How To Choose A BBQ

When the forecast is for sizzling weather, we instantly look forward to preparing delicious barbecued food. Our guide helps you pick the perfect one for you.

The range of barbecues to choose from can be daunting, and your final decision can rest on a variety of factors i.e. how many people it will have to cater for, what fuel you prefer and your budget, in addition to colour, size, running costs etc. Let's being with the basics, what are the main benefits of a charcoal barbecue when compared to one that is gas fired and vice versa.

Charcoal Barbecues

This type of barbecue uses briquettes or heat beads that provide a more constant heat, or lumpwood that can attain high temperatures and doesn't contain any charcoal additives. Charcoal is the traditional barbecue fuel, its main features, disadvantages and advantages are:

  • Ignites fairly easily but it can be a long wait until it is white hot and ready to use
  • Juices fall onto the charcoal and envelop the food with that unique smell while imparting the traditional BBQ flavour
  • Heat control is possible by raising or lowering the grill
  • Circulation of air leads to even cooking
  • Bags of charcoal can be heavy to move about
  • Ash trays have to be emptied after each meal

Gas Barbecues

Fuelled by propane, gas cylinders are popular because, unlike their charcoal equivalents, you ignite the grill and you're ready to cook immediately. Other pros and cons include:

  • Flavour is returned to the food by vapourizers so you still get a great barbecue flavour
  • Easy and immediate heat control
  • Available in many different sizes from portable models to multiple burners
  • Models can have as many as 7 burners to cater for large numbers of people
  • Multiple burners allow different food items to be individually cooked
  • No ash to get rid of, but the juices that aren't vapourized are caught in a tray which will need to be emptied
  • Usually mobile but large models can be unwieldy

Different Styles

In addition to freestanding barbecues, most fitted with wheels for manoeuvrability, there are built-in barbecues, portable and masonry versions.

Built-in Barbecues can be placed on a variety of surfaces for example bricks, slabs or concrete to create an outdoor kitchen with adjacent space that perfectly suits your way or working. Available with all the technology that a modern barbecue chef demands, there's a wide choice of models boasting up to seven burners and a roasting hood to cook an impressive variety and amount of food.

Portable Barbecues are lightweight enough to take anywhere, gas or charcoal, they are quick to set up and disassembled, therefore ideal for days out in the countryside or in restricted spaces such as a balcony. Styled contemporarily and fuelled by charcoal, gas or electric, the basic models will satisfy the appetite of a small group while the largest versions make a big impression by being able to grill, sear, roast, bake and smoke.

Masonry Barbecues from Buschbeck are a marvellous focal point as they can cook fantastic food and then be used as a fireplace. Visually intriguing, they boast a conspicuous south American flavoured appearance with a number of finishes including white quartz and terracotta. They are also substantially built and the double wall construction allows you to burn logs as well as charcoal and there's even a gas burner insert available as an accessory.

Different Features

  • Porcelain coated grills, although cast iron maintains heat better, porcelain grills are easier to clean, but can chip
  • Hoods and lids allow food to be roasted, they can also act as a windbreak
  • Infrared burners 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 or sear a steak on the outside but leave it rare in the middle
  • Ash and grease trays that can be removed 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, sauté, braise and fry
  • Warming racks allow cooked food to remain in good condition, especially useful if you are cooking large amounts or other items are taking longer to cook than anticipated
  • Temperature gauges are useful on BBQ hoods to ensure perfect cooking by indicating when the correct temperature has been reached
  • Air Vents assist temperature control when using charcoal

Size Matters

It's the size of the cooking area that really matters, here is an indication of how large your barbecue needs to be to cater for various 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)

Useful Accessories

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

  • Barbecue 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
  • Utensil Rack
  • Apron
  • Cover – a tight fitting cover to keep out rain, wind and snow