BBQ buying guide

Stacey King

With the mouthwatering smell of grilled meat already wafting in from the neighbour's garden, now could be just the time to get yourself a decent BBQ.

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There are a few basic questions which will steer you one way or the other when searching for your perfect barbie...

What's your budget?
How much you spend will depend on a few factors: How many people you need to feed, how often you think you'll use the BBQ and - of course - how much money you have to spare.

Bigger usually costs more in the world of barbecues when looking at items of comparable quality. So if you have plenty of mouths to feed and not a lot of cash you might want to consider an oil-drum style freestanding BBQ.

If you're feeling flush and plan to get your grill on regularly, then you could consider the more elaborate and better-constructed offerings from the likes of Outback and Weber.

If there are only a couple of you or you only have a small terrace or tiny garden, a more compact portable barbecue might be most appropriate. Portable models are more versatile if you plan to get grilling on a picnic or camping trip too.

Charcoal-burning barbies are usually cheaper - due to their lower level of complexity - which brings us on to our next question.

Gas or charcoal?
Charcoal is the classic barbecue fuel, and accounts for most of the models sold, but gas barbies have some definite advantages so it might be worth considering both.

The benefits of gas-power is that you can be cooking 10 minutes after sparking up your "Propain Elaine" - and the heat is more constant and controllable.

More sophisticated models have multiple burners - allowing food to be cooked at different temperatures. The fuel is easier to port around and less messy, plus you only have to dispose of/exchange the canisters.

It is claimed that there is no difference in taste, but many barbie enthusiasts still don't regard gas devices as "real" BBQs. The ritual aspects of cooking on a charcoal BBQ are attractive to many users too.

What features?
Material will be dictated by price to an extent, but the options are cast iron, stainless steel, porcelain coated and chrome plated.

Porcelain is expensive but easy to clean and heat efficient, cast iron is cheap and cooks well, stainless steel is easy to clean and lasts well. Chrome plated barbecues look great but need to be cleaned well after use.

You'll need to consider whether you have room for or require additional features like hot plates, trays, a removable ash collector (very useful) and a lid or hood.

Where to buy?
Department stores such as John Lewis usually have a decent selection of BBQs, as do DIY warehouses like Homebase or B&Q.

Specialist towing and caravanning outlets can have a good range of barbies, and if you don't need to get so hands on but still want to pick your BBQ up personally then a catalogue shop like Argos might be worth checking out.

If you know what you want then of course the internet can help you find the best price and provide you with more product information.

What are your tips for potential BBQ buyers? Share below...