Portable Marine Barbecues

Key features to consider when buying a grill to take on your boat.

Magma portable grill for boating
Take on board dining to the next level with a portable grill. Courtesy Magma

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First off, let’s get our terminology set. Manufacturers call these marine grills, but they’re portable boat barbecues to most of us. Some charcoal versions exist, but today, 1-pound bottles of propane represent a neater and more convenient energy source for onboard cooking. Plus, you won’t risk damage to your boat from hot charcoal embers.

You’ll find a wide range of grill styles, sizes and accessories. Let’s look at factors to consider while shopping. 

Kettle Grills

Magma still offers its original ­Marine Kettle series (starting at $249.99 for a gas model). These are best used with one of Magma’s mounting options for a secure fit with boat rails or rod holders because the shape makes these grills a bit unstable on a table aboard a rocking boat.

Rectangular Grills

Rectangular barbecues have gained popularity because they’re easier to stow and prove secure on a table. Foldout legs on models of Kuuma’s Stow N’ Go series (starting at $199.99) and Magma’s Cabo grills (starting at $249.99) let you set up on a cutting board that can double for tailgating. Hinges keep the lids from going overboard. There are also mounts that take advantage of rails, rod holders and more.


Finishes such as Magma’s 18-8 mirror-polished stainless steel resists corrosion. It also cleans up nicely when you’re done cooking.


Many marine grills have built-in igniters to light the propane, and some do not. If you choose the latter, bring along a butane lighter. It’s an item that’s easy to forget when getting ready for a boating weekend. We speak from experience on this.


You can never gauge the grill temperature by ­guessing, and that’s why we like built-in thermometers on the hood, whether grilling in the backyard or the boat. ­Magma’s Newport, Catalina and Monterey marine barbecues all have this feature.


Choose the size based on how many people you plan to serve and the stowage room ­available. ­Magma’s grills range from 133 square inches (the 13-inch-diameter Kettle) to 420 square inches (the 12-by-24-inch Monterey). Kuuma cooking grates range from 125 to 316 square inches, and the Elite series grills feature upper warming racks.


Consider how you will use your grill on the boat, then review the various mounting systems to see which might work for you. Kuuma, for example, offers four different rail mounts, ­including one design ­specially for the square railings on pontoon boats. Magma has mounts that insert in a gunwale rod holder with a LeveLock All-Angle bracket that lets you easily make sure the barbecue is as level as possible. There’s also one mount from Magma that uses the popular Scotty rod-holder base.

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Canvas covers protect your portable marine grill from salt spray and bird droppings when not in use and keep it from getting scratched while stowed in a locker. Magma and ­Kuuma make covers specially for each of their models, and Magma offers different colors to match your boat canvas. These can also serve as tote bags to make the grills easier to carry. Just make sure the barbecue has completely cooled down before putting on the cover.

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