Which barbecues smoke the competition?
From large patio-style models to smaller portable models, and prices ranging from $178 to $2800, there’s a barbecue here to suit most people.
The bigger the appliance, the more food you can cook at once. But you’ll need somewhere to store it. If you keep it outside get a heavy-duty cover.
Patio/deck barbecues typically have large cooking surfaces and three to six burners, though a couple of our top performers in this category only have two burners. They often have a side burner (good for boiling a pot), and side tables. They’re the best option for feeding the whole whanau as it avoids the hassle of cooking in batches. But they’re usually made of lots of heavy parts so require effort to construct, and their mobility is limited to rolling between your cooking area and garage.
Portable barbecues are a good option if you’ve got fewer mouths to feed, and want the freedom to pack up your barbecue for a day out. They have considerably smaller cooking areas than patio models and only one or two burners. Some portables offer features once confined to larger models, like hoods, hotplates and side tables.
Make sure you take these features into account while picking a barbecue.
A domed hood lets you roast as well as grill. Look for a hood with a bit of weight behind it and one which sits firmly back behind the grill when raised, so it won’t blow shut or obstruct your access to cooking surfaces or side plates. A hood thermometer lets you monitor the temperature while roasting; all the models in our test had one, but make sure it’s easy to read.
The hood handle should be durable and heat-resistant, and positioned so you don’t burn yourself using it.
British Thermal Units and Megajoules measure heat output, and are commonly quoted by salespeople and manufacturers as a selling point. However, we found higher BTU/MJ burners don’t necessarily give better cooking performance or faster pre-heating, so these figures aren’t included in our table. In fact, the amount of raw heat generated by each burner is less important than how evenly heat spreads across the cooking surfaces, and how reliably it maintains a constant temperature. If you’re worried about how quickly your barbecue will burn through gas, check the running times in our table.
Look for large dials that stop firmly at their highest and lowest position, and don’t rattle in their housing or have a clumsy feel. Make sure they’re easy to read – dials set into an upward-slanting face are best. Some gas barbecues use a battery starter, while others use piezoelectric push button starters. Battery starters are generally quicker, but you’ll occasionally need to replace the battery.
The bigger the wheels, the easier the barbecue is to move. Some models have four wheels with lockable castors, which means you can roll them without lifting one end. For a portable barbecue, check it is light enough for you to lift into your car and is easy to dissemble.
This sits below the grill, and should be easy to take out and replace. We recommend lining the tray with tinfoil weighted with sand to make cleaning easier.
A side burner adds versatility – it allows you to boil a pot of rice or get a stir-fry going. Rear/back burners on the back “wall” can be used with a rotisserie accessory for roasting.
Always use the hose and type of fitting recommended by the manufacturer. When you break out the BBQ for summer, check the hose for blockages and make sure all connections fit snugly. Never, ever use a gas barbecue inside.
Make sure it doesn’t rock. If you want to take it camping or on picnics, look for easily detachable legs, but try not to compromise on stability when the thing is set up.
Check that your model is easy to take apart and reassemble.
Check that spare parts are available.
This allows you to keep cooked food warm.
We pre-heat the barbeque for 10 minutes, then get to work. Note, we test barbecues according to a standard test method, but change our method if the manufacturer’s instructions dictate a certain way of cooking.
Top-scoring barbecues cooked everything evenly throughout, resulting in consistently tender and juicy meat. This also meant the barbecue’s temperature was easy to control, and its heat was evenly distributed across the cooking surface.
Here we looked for: