not taste any different, and at least you get to cook outside.

Charcoal Grilling

Charcoal Grilling is the old standby that everyone is familiar with. You pour a bag of charcoal into the grill, pour a little charcoal starter fuel onto the charcoal and light it with a flame.

Then you wait 20-30 minutes until the coals are at their peak of heat, spread them out and then you cook your food. Everything ends up with a unique "charred" flavor from the smoke from the coals and this form of cooking on a grill is still relatively cheap and very popular.

One drawback of charcoal cooking is that you have a nasty mess to clean up afterwards.

You must remove the unburned coals, and the black ash from the grill, clean the grill and then find a place to dispose of the mess.

The mess alone is one reason that there are not many regular campers who use charcoal grills.

Propane Grilling

Propane Grills are by far the most popular ones used by the savvy RV camper.

Propane grills are more efficient to use and there is much less cleanup involved after the cooking is done.

A propane grill heats up quickly, has more evenly distributed heat to the grilling surface and the cleanup afterwards usually just involves dumping the grease pan and wiping down the grill with a safe cleaner.

Some people actually have propane lines that attach to the propane tank on the RV. Some people carry a small re-fillable propane tank and others use the popular small throw away propane tanks available almost anywhere outdoor gear is sold.

Regardless of what you select, make the selection in your mind before you go shopping for your RV grill.

What kind of Cook are you going to be?

The RV owner does need to sit down and be honest with himself on this one question.

You need to be honest with yourself, and ask; just what do you like to cook on a grill, and who are you cooking for?

Ask yourself; Who are you cooking for?

Just who will you be cooking for 90% of the time. That's the question.

Will it be just yourself and your spouse 90% of the time with maybe another couple joining you, occasionally?

Or, will it be you, your spouse and a couple of kids?

Your answer will affect how you finally make your Grill selection.

Cooking like a Chef

Some people, even when it is cooked on a grill, want to make and eat foods that might be a little more complicated to prepare. They will want to generate flavors that are usually a little more subtle than what you get with a hamburger or Hot Dog.

For instance, some adult couples, with the occasional guest couple visiting, will often be cooking such things as steaks, chops and even casseroles, chilis, soups, or other more complex dishes that require a high level of preparation and production, often using Herbs, Spices and temperature very carefully.

This type of cooking will complicate your Grill choice, at least a little, because you will want more control of the grill while using it.

Such things as; the heat distribution and the actual temperature of the food being cooked become important to control.

Cooking like a ..... COOK?

Here I looked for the right word that implied something other than "Chef". All I could come up with was COOK. What amI calling a Cook?

Well, in my mind a Cook is simply one of us, the masses, who uses a Grill to prepare ordinary, everyday foods that everyone enjoys eating.

So yes, a Cook is what most of us are, especially when we are Camping. At home on that big, five or six burner Grill with multiple temperature gauges and ventilation control systems and more, you can be a Chef if you want to.

But when we are camping, we are treating ourselves to more basic foods almost all of the time. Why? Well first of all basic foods just taste so good, are easy to make, and honestly, it is so much easier to make a hungry camper happy with the simplest of foods.

And the Cook is the master of these types of simple basic dishes. The Cook can throw some hamburger patties, or Hot Dogs, onto a hot grill cook it quickly, and serve them up without a lot of preparation.

So, most campers will want to be a Cook when they use their grill and keep things simple.

What will you cook on our Grill?

Honestly, my wife and I, as well as many of our fellow campers have cooked so many different dishes on our Grills that I will not even attempt to name them here.

Of course, we have all cooked such things as; Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, Steaks, Roasts, Shrimp, chicken, Chili's, Soups, baked potatoes, fish filets, Crab,, grilled vegetables from tomatoes to Asparagus, and more.

Suffice it to say that the creative camper can produce very good meals that rival what you might get in many good restaurants. So, have no fear when you do come up with an idea for a dish to prepare on your Grill; just attack it with your grilling skills and enjoy the results.

You quickly find that food selection for grilling is not a problem because it all comes down to your planning and food prep skills, and not the size of the grill you use.

Necessary Grilling Accessories

There are a number of grilling accessories that I believe are necessary for any camper to product good foods, regardless of whether they cll themselves Chefs or Cooks.

Here is a short list of the most important accessories;

Grill Utensils

Get yourself a good set of grill utensils, that includes; a Spatula, a Fork and a pair of Tongs. These should all have long handles to keep your hands away from the heat of the grill.

Grill Lighter

A camper will invariably have at least two grill lighters in their camper. They are a necessary tool for the gas stove inside the camper, the grill and often to light a nice bonfire where they are allowed. A grill lighter has a long end on it so you, the cooks do not burn their hands from the heat of the grill.


The smart camper will have a simple flat griddle plate to use on the grill for frying such things as eggs, bacon, breakfast sausage, fried potato cakes, etcetera. It will fit on the top of the grill (even with the cover closed) and with it your cooking options are greatly expanded to other foods.

Dutch Oven

A nice small Dutch Oven really opens up your cooking options when it comes to making Stews, Soups, Chilis, and even some meats like roasts.

Temperature Gauge

I recommend that whatever Grill you select, it must have at least one temperature gauge, usually mounted on the top of the grill cover.

With a temperature gauge, you have the ability to control how "well done" your foods will be. Instead of guessing, when using a grill that has a gauge on it, you will be able to use the combination of time and temperature to make perfect steaks and other dishes.

Spritzer Bottle

Its simple thing, but eventually your grill is going to burst out with flames. It is an inevitable situation for most of us. When we grill, we cook foods that contain a lot of fat. That fat will often seep from the meats, drip onto the coals or heater elements and burst into flames.

I have found that having a spritzer bottle filled with water at hand will help contain, and often even stop these flames from ruining the flavor of what you are cooking.

Of course, every Chef or Cook has certain tools that they use, almost religiously, when cooking on a grill. And that's fine, but here are what I consider the most important tools for the grilling camper to have.

The Grill Selection

Now, I have given you a few thing to think about when you go out to buy your Grill for your RV.

  1. You know its maximum size.
  2. You know what your cooking style will be.
  3. You know how you will use the grill, most of the time.

Here are a couple of generic tips for you while you shop.

Wheeled or Tabletop Grill

I have owned both types and honestly, I gave the wheeled one, which was a poplar name brand, away after the first year of using it.

The process of;

  • Pulling the grill out of storage (it was a 2-man job to do this safely),
  • letting the wheel assemblies down and locking them in place,
  • then dragging it to the site you want to use for cooking was just too much. In fact, those small wheels work great on concrete or a hard surface, but on grass or sand, they were just skids.

I migrated to a tabletop grill and I have been happy with my choice ever since.

What the perfect Grill should include

Here are what my perfect grill should have;

  1. A Tabletop grill will have legs that should keep the hot bottom of the grill far enough away from the table that even if it is made of wood, the wood will not char or especially burn.
  2. A tabletop grill should have two good handles for carrying it safely to the cooking area.
  3. A tabletop grill should have a "grease pan" for collecting the grease that drips from the cooking foods.
  4. A Tabletop grill should have a good accurate temperature gauge mounted onto the top of the grills cover.
  5. A Tabletop grill should have lots of space in the top so that you can place a medium sized pot onto it and close the cover.
  6. A Tabletop grill should be stainless steel if possible. This isn't a necessity, but I like having a stainless grill.
  7. A tabletop grill should have a grill that is itself coated with ceramic. this keeps the grill from rusting away, nearly as fast as a plain steel grill will do.
  8. A tabletop grill should have a burner(s) that are made of brass. Otherwise they will rust away much faster if they are made of cheap steel.
  9. A propane tabletop grill should have standard brass propane connectors on them so you can have the option of using different kinds of propane sources; throw away tanks, re-useable tanks, or even a hose to your RV propane tank.
  10. A tabletop grill should be made by a name brand manufacturer that has ben around for a while. When you need parts, you want to get them from someone who is going to be around, otherwise you will end up tossing that off-brand grill and buying a new one.

After everything is said, in reality your choice in grills, is your choice.

OK, I have listed a lot of what I hope is useful information about being a camper and using a grill. I have detailed a lot of the restrictions as well as the plus' and minus' of certain types of grilling.

But, inevitably, you need to get the grill that fits your lifestyle, not mine.

So, go out there and get your perfect grill, and;


How to GRILL the Perfect Steak

How to GRILL the perfect Hamburger

The Art of Grilling a Hamburer

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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