How to buy the best barbecue
Gas or charcoal? Kettle or trolley? Simple grill or outdoor kitchen extravaganza? This expert guide will help you pick out the best barbecue for you.
Barbecues come in all shapes and sizes, from portable table-top grills to six-burner, gas-powered outdoor kitchens.
To choose the best barbecue for you it is worth taking time to think about what you'll be cooking, how often and who for. That way you can find one that is the right size and has the right features for your style of cooking and entertaining.
Take a look at our barbecue Best Buys to discover the models that Which? recommends.
How much should you pay?
This all depends on how much you can afford and how durable you want your product to be.
Barbecues vary extremely widely in price; disposable grills cost less than £10, while the priciest multi-grilled outdoor kitchens can set you back thousands.
There's real polarisation in the barbecue market with loads of cheap models available for less than £100 in DIY and chain-stores. These usually appear to have all the cooking features you might want at a low price. But they do tend to be cheaply made and either not particularly pleasant to use or aren't durable.
On the other hand the best-known brands in barbecues tend to be considerably pricier. With these you are usually paying a higher price, but you tend to get more robust products, built with better-quality materials. They can be considerably more of a pleasure to use than cheap barbecues, with more cooking options and opportunities to control the cooking temperature.
We can't really generalise on how much you need to pay to get a Best Buy. We've found good and bad examples of both cheap and expensive barbecues, which is why we think that following our Best Buy recommendations is a better guide to a good barbecue than price.
Most people buy a cheap BBQ first time round, then if they really enjoy barbecuing upgrade to something better quality in the years to come.
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.
Pros: Generally heat up quickly and you can usually move them into storage quite easily.
Cons: You'll struggle to cater for more people
You might want to consider a three or four-burner gas model as the grills are bigger so you can cook more food in one go.
Pros: Lots of cooking power and more grills gives you more control over how you cook - you can turn one grill off to roast food with the lid down for instance
Cons: These can be pretty enormous and difficult to move around, you'll find them tricky to store and will need to buy a cover
Oil drum or half-barrel barbecues
These are the largest type of charcoal models available.
Pros: You can fit a huge amount of food on the grill so they’re ideal for summer parties
Cons: They use a lot of charcoal so can be pricey to heat and a badly-designed model won’t get hot enough to cook food all the way through
Portable or tabletop barbecues
Portable gas barbecues 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.
Pros: Ideal if you want to barbecue on the go or you want a barbecue you can take on holiday
Cons: You won't be able to cook much food on these
However many people you’re catering for, choose a barbecue that has a warming rack. This lets you keep cooked food warm while slower-cooking items catch up.
To find out more about warming racks and the other cooking options, visit our guide to common barbecue features.
Which fuel - gas or charcoal?
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.
To find out more about the pros and cons the different fuel types visit our gas versus charcoal guide.
What will you want to cook with your barbecue?
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.
Roasting 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 Gas barbecues can 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.
Side burner 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 help you decide which ones you want.
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 as 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 them.