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Home & garden.

Updated: 24 Jan 2022

Best barbecues: Which? Best Buys and expert buying advice

Whether you’re looking for a simple grill or want to host an outdoor extravaganza, our expert guide covers everything you need to know about barbecues and how to pick the best BBQ
Rebecca Jakeman
Cooking on a gas barbecue 423029

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'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.

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.

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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 electric barbecues could be the choice for you if you don't like messing with fuel, or are short on space.

We do not test disposable barbecues in any shape or form as they are potential fire hazards and also cannot be reused, meaning they are not an environmentally friendly option. We do, however, test portable models that are perfect for taking camping and on other outings as they can be used multiple times, so they're therefore a far more sustainable choice. 

For a full round-up of the pros and cons of every barbecue type you can buy, head to our gas vs charcoal barbecues guide.

Best gas barbecues

The best gas barbecues are thoughtfully made, have all the features you need and, most of all, let you cook up fabulous barbecue food that’s guaranteed to impress family and friends.

The worst gas grills don’t cook food evenly at all and give you bland flavours that lack any authentic barbecue taste.

We’ve picked our top five gas barbecues from our expert lab tests in the table below.

Top five gas barbecues

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  • 84%

    This Best Buy barbecue is an excellent choice for inexperienced barbecue chefs because it's easy to get good results from. It has a high-quality finish and cooks tasty barbecue food. It's powerful enough to grill and roast food quickly and evenly, and its top-spec features make it extremely simple to use.

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  • 83%

    We struggled to find fault with this brilliant gas barbecue. Our expert chef rated its cooking ability five stars out of five, praising the food’s perfect charring and mouth-watering succulence. It’s simple to use, too, with a quick heating time, easy-to-control heat and practical design.

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  • 78%

    This small and compact two-burner barbecue that would fit nicely in a small garden. It's simple and full of high-spec features, but how well does it cook? We've tested and reviewed this gas grill to discover what it's like to use. Read our review to see if it's for you.

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  • 76%

    This gas barbecue’s fantastic cooking ability, high build quality and easy-to-use design make it a top pick. It has three burners and comes with some handy features, including a cupboard, fold-down side shelves and sear plates, which make it easier to control the heat.

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None of these gas grills jumping out at you? Take a look at our full range of barbecue reviews.

Useful gas barbecue features

Here are three of the most useful features to look for when buying a new charcoal barbecue:

  • Fat drip tray - this stops your burners from flaring up when fat drips fall onto the grill, and are removable to make your barbecue much easier to clean.
  • Side burner - an extra little burner away from the main grill that can be used to heat pots and pans.
  • Griddle - a flat cooking surface usually at the side of the grilling area that can be used to sauté, braise or fry your food.

We've also recently tested a range of barbecue tongs, so we can recommend the best barbecue tongs.

Best charcoal barbecues

The best charcoal barbecues are well-designed, easy to use and, most importantly, give you delicious outdoor-cooked food full of tender juices and smoky barbecue flavour.

The worst we’ve tested take an awfully long time to get to cooking temperature and are a real pain to assemble and move.

We’ve pulled out our top three charcoal barbecues from our tests in the table below. We also list the models you’re better off avoiding.

Top three charcoal barbecues

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  • 84%

    This is a superb compact charcoal barbecue that can easily outperform its full-size counterparts. It's beautifully well-made, produces delicious food, and is very easy to use . You can buy lots of additional accessories to cook a range of meals and it's incredibly sturdy too.

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  • 83%

    For succulent, smoky food, this high-quality kettle-style barbecue is a great choice. It’s easy to use and comes with plenty of useful features, including adjustable air vents, a temperature gauge and a removable ash collector.

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  • 80%

    It may be towards the pricey end of the spectrum, but this charcoal barbecue’s cooking ability is sure to impress. It’s easy to use and cooks delicious, chargrilled food. The cooking area is a little on the small side though, so it isn’t ideal for feeding big groups.

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Not seeing the right charcoal barbecue for you? Browse all of our Best Buy barbecues.

Useful charcoal barbecue features

Here are three of the most useful features to look for when buying a new charcoal barbecue:

  • Air vents - these can be used to control how hot your coals burn and how quickly they burn through.
  • Warming rack - an internal shelf for keeping your food nice and warm once it’s cooked through.
  • Ash collector - a removable shelf or tray helps make cleaning your barbecue much easier after use.

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 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.

How easy barbecues are to manoeuvre is an extra-important factor when we calculate the test score of portable barbecues. Head to our how we test barbecues guide to learn more about what makes up our test scores.

Barbecue features

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 – 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 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.

Woman shopping for a new barbecue

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 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 handful of Best Buy models 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 table below. It lists the average scores of the barbecues we’ve tested in various price ranges:

Average barbecue test scores at different prices

  • 62% is the average test score for barbecues between £0-£200
  • 69% is the average test score for barbecues between £201-£400
  • 71% is the average test score for barbecues between £401-£600
  • 73% is the average test score for barbecues over £601

Ready to pick out your grill? Head to our full list of Best Buy Barbecues to see which models impressed our team of professional chefs in our expert lab tests.