grills, barbecues, smokers, outdoor pizza ovens
a simple guide to what they do, and the best buys for 2021
By the way…Barbecue ( with a C), barbeque (with a Q) and BBQ are all terms we use interchangeably now. Barbecue with a C is the original and correct spelling but forgive me for just using BBQ a lot on this page, just for convenience !
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- Choose gas for convenience, charcoal for authenticity, wood for flavour.
- Choose materials for durability ( stainless steel, cast iron ) and porcelain enamelled finish for easy maintenance.
- Choose equipment that offers a temperature range to match your cooking style – low & slow smoking, medium for bbq roasting, high & fast for searing, highest for pizza making.
- Choose a style to suit your lifestyle ( image, weight, size, portability).
- Choose extras to help you cook efficiently with your fuel (e.g. charcoal starters), effectively (e.g. the grill layout), and safely (e.g. temperature gauges).
Our Top 3 choices
Kamado joe Classic
Now beating the BGE ( Big Green Egg), this ceramic barbecue is a most efficient charcoal smoker first, and also a grill and bbq. We choose this big Red egg for the innovative extra – it´s always good to be second to market !
Ooni Koda 12
For specialist simplicity. Store it uner the bed, and at under 10kg you can carry this pizza maker ( & grill ) to anywhere you want to have a pizza night !
What´s under the cover ?
The thought of barbecuing outdoors also usually conjures up images of social events and sunny days. It´s such an important part of our lifestyle nowadays that the shorter term ‘BBQ’ usually refers more to the social event, than the barbecuing cooking method.
We all long for these BBQ days and lick our lips at the thought of it ! What do you think of when you say BBQ out loud … for most it will be meat… and party !
A nice succulent, chargrilled burger or steak, or a big smoked brisket or ham. Big juicy vegetables like courgette and pepper, or mixed kebab sticks.
There´s something special about food cooked outdoors. The blackened chars combined with the juicy, smokey taste.
Cooking on charred wood or coals, is as old as the hills. Smoking meat is also probably even more ancient. It was the best way to preserve or cook big tender hunks of meat… and it´s making a comeback now with those on a more ‘slow living’ path.
The general trend in the western world is to be able to have any type of food all year round, along with the tools to help make restaurant grade food at home. So bring on the winter BBQ !
Cooking with Fire
Cooking with fire sounds simple, but there´s more than one way to do it, and each way yields a different result. What usually differentiates all these outdoor cooking tools is the method of cooking. First… it´s the fuel type ( charcoal, wood logs, wood pellets, gas ). There´s even electric grills available now, which some would argue is not a bbq !) Next is the level of heat, and the cooking time and these usually go together. You need to consider the type / size of food you´re cooking, and the equipment shape and material determine the rest. Oh, and it´s not just about the tools. There are other tricks and workarounds, for better preparation, organisation, and to get more flavour. Ways to get the smoky flavour without using a smoker forinstance, and rubs, marinades and sauces. But we´ll come on to all of those in separate posts for you.
Different BBQ methods
Pizza ovens… 800-900℉
are the hottest and fastest.
is fast & hot, … with possible flare-ups.
Barbecuing.. roasting… 300-400℉
is long, slow, hot and more controlled.
Smoking ( low & slow )… 210-280℉
usually takes the longest time, with lowest temperatures, in a smoky environment.
Barbecue all year round
Manufacturers are providing equipment that will resist the elements better, along with more controllable and faster heat up times.
The Finns for one, are happy to cook like this all year round. People also use smokers all year round. For the campfire experience, it´s is just as good, as long as you´re dressed for it !
The latest best additions to this type of social event is the plancha, and the pizza oven. So now we have fiestas, pizza nights and BBQs ! The latest ovens are also more portable, and multi-functional, so you can also roast and grill, or griddle.
So it seems you can have everything. You just have to choose what, and how.
Which type of barbecue is the best ?
Since there are many ways to do things, and we´re all a bit demanding, the manufacturers are trying their best to give us it all… which makes choosing difficult. So, as the equipment gets more sophisticated it can be multi-functional and offer more than one style of cooking. For example, our favourite pizza oven ( which you would think would only be a one trick pony) can also bake bread or roast a joint like an oven… and, with it´s griddle it can also cook a great steak or vegetables like a grill would.
Like anything else, you have to decide what you will be cooking most so that you get the best version of that when you cook. Smoker barbecues for example are the best at smoking but not necessarily the best at grilling. The egg shaped Kamado barbecues are made of ceramic and use charcoal – they are great at holding the heat but you´d have to wait a long time for it to lose enough heat to allow you to do some smoking.
Image: A Smoker barbecue
What you need to consider before you buy
What do you cook most, how many people do you generally cook for, how much space you have for it, do you want it built in or portable, and how much can you spend ? After that you have to consider the equipment type… size, shape, workmanship, cooking plate/grill, materials and the way it functions to get the cook done. There are lots of little design considerations that can make your cooking life so much easier. Finally the availability, pricing, warranty, extras you might have to buy can end up being the biggest obstacle to getting on with this.
( checkout our 10 point buying checklist at the end of this page )
We had to leave Paul´s built in grills and BBQs behind in every house we owned so far – as they were all built in. So we did also start to buy more portable versions in the last 10 years. We need end up having a patio grill once but he also built a station around it !
We aren´t going to discuss making an elaborate in built outdoor kitchen here. We´re going to focus on the more portable products, patio bbqs and maybe some DIY tips too. There are so many products flooding the market now though and a lot don´t work that well. So we´ll show you various styles and what they do. Then showcase the best in class. The rest is up to you !
Definitions & Comparisons
grill vs. barbecue vs. smoker vs. outdoor pizza oven
Products go from big and built in, DIY and camping style, to the latest – the top portable solutions. These more manageable portable versions are more attractive so you don´t lose them when you move house, and some are so portable you can take them on a picnic with you, or on holiday even !
The terms grill and bbq are often used interchangeably but they don´t technically mean the same thing. This is because a lot of equipment will do both. But the actual cooking method of grilling and BBQing is different. Let´s explain.
Image: The Multi-fuel, multi-function Ooni Pro… for pizza, roasts, bread, griddle and more.
When it comes to showing you our favourite equipment, we link you to latest availability and prices for products as we find them in the U.S., U.K., Ireland, Australia, Canada, Spain, Germany, and Italy. If your country has a cross through it, that means we just didn´t find it there ( sorry ).
You pay the same prices when you click through our links, but, to be completely transparent, please read our disclosure at the top of the page too. Our opinions are our own, and we are not connected in any other way with any supplier. We make our own choices and buy our own equipment.
THE WEBER RANGE HAS IT ALL
Weber started the original charcoal kettle drum. It´s still an iconic bbq today, and the brand is still regarded as one of the very best. They´ve extended their range to include almost every type of bbq so it´s a good way to get an overview of what´s out there. Let´s start from the beginning !
The original charcoal bbq grill
We´ll get back to basics first.
Start with the original classic kettle style by Weber.
Image: The Weber Original Premium model… 47cm
You can´t go wrong with a Weber. They were the original, with this iconic kettle drum shape. Still fabulous for grilling, roasting and now, easy smoking too.
We´ve chosen the premium version of the original for you with it´s new smoke setting that controls air flow for low temperature cooking. It has the extra ash collector part underneath – so your ashes don´t go blowing around if it gets windy.
What we also love about the premium model is the extra hinged cooking grate so that you don´t need to lift all the food off to lift the grate and add more charcoal.
So the premium version, for not much more, is worth it for making both the charcoal adding, and the ash clean up easier.
If you don´t want the tall leggy style, then the Smokey Joe is worth looking at for simple portable 37cm grill. The price is superb too ! If 37cm isn´t big enough, check out the Weber Jumbo (47cm) version when you click through to Amazon.
Definitely go for the premium Smokey Joe because its extra carrying handle is so useful. It also helps keep the lid on when cooking and holds it in place when you pull it back off the grill. I guess that´s why it´s called tuck and carry ! You might also see it in other colours but for a charcoal grill we would still stick to black !
Portable charcoal barbecues
The original premium is perfect for a patio, as the height works well. If you´re going out and about though, or want to put it on a table on the patio, choose the premium Smokey Joe or Jumbo version.
Image: The Weber Smokey Joe bbq
The Charbroil Kettleman is often looked at as an alternative to the Weber original, but it apart from alway costing less and coming in pretty colours, the Weber always seems to win.
Char-broil do have a winning modern gas bbq model below though which uses a patented infra-red technology to avoid flare-ups. See the Char-broil all-star in our compact winners below.
The only problem with charcoal
Beautiful as it is, it can be frustrating if you´re the one cooking. It can take a while to get going, and there is ash to clear up afterwards.
So get one that has an ash tray, and budget for a charcoal starter to speed things up !
The WEBER range
Weber now has every type of barbeque. So we´ll take you through the range partly because it´s a good overview of all the styles you will come across for barbecues. So as well as an ‘education’, we´ll point our our favourites. The only products they don´t cover is the pizza oven or the plancha style grill. Be aware that although you can make a pizza in your indoor or outdoor ovens, it´s not the same as making it in a pizza oven designed to get to even higher heats with the perfect underheat and over flame required. So we will show you these further down the page too.
The nice thing about a strong brand like Weber is that the usually have stock, and parts, and the prices are reasonable. There´s nothing worse than spending ages making your choice then can´t find one to buy. Or even worse have it sitting unusable because a part can´t be replaced easily.
In addition to the classic, original, charcoal style kettle shown above, they have…
Weber wood pellet barbecue
Traegar were the original and only smoker until 2006 when their patent ended. Now Weber have one too !
A smoker barbecue fuelled by wood pellets and controlled by a wifi app. so you just set it up and leave it to cook low and slow. It also has the technology to allow it to sear at high temperatures too.
Low & slow, high & fast… Smokefire EX4
Weber patio gas barbeques
The most common domestic family barbeque grills with more than one burner. The Spirit range is perfect for families with 2 burners and the Genesis range going up to 3 or 4 burners is great for parties. Choose to plumb it into the natural gas from the house, or have an LPG propane model.
Weber portable barbeques
A cool modern looking ( almost sci-fi !) gas powered range that comes in different sizes.
For balconies, or taking out & about… Weber Q1000 model
We did like the Weber traveller too, but whilst it looks cool, it´s heavy to even wheel around at 28kgs, and a tad on the pricey side for essentially just a grill.
What else does Weber make ?
- Smart apps that can connect to the Spirit and Genesis gas bbqs to send you phone notifications & tips and recipes through the cook.
- Charcoal Kamado style smoker bbq, ( the egg shape based on old Asian ceramic cookers, but this has an added inner stainless steel liner ).
- Charcoal tall barrel smoker ( old mountain style water smoker)
- Built-in gas bbq for outdoor kitchens summit series
- They even have an electric PULSE model for balcony barbecuing ( for buildings where you aren´t allowed to bbq.). It looks similar like the Q range and comes with dishwasher proof parts and an in built digital thermometer to tell you ( even on an app) how your food is cooking.
Grilling allows you to get that tasty brown seared and nice charred effect you get. Searing is usually done at around 500℉ / 260℃.
Outdoor grilling is when you put your food on a slatted grill shelf ( with even bars and apply the dry cooking heat from below. The heat is direct, radiant and high. You can adjust the grill shelf to be closer or further away from the heat source, to speed up or slow down the cooking. Because the heat is high you get nice char marks on the food from the metal bars the food is resting on.
To grill food you can also use a more plancha style solid worktop, or a griddle where the cooking ridges are moulded as part of the cast pan, or a grill pan where the pan is portable and the grill shelf is also removable, or an electric grill will also do this for you.
The term to broil is used in America to refer to this kind of grilling too. In the US, broiling is usually referred to inside cooking where the heat comes from above, and grilling is the outdoor kind where the heat comes from underneath.
Usually grilling is applied to smaller items like vegetables and steaks, burger, sausages etc. You have to keep turning the food to cook it.
A grill´s temperature can get out of control so you have to monitor it. Flare-ups can be common too with fat dropping onto hot coals. All you can do to alter the temperature directly hitting the food is to raise or lower the slatted grates, or move the coals or the around to cold or hot spots.
I know you´re also thinking you could use a lid to lower the temperature with it open or raise it by closing the lid. THere´s the first difference – grills don´t often have lids… Barbecues do !
Image: Simple grilling
A barbecue has the advantage of having the lid to control the heat, and is effectively just a grill – if it´s used with the lid up. With the lid closed you can effectively roast, and also smoke in a barbecue as long as you can keep the temperature constant.
So, charcoal / wood bbqs are the traditional kind, but you´ll find so many more gas solutions, and even some electric so that the temperature can be controlled at the flick of a switch.
A grill can be inside or outside the house. You wouldn´t tend to use a BBQ inside the house – it would be too smokey ! Inside the house, what the UK and AU call a grill, the Americas call it a broiler – where the heat is applied from above. In the UK we rarely use the term ´to broil´but if we do, we mean in a pot – we´d broil a pot roast.
Smoking is used to give food a unique flavour. The aromatics from different hardwoods give the different flavours. It takes a while though – anywhere from 5-20 hours typically. So you want to be able to leave it unattended as much as possible.
Traditional smokers use wood as the fuel to heat the food and create the smoke. Now smokers can use gas, charcoal or electricity to provide the heat, but also have to have the wood burning slowly to add the smoke.
The heat that cooks the food is indirect, and smokey, unlike the more direct fire heat from a charcoal grill.
The only downside of a smoker is that the food can get to be a bit on the dry side. ( Kamado Joe have sorted that out with their unique Slo-roller element! )
There´s usually two additional containers. One for water to keep the temperature more stable, and one for wood chips to provide the smoky flavour. Temperatures are usually lower than 300℉ (150℃) maximum.
There are three main styles of smokers. Wood pellet ones – barrels with lids like the Traegar and Weber ones, the Weber tall chimney style, and the round / egg shaped Kamado style ceramic barbecues. The Kamado is based on a popular old Asian style of ceramic grill.
With a little care and attention though, you could even transform any other barbeque into a smoker too !
Image: The Kamado Joe smoker bbq
This term is given to either portable electric or gas ovens, or pizza ovens. It cooks with both direct and indirect heat. The trick is to have both the oven floor hot enough to cook a charred base, and an overhead heat that chars the edge so they´re crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, whilst cooking the food / topping perfectly.
The fuel can be hard wood or gas and charcoal can be used to get the temperature up faster. You need a really high heat though to make a great pizza. Restaurant grade ovens are about 800℉ .
Although a conventional oven can make a pizza of sorts, and an outdoor BBQ can get even higher temperature and say it will cook pizzas, you actually need a pizza oven that will get to ….. if you want to impress anyone with your pizza !
Everyone wants a pizza oven but they used to be such a big concern and you needed a built in clay oven which would cost a fortune, or a stand alone clay pot which was just okay. Now we have exciting new choices from people like Ooni and Roccbox.
So what´s a charbroiler ?
Charbroilers are a type of grill, usually for inside cooking. It´s more consistent, faster, and more controllable than the traditional domestic grilling or broiling, and is usually a tool used in a commercial environment. Charbroilers are meant to give the diner the taste of the outdoor charcoal grilled food.
The food is broiled ( or grilled as we would say in the UK ) over a controllable heat source (usually gas or infrared) and the ´char´ marks on it come from the searing heat of the grate it´s placed on (because the heat is usually around 500℉ / 260℃. )
The charbroiler is usually hotter, faster, but more controllable. The heat source is often gas, infrared or electricity. There´s often briquettes or lava rock or something between the heat source so that fats falling on that will then impart a yummy flavour back onto the food that is cooking.
It´s like a grill, but the heat is instant, and more controllable and they´re used a lot in commercial environments.
The food is grilled over a charcoal base. The is cooked more consistently with a charbroiler, but usually not as hot as a grill.
Iron plate / Plancha style grill
You don´t often see big sizzling iron plates apart from in a BBQ style restaurant or by an outdoor professional team perhaps. In Europe, it´s more common and probably most common here in Spain. But finally, a French man has decided to take the concept and create a funky version for us all at home now too.
Check it out in our urban trend setters below where also will show you a popular cheffy yakatori grill.
We mustn´t forget the experience of barbequing and grilling, and the open fire that would have been part of that way back. So we´ll show you a few options for that kind of cooking too. Two pieces whose design adds to the ambience before the fire is even lit ! One simple and stylish, and, the other is quit an elaborate piece of kit to create a really clever, simple looking contraption at opposite end of the price range.
Best 10 Brands
The first and well known
weber ~ big green egg ~Traegar ~ Napoleon ~ charbroil
the brilliant newcomers that are taking over !
kamado Joe~ ooni~ EVERDURE BY HESTON~ burchbarrel~ verycook
Choosing your BBQ style
Before you go on and see the exciting choices we have for you, maybe it would be a good idea to mentally score out anything listed below that you don´t want.
Then use that to help you make your choice. See what you´re left with !
STYLE: BBQ Kettle, Beer barrel, simple drum cylinder, Kamado egg, drum, smoking barrel. Lid, hood, or none. Trendy/ traditional. manual/automatic/app controlled.
MATERIAL: steel, aluminium, ceramic, enamelled, coloured.
FOOD: flavours you want, speed of cooking, size of food, catering sizes.
FUEL: gas ( propane or natural), charcoal, wood, wood pellets.
SET-UP: patio standing bbq with sides, adjustable legs, counter-top, in-built, or portable. Large /small. Cooking size. Heavy/light, Easy assembly, cleaning, easy storage.
BRAND: from America, Australia, Europe etc.
Check the price and availability early !
Finally, when you´ve made your decision and are ready to buy, finding what you want can be tricky.
It´s so disappointing to then have to start all over again. So I would advise checking the Amazon buttons (they open up in another window) to see which country your BBQ is available in.
You´ll see what I mean when you click one of these..
Charcoal: smokey joe premium or jumbo for anywhere.
Gas: Q1000 / Q1200 for balconies and out and about, SpiritII E-310 for famikly patio bbq, GenesisII E330 for parties.
Gas: All-star for balconies or out & about
Combo: gas2coal for a simple, flexible 2 burner patio bbqs.
Charcoal: Churrasco stainless steel beer barrel for a classy campfire grill experience.
A Hibachi stove – best entry level Konro grill for the Yakatori Japanese BBQ experience.
5. Everdure by Heston
Gas: Urban chic patio bbq – dressed to impress.
Gas: These Finnish make the absolute best gas pizza oven – Koda12 or Koda16.
Multi-fuel: The pro if you want it all !
Gas: A simple & healthy European plancha style.
Serious smokers grill – choose Pro 575 upwards for at home, Ranger for out and about.
9. Big Green Egg
We choose the minimax for a high end starter kamado smoker grill . For the bigger models, we choose the kamado Joe. See why…
10. Kamado Joe
Charcoal: Classic – Keeping it moist kamado smoker grill
3 burner gas patio bbq Phantom Rogue for style and backlit switches. Check out the Rogue 365 (2 burner) , up to the 4 burner Phantom prestige 500.
12. Burch barrel
Charcoal: for the ultimate campfire grill experience
Bonus… Enders (from germany)
Gas: Enders Monroe Pro Slk Turbo highly rated patio bbq
Which barbecue style are you looking for ?
1. Compact and easy to use
2. Most portable, light, and fully assembled out of the box
3. Contemporary lifestyle barbecuing choices
4. smokers first, but Serious about doing it all well
5. At home, the best traditional gas patio bbqs
6. 3 must have accessories
7. 10 point buying guide
8. Finally – no words needed – designer genius
Compact gas bbqs
weber vs char-broil
Models 120 (silver lid & a bottle holder ) or 125 (black lid).
Don´t be fooled by the number 140 – that´s just part of the model number and nothing to do with the product name All-Star 120 or All-Star 125.
Some say it´s a bit fiddly, but actually very straight forward to put together.
It´s 25 kgs and the cooking area is about 45 cm.
It can be taken off the stand and used on a table top.
You can get this in an electric version, and you can also lift it off the stand if you want to take it somewhere else as a portable table-top bbq.
grill & bbq
Cast aluminum lid and body
Porcelain-enameled cast-iron cooking grates
Approx size: 39 x 69 x 42 cm / 14.5H x 27W x 16.5D inches (189 square-inch total cooking area)
Weighs 27.5lbs / 12.34kgs
There are five models to choose from: Q1000, Q1200, Q2000, Q2200 and Q3200 with extra shelves, stand etc, and working progressively bigger to finally cater for up to 8 people with 2 burners.
Most portable, light barbecue solutions
and fully assembled out of the box
grill & campfire experience
Beer barrel style.
Stainless steel – rust resistant.
Only requires 1.5kg of charcoal.
Approx size: 75cm tall and 41cm diameter. (29.5″ x 16.1″)
Weighs just 7.25 Kg
Not a lot more to say about this simply stylish piece.
It´s makes a perfect little, albeit urban, campfire experience.
for pizza & more
The koda is our favourite outdoor oven for all year round pizza. So easy to clean with a damp cloth, and the baking stone even cleans itself with such high heat.
Heats up rapidly, to 500℃ / 903℉ in just 15 minutes, then turn out restaurant grade pizza out in just 60 seconds ! So you can turn out pizza after pizza every minute. Because it´s gas it can also work on a low and slow mode too.
The koda 12 is really portable and light ( think hand luggage ) at 9.25kg (20.4lbs).
The 12 means it will make a 12″ ( some say 13 !) pizza.
Can also work use the griddle or baking sheets to make flatbread, or roast or grill meats, fish & veggies.
If you want bigger, the koda 16 (16″ pizza maker) is 18.2kg (40lbs), and has a bigger entrance way so you can make bigger/ higher roasts.
Contemporary lifestyle barbecuing
Town & Country TREND SETTERS
EVERDURE Force BY HESTON BLUMENTHAL
The legs are tapered for extra stability, and you can remove the barbecue and set it on a table top instead.
Die cast aluminium to prevent rusting.
Cooking area of 2358cm2 / 365.5inches squared. Extra high lid so you can cook a 6kg turkey in the convection oven.
The lid / hood comes in 6 contemporary colours, and like the grill is made of vitreus enamel for easy cleaning.
Has two burners so can use one on indirect convection heat whilst the other is gilling with direct fire.
Temperature ranges: 232-343ºC/ 450-650ºF
Heats up to 200℃ / 392℉, in 5 mins !
Dimensions H 106.7cm with lid down (lid up: 144.7cm) , W117.5 cm, D: 74.3 cm
5 years warranty on aluminium, 2 yrs on paint and plastics.
I´m showing you this because it´s pretty special looking but it´s not cheap and so far it´s not got enough user reviews on Amazon yet, so we feel it´s not fair to judge based on that. However it´s reviewed well by other experts, and users on other sites saying it´s the best bbq they´ve ever had.
VERYCOOK PLANCHA SIMPLICITY 2
Reaches 300ºC in just a few minutes.
Easy, high precision cooking.
Has two enamelled burners to give independent cooking zones so you can control your cooking (e.g. grill or keep warm on one side whilst cooking on a high heat on the other side of the grill plate.
Traeger Grills Ranger Grill
Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker, Black
20D x 21L x 13H inches.
Total cooking space is 184 sq. inches.
Total weight 60 lbs / 27.2kgs
Heats to 450℉ / 230℃
Kinka BBQ Japanese Hibachi Stove
Chef´s love this !
Made of Okuto’s diatomite. i.e. a pure sedimentary algae deposit consisting mainly of silica).
Approx. size 1221cm x 906 x 788cm.
Weight: 16.6 lbs.
This char-grill has the effect of passing heat evenly, to cook carefully, through far infrared rays. The outside of the stove doesn´t get too hot. And the alkaline ash from the charcoal has the added benefit of then neutralizing any acidic protein in the food ingredients, and brings out an umami. Very Japanese !
grill, bake, bbq / roast, smoke and braise / sear
There are many ways to smoke- Water smokers, wood smokers, electric smokers, gas, charcoal, and wood pellets. We´re going to feature the two most popular at the top of the market (so expensive too !) because they can grill too. So they are more versatile than other smokers. They are smokers first though, and grills second.
Charcoal Smoker Grill
Kamado smokers are based on a ceramic charcoal grill from Japan and smoking is what they do best. The idea ( and a number of kamado grills) were brought back to America by soldiers in World War II.
They´re really easy to use, and so reliable and efficient (you need very little fuel for a long cook). They go to a really high heat, almost, but not quite as high as a pizza oven. And, they retain the heat so well though that it´s not easy to control the temperature and cool them down ! So switching from grilling to smoking isn´t a fast process. Big Green Egg was the first, but Kamado Joe is now the competitor, so we´ll show. you both.
Wood pellet smoker Grill
Trager was the first to design the hard wood pellet barrel smoker – a more complicated technical piece than the Kamado. The pellets are compacted wood chips and in the end you get a lovely light wood smoke. Choose your wood to match the taste you like ( e.g. apple, cherry, oak, hickory, mesquite ). It´s a real set and go system. The pro series even has an integrated digital thermometer so you don´t even have to lift the lid. It´s controlled from your phone app so it to tell you when it´s done.
25 years later, when their patent ran out in 2006, a lot of copies have flooded the market. They can be powered by gas or electricity and then the wood pellets do the smoking. Traegar are still known as the best to this day though.
Big Green Egg minimax
Known as the BGE, and comes in bigger sizes.
Stays hot for up to 10 hours on a single load of lumpwood charcoal.
Cooking size 13¨ ( medium egg 15¨ ),
Need extras to cook pizza etc
smoking temperature 225F
xl temp goes from 200-700F
Limited lifetime waranty ( ie with caveats)
kamado Joe classic
taking the lead
Comes in a variety of sizes from mini version upwards – just like the BGE
Temperature range: 107°C – 400°C
Divide and Conquer cooking system.
* Kamado Joe’s slo-roller technology makes it easier to go from grill to oven to smoker.
Classic III is the most popular
Traegar pro series 575
fuel: electricity and hard wood pellets
The best-selling wood pellet grill in the world.
Maintains precise temperature for consistent results.
made of steel
smoker first, grill, roast, bake (yes BAKE), braise, and BBQ
temperature range 165 – 500F
3 yr warranty
set and forget digital automatic cooking
The number after the model name tells you the cooking space in square inches !
Traegar has 3 ranges: Pro, Ironwood or Timberline.
Pro series is the most popular because of it´s great value and it´s so easy to set up. But the Ironwood is now an interesting alternative as it has so many new features. The insulated sides appeal, as does the super smoke button.
The timberline is the most serious of the three . I´d say we´d stop at the Ironwood but maybe get the pellet running out add on that comes with the timberline.
traditional gas Patio barbecues
Free standing… with wheels
The advantage of these patio barbecues is that they´re quick to get up and running. They usually start with two burners, working up to four. They´re usually run by gas, some where you can run your natural gas supply from the house, but mostly using the better option – propane gas. we do want to show you a neat hybrid too though where you can switch from gas to charcoal easily. The more you pay for the more cooking space, extras, bells and whistles you get. When buying, make sure you are choosing the correct gas option – natural ( extended from your house gas), or propane ( gas bottles ).
Weber, Napoleon, Char-Broil
The favourite models, from our favourite brands are…
Charbroil also have a professional range which is worth looking at if you need to spend less but want more burners.
The wild card !
There is one more that we are checking out for you. The Enders Monroe Pro 3 Slk Turbo ! Where it´s known, it gets rave reviews, but this German manufacturer sits quietly behind the big boys when it comes to marketing ! Even their bbq weather cover is more impressive. We hope you like it as much as we do… with it´s cast parts, easy to clean feature, swap out flat plate, and extra attention given to the high sear and low roast options !
3 MUST HAVE ACCESSORIES
to help you eat well, cook better, live more !
If you have a charcoal grill one of the main issues is the time ( & skill sometimes) it takes to get it going. So this little extra allows the charcoal to get going safely, in a small space. When it´s ready ( about 15mins usually) you just pour the white charcoal onto your grill and you´re good to go.
There are two products most recommended. The Weber is the best for small loads, and the Oklahoma Joe XL charcoal starter takes much larger loads for bigger grills.
Weber Rapid fire Chimney starter
Oklahoma Joe´s Charcoal starter
If you´re cooking a basic grill or bbq for a few people then this is a nice, but really cool, to have ! Check if your bbq already has a heat monitor ( often on the hood) and maybe a probe for leaving in your meat.
If you´re cooking for more, and also perhaps cooking in different ways ( searing, smoking etc) then it´s going to be invaluable. If you´re making pizza you need to really get the temperature right for the stone base, and for the overhead heat. It´s also pretty handy to tell when your equipment is cool enough to touch !
Unlike your usual indoor oven thermometer, you need an infra-red one for outdoor cooking so you that you can just point it at the heat, from a safe distance !
And yes these are like the ones pointed at your forehead during the pandemic… but you have to make sure you buy one that registers temperatures from cooking vessels, not human beings. It also has to be able to record within the temperature range of your barbecue.
Some fancier ovens might have a temperature gauge included. The top smoker grills might tell you via the phone app what temperature your oven is at any point.
Best budget infrared gauge
So useful for indoor or outdoor cooking.
Use this to probe into the centre of your meat to check it´s temperature.
The temperature will tell you how well it is cooked, and if it´s safe to eat !
Get yourself a temperature chart for different meats. We use this for indoor cooking all the time too.
10 point BUYING checklist
1. Ease of use
Is it easy to set up out of the box ? How about, each time you use it how much effort does it take to set it up. Even if it´s fiddly, if you have the right instructions, you´re only doing this once ! How about every time you use it though … do you have to go and buy fuel each time, and how about cleaning and maintenance. You have to think of all these. Is there a good height between the fuel and the cooking grates ? Or is there too much and the wind blows the flame out.
Which extras do you really need? And what are you willing to pay for all the ´nice to have ‘ bells and whistles. If they help you cook better, or organise your food and fuel better then I would say YES ! Yes to divide and conquer grills, to handy holders for lids, to temperature gauges and meat proble, to warming areas, and to adjustable grill shelves. Anything that allows you to easily move your charcoal around, to create different cooking areas so that you can move the food around as it cooks – yes. Somewhere to put your tools down – yes. A side burner to heat up sauces – very nice, especially if it folds down and serves as an extra space to leave a pan. Lava rocks to release that charcoal type of flavour when the fat hits it – definitely ! Cupboard space underneath – nice, especially if it´s big enough to store your gas bottle too. A cover for your patio bbq – absolutely yes.. otherwise it will only last a few years before it rusts. Fat drip tray – great. Self cleaning or easy cleaning – definitely. A bottle opener and magnetic tool side – really nice to have !
Of course you tend to get what you pay for. And you pay more for more features, ease of use, pretty design, long lasting quality, and great brand names. The big charcoal vs. gas debate always begins when it comes to flavour, ease of use and price. With both, where you gain in one way you lose in another. Gas bbqs are more expensive to buy but much cheaper to run. Charcoal is the other way round, great easy price to start with but the cost of charcoal is higher per cook – it´s also a higher cost to the planet ! You could say gas takes more maintenance in terms of having to maintain the connections etc, but then you have to go buy the charcoal and it´s more dirty to clean up afterwards. As for for wood pellets, they are also more expensive to run than gas. Electric equipment is, like gas, is often more expensive to buy upfront, but cheaper to run. Sorry, does that help ?
How much time and effort do you want to put in ? Wood logs will take a lot of both but then they will reward you with a nice long lasting flame to sit by after your belly is full. Or do you like a nice fast charcoal burn which is only a bit of a pain to buy often and maybe it gets your hands a bit black. Finally the gas option is instant, and the propane gas is portable, and much better for the environment. Gas is so convenient for cooking often, or spontaneously. It´s cleaner( as in less messy) for you too, and it allows you be much more in control when cooking. You can just turn the heat up or down by twiddling a knob. So the choice is yours… but it also depends on what you´re cooking. The wood ( chunks or pellets) and charcoal will impart a flavour to long cooks, but if you´re cooking something fast, like a pizza then you may as well use gas because wood and coals won´t add any flavour in a 60 seconds cook anyway. There are many other ways to add flavour too.
If a charred crust pizza with a crispy base and softly cooked top has your name on it, your choice is easy, even if you want to bbq/grill and roast as well ! If smoking is just as important as grilling and roasting then that´s easy too – you want it all lol. Did you realise there are outdoor options for cooking something delicate like eggs or a place where you can cook something healthy-stylie or chef like. If you want a smokey flavour you can add it fast with a smoking gun, cook with flavoured pellets, or smoke it for a long time in a smoker to get the most authentic smokey barbecue flavour. The Traegar Ironwood even has a super smoker button so you could smoke your chicken on low (165F) an hour then boost the temperature right up to 500 and crisp up a nice bbq roast chicken to finish. If you´re only able to cook fast, and high heat, like on a charbroiler or grill, then you will have to get more creative with marinades, rubs and sauces if you want more flavours. You want both… then the ceramic kamado style smoker / bbq grills like the big green egg will give you it all.
Smoked food will be drier than grilled food. The grilled food uses the maillard reaction to add flavour and its good fast enough to mean it retains more nutrients than the smoked version. The Kamado Joe Classic III has a unique ´SloRoller´accessory that helps keep the food from drying out so much.
You can have delicious food anywhere from 60secs for a pizza to several hours for a smoked joint full of flavour. The faster you´re cooking the food the more important the technology is so we don´t see any point in choosing anything but the best pizza ovens. They don´t have to be the biggest. Grills, charbroilers and BBQs sit in the middle.
Grills are pretty fast but can get out of control so even though they cook faster, you have to spend your time tending them.. turning the food, adjusting the height of the grate, moving the charcoal around or moving the food to hot or cold spots to try to control an even cook for everything . Smokers take the longest ( could be up to 20 hours at a really low 225F temperature) but you can just leave them to do the work and give the flavours time to infuse into the food.
7. What will you cook
If pizza has your name on it, your choice is easy, even if you want to bbq/grill and roast as well ! If smoking is just as important as grilling and roasting then that´s easy too – you want it all lol so get a decent sized Ooni. If you want it all except the pizza, then the big green egg is for you. Did you realise there are also now outdoor options for cooking something delicate chef style dishes or even eggs – or if you want to churn out burgers for a crowd like at a festival… you have a look at the Spanish style plancha. Traegar´s wood pellet grill and smoker is also making a nice big entry into the market now- allowing you to do everything from smoking to barbequing to frying eggs too ! Grills are just for small cuts of meat. Larger cuts like briskets, hams, roasts are perfect for the BBQ or Smoker, or something like the Ooni Pro or Koda 16.
8. size and portability
Will this sit under the bed ( like the Ooni koda) or in the loft or boot of the car when not in use. Will you keep this in the garage or shed perhaps to look after it better during the cold winter months. Any of the grills and BBQ will suit you then. Maybe you will just leave it under a decent cover on the patio all year so you can look at it longingly. I can just see one of those Traegar Ranger black boxes in the back of a 4 wheel drive with the wellies… or even waiting in the boot room at home in a kind of alternative hamper stylie.
In terms of cooking size, we always err on the larger side so that we can divide up the cook and leave the more well cooked items to one side where the heat is lower – or on a warming shelf when done. A 2 burner is meant to serve 2-4 people but actually it´s often enough for 6. Same goes for a 3 burner – enough for 6 -8 peopler. For charcoal grills, we like about 2ft x 3ft for 4 people ( ie 24 x 36 inches). For 6 people, try to get up to 4ft ( 48 inches).
9. style & material it´s made of
Are you a traditionalist, need no fuss around you and maybe like to get your hands dirty – then working a drum or cylinder might be your new hobby? Or are you an urban foodie that wants it left pristine and decorative when not in use – you´ll love what Heston Blumenthal is doing then with Everdene. For something different, if you´re not only into burgers, you´ll be the envy of everyone with an Ooni.
Rust free is the main concern if you´re leaving it out all winter – Stainless steel is best, but of course get yourself a cover. Amazon always has a good supply – even if they don´t have the main bbq they usually have the extras. For the grates, cast iron is heavier and will hold the heat best, and porcelain covered ones will be the easiest to clean. Just make sure the grate bars aren´t too thin if they aren´t iron, as they will lose the heat faster. A griddle will stop the fat falling through compared to cooking on the grates.
10. the experience
Let´s not forget that this is what it´s all about. The feeling you get from the experience of cooking your food outdoors. Sometimes, those extra bells and whistle just make the experience run smoothly and let you have a bit more fun. Are you a real foodie that wants more than one way to bbq, then the Konko experience might be for you. If you want a smoker, grill, heater and s´mores more – a real campfire experience to boot then we have the answer – the Burch barrel ! Maybe you even want to be able to use it in winter in the snow like the Finns do ( Ooni Pro or the Traegar Ironwood!)
Will this be the new back to the future style ?
image: Burch barrel
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outdoor cooking… reviews and blog posts
It´s that time of year again ! Sun is coming out. Barbecue cover is off. And those elderflowers are just begging to be picked for this really simple Elderflower cordial recipe.
Super powerful. Super portable. Super clean. Koda or Koda16 – you choose. Best design, best results, best value for money. Read everything you need to know here.