Your top ten barbecue buying questions answered

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If you are considering buying a new barbecue, you might find yourself confronted by a sea of grills for sale, all vying for your attention and all at different price points. It can be difficult to navigate your way through all the options available to find the barbecue which is right for you. So use this handy guide to the top ten burning questions to ask yourself when buying a barbecue, from the barbecue team at Gates Garden Centre, to help you decide what you are looking for.

  • Question 1: What is my budget? This will have an impact on the quality and the different features you can expect from a barbecue. In our experience if you have a limited budget available, it is far better to buy a good quality barbecue with fewer features, than it is to buy a feature-rich poorer quality barbecue. A really good quality barbecue will last much longer and should pay you back with years of dependable service. Always bear in mind our favourite phrase: “If you buy cheap, you buy twice”.
  • Question 2: Should I choose a Gas or charcoal barbecue? This is a hot topic, but how do you know which you should go for? A short summary of their key features:

Gas barbecue

  • Clean
  • Convenient
  • Easy-to-light
  • Easily controlled flames
  • Maximum time for entertaining guests
  • Storage for grillware, tools, accessories
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Charcoal Barbecue

  • Appeal of cooking over real fire
  • Maximum smoky flavour
  • Good for exploring the range of different BBQ flavours
  • For someone who enjoys investing time in managing the flames

For further information, read “should you choose a gas or charcoal barbecue?” our full exploration of the features of gas and charcoal grills. Wood pellet barbecues are great for exploring smoky flavours even further, but these can be tricky to use, so are aimed at the experienced barbecuer. Electric barbecues are good for places where gas or charcoal is not an option, such as on the balcony or terrace of a flat or apartment.

  • Question 3 – How much space do I have? -Think about the locations where you will be using and storing your barbecue. Will you use it:
Barbecue Size Tips 1

A barbecue should always be set up in a supervised space where children and pets aren’t going to bump into it. Good quality barbecues can be stored outdoors as they feature weather-resistant lids and frames, but bear in mind the size of the space in which you are intending to store the barbecue. Of course, we always recommend buying the correct cover to protect the grill from garden grime.

  • Question 4 – What size cooking area do I need? What size you need is governed by establishing the number of people you will be cooking for. Many people over-estimate the size of barbecue they think they need. If you are a couple and don’t often intend to cook for plenty of people, it may be that you don’t need a larger cooking grate. Another consideration is how much food you like to cook at once. Are you the type of person who likes to over-cater, or are do you favour more petite portions? Again, this will have an impact on the size of grate you need. It is easier to divide your cooking area into different zones with a larger cooking area. This is necessary to achieve techniques other than grilling, such as indirect cooking or low and slow smoking. Some larger barbecues may also come with warming racks which are a handy feature to keep food at the right temperature so you can serve all your barbecued items simultaneously.
  • Question 5 – How many gas burners do I need? The number of gas burners you need is linked to the size of cooking grate you decide you need. larger cooking grates will tend to have more burners. The more burners you choose, the fewer hot and cold spots you will experience across the cooking grate. You can also separate your grate into different cooking zones more easily, when you have more burners allowing you to grill or sear in one zone before finishing your food or perhaps cooking indirectly in another zone. Also look for heat deflectors which can help direct heat to minimise cool spots. Flavoriser bars sit above the burners to protect the burners and will sizzle and vaporise drips, adding that authentic smoky barbecue flavour. Use this handy guide from Weber to help you decide how many burners you might need.
Choosing How Many Gas Burners You Need

Question 6 – How can I identify a quality barbecue? Whether you choose the charcoal or gas route, the quality of the barbecue is something to think about. Cheaper barbecues will work initially, but may be made of lighter, cheaper thin metal which is not durable. A good quality barbecue will have some strength and weight to it and will last for years. Better quality barbecues will withstand heat and are built to cope with the elements as they are rust resistant.

Barbecue Quality Indicators 2

Also look for a brand which has a reliable reputation. You can rely on the quality of Weber and Kamado Joe barbecues, and the quality is reinforced with long manufacturer warranties for peace of mind.

  • Question 7 – What should the cooking grate be made from? Good quality grates will be made from either porcelain-coated metal which is non-stick and good at retaining heat, or stainless steel, which also conducts heat well, is easy to clean and is rust resistant. Cast iron grates are also great for retaining heat and are particularly useful for searing delicious restaurant-standard caramalised grill lines onto steaks.
  • Question 8 – What features do I need? Some more expensive barbecues might come with added features, which can be useful to improve your barbecuing experience. When it comes to these kinds of features, we would recommend choosing features that you think you will need and actually use, rather than just nice-to-haves. Additional features might include:

Gas barbecue

  • Sear zones for reaching high temperatures required for cooking steaks
  • Side burners for heating sauces or sautéing veggies
  • Side tables for prepping and serving food on
  • Tool & accessory hooks so that items are close at hand
  • Open or closed cart design for storing grillware
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Charcoal Barbecue

  • Easy-clean ash trays
  • Easy open lids
  • Multiple adjustable air vents to regulate temperature
  • Wheels for legs for easy mobility
  • Adjustable-height cooking grates to cook at different temperatures
  • Easy-light features
  • Side tables for prepping and serving food on
  • Question 9 – What additional grillware and accessories is the barbecue compatible with? additional extras such as Weber’s Gourmet Barbecue System (GBS) and Weber Crafted ranges are important because they can extend the range of food that can be prepared on a barbecue. Added extras are great to extend your repertoire but, as with the barbecue’s features, try and keep in mind what you will actually use, rather than what you consider to be nice to haves. Our favourites are griddles that enable you cook small and delicate items such as prawns, small vegetables or even eggs, that that would fall through traditional grill plates; and baking stones on which you can prepare bread or fresh stonebaked pizzas with a delicious crispy crust and oozing melted cheese toppings.
  • Question 10 – Do I need aftercare and support? The importance of aftercare and support that comes with your barbecue should not be overlooked. As previously mentioned Weber and Kamado Joe both come as standard with long manufacturer warranties for peace of mind. Additionally, when you buy a barbecue from an independent specialist like Gates Garden Centre either in-store or online, we are there to accompany you on your barbecue journey and you can depend upon our aftercare advice and support service. We are there to answer any questions or queries you might have about your outdoor cooking experience and you will benefit from our years of barbecuing experience. In the unlikely event that you have a question or issue which we can’t resolve in-store then we can contact manufacturers to investigate the answer for you.

Finally, once you have chosen your perfect barbecue, we recommend you have a trial-run at using it before you take on a big event, just in case…

If you have any burning barbecue-buying questions, or would like help choosing from our full range of Weber and Kamado Joe Barbecues and Barbecue Fuel & Accessories then please visit Gates Garden Centre in-store, contact our barbecue team on 01664 454309, or shop online.

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