Tabletop grill purchasing advice: how to choose the right product

  • The most important facts in brief
  • Table grills are divided into charcoal grills, gas grills and electric grills based on their energy source.
  • They are smaller than conventional barbecues.
  • Only electric table-top grills are suitable for enclosed spaces.
  • In terms of price, the appliances vary greatly, from around 20 to several hundred euros.
  • A power of at least 2,000 watts is recommended for electric table barbecues.

Barbecue enjoyment at home

Barbecuing is a deeply rooted passion for many Germans. No sooner do the first rays of sunshine fight their way through the gloomy late-winter sky than the barbecue is ready, the grill gets hot and sausages, steaks and vegetables lie pre-cut on the plate. But you don’t necessarily have to storm the meadows and parks to enjoy a freshly grilled meal with friends and family. With a table barbecue, grilling is possible in the comfort of your own terrace, balcony or even kitchen.

Table barbecues are usually smaller than conventional barbecues. In addition, they are not set up freely, but require a flat surface such as a table or bench on which to be placed. This makes them perfect for small groups. They also heat up more quickly because the surface of the grill grate or grill plate is relatively small. However, table barbecues are not sufficient for large parties and gatherings.

Indirect grilling

Grills with a suitable lid can also be used for indirect grilling. This means that the food is not cooked directly over the embers or another heat source. Instead, it is placed sideways over the heat source. The closed lid distributes the heat evenly, as with the convection function in the oven. The food does not have to be turned over, but this grilling method takes a little more time. Gas grills are often preferred for indirect grilling.

The three types of table grills

Table grills can be divided into three types. The most important distinguishing feature is the type of energy supply. With charcoal grills, the food is heated over glowing coals. Gas grills require gas. Electric barbecues are powered by a mains cable. Charcoal and gas barbecues must not be used indoors. Electric barbecues, on the other hand, can be used in the kitchen or at the dining table and are therefore the most popular type of table barbecue.

tabletop grill types of energy supply
Table grills are coal, gas or mains-powered.

Charcoal grill

The table barbecue version of the classic charcoal barbecue differs from its big brother in size. The fire bowl and grill grate are much smaller on the table barbecue. Apart from that, it behaves like a normal charcoal grill when grilling and offers the classic grilling experience with its smoke and roast aromas. It is also relatively inexpensive.

Of course, the charcoal barbecue can only be used outdoors. Indoors, there is a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Compared to the other types of grill, it heats up more slowly because the charcoal first has to be made to glow and then it still takes a while before the food can be grilled on the grill. After that, there is a certain time window in which the grill can be used, namely for about 90 minutes. At some point, the embers no longer radiate enough heat. The temperature cannot be regulated simply by turning the control knob. Since direct grilling over the embers produces carcinogenic substances, you should never let the meat burn. Use an aluminium container for safety. For barbecue enthusiasts who also want to barbecue on the balcony or terrace, a charcoal table barbecue is ideal.


  • Smoke and roast flavours
  • Classic barbecue experience
  • Inexpensive


  • Only suitable for outdoors
  • No temperature regulation
  • Slow heating
  • Potential release of carcinogens
  • Can be used in a limited time window

Gas barbecue

A gas barbecue is supplied with gas via a gas bottle or gas cartridge. Heating is quick and easy. To light the gas barbecue, all you have to do is turn a dial. Unlike charcoal grills, the temperature is usually infinitely adjustable by means of such a control dial. Another difference to the old relatives is that the gas barbecue produces hardly any smoke. Since it usually comes with a lid, it is very suitable for indirect grilling.

However, the fact that it is supplied by a gas bottle or gas cartridge makes this type of table barbecue heavier than its competitors, which makes it less convenient to transport. In addition, the gas barbecue may only be used outdoors to avoid inhaling carbon monoxide. Last but not least, this is the most expensive variant. For users who want to barbecue on the balcony without bothering their neighbours with a lot of smoke, a gas barbecue is well suited.


  • Fast heating
  • Temperature regulation possible
  • Low smoke development
  • Suitable for indirect grilling


  • Difficult
  • Can only be used outdoors
  • Expensive

Electric grill

The electric grill is the most common type of tabletop grill. It is the only one that may be used indoors, as it does not carry the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. An electric grill has a heating coil that heats the grill grate or grill plate from below. At least 2,000 watts are usually required to heat the grill surface to a temperature where the meat can be cooked. No smoke is produced during grilling, so you can be near the grill while eating. The temperature is infinitely variable and the grill gets hot quickly. Since the drip tray and the grill grate or grill plate are usually removable, the electric grill can be cleaned easily and quickly.


  • No smoke development
  • Can be used indoors
  • Temperature regulation possible
  • Easy cleaning
  • Fast heating


  • No roast and smoke aroma
  • Socket outlet required in the vicinity

Contact grill

A contact grill is an electric grill that is very similar to a sandwich maker. When opened up, both surfaces can be used as a grill. For example, the vegetables can be separated from the meat in case vegetarians, vegans or allergy sufferers are also grilling. In addition, the food can be heated from above and below at the same time, which speeds up the process and is advantageous for some dishes. Often, the contact grill is even equipped with different grilling programmes for different grilled foods.

Cuban Sandwich à la The Taste of Life

With a contact grill you can prepare delicious Cuban Sandwiches like in Jon Favreau’s film Life Tastes Good. Prepare your Cuban sandwich with cheese, pork and mustard. Spread butter on both outer sides of the sandwich bread and place the prepared sandwich on the grill. Press the top of the contact grill onto the sandwich. When the bread has developed its characteristic golden brown crust and the cheese in the sandwich has melted, the Cubano is ready to eat.

The most important criteria when buying a table grill

When buying a table grill, the choice of grill type is not the only important decision. In addition to the energy supply, features such as size, material and performance also play a role.


The material of a barbecue must be very heat-resistant, as it is exposed to high temperatures. This applies to both the grilling surface and the housing. Operating elements such as the control dial or the handles should be encased in plastic or another material with low heat conductivity to reduce the risk of burning. The material is also crucial for cleaning.

The housing material of table grills is usually powder-coated steel. This is weather-resistant and easy to clean. Stainless steel has the same properties and is also used as a housing material. The housings of electric table barbecues often have more plastic parts than charcoal or gas barbecues because they do not heat up as much. Plastic-covered barbecues are much lighter.

salmon being grilled

The grill plate or grill grate is made of either die-cast aluminium or stainless steel. The biggest advantage of the more expensive stainless steel is that the material is food-safe and therefore does not affect the taste of the grilled food. Most grill grates have a non-stick coating so that no food residue sticks to them. If grill plates or grill grates are removable, they can be soaked, which makes the cleaning process easier.

Size and weight

The grill surface plays an important role in the dimensions of a tabletop grill, as its size determines the number of people for whom the grill can be used. Table grills with a surface area of 500 to 1,000 square centimetres are common. These can be used to grill for two to four people. They are therefore well suited for small families or shared flats. A table barbecue that is 1,000 to 1,500 square centimetres in size can be used for four to eight people. From 1,500 square centimetres upwards, grilling for ten or more people is possible. However, the larger the barbecue, the more difficult it is to transport and therefore less flexible.

Weight also plays a role in transport. You also need to know whether your table can support the weight of the barbecue, including food and dishes. Gas barbecues are the heaviest because they come with a gas bottle or gas cartridge and therefore often weigh more than ten kilograms. Empty charcoal barbecues and electric barbecues are much lighter and usually weigh less than half that.

Temperature regulation

Steak is cooked on an electric grill
The thermostat is used to regulate the temperature. As a rule, it is a stepless rotary control with which the grill temperature can be adjusted. Sometimes a pilot light indicates that the set temperature has been reached. Table grills with separate grilling surfaces have a separate control for each surface. However, this only applies to gas and electric table grills. Charcoal barbecues do not have a thermostat because the temperature of glowing charcoal cannot be adjusted.

steak is prepared on the grill

However, there are ways to regulate the temperature of charcoal barbecues. For example, the grate can be mounted at different heights. The further away the grill grate is from the embers, the lower the temperature. Usually the embers are hotter in the middle. So another option for regulating the temperature of charcoal grills is to place the food on the side of the grate.


With electric grills, power is an important factor. High power means shorter heating times and a higher maximum temperature. The larger the grilling surface, the more watts the grill needs to heat it quickly and high enough. For a small tabletop grill, a power of at least 2,000 watts is recommended.

With regard to the power supply of electric grills, the length of the power cable should also be taken into account. Although this does not affect the power, it can present problems if there is no plug near the table.


If a lid is available, it can be used variably – for example as a windbreak. This prevents the food from being blown off the grill in strong winds. A lid is also helpful in low winds, especially if the wind blows the smoke in the direction of an open door or odour-sensitive neighbours. Furthermore, it works in a similar way to a pot lid: it prevents the grill food from drying out. Since no heat escapes when the lid is closed, grills with lids heat up faster. Last but not least, lids are indispensable for indirect grilling. Unlike charcoal and gas grills, gas grills always come with a lid.

Price and manufacturer

The prices of table barbecues vary greatly. Gas barbecues are usually the most expensive. They are usually available from 100 euros. The price limit is open at the top. Electric and charcoal barbecues can be a lot cheaper. You can get both types of table barbecue from about 20 to 200 euros. The best-known manufacturers include Philips, Weber, Tefal, WMF and Severin.

Cleaning tips and grill helpers

Table grills are not complicated appliances. However, there are a few things to bear in mind when using and maintaining them. For example, the grill surface must be cleaned according to the material. Some accessories also make it easier to use the barbecue or improve safety.


A table barbecue must be cleaned after every use. After all, food residue often sticks to the grate or plate, especially if the food has been accidentally left on it for too long. Especially greasy food and juicy marinades leave traces when grilling. Therefore, the housing must also be cleaned regularly, even if it does not come into direct contact with the food being grilled. A wet sponge or cloth with a little washing-up liquid is sufficient for this purpose.

The grill surface requires more attention. First you must let the grill grate or grill plate cool down. An electric grill must not be connected to electricity when cleaning, as this can cause a short circuit. Remove the grill plate or grate and soak it for a few hours in a container large enough to fit the whole grate. Then wipe it down with a sponge and some washing-up liquid.

dirty e-grill is being cleaned

Refrain from using harsh cleaning agents, as these can affect the taste of the grill food the next time you use it. Also, do not scrub the grill surface with hard material such as steel wool. This will damage the non-stick coating that is present on most models. For the same reason, you should also refrain from cleaning the grill surface in the dishwasher, even if the manufacturer’s instructions allow this. If the grill surface is not removable, soaking is not necessary. Instead, clean the surface with a damp cloth or sponge and some washing-up liquid.

Useful accessories

The most important barbecue accessory is probably the barbecue tongs. On the one hand, they can be used for any grilled food. Secondly, they do not damage the food, unlike a barbecue fork, for example. Last but not least, they are a safety feature. Barbecue tongs ensure a certain distance between the hands of the barbecue chef and the heat source. This prevents burns. In addition, barbecue tongs are usually made of materials that do not conduct heat, such as wood or plastic. Barbecue tongs made of steel are also usually equipped with handles made of one of these two materials. This means that the handles do not heat up.

Grilling is even safer if you use grilling gloves.

A drip tray or water tray is often included in the scope of delivery of a table grill. It ensures that fat and other juices that are produced during grilling are collected by the tray. This prevents them from sticking to the grill surface.

If you like to grill skewers, a skewer attachment is recommended. This allows you to grill your skewers evenly and comfortably.

Some charcoal grills already come with a built-in fan. This solves one of the disadvantages of charcoal grills – slow heating. Although you can also buy a fan later, it is not compatible with every grill.

Many table grills are equipped with anti-slip feet to ensure a firm grip. If this is not the case, you can buy an anti-slip mat.