Charcoal BBQs Ultimate Buying Guide
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Charcoal BBQs Ultimate Buying Guide

Finding the right charcoal BBQ for your garden can be difficult, there are so many brands and models to choose from and everyone has a different opinion on which barbecue is the best one on the market.

Barbecues come in all shapes and sizes so in this article, we’ll walk you through all the important factors you should consider before you buy a charcoal or wood-fired BBQ. We’ll cover the different types of charcoal BBQs including portable, plancha,  kamado, food smokers and kettle BBQs, listing the benefits of each. Our expert guide will help you on your way to picking the perfect barbecue that suits your needs, preferences and budget so keep scrolling for expert tips on how to buy the best barbecue.

What are the Different Types of Barbecues?

These are the main types of charcoal barbecue, we’ve given a brief description of each type below.

  • Kamado: The most sought-after charcoal grill is the Kamado barbecue. They feature a ceramic case in the form of an egg shape, these incredibly stylish BBQs offer excellent heat retention and allow you to traditionally cook your food and smoke food for amazing results. Check out the brand's Kamado Joe or Primo Grills for some fantastic options.
  • Portable: Our portable BBQs provide you with a reusable lightweight option for cooking outside. If you’re keen to pack up your grill and take it camping or to the beach, a portable barbecue can be a handy and versatile solution that lets you take your grilling experience anywhere.
  • Food Smoker: A smoker is BBQ for cooking food low and slow. This indirect way of cooking produces a smoky flavour that sets food smokers apart from other grilling methods. If you’re interested in learning more our recommendations for food smokers are Masterbuilt and Bradley Smokers.
  • Plancha Grill: A plancha features a flat-top griddle often used in Spanish cooking, it combines incredibly high-temperature searing with a small amount of smoking. We have some brilliant options available including Dragonfly & Quan Garden Art planchas.
  • Oil Drum: These large barbecues are well-suited to catering for lots of people. You can go for a half-barrel or a full drum, and both are great options for cooking large joints of meat.
  • Braai: The term Braai (pronounced Bri) is what South Africans call a Barbecue. A Braai is a wood or charcoal-fuelled barbecue that is an incredibly versatile and exciting way to cook. Check out our Firebok brand if this type of product is of interest to you.
  • Kettle: Circular kettle barbecues come with hoods that sit snugly on top of the cooking area. The hood allows you to roast and bake, there are often temperature gauges and vents within the hood that gives you control over the temperature.

How Much Should I Spend on a Barbecue?  

This is a question we are regularly asked and it comes down to how much you can afford and how durable and long-lasting you want your barbecue to be. Charcoal barbecues can vary widely in price; small drum-style BBQs start at £250 whilst large outdoor kitchens that can include an integrated sink and fridge can cost you much more. Some entry-level barbecues often boast that they include the features of more expensive ones, but these barbecues tend to compromise on the build quality. 

Most charcoal barbecues we supply start at around the £250 to £350 mark but we’ve found that by spending a little more on a barbecue you’ll enjoy the added features and have a stylish BBQ in your garden that will last much longer.

Recommended Charcoal Barbecues Under £500

A small selection of barbecues that we recommend that come in under the £500 mark.

Norfolk Grills Corus Charcoal Kettle BBQ
£189.00 Was £199.00
Char-Broil Performance Charcoal 3500 BBQ
£359.00 Was £399.00

Recommended Charcoal Barbecues Over £1000

Below we list a small selection of barbecues that we offer that come in over the £1000 price point.

Kamado Joe - Classic III 18" Ceramic BBQ & Grill
£2,095.00 Was £2,149.00
Napoleon PRO605 Charcoal BBQ
£1,453.49 Was £1,529.99
Masterbuilt Gravity Series 800 Starter Pack
£1,049.00 Was £1,096.80
Everdure by Heston Blumenthal
£899.00 Was £1,799.00

What Size Cooking Surface do I Need?

To answer this question you should consider how many people you typically cook for and how much space you have on your BBQ you’ll need available. You don't want to buy a BBQ that's too small and won't meet your needs, or one that is too big and won't fit in your garden. 

Each barbecue has a cooking area which is measured in square centimetres (cm²). As a rough guide when cooking for up to 4 people, you’ll need a cooking area of up to 1800cm². For 6 people a larger area of 2000cm² and for 8 people we would recommend a minimum cooking area of 2500cm².

If you’re cooking for only a couple of people then a portable BBQ could be a good option. A small cooking area comes with the territory, so don’t expect to cook for more than two or three people in one go. We only supply quality reusable portable BBQs which start at around £150.

What is the Best Fuel for my BBQ?

Premium Lumpwood

Once you appreciate that the fuel used on a barbecue is what brings the most flavour to your food you may start to work with other fuels other than standard charcoal briquettes. You have plenty of options when it comes to charcoal BBQ fuel, the food you’re cooking may even dictate what type of charcoal or hardwood you should use to sustain your BBQ.

We provide a superb range of fuels on our website, you can look here to view them.

Lumpwood: Lump charcoal is the premium BBQ fuel and is recommended by most chefs and grill-masters due to the intense heat that it provides along with offering the longest burn time with maximum flavour. Our lump wood charcoal is ethically sourced from the world’s most sustainable forests.

Charcoals: High-quality charcoal burns hotter for longer and more consistently compared to lower-quality charcoal. They offer the cleanest burn possible for optimal flavour with very little ash residue.

Briquettes:  Briquettes are very easy to light and they maintain a constant temperature to ensure there are no ‘cold spots’ whilst cooking. Unlike chemically treated briquettes, our high-quality range is made from ethical and sustainable sources. Another benefit of briquettes is they have an amazing burn time of up to 6 hours.

Fruit Woods: Fruitwood often comes in the form of chunks or chips and is ultimately used to enhance the flavour of your food. There is a wide variety of flavours available, each of which is designed to be paired with certain foods to complement them the most. We recommend using intense fruitwood such as oak and mesquite with meats for big flavour and lighter woods such as apple and cherry with fish and vegetables.

How to light a Charcoal BBQ

Lighting your BBQ

At the end of Spring or when summer months are upon us, there’s no better way to enjoy the outdoors than by bringing your friends and family to your garden for a barbecue. Our simple step-by-step guide below gives you a method on how to light the charcoals of your barbecue and tells you when the coals are ready for cooking.

  1. Ensure you buy quality hardwood lump charcoal, it is some of the best fuel to use in your charcoal BBQ.
  2. Remove the cooking grate from the BBQ.
  3. If applicable open all the vents on the barbecue to allow the maximum amount of air into your grill, this makes it easy for the charcoal to ignite.
  4. Add some eco fire lighters also known as flamers into the charcoal, light them and leave the grill for 15-20 minutes.
  5. After a while, the flames will stop and the charcoal will begin to turn white. When this happens, place the cooking grate back on and you are ready to cook!

What BBQ Features Should I Look Out For?

Here we’ll cover what you should be looking out for and the most sought-after features of a charcoal barbecue.

  • Hood: Barbecuing without a hood or lid means that you will lose heat and all that lovely smoky flavour will disappear. With a closed hood, your food should cook evenly at a controlled temperature so you don’t scorch your food with flare-ups.
  • Temperature Gauge: If you’re looking for a charcoal barbecue with a temperature gauge it s usually built into the hood of the appliance. This feature allows you to accurately monitor your cook and ensures you are constantly hitting the right temperature.
  • Automatic Ignition: Automatic and electric ignition means you can be ready to cook on your charcoal grill within 10 minutes thanks to fast flame ignition. Products such as the Everdure Hub & Hub II feature this superb asset.
  • Air Vents: Air vents or air sliders control the amount of air let into your barbecue, which in turn controls the temperature. The more air that enters the barbecue, the hotter it becomes.
  • Gravity Fed Refuelling: This feature is limited to a small number of charcoal barbecues including the Masterbuilt brand and the benefits are fantastic. Your BBQ literally feeds itself with fuel which allows for long slow cooks. 
  • Cast Iron Grates: A seasoned cast iron grate can deliver heat better than other metals and provide a non-stick surface for you to cook upon.
  • Meat Probe:  A meat probe or probe thermometer has a sharp metal stem that can be inserted into food. Using a probe thermometer helps to make sure the proper internal food temperatures are reached.

What are the Pros & Cons of a Charcoal BBQ?

Charcoal is the go-to product for those who like their barbecues traditional and full of authentic, smoky flavours and they offer a number of benefits. The pros of a charcoal barbecue far outweigh the cons and we’ve included the main factors right here in our ultimate charcoal BBQ guide.

Pros

Flavour: Many people prefer the smoky and charred flavour that comes from cooking over charcoal or lumpwood. The unique flavour produced by this fuel is almost impossible to replicate on gas or electric grills. 

Cost: Charcoal BBQs are often less expensive than gas or electric grills (especially if you’re looking at the smaller size models), thus making them more budget-friendly. Overall, if you're looking for a way to add flavour and versatility to your outdoor cooking, a charcoal BBQ could be a great option for you.

Versatility: Charcoal BBQs can be used for a variety of cooking methods. They include grilling, smoking, searing and even baking. The higher maximum temperatures you reach is perfect for searing meats. And vegetables which can be difficult to do on gas grills.

Cons

Lighting: Getting a charcoal barbecue started can be tricky and a little messy, especially if ash is leftover within the base of the grill. Your charcoal BBQ will also take longer to reach your desired cooking temperature than a gas equivalent. 

Cleaning: Cooking with charcoal or lump wood means not only is your charcoal bbq more difficult to clean but if you’re the designated chef your clothes may smell a little too.

Less Control: Although lots of charcoal barbecues come with built-in temperature gauges they are still more difficult to control. You’ll find that you’ll have to contend with the timing of adding more fuel to the flames every so often.

Charcoal BBQ Final Review

Ultimately, the best charcoal BBQ for you will depend on your specific needs and preferences. Do your research, read reviews, and consider your budget before making a decision.

Our outdoor living range includes more than just BBQs, you’ll find relaxing hot tubs, on-trend garden furniture, outdoor heating & pizza ovens too. Feel free to contact us by phone or email if you have any questions or would like any further information on the amazing range of products we supply.

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