Which barbecue should I buy?
Kamado, smoker and other types of BBQs
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Gas and charcoal aren't the only barbecues in town. We explore the other grill options if your home isn't set up for a conventional barbecue, or you want to branch out and try something different
In this guide we take a look at alternatives to the conventional gas and charcoal barbecues. If you need a small grill for your balcony, or you are interested in taking your barbecue to the next level, then we explore grills you may be interested in, including:
- kamado grills
- electric grills
What is a kamado grill?
The Big Green Egg is only one version of an increasingly popular type of barbecue - the kamado grill. While you can use a kamado grill much like any normal charcoal barbecue, they offer a different grilling experience. So what makes it so different?
Kamado grills are inspired by Japanese earthenware grills of the same name that have been used for centuries. They are often egg shaped and made of a heavy ceramic material. The ceramic construction can last a lifetime, but also can easily crack if dropped or knocked over.
Kamado grills are great insulators; they will stay warm for long periods of time. Because they maintain temperatures so well, this does mean they take a long time to cool down. The heat retention is great for cooking outdoors in cool climates, as you won’t lose heat from your grill quickly - and they also provide ambient heat that you can huddle around. However, if you overheat your grill to start with you’ll be waiting a long time for it to cool down, so it's important that you light up your kamado carefully.
Low and slow cooking
Learning how to get a kamado to the right temperature - using the right amount of coal and adjusting the air vents - might take some practice, but once you master the skill of getting it to the right temp, you’ll find your kamado will maintain a steady temperature, great for slow cooking over several hours. Slow-cooked barbecue is what the kamado grill excels at; so it's great for cooking up popular barbecue dishes like brisket, pulled pork and ribs.
Most kamado manufacturers advise that you use your kamado with lumpwood charcoal. Lumpwood charcoal is usually 100% natural, without additives or chemicals. If you are going to have your food sitting around for hours, being cooked slowly by smoke, then the lumpwood will make sure it's not adding any nasties to your food, which at the same time imparting it with delicious smokey flavour.
Lumpwood charcoal is a little more tricky to light and maintain than charcoal briquettes, which have been designed to light quickly and stay lit. Lumpwood can also be harder to find in shops than charcoal briquettes, but you can find a plethora of online retailers that specialise in lumpwood charcoal.
It might take a bit of practice to get used to grilling on these, but kamado grills are versatile and can be used like a barbecue, oven or smoker.
What is an electric grill?
Electric grills might not be considered worthy by barbecue purists, but they offer plenty of benefits. If you don't have the space for a grill, but still want a barbecue experience then an electric grill could be for you.
If you can’t have a full-sized gas or charcoal grill you don’t have to miss out on the joy of the barbecue experience. Electric grills are perfect for a balcony or for small gardens that wouldn’t be suitable for a more traditional grill.
A bonus to an electric grill is that you won’t need to top up on gas or charcoal, which could be a handy if you don’t have a car or another way of easily transporting gas to your home.
Use and maintain with ease
With electric grill there is no fussing with fuel or lighting fires. You plug them in and they are usually ready to cook on quite quickly.
Electric grills are often small and portable, which makes set up and cleaning easier than with larger grills.
Many electric grills are also suitable for indoor use, while charcoal and gas grills must always be used outside in a well-ventilated place.
Many well-known and respected grill manufacturers, such as Weber and Char-broil make electric grills to meet the needs of city-dwellers.
We pitted the Weber Pulse 1000 electric grill against traditional gas and electric grills, and you might be surprised at the results. Read our review of the Weber Pulse 1000 to see how it did.
What is a smoker?
If you dream of creating an American-style barbecue with pulled pork sandwiches, Texas-style beef brisket and short ribs then you might find a smoker is a dream come true. Smokers use charcoal to slowly cook up meats to juicy perfection.
Slow barbecue specialists
If you're after tender and juicy slow-cooked meats then you might consider a grill that can also be used as a smoker.
Smoking meats is different than your usual grill; instead of adding high heat to meats to quickly cook them, you use smoke and low heat to slowly cook over a long period of time.
This method of cooking produces juicy, tender and smokey meats, such as American-style briskets and pulled pork.
Most charcoal grills can be used to smoke
A smoker is technically anything that can maintain a stable temperature over a long period of time and that can create smoke, so many charcoal grills, such as the Big Green Egg and other kamado-style grills, can also be used as smokers.
However, if you're keen to create delicious slow cooked, smoked meats then a product designed specifically with smoking in mind is the way to go.
Not for the impatient
Aside from taking a long time to cook, using a smoker requires a certain amount of dedication. You’ll have to maintain your grill over a long period of time and a lot of slow barbecue recipes call for preparing your meat the day (or even days) in advance.
Slow barbecue recipes can also call for kitchen prep beforehand (like some time in the oven) or time on a grill after the smoking process, so make sure you know what you are after when considering a smoker.