Everyone loves a barbecue, but if you’re the dedicated at-home griller it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of burning everything to a crisp to avoid any upset stomachs.
Of course, the simplest way to combat this is to buy an all-singing, all dancing barbecue, but that isn’t an option for everyone. We’ve rounded up some top tips to help you level up the way you grill, from how to prepare correctly to the best cooking methods.
We’ve also recently tested a handful of new barbecues that could be worth considering if you want to give your friends and family a dinner they’ll never forget – scroll down to the bottom to see if any of them could be a good fit for you.
Check out our Best Buy barbecues to find out which models we recommend and why.
1. Find the best grill for you
Choosing a barbecue can feel a little daunting. Should you go for electric, gas or charcoal? Is a portable model going to be big enough, or do you need the larger cooking area of a full-sized model?
You’ll get the best results cooking on a barbecue that you’re comfortable with, so be sure to do your research before buying so you don’t end up with a dud. We’ve reviewed loads of barbecues so we can give you our unbiased recommendations on the best models for you.
Head to our guide on how to buy the best barbecue to find out exactly what you should look out for when buying a new grill.
2. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
Preparation is key when it comes to barbecuing, and will save you lots of time and effort in the long run. Once you’ve fired up the grill and slapped your food on to cook, everything needs to move very quickly to avoid burnt exteriors and dry, rubbery centres.
Make sure you’ve got enough space for all of your food to fit on the grill and all of your tools within arm’s reach. It’s also a good idea to work out in advance how you’ll keep raw and cooked items separate, and how you’ll prevent veggie foods from being contaminated by meat.
If you plan on marinating your food, aim to do this at least a few hours beforehand – or even overnight – to avoid delaying the cooking process even further.
3. Have a thermometer to hand
Nobody enjoys overcooked, dried-out meat, and it’s far too easy for this to happen when you’re cooking on an incredibly hot grill. There’s no way of telling for sure how well your food is cooked on the inside without using a reliable meat thermometer.
You can pick these up as cheap as just £10 and they’re a worthy investment if you’re a keen griller. For barbecues, you’ll want an ‘instant read’ thermometer – these come in dial or digital form and shouldn’t be left in the food while it’s cooking.
For dial-read models, you need to insert the stem of the thermometer at least 5cm into your meat and wait about 15 to 20 seconds for an accurate temperature reading. Digital models only need to go in around half an inch under the surface and will register a temperature in just 10 seconds.
4. Keep your grill clean
Sure, it has to be everyone’s least favourite part of barbecuing, but keeping your grill clean is vital to cooking delicious-tasting food. You wouldn’t fry your bacon in an old, crusty pan, so why give your dinner the same treatment?
Rather than giving your meat flavour, any leftover food that gets burnt on to your barbecue will simply mean the outside of your burgers and sausages will burn a lot quicker. A dirty grill also attracts all kinds of bacteria, especially if it’s sitting out in the sun for hours on end.
There are lots of different ways to get your barbecue sparkling after every use, from washing it by hand to using half an onion or a ball of tinfoil to scrape the grease and grime off of the grill.
Check out our guide on how to care for your barbecue for more handy hints and tips to keep yours working for years to come.
5. Experiment with cooking times
Many of us are guilty of firing up the grill, turning the heat from medium to high and hoping for the best. However, the cooking temperature and time should depend on the food that’s on your barbecue.
Some cuts of meat, such as fillet steak, should be cooked quickly at high temperatures, just enough to sear the outside layer. Other items such as chicken and sausages need to be cooked lower and slower or you risk burning the exterior while the interior is still raw.
6. Never rely on meat
It’s a long-standing myth that barbecues are only really for meat eaters, but the sign of a great griller is that they don’t exclusively serve meat. A good selection of side dishes can really make a meal pop, and this can be something as simple as grilled corn on the cob, halloumi or even butternut squash.
If you do have pescatarians, vegetarians or vegans attending your barbecue, make sure to cook their food first wherever possible, as this will avoid them taking on any sort of meaty flavour. To speed things up you can always pre-cook items in the oven and finish them off on the grill.
7. Don’t serve straight away
The key to tender, juicy steaks and succulent burgers is letting your meat rest after it’s been cooked. This helps the moisture inside redistribute back through the meat after it has evaporated during the cooking process.
Larger cuts of meat will also continue to cook for several minutes, even after being removed from the grill, so it’s actually prudent to take them off a few minutes before you plan to serve them. Wrap them up in foil to keep warm, leave them on the side and finish off prepping your sides while you wait.
8. Consider upgrading your barbecue
It’s all well and good following all of these tips to get the best out of your barbecue, but you might struggle to get the best possible results if you’re cooking on a hand-me-down that a family friend gave you 10 years ago.
We’ve recently tested a handful of barbecues that could be the perfect candidate for an upgrade:
CharBroil Gas2Coal 2.0 3 Burner BBQ, £470
An option worth considering if you can’t choose between gas or charcoal, the Gas2Coal hybrid grill converts from one power source to another in just one minute. You can store the gas bottle underneath, so it won’t get in your way, and there’s no need for a barbecue lighter thanks to the built-in ignition.
It has hardy cast-iron grates and a side burner that will save you from making too many trips to your kitchen. CharBroil’s patented charcoal tray design means that the charcoal burns top down instead of bottom up, which aims to reduce flare-ups and promote more efficient burning.
Find out how well this barbecue cooks and just how easy it is to use by reading our full CharBroil Gas2Coal 2.0 3 Burner BBQ review.
Weber Spirit EPX-315 GBS Smart BBQ, £920
Weber calls the Spirit EPX-315 GBS Smart BBQ ‘the multitasker’s best friend’. You get real-time food temperature and readiness countdowns on its digital display and the Weber app on your phone, plus step-by-step instructions to help you achieve the best results no matter what you’re cooking.
It has three stainless-steel burners and two side tables, so you won’t struggle for cooking or prep space. There’s a meat probe included in the box to help you monitor temperatures, too. Weighing in at 53kg, it’s certainly hefty, but it comes with wheels on the bottom.
This smart barbecue certainly looks the part, but is it worth the big investment? Head to our full Weber Spirit EPX-315 GBS Smart BBQ review to find out.