How to choose a Barbecue

Now and again the British summer may allow us to eat and entertain outside. So why not grab the opportunity with both hands and treat family and friends to a barbecue. Nathan James Dodd explains what to look for when you are choosing one.

Created by Nathan James Dodd on Thursday, 27th of August, 2015.
Updated on Friday, 28th of August, 2015.


As with most garden equipment, the choice of barbecue can be confusing and your final decision will be based on factors such as how much use, what type of use, cooking method and your budget, in addition to colour, size, ease of use and running costs.

Charcoal Barbecues

These models use charcoal briquettes or heat beads that provide a more constant heat, or lumpwood that can attain high temperatures and doesn't contain any charcoal additives

  • The traditional method where the juices fall onto the charcoal and envelop the food with that unique smell while imparting the real BBQ flavour
  • Charcoal ignites fairly easily but it can be a long wait until it is white hot and ready to use
  • Heat control is possible by raising or lowering the grill
  • Circulation of air leads to even cooking
  • Portable models can be transported easily or moved around the garden

Gas or Electric Barbecues

These will run on bottled propane gas or mains electricity

  • Switch on and the barbecue is ready to go
  • Available in many different sizes from portable models to multiple burners
  • Easy heat control
  • The number of burners allow for different foods to be individually cooked
  • Models can have as many as 7 burners to cater for large numbers of people
  • No ash to get rid of and the juices are caught in a tray
  • Only 'masonary' types are not designed to be portable but large models can be unwieldy
  • Portable barbecues are lightweight enough to take anywhere, quick to set up and are therefore ideal for days out in the countryside or on the beach.

Masonry Barbecues can be made from a variety of stone and metal including granite and copper and can run on a variety of fuel. They are semi-permanent and can act as garden focal points as well as patio heaters. Because of their construction, masonry barbecues can be left permanently outside and are designed to be attractive garden features.

Built-in Barbecues offer value for money and adaptability as they can be placed on a variety of
surfaces for example bricks, slabs or concrete. Normally constructed from stainless steel, the
latest technology can offer results comparable to full size barbecues.

Features to look out for:

  • Although cast iron will maintain heat better, steel grills are easier to clean; porcelain grills won't deteriorate, and are easy to clean, but can chip
  • Hoods and lids allow food to be roasted, they also act as a windbreak
  • Infrared burners on high end barbecues work by focusing the flame of a standard gas burner onto a ceramic tile that has thousands of microscopic holes. This converts the heat into much more intense infrared energy so that food can be cooked faster and, if preferred, can char a steak on the outside but leave it rare in the middle
  • Removable ash and grease trays make cleaning a lot easier
  • Heat distribution plates will enable even cooking
  • Flavouriser bars will imitate charcoal, turn juices into smoke and flavour the food
  • A griddle or hot plate will enable you to sear steaks, saute, braise and fry
  • Warming racks allow food to be kept in good condition, especially useful if another food item is taking longer to cook than anticipated
  • Temperature gauges are useful on lidded BBQs to indicate when a correct temperature has
    been reached
  • Air Vents assist temperature control when using charcoal

Size:

This is an indication as to how large the barbecue needs to be for different numbers of people:

up to 1800 sq cms cooking area will cater for 4 people
2000 – 2500 sq cms will be adequate for 6 people
over 2500 sq cms will be required for 8 people

(Warming racks will enable these numbers to be increased)

Accessories:

You will need a few accessories to ensure food can be served quickly and with minimum fuss.
Other optional extras allow you to increase the range of food that can be cooked.

Barbeque Tool Set including spatula, tongs and a fork
Carving Set
Cleaning Brush
Rotisserie that turns the barbecue into a spit roast
Digital Thermometer to ensure the meat is cooked right through to the correct temperature
Kebab Skewer Set
Fish Basket
Grill basket to collect small pieces of food
Burger Press to create authentic burgers
Apron
Cover – a tight fitting cover to keep out rain, wind and snow

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