With the summer sun on it's way out (hopefully) and most of us taking some time off work to enjoy the weather and erhaps some outdoor cooking on the barbecue. We take you through a handy buyers guide between a gas or charcoal barbecue.
For speed and convenience, gas barbecues have the advantage that they can be lit almost instantaneously and heat up fast, so you can get cooking quickly. Gas barbecues offer a controllable and consistent heat supply at the touch of a button, and some gas barbecues feature a temperature gauge so you can check the heat. The grill is easily started by turning on the gas at the cylinder, opening the valve and clicking the starter ignition.
The vast majority of gas barbecues feature side shelves to provide additional cooking space. Larger gas barbecues often have side burners with the advantage of keeping food warm after it has been cooked. Alternatively, side burners are also suitable for frying pans and saucepans so you can cook and fry food and sauces outside, rather than going in and out of the kitchen.
When looking at the size of a gas barbecue consider the cooking area and number of gas burners it has. Smaller barbecues such as the Napoleon Ultra Chef 375 have 2 gas burners, whereas the largest barbecues can have up to 6. Look out for barbecues with a large cooking area and 5-6 burners if you are entertaining a large party of people. Barbecues such as the Napoleon LE485 features a rotisserie burner, infrared Sizzle Zone and easily controllable burners for that precision
If you are looking for that traditional barbecue experience, charcoal is the answer. Charcoal barbecues are usually cheaper than their gas counterparts, so they suit any budget. If you are attentive with flavours, charcoal barbecues also give you that authentic char-grilled taste and flame-grilled appearance. To ensure a high cooking temperature, light the charcoal up to 45 minutes before cooking. However, some instant-light charcoal is ready for cooking in 15-20 minutes.
Folding or portable charcoal barbecues are great for easy storage and perfect if you want to pack up your barbecue and take it on your travels, such as camping or the beach. In addition, some charcoal barbecues feature folding side tables with tool hooks providing instant additional space when you need it.
Kettle charcoal barbecues feature a lid, funnel and cooking grid – all parts are porcelain enamelled making this type of barbecue incredibly easy to clean. With the lid on, hot air is circulated and can be regulated like a convention oven. This makes it perfect for cooking large pieces of meat. The funnel channels the warm air circulation in the kettle and prevents food from being burnt. In addition, most of the drippings vaporize and give the food the typical barbecue flavour.
A gas grill is easily started by turning on the gas at the cylinder, opening the valve and clicking the starter ignition. Charcoal takes a little longer to get going and to ensure a high cooking temperature, it is recommended that the charcoal is lit up to 45 minutes before cooking. However, there are now many quick-lighting varieties of charcoal that are ready for cooking in 15-20 minutes.
Stacking charcoal in pyramids will speed the lighting time as the air will circulate, encouraging the flames. Placing firelighters at the base of the charcoal pyramids will help ignite fuel (always let these go out completely before you start cooking). To judge the temperature of a charcoal barbecue, check the colour of the coals; they will begin to turn ash-grey when hot enough for you to start cooking.