Traeger Pro 575 Pellet Grill
This new innovative barbecue from US-based Traeger is an absolute cracker and quite unlike any other model on this page. Instead of charcoal or gas, the tech-laden Pro 575 uses pure, compressed wood pellets that are transported from a large hopper to an electric-powered furnace by a motorised auger (basically a large corkscrew). Many barbecue aficionados swear by pellet grilling because it infuses food with a truly authentic wood smoke that is difficult to attain using charcoal, let alone gas.
This writer can vouch that, at low temperature, it smokes meat phenomenally well, right down to the obligatory pink smoke ring on the outer 5-8mm of the meat. Some users have also made their own smoked salmon on it – this writer’s next challenge. However, the Traeger isn’t just brilliant for smoking, it’s also one of the best barbecues for slow cooking – eight hours and more with possible occasional pellet popups – and is truly excellent at conventional indirect grilling with the lid on. Although it is perfectly capable of searing steaks if the temperature is whacked up to its highest 230˚C temperature setting, it’s not as efficient as a belting-hot charcoal or top-of-the-range gas grill, so bear that in mind if you mostly grill steaks for your alfresco nosh ups.
Where charcoal and, to some degree, gas barbecues are notorious for burning food very quickly if you take your eye off the ball, with this one there is almost zero chance of scorching anything, and that’s because it works just like an electric oven, keeping the heat at a constant temperature with hardly any fluctuations. It does this with the aid of a wifi-enabled controller that ensures that the temperature you set on its easy-to-use LCD interface remains consistent throughout the grilling process. In a nutshell, the higher or lower you set the temperature, the faster or slower the auger delivers the pellets. Traeger’s nailed its algorithm so well that a temperature of, say, 200˚C stays like that for as long as required, or until the meat probe it comes with signals the end of the cooking process. This writer hasn’t burned anything to date – I just leave the lid shut and chat to the guests, returning once to turn the food over. It really is that foolproof and the subtle, wood smoke-suffused food it cooks is as succulent and tender as you could wish for. Granted, the built-in fan and burning wood pellets make it sound like a quieter version of an industrial blow heater but it’s not too loud to disturb conversation.
Another cool feature with this BBQ is that it also works with Traeger’s astoundingly comprehensive and very well designed iOS and Android app. Aside from a multitude of hints and tips, the app also features literally hundreds of exotic barbecue recipes for beef, poultry, pork, fish, lamb, vegetables and wild game. Simply select a recipe, prepare the food accordingly and tap ‘cook now’ – the Pro 575 will automatically heat up to the correct temperature ready for grilling.
When you buy a Traeger, you’re also buying into its whole ethos of classic US-style barbecuing. Consequently, there are 14 different types of wood pellet available, from hickory, cherry and oak to apple, pecan and maple, each one infusing food with a subtlety different aroma. Traeger also produces a range of truly outstanding rubs and spices – including an intriguing coffee and black pepper one – that are worth hunting down no matter what barbecue you’re using.
The Pro 575 requires an electricity source and a 9kg bag of pellets to hand at around £18 a shot (one bag should last a few sessions). Wood pellet BBQs are more expensive to run than their charcoal or gas counterparts and, while pellets are readily available online, they’re not the kind of thing you’ll find on a Sunday unless you happen to have a garden centre nearby that stocks them. You will also need a cover for it – more so than other barbecues because of the electrical components (B&Q sells one that fits perfectly for £11).
On the positive side, the Traeger Pro 575 excels at smoking and slow cooking, and is a reliable way to grill conventionally without ever scorching meat, fish and vegetables to a cinder. For incompetent barbecuists and those who’d like to spend more time with the guests rather than being chained to a grill, the Traeger Pro 575 is a veritable bonanza.
This outstanding, multi-talented barbecue adopts the Japanese Kamado method of grilling, searing, smoking, baking and roasting, but at a much lower price than the prestigious Big Green Egg range. Where the Big Green Egg uses thick ceramic to seal in the heat, this one features a steel double wall replete with an oven-style heat-resistant gasket on the heavy lid that seals in the heat for hours.
The weighty Kamander takes about 90 minutes to construct – you may need a second pair of hands when it comes time to assemble the main unit – but the build quality is exemplary throughout. It’s superbly designed, too, and comes with a brilliant vent system that allows you to make fine adjustments to the airflow without having to crouch down. The large-ish 50cm grill itself is made from high-quality enameled cast iron and features a removable front section for adding more charcoal. Just below is a removable reflector dish that can be filled with water for extra humidity; handy for slow cooking. The removable, circular warming grill and collapsible side table with integral utensil hooks can be considered a bonus.
In our tests, the Kamander performed impeccably well, retaining its temperature for a staggeringly long time (with the lid clipped closed and both vents at midway, a single standard self-lighting bag of cheap lump wood charcoal remained at a temperature of around 350˚C for over five hours). It produced an exceptionally succulent Moroccan spatchcock chicken in less than an hour (at around 250˚C) and was still hot enough three hours later for another full cooking session. If you’re after an extremely versatile barbecue that does it all, then look no further than this solidly built and highly commendable model.
The excellent kettle-shaped Pro 22K comes with a wave-shaped 57cm cast-iron grill that can be adjusted to three different heights, though you will need to wear gloves because it involves turning the grill by a few inches. When it comes to charcoal barbecuing, one cannot express enough the importance of having an adjustable grill like this. It means you can drop the height of the grill for searing steaks at high temperature and raise it when the inferno becomes a little too hot to handle. It’s also worth its weight in gold when it comes time to put on the kebabs near the end of the cooking session when the charcoal may not be hot enough with the grate at normal height. The grate itself also features built-in hinges for easy charcoal reloading, should the need arise.
Like the similarly-styled Weber Master Touch, the Pro also comes with a removable ash-catcher with adjustable air intake holes for keeping temperatures consistent. Unlike the Master Touch, which has a loose lid system, this one comes with a hinged lid that lifts towards the left hand side, making it easier to raise without scorching an arm in the process. There are many Weber-style kettle barbecues on the market but this one takes design and practicality to a higher level. It pips the evergreen Weber to the number two spot by dint of that adjustable height grill and the off-set hinged lid. Hotly recommended.
Weber barbecues are known to last more than ten summers, even when kept in the garden without a cover. That’s testament to the quality of the materials used and one major reason why Weber is arguably the most popular barbecue manufacturer on the planet. The other reason is the kettle-shaped design its founder George Stephen invented way back in 1951.
When your friends start calling you Crispin because you have a habit of carbonizing every barbecued meal you get your hands on, you know it’s time to get rid of the lidless brazier you’ve been using for years and embrace the simply technology of convection-based kettle cooking. The Master Touch is a doddle to operate. Simply load one or both crescent-shaped charcoal baskets and place them on either side of the bowl. Leave the lid off – there’s a catch-stand at the rear – light the charcoal and retreat for about 25 minutes. Now drop your food on the ample 57cm plated steel grate, which has enough space for about six placements, put the lid on and go chat to your guests. This system only requires occasional intervention, whether it’s turning food or adjusting the air intake on the aluminium ash catcher. If you follow the rule of no peeking, the food should come off perfectly cooked with chicken skin just the right side of crispy.
This model is also designed to accept Weber’s Gourmet BBQ System of optional inserts. Simply remove the grate’s centre section and drop in the sear grate, pizza stone, Dutch oven or poultry roaster. If you’re in the market for a highly praised, tried-and-tested barbecue that lasts forever and grills impeccably well then step right this way.
Argos Charcoal 55Cm Kettle BBQ Kitchen
If you’d rather not spend more than £100 on a charcoal barbie, give this brilliantly designed model some serious consideration. Not only does it look extremely attractive for the price but it’s got some great design features on board, too. It’s also got a squashed kettle-style lid with integral thermometer for easier grilling and smoking.
Storage is always an issue when barbecuing so it’s good to see that this model has plenty of options in that department. Firstly, there’s at least ten inches of shelf space to the right to place the ingredients on while you slap them onto the ample 55cm stainless steel grill. Take a look beneath and you’ll find one of the handiest additions a barbecue can have: a recessed shelf for storing the Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce, the salt, the seasonings, everything you need to hand to produce a top-tier al fresco feast. It even has a bottle opener and a handle for holding the dishcloth along with the obligatory utensils.
It takes quite a time to build, mind, because all the screws and bolts are hidden from view, and that means a lot of blind assembly and awkward screw positions. But every part is marked and fits together well; the excellent manual helped in this respect. This is a cracking choice for someone on a budget or indeed anyone who believes spending excessive amounts on a barbecue is a complete waste of money. Best budget buy.
Tepro Toronto Click
You’d need to look far and wide for a more thoughtfully designed barbecue at this price point. The German-designed Toronto Click was relatively easy to build using a slot-in system and very few screws. However, a slap on the wrist goes to the factory packer who presumably forced some components into the box, bending them in the process. This required a quick spot of hammering and some bending to rectify but nothing too serious. At this rock-bottom price you’re not going to get high quality materials, though it must be said that the fully assembled product does look more expensive than it is, even if it is a bit rattly.
What really impresses here is the raft of clever design flourishes. Take a look at the handle on the right. Wind it clockwise and the charcoal section moves up to within 6cm (2.3 inches) of the cooking grate. Wind it down and it stops at 22cm (8.6 inches). This is a truly amazing innovation that makes grilling a breeze. Granted, there’s no telling how well the mechanism will fare after a couple of winters in the open air but at this price, who cares?
There’s more, too, because the handle in the middle opens a door to allow for easy shovelling of extra charcoal as and when required. The main grate, meanwhile, measures 54cm x 42cm – enough real estate for a party of eight and perhaps even ten. Like the Weber Master Touch, the grate also features a removable centre section that can be replaced with a host of optional cooking accessories, including a cast iron wok, a pizza stone and a cast iron Dutch oven. Oh, and for those who enjoy a beer while at the coalface, it also comes with an integral bottle opener.
If Tepro built a more expensive, premium version of this they’d have a real winner on their hands. That said, for most users – especially beginners – the Toronto Click passes a great deal of muster and cooks food expertly well. But it’s that adjustable charcoal tray that’s the real clincher.
The German-made LotusGrill XXL is available in red, blue and anthracite and is far and away the most striking design in this roundup. It’s also probably the only barbecue in the world to come with a pair of built-in battery-powered fans that genuinely make a huge difference when it comes to light up time. Not only do they speed up the charcoal burning procedure (it takes just four minutes for the coals to reach optimum temperature), but the charcoal produces a lot less smoke in the process. And that’s a good thing if you have obstreperous neighbours.
The 57cm stainless steel grill itself features a centrally-located 30cm circular plate – a griddle, basically – that prevents fats from hitting the coals directly beneath, reducing smoke and flareups in the process. You can grill on any part of the grate, including the centre section, but if you’re a bit OCD you might find it upsets your equilibrium having food half on the smooth centre griddle section and half on the wired grill section; a minor niggle, granted, but one worth mentioning. It must also be said that the outer edge of the grate rarely gets hot enough to cook on. We found it was best used for keeping food warm and ready for serving.
The LotusGrill XXL is one of the easiest to assemble. In fact, you only need to construct the leg assembly as the main unit is pretty much pre built. For those who wish to cook kettle style, for an extra £200 you can also add the glass-topped lid, which allows you to see how the food’s getting on. Just be very careful when mounting it to the main unit. Aside from this handsome model, LotusGrill also sells a smaller XL version and a handy portable for camping and balcony or table-top use.
Everdure by Heston Blumenthal Fusion with Pedestal
Voodoo chef Heston Blumenthal’s aesthetically pleasing Fusion doesn’t come with a lid so you’ll need to spend more time at the grill instead of entertaining your guests. It does, however, come with a pair of unique features you won’t find anywhere else: electric ignition and a built-in rotisserie. To light it, simply load a small pile of lump wood charcoal over the centre bowl and press the ‘flame’ button. An old-fashioned hob ring below starts glowing red hot, igniting the charcoal above. In our test, it took a spritely 15 minutes for the charcoal to reach optimum temperature. However, it does require an electricity supply and that may not be convenient if your barbecue area is at the bottom of the garden.
The rotisserie is also electrically powered and hidden from view when not in use. Simply push down on the two hidden columns and they spring out of their housings. Now open the left hatch, pull out the long rod, fit the two rotisserie prongs and mount. Voila, an instant rotisserie for chicken, lamb, duck, beef, what have you.
Despite its overall dimensions (73xm x 41cm), the Fusion’s stainless steel grill is relatively small (48cm x 33cm) and just about big enough for four hungry mouths or six average appetites, at a pinch. Yes, this is an extraordinarily expensive option, but for sheer kudos points it has very few peers.
Everdure by Heston Blumenthal Cube
The Cube is the cheapest and smallest model in a sextet of Heston Blumenthal-branded charcoal and gas barbecues that screams style and sophistication. This eminently portable charcoal burner doesn’t sport any groundbreaking technological features because it is, to all intents and purposes, just a square container with a shallow charcoal tray and a steel grill on top. However, there are plenty of refined Heston touches here to whet the appetite, including a beautifully molded porcelain enamel interior with walls that are raised about an inch above the grill so sausages can’t roll off and a heat guard fitted to the bottom so it doesn’t scorch grass or ruin the patio table.
The firmly secured lid, too, is a clever design flourish since it encompasses both a sealed plastic storage tray with room for a few cuts of meat and a bamboo food prep board. The small grill, however, only provides enough real estate for a romantic picnic for two, so perhaps look elsewhere if other guests are considering joining the affair.
Been to any out-of-town commercial barbecues recently or perhaps a trip to the Caribbean? Then you’ll doubtless have noticed one of these funky oil drum barbecues being used. London-based Original Jerk specialises in the manufacture of hand-built barbecues using brand new 45 gallon oil drums. The superbly made ¼ Cut model here measures 1.4 metres in length and comes with a huge 850mm x 550mm laser cut steel grill, a smaller smoking shelf above, two timber side shelves and a chimney to port the inevitable plums of smoke. For an extra £1,000 you can have it in stainless steel. Original Jerk also provides custom paint jobs, laser cut graphics and hand made lettering. A top choice for large families and catering businesses.
Original Jerk ¼ Cut Classic barrel barbecue
Table-top grilling has two main bonuses: it’s more enjoyable grilling one’s own cuts and it’s much more sociable, especially for the bloke in the household who usually has to stand alone for 90 minutes in front of a blazing inferno while wrestling with exploding sausages and a mushy fish that’s fallen through the grate. Enter the Social Grill, a long 91-centimetre table-top BBQ with enough grilling space for a party of six. Simply place it on the table, dump in a layer of charcoal, fire it up and let your guests scorch their own lunch. Granted, it’s not the most handsome beast ever to grace the patio table – and you may need to fit the extra heat shield if your table’s plastic – but it performs the task with aplomb. And it’s a fun way to cook, too.
Well Done Social Grill
Forget faffing about with mum’s hairdryer to fan the flames. This award-winning barbie uses a built-in battery-powered fan to get the whole thing up to cooking temperature in three and a half minutes flat, and with no choking smoke in the process. What’s more, it’ll go on grilling for up to an hour on only a small handful of charcoal. It works by creating a bellows effect that forces cool air over the charcoal, turning it into a raging inferno, albeit a safe one. The Lotus Grill is available in seven cheerful colours and is ideal for small patios, balconies, campsites, picnics and boats. Its 32cm grill is good for up to four hungry gannets.
If you and your guests love the taste of smoked meat and veg, consider this classic, barrel-shaped unit from the house of Landmann. The Kentucky is comprised of two compartments: one for the smoking of much wood; the other for the actual food. It’s a clever, tried-and-trusted system that’s very easy to use. Load the smaller chamber with charcoal and throw on a handful of wood chips or a pile of damp oak sawdust. Then lift the lid of the main compartment and bung on a large, seasoned leg of lamb, a whole salmon or a bird of your choice. Make sure to place a tray of water under the meat to keep it moist. Cooking is performed indirectly so there are absolutely no flare ups. Just remember that it takes between two and four hours for the meat to cook. But, hey, you prepared all of this at least five hours before your guests arrived. Didn’t you?
Landmann Kentucky Smoker
This prestigious brand has become the first choice of a million chefs. It grills, bakes, smokes and seers and stays hot for 10hrs on a single load of lumpwood charcoal. Depending on your choice of size (from the two-place Mini to the eye-wateringly priced XXL), these ceramic bulbous beauties will cook and/or smoke anything from sausages, fish and kebabs to rib racks and whole legs of lamb and pork. Like the Weber, the heavyweight Big Green Egg is designed to be used with the lid on so that the food is cooked indirectly. The lid also prevents unexpected flare-ups and scorching. Right now there probably isn’t a better, more forgiving BBQ on the planet . However, its premium price range (from £625 to £2,950) is a genuine obstacle to all but the most discerning – and flushed – barbecuists.
Big Green Egg
Big Green Egg isn’t the only company to embrace ceramics. Although it’s classified as a portable BBQ, at over 30kgs in weight the Joe Jr is not something you’d want to carry any great distance. Once set up, it’s a cinch to use and, like the Big Green Egg, it cooks food to perfection. It comes with a sturdy stand, a 377 square centimetre cooking grill and a built in thermometer. Top chefs love ceramic BBQs like this because they’re able to go up to a phenomenal 399˚C – brilliant for searing steaks – and the amazing insulation properties of ceramic means they’ll stay hot for hours – even overnight. An excellent option but cheap it ain’t.
Kamado Joe Jr
This elegant two- to four-person patio grill brings steak-on-the-stone style personal alfresco cooking to the table top. There’s no techery on board – it uses a simple charcoal tray, a 26cm stainless steel grill and a cup of water to save the table from scorching – but it cooks food perfectly well. The Joya’s extremely attractive ceramic base remains cool to the touch while guests slap on their own prawns, kebabs and steak cuts using the supplied bamboo tongs. And it even comes preloaded with a handful of charcoal to get you started. Tres swish.
Barbecook Joya tabletop BBQ
Going on a small picnic? You need this natty barbie-in-a-case. Picture the scene… You arrive at the riverside looking for all the world like a businessman who’s just stepped off the plane, stoop down and open your brief case to reveal a fully functioning barbecue replete with charcoal tray and stainless steel 16 x 25cm grill. Only one problem. You forgot the charcoal.
Gentlemen's Hardware Portable Suitcase BBQ
This is one of the most versatile charcoal-fired mini barbecues on the market and one of the most efficient. Invented in South Africa, home of the 'braai', the sturdy, kettle-style Compact Cobb is a small, portable cylindrical unit than can grill, fry, bake and even roast a whole chicken, albeit a small one. Its secret lies in a controlled ventilation system that keeps the briquettes (or Cobb’s own proprietary Cobblestones) up to fiery temperature for more than three hours and without any heat being transferred to the BBQ’s outer casing. This particular model comes packaged with an overly slippery Teflon-coated griddle – whoops there goes another sausage – but there are plenty more grilling accessories available. A top buy for alfresco feasters, boaters and glampers.
Weber’s kettle-style BBQs have spawned a swathe of imitators but this snazzy model is way better than most. Lad-chef Jamie Oliver knows his steak and onions so he’s applied his culinary knowledge to a budget-priced own-brand model that sports quite a few unique design features, including a curved grill tray that prevents food from slipping into the inferno, an internal heat deflector, grippy lid holders for easy transport and a chunky rubberised lid handle. Mind, there’s a fair bit of fiddly building to do before the inviting smell of juicy meat gets to waft across the garden fences but follow the instructions carefully and you’ll have it roaring in no time. The Park is available in six tantalising colours.
Jamie Oliver Park
Granted, it took us nearly three hours of fiddling to get this manly monster assembled but the results were well worth it. The charcoal-fired Kinley is one of only two barbecues here to come with an adjustable-height grill (very handy for controlling the amount of heat hitting the food), an integrated bottle opener, chopping stone and bin. Clearly inspired by the Weber system, the Kinley produced a mighty fine feast for four but don’t expect it to last as long since there are quite a few areas where rust will inevitably settle. But, hey, at less than £150, who's complaining?
And now for the smallest, most portable grill in the world. This barbie in a tube is just the ticket for the hiker, climber, Bear Grylls wannabe or anyone with very little room in the backpack. It’s fiddly to construct, mind, but once assembled it’s simply a case of finding some wood and a box of matches. Oh, and something to cook on it, like that cute little squirrel over there.
We’ve tried Weber’s stone-on-the-barbie method of cooking an outdoor pizza but the MasterTouch model we used never really got beyond 300˚C. Look at any professional pizza oven and you’ll see the temperature dial at around 450˚C. Well this Kickstarter-funded, stainless steel, wood-fired pizza oven reaches an internal temperature of 500˚C and that means proper pizza every time, replete with crispy base, puffy, blackened edges and bubbling cheese. And all in just 90 seconds.
After a brief assembly session, simply load the hopper with Uuni’s compressed wood pellets (£18.50 for 10kgs), light ’em, up and wait ten minutes. Then slap in a pizza using the supplied pizza peel. There is strictly no time for natter here as you’ll need to watch the clock and turn the pizza midway or you will likely end up with something resembling a cast-iron drain cover. But that’s the case when doing any pizza the proper way. Watch the pros and when they’re not dressing a base or loading a pizza they’re turning them at least once during the short cooking process. The Uuni is easy to assemble and fuss free to use. Rather handily, it also comes with a peel – a flat metal sheet for getting the pizza in and out of the oven. Now all you need is a good pizza base recipe. Solid buy.
Uuni 2S Pizza Oven
Everdure by Heston Blumenthal Force
If you’re in the market for a premium-build gas barbecue that’s superbly designed and sturdy as a steam engine, then consider this exemplary minimalist model designed by food sorcerer, Heston Blumenthal. The two-burner Force is constructed almost entirely out of rust-free die-cast aluminium, an excellent heat conducting metal. At several millimetres in depth, the beautifully crafted hood – replete with temperature gauge – provides superior convection, but it’s the precise way in which it closes against the main aluminium frame that really screams quality. The same high level of engineering extends to the rugged fold-out shelf and the four strapping legs (two fitted with castors) which can be removed for easier transportation. To put it bluntly, this barbecue is a stunner whichever way you look at it.
The Force is available in four subtle colours and comes equipped with two enamel-coated cast iron plates that amount to 2,358m2 of cooking area – more than enough space for a party of six. In order to prevent flare ups and clogging of the burners from dripping fats, the plates themselves feature solid sections that sit just above the two heavy-duty burners (other manufacturers cover the burners with thin shields).
This barbecue heats up to 350˚C in about three minutes and is capable of reaching higher temperatures than many of its competitors, making it the perfect model for searing steaks. Its convection system – aided by a cutaway air intake at the rear – is also suitable for slow roasting. Crucially, we found no cool spots on the grill and, as a result, everything cooked to succulent perfection without us having to move ingredients around. The two slender steel gas controllers, meanwhile, provided a level of precision rarely seen in a barbecue.
Heston and the rest of the Everdure design team have clearly looked closely at the opposition and created a gas barbecue that not only addresses common issues but looks the business and isn’t too expensive when compared against other high-end models. Our test model arrived ready built so we can’t tell you how difficult it is to assemble though we have been told it arrives 95% assembled. Given that there are no side burners involved we suspect it’s a doddle.
Campingaz Master 4 Series Classic LXS
Despite the brand name, this leviathon is one barbecue you definitely don’t go camping with. Where the smallest two-burner barbecues arrive on your doorstep in a manageable box, this four-burner model arrives on a wooden palette and in a box big enough to live in. A good way to gauge the quality of the materials used in a barbecue is when you’re lumbered with building it yourself, and this model excels in that department. It took three hours to assemble, mind, but everything fitted together with precision. In some areas you could even accuse the manufacturer of over engineering it, and that’s a good thing because you know it will last survive many winters lying dormant at the bottom of the garden (the optional cover will also help in this respect). The only items not included with this model are a gas regulator and hose (£9 from B&Q).
Designed in France, the Campingaz features a double-wall stainless steel lid with large integral thermometer, InstaStart electronic ignition, a super sturdy side table and side burner, a large double-door cupboard, a split warming rack and an excellent Culinary Modular grill system comprised of a cast-iron grate on the left – with a removable centre section to accommodate the optional wok, chicken roaster, paella dish or pizza stone – and, on the right, a flat griddle plate that’s ideal for fish, vegetables, halloumi, fried eggs and streaky bacon-wrapped bananas (what you’ve never tried them?). All told, its massive 3,500cm2 cooking surface is enough for 12 to 14 placements. In our cooking test we did notice one or two cooler spots but nothing to really grumble about. In general it grilled everything exceedingly well and with little fuss. The fact that all the interior parts are dishwasher safe is a major plus.
As an added bonus, this barbecue also comes with blue illuminated control knobs for after-dark use. Granted, they might not be all that practical but they do look amazing. If you have a lot of friends and entertain frequently, then make this monster model your first port of call.
If you’re torn between cooking on gas or coal or just want the best of both worlds, then how about this new two-in-one griller from US barbecue bigwig Char-Broil? The aptly named Gas2Coal converts from one heat source to another with very little hassle. If using gas, simply turn on the burners (there are three of them) and start cooking. But when the need arises for some good old-fashioned charcoal grilling (and it will), just reach down to the compartment beneath the burners, pull out the charcoal tray, place it on top of the three burners and fill with briquettes or lumpwood. Now turn on all three gas burners to light the charcoal using the electronic igniter.
Given that there’s only space for a single layer of charcoal, you won’t get as much burn time as a conventional charcoal model but at least you can always remove the charcoal tray (with gloves) and revert to gas. The Gas2Coal isn’t the best built barbie in the yard and it takes ages to assemble but it’s sturdy enough and even comes with a separate side burner for heating stuff like baked beans, potatoes, etc. A great choice for fence sitters.
Just because you have a tiny patio or balcony doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in an alfresco nosh-up from time to time. Enter the Dalek-shaped Fuego Element, a slim figure of stylishness replete with hidden gas bottle container and a heavy-weight cast-iron grill big enough to feed a family of four. Devised by a former Apple employee and the designer of Beats’ Dr Dre headphones, the Fuego is equipped with a two circular stainless steel burners that can be used independently for slow, indirect cooking or together for searing meats. The whole shebang reaches its optimum 250˚C temperature in a respectable five minutes and goes all the way to a scorching 350˚C. In the pantheon of barbie creations, this slim as a Jim model slaughters much of the opposition. It’s a doddle to use and full of inventive design flourishes that make the mundane task of barbecuing actually quiet enjoyable. But cheap it most certainly isn’t.
Verycook is a French company that specializes in the manufacture of Spanish-style gas-fired planchas or griddles as we like to call them. In true exaggerated French celebratory style, the Simplicity 2 model on test arrived with a Hawaiian lei and a bright red apron to wear while you do that al fresco thing. What it didn’t come with is a gas regulator (a cheap buy at most hardware stores).
It took some time to manhandle it out of the box since the griddle itself – a beautifully engineered slab of 6mm-thick stainless steel – is phenomenally heavy. Available in several colours, the Simplicity 2’s flat cooking surface is perfect for frying breakfast stuff like bacon, eggs, sausages and mushrooms and all types of seafood and veg, though it’s just as adept at doing burgers. Mind, you might want to keep it out of any breezy areas as there’s a large gap between the two burners and the griddle.
Best thing about it? It has a cutaway rear leading to a fat-collection container so you can make like a spatula-wielding chef at a roadside burger pop up. A cheaper model with enamelled steel griddle plate is also available.
Verycook Plancha Simplicty 2
This gorgeous powdered blue gas portable comes with two Piezo-operated, jet-fired burners, a clearly labelled lid-mounted thermometer, a pair of fold-out legs for table-top or camp floor use and enough cooking space on its cast iron wavey grill to handle up to 18 hamburgers. It runs on easily-obtainable disposable screw-thread gas canisters (think Camping Gaz, Coleman, etc) though, with the addition of a longer hose, it can apparently also be adapted for large Patio Gas canisters. Like the similarly styled Weber Q 1200, the TravelQ grills meats and fish exceptionally well and the heat is easily controlled when flare-ups occur. This barbie’s perfect for camping trips in the car or caravan and ideal for balconies and small patios. Just don’t entertain the idea of lugging it across a field for a picnic because it’s way too heavy for that.
Napoleon TravelQ 285
In America where they love their deep-fried Thanksgiving turkeys, this new gas-powered Dalek in disguise is proving extremely popular as a healthier – and safer – alternative to dropping a whole bird into a vat of boiling oil. We’re not really keen on that kind of thing in Europe but show us an efficient, healthier way to knock up a slab of alfresco ribs or a slow-cooked Morrocan lamb and we’ll jump at the chance. Well here’s the answer.
The three-in-one Big Easy comes with a removable basket cavernous enough for an 11kg bird or a large leg of lamb, a smoker box for the obligatory handful of hickory wood chips, four rib hooks, an easy-clean drip tray and a removable porcelain-coated cooking grate for the ordinary stuff. It runs off Patio gas and uses the company’s famed TRU-Infrared tech to evenly roast, grill and smoke whatever you throw at it. Despite its weight and height, its footprint is actually small enough for a balcony or a titchy patio. A top do-it-all barbie for fuss-free feasting.
Char-Broil Big Easy smoker
Most professional chefs will choose charcoal over gas but sometimes gas is better, like on a campsite, the local park or the deck of your expensive yacht. This highly portable model uses small, easy to acquire disposable camping gas-type cartridges and features a porcelain-enamelled, cast-iron cooking grate big enough for six or more placements, a tall aluminium lid with built-in thermometer, two fold-out side tables and push-button Piezo ignition. Available in orange, fuschia, green, blue or purple. Top buy.
Turn your patio into a Texan yard with this stainless steel-clad, two-burner gas model from one of America’s top barbie brands. The Performance comes with a chunky 47cm porcelain-coated, cast-iron grate and uses ‘infrared’ technology to ensure an even cooking temperature across the entire surface. We followed their recommended steak recipe to the letter – exactly three minutes either side at 300˚C – and it produced a classic steakhouse-style result with a perfectly seared exterior and a moist, succulent centre. Conversely, our corn on the cob came off the grill a little too dry for our liking. The Performance is one of the best built BBQs in this roundup but figure in a couple of hours to assemble it. It also requires a bit more cleaning than other models. Hint: leave the burners on full for ten minutes after cooking and they’ll reduce all fats and stray meaty bits to a cinder. Like most gas barbecues, the Performance fires off a 5kg Patio Gas bottle (refills around £30) which tucks neatly away beneath the grill and provides around 15 touch-of-a-button alfresco feasts.
Char-Broil Performance T-22G
Could this bank-breaking, stainless steel behemoth be the ultimate in gas-fired barbies? The Napoleon has two lidded grilling zones (one with 1,270 square-centimetres of cooking surface, the other with the Canadian company’s unique infrared Sizzle Zone), an extra rear infrared burner for rotisseries, two wave-shaped stainless-steel grates, an integrated wood-chip smoking tray, a separate side burner for wok cooking or the boiling of vegetation and, on the opposite end, a handy marinade tub. It also comes with tool hooks galore, acres of storage space behind the soft-closing doors and backlit control knobs for luna banquets.
Napoleon Prestige PRO 825
The choice of a myriad campers, the Party Grill is a do-it-all, gas-fired model that provides a huge variety of cooking options. For an English breakfast try the non-stick griddle then whip out the grill section for a barbecued lunch and finish with the wok for a tasty stir-fry dinner. It comes with an easy-to-clean water compartment to catch dripping fats and runs for over nine hours on a single R907 Campingaz bottle. In short, it’s the only camping cooker you’re ever likely to need.