From the sizzle of the grill to the classic ritual of lighting the charcoal, there’s plenty to love about barbecuing and to help you make the right barbecue decision, our design team have put together a few tips to choose a barbecue that works for you.
01.Choosing a barbecue
Buying a new barbecue comes down to the choice between charcoal or gas – but before we get into the advantages of each, it’s worth taking a moment to consider when and where you’ll be using your barbecue and how many people you plan to cook for.
It’s a common misconception that foods cooked on a charcoal barbecue taste better than those cooked on gas – blind taste tests have shown that there is no noticeable difference when it comes to flavour and taste. Instead, let your search for a barbecue be guided by practical considerations about your lifestyle – gas barbecues are quick and convenient, while charcoal barbecues are inexpensive and portable. So as you get started, keep these important questions in mind:
01. How often do you intend to use it?
02. How many people will you usually be cooking for?
03. Where do you want to barbecue?
The price of your barbecue will be determined by its size, features and quality – the cost can range anywhere from less than a hundred pounds to a few thousand. An inexpensive grill is a great choice for the occasional chef, while a more expensive barbecue is a good investment that will last you years and come protected with a warranty for peace of mind.
Charcoal barbecues offer a simple, more traditional approach to cooking than the more contemporary gas grills. Their size and weight means they’re inexpensive, work well in small gardens and are portable enough to pack and carry with you if need be.
The glowing charcoal embers offer the charm of a classic grill, but do require more forward-planning. It takes roughly 45 minutes to bring charcoal to the right temperature and the only way to adjust the heat is by raising or lowering the grill itself.
An advantage of charcoal is that it’s an inexpensive fuel to buy and replace, it is also easy to light and burns cleanly, turning white when it’s ready to use. Charcoal barbecues do, however, require more cleaning and maintenance – it’s essential to clean the grill and remove ash every time you use it.
There are two main types of charcoal to choose from:
Lumpwood is wood that has been fired in a kiln. It heats faster and burns at a higher temperature, perfect for when you need a very hot grill.
Also known as heat beads, briquette charcoal is made from particles of waste charcoal. They are slow to heat but once at their optimum temperature will burn twice as long and provide a more consistent cooking temperature, perfect for long barbecues where you’ll be serving more people.
Gas barbeques are traditionally more expensive than charcoal barbeques but are well suited to busy family life. The gas-powered flame is operated by a simple ignition button, making it fast and easy to work with – most gas barbecues are ready to cook with in less than 10 minutes.
Burner control is another major advantage of the gas barbecue; you can adjust the temperature of the barbecue and turn it down if it’s too hot, making it easier to cook foods evenly. Depending on the size of the grill, gas barbecues also make it possible to cook at different temperatures making it possible to cook different foods and serve everything at the same time.
Clean up is also simple – there is no charcoal or ash to dispose of, and maintenance really comes down to keeping the grills clean and monitoring fuel levels.
Gas barbecues are best suited to families who plan to cook with them often and serve several people at a time. Their size and propane tanks mean they’re much less portable than smaller charcoal grills; it’s more likely your barbecue will remain in place on your patio at all times. Propane fuel can be expensive and cumbersome – though tanks typically last around 15 hours of cooking time, if you run out of propane there’s no alternative to power your grill. You’ll need to closely monitor fuel levels and pay a deposit on the tank when you first purchase the fuel.
Once you’ve narrowed down to a charcoal or gas, there’s a few other details to take into consideration when you’re choosing the right barbecue for you. Think about:
The grills inside the barbecue can be made from a variety of materials and vary in cost. These include:
Chrome plated grills are a shiny metal that give the look and feel of a classic barbecue. They require more maintenance however, and need to be thoroughly cleaned after use to keep from staining.
Stainless steel grills offer a similar look to chrome plated ones, but are more durable and easier to clean and maintain over time.
Like cast iron cookware, cast iron grills hold heat well and are excellent if you like to cook foods slowly. They need to be cleaned before and after use to prevent rusting.
This type of grill is most often found in top of the line barbecues because it’s easy to clean and has a special coating to guard against rust. ‘Flavouriser’ bars under porcelain grills can also catch hot juices and fats and infuse foods with a smoky taste.
Lids and hoods on a barbecue will help to block wind and hold in heat so food is cooked more evenly. Most gas barbecues have hoods included as standard – expensive models will also incorporate a thermometer to help you cook your meats at the right temperature. If you intend to cook in a park or at the beach where there is little wind protection, make sure the barbecue you choose has a hood to protect the flame and make cooking easier.
Side burners are only available with gas barbecues – similar to a small hob, side burners will cook extras like sauces and vegetables and are ideal for keeping your food warm before it’s ready to serve.
This is an additional rack placed above the main grill and is a space for you to keep food warm – particularly if you’re regularly cooking for a large family, this is a good feature to have so everyone can eat and enjoy their meal together.
Ash collectors and drip trays This feature traps ash and any fat drippings from below the grill. Ash collectors are found on charcoal barbecues while drip trays are typically only on gas models. Both features make the barbecue faster and easier to clean after use, so it’s worth investing in if you plan to use your barbecue regularly.
When cared for properly, your barbecue is an investment that will last years and work just as well as the first day you bought it. Here are a few tips to help your BBQ stand the test of time:
- Use an oven cleaner to clean your charcoal barbecue and remove any grease and dirt that has accumulated – a great time to do this is at the end of each season so your barbecue is clean and ready to go the following year on the first nice day.
- Scrub residue from a charcoal grill using a wire brush then wash using a scouring pad once the grill is cold. Doing this regularly will help to prevent any stains from forming and keep your barbecue looking its best.
- Clean the rack, lid and drip trays of your gas barbecue after each use as built up residue and grease is a potential fire hazard when you light the barbecue the next time.
- Heating your flavouriser bars slightly by turning on the gas will make cleaning quick and easy.
- Protect your barbecue from the elements using a fitted cover so it can be kept outdoors.
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