How to Choose a BBQ

With the summer starting to sizzle, you may like Nathan James Dodd be thinking of hosting a barbecue. Here is his buying guide to these summer essentials.

Created by Nathan James Dodd on Friday, 21st of August, 2015.
Updated on Friday, 2nd of December, 2016.


The range of barbecues to choose from can be daunting, and your buying criteria can rest on a variety of factors ie how much use it will receive, what fuel you prefer and your budget, in addition to colour, size, running costs etc. This is our guide to making your decision easier:

Charcoal Barbecues

Charcoal barbecues use 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 BBQs can be transported easily or moved around the garden.
  • Bags of charcoal can be heavy to move about

Gas Barbecues

Gas barbecues run on bottled propane gas

  • Switch on and the barbecue is ready to go
  • Juices from the food fall onto the flame and then they are burned or evaporate, sending a flavour filled vapour back up to the food - giving it a great taste
  • 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 'masonry' 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. 

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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