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Three things to consider:
First of all, you need to decide where you want to BBQ and how big or small is your entertaining area? Do you want a lightweight, compact, portable BBQ for a small outdoor area or to take camping? Are you looking for a BBQ that has the capacity to cook for a large family gathering?
Secondly, how much are you willing to spend? Your basic, 4 burner flat-top BBQ with cast-iron burners will be the cheapest option, whilst a 6 burner stainless steel BBQ with radiant burners will be at the other end of the price spectrum. The latter will last longer due to the materials used (stainless steel as opposed to cast iron that is susceptible to rust). So you need to weigh up the cost of a higher quality BBQ versus a cheaper BBQ that may need parts replaced such as the burners or hotplate after a few years. If you live in a costal area, and it’s within your budget, it may worth considering a stainless steel BBQ.
Finally, you need to consider how many people you will be barbecuing for and how often. If you are only cooking for a large crowd every now and then, do you need a massive 6 burner BBQ? Will a 4 burner suffice? Other options include 2 and 3 burner BBQs.
Do you want a BBQ that uses gas, electricity, charcoal or wood? For convenience, you can’t go past gas-fuelled BBQs, however if you prefer smoky flavoured barbecuing, then wood and charcoal fuelled BBQs will achieve this. If you live in an apartment and want to use the BBQ on the balcony, check with the owner’s corporation to confirm any restrictions in terms of BBQ and gas bottle usage on balconies. And remember, for safety reasons, never store a gas cylinder inside the apartment.
Cast iron versus stainless steel
As mentioned above, BBQ components can be made of different materials such as cast iron or stainless steel. One drawback of cast iron burners and hotplates is they are susceptible to rust. As the cast iron components rust, you can replace them with new cast iron parts or better still, stainless steel parts. The benefit of a stainless steel hotplate is that it won’t rust, is durable and is easy to clean.
Types of heat
The two basic styles of barbecuing include direct and indirect heat. Flat top BBQs and spit roasters use direct heat, whereas smokers use indirect heat.
Hooded BBQs, kettles and outdoor kitchens use a combination of both direct and indirect heat, giving you best of both worlds. The direct method is similar to grilling, where food is cooked directly over the heat source. The indirect method of cooking is similar to roasting, however because it is cooked in the BBQ, you have the added bonus of a grilled flavour and texture you wouldn’t get in a conventional oven.
Basic features you should look for in a BBQ:
• Ease of use and easy to maintain.
• Solid construction - stainless steel or porcelain enamel surfaces.
• Grills that direct grease away from the burners to reduce flare-ups.
• Bench space for food and crockery etc.
• Built-in thermometer.