A good barbecue will not only keep you well fed, it's also a great excuse to get friends round for a fun festive feast this summer. With a little bit of open space, some good weather and lots of time, a big BBQ cook-up is a great way to spend a day. So whether you want a gas barbecue or charcoal grill, or even a dedicated smoker for meats, our hunt for the best barbecue centres around one thing: making cooking in the garden or yard easy, tasty and fun.
With one of these outdoor grills and barbecues you can cook steaks, burgers, sausages, chicken legs and kebabs, grill fish and halloumi or smoke a joint of meat slow and low. You can even go really crazy and have a stab at toasting flatbreads and vegetables such as corn on the cob and broccoli.
How to buy the best barbecue for you
With fine days becoming more frequent, the coast is clear to don the shades and start stocking up on grill-friendly grub to singe in the sunshine, with all levels and types of al fresco cooking catered for, from high-end smoking to, basically, setting fire to a bucket.
There are plenty of other brands that offer excellent, interesting and distinct takes on the outdoor cooking game, and we have plenty of them to pore over here.
Big Green Egg definitely offers something extra for the more 'pro' chef (at a more 'pro' price), while the likes of Char-Broil, Everdure, Napoleon, Traeger and LotusGrill offer some great innovations for fuss-free outdoor grilling.
Patio the size of a Subbuteo table? No problem, get one of these portable BBQs, and get busy with the tweezers.
Got a large and agreeable decking area? We've got altogether more serious grills starting right after these words from our sponsors.
Of course, you don't want all of the gear with no idea. Thankfully, T3.com is here to help with advice from three masters of the grill.
The best barbecues to buy, in order
There's a reason the saying 'now we're cooking with gas' exists...and it's cause it's by far the fastest and easiest method to turn raw ingredients into a delicious meal. And it's hard to argue that there's anything better than the BBQ of choice for Aussies over the last decade.
The Webber Q series come in 3 sizes, the Baby Q, the Premium and the Family Q Premium. While they all keep the iconic clamshell case these three barbecue's actually vary by grill size and maximum heat in addition to offering various portability options.
The Baby Q is the smallest of the three, designed to chuck in the car on your next camping trip, but also still just big enough to cook the occasional flame charred dinner at home. With a max heat output of 9Mj, you won't want to be cooking anything too large, but this handy unit is great for little steaks, snags and any seafood you might want to sizzle. The upside of the limited output is that your 8.5kg gas cylinder will keep you over the flame for up to 45 hours.
The Webber Q Premium is the option that we suspect will suit most, offering the best balance of heat, portability, price and grill size out of the three. With an output of 12.7 MJ this hotter barbecue can tackle bigger cuts like full eye fillets and will speed up how long it takes to finish a perfectly cooked sausage. It also offers a 20% bigger cooking area than the Baby Q with more places for direct flame cooking. You'll be able to get away with cooking for 6 people on this one if you supplement it with salads or non-barbecued dishes and it's design means that it can be used on an outdoor countertop or taken with you when travelling.
The biggest of the bunch is the Webber Family Q and if you're planning on regularly entertaining or you have a larger family then this is the Q you'll probably want. The most obvious difference here is the fact that it comes with it's own wheelable freestanding frame that'll mean you can put it anywhere you please. While the surface area of the Family Q is only 10-20% bigger than the Q Premium it generates almost twice as much heat. This means you'll spend less time over the grill and more time enjoying your company, but it will also mean you only get around 20 hours of cooking time from an 8.5kg LPG cylinder.
A winner of one of 2019's T3 Awards, this superbly designed and very well engineered Canadian charcoal kettle comes with a wave-shaped 22-inch (57cm) cast-iron grill that can be adjusted to three different heights.
When it comes to charcoal barbecuing, one cannot express enough the importance of having an adjustable grill like this. It means you can drop the height of the grate to just above the coals for searing steaks at high temperature and raise it when the inferno becomes a little too hot to handle. It’s also worth its weight in gold when it comes time to put on quick-grilling ingredients like kebabs and prawns near the end of the cooking session when the charcoal may not be hot enough with the grate at normal height. The grate itself also features built-in hinges for easy charcoal reloading, not that you’d want to do that mid grilling.
Like the similarly-styled Weber Master-Touch GBS E-5755 (reviewed below), the Pro 22 also comes with a removable ash-catcher with adjustable air intake holes for keeping temperatures consistent. Unlike the Master-Touch which has a loose lid system, this one comes with a hinged lid that lifts towards the left hand side, making it easier to raise without scorching an arm in the process.
Someone at Napoleon clearly knows what elements go into making a great barbecue system and this exemplary model is the outstanding result.
When your friends start calling you Crispin because you have a habit of carbonising every barbecued meal you get your hands on, you know it’s time to get rid of the lidless brazier you’ve been using for years and embrace the simply technology of convection-based kettle cooking.
The Master-Touch GBS E-5750 is a doddle to use. Simply load one or both crescent-shaped charcoal baskets and place them on either side of the bowl. Leave the lid off – there’s a catch-stand at the rear – light the charcoal and retreat for about 25 minutes. Now drop your food onto the ample 57cm plated steel grate – which has enough space for about six placements – put the lid on and go chat to your guests.
This system only requires occasional intervention, whether it’s turning food or adjusting the air intake on the aluminium ash catcher (which now also includes a new ‘smoke’ setting). If you follow the rule ‘if you’re lookin’, it ain’t cookin’, the food should come off the grill perfectly cooked with chicken skin just the right side of crispy.
This model is also designed to accept Weber’s Gourmet BBQ System of optional inserts. Simply remove the grate’s centre section and drop in the sear grate, pizza stone, Dutch oven or poultry roaster.
Webers are renowned for their durability, and you can safely expect this one to last many winters. That said, a cover is always advisable to keep out the elements.
If you’ve decided that gas grilling is for you, you won’t find a more aesthetically pleasing contender than this strikingly simple (if slightly pricy) model, approved by slaphead food sorceror, Heston Blumenthal.
Available in four colours, the two-burner Force is a joy to use, doesn’t take up too much space and heats up very quickly – just four minutes to reach a searing temperature of 350˚C. It also boasts the most accurate gas controllers in the business.
Build quality is exemplary. This fine slab of artistic minimalism comes with four heavy-duty legs, tough wheels, a rust-free aluminium frame and a thick aluminium hood that ensures the food is cooked evenly with very little intervention from the apron-clad man or woman in charge. The Force’s cast-iron grate comes with integrated flame tamers and provides enough grilling space for six to eight guests.
If you’re in the market for a gas barbecue that delivers in spades and don’t mind forking out so you can, uh, fork in, you won’t find a more capable model that the Everdure Force.
• Read our Traeger Pro 575 review
The Traeger Pro 575 is more like an outdoor oven than a barbecue. It uses wood pellets, an electrically-powered auger to deliver them to a fire pot, a temperature probe and advanced computer technology to make cooking much easier for everyone from newbies to pros.
Traeger’s nailed its algorithm so well that if you pick a temperature of, say, 180ºC, it will actually stay at that temperature for as long as required, or until the meat probe it comes with signals the end of the cooking process. Purists can call that cheating all they like but I haven't burned a single thing on the Traeger to date and I'm more than happy with that. A superbly designed iOS and Android app adds a multitude of hints and tips, and hundreds of exotic barbecue recipes for beef, poultry, pork, fish. Traeger also produces a wide range of different wood pellets and some of the best dry-rub seasonings in the business.
Is it the perfect barbecue? Not quite. Wood pellet BBQs are a bit more expensive to run than their charcoal or gas counterparts – a 9kg bag of pellets is $40 a pop although one bag should last a few sessions. Also, while pellets are readily available online, they’re not the kind of thing you’ll easily find on a Sunday. You will also need a cover for it, more so than other barbecues because of the electrical components. The noise it makes – the built-in fan and burning wood pellets make it sound like a quieter version of an industrial blow heater – is also a little eccentric.
However, the Traeger Pro 575's excellence at smoking and slow cooking – and it's highly reliable conventional grilling – more than make up for this. For incompetent barbecuists and those who’d like to spend more time with the guests rather than being chained to a grill, the Traeger Pro 575 is more than worth its price. But you might wish to consider forking out a few hundred bucks extra on Weber’s new SmokeFire, when it's available locally.
Designed for, or at least marketed to, people who want to BBQ on the balcony without breaking the terms of their lease, or causing their neighbours to come and KILL them, the Weber Pulse 1000 is an electric barbecue.
Grill purists will have already moved on by now having read that opening sentence, but it's actually a great device. The best way to think of it is more like an absolutely enormous George Foreman type grill. Or, more accurately, like the Sage by Heston Blumenthal take on a George Foreman grill.
At 1.8 Kilowatts, this is actually less powerful than the Sage one, but it's otherwise ostensibly similar, if you ignore the fact that it is huge. There's a bright temperature display, instant control over heat – the precision is far greater than what you any non-BBQ ninja could ever achieve with charcoal, although I don't think gas has anything to worry about – and also a plug-in probe for monitoring the internal temperature of food.
For some reason, this is not done on the main display but via Weber's iOS and Android app but it works so well, it almost takes the fun out of it. Everything from chicken to a side of salmon comes out perfectly done, so long as you properly pre-heat the grill.
Slightly to my surprise, as well as being perfectly cooked every time (so long as you keep an eye on the aforementioned app), food done on the Pulse 1000 does seem to have a more barbecue taste to it than what you'd get from a standard electric grill. Weber reckons that's down to its porcelain enamelled cast iron plates, but maybe it's just the fresh air.
On the subject of fresh air, I ought to address the main marketing claim of the Pulse 1000: that it's more neighbour-friendly. It's true to say that there's no charcoal smoke or potentially deadly and probably lease-violating gas canisters involved, but due to science, smoke and fumes coming off your food is pretty much unavoidable.
I would say this is more likely to annoy your neighbours by making them suddenly incredibly hungry and envious of you, rather than by enveloping them in thick clouds of pungent and possibly carcinogenic fumes. But you're kidding yourself if you think this will enable you to barbecue in secret, like some guerrilla griller.
As barbecues go, the Pulse 1000 is pretty easy to clean, and there's a 5-year limited warranty as standard. I would not recommend using it during a rain storm, for hopefully very obvious reasons, but you will be pleased to know that all the electric/electronic elements can be easily removed and stored safe from the hostile elements during winter. And, indeed, during summer.