Should I buy a gas barbecue?
By Victoria Pearson
Everything you need to know about the types and prices of gas barbecue and the brands who make them.
A gas barbecue is effectively a combined gas hob and grill that you can use outside on your patio. Burners, fed by gas, provide the source of heat, so no messy charcoal is needed.
Gas-powered barbecues have become increasingly popular because they’re so convenient. They take just 10 minutes to pre-heat, they cook quickly, and you can instantly adjust the level of heat to suit the type of food you’re cooking, whether you're cooking thick steaks or lightly grilling vegetables.
Types of gas barbecue
Standard gas barbecues are the most basic and widely available type. They have a grill only and are great for chargrilling typical barbecue fare, such as meat, kebabs, fish and vegetables.
Most have two, three or four burners, although you can buy models with as many as six. The more burners on board, the larger the barbecue, and the more food it will cook.
A two-burner model should comfortably cater for four to six people. If you regularly cook for larger numbers, or you like to barbecue a lot of food in one go, consider buying a model with three or four burners.
Larger gas BBQs are a flexible option because you can usually choose how many burners to use, up to six burners at once.
Gas barbecues with hoods
If you choose a gas barbecue with a hood, you can roast and bake food inside it, in addition to grilling on it. This is a great way of cooking chunky steaks that are too thick to grill, and for roasting whole joints of meat.
The hood fits over the heat source and heats the air trapped inside. This works just like an oven to bake your food.
If you have more than one burner, you can also roast food in this type of barbecue. You simply position the food on the grill above the burner that's not switched on, and allow the heat from the other burner to circulate and roast your food.
Gas BBQs with a grill and griddle
Some gas barbecues have a griddle or hot plate alongside a traditional grill for more versatile cooking.
A griddle is a sizzling-hot metal plate that you can use for searing steaks and fish, frying lean cuts of meat and stir-frying vegetables. You can even use it for frying an egg or boiling vegetables in a pan.
This is a handy feature if you like to barbecue lots of different types of food. A gas barbecue with a griddle shouldn't cost much more than one without, although the downside is you’ll sacrifice grilling space.
Gas BBQ brands and prices
Gas barbecue prices vary drastically - a top-of-the-range branded model can set you back more than £4,000, while the cheapest option we’ve seen costs just £20.
Generally, the larger the barbecue and the more features it has, the more it will cost.
But there’s a big difference in price between models from well-known brands such as Weber and Outback, and the own-label barbecues you can buy at DIY stores, supermarkets and high-street shops.
Price is not always an indicator of how good the gas barbecue will be, but choose the wrong model and you could end up with one that’s tricky to put together, unstable and difficult to cook on, and made from poor-quality materials that won’t last.
When we test gas barbecues we the most popular two-burner and three-burner models that cost between £100-£400.
Buying gas for your barbecue
Whatever type of gas barbecue you go for, you’ll need to buy the right sort of gas to fuel it. This will be either propane (which comes in a red or green canister) or butane (which comes in a blue canister).
Most models use propane gas, and will come with the correct regulator already attached. The regulator is the valve that connects the barbecue to the gas canister. However, it’s important to check the instruction manual to see which type of gas you need before you buy it.
Both butane and propane gas come in metal canisters that can be left outdoors. It’s now possible to buy canisters of green patio gas for equipment such as outdoor heaters and barbecues. Patio gas is propane that comes in a green canister with a useful clip-on valve. This valve is easier to attach than the screw-on version on a standard bottle of propane.
How much gas you’ll need depends on the size of the barbecue you’re powering. Generally, the more burners it has the more gas it will use, although factors like how high you set the burners and how long you cook for will affect gas use.
A 13kg bottle should be ample to power most barbecues. You’ll pay an initial deposit to rent the gas canister (around £30) plus £25-£30 for the initial 13kg supply and for each refill.
A 13kg canister of patio gas should provide enough gas to power a three-burner barbecue for around 15 hours.
You can buy gas canisters and refills at specialist retailers, caravan equipment retailers and some DIY stores, garden centres and petrol stations.
If you want to dispose of the canister, you should be able to return it to the retailer and receive a refund on your initial rental deposit - check the details when you buy. Alternatively, most waste and recycling centres will take unwanted canisters free of charge.