If you have the desire to fire but don’t know what equipment to burn on – have no fear. This article contains all you need to know to get you on the go – and barbecuing till your heart is content.
Shopping for a BBQ Grill is confusing when you don’t know anything about BBQ. This is because there are so many choices in fuel source, in construction shape, type and material, in color, size, price – so you are forgiven if you get a little lost along the way.
We are going to attempt to straighten out the mess for you by starting at the beginning and talking you through it. Read this guide before you go shopping to find your perfect BBQ grill.
Shopping For A BBQ Grill: Where Do I Start?
- Decide where and what you want your grill for
- Backyard use: get a sturdy, solid (preferably cast in stainless steel) model
- Camping use: get a portable model – these are mostly charcoal fueled
- Indoor use: get an electrical model
First things first: decide where and what you want your grill for. If you want a model designed for backyard use then it needs to be sturdy, solid, preferably cast in stainless steel and built to last in all seasons. You may also wish to consider buying a cover for a model such as this so that it is weatherproofed all year round.
If you are interested in BBQ wherever you go then you want a portable model. Some of these are drum shaped and depend on charcoal; some are compact, small, and electrically powered. If you are camping you can buy a portable grill rack to turn any campfire into a BBQ without needing any other equipment. This is the cheapest option by far, but remember it depends on a fire to work.
Those that want an indoor model might benefit from an electrical model. Both electrical and gas fueled BBQ’s have the same issue – they do not taste of smokey BBQ flavor. The electric variants suffer the worst for this.
For home models you have a range starting as small as the George Foreman models and ranging as big as indoor smokers. The main difference between a gas grill and an electric grill is that gas grills should be used outdoors for fairly obvious reasons.
Smokers themselves are a little different. They use a combination of dry heat and smoke to induce flavor into meats and cook it slowly over time. Once smoked the meat will be preserved and cured, as well as tender and delicious.
You can also get cold smokers but you should be wary of buying these for home use since they do not cook the meat and therefore don’t necessarily make it safe for consumption without engaging in a second cooking process.
BBQ Grill Shopping Phase 2: Fuel Source Types
So if you can’t narrow down exactly what you want based on location (i.e. you know you want a backyard BBQ Grill but still don’t know what type) let’s try narrowing things down via fuel source:
- Wood Burning
- Gas Burning
Charcoal BBQ Grills
One of the most common types of fuel for your grill will be charcoal (Wikipedia). Charcoal grills do not need anything other than firelighters and a match to ignite – but you can buy fire-starting kits online if you struggle. Check out this one by Weber, for example.
- Gives the authentic smokey BBQ taste.
- Sears then Caramelizes the meat.
- Very cheap to buy.
- Burns longer than wood.
- More Carcinogenic than other cooking types (Men’s Health).
- Sometimes you run out of charcoal…
- You need to wait until the coals are white hot to cook.
- Tricky to ignite.
Wood Burning BBQ Grills
Wood burning stoves are often found in DIY BBQ’s (Grilling Companion; we don’t recommend trying this at home). The best thing about wood is that it is found in abundance if you live near a forest. If not, it is still reasonably cheap to buy.
That being said; a wood fired BBQ grill will vary in price as some sought after wood types add flavor to the meat. Cedar is a preferred wood, for example. Although wood is free/cheap to buy in basic form it also burns very quickly and spits at you. It also smokes excessively if your grill gets damp.
- Free or cheap unless you buy treated or specialized woods.
- Sustainable source, particularly if you are gathering it yourself.
- Fantastic smokey flavor.
- Easier to relight coals that have burned to charcoal.
- Burns fast most of the time.
- Smokes a lot if it gets wet, also difficult to light when damp.
- You need to cook over hot embers, so wait till it burns down.
- Can burn the outside of meat without thoroughly cooking the inside.
Gas Burning BBQ Grills
Gas burning BBQ grills depend on (you guessed it!) gas to work. There are two types: Propane or Methane (also called ‘natural’ gas).
In actuality propane is made in the treatment of methane to turn it into butane. So although many people choose methane as a preferred ‘environmentally conscious’ option they are only really cutting out the refining process.
Gas grills need to be used outdoors unless specifically otherwise stated by the manufacturers. Portable gas grills are absolutely not to be used inside your tent… you may poison yourself.
- Reasonably cheap to buy canisters of gas.
- Can choose between natural and standard.
- No mess, nothing to clear up other than the grill rack.
- Easy to ignite and generally durable.
- First purchase of gas drum can be pricey, afterwards refills will not be costly.
- Lacking in smokey taste.
- Fumes are dangerous if it is incorrectly stored or used.
- If you are hooked up to a standing propane tank and it runs out mid BBQ you have to call off the whole thing. With portable models you can just add another canister.
Electric BBQ Grills
If you choose electric it may be because you want to have a BBQ grill indoors. While this is just fine, a small electrically heated grill with a BBQ style plate in it is widely disputed in the professional world as real BBQ.
That being said the more you spend the more authentic BBQ taste you can save. Electric models can contain smoker boxes which you can fill with flavored pellets, wood chips or charcoal to add your own smoke. Most of these models are sort of metal-closet shaped and are known as vertical grills.
Pros of Electric BBQ grills:
- Neat, often compact, can be stowed when not in use.
- BBQ flavor can be achieved if you spend more on an elaborate model or smoker box.
- Outdoor models are available.
- Cheap to run – possibly the cheapest of all in terms of energy consumption.
Cons of Electric BBQ Grills:
- No BBQ taste unless you specifically add it.
- Must be near a power socket (ergo not good for camping).
- Often require you to spend money on additional items such as wood chips or pellets.
- Can be expensive for big models initially (Grill2Day).
BBQ Grill Shopping Phase 3: A Few Recommendations
We looked at a range of the best sellers and most highly recommended via customer review and sorted them into categories of which purpose they are best suited to. Hopefully this will help you get a feel for the type of products you should look at, depending on what you want to use the grill for.
Best Outdoor BBQ Grill: The Char-Broil Kamander
This nifty little number gets the top spot because it is a combined smoker and grill, giving you the best of both worlds. It is a charcoal stove with a cast iron cooking surface and tubular steel supports. It comes on wheels for ease of movement, is insulated to help you burn less furl and features a locking lid, a heat gauge and 2 shelves. An all round good model.
Best Indoor BBQ Grill: Top Grill BBQ Griddle Indoor Smokeless BBQ
This electric grill allows you to bring the BBQ indoors if you ever get rained off! This model has an extended surface area and a ribbed grill atop a separate heater, all set in cast aluminum that wont rust. If you want a dinner party style BBQ with the food in the center that everyone can help themselves to then this is the model for you… sort of like BBQ Tapas!
Best Charcoal and Wood Grill: The Weber Performer Premium
This charcoal grill has a porcelain enameled lid, a removable LCD timer, swivel locking, a storage compartment and a one-touch cleaning system with a removable ash pan. This is the copper colored model, but it also comes in black and other colors if you are willing to pay a little more. Weber are one of the biggest names in BBQ so they know how to build a model that lasts.
Best Gas Grill: The Char-Broil Performance 300 Liquid Propane Gas Grill
This is a two burner grill, allowing you to keep one end cool for storage or to use the lid to turn it into a convection oven. It comes with 300 square inches of cooking space, its own storage cabinet, a stainless steel lid and a mounted temperature gauge.
It sports electronic ignition sits on wheels, allowing you to move it easily and then lock it into position. It also has a swing-away rack with porcelain coated cast iron grates – the same material used in the cooking surface.
Best Electric Grill: The Masterbuilt Meg 335S
Masterbuilt are a reasonably big name in the professional BBQ world and their goods are often time-tested and durable. This particular model can be both an outdoor or indoor grill and we love it for the value for money you get. It comes with a digital controller, both handles and wheels to make movement easier, heats quickly, cooks evenly and is made from stamped porcelain coated steel around the cooking surface.
Best Smoker: The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker
Weber run a whole range around their Smokey Mountain smoker. This porcelain enameled instrument won’t rust or peel and has two cooking grates for loads of room. A temperature grommet monitors head and the dampers are fully adjustable for access to supreme smoky goodness.
As well as the smoker, you also get a cover to keep the rain off, a limited warranty and a lid thermometer thrown in for good measure. As well as all this, you have Weber’s customer service to rely on, so although it might run pricey it is always a good deal.
Best Camping BBQ: The Char-Broil Grill2Go
This is a really handy model with loads of built in reinforcement and safety measures. It locks which is very important when dealing with gas and portable BBQ’s, has a temperature gauge and comes with a cast aluminum firebox and lid – making it highly durable. It has a high impact frame with both legs and handles and features as much as 200 square inches of cooking space.
BBQ Grill Shopping Phase 4: Go Shop!
At this point you should be able to make an informed decision before you charge in head first and spend a load of cash! As a general guide try to go for a model with a warranty, as much storage and cooking space as you can afford and that meets your needs.
We also recommend that you invest in a cover if your model does not already have one included in the price. A cover will keep your BBQ Grill safely protected when not in use.
Now that we have enlightened you as to where to start, getting on the road to BBQ success should be a fairly easy task. We hope we helped at least a little – and also that any BBQ beginner’s bookmark our page and return for any BBQ advice they may need in the future.
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