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Nothing tastes quite like fresh food off the barbecue. Gas BBQs, charcoal BBQs and even outdoor electric BBQs each give your food a distinct taste. No matter what type of BBQ you’re looking for, read the following tips to help you decide on size, grates and general construction and ensure you make the right purchase for your all your barbecuing needs:

Should I choose a charcoal BBQ or gas BBQ?

This depends on your cooking preference, what you feel comfortable with and ultimately how you’d like your food to taste. See below for the pros and cons of each option:

Charcoal BBQ:

Using charcoal briquettes, wood or a combination of both, a charcoal BBQ will give food an unmistakable smoked flavour. While many pine after this distinct taste, cooking might take more time, and the barbecue itself requires more maintenance, since you will need to dispose of ashes regularly. Look for a charcoal BBQ with air vents to maintain control over the internal temperature.

Gas BBQ:

A gas BBQ will require less time for cooking and heat quickly with a button or electronic lighter. They’re often more spacious and less expensive to use, since gas is cheaper than charcoal. However, gas tanks are heavy, and you will need to pay attention to the gas level to avoid having to run to the shops in the middle of cooking.

Electric BBQ:

Electric BBQs have improved greatly and cook much better than they did in the past. They’re great for spaces that won’t allow charcoal or gas BBQs, however, you’ll need to place it in proximity to an electrical outlet, which can be tricky to find outdoors.


A smoker will allow you to cook or flavour food, typically meat and fish, by exposing it to heat and smoke in a controlled environment. The smoky flavour of the food will depend on the type of wood you choose to burn. Improved preservation is an added benefit of smoking your food.

What should I look for in an outdoor barbecue?

There are several features you want to be sure your barbeque contains. You should make sure that it is well-constructed and doesn't wobble on solid ground. If there are wheels, make sure they roll easily. You should also check that all the pieces fit together well and ensure the finish will hold up to the elements. Before making a purchase, take note of assembly requirements. Some brands will offer easier assembly, adequate service and maintenance through assurance of replacement parts, easy-to-read instructions, and a long warranty – so be sure to look out for those. Safety, of course, is key: Your BBQ should control heat easily, stay cool to the touch and have appropriate safety features.

What size BBQ should I get?

There are several questions to ask yourself when deciding what size barbecue is best for you. To begin, think about what you will be cooking, as well as the quantity. For example, if you’ll be preparing chicken breast and barbecued vegetables for you and your family, you’ll need less room than if you’re planning on barbecuing racks of ribs for large parties.

Also consider how often will you be using the barbecue. If it’s only for special occasions, waiting 20-25 minutes for a charcoal BBQ to warm up may not be a bother. If you’re using it daily, you may prefer the quicker prep time that gas BBQs afford. Also take into account the space you have for the barbecue — a small balcony will have considerably less room than a garden patio. For smaller areas, consider a portable BBQ that you can move aside to regain precious space when not in use.

What types of BBQ grates are available?

Also called grids, BBQ grates differ in regard to durability, maintenance and heat retention. See below for four common options:

Cast Iron Grates:

Cast iron grates cook food well by evenly distributing heat. However, they are heavy and require care to prevent rust.

Porcelain-Coated Grates:

Food won’t stick to porcelain-coated grates, but the glaze can chip and rust if not maintained.

Porcelain-Coated Cast Iron Grates:

Durable, long-lasting and easy to maintain, porcelain-coated cast iron grates retain heat well and are resistant to rust.

Stainless Steel Grates:

These will resist rust, but you may have trouble with food sticking to stainless steel grates. Rubbing a halved onion on the grid before throwing your food on has been known to help prevent sticking (and add some extra flavour!).

For more inspiration on how to incorporate a barbecue into your garden design, or to have a look at barbecue tools and accessories, read the following articles and pages:

  • Barbecue Inspiration for any Outdoor Space
  • Barbecue Tools and Accessories
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