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Outdoor kitchens have become popular additions to the backyard with some seriously high tech gadgets that wouldn’t be out of place in a penthouse apartment.

This barbecue guide will see you spending more time entertaining and living outdoors.

Buying the perfect barbecue guide

One of the major components of an outdoor kitchen is the barbecue which now boasts features such as a wok burner, rotisserie and smoker.

If you’re in the market for a new barbecue, navigating all the options can be overwhelming. This barbecue guide will help you find the perfect barbecue for your lifestyle, outdoor space and cooking requirements.

Considering your cooking needs

It’s easy to splurge on a barbecue so considering your cooking needs should be the first thing you do before you lift the lid on the shiny pieces of equipment. Think about the features that you can’t live without and the ones that are likely to remain disused.

  • Do you mainly grill or do you roast outdoors?
  • How many people do you typically feed?
  • Do you require multiple burners?
  • Do you cook a main as well as side dishes?

Finding the right barbecue for your outdoor space

A barbecue should be a handy addition to your outdoor space, but not necessarily the main feature. It’s a good idea to have a clear view on what barbecue is right for your outdoor space before going out shopping.

One of our barbecue guide key tips is to consider whether the barbecue is going to complete your outdoor kitchen, be a freestanding unit or a tabletop design. Are you looking for a barbecue that will be built-in and a permanent feature of your kitchen or do you require something portable?

You’ll also need to assess your outdoor space and any regulations that may apply. If you are looking to barbecue on an apartment balcony, for example, you’ll need to check the by-laws of your owner’s corporation or complex. There may be restrictions on the type of barbecue you can install. Likewise, if you have an enclosed alfresco area, you’ll need to ensure the fuel type, surfaces and the ventilation meets your state laws.

Choosing the right size

barbecue guide
Rooftop barbecue area by Adam Robinson Design

Choosing the right sized barbecue generally comes down to your budget, space limitations and how many people you tend to cook for.

Portable barbecue

A portable barbecue is ideal for those who don’t cook regularly, lack outdoor space or like the flexibility to take their barbecue elsewhere such as a park, the beach or camping site. Most models are available with slim-line foldaway stands or will sit nicely on a table top. The fuel typically is charcoal or a solid fuel, however, there are more gas models coming onto the market.

Small barbecue

If you like to barbecue but don’t entertain large crowds, a small barbecue may suffice. They typically have all the features of a larger model such as a solid hotplate, char-grill and a hood. Some will have folding tables on either side and a portable or fix stand.

Large barbecue

For those with more space and plenty of mouths to feed, a large BBQ may be your best option. Large barbecues can be quite simple with a char-grill, hot plate and a cupboard for storage of the gas bottle and accessories or more elaborate with the top-of-the-line features.

Built-in barbecue

Whether you like a barbecue with plenty of features or one that’s simply a covered grill, there are plenty of options of built-in barbecues. This provides you with a permanent cooking amenity that is fitted seamlessly into an outdoor kitchen bench. Built-in barbecues can range from a small 2 burner design to a large 6 burner with the latest cooking technology.

Determining the type of fuel

Determining the right type of fuel will ensure your cooking facilities meet your needs. Here in this barbecue guide, we outline the three main fuel types:

Gas

Gas is one of the most popular fuel types as it produces high heat quickly and is easy to control depending on your cooking needs. Depending on the barbecue you choose, you can use a portable gas bottle or connect it to your mains. For true barbecue enthusiasts, the one downside of gas is it doesn’t produce an authentic, BBQ flavour that charcoal or solid fuel grills provide.

Electric

Electric barbecues are an ideal option for those with an enclosed or balcony space as they don’t omit the cooking smells and there is no risk of gas inhalation. This means ventilation isn’t required. Electric barbecues are easy to use and maintain, however, like gas, they won’t provide that smoky, BBQ flavour.

Charcoal

If you’re happy with a basic barbecue in the backyard, you can find a charcoal model on the cheap that will provide that authentic campfire flavour. There are also more sophisticated designs on the market if you have a healthier budget. They are a little less convenient than gas or electric requiring more time to prepare and heat up. It also takes a little more skill to cook the perfect steak on a charcoal barbecue, so some practice will be required.

Navigating barbecue features

buying the perfect barbecue
Undercover alfresco area by BGD Architects

It’s the features, not the size, that typically influence the price tag of the barbecue. Here are some of the key features we’ve outlined in our barbecue guide to consider include:

Exterior finish

If you’re looking for a barbecue that will last, considering the durability of the finish is vital. The main types of finishes and their differences are:

  • Paint – least durable as it is prone to scratches and flaking over time.
  • Vitreous enamel – prevents rust and is more durable.
  • Stainless steel – durable, however, varies in quality which will determine how likely is to rust. Can discolour when subjected to heat and will show fingerprints and grease marks more prominently than other finishes.

Grill and hot plates

Consider the ratio of grill space to the hotplate. The most common is half and half. Also, consider the material of your hot plates. Enamel or stainless steel hot plates are recommended for those who leave in coastal regions as cast iron are more likely to rust.

Side/wok burner

If you’re looking at additional cooking facilities like side and work burners, consider the quality. A double or a triple ring burner are viewed as superior due to the ability to deliver high heat and a recessed burner is often more practical when cooking in windy weather.

Rotisserie

For those who like to roast, a rotisserie may be a must-have feature of your barbecue. Consider an electric rotisserie turner to enable you to roast at a consistent temperature while cooking other foods.

Controls & ignition

Preferably choose a barbecue with controls that are easy to use and clearly labelled with the high and low positions. Typically you’ll have a choice over an electric, which uses a battery or piezo ignition which creates a spark to ignite the gas or generates a flame to the burners. The later tends to be more reliable.

Hood

A quality hood will allow access to the entire cooking area and be strong enough to prevent closure as a result of wind. A double-skin hood will reduce the external temperature which is desirable for those with small children.

Design

Most larger barbecues will have storage for utensils, condiments and portable gas bottle. A quality barbecue will be made of durable componentry and solid doors on any cupboards. Look for trolleys that have four castors rather than two to make moving easier. Inside the barbecue, a curved design is often more preferable as fat can drip down into the tray and it’s easier to clean. Drip trays should be easily removed to allow for cleaning or replacement.

Assessing the quality

Last but certainly not least in our barbecue guide is assessing the quality.

As with any outdoor item that is exposed to the elements, assessing the quality of the barbecue is important. As a general rule, you get what you pay for so it’s worth choosing the best barbecue you can afford. Assess the exterior finish, make sure the structure is sturdy and check that the cupboard doors close properly. Ensure the castors are fitted correctly and operate smoothly.

It’s worthwhile knowing the warranty details and the accessibility of spare parts should you need to repair the BBQ in the future.

Feature image: Outdoor entertaining space and barbecue by Glasshouse Projects

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