As the weather improves, many people will be dusting down their barbecues, and possibly realising it’s time to buy a new one.
They can cost anything from tens of pounds to thousands, and there are many differences in their performance and ease-of-use.
Here’s a few tips on how to get the best one, without buying more barbecue than you need.
1. Before you buy, think about what you want your barbecue for; will it just be used for occasional small family barbecues, or do you need it for a barbecue party which will cater for lots of people?
Do you need it just to grill sausages and burgers, or do you want additional functions like a rotisserie? If you’re cooking for a big crowd, you may want a BBQ with sidewarmers and/or warming racks to keep cooked food warm as you grill more.
2. If you’re a serious barbecuer with a bit of cash to splash, go for a more expensive model which features other cooking possibilities as well, such as roasting, searing, baking and grilling – all in your garden!
3. Gas or charcoal? Gas barbecues tend to be more expensive to buy and you also have to pay for the gas they use, but charcoal takes much longer to get going and is messier. However, gas tends to cook more evenly than charcoal. The taste of the food is more distinctive if barbecued over charcoal, but the taste can be partially reproduced on a gas barbecue by wrapping woodchips in foil and piercing the foil, placing the pouch in a foil dish and putting that under the cooking grid on one of the hot burners until you see smoke. Then reduce the heat.
4. Lift the barbecue up - heavier ones tend to be made with better steel.
5. If you don’t want to spend much and won’t use a barbecue often, go for a portable model, ideal for smaller outdoor spaces, lightweight and easy to clean. Alternatively, bigger stainless steel barbecues look nice and don’t corrode easily, but if they’re not covered they can become discoloured. Painted steel is likely to rust if the paint’s scratched, but porcelain-coated steel or cast-iron barbecues are usually more resistant to heat and scratches and are more hardwearing.
6. The size of the grill area is obviously an important consideration relating to the number of people you plan to barbecue for. For four people a grill measuring up to 1800cm² should be big enough, but for eight people you’d need to buy a grill over 2500cm².
7. Barbecue lids aren’t just a gimmick – such units are more versatile than an open grill because closing the lid helps control the cooking temperature, which means food is more likely to be cooked through properly.
8. Compare the different warranties on models - if you’re shelling out for an expensive barbecue, make sure the warranty lasts a few years at least.