You know, we went off barbecues a few years ago. All that hassle, smoke and charred-outside-raw-inside food. That was until we found some barbecue designs that make things easier and tastier. Here’s our guide to the best barbecues.
The best barbecue is…the one you actually use
We’ve tried them all – from £5 buckets and disposable trays to marvels of engineering. For most people, the cheaper the better. If you’re only going to barbecue a couple of times a year, don’t make a production out of it. You want to make the most of your time outside with friends or family and, to be honest, the food is sort of secondary.
A bucket barbecue is neat and simple. Painted ones will lose their paint fairly quickly, so we like this £20 galvanised one. It has a bit bigger surface area than some and no paint to peel off.
We wouldn’t ever use the standard disposable trays. Firstly, they make unnecessary waste. Secondly, the coals are too shallow to sustain much cooking. For a bit of fun, try an Eco Grill. It’s basically a log filled with charcoal that you can use for barbecues or to stand a pan or kettle on. You’ll need something to stand it on to avoid setting fire to the ground. Costs around £12.
There are lots of portable barbecues to choose from that fold up to avoid mess. We’ve tested some VERY bad ones with hinges and handles that break. One that we’ve quite liked is this ‘notebook’ version, which folds super-flat and seems reasonably well-made for the money.
The other good shape is the barrel barbecue, though they’re not as easy to clean out. These are made of mostly stainless steel, so no paint to peel off, but they will discolour after use.
Another rather lovely stainless steel one, is this folding grill that has the advantage of a base to protect the ground underneath. It costs around £25 and folds up into the base so that all the dirty bits are enclosed.
For a big family, we also like the look of this barbecue on legs. It’s not small, but does fold down into a bag for carrying around. Again, it’s stainless steel, quite sturdy and has a grill area big enough for a party. The fact it’s raised up makes for more comfortable cooking. It costs around £60.
Serious barbecues for camp chefs
If you’re a big barbecue fan and you’re going to get a lot of use out of your kit, then it pays to buy better. Actually, spending more on a well-designed barbecue can encourage you to cook outdoors more.
The two we recommend are the Cobb and the Lotus Grill, but the latter just pips it to prime position thanks to its built-in fan and temperature control. Both have lots of accessory options for baking, frying, griddling etc, and neither are cheap. We’ve thoroughly tested both of these and you can see reviews and recipes here.
Beyond the barbecue
There are some wonderful stoves that use wood for cooking – so you can pick up sticks, pine cones and fallen branches and make outdoor eating even more of an experience. We’ve written all about wood-burning outdoor stoves, but the firm favourites seem to be the Anevay Frontier and Horizon stoves. The first is an amazingly portable stove that keeps you warm and has a cooking surface (it all folds down into a neat bag). The second is a super-efficient rocket stove that needs only sticks to keep it cooking.
And for a helping hand…
We’ve found a couple of things to help get your barbecue burning nicely. This chimney device takes your charcoal and encourages flames to rise to the top. It speeds up the process of getting the coals to a glowing state. Invaluable on a breezy day!
And these eco firelighters are much nicer than smelly cubes or bottles of fluid.
An indispensable item of barbecuing kit is the grill mat. These silicone mats sit on top of the grill grid and protect your food from the flames. It’s a way of avoiding too much charring and it makes it much easier to cook smaller pieces of food or ingredients that tend to break up (no more mushrooms dropping through the bars or fish flaking away). They’re reusable and non-stick, make barbecuing healthier and you get the grill marks without the burning! Around £8 for a pack of five.