The Ultimate BBQ Buying Guide for 2019
by Mr Yellow
The summer season brings with it the yearning to make the most of those breezy summer nights under starry skies. What better way to unwind than to fire up your BBQ, call up your friends, and cook some appetising meat cuts freshly bought from your local butcher? Hearing the sausages sizzling on the grill, inhaling the enticing smell of piquant pieces of meat being grilled, and tasting freshly-grilled dishes, is what summer is all about. Hence, it is of no surprise that summer is one of the most awaited seasons of the year for many locals. From pungent rib-eyes, juicy burgers, to delectable fresh fish, your evenings are sorted.
The food you select and prepare for your guests is a fundamental part of a memorable BBQ experience (and how accurate you grill steaks according to your guests' tastes), but the equipment you use to cook that food influences, to a large degree, the final outcome and will determine whether your guests' palate will wander into a culinary utopia they'd never experienced before.
A BBQ is an integral part of your outdoor kitchen. Whether you're interested in buying your very first BBQ, or you want to up your game and earn the title of BBQ Master amongst your friends, you'll be faced with a variety of BBQs to consider. The market is inundated with an array of BBQs, and you'll feel quite lost in the myriad of options you can buy for your backyard or for your Sunday picnic. Nevertheless, the device you'll finally opt for will depend on your personal lifestyle, tastes and needs. Read on for an in-depth buying guide and let us help you buy the best BBQ.
Pros and Cons of different types of BBQs
With an assortment of different BBQs available in this time and age, you may find it difficult to choose the one which will enhance your cooking experiences. The BBQ you buy needs to satisfy all your requirements and expectations, so we have conducted some research on the pros and cons of the most popular types you'll find in local barbecue outlets:
One of the most common types of BBQs, the attractive features of these make it a favourite amongst the locals.
Gas BBQ Pros:
- Convenient: In contrast to charcoal BBQs, you don't need to wait for any wood or charcoal to heat up to start cooking. As soon as your guests arrive, you can just turn your grill on, and after a few minutes, your grilling evening can commence without delay. Since it offers a quick dinner alternative, there's a higher chance you'll be using it more in summer.
- Cheaper fuel: Although a gas BBQ will be more expensive to buy than a charcoal BBQ, gas fuel will be cheaper than charcoal briquettes in the long run.
- Easier to clean: Since no ash will be produced, the cleaning time will reduce drastically.
- Extra features: Most gas BBQs will come with extra features which you may decide to have included with your BBQ. Such features include side burners and smoke boxes, which would enable you to cook different meats at the same time.
- Easy to use: You don't need to be a BBQ expert to use it, as a heated grill is just a flip of a switch away.
- Apartment-friendly: Some apartments may have restrictions on the use of charcoal BBQs on outdoor terraces. Gas BBQs shouldn't provoke any of your neighbours.
- Adjustable temperatures: Temperature can be easily increased or decreased according to your meat requirements by turning the burners.
- Different sizes and makes: Gas BBQs come in different sizes, with a varying number of burners, and can either come in a cart style or in a fixed style.
Gas BBQ Cons:
- Expensive: High-quality models with extra features are more expensive to buy than charcoal BBQs.
- Fixed: Gas BBQs are usually not meant to be transported from one place to another, so you would need to select a practical spot on your terrace where it can be used comfortably.
- Heavy: Gas tanks are heavy to transport, so if you have a lot of stairs, and no lift, it's not an ideal option.
- Lower temperature: Charcoal BBQs generate a higher temperature than gas BBQs.
- Takes more space: Since gas BBQs require a gas tank, they'll need more space, also because they usually come with side tables.
- Lack of smoky flavour: Although they may have integrated smoke boxes, it's hard to smoke your food in gas BBQs.
- Tank refills: With gas, it's difficult to gauge how much fuel you have left, due to the weight of the tank itself, and you may end up having to change the tank mid-way through your cooking.
Best for: People who are always in a race against time, and hence, don't have time to wait for grills to heat. If cooking in the shortest time possible is your first priority, this is your kind of BBQ.
If you're a traditional at heart and you're looking for an authentic barbecue experience, a charcoal BBQ may be just what you need, as it is the closest you can get to a traditional pit fire. Charcoal BBQs come in various shapes, such as kettle grills and barrel grills. Kettle grills are small BBQs which are usually on a tripod, (thus, not so stable), while barrel grills are larger ones, which can cook more food simultaneously, and which have more advanced features. Regardless of which form you choose, make sure a charcoal BBQ has air vents and grates you can adjust according to the required temperature, and accessible doors through which you can add more coal if necessary.
Charcoal BBQ Pros:
- Cheaper: A charcoal BBQ is cheaper to buy than a gas BBQ.
- More heat: Charcoal briquettes and lumpwood (the fuel used in charcoal BBQs) produce more heat since they generate strong firepower.
- Portable: Small models can be taken to your outings.
- Smoky flavour: Although there is no official study supporting this, meat cooked on fire tends to have a more charbroiled taste than food cooked on gas.
- Use as Smoker: A charcoal BBQ can also be used as a smoker with some slight adjustments.
- Constant temperature: It retains a consistent temperature, if enough charcoal is used, and if air vents are adjusted accordingly.
- Heat zones: You can create different heat zones, according to how you place briquettes.
- Easy to learn: It's easy to get the hang of how you start and control a charcoal BBQ.
Here's a 3-minute clip of how you should light your charcoal BBQ the proper way:
Charcoal BBQ Cons:
- Long waiting time: Coals take time to heat up, and it may take longer to ignite them all if you don't have fire-starters or lighter fluid.
- Deep cleaning: Because of the ash which is generated from the coal briquettes, more deep cleaning will be required.
- Ash in food: Ashes may find themselves in food, affecting the taste of your grilled meat.
- Not convenient for large groups: One round of charcoal may not be enough to cook for all your guests, so extra waiting time may be required.
- Lack of extra features: In general, charcoal BBQs don't come with a lot of extra features.
- Expensive fuel: In the long run, you'd end up spending more on charcoal briquettes and lumpwood, rather than on gas.
- Tough to retain temperature: Learning how to fluctuate and control the temperature may require some practice.
Best for: Who loves charbroiled meat and for traditional people who love igniting briquettes, stoking the fire, and watching the embers glowing in the night.
If you cannot decide between buying a charcoal or a gas BBQ, a hybrid one will provide you with both options in one device.
Hybrid BBQ Pros:
- Flexibility in the use of charcoal or gas
- Infuses a smoky flavour if you use charcoal briquettes
- You eliminate the cons of a charcoal BBQ
- No hassle to ignite and maintain the heat as you can use a gas starter
- Less messy to use
Hybrid BBQ Cons:
- More expensive than a stand-alone charcoal or gas BBQ
- If you use charcoal, deep cleaning will still be required
- You need to maintain a stock of both briquettes and gas
- Hard to move due to its large size
Best for: People who want the best of both worlds, and are willing to pay for this luxury.
Smoking is gaining popularity, and nowadays, you can find vertical and horizontal smokers, wood, charcoal, gas, electric or pellet smokers, depending on your preference. Check out the different types of smokers here. Smoking entails slow-cooking meat at low temperatures. A water basin between the fuel and the smoking chamber where the meat is placed, allows the food to be infused with a smoky flavour.
- Smoky flavour: Tender and pungent meat is guaranteed with a smoker. Since meat is cooked through indirect heat, you can rest assured, the skin won't be burnt, and meat won't remain raw. Your rack of ribs or brisket can be cooked to perfection in a smoker.
- Minimum tending required: The meat can be left unattended for hours until it's ready.
- Lots of cooking space: Massive meat cuts can be cooked at once.
- Temperature control: You can fluctuate temperature according to the amount of airflow you allow.
- Slow cooking: Since it slow-cooks for hours, a smoker isn't suitable for spontaneous dinners.
- No heat zones: You cannot create two different temperature zones at the same time.
- Not versatile: Unlike charcoal BBQs which can be adjusted to become a smoker, smokers cannot be used as standard grills.
- Expensive: Smokers are more expensive than standard BBQs.
Interested in seeing how a smoker works? Check out the video below:
Best for: People who value smoky flavoured and tender meat more than anything else, and are willing to wait as long as it takes to taste exquisite meat.
These ceramic egg-shaped grills are gaining popularity in Western Europe, and it is of no surprise. Functioning like a wooden stove, they offer multiple cooking methods in one device. Whether you want to grill, smoke, or roast, a Kamado BBQ can do it all.
Kamado BBQ Pros:
- Versatile: Whether you want slow or quick cooking, a Kamado grill can be adjusted for any type of cooking, be it grilling or smoking.
- Efficient heat insulation: The thicker and deeper airtight walls help to retain heat and create an even temperature throughout.
- Less ash: Since it uses natural lumpwood, no additives will find their way into the food.
- Visually appealing: Adds character to your outdoor space.
Kamado BBQ Cons:
- Expensive: Manufacturing parts are costly, making it quite expensive to buy.
- Heavy: May not be suitable for all types of flooring and you may risk damaging fragile tiles.
- Prone to cracks: Since it's made of ceramic, you need to ensure it's not knocked over or you'll risk cracking it.
- Use of lumpwood charcoal: Lumpwood is harder to maintain, and harder to find than briquettes.
How does a Kamado grill work? Check out a quick guide on how to use this cooking device:
Best for: People who love having a versatile BBQ which enables them to try out different cooking styles.
As its name implies, a pellet BBQ uses wood pellets to cook, and it conveniently gives you the freedom to experiment with various cooking styles. Only recently has it started to infiltrate the BBQ market, but it's gaining points!
Pellet BBQ Pros:
- Versatile: You can decide to roast, grill, or smoke, depending on the meat you want to cook.
- Smoky flavour: The hardwood infuses a smoky flavour into the food.
- Temperature control: You can set a temperature electronically, which will, in turn, determine the rate at which wood pellets are transferred from the hopper into the fire pot. This feature enables it to be used for both quick and slow cooking.
- No monitoring: Since pellet grills maintain their temperature, you don't need to stoke the fire and tend the meat, giving you more chance to bond with your family.
- Easy to use: Advanced wifi-controlled models only require you to insert the pellets, the meat cuts, and a meat probe, and you'll receive notifications via app, when you need to increase the temperature, and when the meat is ready to be served.
- Energy efficient
Pellet BBQ Cons:
- Expensive: Initial cost is high for most pellet grills, and buying pellets is also expensive.
- High maintenance: Since the pellet BBQ has a lot of moving parts, it is more prone to breakage, and you may need to replace parts every now and then.
- Large size: Most models are quite big, so they're not practical if your outdoor area is restricted.
- Deep cleaning: Pellet grills will produce ash, thus, increasing the amount of cleaning required.
- Needs a power source: Pellet grills need to be plugged into a power source to work.
How does a pellet BBQ work? Check out the below 3-minute guide:
Best for: People who are looking for wifi-controlled efficient BBQs which produce perfectly cooked meat with minimum monitoring.
Although not the kind of BBQ which comes to mind when thinking of these cooking devices, it is still a popular alternative to the traditional BBQ. It uses an electric heating element to cook meat, and comes in various shapes suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, such as countertop, pedestal and kettle grills.
Electric BBQ Pros:
- Convenient: No need to buy charcoal or gas, as all you need is a power outlet.
- Easy to clean: No messy cooking; simply wipe the cooking surfaces when you're done.
- Affordable: An electric grill is cheaper than most BBQs.
- Indoor use: If your outdoor space is restricted, or it's bad weather, an electric BBQ can be placed on kitchen countertops.
- Cooks faster: A clamshell-shaped grill can cook both surfaces simultaneously.
Electric BBQ Cons:
- Less tasty: When compared to charcoal grills, meat cooked in an electric grill would have a less pungent flavour.
- Needs electricity: It cannot be used outdoors, unless you have a good battery or a long extension cord.
- Less heat: It generates less heat than other BBQs, so it may not be suitable for certain steaks.
Best for: Homeowners whose outdoor space is very limited, but who still like to have opportunities where they can grill any meat they like.
Going camping or out exploring for a day? Although you may be tempted to construct a traditional pit fire, this will exhaust all your energy, and drain every drop of sweat on your body, until you collect the necessary firewood, ignite it and control it. So say hello to portable BBQs!
Portable BBQ Pros:
- Comes in both charcoal and gas options.
- Its compact size makes it possible to transport to all your outdoor adventures.
- You don't need a lot of fuel to heat it up.
Portable BBQ Cons:
- Its size is only practical if you're cooking for just a few people.
- Since it's compact, it may not be made up of high-quality materials.
- Lacks extra features due to its size.
Best for: Outdoor people who find themselves cooking more away from home, rather than in the kitchen, during the summer season.
What do you need to take into consideration when choosing a BBQ?
When choosing a BBQ you'll be faced with a variety of top brands, including Weber, Traeger, Char-Broil and Napoleon, amongst many others. How should you choose? What do you need to take into consideration? Here are some factors you need to evaluate, to help you narrow down the options:
-Fuel Type: Evaluate the pros and cons of each type of BBQ mentioned in the first part of this article, and assess which fuel would best suit your needs.
-Lifestyle: If you're always in a race against time, opting for a smoker isn't ideal, whereas if you love spending your evenings outside, a portable BBQ is the device you should buy.
-Space: The BBQ you choose shouldn't overpower the size of your outdoor space. Measure your yard or terrace accurately, and assess the space you need for your outdoor furniture and other outdoor decor.
-Taste: Is having meat infused with a smoky flavour a priority? Then you can eliminate gas and electric BBQs.
-Budget: Barbecues start from under €100 to over €1000, and the price increases according to the number of integrated features you want. The more expensive the BBQ, the more control and versatility you'll have in your hands. Apart from the initial cost, also consider fuel and maintenance costs. Once you set a budget, you'll immediately eliminate certain BBQ types from your shortlisting; if you have a tight budget, you can forget about buying a pellet grill or a Kamado grill. Do compare prices of local providers, as these may vary considerably. When deciding on your budget, take into consideration how often you're going to use it; if you're an avid user of BBQs in the summer season, it would be wise to invest more in this device.
-Food you're cooking: If you're the burgers and sausages type, a charcoal or gas BBQ is sufficient. However, if organising a BBQ means racks of ribs, chunky steak cuts, and vegetables, you should consider buying a smoker or a pellet grill.
-Cooking capacity: The BBQ size you choose depends on who your audience generally consists of. Two burners will serve you well if your standard audience consists of your partner and kids. However, if you'll be entertaining a larger number of people on a regular basis, make sure the grill size you opt for will not force them to wait for hours, or you'll definitely lose your title as BBQ host. Consider even 5 to 6 burners in this case.
-Heat zones: Having at least two zones for direct and indirect heat is essential, especially if you're cooking for a large number of people. A side burner would help keep cooked meat warm, while raw meat is still waiting to go on the grill.
-Quality: Keep quality in mind! From its construction, to how components fit together, especially the lid, wheel stability, materials used, and finishes, all need to be taken into consideration, as they all determine the BBQ's lifespan and how resistant it is to corrosion and damage. With regards to the grills, best opt for stainless steel or cast iron grates, as they are the most durable.
-Aesthetics: A BBQ can play an important role in the aesthetics of your outdoor space. Consider both colour and design. You can opt for bold colours, instead of the standard black or grey alternatives and if you choose a gas BBQ, choose a device which enables you to hide your gas tank and accessories in storage cabinets.
-Bonus features: Features you may opt for include utensil drawers, storage cabinets, a warming rack, a grease tray, side burners, rotisserie kits, and meat thermometers.
-Cleaning and maintenance: If you want to have a clean BBQ with minimum effort, steer away from charcoal and other BBQs which produce ash. Also, consider buying grates which are porcelain coated for quicker cleaning.
-Assembly: Not a fan of DIY work? Choose a pre-assembled BBQ which requires minimum work to put together.
-Temperature range: Cheap models may only reach specific temperatures, which may not be enough for certain meats.
-Portability: Do you prefer a freestanding or a built-in grill? If you intend to move your BBQ around, make sure you choose one on wheels.
-Grilling style: Are you the spontaneous type? If so, don't bother buying slow cooking barbecues. If you like experimenting with different cooking styles, opt for a Kamado or a pellet grill. Do you like tending fire the traditional way? A charcoal BBQ is the way to go.
-Technology: Nowadays, wifi-controlled BBQs are emerging in the BBQ market, enabling you to control temperatures via an app, and also advising you when the meat is ready. Are you willing to pay more for a high-tech BBQ?
How can you take care of your BBQ once you buy it?
- Buy a BBQ cover: Keep your BBQ covered when not in use, to protect it from all weather elements, including rain and UV, and hence, keep corrosion at bay.
- Clean after use: Always scrub grates with a wire brush after use, and then wash with soap. Do this as quickly as possible, before the fat dries on the grate. Old food remnants will add an unpleasant flavour to your fresh meat and may cause flare-ups. Don't forget to clean the BBQ sides and the drip tray to keep their original shine intact.
Check out quick tutorials on how to clean your charcoal BBQ:
...and your gas BBQ:
BBQ Safety Tips
- Before changing a gas tank, always make sure all burners are switched off, and the gas valve is turned off.
- Use only in outdoor spaces: inhaling fumes in an enclosed space is hazardous to your health.
- Place the BBQ away from trees or anything which could be prone to catching fire.
- Make sure you place it on stable ground so it doesn't topple over.
- Keep a fire extinguisher and baking soda handy in case the BBQ goes up in flames.
- Always light a BBQ with its lid open.
- Don't use gasoline to light up a BBQ, but use special lighter fluid.
- Keep the grill attended at all times.
- Make sure children stay away from hot surfaces.
- Use long tools and heat-resistant mitts.
- Allow the BBQ enough time to cool before you move it or clean it.
- Clean after each use to ensure a safe cooking experience the next time you switch on the BBQ.
- Turn off the burners and gas valve when you're done with all the cooking.
Ready to go on your BBQ shopping adventure? Now that you know what you need to look out for, which factors to consider, and what you need to ask the salesperson, you are good to go. Warning: once you become a BBQ user, there's no going back. You'll be craving the exquisite taste of freshly-grilled meat every summer evening, and you'll be bonding with family and friends over delectable food. Regardless of what your priorities are, be it value for money, cooking flexibility, convenience, or flavour, you'll find the best BBQ for your needs at one of the local providers of barbecue equipment.
Once you're at it, also stock up on essential BBQ accessories, including utensil sets, a BBQ cover, charcoal starters, a spatula, tongs, heat resistant mitts, barbecue skewers, an apron, rotisserie kits, grill plates, a smoker box, a grill wire brush, a thermometer, a chimney starter, and much more.
Need some recipe inspiration? Check out popular BBQ recipes, best steaks to grill, how to prepare pork chops, how to make beer can chicken, salmon recipes, vegetarian recipes, and best marinades for your favourite meats to get the ball rolling.
Keep on discovering local with Yellow.