Fuelling your BBQ
The main source of power for barbecues is either gas or charcoal. Gas is the most popular, due to its low-cost, convenience and ease. Charcoal is more work and clean-up, but food tastes best this way as it produces the highest temperature. Electricity is gaining momentum but doesn’t get hot enough to be the fuel of choice for most.
- Almost instant heat; adjustable temperature to around 300-550 degrees
- Portable, no need for ignition or any other power source
- Cheap and efficient (a 9kg gas bottle costs around $25)
- Easy to swap bottles at petrol stations, Bunnings and other locations
- Can take 30 minutes or more to heat up but will get to between 500-700 degrees
- Produces smoke and cinders, requiring lots of ventilation (not suited to balconies)
- More expensive than gas (around $4 per kilo)
- High heat and vapours create the most succulent meat and veggies
- Practice makes perfect (too smoky and the meat will be bitter)
- Almost instant heat (will reach temperatures of 250-450 degrees)
- Simply plugs into a power point, no need for extra items
- Better for the environment; emits no carbon or gas fumes
- Lack of open flame helps to avoid potential accidents
Staying on budget
For an entry-level portable BBQ, you’re looking at $100 to $400. For a trolley BBQ, prices range from $200 up to $1,000. Price also depends on what the appliance is made from; long-lasting materials like cast-iron or high-grade stainless steel will increase the cost.
Built-in systems are much more sophisticated, coming in at a sophisticated price of up to $15,000 or more to match. They’re basically outdoor kitchens, often including a sink, fridge and other add-ons. If you have the space, budget and consider yourself a Master Chef in the making, you’ll be in your element. But for most of us, built-ins are a little over-the-top. You don’t need to go fancy to cook great food.
When you're ready to compare brands, Finder ranks some of the best BBQs for different occasions. Bunnings has an excellent range as well as some great BBQ accessory picks like smoking chips, a spatula and tong set and a grill brush.
Weber BBQs are consistently one of the most popular, quality brands in Australia. Their premium gloves, mitt and apron are must-haves for any BBQ aficionado.
There’s also retailers like Barbeques Galore, Harvey Norman, Appliances Online, Kogan, The Good Guys, and many more. Most of these sellers provide online ordering and delivery.
Cooking style: what to consider
What you buy really comes down to what you want to cook. If you’re happy with sausages and chops, don’t waste money on extra features you don’t need. If you like to mix it up, look for versatility - some barbeques are more versatile than others. A hybrid model like the Weber Q series is consistently popular for this reason: it’s great for everyday barbecuing, yet easy to take away on holidays; and as well as barbequing, you can use it to cook a roast, pizza, breakfast, veggie or vegan meals, and much more.
Are you partial to a rotisserie chicken or pig on a spit? This is when you’ll need to go for a trolley BBQ, where you have more space for a hooded BBQ with a motorised rotisserie. And where a portable BBQ might be limited to only a grill, a trolley will have both a grill and a hot plate.
Prefer your meat American-style? Consider a dedicated smoker instead of a BBQ. For those who like slow-cooking, a smoker can deliver terrific “falling off the bone” results you just can’t get with a regular BBQ. Most smokers use wood chips as well as gas or charcoal. The smoke from the wood flavours the food, while the heat does the cooking. Different types of wood will alter the flavour.