Here’s a confession…we went off barbecues a few years ago. All that hassle, smoke and charred-outside/raw-inside food.
Then we found some barbecue designs that make things easier and tastier. So, here’s our guide to the best portable 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.
There are lots of portable barbecues to choose from that fold up. We’ve tested some VERY bad ones with hinges and handles that break. Ideally, you want a barbecue that folds in such a way that the dirty bits are contained!
For a family, we like the look of this barbecue on legs. It’s not a small pack, but it does fold down for carrying around. Again, it’s stainless steel, quite sturdy and has a grill area big enough for a party.
The charcoal goes into a removable steel ‘tank’ section so that the embers aren’t choked by the ashes. The fact it’s raised up makes for more comfortable cooking. Costs around £50.
We like the non-stick grill pan (though we haven’t so far been able to find out if this is PFOA-free). The storage areas are useful, and the whole thing weighs around 7kg. Costs around £40.
Please, please don’t use those disposable foil barbecue trays. If you do want disposable, then try these two barbecues instead.
Cleverly made from a log, the EcoGrill doesn’t need any firelighters or lighting fluid. It even comes in an ecoplastic wrap.
You should get at least two hours of cooking from it, but you do need to heat it up for around 15 minutes first.
You can use the EcoGrill for barbecues, of course, but you can also stand a pan or kettle on it. You’ll need something to place the log on to avoid setting fire to the ground. Available in a couple of sizes and costs around £9.
Made of natural, biodegradable materials, the CasusGrill even has a bamboo grill rack. Weird, eh! It works pretty well, though we only got 40 minutes’ cooking time from it rather than the stated one hour. Costs around £8.
We’re really trying to make our camping and cooking a lot more environmentally friendly – from avoiding plastics where we can to finding ways to cut waste.
If you’d like to see more ideas, have a look at our 20 ways to make camping greener.
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 a bit on a well-designed barbecue can encourage you to eat outdoors because it’ll light faster and make cooking easier.
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 the Cobb and the Lotus Grill and you can see reviews and recipes here.
Beyond the barbecue
Fancy cooking outside without needing to buy charcoal?
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 got a full feature with recommendations for woodburning outdoor stoves, but the firm favourites seem to be the Anevay Frontier and Solo 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 gasifying stove that needs only sticks to keep it cooking.
Have a look at Biolite’s new FirePit barbecue too.
A smokeless wood-burning FirePit that the makers claim can go from spark-to-fire in less than 30 seconds, cook your meals, and give you a full view of the dancing flames. Burn charcoal or wood, and control the intensity with four-speed fan, powered by the FirePit’s rechargeable powerpack that can also charge your phones and tablets. There’s even a control app! Around £220
See more woodburning stoves here. We had great fun testing them all.
A little helping hand for perfect barbecuing
An indispensable item of barbecuing kit is the grill mat. These 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 (no Teflon), make barbecuing healthier and you get the grill marks without the burning! Around £8 for a pack of five.