Hoping to barbie some snags or a butterflied lamb in the backyard this summer but not sure what to buy? Two burners or four? Charcoal or gas? Portable or freestanding? With so many different barbecues on the market it can be tricky figuring out the best model to suit your needs. To make it a little easier we've compiled a checklist of the key priorities.
1: What's cooking?
The bigger or fancier the barbecue, the higher the price so don't make the mistake of buying one larger or more complex than you need. If you're keen on gourmet cooking, go for models with all the extras. If not, a barbecue with a simple grill plate will handle cooking a few sausages or a large piece of fillet steak.
2: Who's coming?
A two or four-burner gas or medium-sized charcoal barbecue should be large enough to cater for an average family of four-six people but if you regularly host larger gatherings, go for a four to six-burner gas model. But remember, the bigger the barbecue the more fuel needed to heat it. A built-in warming rack and a prep area is also a good idea for bigger barbecue parties.
3: Gas or charcoal?
Many barbecue cooks say the type of fuel makes no difference to the quality of the food and that it comes down to individual preference. Gas barbecues heat quickly, essential when our climate is changeable and evenings are cool. They also provide a controllable temperature, are easy to clean and provide consistent heat. The downside is they are usually more expensive. Charcoal gives food that distinctive smoky taste and can cook food at very high temperatures, sealing in juices. As well as being cheaper than gas, charcoal barbies are easy to build and lighter to move around. However they do take longer to heat up, it's not as easy to get the perfect temperature as it is with gas and fuel costs can be expensive, particularly for the larger half barrel charcoal barbecues. If you're unsure, consider a hybrid barbecue that uses gas to heat up the charcoal.
4: What's it made of?
As with all products, the better the materials the better the longevity. Bodies, grates and burners made of good-quality stainless steel perform well and have good rust resistance. Some high-end barbies are made of stainless steel with a porcelain enamel baked-on coating for top-notch durability. Cast aluminium bodies are generally cheaper but still robust. However try to avoid painted steel barbecues, which are likely to rust if the paint is scratched. And remember if you choose an uncoated cast-iron grate it will be need to be oiled to prevent rusting, so perhaps go for one with a porcelain coating.
5: How many BTUs?
The heat output of a barbecue is measured in BTUs (British thermal unit). Conventional barbecues with one to four burners are rated at 25,000 to 60,000 BTUs with the latter considered very hot. Well-engineered and well designed barbecues may use less BTUs but still cook very efficiently.
6: Portable or freestanding?
Portable barbecues take up less space on the deck and are small enough to take to the beach. A portable barbecue is ideal for apartment dwellers and when cooking for three or less. Most use small disposable gas canisters but make sure these are easily available.
7: How long is the warranty?
The length of a warranty will tell you if a barbecue manufacturer is prepared to back its product and, conversely, the price you pay for the barbecue will be reflected in the length of its warranty. Five years is common for many quality barbecue models and some high-end products have lifetime warranties.