Sayanara hob, Adios oven, and ta-ta toaster – it’s time to dig out your tongs and fire up the barbie. And whether you’re planning the odd impromptu after-work supper for two, or regular all-day feasts for extended family, there’s a griller for you.
CHOOSE YOUR FUEL
If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty or waiting 40 minutes for the embers to heat up, charcoal barbecues are inexpensive to buy and run, and give you that authentic smoky taste. For an especially intense flavour, invest in a trendy smoker, which uses charcoal combined with wood chips to slow cook joints of meat – you can get chips in apple, hickory, pecan and other varieties to pep things up even more.
For growling stomachs, however, there’s no beating a gas barbecue’s instant, controllable heat. With charcoal and firelighters out of the equation, gas provides the easiest and cleanest way to cook, provided you can lift those heavy bottles of liquid petroleum.
Traditionally choosing gas meant sacrificing that chargrilled taste, but look for special ‘flavourising’ bars below the grill. They simulate the taste created by a charcoal barbecue by vaporising the juices from your food as they drip down, creating a smoke that infuses your food extra flavour.
Want ultra-tender meat that falls right off the bone? Light up a mix of charcoal and hardwood chips at the bottom, then fill the water bath in the middle – this creates steam that keeps your meat lovely and moist. Finally, pop your joint in the racks at the top and roast low ‘n’ slow for three to four hours. Yum! Weber’s specialist Smokey Mountain Cookers come in three sizes – this medium 37cm version costs £300 at Argos.
DECIDE WHAT’S ON THE MENU
Family–sized barbecues can cook a lot more than the standard fayre of chicken and burgers, particularly if they have a lid – close it, open up the vents and you can use it like a fan-assisted oven to roast and bake food.
Buy a pizza-stone accessory and you’ll be able to turn out a margherita to rival Napoli’s finest in a couple of minutes, or choose a model with a rotisserie to slow-cook meat and poultry to melt-in-the-mouth perfection.
A griddle can also come in handy for fish and vegetables that might otherwise fall through the grill, and a warming rack is a nice-to-have spot where you can keep food warm away from the direct heat, or toast burger buns. If you opt for a gas model, less-powerful side burners can be used to heat up water for tea, or beans and scrambled eggs for brunch.
Gas barbecues don’t come much more affordable than this beauty, which won’t exactly feed the masses but the grill area of 1,558cm2 is just about okay for a family of four. There are two main burners, and two side burners, including one that sits beneath a hotplate so you can fry off eggs or have a go at Teppan yaki. The Hobart gas barbecue costs £149 at The Range.
Barbecues can be beautiful – the Klasen charcoal barbecue and Äpplaro trolley from Ikea costs £160. The temperature gauge in the lid is a helpful guide, but it’s generally easiest to manage the heat of a charcoal barbecue by putting on the recommended amount of fuel at the start.
COOK BY NUMBERS
A small barbecue will serve two or three people well on a camping trip or picnic, and is perfect if you have little more than a balcony or small courtyard garden. For gas barbecues, one burner should cater for every two mouths you have to feed – but you can also go by cooking area, as you would for charcoal models. A surface of up to 1,800cm2 will be fine for four guests, six people will need around 2,000cm2, while parties of eight will require at least 2,500cm2.
Roll out this barrel barbecue when you’re cooking for a crowd. You can fire it up with the lid on to roast, or open it out, add the second rack – included – and cook a big batch of burgers. A couple of fold-up shelves offer a place to rest food that’s ready to cook, while condiments and plates can sit on the shelf below. The Lovo oil-drum charcoal barbecue has a vast maximum cooking area of 4,536cm2 and costs £99.99 at Homebase.
TAKE THE PARTY ANYWHERE
Why restrict yourself to grilling in your own back garden, when you could get a portable barbecue and cook kebabs on a camping trip or bangers at the beach? Look for a design on legs, so you won’t leave scorch marks on grass, and with a cool-touch handle so you can grab it and go after your meal.
Great for use on a table or out-and-about barbecuing, the weatherproof Smokey Joe from Weber has lid lock for carrying that doubles as a lid holder, so you can position the top as a protective heat and wind shield. With a grill area of around 950cm2, it costs £69.99 at Dobbies.
Read more →