Barbecues buying guide

Enjoy the summer weather and make a social occasion of outdoor dining with a barbecue. We offer a great range of types and sizes, and this guide will help you choose the right barbecue for you. And if you buy a gas barbecue, we can even assemble it for you pre-delivery - find out more.

Choosing a barbecue

In order to choose the right barbecue for you, there are some questions you need to answer:

  • How do I decide how much to spend on a barbecue?
  • How many people am I likely to cook for?
  • Should I get a gas or a charcoal barbecue?
  • What other features should I look out for?

How much to spend?

The price of a barbecue is determined by its size, the number of features and its quality. So if you plan to use your barbecue regularly, it's worth spending a little more on a model that will last you longer, and comes with a lengthier warranty.

Our range starts at £15 for a charcoal bucket barbecue, £99 for a 2-burner gas barbecue, and goes right up to £5999 for a luxury grill centre with social area - though the latter is arguably more of a portable kitchen than a barbecue!

How many are you cooking for?

Every barbecue has a cooking area which is measured in square centimetres (cm²). As a rough guide:

  • Up to 4 people: you'll need a smaller cooking area (up to 1800cm²)
  • Up to 6 people: a larger area of 2000cm² to 2500cm² is enough
  • Up to 8 people: the largest gas barbecues (over 2500cm²) will be enough
  • Cooking for a larger party? Griddles and warming racks will keep large amounts of food from going cold.
  • If you're cooking for just a couple of people, the bigger gas barbecues feature up to 6 burners, and with only one burner in use you won't waste too much gas.

Gas barbecues

Gas barbecues are a quick and easy option. Simple, push-button ignition provides an instant flame and you can start to cook in about 10 minutes. Above the burners are flavouriser bars, which heat up and act in the way as charcoal, but with burner controls similar to a cooker so you have instant temperature regulation.

Contrary to popular myth, there's no difference in taste between gas and charcoal barbecues, and the adjustability of gas means that it's easier to cook food more evenly, with less risk of burning. After use, there's no charcoal ash to dispose of, and the flavouriser bars are low maintenance as unlike lava rock they don't need any cleaning!

On some models, multiple burners make it possible to cook at different temperatures - ideal if you're cooking different foods.

Other cooking options include side burners, useful for sauces or vegetables, and warming racks - which are great for garlic bread, and for keeping batches of grilled food warm.

Gas for barbecues is usually propane (sometimes called "patio gas") and is supplied in a red cylinder. When you first buy, it's usual to pay a deposit or hire charge for the cylinder as well as for the gas. When it's empty, it can be exchanged for a full one, and you just pay for the gas. Larger cylinders are also available, and these would be more suitable for the bigger gas barbecues with three burners.

Calor Gas (0800 626626) will deliver from a local stockist in your area for a small charge. Alternatively, look up 'Bottled Gas' in a directory or online.

All our gas barbecues are equipped with a regulator, which attaches from the hose to the gas bottle and regulates the gas pressure.

Charcoal barbecues

Charcoal barbeques

Kettle barbecues come with a lid which creates an enclosed cooking area, enabling food to be braised or roasted. Some models feature a lid holder so you can use the lid as a windbreak - handy if you're barbecuing in a small garden. If you like the idea of barbecuing on a picnic or when camping, a portable model makes a wise choice.

Charcoal is relatively easy to light and burns cleanly, although do light it at least 45 minutes before you start cooking to allow it to reach a good temperature. It will burn white hot when it's hot enough to use. Always remove ash afterwards - some models feature a one-touch cleaning system and removable ash-catcher which makes the job much easier.

Types of charcoal:

  • Lumpwood charcoal: a wood which has been fired in a kiln and results in a very combustible form of carbon. The best quality lumpwood charcoal will achieve a higher temperature.
  • Instant lighting lumpwood: a convenient form of charcoal which has been impregnated with a lighting agent, removing the need for lighting fluid or firelighters.
  • Charcoal briquettes: sometimes called 'heat beads', these are uniformly shaped lumps of fuel which are made from particles of waste charcoal, mixed with a starch binder. Once lit these tend to burn for up to twice as long as lumpwood charcoal and provide a more constant cooking temperature.

More barbecue features

Grills

Grills are made from a variety of materials, depending on the cost of the barbecue:

  • Chrome plated: looks smart, but care must be taken to clean them thoroughly after use.
  • Stainless steel: easy to clean and maintain, and more durable than chrome-plated grills.
  • Cast iron: excellent heat source, as they hold the heat well. Wipe the grill with cooking oil before and after use, to help prevent rust.
  • Porcelain-coated: easy to clean, and the coating stops rust. This type is found on the top of the range models. Some models are equipped with 'flavouriser' bars, which help create a smoky taste when hot juices and fats drop down from the grill.

Griddles

Some models have this as well as a grill. A griddle is a solid metal plate to use with foods which might otherwise fall through the grill – like eggs for an all-day breakfast!

Lids and hoods

Kettle barbecue lids can act as windbreaks, as well as a roasting hood. When the lid is closed, it deflects the heat and smoke more evenly around the food. Some of the more expensive barbecues have an optional or standard hood, so you can roast joints of meat or a whole chicken, and also incorporate a thermometer to check you're cooking the meat at the right temperature.

Three or more burner models are best for roasting as you can turn off the middle burner to avoid burning the meat before it's cooked through. If you leave the lid or hood open, the barbecue will grill as normal.

Accessories

You'll need a barbecue tool set which usually comprises tongs, fork and a spatula. A grill basket is a neat idea as it will stop smaller pieces of food such as vegetables falling through the grill, and makes grilled food easier to turn. And it really is best to wear an apron to protect yourself from spitting fat.

For your charcoal barbecue, a chimney starter is a highly recommended accessory. Fill the chimney with the required charcoal and light for a quick and safe way to prepare charcoal for cooking.

View our range of barbecue accessories

Assembling and positioning

When your barbecue arrives, it's a good idea to assemble it as close as possible to where you'll use it, choosing a level surface away from combustibles such as plants and fencing. Always find a sheltered position if windy. Check all the components are present, and take a look at the manufacturer's instructions before starting assembly.

We also offer a barbecue assembly service - find out more.

Tips for the chef

  • The key is in the preparation - make sure everything else is ready before cooking, so you can serve up straight away
  • Remove chilled meats from the fridge and allow them to reach room temperature
  • Don't pack food onto a kebab skewer too tightly, as it prevents each piece from cooking thoroughly
  • Light the barbecue 30 minutes before you want to start cooking. Pile charcoal up into a pyramid and add some firelighters before igniting
  • After 30 minutes, the coals should be coated in grey ash and glowing red inside - you're ready to cook
  • Spread out most of the charcoal but leave a space at one side - handy as a cool spot if you need it for food that's cooked
  • Turn food regularly and check each piece is cooked thoroughly before serving
  • Chicken needs to be cooked longer and over a less hot part of the barbecue than beef or steak
  • Sugary marinades can burn, so brush them on during the latter stages of cooking
  • Food will cook best over glowing embers rather than a flame; have a spray bottle of water handy to extinguish any flames as they appear.
  • Get more hot tips for barbecue cooking, including the recipe for "beer can chicken"

Safety

WARNING! 

  • Barbecues are for outdoor use only. Never use them in enclosed spaces such as buildings, garages or tents, as toxic fumes will build up and cause injury or even death
  • Keep matches, firelighters and fuels well away from lit barbecuesce alight, never leave unattended - keep children and pets away
  • Never attempt to move a barbecue once lit
  • Always leave a barbecue to cool down completely before cleaning, covering and storing
Charcoal Safety warning, do not burn inside

Charcoal barbecues

  • Only ever light a barbecue with firelighters and fuels made specially for the purpose - never use petrol or other flammable products
  • Read the manufacturer's instructions carefully

Gas barbecues

  • Check that it's properly connected to the the gas bottle, and that the hose is not cracked or perished
  • Carry out the gas leakage test prior to using your barbecue for the first time, and whenever the regulator/hose has been disconnected

Don't leave raw food out in the sun before cooking: keep it covered and away from children and pets



Caring for your barbecue

Charcoal - Once cold, remove the grill rack and scrub off any residue with a wire brush, then wash with a soapy scouring pad and dry. Remove the cold ashes from the grate and brush it out. Periodically, clean the rest of the barbecue with an oven cleaner to get rid of any accumulated grease and dirt, then rinse thoroughly.

Gas - Always clean the rack, lid, drip trays and gas burners before putting away. Turning on the gas and heating the flavouriser bars will enable quick and easy cleaning.

Before you put the barbecue away, wash the outside with hot soapy water, rinse and dry thoroughly. We sell tailored covers for most of our barbecues which will prolong their life even when kept outdoors.