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We modern humans have found tons of ways to incorporate food into our social lives. We grill for guests on the backyard deck, drop serious money on outdoor kitchens and lately we’ve taken to adding grills to our boats. And why not? What better way to enhance a leisurely boating experience than firing up the boat grill? We get to take a break from navigating and soak in the splendor of our surroundings while sharing a meal with the people we care about. It doesn’t get any better than that. In this review guide we’re going to look at our favorite nautical grills and spend some time examining what goes into making something the best boat grill for your purposes. Let’s get started.
Magma makes a lot of portable grills that are popular with boat owners. Primary among them is the A10 Marine Kettle Stainless Steel Gas Grill. We’re high on this grill too for a lot of reasons. First of all it may be the easiest gas grill when it comes to setup. It slips easily and firmly into any standard rod holder and stays put through thick and thin.
The Marine Kettle evokes the classic backyard grill with its circular design, bulbous lid and generous cooking surface. Once you’ve anchored and are ready to eat, it gets hot in a hurry and will tackle the thickest steak in no time thanks to that lid, which swivels into place with a mild tug on the heat resistant handle. It’s also perhaps the best boat grill out there when it comes to wind resistance. With the lid acting as an effective windscreen when the gales are blowing.
A nice piece of icing on this particular cake is the radiant heat plate that distributes heat judiciously. This makes for more even cooking and increases fuel efficiency. Of course, if you don’t have a boat grill rod holder on your boat you’ll need to improvise. But there are plenty of kits out there that will work with it. And none of them are going to break the bank.
The CGG-180T Tabletop Grill from Cuisinart is a great looking portable grill that’s big and powerful and built to stand the test of time. The legs come down at an angle and feature large rubberized feet that hold firmly to any surface. If you want to cook onboard it can be adapted to hug the rail as well. Allowing you to elevate your entertainment game.
The 145 square inches of cooking surface is large enough to accommodate a half dozen good size steaks or a dozen sausages and a dozen chicken wings simultaneously. The surface itself is crafted from porcelain, which distributes the heat evenly from side to side, front to back. There’s also a nice, firm lid lock to keep the lid from blowing back with a wind gust.
The CGG-180T kicks out 5,500 BTU and heats up in a jiffy. Because of that porcelain/ceramic cooking surface, it doesn’t need to burn as much propane as some other grills. And it’s the perfect grill for those boat lovers who also spend time traveling the country in their RV. The downside is that you may have to search a bit to find the right adapter kit.
Very stable design with rubberized feet
Can be adapted to mount on handrail
5,500 BTUs of cooking power
Briefcase style carrying handle for easy transport
Heats up fast, cooks evenly
Large 145 square inch cooking surface
Adapting it to a handrail will take some work
The shallow lid means you’ll have to keep it open a lot
3. Kuuma Stow and Go 58130 Propane Mountable Grill
The Kuuma Stow and Go Propane Mountable Grill is what the best boat grill should be. It’s large, lightweight, rust resistant, effective and slips into any standard rod holder to setup and take down in seconds. The shell is fashioned from 100% high polish stainless steel that cleans up quick and allows it to dovetail with the design of any contemporary houseboat, pontoon boat or fishing boat.
There is no assembly required with the Stow and Go. It’s ready to be fired up right out of the box. If you don’t have any rod holders on your boat, not to worry. As the Stow and Go will also easily adapt to any Kuuma rail mounting bracket. The Stow and Go is great for large groups. You’ll get 8 burgers on this puppy at one time, or a dozen sausages and a dozen chicken wings. The Stow and Go also performs better than most of the competition in windy weather. A big plus when you’re eating on the open water.
Downsides? Not many. The lid gets pretty hot, so you’ll want to keep the kids clear of it while cooking and while it’s cooling down afterwards. And the design isn’t anything to write home about. When closed it looks more than a little like a box for tools. But that aside, it’s an outstanding grill. So load up the marine cooler and get ready to party.
You’ll notice more than one Magma grill on our list of the best boat grill options. And that’s because they’re the Ferrari of boat grills. Few other companies invest so much time and energy producing grills that have both on land and onboard applications. Their Catalina 2 is another superb Magma gas grill that receives great reviews and will serve you well whether hanging over the side of your pontoon boat or on a picnic table at your favorite island park.
The Catalina 2 is fashioned from marine grade stainless steel that’s highly corrosion resistant and gives the grill a high-end look that’s hard to beat. Inside there’s a cooking level, a warming level and a food prep tray you can hook onto the front. That’s one of those touches you won’t find on lesser grills. The grease tray is effective, easy to remove and relatively easy to clean. And the durable stainless steel legs fold away for easy storage.
Typically you pay extra for quality and that’s the case here. So we’re not going to quibble about that. Our one complaint applies to all Magma marine grills: it doesn’t provide its own mounting bracket system. It doesn’t seem like it would be such a stretch to do so. Especially since the company produces them. Why they don’t just include them is a bit of a mystery. Thankfully, they’re not hard to find.
Corrosion resistant solid stainless steel construction
12 x 18 inch main grilling area, 5 x 18 inch mezzanine warming shelf
Provides outstanding control over cooking temp
Excellent portability with integrated fold-away stainless steel legs
Extreme Marine does yeoman’s work producing simple and effective adapter kits for your boat grill. Here, they partner one of their most robust removable brackets with the outstanding Cuisinart Anywhere Grill. The result is a winning combination that’s going to serve you well on land, on sea and in… okay, not in the air. But definitely on land or sea.
Attach the grill before putting it over the side. After that, all it takes is a few twists of the black knobs on the bracket and your grill is firmly in place and the party can begin. Just be aware that the bracket/grill assembly can be pretty heavy. So make sure you have some help when installing and removing it. And you should remove it after every use.
As for the grill itself; the Anywhere Grill is one of Cuisinart’s most celebrated compact outdoor grills. It features a heat resistant handle, a lock down top, full temperature control and 5,500 BTUs of cooking power. The cooking surface is large enough to accommodate 8 burgers or 10 chicken breasts at once. And the porcelain grate does an amazing job distributing heat for a more satisfying finished product.
Dependable Cuisinart quality
Installs in minutes to the side of your pontoon boat
Attaches firmly with no screws needed
Grill holds up to 8 burgers or steaks
5,500 BTUs of cooking power
Porcelain enamel grate for even temperature distribution
Lid lock keeps the grill firmly closed when not in use
Not the easiest setup to install by yourself
Customer support isn’t always what we’d like it to be
The Connoisseur Portable Gas Grill is another handsome, well-built boat grill from Magma. It can be used onboard or on land when you arrive at your island paradise for an afternoon of relaxation with friends and family. It features the company’s signature polished stainless steel housing, stowaway legs and locking lid. The cooking surface is large with no wasted space and the grease tray is perfectly positioned to catch runoff.
If you’re cooking for more than two you should give serious consideration to this grill. The 108 square inch surface will accommodate all types of burgers and other meat with ease. And cleanup is surprisingly easy. For owners of larger boats with more involved utility infrastructures, the grill can be adapted to your onboard propane line or integrated natural gas system with little muss or fuss.
Characteristically, Magma doesn’t provide any mounting software themselves. But it will adapt easily to most commercially available single boat grill mount systems. Beyond that the only drawback we see is that the lid can get pretty hot. So keep the kiddies at a distance while you’re cooking. All in all an excellent boat grill that will lively up your nautical adventures.
A handsome grill open or closed
Sets up in minutes
Very large cooking surface
Fully adjustable flame
Surprisingly easy to clean
Doesn’t burn through a ton of gas
No grill mounts included
The lid can get very hot, the handle too
The lid sometimes comes loose
7. Masterbuilt 205 Smoke Hollow Stainless Steel Gas Grill
While we love the high-end look of the Magma boat grill, there is something to be said for the more laid back, timeless appeal of the Smoke Hollow from Masterbuilt. The gentle arc of the lid, the non-reflective matt finish, and the old school analog temperature gauge all work to create a very satisfying visual experience.
With a 205 square inch cooking surface, this is a grill after the collective hearts of families everywhere. And with 10,000 BTUs of power, no corner of that large cooking surface is going to waste. Just remember that with all that power it’s bound to burn through your propane pretty quick when it’s cranked up. So plan to bring plenty of 16 oz canisters along with you.
Hooking this puppy up to your boat is not going to be as easy as it is with some other grills. First, because of the size and second, because Masterbuilt (like Magma) doesn’t provide any of their own mounting brackets. It can be done. But you’ll need to research various adapter kits or maybe make your own, depending on your boat. All in all, if you’re looking for some serious pontoon boat fun, the Masterbuilt Smoke Hollow won’t let you down.
The Char-Broil Grill2Go X200 stands apart from the crowded grill field for a couple of reasons. First, it features infrared cooking. And we’ll get to that in a moment. Second, it’s extremely easy to transport with its sturdy, heat resistant handles. And third, because it’s one of the most affordable high-performance portable grills on the market. Now, about that infrared cooking.
Infrared or IR cooking sounds like something from the future, like quantum computing. But it’s actually based firmly in that age old idea that evenly distributed heat makes for a better overall cooking experience. The IR technology in this case is a layer of metal and/or ceramic that’s interposed between the heat source and the cooking surface. This metal layer absorbs heat from the flame and distributes it evenly to a grid at the top of the layer. In the process it raises the temperature of the grill significantly.
The end result is that every bit of the grilling surface receives the same amount of heat and your steak doesn’t take a long time to cook. If the Grill2Go X200 has a weakness, it’s the fact that it’s not easily adapted to your boat. The legs are fixed which means standard adapter kits aren’t going to work. So you’ll need to come up with something yourself if you want to use it to grill on your boat.
Easy to carry and very convenient
One of the more energy efficient propane grills
Firebox fashioned from tough cast aluminum
Utilizes infrared heating elements
Distributes heat evenly across the cooking surface
This variation on the Kuuma Stow and Go has plenty going for it in its own right. It features everything we love about the 58130, but is built specifically to adapt to the rail of your pontoon, fishing or large recreational power boat. It’s crafted from marine grade stainless steel, features a large cooking surface and warming rack, has a stay cool handle and a removable liner to speed cleanup.
There are 4 tough, retractable stainless steel legs that let you set it up on shore. Those legs disappear effectively when you sling it over the rail for some high seas barbecue. The integrated thermometer lets you keep track of the temp for a better finished product. The igniter is dependable and the grill highly wind resistant. And the lid has a secure latch to prevent it blowing up in a gust.
This is a great choice if you’re cooking for larger groups. The 316 square inch cooking surface makes sure of that. Sure, it’s going to consume more propane than some smaller grills. But between the flow control and thermometer, it’s easy to make sure you’re not using more fuel than you need to. It’s not cheap, but it’s a great BBQ grill for a pontoon boat.
Designed specifically for marine applications
Biggest cooking surface of the grills we reviewed
Great for family size get togethers
The stay cool handle is a nice change
Attaches easily to the nearest handrail
Precise temperature control
Corrosion resistant stainless steel construction
Too big for some smaller boats
Takes a while to clean up
10. Magma Cabo Adventurer Electric Stainless Steel Boat Grill
Magma is one of the most recognized names in grills and their Cabo Adventurer electric grill is a good example of why. It features a high-polish stainless steel body that’s highly corrosion resistant and a lightweight design that makes it easy to transport. You can set it up on table or by way of a kit that will allow you to fix it to the railing.
The Adventurer is designed specifically for the marine environment. But although it features stout, dependable legs Magma stresses you should keep those legs folded up when using this on a boat to ensure greater stability. The lid locks in the open position. So it won’t slam shut on you if a gust of wind hits. And the handle is fashioned from heat resistant plastic to prevent accidental burns.
The metal at work here is marine grade 304 stainless. A step up from the 400 grade they use on some of their backyard bbq grills. And the mirror finish makes it a stylish pontoon boat or boat house grill. Also, the lack of an open flame enhances safety and improves the quality of your grill items. If there’s a downside here it’s that you’ll need a viable outlet on your boat for this to work.
Heat resistant handles prevent nasty surprises
Polished stainless steel finish is beautiful and corrosion resistant
Heats up quickly and provides even heat distribution
No open flames or embers to worry about
Variable temperature control for gourmet cooking
Big enough to cook for the whole family
You’ll need to have viable power outlet on your boat
Not as stable as a fixed grill
How to Choose the Right Grill
You have a boat. You buy a grill. Everybody’s happy. Right? Well, not exactly. Getting the right grill for your boat is not as simple as enie-meenie-minie-mo. There are actually a number of things you will need to consider to ensure the grill you get is A) dependable B) not a fire hazard and C) able to handle your grilling needs. So if you want to transform your boat into a floating BBQ, keep the following things in mind:
Your type of boat – A boat house is the ideal platform for a boat gas grill. But who has a boat house? In lieu of a boat house the pontoon boat is by far the best for installing a boat grill. They’re wide and stable with lots of open space. And they make great platforms for relaxation and entertainment. If you have one, a gas grill for a pontoon boat comes close to being a must-have item. The next best platform for a boat grill would be a decent size fishing boat. Say, 30 feet or so to leave ample room to grill without endangering the boat or its occupants. Speed boats and sail boats likely aren’t going to cut it. Even for the best boat grill.
Where you intend to install it – Some grills are easy to install on railings. Some are better being screwed down onto countertops. And still others are more or less permanently affixed to the floor. Where do you envision putting the grill? If you want one you can affix to a flat surface, you’ll need to be sure you have the right surface with plenty of ventilation. If you want to affix it to a railing, you may need to purchase an adapter kit. As few grills come with their own mounts.
Fuel efficiency – The unfortunate truth is that some grills are fuel hogs. The good news though is that there are plenty of others that are less demanding on the propane. If you intend to grill a substantial distance from shore, it might be better if you get the most fuel efficient model you can find. That way you don’t have to be transporting big propane tanks with you everywhere you go.
Wind resistance – Some models of boat propane grill will laugh in the face of the wind. Other grills will flame out when someone sneezes. You need to consider how well the boat grill stands up to the wind. Because there are no trees, houses or walls to block the wind on a boat. So think about where you’ll typically be setting up to grill and make sure you get a boat grill that can handle the typical wind load in that place.
Some Other Factors to Consider for Your Boat Grill
Materials – This type of grill is a prime candidates for corrosion. So you’ll want to be sure your boat BBQ grill is up to the challenge. Stainless steel is an ideal choice for this kind of grill, but it is typically the most expensive too. Aluminum gets kind of a bad rap. Or at least it’s perceived as being a lesser metal. But there are aluminum alloys that are every bit as corrosion resistant as stainless steel. Aluminum also means fewer pounds so the grill will be easier to attach/detach and to transport to and from the boat.
Build quality – Materials and build quality of a boat barbeque grill go hand in hand. The grill should seal up tight when the top is closed. If the lid is hinged those hinges should be made of corrosion resistant material and work smooth and effortlessly. The gas valve connection should be rock-solid and reliable with no leakage and no chance the hose is going to pop off. If the grill features a double stainless steel lined housing that’s even better, as it prevents the outside shell from getting too hot.
Infrared grills – You may have heard about infrared (IR) grills and wondered what they are. In reality it’s just a regular gas grill that has a special metal layer installed between the gas flame and the grill surface. This layer accepts the heat from the burner and distributes it evenly across the metal. So instead of heat being concentrated right above the flame, it’s spread out evenly across the entire grill surface. IR setups also get way hotter than standard gas grills. So less propane is needed and things cook faster. A lot of people are taking a serious look at IR grills because they cook fast, cook evenly and provide a protective layer between the flame and the grill.
Price – The portable grill for a boat is available in myriad styles that range in price from the very affordable to the downright expensive and everything in between. How much you spend will be up to you. But before you drop top dollar on a grill make sure the materials and build quality warrant the expense. And speaking of warrant; the longer the manufacturer’s warranty the better.
Type of Fuel
There are three fuel choices when it comes to this type of grill and each has their advantages and disadvantages. They are:
Propane – Propane is without a doubt the #1 choice of boat owners for a number of good reasons. Propane is readily available and quite affordable. It’s available in both large and small bottles. With the small bottles being a major convenience that are very easy to store. Propane powered grills are also available in a multitude of styles, sizes and prices; ranging from a couple of hundred dollars to a couple of thousand.
Charcoal – Still a fairly popular choice for houseboat owners, charcoal grills have otherwise fallen out of favor for the most part. While BBQ lovers savor the taste of charcoal-broiled food, a boat charcoal grill is slow to warm up and can be downright dangerous. They also require an accelerant, which opens the door to another dimension of potential problems. Still, charcoal grills have their fans. And there are a number of styles available that either clamp onto a handrail or can be dropped right into a rod holder.
Electric – Electric grills heat quickly and don’t produce embers or open flames. The problem is, in order to make them work, you’ll need access to a power source. So they’re not for small boats or camping. For this reason you’ll usually only find electric grills on large yachts with full kitchens. These boats are wired to accommodate electric stoves, microwaves and a host of other electrical devices. Most average family-size pontoon boats are not.
Maintaining Your Grill
It’s all very well and good to have a grill. But even the best boat grills needs to be properly maintained or it will fall victim to the elements. Not to mention it will also become a health hazard. So keeping the grill in tip-top shape is vital. Fortunately, it’s not rocket science. The following tips will help you maintain your boat grill.
Cleaning the exterior – The exterior of the grill should be cleaned after every use. This is especially important if your boat spends most or all of its time on salt water. Salt is incredibly corrosive and even stainless steel will suffer from prolonged exposure. So clean the grill’s exterior thoroughly after every use. If you have a protective cover for the grill be sure to use it. And if you don’t, make sure to wipe down the grill every time you use the boat, even if you didn’t cook.
Cleaning the interior – If the grill is fixed to the boat and grease and other food debris is allowed to accumulate inside the grill, it’s going to create an unsanitary situation. And since the boat is outside all the time, it’s likely to attract bugs and other pests. Clean the interior after every use and be sure to empty the removable grease tray and clean it too. Clean the grates with a wire brush to remove the bulk of material and soapy water to get the greasy film that remains.
Cleaning the rail – Often time the boat barbeque grill will be attached to a rail along the outside edge of the boat. This keeps it out of the way and reduces the risk of fire. At the same time though grease often spatters up from the grill and lands on the rail and surrounding area. Make sure when you’re cleaning up afterward that you clean the rail thoroughly, lest your boat wind up attracting unwelcome visitors.
Grilling on a boat might seem little different than grilling on the patio. But the confined space of the boat, the proximity of the grill to potential hazards (like fuel) and the potential for catastrophe should something go wrong make it an entirely different animal. As such, there are certain rules you should adhere to in order to ensure your on board grilling experience is a safe and enjoyable one. These include:
Extinguish the grill as soon as you are finished cooking.
Never engage the grill in any fashion, for any reason while underway.
If you have a charcoal grill never use gasoline, grain alcohol or any other non-approved accelerant to get it started.
During the time the grill is engaged never leave it unattended for any reason.
Never use the grill in a way it was not intended to be used.
Always check marina rules before engaging your boat grill while docked. Most marinas prohibit any type of open flame on the premises.
If you have a charcoal grill make sure it is mounted in such a way that no embers can land on the boat deck, furniture or people.
If it is a detachable grill, make sure it has cooled completely before attempting to remove it. And make sure to remove it before trailering the boat.
Always take care to ensure the propane hose is connected properly and that there is no indication of any leaks.
If you are unsure whether the propane tank connection is leaking put some soapy water on the connection. If you see bubbles over the joint then it’s leaking.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it Legal to Grill on a Boat?
Yes. But you will need to follow the safety precautions that we outlined above. The most important thing is that the grill is properly secured in an out-of-the-way place. If the Coast Guard meanders by and sees you using a gas grill that’s sitting on table unsecured, they’re going to have a few words to say to you.
Another thing you must be mindful of is what you are grilling on your boat grill. Steaks, burgers, sausages and the like are typically fine. But things get more complicated when you plan on cooking what you catch. The state where you are fishing may have rules in place that prohibit the cooking of certain species of fish that you catch from your boat. So make sure you’re up on the current rules where you’re boating.
Do Boats Come With Grills?
Grills are not typical boat accessories. First of all, any kind of cooking is a non-starter on small sailboats and motor boats. And secondly, a lot of boat owners don’t want the added hassle that comes with food prep and service while they’re out trying to enjoy the water. So it’s left up to the buyer to determine if they want to add a boat grill after the fact.
Boat houses and larger yachts will have fancy lighting and kitchen facilities built into them. But if there is a stove or grill present, it is almost always electric. And you probably won’t find many people who own multi-million dollar yachts wanting to hang a boat grill off the railing.
Can I Add a Grill to My Boat?
You can add a grill to any house boat and almost any pontoon boat, large fishing boat, shrimp boat or – if you are so inclined – yacht. But there are a few things to consider.
First, the boat needs to be big enough to safely accommodate a grill. Though there is no hard and fast rule, this typically means a boat that is 20 – 24 feet or longer. Anything smaller is a safety hazard.
Second, the boat shouldn’t have a wooden floor or a floor covered in carpet. This could represent a significant fire risk. An aluminum floor is always preferable.
Third, some marinas will not allow grills and take a dim view of open flame on boats. Or they may just have a general rule in place that forbids any type of cooking or eating in the dock area. So be sure to check with the powers that be before sparking up your grill when docked.
Finally – Always make sure the grill is set up a safe distance from any machinery. This will prevent the propane gas from reaching the inboard engine, bilge or enclosed spaces where it could produce an explosive hazard. This is another reason why small boats are not good platforms for grills. You just can’t create a safe distance between the grill and the machinery.
At the end of the day, the best boat grill option provides you a way to enhance your boating experience and the experience of everyone who accompanies you. Grilling on the water adds an entirely new dimension to the boating experience and is sure to turn your vessel into a go-to destination for family and friends.
Just keep in mind that operating a portable gas grill for a boat is not the same as barbequing on the patio. There are many logistical and safety considerations that must be given proper weight. But as long as you’re careful and operate your grill in a safe manner, you’ll find it a unique way to meld two of your favorite activities: boating and barbequing. What could be better?
Outdoors, I’m in my element, especially in the water. I know the importance of being geared up for anything. I do the deep digital dive, researching gear, boats and knowhow and love keeping my readership at the helm of their passions.