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 for who. That way you can pick one that's the right size and has all the features you need to fit your style of cooking and entertaining.
Our barbecue reviews can help you compare and find the best barbecues right away, or you can keep scrolling for expert tips on how to buy the best barbecue.
Not seeing the right charcoal barbecue for you? Browse all of ourbarbecue reviews.
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
Choosing the type of barbecue you go for is a big decision. Finding the right type will depend on the style of barbecue you like to have, the time you’re willing to spend grilling and the features you need to ensure your food is cooked the way you like.
Gas and charcoal barbecues are the most common but they aren’t the only barbecues available. We’ve also tested electric barbecues, kamado grills and smokers, too. Keep scrolling for the pros and cons for all types of barbecues.
Gas barbecues combine gas hobs and grill bars to give you a versatile and easy-to-use outdoor cooker. If you want a grill that’s simple to get going and which offers lots of handy features, a gas barbecue could be the choice for you.
Very easy and quick to light, taking as little as 10 minutes to reach cooking temperature.
Plenty of features for versatile cooking, such as cooker hoods, griddles and side burners.
Dials to adjust gas flow make it easy to control temperature.
Charcoal is the go-to for those who like their barbecues traditional and full of authentic, smoky flavours.
More smoky, chargrilled flavour to your food.
Generally cheaper to buy than gas.
Much higher maximum temperature.
No need to handle gas canisters.
Can be tricky to light, especially with leftover ash in the drum.
Takes far longer to reach cooking temperature than gas.
Harder to clean.
Less control over temperature.
Charcoal barbecue types
There are three main types of charcoal barbecue:
Freestanding - the classic, and often cheapest, option. Consists of a stand, grill and basin. They come in various sizes and shapes, and some have storage shelves, wheels, and different height options for the grill.
Oil drum - these large barbecues are well-suited to catering for large numbers. You can go for a half-barrel or a full oil drum, and both are great options for cooking large joints or even whole animals using a spit.
Kettle - circular barbecues that come with hoods to sit snugly on top of the grill. The hood lets you roast and bake provided the coals don’t sit directly underneath your food. Some have temperature gauges and vents for controlling temperature, too.
Kamado grills, such as the Big Green Egg, are Japanese-style charcoal barbecues made out of heavy ceramic instead of metal. They’re often egg-shaped and usually require lumpwood charcoal for fuelling your cooking.
They retain heat and can last for a very long time - up to 12 hours. This makes them good for cooking in cooler climates.
They maintain a consistent temperature, which can be adjusted using air vents.
Perfect for slow cooking and smoking foods such as beef brisket, pulled pork and ribs.
Long-lasting burn time means it can take a lot longer to cool down than you might want it to.
Making temperature adjustments and using the right amount of fuel can be tricky and takes practice.
With a few exceptions, models are usually very expensive, with some costing well into four figures.
An electric grill may not appeal to barbecue purists, but if you’re short on space and still want an outdoor cooking experience they can be a great choice. They’re perfect for cooking on a balcony or in a small garden.
Small amount of space required for use.
Some are suitable for use indoors.
No need to fuss with fuel. Plug it in and it's ready to go.
Have you been watching with envy those American-style smoker barbecues with beef briskets, pulled pork and sizzling ribs? Any long-burning charcoal barbecue, like a kamado, can be used to smoke, but there are also specialist smokers available.
Broadens your outdoor culinary horizons beyond the normal burgers and sausages.
Produces some of the most delicious, tender, juicy and smoky food you can get from a barbecue.
Takes a lot of preparation - food often needs preparing a day or more in advance.
Requires an awful lot of patience - some food can take several hours to smoke.
We don't test disposable barbecues as they are potential fire hazards and cannot be reused, meaning they are not an environmentally friendly option. We do, however, test portable models that are perfect for taking camping and, as they can be used multiple times, they're also a far more sustainable choice.
This all depends on how much you can afford and how durable you want your barbecue to be. Barbecues vary widely in price: disposable grills cost a few pounds, 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.
Most barbecues we test are around the £300 to £350 mark, but a Best Buy is likely to cost just over £400 on average. As a rule, we find that if you spend more on a barbecue, you can expect to see features such as:
larger, easier to clean grills
lots of extra storage
wheels for ease of movement
faster cooking times
Of course these aren't hard-and-fast rules, and spending more on a barbecue won't necessarily guarantee you better performance. In fact, we've tested a couple of Best Buys costing under £200, so there's no need to splash out unless you really want to.
Our expert assessments of build quality and stability in our barbecue reviews will help you find the gems that are still made of high-quality materials despite their lower prices.
For a general guide as to how much you should expect to pay for a good barbecue, check out the guide below. It lists the average scores of the barbecues we’ve tested in various price ranges:
Average barbecue test scores at different prices
67% is the average test score for barbecues between £0-£200
67% is the average test score for barbecues between £201-£400
74% is the average test score for barbecues between £401-£600
73% is the average test score for barbecues over £601
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 40 x 45cm should suffice. These barbecues are the most common and are usually the cheapest option, but they're 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 pricier 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.
How easy barbecues are to manoeuvre is an extra-important factor when we calculate the test score of portable barbecues. Head to our guide on how we test barbecues to learn more about what makes up our test scores.
Barbecue features to look out for
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 – an internal shelf that 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 – a flat cooking surface found on gas barbecues to fry, stir fry, sauté and braise food.
Side burner – an extra little burner found on gas barbecues for heating pots and pans.
Fat drip tray – collects fat drips to reduce flare-ups and make cleaning your gas barbecue easier.
Ash collector – a removable shelf or tray that 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 vaporiser – good gas barbecues will have lava rocks or vaporiser bars to help create that smoky barbecue taste.
Even the most well-known and reputable barbecue manufacturers can end up producing bad models, which is why it's important to read our individual barbecue reviews.
However, if you want an overall impression of how the different barbecue brands perform, we survey thousands of barbecue owners every two years to tell us about the barbecues they own - from how likely they'd be to recommend a brand, to how reliable the barbecues are once you get them home.
Our product experience surveys, combined with our extensive lab tests, mean we can recommend the best barbecue you should buy.
There are countless shops to choose from when buying a barbecue - including specialist brands, such as Weber, high street DIY stores such as B&Q and Homebase, and online retailers such as Amazon and Argos. Whether you're shopping online or in-store, make sure you pay attention to the shop's returns policy.
Popular online retailers that stock barbecues include:
Argos sells a variety of barbecues from different brands, including its own Argos Home range. Prices start from £15 and go up to £530.
Amazon has a wide selection of barbecues, including built-in, freestanding, portable and smokers. Prices start from £9 and rise to £5,000 for specialist outdoor ovens.
Homebase is home to a small selection of gas and charcoal barbecues. Prices start from £70 and go up to £800.
John Lewis stock a selection of portable and full-sized gas and charcoal barbecues with prices ranging from £44 all the way up to £7,500 for specialist outdoor kitchens.
The Range offer portable bucket barbecues and full-sized gas and charcoal models. Prices range from £12 to more than £2,000.
Fuel for your barbecue
Buying gas for your barbecue
Make sure you check the instructions on your gas barbecue before buying fuel for it. It will need one of:
Propane (red or green canister)
Butane (blue canister)
Most gas barbecues use propane, and will come with the right regulator attached, which is the valve you connect up to your grill. The valve will usually need screwing on, but green canisters (often called ‘patio gas’) have clip-on valves that are easier to attach.
The more burners you use, the more gas you will use, but as a general guide a 13kg canister of propane will fuel a three-burner grill for around 15 hours.
You can buy gas canisters and refills at some DIY stores, garden centres, petrol stations and specialist retailers. A small deposit of around £30 is usually required to rent a canister, and the fuel itself will cost roughly the same.
Returning the canister once you’re finished will get your deposit refunded, and if you bought it, it can be recycled free of charge too.
Buying charcoal for your barbecue
Which charcoal you should use to fuel your barbecue is largely down to how long you want to cook for and how hot you want your coals to burn:
Lumpwood charcoal - the natural stuff. It burns quickly so you get to cooking temperature more quickly, and it’s lighter than briquettes. It can burn too quickly though, so if you’re cooking lots of food or something big it might not last as long as you need it to.
Charcoal briquettes - a denser and heavier fuel composed of coal dust and other combustibles such as peat as well as charcoal. It burns hotter and for longer than lumpwood, so it’s better suited to larger barbecues. It takes much longer than briquettes to get to cooking temperature, though.
You can get either fuel in large bags of 5kg or more from supermarkets during the late spring and summer months, and most DIY stores, hardware shops and petrol stations all-year round. Larger lumps of charcoal are trickier to light and last longer, so if you're after a quick barbecue there are smaller charcoal bags available that you ignite without opening them. They light very easily and burn through quickly.
Storing and transporting your barbecue
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 need 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 barbecue reviews take these elements into account and rate how manoeuvrable each barbecue is over a specially designed obstacle course.
Follow our tips to keep your barbecue running smoothly for longer.
Keep it clean. Give it a basic clean after every use and a deep clean every three months. Preferably as soon as it has cooled down and is safe to touch. It can feel like a bit of a pain, but you'll thank yourself after.
Coat it with vegetable oil. Apply a thin coating of vegetable oil to your stainless steel or chrome-coated grills after cleaning to help protect it from rust. For cast iron, wipe over with a highly saturated solid fat such as lard.
Keep it covered. When not in use, store it in a shed or a garage. If you haven't either of these, invest in a good barbecue cover that fits well and has strong ties to attach it to your barbecue or use a rope to tie it on as they have a nasty habit of blowing away in winds.
Keep the hose in good condition. Check that the gas hose is free of grime and check for kinks, splits and signs that the rubber is perishing. Store the hose away from frost and direct sunlight.
If you’ve got an unused barbecue lurking about, here are some ways to free up storage space and maybe make some extra cash while you’re at it.
Sell your barbecue online. There’s a thriving second-hand market online for barbecues – particularly when it comes to models in good condition from popular brands such as Weber. Sites such as Facebook Marketplace, eBay, Gumtree and Preloved will let you list your unwanted barbecue. If you want to make a sale, make sure you write a detailed description about the barbecues condition and add as many photos as possible. Buyers will typically come and collect the BBQ from your home so you shouldn't need to worry about delivery costs but don’t forget to factor in listing and selling fees.
Give your old barbecue to friends and family. Offering an unwanted but functioning barbecue to friends and family is a great way to reuse your BBQ.
Freecycle your barbecue. If your barbecue is still in safe working order but you’ve had no luck selling it, you could give it away to others that need it through a community-based re-use scheme such as Freecycle or Freegle.
Recycle or dispose safely. If your barbecue isn’t in good-enough condition to pass on to someone else, contact your local council for recycling or disposal options in your area.
How we test barbecues
Which? is independent meaning we work for you, the consumer. We buy all the products that go to our test lab, so you can be sure that our barbecue recommendations are influenced only by our test results and not by the manufacturers.
How well does it cook? We have two independent chefs cook a typical barbecue feast and rate food on evenness of cooking, how tender and succulent it is as well as its overall flavour and appearance.
How easy is it to use? We time how long it takes to heat up and cook a variety of food - including marinated chicken thighs, veggie sausages and many more. The chefs try all the accessories the barbecue comes with and then finally, it's rated it on how easy it is to clean.
How easy is it to build? We time how long it takes to assemble and the ease of doing so.
How well made is it? we inspect the durability of the barbecue pre and post-testing.
How easy it is to move and store? How simple it is to manoeuvre and any features that make it simpler.