Barbecue Grills Discussed And Compared

Choosing between barbecue grills can be a difficult task. Most people take a trip to their local suppliers and view the few that's on display. There's usually a choice of half a dozen or so gas bbq grills and an equal number of charcoal bbq grills. When comparing them it's very likely that you've already decided what type of fuel you're going to use and believe that the task is simply going to be a matter of choosing a gas grill that you like the look of, or choosing a charcoal grill if charcoal is the type of grill that you prefer. But, what the vast majority of buyers don't know is that there are alternative fuels to charcoal and gas. The range in size of barbeque grills is also vast; from small, use once and throw away disposable barbecues, to brick built grills, and right up-to outdoor cooking islands!


When choosing a grill at a store it's usually the case that you'll buy the one that looks the best and lies within your budget. Before spending your cash though, it's well worth doing some research so that you can make an informed decision when the time comes to buy. In fact, after taking some time to consider all of the options, you might decide not to buy from a general dealers but to go to a specialist barbecue supplier instead, or even to go by the mail order route.

Before setting off to buy your grill, we recommend that you consider the following questions:

  • What price are you willing to pay?
  • What area are you going to be grilling in?
  • What type of fuel to you want to use? There's more than just charcoal and gas!
  • What size to you need?
  • What features do you want?

What price are you willing to pay?

Most of us have to work within a budget. A good way to budget for your barbecue grill is to determine how much you'd be willing to spend for each barbecue session that you have. Let's say that you think $5.00 per barbecue session seems reasonable and that you estimate that you'll use the grill about 20 times a year. If you look after the grill there's no reason why it shouldn't last at least 5 years. So, $5.00 multiplied by 20 multiplied by 5 gives a budget of $500.00. If you think $2.50 per barbecue session is reasonable, then your budget would be $250.00. If you're lucky and cost is not a limitation, then decide what features you want and work from there. What area are you going to be grilling in?

It's very important that you consider the area that you're going to use your barbecue grill in before you purchase it. If you've a large open area, then you've little limitation. But if you've only a small enclosed space then you need to consider the size and type of fuel carefully. Solid fuel grills give off smoke and so it might be better to go for a gas or electric option. Also consider that bbq grill that has a smoker feature is going to create a lot of smoke. So even if you've a reasonable amount of space to barbecue in, it might not be large enough to smoke food in. Another consideration is portability. If you're going to take your barbecue grill camping, for example, you'll want one that's collapsible and not too bulky. As well as smoke, you'll also need to consider the risk of fire. Both charcoal and gas grills can flare-up, so they'll need to be positioned away from flammable materials/structures. What type of fuel to you want to use? There's more than just charcoal and gas!

The great debate, what's best, charcoal or gas? By what's best, most people mean "Which gives the best smoky flavour to the food?". Well, gas is purely a heat source, no smoke, so no smoky flavour. Charcoal isn't ready to cook with until it is white in colour and gives off little or no smoke. In effect then, charcoal acts only as a heat source as well. In our experience there's little difference in the taste between foods cooked on a gas grill compared to that cooked on a charcoal grill. Particularly with fast cooked food such as burgers. With food such as steak, that takes a longer time to grill, a charcoal grill does impart a mild smoky flavour. To get a really good smoky flavour you'll need to use real wood such as used in a pellet grill or in a dedicated smoker. Alternatively, placing some woody, fresh herbs, such as rosemary directly onto the charcoal can produce enough smoke to flavour the food. It's possible to do this on some gas grills as well. Charcoal barbecue grills on a like-for-like basis are generally the least costly option. Charcoal is inexpensive and is widely available. Charcoal grills do need some time to set-up and be ready for cooking on. So if you want to cook within a short while of setting-up, then this is not the best option. They create a fair amount of smoke when they're initially lit and they're also subject to flare-up. So consider the area that you're going to cook in. It's difficult to control the heat very accurately with charcoal barbecue grills Finally, cleaning-up can be messy. One exception to the above are inexpensive charcoal grills that come complete as a pack and consist of a strong foil container with a metal mesh on top and with some charcoal contained inside. They are easily lit, are usually ready to cook on within 10 minutes and require no cleaning at all. The downside is that these are disposable grills that you can use only use once.

More about charcoal grills....

Gas barbecues grills are more costly than charcoal bbq grills. The fuel that they use is nearly as readily available as charcoal. There's little setting-up required and you can cook on the grill shortly after lighting-up. They don't create any smoke but similar to charcoal grills, they can flare-up. Gas barbecues are less messy than charcoal when it comes to cleaning and the heat is very controllable.
More about gas grills....

Alternatives to charcoal and gas barbecue grills are pellet grills and electric grills.

Pellet barbecue grills use real hardwood pellets as fuel. They give the food cooked on them the best smoky taste of all the types of barbecue grills. The pellets are fed in automatically and so the grill can be kept going for hours and the heat is very controllable. Pellet grills tend to be much more costly than the other types of barbecue grills, but for the real barbecuing enthusiast, they must be considered.
More about pellet grills....

Electric barbecue grills are the simplest of all to use and the heat is very controllable. They're comparatively cheap to buy, no setting-up is required and they're ready to cook almost immediately. They're probably the best option for those wanting to grill with the minimum of time and effort. Electric barbecue grills can be used in indoors and they don't create smoke or flare-up. They do, however, require an electrical power source, so their use away from home will be limited.

What size to you need?

The main points to bear in mind when considering what size to get are....

How many people will you be cooking for? It's a waste of money both on the cost of the barbecue grill itself and on the running costs if you buy a large grill but only want to regularly cook a couple of steaks.

How large an area do you have to cook in? Large charcoal barbecue grills will create a lot of smoke on start-up and so aren't suitable for small confined areas. Barbecue grills with smoker features need a lot more space than those without this feature. Remember that both gas and charcoal barbecue grills can flare-up, so ensure that you have room to position these type of grills away from any structures.

What features do you want or need? Barbecue grills can have features such as side burners, warming areas and rotisseries and generally the more features that you want, the larger the grill is going to be.

What features do you want?

All but the most basic of barbecue grills come with some extra features such as preparation and storage areas, side burners, rotisseries, warming areas etc. Some even come with washbasins and refrigerators. Generally, the more you want or need in terms of added features increases the size and cost of the grill. In our experience, only get what you're going to use. If you don't think that you're going to use a rotisserie, then don't buy barbecue grills that have them.

In our experience the most useful features are....
Work areas at the sides of the grill that you can use for plating food, storing condiments etc.
Shelves below the cooking area for storage.
A warming area, usually a shelve at the back of the cooking area, for keeping cooked food hot
A side burner for heating up sauces or vegetables.

Other features are nice to have but you need to justify the cost against how often you'll actually use them.


Related Articles on BBQ Grills


You can find more information on how to buy
gas bbq grills and useful advice on choosing different types of indoor and outdoor grills at GrillSavvy.com


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