How to buy the best barbecue
Barbecues come in all shapes and sizes, from portable sizzlers and charcoal smokers to six-burner, gas-powered grills. Our expert guide will help you on your way to picking the perfect barbecue that suits your needs, preferences and budget.
To choose the best barbecue for you it’s worth taking time to think through what you'll be cooking, where, how often and who for. That way you can pick one that is the right size and has all the features you need to fit your style of cooking and entertaining.
Video: how to buy the best barbecue
Watch our video, below, for our expert tips on how to choose the best barbecue for your needs and budget.
Types of barbecue
Depending on the style of barbecue you like to have, the time you’re willing to spend and the features you need to ensure your food is cooked the way you like, the type of barbecue you go for is a big decision.
Choosing between gas and charcoal can be tricky, as barbecue traditionalists and those keen to make the most of technology will weigh up the pros and cons of both types very differently – but there are even more barbecue types to choose from than just those two.
Kamados and smokers are also popular choices for barbecue enthusiasts, and even electric barbecues could be the choice for you if you don't like messing with fuel, or are short on space.
What size barbecue should you buy?
- Standard barbecues - If you’re catering for a group of four to six people, a two-burner gas or a charcoal barbecue with a grill area of around 40x45cm should suffice. These barbecues are the most common and are usually the cheapest option, but are limiting if you plan on hosting bigger parties.
- Large barbecues - If you’re cooking for more people, you’ll need a three-burner or four-burner gas grill or a larger charcoal barbecue type, such as an oil drum or half barrel, to meet the demands of eight guests or more. These barbecues tend to be more pricey and have high fuel requirements, so you should choose carefully before buying.
- Portable barbecues - If you’re keen to pack up your grill and take it camping or to the beach, a portable barbecue can be a handy and versatile solution that lets you take your grilling experience anywhere. A small cooking area comes with the territory, so don’t expect to cook for more than three or four people in one go, and prices vary greatly from as little as £25 to more than £350.
There’s a lot more to barbecuing than just grilling – some models can fry, sauté, boil, bake and roast a whole range of food.
Our barbecue reviews list all the handy features each barbecue has, so you can make sure you have everything you need from the grill you buy. They include:
- Hood – retains heat and lets you roast, grill and bake your food.
- Warming rack – keeps cooked food warm and away from direct heat.
- Adjustable grill height – raising or lowering will adjust the heat level of a charcoal barbecue.
- Air vents – opening or closing will adjust the heat level in a charcoal barbecue and affect how quickly the coals burn.
- Temperature gauge – assists with cooking where precise temperatures are required.
- Griddle – gas barbecue feature used to fry, stir fry, sauté and braise food.
- Side burner – gas-barbecue feature often used for boiling or heating up sauces.
- Fat drip tray – collects fat drips to reduce flare-ups and make cleaning your gas barbecue easier.
- Ash collector – collects ash to make cleaning your charcoal barbecue easier.
- Storage shelves – keeps other items, such as dishes, bottles and utensils, handy.
- Tool hooks – let you swap between tools, such as your tongs and spatula, without letting them touch surfaces between use.
- Lava rocks and vapouriser – good gas barbecues will have lava rocks or vapouriser bars to help create that smoky barbecue taste.
Storing and transporting your BBQ
It’s easy to just daydream of your grill shining in all its glory out on the patio, but before you buy one you’ll need to consider how you plan to move and store it away.
Large barbecues are especially heavy and difficult to move, and some of those we’ve tested have weighed as much as 67kg. If you’re happy to buy a cover for your barbecue and leave it out all year, it’s not so much of an issue, but if you need to store it away in the shed after each use, here are some things to bear in mind:
- How many pairs of hands you have to lift the barbecue, as most barbecues will require at least two people to lift them safely.
- The terrain you’ll need to travel over while transporting it (uneven ground, steps, slopes etc.)
- Space you’ll need to store it away so you can protect it from the elements, especially during the winter.
Some barbecues have collapsible parts and carry handles that help with transportation. Our take these elements into account and rate how manoeuvrable each barbecue is over a specially designed obstacle course.
How much do I need to pay for a good barbecue?
This all depends on how much you can afford and how durable you want your product to be. Barbecues vary widely in price: disposable grills cost less than £10, while the priciest multi-grilled outdoor kitchens can set you back thousands.
You’ll often see cheaper barbecues that have some of the features of more expensive ones, but many compromise on build quality. A cheap barbecue will still be a waste of money if the features are shoddily made, as they won't last long and won’t give you the results you want.
For a general guide as to how much you should expect to pay for a good barbecue, check out the table below. It lists the average scores of the barbecues we’ve tested in various price ranges: