5 things I wish I’d known before buying a BBQ

Buying the right barbecue isn’t difficult, but avoiding these rookie errors can make the road to ownership a little less tricky

Weber Traveler BBQ
(Image credit: Weber)

Buying a barbecue is easy enough, but I’ve found that making sure you’ve purchased the right barbecue is slightly less straightforward. Even if you’re willing to spend a decent amount and buy one of the best barbecue models – of which there are many, I have to admit that I’ve been caught out after making some rookie errors.

One of the main considerations before you get into the detail, is deciding what kind of barbecue you want. A lot of that comes down to how much you’ll use it and your level of interest. It’s easy to get sucked in to the hype. The bulk of barbecues tend to look great on websites and in brochures, but the reality of owning one can be rather less glamourous.

If, like me, time is tight and your dedication to the grill is less than 100%, the best thing to do is head for a low-maintenance barbecue. Ease of set up and use are key considerations for me, as is cleaning the thing at the end of the day. There’s nothing worse than scrubbing away at a grubby grill plate after the fun and games have subsided, right?

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1. Choose your fuel

Lifestyle image of the Weber Master-Touch Charcoal BBQ 67cm sitting on a patio in a garden

(Image credit: Weber)

First up, what type of barbecue you buy can make a big difference. There are charcoal, gas, wood pellet, electric, portable and smoker options too, with plenty of variations on the theme. A good old charcoal barbecue can be a good bet, as they’re often competitively priced and deliver classic BBQ food with that certain taste and aroma.

Gas-power, on the other hand, is mighty convenient, though you’ll need to buy canisters to run it rather than dipping back into your bag of charcoal. If money isn’t an issue, a pellet grill is a good bet, offering ease of use and plenty of flavour potential for a, generally speaking, larger outlay.

2. Size it right

Skewers on electric BBQ

(Image credit: Evan Wise / Unsplash)

Secondly, it’s wise to get an idea what sort of size barbecue you should get. If you’re one half of a couple, or indeed a solo fan of barbecue, it stands to reason that you’re not going to need something humungous. However, if you do any kind of entertaining then it’s vital to ensure that your barbecue can handle more than a couple of burgers or kebabs.

If you’re keen to invite larger numbers of friends and family to your social gatherings, it’s well worth investing in something more substantial, with perhaps a grilling area with plenty of cooking real estate. Being able to store cooked food once it’s cooked is handy too, even more so if you’ve got guests dipping in an out of your gathering. A hood over your barbecue can also help to keep everything ready-to-go as well.

3. Look for durability

Grill mistakes

(Image credit: Pexel)

By their very nature, barbecues are more than likely going to be spending a lot of time outside. I’ve found that can take its toll on durability, with rust being one of the main issues I’ve had with barbecues I’ve owned in the past. Therefore, I tend to think it’s worth spending a little more on a quality barbecue that’s made from better materials.

Nevertheless, even the most impressive barbecues can succumb to the elements, so it’s also worth investing in a cover for your new purchase. This can be slipped over the barbecue once it has cooled down and should keep the worst of the elements at bay. Regular inspections and a wipe down or two are also prudent if you’ve got your barbecue standing around for any length of time. This is especially so during the winter months.

4. Explore the features

A lifestyle image of the Masterbuilt AutoIgnite Series 545 with food on the grill

(Image credit: Masterbuilt)

Buying a barbecue can be simple and straightforward, especially if you’re only after something basic. However, the range of barbecue options out there nowadays is substantial, and many come with all manner of features and functions that take them up a notch or two. Having a lid on your barbecue is an obvious benefit, but lookout for the likes of a thermometer, meat probe and digital display to assist if you’re looking for a helping hand.

Another boon with a barbecue is ease of ignition, with many of the gas-powered models being a cinch to get started. If you’re not keen on struggling with charcoal and other fuel like pellets, this is well worth considering. There’s nothing worse than inviting people to a barbecue only to find that you either can’t get it started, or it only gets to optimum heat just as the enthusiasm for food is waning.

5. What about cleaning?

Ninja Woodfire lifestyle grilling

(Image credit: Ninja)

This is perhaps the biggest issue I have had with barbecues over the years. I’ve owned a few models that have been an absolute pain to get back to their former glory. So, I tend to look for easy clean features as part of the core requirements for any new machine I’m thinking of buying. Basic barbecues are quite good in that respect because they’re not as valuable, so you can afford to be not quite as fussy with the clean-up. However, there’s more to it than that…

Remember, if you buy a barbecue with technical features and functions, which might be powered by electricity, cleaning your barbecue might not be a simple case of giving it a quick wash and brush up. It’s also worth thinking about how you’re going to deal with spent fuel, like charcoal that’s past its useful life. Similarly, gas canisters need to be disposed of properly at the local dump, which is something else that can add another layer of unwanted complexity to proceedings.

Nevertheless, don’t let any of this put you off because when the sun comes out and the garden looks irresistible, you’ll want to be ready to hit the ground running. So, all you need to do now is bite the bullet, pick one of the best barbecue models out there, and get grilling.

Rob Clymo

Rob Clymo has been a tech journalist for more years than he can actually remember, having started out in the wacky world of print magazines before discovering the power of the internet. Since he's been all-digital, he has run the Innovation channel for a few years at Microsoft, as well as turning out regular news, reviews, features and other content for the likes of Stuff, TechRadar, TechRadar Pro, Tom's Guide, Fit&Well, Gizmodo, Shortlist, Automotive Interiors World, Automotive Testing Technology International, Future of Transportation and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International. In the rare moments he's not working, he's usually out and about on one of the numerous e-bikes in his collection.