The Great BBQ Divide - Gas or Charcoal? Gas or charcoal is one of the main decisions you will need to make when choosing your new BBQ. Our research has shown that the split between charcoal and gas BBQ users is almost 50:50, which goes to show that it really does come down to personal taste. Here are the pros and cons for both gas and charcoal barbecues to help you understand which will suit you best. The Pros and Cons of a Gas BBQ Pros Heats up quickly - you will be cooking in 5-10 minutes. The temperature can be easily regulated. Burns more evenly. Easier to clean - no ashes. Cons More expensive. Cooked food can lack that distinctive chargrill taste. The Pros and Cons of a Charcoal BBQ Pros Smaller & more portable. Cooks hotter. Cheaper. Gives cooked food that smoky chargrilled flavour. Cons Take longer to reach cooking temperature (although a Chimney Starter can help alleviate this problem). More clean-up required afterwards. Higher risk of fire-related injury. What Size BBQ? There are three aspects to consider when it comes to determining the size of barbecue you need. There is the physical space it takes up; for example if you have a small balcony your choices will be limited to compact designs. There is also the cooking preparation area, such as side tables and warming racks, which you may or may not feel you need. And possibly most important of all is the size of the actual cooking area, i.e. the grill. Here is our general guide to cooking area sizes based on the amount of people you will be cooking for: 4 people or less: up to 1800cm² 4-6 people: 1800-2500cm² 8+ people: 2500cm² Before giving into the temptation to buy the biggest BBQ you can afford, think about how many people you will be cooking for and where the BBQ will fit. If you are only going to cater for larger parties on occasion, you can always cook in batches and fill your grill with smaller items like burgers and sausages rather than large steaks and racks of ribs. Barbecues with warming racks will also help, as they will keep a large amount of the food warm as you cook the rest. BBQ Materials & Construction As with most outdoor items, stainless steel offers the best durability and weather resistance, but there is a wide range of barbecues available that are made with different materials that offer different benefits and suit different budgets. You don’t need to invest in stainless steel if you will be storing your barbecue in a shed when it’s not in use, or if you cover it with a high quality, waterproof barbecue cover. Lighter constructions using materials like aluminium are also more suitable if portability is important to you. Top tip: if you do decide to go for a stainless steel BBQ, do the magnet test! If a magnet sticks to the stainless steel, it means it is low quality and more likely to rust. BBQ Grills There are also various grill materials to choose from; here is our guide to each: Chrome plated grills look smart and are easy to clean, but they must be cleaned thoroughly after every use. Sometimes chrome plated grill bars can be spaced too widely, so do check this in store before purchasing. If they are very far apart the barbecue won’t retain heat as well as alternatives, and narrow foods like sausages and skewers will fall through the bars. Stainless steel grills are easy to clean and maintain, and are more durable than chrome plated grills. Cast Iron grills hold heat well and cook food evenly, which means that meat sears well and cooks quickly. Unfortunately cast iron grills need regular cleaning and seasoning, even when not in regular use. If cast iron grills are neglected they will rust, but if they are well maintained they can last a lifetime. Porcelain coated grills are easy to clean and don’t rust. They should be cleaned with soapy water - do not use a wire brush on them. Porcelain coated grills hold the heat well but don’t tend to sear the meat like stainless steel or cast iron grills. Additional BBQ Features Here are a few other features to consider when buying a BBQ: Lids & Hoods A barbecue with a lid or a hood is more versatile. Closing the lid or hood while cooking will keep the heat and smoke inside the BBQ, giving you flexibility in your cooking methods. It allows you to smoke the food and to cook by convection with the heat of the air as well as with the heat of the grill. Built-in Thermometer This will allow you to monitor the heat inside the BBQ while baking or roasting. Side Burners Heat or cook side dishes or sauces in a saucepan while you barbecue, without having to go back into the kitchen. They can also be used to keep barbecued food warm.