Which BBQ should you buy this summer?How to buy the best charcoal or gas BBQ

01 July 2015

Sausages being cooked on a barbecue

Is a charcoal or gas barbecue best for you?

The summer's finally arrived so you may be thinking of splashing out on a barbecue to help you enjoy al fresco dining. We reveal the four key decisions to make to help you get the best grill for your money.

Barbecues come in all shapes and sizes and can cost from £10 to an eye-watering £2,000 or more. But should you buy gas or charcoal? A solid freestanding model or a cheap portable? We've highlighted the options to run through before you hit the shops.  

We've also awarded some barbecues Best Buy status - you can discover which in our barbecue reviews.

1. Gas or charcoal BBQ?

Gas barbecues are convenient and let you control the cooking temperature. They heat up instantly and cook quickly, so are best for impromptu meals. However, our tests show it can be harder to get that distinctive char-grilled barbecue taste with a gas model. They're also more expensive and harder to store. We've reviewed the popular Weber Spirit Classic E-210 gas barbecue and given our verdict on whether this high-spec gas barbecue is worth the £340* price tag. 

Charcoal barbecues take longer to heat up so are best for the weekend when you've got time to enjoy the cooking experience. They can be tricky to light and it's much harder to control the temperature, but the best models will give you that barbecue flavour. To help you  control the heat of a charcoal barbecue pick one with a grill you can lower and raise - this will help you avoid sausages that are burnt on the outside yet pink in the middle. 

Find out more with our guide to gas versus charcoal barbecues.

2. Size of BBQ?

If you're catering for a family of up to six then a gas barbecue with two burners or a medium sized charcoal barbecue should be sufficient. For larger gatherings it's best to consider a three or four-burner gas grill or an oil drum or half barrel charcoal model, as you'll be able to cook more in one go. If you opt for the latter, bear in mind you'll get through a lot of charcoal each time you use it. 

3. Portable or freestanding BBQ? 

As you would imagine, portable barbecues take up less space - but make sure you buy one with a solid frame as the cheap ones can be flimsy. You'll also get less grill space and fewer features on a portable grill, so they're best if you want to take it when you travel or you only barbecue small meals occasionally. You also have to use them on the floor or a table, so you may find it less convenient to cook on than a freestanding one.

For more advice check out our guide to how to buy the best barbecue.

4. Which BBQ features? 

Regardless of the type of barbecue you're after look for a warming rack to keep food warm, so slower-cooking food has time to catch up. Also, look for a removable ash collector tray on charcoal barbecues and a fat drip tray on gas ones. These will make your barbecue much easier to clean.

Still unsure? Read our guide to barbecue features.

*Price correct online on 30 June 2015.  

More on this...