The Best BBQ Grill of 2018 – The Definitive Buyers Guide

If You Want To Buy Any Of The Best Barbecues Of 2018, Read This To Help Make The Right Choice.

Some of the products reviewed here are country specific and may not be available in the Amazon US store

As we write these words, the summer season is fast approaching. And with its warmth, our love of the outdoors is slowly being rekindled. So now, a lot of us are daydreaming about taking advantage of the sunshine and having that wonderful experience of an outdoor barbecue.

What better way to enjoy the summer than to taste the smoky flavour of mouth-wateringly delicious food, cooked over an open flame? Whether it’s by the seaside, on a stretch of open parkland or in your own back garden, what could be tastier than that first bite into a juicy burger or succulent chicken or even a good old-fashioned British banger (sausage)?

Just picture the scene. The kids are running around playing happily. The mums are chatting while keeping a watchful eye on them. And the dads are talking footy (soccer) or cricket as they gather round the fire, like their cave-dwelling ancestors.

Okay enough with the stereotypes!

But what if that old BBQ in your shed is rusting away and no longer fit for use? Or what if you’re new to all this and have never done your own barbecue before? Either way, the purchase of a barbecue is in order. But which one? In a way, buying a new barbecue is easy: you’re spoilt for choice. But in another way it’s hard – and pretty much for the same reason. The range of barbecues on the market is so great, that it’s sometimes hard to know where to begin.

This article will help you make the right choice.

Our Guidelines For Choosing

Some of the choices you’ll have to consider are:

  • Gas or charcoal?
  • Large or small?
  • Portable or for home use only?
  • Open or with a closable lid?
  • Expensive and durable or cheap and cheerful?

To help you make the right decision, the best way to approach it is by focussing on the key factors that shape your choice. These are:

  • What kind of food will you be cooking?
  • Where and when will be cooking/eating?
  • Who you will be cooking for?
  • How much money you are ready to spend?
  • How easy is it to assemble, use clean and maintain your barbecue?
  • Where you will store the barbecue when not in use?

After these guidelines, we will give you our recommendations for:

5 BEST CHARCOAL BARBECUES
5 BEST GAS BARBECUES
5 BEST PORTABLE BARBECUES
5 BEST SELF-ASSEMBLY BRICK BARBECUES

 

What will you be cooking?

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What will you be cooking?

Most meat tastes great when you cook it over charcoal. The smoke gives the meat a flavour that gas can’t match. But if you throw in the right mix of spices or a good marinade, you can level the playing-field. Gas still comes in second, but it’s a close second.

What matters more, however, is whether the meat is on-the-bone or off-the-bone, whether it’s in flat pieces, on skewers or a whole joint. A flat piece of boneless chicken breast or a burger will cook just as well on gas or charcoal. But kebabs and skewers can easily get burnt on the outside while undercooked on the inside. It’s all about judging the temperature. But that isn’t always easy.

Whole joints and meat on-the-bone

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Meat Joint

Whole joints of meat, and especially meat-on-bone, take longer to cook. This isn’t necessarily a big deal with beef. Beef which can be eaten rare or even raw. Just ask the French! But it could be a health problem with poultry. Chicken and turkey must be cooked through.

Strictly speaking it is only a barbecue if it has a lid or hood. Otherwise it is just a grill. For cooking a whole joint or meat on-the-bone you need a true barbecue. In fact, you can roast a whole chicken or a leg of lamb in a closed barbecue. On the other hand, some grills have powered slow-rotisseries. This helps the chicken or joint of beef cook evenly. Rotisserie grills don’t need a lid.

Some charcoal barbecues double as smokers. This means that not only is it closed, but it cooks with indirect heat. Smokers cook slowly on a lower temperature. This is good for tougher joints. And they give the meat that same smoky flavour as direct charcoal grilling or barbecuing. They don’t need a rotisserie because the food cooks from indirect heat. But it does take more time – usually a few hours.

Obviously a dedicated smoker isn’t suited to the impatient. But a combined smoker/barbecue gives you the best of both worlds.

Temperature control

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Temperature control

With gas, you can control the temperature quickly. If the food is getting overdone on the outside, you can turn it down immediately. With charcoal you can’t do that. You can move the rack higher above coal. But it’s not the same. Also, moving a hot rack is a quick way to burn your fingers! And that assumes the barbecue allows the rack to be set at a variable height.

Griddle plates and side burners

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Griddle plates side burners

If you’re particularly adventurous, you could try the twice-cooked method. First you shallow fry the meat on a griddle plate. This seals the outside and stops it drying out. Then you grill it on the open flame.This cooks it through. But it stays juicy and succulent on the inside.

Some barbecues and grills – both gas and charcoal – come with such a griddle plate. The plate usually covers half the barbecue. If not, you can buy a griddle plate. In either case, you can remove the plate and use the whole surface of the grill.

Aside from twice-cooking the meat, you can use the griddle plate for frying side-dishes. For example, if you like fried onions or mushrooms on your burger, you can just fry them on the griddle plate. And, come to think of it, a fried egg on top of your burger, also goes down a treat.

Finally, some gas barbecues come with a side burner or two. This is useful for cooking vegetables.

Where (and when) you will be cooking?

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Where you will be cooking

Do you plan to take your barbecue or grill on picnics and camping trips? Or will you use it only in your back garden or balcony? Will you use it on a whim? Or only on carefully planned occasions? Will you cook outdoors for a sit-down meal indoors? The answers to these questions affects your choice of barbecue.

If you want to take your grill with you on the road, a portable unit is a must. However, remember that portable grills tend to have a smaller cooking surface. That means you can cook less food on them at any one time. This may be a problem if you have hungry children who want their food now! On the other hand, if you choose food that can be cooked easily – like sausages and hamburgers – then it’s not such a problem.

If you want to cook a barbecue dinner on the spur of the moment, then gas is better. It heats up quickly in about five to seven minutes. Charcoal takes 20 minutes if you’re lucky and an eternity if you aren’t! Also, if the weather is in its can’t-make-up-it’s-mind mood, you may want to eat your flame-grilled dinner indoors. A gas barbecue gives you the best of both worlds. You can cook on your outdoor gas grill and then bring the food inside and sit down in the kitchen, living room or dining room.

On the other hand if you only want to use your barbecue for pre-planned events at the weekend, then gas or charcoal are equally good. In fact, hot coals may be better. Why? Because of the ritual of everyone gathering round the grill, giving their conflicting advice on how to get the fire started. It’s all part of the group-bonding experience.

Who will you be cooking for?

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Who will you be cooking for

Some people enjoy quiet, intimate barbecues for close family and friends. Others prefer grand affairs. Whether you’re feeding half a dozen or half the neighbourhood, affects not only the size of the barbecue you choose, but also the type.

For large groups, gas has an advantage, because guests tend to come and go. Gas can be turned up and down at will, so you can cook for the guests as they arrive. If you decide to buy a gas barbecue to cook for many, make sure that it’s one of the bigger models with at least three burners. Four is better.

If you’ve decided on charcoal, your best bet for big groups may be an oil drum type barbecue. This is like an oil barrel tipped over on its side. These come in both the open variety and those with a lid. But quality varies between manufacturers, Make sure that you get a good quality, well-made model.

If you’re only cooking for small to mid-sized groups, there are plenty of smaller charcoal barbecues to choose from. These include simple open grills and small “kettles” with lids.

Both gas and charcoal barbecues include models with a warming rack. This is very useful for keeping food warm after it’s been cooked. If you plan to cook for large or medium size groups, a warming rack is a must.

Price factors

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Price

While your choice of barbecue must be shaped by the what, where and when questions, you can’t ignore the price.

Charcoal grills are cheaper than gas for the same surface area. And there are some really cheap charcoal grills and barbecues at prices that gas can’t match. “Semi-portable” models can be very cheap. But they’re usually flimsy and probably won’t last more than one or two seasons.

In general you’ll find enormous price differences between different brands, even if the models look similar. This isn’t just a matter of “big-name” versus “new upstart”. The more expensive models are usually better made and tend to last longer. But no model lasts for ever. Even the best models eventually suffer wear and tear.

If you’re a complete beginner, it’s better to buy a cheaper model the first time round, till you get to grips with outdoor cooking. But if you’re an old hand or you know what you want, then take the plunge with a more expensive model that does the job best.

How easy is it to assemble, use, clean and maintain your barbecue

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Assemble, use, clean and maintain your barbecue

Very few barbecues and grills arrive in one piece. Even large gas models usually need some DIY assembly. But the best of them have pre-assembled parts. Also, some have clear instructions and diagrams. Others are more like trying to decipher the da Vinci code!

Some models are easier to use than others. Charcoal is hard to light, which leads to the temptation to start cooking too early. This can leave the food raw or underdone. Also, charcoal is messy. And no one wants dirty hands when they’re about to handle food!

Gas is easy to light and heats up quickly. But gas carries risks (see below).

Barbecues must be cleaned. This should be done both after cooking and before the next use. The former stops it rusting. The latter is to make sure it’s clean before you put food on it.

Charcoal barbecues and grills leave a pile of ash that must be cleaned out. Some are designed to make this easy with an ash drawer that can be easily removed. Others have a hole that can be opened and the ash swept into it.

Finally, bear in mind that some barbecues last longer than others. The more flimsy ones may last little more than a season, but they are cheap. The more durable ones, will last for years. But they cost a lot more.

Storage

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Storage

Larger barbecues are harder to move than small grills. This might seem like an obvious point, but if you want to store your barbecue in the shed or garage, it’s important.

You might be quite happy to leave it out in the garden. But then you will want a cover for it. When you buy a large model, it might be worth checking if it comes with a cover. If not, a separate cover may be available to buy at the same time. Make sure you buy a cover that is designed for your model of barbecue or at least a good fit.

Also, if it’s a gas barbecue, you may want to store the gas canister under lock and key.

If you do want to move the barbecue indoors or to a shed, make sure it has wheels. Again, an on obvious point, but one that’s all too easy to forget when you’re focussing on other things. And make sure the wheels are sturdy and well-made. Nothing can be worse than moving a large barbecue only for the wheels to come off!

Our Recommendations:

5 Best Charcoal Barbecues / Grills

 

Tepro Toronto Trolley Grill Barbecue – Black

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Tepro Toronto Trolley Grill Barbecue

The Tepro Toronto Trolley is a durable, powder coated barbecue with a hood, ideal for big occasions. The cooking surface of the main grill is 55 x 41.5cm. For your convenience, this is split between two 27.5 x 41.5 enamelled grates side by side. These can be washed in a standard sized sink. You can also cover one half with a griddle plate for frying and searing (see guidelines). The chrome-plated warming rack is 53.9 x 24.1 cm.

On the negative side it can’t be used for smoking, unlike the vonHaus model (see Honorable mentions below). Another drawback is that the handle and side-table can’t be swapped round.

On the plus side, it has some good features, like a built-in thermometer and a crank mechanism to adjust the grid height. It also has an upper warming grill attached to the lid and a side shelf. The former is useful, not only for keeping food warm, but also for cooking. When the lid is closed, the warming rack goes down and moves to a more central position over the charcoal. When the lid is raised, the warming rack no only goes up, but is also offset from the coals. So the food stays warm but doesn’t get overdone.

There is plenty of room for cooking a large whole chicken. And once the charcoal has burnt out and the ash cooled down, the ash is easy to remove. You simply pull out the collecting tray and empty it. It also has a drawer for adding more charcoal very easily. The grill has two wheels and a strong, sturdy handle, making it convenient to move.

However, before first use, this barbecue must be conditioned by firing it up for at least 1-2 hours at a temperature of 100 – 200 degrees Celcius.

 

VERDICT: Best large charcoal barbecue with hood

 

Landmann 0566 Charcoal Wagon Barbecue

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Landmann 0566

This is a small, open charcoal grill with a side-shelf, bottom shelf and two wheels for ease of movement. The firebowl is enamelled and chrome-plated. As the grill surface is small, the lower shelf is ideal for storing raw ingredients that have yet to cook. The side shelf, although small, is useful for raw ingredients or finished cooked food.

The windshield at the back, doubles as the mechanism for placing the chrome-plated grill rack at various heights. Obviously, with no lid or rotisserie, this compact grill is not suitable for whole joints. But it’s okay for sausages, burgers, steaks and skewers.

If you’re ready to wait, and confident you can get the timing and height right, you could try cooking chicken wings or drumsticks on it. You could even try chicken thigh on the bone using this grill, although personally we don’t recommend it. On the other hand, boneless thigh, marinated for a couple of hours beforehand goes down a treat!

The weak points are the large number of pieces that have to be assembled for such a small barbecue and less than clear instructions. The wood is untreated and not of the best quality. The metal bends, and indeed you actually must bend it to assemble it properly.

Not suitable for large gatherings, it is ideal for small and cosy meals. Should last a couple of seasons, maybe even three depending on usage.

 

VERDICT: Best open, charcoal grill in the small, budget category.

 

Weber Compact Charcoal BBQ Black

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Weber Compact 47cm Charcoal

This 47 cm diameter kettle barbecue combines compactness with the added benefit of a hood, making it ideal for cooking whole joints as well as the usual burgers and bangers. It even has closable air vents, which means it can also be used for smoking.

The brazier (charcoal bowl) and cover are made of enamelled steel. The cooking grate is chrome-plated steel. The fire grate is also steel. Both grates are dishwasher safe, but the one for the food might be a tight fit in the average dishwasher. The handles are reinforced nylon with fiberglass. The aeration valve and ashtray cup are aluminium. The wheels are weather resistant, thermosetting plastic.

One drawback is that the height of the grill rack can’t be changed, either in relation to the charcoal or the ground. It stands at 65cm above the ground, which is suitable for most users.

Weber is a venerable name in barbecue manufactucturing and this little beauty is built to last for years. You will find cheaper ones on the market, but they will not be as good – and certainly not as durable. One flaw that rather bothered us is the charcoal undertray. It has large air holes that allow smaller pieces of lumpwood charcoal to fall through.

As far as cooking is concerned, this model is quite versatile. The surface area is large enough for many flat food types (burgers and steaks). But with the lid it really comes into its own as a roaster or smoker for a chicken, leg of lamb or joint of beef.

 

VERDICT: Best kettle barbecue

 

Azuma Steel Barrel BBQ Barbecue Smoker Summer Cooking Grill

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Azuma

Made of steel, this closable barrel charcoal barbecue smoker also has a separate smoking chamber. It is suitable for both charcoal and wood. You can cook directly in the large chamber or set up a fire in the smaller chamber on the side to smoke the meat.. The smaller chamber (38cm x 28cm) has a separate adjustable air vent that can be used to control its temperature. The main chamber (68cm x 39cm) has a chimney, with a smoke control vent.

Other features include a temperature gauge, wooden handles and two large wheels to move the unit easily. It also comes with a warming rack, a front shelf and a lower rack. The front shelf (38cm x 28cm) is a sturdy metal mesh construction. The lower rack (67cm x 36cm) is somewhat less sturdy.

One interesting feature is that although the grill rack height can’t be raised or lowered, the coal bed can. Thus you vary the heat not by raising or lowering the grill rack, but by adjusting the height of the charcoal or wood.

One thing to note is that this unit does not arrive fully assembled. It comes in parts and a certain amount of common sense DIY skill is required to put it together. But it isn’t rocket science and if you shouldn’t let that put you off.

When it comes to cooking, this ultra-versatile unit really comes into its own. Steaks, burgers, fish, beef joints, leg of lamb, whole chickens – and large ones at that – can all be cooked in this unit. Mouth watering dishes are a breeze in this powerhouse of a smoker barbecue. The only thing it can’t do is teach you how to cook. But if you know how or are ready to learn, this is the barbecue for you.

 

VERDICT: Best two-compartment smoker barbecue

 

Deluxe Trolley Charcoal Barbecue

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Deluxe Trolley

This large surface open grill (63cm x 38.5cm) is not really quite as portable as its name implies. You can move it around the garden or into the shed. But you couldn’t take it on the road. Strictly speaking it is a grill rather than a barbecue.

Whatever you call it, however, you can cook some very delicious meals on it. There are two cooking chrome-steel food racks, each of which can be set to one of three heights. Interestingly the two are front and back rather than side by side. Then again side-by-side wouldn’t be practical because one edge the coals and then you couldn’t vary the heights separately.

The makers have put some ingenuity into the clever design. Two side tables provide space for raw ingredients or cooked food. And there is additional storage space on a shelf underneath, hidden from view by a fabric front. You can also set the back rack at its highest level and use it as a warming rack, while cooking on the front rack.

The whole thing is made from strong steel, black powder-coated to stand up to the weather. All in all this is a very solid unit, large enough to cook for mid-size groups, although more suited to steaks, skewers and burgers than whole joints. If you are ready to forgo the benefits of a closed grill, then this is a good choice.

VERDICT: Best open barbecue grill

 

Honorable mentions go to:

Large Family Drum Portable BBQ with Grill

An open, half oil-drum barbecue grill.

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Large Family Drum

 

Charles Jacobs Large Charcoal Barrel BBQ with Smoker & Accessories

A smaller, closable drum barbecue-smoker similar to the Azuma (see above). It also comes with a set of three tools.

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Charles Jacobs

 

VonHaus Charcoal BBQ / Smoker

Similar to the Tepro Toronto, this model has a chimney and can be used as a smoker by closing the air vents. It has a side table, rack and built-in temperature gauge.

5 Best Gas Barbecue Grills

Gas has some special considerations you should take into account. Firstly, gas barbecues need a hose and regulator. If these are not supplied with the model, then you must buy them separately. The hose must be fitted tightly – but not so tight that the clamp cuts into it. (This is not necessary with side burners – something that confuses a lot of new users.) And remember that propane and butane require different types of regulator. Most important, make sure the gas tanks and barbecue have a gas safety certificate.

When it comes to for flavor, gas barbecues can be enhanced by putting in a smoker box with pre-soaked wood chips. But not all gas barbecues have a space for this. Other gas grills have gas tamers or lava rocks to recreate the smoky flavour of charcoal or wood. With a flame tamer, the gas burner doesn’t heat the food directly. Instead, it heats up the flame tamer, which in turn heats the food. The juices from the food ooze out in the heat and fall onto the flame tamer. When they hit the hot flame tamer, they vaporise into smoke and rise up into the food.

Flame tamers also have other advantages, like protecting the gas burners from falling grease. This keeps the burners clean and prevents the gas from flaring up when hot fat falls on it. They also spread the heat more evenly. And best of all, flame tamers can be removed and cleaned in the sink or dishwasher.

Lava rocks work in a similar way, but have the advantage that because lava is porous, it captures more of the dripping fat and juices. This in turn produces more smoke, adding to the smoky flavour. Also lava rock can be spread over the entire surface, unlike flame tamers which leave some parts uncovered. Lava rocks are also better at containing any flare-ups to a local region. With flame tamers, flare-ups tend to spread, when they occur. Lava rocks are also generic and you can buy them in many places. Flame tamers are specific to the appliance. If you need a replacement, it might have to be ordered separately.

Most gas barbecues have storage space under the grill. But please remember NOT to put the gas bottle under the barbecue when in use. The gas bottle must be placed at the SIDE of the unit.

FirePlus 4+1 Gas Burner Grill BBQ Barbecue incl. Side Burner

 

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FirePlus

This impressive gas barbecue grill has four burners for cooking food for large gatherings, plus a side-burner. So you can cook your steaks, kebabs, burgers, frankfurters and viennas on the direct flame and boil or steam some fresh vegetables or potatoes (for mash) on the left side. The side burner has a flap cover for when it is not in use.

On the right is a reasonable sized shelf. The unit is on wheels, so it can be moved around easily, when the gas bottle is disconnected. The section below offers plenty of storage space.

It arrives in two boxes and must be assembled. But provided you do it right, the construction is sturdy and solid. And there’s the rub. Because we found that lining up the screws was a bit awkward and fiddly. And that wasn’t helped by the instruction booklet, which wasn’t as clear as it might have been. But in the end it was well worth it the effort. We noticed this, when we started to cook with it. The lid can be closed for faster cooking and to cook larger joints.

Cleaning is easy as it has a large drip tray. However, in practice, some food dripped of splashed on the burners. And when that happened they didn’t burn evenly. But this is no different from charcoal where dripping juices can dampen part of the flame. In practice it can be cured between uses by cleaning.

You must buy the gas regulator and hose separately. This is not clear from the instruction booklet. Also it is not suitable for lava rocks.

VERDICT: Excellent high-end gas barbecue grill

 

Landmann Grill Chef 12375 FT 2 Burner Gas Barbecue with Flame Tamer

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Landmann Grill Chef 12375

This is a good, low-budget, gas barbecue grill with two continuously adjustable, aluminised steel burners and two-stage gas control. It also has a side burner with a cover flap. The cooking grill is chrome-plated and the model comes supplied with the all-important gas hose and regulator. It can be used open as a grill or closed. It even has a very convenient window for checking how the food is getting done.

Also included is a flame tamer (see above). There is also a sister model at a similar price (see honorable mentions below) that uses lava rocks instead of a flame tamer.

On the down-side, this model is quite tricky to assemble and doesn’t have a warming rack. Also, it is not really suitable for cooking whole joints. You might be able to slow cook a whole joint of beef, but we wouldn’t recommend trying to cook a whole chicken on it. (You could, of course, cut the chicken into quarters or spatchcock it and cook it flat.)

For small groups, this model is just right. It can cook burgers, steaks and sausages with ease.

 

VERDICT: Best gas barbecue for small groups if cooking whole joints is not required

Charles Bentley 7 Burner Premium Gas BBQ – available In Black & Grey

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Charles Bentley 7 Burner Silver

This top-of-the-range gas barbecue comes with six stainless steel 14.5kW burners, electronically ignitable. It has a double layered hood that can keep food warm for 30 minutes after cooking. The grills are enamel-coated to last long. The side burner has a foldable lid. The warming rack runs the full width of the grill.

Other positive extras include four sturdy wheels (with brakes), a side table, a thermometer built into the lid, a double storage cabinet, and a propane regulator and 60cm hose. They’ve even thrown in the little things, like three utensil hooks, bottle opener, sauce rack. And of course, the all-important side burner. A separate cover is also available.Make no mistake, this unit is both big and strong.

Made of steel and coated with heat and flame-resistant paint, it is built to last for years. But it comes at a price!The six burners mean you can vary the heart across the surface and cook different food at different rates.

The size makes this model ideal for large gatherings. The only limit is your imagination.

 

 

VERDICT: Best top-of-the-range gas barbecue

 

Outback Omega 250 Gas BBQ with FREE Propane Regulator

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Outback Omega 250

This budget model gas barbecue is well-suited to mid-size gatherings. The cooking area is 50 x 36 cm and it also has a side burner.

Features include a propane regulator, piezo ignition, folding side shelf with tool holder, bottom shelf, removable screen and lava rocks. The entire unit weighs only 10.6 kg and with two wheels, moving it is a breeze. The two fixed legs ensure stability when it is in use. The cooking grill is chrome and can be washed easily. The hood provides excellent heat retention both during cooking and for keeping food warm afterwards.

The cooking area is large enough to cook for an extended family or a group of friends. The side shelves are made of plastic, as is the drip collection tray. There is no warming rack, but as mentioned above, when the hood is closed, the heat is retained very well.

 

VERDICT: Best gas barbecue for mid-size groups

 

Outdoorchef City 420 Gas Kettle

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Outdoorchef City 420

Kettle type barbecues are usually of the charcoal-fuelled variety. In fact this one isn’t even marketed as a barbecue. But whatever you call it – it is designed for outdoor cooking.

It has one burner and piezo-electric ignition. It boasts a rotatable flip funnel for direct and indirect grilling. While intended for outdoor use, its small size makes it ideal for indoor storage.

Like most barbecues, grills and kettles purchased online, it calls for some self-assembly. In this case the assembly instructions come in many languages, including English.

It is fitted with a 37 MB UK gas regulator. The lid isn’t hinged and doesn’t stay in place. Instead, it is completely removable. This isn’t a problem, if you are doing open cooking. But if you are cooking closed, it can be a problem, as you then have to find somewhere to put the hot lid while turning the food or taking it off. And if you have children running around, this can be dangerous.

On the positive side, the combination of funnel and drip tray make for easy, clean cooking. And when it comes to matters of taste, the results are good.

 

VERDICT: Best gas kettle barbecue

 

Honourable mentions go to:

Everest 4 Burner Gas Barbecue

A similar spec to the FirePlus 4+1, it features cast iron burners, a griddle and free propane regulator + hose. Both are good and choosing between the two is really a matter of personal taste.

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Everest 4 Burner Gas

Landmann 12375 2-Burner Gas Barbecue with Lava Rocks

The sister to the flame tamer model above. A good alternative if you prefer lava rocks for the enhanced smoky flavour.

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Landmann 12375

 

5 Best Portable Barbecue Grills

 

La Hacienda 58106 Camping Firebowl with Grill, Folding Legs and Carry Bag

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La Hacienda

This is essentially a portable firepit with an open grill. This lightweight unit is ideal for camping or the beach, it has folding legs and comes with a carry bag. Made of steel and finished in black, heat-resistant paint, it has a mesh lid and has a 56 cm diameter. The base stands 20 cm from the ground and it is 39 cm to the top.

The unit comes with a chrome cooking grill, log grate and a metal tool for raking ashes. But it is not suitable for charcoal. Only chimenea logs (made of compact sawdust) or wood should be burnt in the firepit. And if they are burning low, you can always add more.

Starting the fire is easy, as practically anything can be used as kindling, including newspaper. This is where the mesh cover comes in. You put it on while the fire is getting started and it stops bits of flaming paper from flying out of the pit.

It is good for cooking burgers, sausages and boneless chicken. If you’re ready to wait a bit longer, you can cook steaks and skewers on it.

But the underside does get hot, so be careful where you put it. And let it cool down before you move it or pack it away.

 

VERDICT: Great, flexible, inexpensive portable charcoal grill

 

Sealey BBQ01 Portable Charcoal BBQ

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Sealey BBQ

Essentially a scaled-down version of a closed oil-drum type barbecue, this is nifty little unit. Straightforward in its design, you put in your charcoal and firestarter (liquid or solid), light it and fan the flames.

It’s a no-frills unit and you can’t vary the height of the chrome grill rack. But what makes this model special is that it comes with a second grill rack and it opens fully so that the lid or hood becomes a second barbecue. This gives you twice the cooking area. (Each half is 32.5cm x 22.5cm, so you get get a total of 32.5cm x 45cm.) And it should last a couple of seasons at least.

The quality of the food depends on your barbecue skills. The inability to control the heat means you must the judge the charcoal quantity and cooking time right. That said, this is a good portable barbecue, with the added option of using it as a true barbecue with the hood closed.

 

VERDICT: A great portable barbecue at a fair price.

 

Notebook Folding Grill

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Notebook Folding Grill

This is the cheapest unit that we are recommending. But don’t let this fool you. With a cooking area of 45cm x 30cm, it falls just, slightly short of the Sealey (above). It also folds up flatter than an attache case for putting in the boot of the car. But it can only be used for open cooking, so if you want the option of covered cooking then buy the Sealey. But if you only need open cooking for your camping trips and picnics, then this is the model for you.

The casing is made of hand-painted steel and the grill rack is chrome-plated steel. The unit can be carried by the sturdy carry handles. And the cooking grid has a handle for removing when hot.

There’s very little one can say that isn’t obvious. As with the Sealey and Hacienda, there’s only limited temperature control. But for cooking burgers, bangers, skewers and steaks, it’s a handy piece of kit.

 

VERDICT: Convenient, portable grill at a budget price

 

Weber Smokey Joe Original

Weber Smokey Joe Original

Weber Smokey Joe Original

For a portable barbecue, this little kettle punches above its weight. In addition to a 37cm diameter cooking grill it has a porcelain enamelled bowl and lid, an ash catcher, a glass reinforced nylon handle and a rust-free aluminium vent. The cooking grate is triple-coated for long life. They even threw in a plastic charcoal measuring cup.

Assembling it was very easy. It took us less than a quarter of an hour. And even then we were being a bit lazy. The instruction booklet is clear and easy to follow.

It also heated up very quickly. There are air vents in the sides and lid, so you can put the the lid on to speed up the heating up process without worrying unduly about depriving the coals of air. We would have preferred some additional (small) holes in the bottom as that would allowed the air to draw through the coals and not merely above and around the charcoal. But then, you could have the problem of hot ash leaking out. So it is a bit of a trade off. As it was, we put the lid at a slight offset tilt, at one point, to allow more air in, albeit from the top. The air holes in the lid and sides can be closed. This is a very good way of getting it to extinguish itself when you’ve finished.

The size is reasonable for a portable barbecue. We wouldn’t recommend trying to cook a large joint or whole chicken on it, but you could spatchcock a chicken and cook it flat.

After use, it is easy to clean. The ash collector deals with the ash problem and the grill rack can be cleaned in an average size sink. It does take a bit of elbow-grease to get them clean, but it’s worth it, to make sure they last as long as the rest of the barbecue surely will. Apart from the lack of those holes in the bottom, we were very pleased with this barbecue.

The whole thing has a 10 year limited warranty.

 

VERDICT: Best portable charcoal barbecue.

 

Folding Gas Barbecue Combo BBQ Trolley Portable Picnic Table Top Stove

Weber Smokey Joe Original

Folding Gas Barbecue Combo

This easy-to-assemble gas barbecue takes the concept of portability to the limit. Open it out like an ironing table to use. Fold it away when you’ve finished. And roll it where you want to on its wheels. You can also take the barbecue unit and its two side-shelves off the trolley and have it sitting low on the ground.

It is also highly flexible, running on either propane or butane. (But you must get the right gas regulator separately.) It has piezo-electric ignition and variable heat control. The large stainless steel burner is more than enough for its 43 x 35 cm cooking area. It has a flame tamer and a chrome grill.

On the downside, it is a bit slower than a non-portable gas barbecue. But it is ideal for camping and caravan trips.

 

VERDICT: Best and most flexible portable gas barbecue on the market

 

Honourable mentions go to:

Landmann Piccolino 31375 37cm Portable Charcoal Barbecue

Kettle barbecue with warming rack, non-heat conducting handle, enamelled firebowl and lid (inc ventilation disk), lid clasps for transport. Also has a charcoal pot that converts to an ash pot when used. Comes with stainless steel tongs that attach to the barbecue. Easy to assemble and same size as the Weber above.

Landmann-Piccolino

Landmann Piccolino

 

Cadac – Safari Chef LP Barbecue

A portable gas barbecue.

Cadac - Safari Chef LP Barbecue

Cadac – Safari Chef LP Barbecue

 

Gentlemen’s Hardware Unisex Portable Barbecue

An attache case type model similar to the folding notebook above, but with a removable charcoal tray. Somewhat pricier and with a smaller cooking area.

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Gentlemen’s Hardware Unisex Portable Barbecue

 

5 best brick (self-build) barbecues

For those who like the DIY challenge of building a brick barbecue in your own back garden! Please note that in all cases below, BRICKS ARE NOT INCLUDED.

 

Black Knight Brick BBQ BKB401

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Black Knight BKB401

The kit includes: strengthened stainless steel bbq cooking grill (67cm x 39cm), black deep charcoal grid, black deep ash-tray with ember guard, stainless steel barbecue warming rack, 2 x lifting handles and the all-important building instructions.

This model has some clever features, such as the charcoal grid that locks onto the ash tray and the ember guard to stop charcoal rolling off the grid. The “easy chef” bars on the cooking grill run front to back not side to side. This makes it easier to flip the food.

With one height for the cooking grill and one for the warming rack, getting the food right depends on your barbecue cooking skills. Using the right amount of charcoal for the quantity calls for judgement and experience. But if you get that wrong, you can make up for it by varying the cooking time.

 

VERDICT: A good-quality, well-designed brick outdoor kit

 

Build in – Barbecue Grill & Bake with Oven & BBQ Grill 

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Build-In

This clever little home-build kit includes not only a grill above the charcoal bed but an oven below it. Most barbecues, treat the heat that radiates at the bottom as an inconvenience. This one cleverly exploits it as a resource! What’s more, it lets you do both at the same time. After all, the heat is there, so why not use it?

The well-thought out design gives you three grill heights to control the temperature. The oven (60.5 x 32 x 16 cm) can be used for pizza, vegetables or simply to keep the food warm after it has been cooked. The grill surface is 62 x 36.5 cm. The removable firetray (65 x 37 x 5 cm) is vitreous enamel finished for long life.

What makes this home-built unit so impressive is its sheer versatility. You can grill steaks on top while roasting vegetables or small or flat-cut potatoes down below. But as with all brick models, before you can apply your culinary skills, you’re going to have to use your building skills.

 

VERDICT: Most versatile home-built, brick outdoor grill/oven

 

Brick BBQ Kit With Heavy Stainless Steel Grill & Warming Rack

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Brick BBQ

Like the other Black Knight model above, this larger model includes their hallmark features. The stainless steel cooking grill measures 90 x 39 cm, while the warming rack is 90 x 20 cm.

It has their standard deep charcoal grid for airflow and superior charcoal combustion and the black painted deep box shaped ash tray to catch and hold the ash away from the food. The ember guard protects you from falling embers. As with all Black Knight models, the bars on the cooking grill run front to back not side to side, making it easier to flip the food.

The result is large, sturdy, brick barbecue in your back garden that is suitable for large gatherings.

 

VERDICT: If you’re up to the home-challenge and like cooking for large groups, this is a good choice to consider.

 

Landmann DIY Charcoal Barbecue

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Landmann DIY

Identical in size to the Black Knight Brick BBQ BKB401, this model from Landman is somewhat cheaper. But whereas Black Knight are specialists in self-built, brick barbecues, Landmann’s principal expertise lies elsewhere, in steel barbecues.

That said, this DIY design has a lot to commend itself. It has all the required parts, such as a chrome-plated cooking grill, an ash catcher tray and a charcoal grid. And as this is a home-built model, the ultimate quality depends on your building skills. And it carries the weight of Landmann’s excellent overall reputation.

 

VERDICT: A good budget choice to consider

 

BKB 804 Black Knight brick barbecue kit with ember guard

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Black Knight BKB 804

Another brick barbecue kit for home building from the Black Knight stable – and this one the king of their range.

The huge 112 x 39 cm cooking grill is made of anti-glare stainless steel. And, needless to say, they have also thrown in a warming rack. That too is a whopping 112 x 20 cm. Both feature 6mm solid stainless steel rods, TIG welded onto a thick frame. As with all their models, the rods run front to back, not side to side, to make it easier to slide a spatula without getting caught on the bars.

Other typical Black Knight features include, a stainless steel deep charcoal grid, a deep ash-tray (also stainless steel) and an Ember Guard.

 

VERDICT: If you want to cook for REALLY large groups and confident in your building skills and stamina, this is the model for you.

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