How we test barbecues
Some barbecues are packed with high-spec features, but cook tasteless food. Others look basic, but cook a delicious feast.
The only way to tell if a barbecue is any good is to cook on it, which is why Which? does exactly that in our independent lab tests. Our recommended Best Buys take the risk out of choosing a new barbecue.
Video: how we test barbecues
In this video you'll find out what it takes for a barbecue to earn our coveted Which? Best Buy recommendation, and how a Best Buy could make a real difference to your summer mealtimes.
How well does the barbecue cook?
To find out how well each grill cooks a typical barbecue feast, an independent chef cooks three sausages, a marinated chicken thigh and a pork-and-vegetable kebab on each barbecue, using all of the features on offer.
We then taste and rate the food on how evenly cooked it is, how tender and succulent it is, its flavour and appearance.
We are looking for succulent food that is tender and moist, evenly cooked all the way through and consistently browned. The food should have the delicious authentic smoky flavour and an appetising char-grilled appearance.
How easy is the barbecue to use?
We light each barbecue and time how long it takes to reach a perfect cooking temperature, then how long it takes to cook a range of common barbecue fare including kebabs, sausages and chicken.
All of the different cooking features are used during our trial, including the grill, griddles, warming racks, storage shelves, side burners and hoods.
Finally, the chef assesses how simple each barbecue is to clean, looking at whether the components are easy to remove and wash in a sink or dishwasher, how easy it is to get rid of fat drips and ash, and to clean out the cooking chamber of the barbecue.
How easy is the barbecue to build?
To find out how simple you’ll find putting your barbecue together at home, we assess how easy each model is to build.
We time how long it takes to assemble from scratch and rate how easy the instructions and diagrams are to follow.
We look for missing parts and bits that fit together poorly.
How well made is the barbecue?
We know that you want a barbecue that is safe to use and won't topple over if someone walks past it or while you're cooking in the slightest breeze.
Once built, we inspect the quality of finish of the barbecue, looking for parts that are constructed of durable materials and are well-finished to avoid rusting.
We also rate how well it's made, downgrading those with sharp edges that may cut fingers, or flimsy materials that will make it wobbly or difficult to cook on.
After our cooking tests we check to see whether any parts of the barbecue have been damaged by being used.
How easy is the barbecue to move and store?
If you keep your barbecue in your shed or garage, you’ll want one that’s easy to move around. We assess how heavy each barbecue is to move, how stable it is when you’re wheeling or carrying it, and how easy it is to manoeuvre.
We look for wheels and dedicated handles to help with lifting and wheeling, and check whether any shelves are likely to bang against legs.
Should I buy it?
Each of the assessments described above goes part way to making up a total test score, which is the percentage figure we award each barbecue.
But certain assessments are more important than others and so carry different weights:
- Ease of use 35%
- Cooking ability 30%
- Ease of assembly 5%
- Build quality 15%
- Stability 10%
- Portability 5%
A gas barbecue needs to score at least 79% to be considered a Best Buy and a charcoal barbecue must score at least 77%.
Those scoring below 45% are highlighted as Don't Buy models that are so bad that we think you should avoid them altogether.
Test scores for older barbecues
In 2013 we changed the way we scored barbecues. For models tested before 2013, the score was based on:
- Cooking performance charcoal/gas: 40/35%
- Ease of use charcoal/gas: 30/35%
- Assembly and quality of finish: 15%
- Stability, safety and manoeuvrability: 15%
When the barbecue was tested is noted under the specification tab of each review.
Though you can generally compare results for barbecues tested before 2013 with those tested after, the results don’t directly correspond. However, each score still gives a very good indication of the overall performance of the barbecue.