Barbecues: How to buy the best barbecue Choose the perfect barbecue
Barbecues come in all shapes and sizes, from portable table-top grills to six-burner gas-powered outdoor kitchens.
They also vary in price - the cheapest barbecues cost less than £10 while the priciest can set you back thousands. To read reviews of popular models costing £50-£450 head to our barbecues review.
Before you hit the shops it’s worth thinking about what you want from your barbecue to make sure you pick the perfect model for your needs.
What size of BBQ should you buy?
If you’re catering for a family (up to six people) a two-burner gas or medium-sized charcoal barbecue should fit the bill.
But for larger gatherings and parties you might want to consider a three- or four-burner gas model - the grills are bigger so you can cook more food in one go.
Oil drum or half barrel barbecues are the largest type of charcoal models available – you can fit a huge amount of food on the grill so they’re ideal for summer parties. But bear in mind that they use a lot of charcoal and so can be pricey to heat. Plus, a badly-designed model won’t get hot enough to cook food all the way through.
However many people you’re catering for, it’s a good idea to choose a barbecue that has a warming rack. This lets you keep cooked food warm while slower-cooking food catches up.
Read our guide to find out which additional barbecue features you should look out for.
Where will you use your BBQ?
Most freestanding gas and charcoal barbecues are designed to be used on a hard surface, such as the patio.
If you want to use your barbecue on a lawn make sure the model you buy is sturdy and won’t topple over in a strong gust of wind.
Should you buy a portable or table-top BBQ?
Portable barbecues are smaller than freestanding models and take up less space. You can even get barbecues that are small enough to use on a garden table or bench. Both types are ideal if you want to barbecue on the go or you want a barbecue you can take on holiday.
Prices start at around £10 for a DIY store own-label charcoal model, though these can be flimsy and prone to rust. Branded models - such as the Weber Smoky Joe charcoal barbecue which has a solid frame, air vents and ash collector - will set you back around £30.
Portable gas barbecues offer more flexibility than freestanding models - they work with smaller disposable gas canisters so you can easily take them camping or caravanning. If you choose to buy a portable barbecue make sure you check which gas canisters it uses and where you can buy them.
How often will you BBQ?
Barbecuing is often at the mercy of the British weather – cooking and dining outside is an undeniable joy of summer, but no-one wants to cook kebabs in a downpour.
Gas barbecues give instant heat and cook quickly, so they’re ideal if you want to grill outdoors but don’t have much time – on weekday evenings or chilly days, for example.
By contrast, charcoal barbecues can take a long time to get hot enough to cook on, so they’re not ideal for quick, impromptu meals.
Instead, they are best suited to weekend parties and get-togethers with family and friends when you have the time to enjoy the cooking experience.
You can filter our reviews and see full test results for the type of barbecue you prefer.
What will you want to cook on your BBQ?
Sausages and burgers are easy to cook on any standard grill. But there’s a lot more to barbecuing than just grilling – some models can fry, sauté, boil, bake and roast a whole range of food.
It’s possible to roast whole joints of meat on some gas and charcoal barbecues. If you like the idea of roasting food you’ll need to choose a model that has a tight-fitting hood.
Griddle or hot plate
Increasing numbers of gas barbecues have a griddle or hot plate as well as a standard grill. This feature is great for searing steaks and frying lean cuts of meat, steak or vegetables. You can even use it to fry eggs.
Some gas barbecues come with a side burner instead of a side storage shelf. This can be useful if you like to boil or steam vegetables or heat up barbecue sauces.
The more cooking features a barbecue has the more expensive it’s likely to be. Read our guide on barbecue features to look out for, or use our compare barbecue prices tool to find options that fit your budget.
Assembling your BBQ
Some barbecues require more construction than others. If you’re not handy with a screwdriver, look out for those with pre-assembled parts – this will save you time and hassle.
Ask to see the assembly instructions in the shop – if they’re not clear then putting it together back at home could prove a lengthy chore.
When we test barbecues our expert testers time how long each model takes to build, and rate how easy or difficult the process is.
Storing and transporting your BBQ
Freestanding charcoal grills are easy to move to and from the shed whenever you need them, but large gas barbecues are heavy and unwieldy to move and may be best left on the patio throughout the summer.
Look for charcoal barbecues that have sturdy wheels and handles so you can move and store them easily.
Most gas barbecues also come with wheels, but bear in mind that they can be heavy to lift up steps or into a shed and you may need help carrying it.