There are plenty of great ways to get cooking out in the sun. BBQ systems are, of course, the best port of call for anyone looking to grill while the weather’s good.
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With so many different types of BBQ and grill on the market, things can get more than a little confusing.
Not only can you choose between permanent and disposable BBQs, but you can also choose what you’d like your food to be cooked with. Some people choose oil, while others prefer charcoal.
Charcoal BBQs are popular with many people as they are said to give a certain type of smell and flavour to the food you cook. Coal grilling isn’t anything that’s particularly new.
In fact, it’s been a household or at least a garden standard for decades. But what’s in it for you – and why should you consider buying a charcoal BBQ system over a traditional grill or disposable units?
There are lots of things to consider, and for that reason, we’ve set up this buying guide to help you navigate through the world of choice both online and offline.
Just getting started when it comes to shopping around for a charcoal BBQ? Wondering what all the fuss is about? Read our full guide for the complete lowdown, and do make sure to stick around for a few frequently asked questions at the end.
Why Buy a Charcoal BBQ?
If you are simply looking for an easy way to cook tasty food outdoors, you may not be too fussy about the methods you use. However, it’s clear that there are plenty of reasons why people love charcoal-grilled meat and veg. It’s not so much a matter of convenience or practicality, but of taste.
That’s right – the more refined BBQ lovers amongst us are able to tell the difference between food that’s been cooked on a traditional grill, and that which has been given the charcoal treatment.
Charcoal-cooked food is twinged with a unique, smoky flavour. This doesn’t actually come from the charcoal itself, but from the fat which drips through to the wood or briquettes you use. This helps to give off an all-encompassing aroma.
Yes – it’s the smoke, believe it or not, which actually adds to the flavour. As mentioned, millions of people love this flavour and this aroma – and there’s a good chance you may love it all the same!
Charcoal is regarded as a traditional BBQ standard, however, modern systems have pushed it aside a little. Therefore, if you are looking for that authentic, quintessential BBQ experience, you will likely want to take a taste of food cooked on these grills. Let’s take a little bit of a closer look.
What Types of Charcoal BBQ are There?
It’s probably easy to think that all charcoal BBQs come in the same size and format. This really isn’t the case. Some are built with budget in mind, while others offer incredible convenience. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a good model which encompasses both. After all, that’s what we’re here to help you find!
Consider Your Fuel Type
Before you buy a charcoal BBQ for the first time, make sure to check out the types of fuel accepted. Charcoal BBQs will generally run on either briquettes or lumpwood. Charcoal briquettes are fantastic if you are looking for longer-burning fuel, or if you are using a larger system.
However, you may prefer lumpwood if you want fuel which is lighter to carry and use, and which burns much quicker than briquettes. Both types of fuel have their pluses and negatives, which is why it is worth considering them both before you invest in your first charcoal BBQ outright.
Kettle BBQ Systems
Kettle BBQ systems are very popular because they are neat and stylish, and are great at helping to lock in the temperature. You can buy kettle systems which are fully vented, which make the most of the air around you to ensure everything cooks to perfection.
If you are serious about temperature control or the look of your BBQ system, it makes sense that you would want to buy a kettle BBQ first.
Drum BBQ Systems
These half-barrel systems also look great as part of any garden or patio setup. They are popular with many people because they tend to give you more space than other charcoal BBQs on the market.
Therefore, they are a great idea if you have a lot of people to cook for, or if you simply have a lot of meat to cook! However, do obviously be aware that they can take up a lot of space.
These systems are probably the most common. They are also generally the most budget-friendly, meaning that if you don’t have the money to invest in a bigger system, it is well worth you looking into something simple yet refined.
They come in a variety of shapes, and will let you grill and hold charcoal during the process. It’s a no-frills option which may appeal to plenty of BBQ fanatics.
Things to Consider
As always, there are going to be features and facilities you will need to consider when it comes to investing in a charcoal BBQ. Here are just a few ideas we feel you’ll need to bear in mind before you start shopping around.
As mentioned, there’s a distinction in the fuel you can use with charcoal BBQs. Can you easily buy and obtain the fuel you prefer? Do some homework and take a look around, and always compare prices.
Ease of Cleaning
This is a big one to remember. BBQs can be a nightmare to clean out and reuse sometimes. Therefore, if cleaning is a chore you’d rather avoid, look for more contemporary, high-end systems which have removable trays and which have dishwasher-friendly parts.
Otherwise, you’re going to need to scrub deep and hard to get all of that burnt-off BBQ up.
Size and Space
As mentioned briefly, do make sure you invest in a BBQ system which you can safely fit in your garden or on your patio.
Half-barrel or drum systems are fairly sizeable, which means if space is an issue, a kettle BBQ system is probably going to be a prime candidate for purchase.
Ease of Use
A BBQ which has temperature control functionality is, naturally, going to be the easiest to use. You won’t necessarily have to break the bank for these systems, either.
Kettle charcoal BBQs, for example, have vents built into their design, which means that air can easily vent in and out to allow food to cook at the speed you wish. You may even find that some kettle BBQs have temperature controls built-in!
It makes sense to buy a charcoal BBQ which is built and galvanised to survive years to come. In many cases, these systems are going to be very big investments indeed.
Therefore, do make sure to make the most of your money and buy a system which isn’t going to break down or get scratched up in a hurry!
Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s take a look at some of the common queries buyers ask when looking for charcoal BBQs.
How Much Should I Pay for a Charcoal BBQ?
This will generally depend on the type of system you buy. For example, the most basic grill-only systems will cost you as little as £20, maybe lower.
However, you should probably expect to pay more if you’re investing in kettle or drum systems. Be prepared to spend anywhere up to £100, or more, for the biggest and best systems on the market.
Do I Really Need a Charcoal BBQ?
That all depends on what you’re looking for from the meat that you cook. If you’re not particularly fussy about the smokiness of your food, you may do just as well buying a standard BBQ.
However, if you do want to get that authentic smoke, flavour and smell, make sure to buy a charcoal BBQ within your budget and which appeals to your aesthetics.
Why Do Some Charcoal BBQs Cost More Than Others?
In many cases, this will be as a result of brand appeal, though you will also find that there are bigger, bolder BBQs out there with more features and added temperature control. Take a look at the durability of systems in the upper price brackets and see what verified buyers have to say.
What’s the Best Grill Material?
While the metal used for grills will vary from model to model, there are a few standards you should look for. Be sure to buy a BBQ with stainless steel for the most durability and ease of cleaning, though iron will also be worth investing in.
For many people, charcoal BBQs can really make all the difference to their outdoor food experience. If it’s your first time looking around for such a system, be sure to read verified reviews and to set your budget low! Take a close look at what’s available and don’t be afraid to shop around.