Best barbecue 2018: the best BBQs for autumnal parties and al fresco munchies

The best big grills for your garden. From gas to charcoal and grills to smokers, we've got all your barbecue needs covered

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Whether you want a gas or charcoal BBQ, or even a dedicated smoker for meats, our hunt for the best barbecue centres around one thing: making cooking in the garden easy, tasty and fun. The result? We’ve found the greatest grilling machines out there. 

With one of these outdoor cookers you can BBQ burgers, sausages and kebabs, grill fish and halloumi, and even have a stab at toasting flatbreads.

What is the best barbecue?

This guide is mainly about the Big BBQs and in that department, our man with the tongs, Derek Adams, prefers the Napoleon Pro 22K-LEG

The pricing on that one can be all over the place, online, so if you wish to play it safe, UK market-leaders Weber have a similarly excellent, family-sized barbecue in the shape of the Weber Master-Touch.

If you're in search of the best portable BBQ, we heartily recommend Everdure by Heston Blumenthal Cube for charcoal and Weber Q W1200 for gas.

How to buy the best barbecue for you

With a heatwave underway and bank holidays, then school holidays, soon to be upon us, the coast is still 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 and Komodo Joe definitely offer something extra for the more 'pro' chef (at a more 'pro' price), while the likes of LotusGrill, Compact Cobb and Barbecook Joya offer great, highly portable solutions for picnic or patio grilling.

Patio the size of a Subbuteo table? No problem, nab one of these portable charcoal 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.

Our pick of the best BBQs to buy today

Best barbecue 2018

1. Napoleon Pro 22K-LEG

Best barbecue bar none

Specifications
Grill size: 22 inches
Type: Charcoal
Size: Large
Reasons to buy
+Adjustable height grill+Hinged lid+Great build quality
Reasons to avoid
-Shop around to get the right price

This superbly designed and very well engineered charcoal kettle is better than the evergreen Weber Mastertouch for several reasons. 

Firstly, it has a heavyweight wavy-shaped cast iron grill that can be placed at three different heights. I can’t stress enough how important a feature this is. There are often times when the coals are nearing the end of their life and you still have the kebabs to grill. Or perhaps you’re starting with steaks and you need to sear them at high temperature. 

With this it's easy; just put on some gloves and lower the grill two stages to an inch or so above the heat. 

The Rodeo Pro also has a more accurate lid-mounted thermometer than the Weber, four sturdy legs instead of three and a porcelain-enameled steel lid with offset hinges for fuss-free lifting. 

Someone at Napoleon clearly knows exactly what a charcoal barbecue should be and this exemplary and extremely robust model is the outstanding result. The best grill I've ever used, and a real looker, too. 

Be warned: this sometimes turns up at ridiculous prices online, and also under different names, but you shouldn't need to pay any more than about £280 for it.

Best BBQ 2018: Weber Master-Touch

2. Weber Master-Touch

A close second in the 'best large kettle barbecue' stakes

Specifications
Grill size: 22 inches
Type: Charcoal
Size: Large
Reasons to buy
+Great performance+Reasonable price+Reliable and durable
Reasons to avoid
-Everyone's got one

Weber's tried-and-trusted 'kettle' system is one of the most efficient, fuss-free and reliable ways to charcoal-grill food without scorching it to a cinder. 

The enamelled bowl-shaped lid is not only a cover against the elements, it's part of the barbecue's indirect cooking process. Just follow the golden rule 'if you're lookin', it ain't cookin' and leave the lid on as much as you can; trust us, your food will cook to perfection.

This classy 57cm model incorporates a lid holder and ash catcher, and accommodates Weber's 'Gourmet' system of cooking accessories: simply remove the centre of the heavy-duty grill and replace it with a wok, pizza stone, poultry roaster or griddle. 

Webers are renowned for their durability, and you can safely expect this one to last at least ten winters.

Best barbecue 2018: Char-Broil Kamander

3. Char-Broil Kamander

Best value cooker/smoker BBQ

Specifications
Grill size: 26 inch
Type: Charcoal oven
Size: Very Large
Reasons to buy
+Cheap alternative to a Big Green Egg+Excellent damper system+Energy efficient
Reasons to avoid
-More expensive in the UK

A distinctly Big Green Egg-style, 'komado' BBQ, the Kamander from US barbecue king Char-Broil comes with a porcelain-coated 20-inch cast iron grill, a raised, swing-out 13-inch warming rack and a stainless steel fold-out shelf. 

It also features an excellent, easy-to-use air intake system that incorporates a steel pipe that runs from the bottom of the unit to a waist-height dial with big numbers on it. This means you can adjust the air coming in below without having to fumble about in a crouched position. The similarly large numbered dial on the top is used for controlling the amount of heat and smoke leaving the barbecue. Depending on what method of cooking you’re using, all you have to do is match the numbers, seal the lid and wait.

• Buy direct from Barbecue Centre

Even with a small amount of charcoal and with both dampers nearly wide open, the Kamander remained at a searing 300˚C for about three hours. This means that, with the dampers set in a nearly closed position, you could safely expect it to remain at a slow-cooking temperature of around 110˚C for four or five hours and possibly longer. And that’s using just a small amount of charcoal. As with most komados, there’s a bit of a learning curve involved regarding the dampers and I found that I had more consistent results on follow-up tests using briquettes instead of charcoal.

In America these barbecues retail at just $400 but because they’re so heavy and bulky, the shipping fee to the UK adds at least another £250. The whole shebang took about 90 minutes to build but everything fitted together with relative ease.

This is an extremely solid and thoughtfully-designed barbecue that weighs a ton, looks snazzy and cooks amazingly well, whether it’s direct grilling, slow cooking or smoking. A top choice for fairly flushed alfresco fiends.

A bit of background: Big Green Egg was the brand that popularised the ancient Japanese method of komado cooking in ceramic egg-shaped kettles. Komado barbecues can reach extreme temperatures and are brilliant for grilling, smoking and slow cooking; not for nothing are they de rigeur among professional chefs. 

Big Green Eggs are a tad expensive – you're talking £995 for a large model, with optional stands and grills taking the pricing to eye watering levels. By contrast, this one provides a similar cooking experience for less than half the price, by eschewing expensive and delicate ceramic in favour of cleverly-designed double-walled insulation and a clipped oven-like seal to keep the heat in. 

So now you know.

Everdure By Heston Blumenthal Force

4. Everdure by Heston Blumenthal FORCE 2 Burner

Best premium barbecue, with a stunning design and great ease of use

Specifications
Grill size: 365 inches sq
Type: Gas
Size: Large
Reasons to buy
+Very attractive design +Heats up quickly +Cooks evenly

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.

Argos Charcoal 55CM Kettle BBQ Kitchen

5. Argos Charcoal 55CM Kettle BBQ Kitchen

Best value barbecue

Specifications
Grill size: 22 inches
Type: Charcoal
Size: Large
Reasons to buy
+Excellent price+Condiments shelf
Reasons to avoid
-Self-assembly nightmares

At the opposite end of the spectrum from the Heston grill, this great value barbie is made from decent quality components and is very well designed to meet certain criteria other BBQ manufacturers haven’t even given a thought. Chief amongst these is a narrow shelf for storing essential condiments such as seasonings, marinades, olive oil and the all-important Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce.

• Buy direct from Argos

The imaginatively named Argos Charcoal 55Cm Kettle BBQ Kitchen also comes with a Cadbury’s-Smash-robot-style kettle lid for reliable, fuss-free grilling and a small 10-inch shelf on the side for good measure. 

You’re not going to be getting an enamelled cast-iron grill at this price but there’s nothing wrong with the 55cm stainless-steel one supplied. We slapped on several burgers, some bangers and a flock of chicken wings and everything cooked to succulent perfection.

This barbecue takes longer to build than others because all the screws are hidden from view and some are especially awkward to reach. But the extra hassle is well worth it since the final result is a barbecue that looks much more expensive than it is.

Campingaz Master 4 Series Classic LXS

6. Campingaz Master 4 Series Classic LXS

Best very large BBQ for BIG eaters

Specifications
Grill size: 542 inches sq
Type: Gas
Size: Very large
Reasons to buy
+Dual grate system +Side burner +Illuminated dials
Reasons to avoid
-Huge, and hence takes ages to build

This mighty four-burner gas-powered beast arrives on a palette in a box approximately the size of a house. Consequently, it takes about three hours to build but oh boy, is it worth it. 

• Buy this beast from BBQ Land

The Campingaz comes with a raft of design flourishes and is one of the most solidly built models on the page. Let’s start with the 3,500 cm sq grate, which provides enough cooking surface for a party of 12. It’s divided into two sections: on the left you have a normal cast-iron grate for the meats and on the right an almost-as-large flat griddle for fish, prawns, halloumi, vegetables and other ingredients that benefit from a flat top. The main grate will also accommodate Campingaz’s optional paella dish, wok and chicken roaster.

This model also features a side burner for frying onions, preparing sauces, boiling potatoes etc. Whether you ever use it is a moot point since it’s more practical to simply use the cooker hob. What you will use is the row of blue illuminated control knobs that look so cool you may be tempted into doing all your barbecuing at night. 

Weber Genesis II E-310 GBS Gas barbecue

7. Weber Genesis II E-310 GBS

Best gas BBQ

Specifications
Grill size: 26 inch
Type: Gas
Size: Large
Reasons to buy
+Superb build quality+Comes with an app!
Reasons to avoid
-Kinda pricy

You pay a wee bit more for a Weber, but what price peace of mind, guy?

Weber barbecues are extremely well built and suffer from only minimal rust after years left out in the cold and damp. Which is more than one can say for the majority of cheaply-built barbies out there.

The gas-fired Genesis II comes with a 26-inch porcelain-enamelled cast-iron cooking grate, three high-performance burners, a warming rack above the main grill, two decent side tables with tool hooks, a space to put the Patio gas canister and a stunning-looking enamelled hinged lid with integral thermometer for reliable, flare-free cooking.

For tech nerds, the Genesis II is also compatible with Weber’s fandangled iGrill 3 Bluetooth-enabled thermometer system (£90). Simply bung in a pair of meat probes, launch the accompanying app and it’ll keep track of the temperatures within. Voila: perfect meat, and no more killing your friends with salmonella.

If you have many mouths to feed (up to seven) then consider this reliable and unequivocally dapper model.

Big Green Egg Medium barbecue

8. Big Green Egg Medium

The professional's choice

Specifications
Grill size: 38 inches
Type: Charcoal
Size: Very large
Reasons to buy
+Incredible cooking+Highly versatile+Built like brick shithouse
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Massive

As mentioned above when discussing the Char-Broil Kamander, this prestigious brand has become the first choice of many chefs, both pros and keen amateurs. It grills, bakes, smokes and seers and stays hot for 10 hours on a single load of lumpwood charcoal. 

• Buy Big Green Egg (Medium) from John Lewis & Partners

This ceramic, bulbous beauty will cook and/or smoke anything from sausages, fish and kebabs to rib racks and whole legs of lamb and pork. As the 'Medium' part of its name suggests, this whopper is not even the Biggest in the Green Egg range, but it's still sufficient to cook for eight Americans at a time.

Like the Weber, this heavyweight griller is designed to be used with the lid on so that the food is cooked indirectly; the lid also prevents unexpected flare-ups and scorching. 

Right now there probably isn't a better, more forgiving barbecue on the planet. However, its premium price range is a genuine obstacle to all but the most discerning barbecuists.

LotusGrill XXL barbecue

9. LotusGrill XXL

Best smokeless charcoal grill

Specifications
Grill size: 22 inches
Type: Charcoal
Size: Large
Reasons to buy
+Great looker+Heats quickly+Produces less smoke
Reasons to avoid
-Food lacks smokey flavour-Not cheap

Do your neighbours hate you because of the plumes of smoke created every time you have a barbecue? You need a near-smokeless charcoal model, guvnor, like this snazzy spherical offering from LotusGrill.

Like the company’s eponymous portable grill, this one also uses a fan – in fact two – to speed up the charcoal ignition process. According to the blurb, it takes only a few minutes for the charcoal to reach cooking temperature, so I tried this theory out and, blow me down with a flaming feather if didn’t take just four minutes – about 26 minutes quicker than any other charcoal barbecue – and with no smoke in the process.

Even during the cooking process this thing creates less smoke than other models and it does so by dint of a rather unique but slightly convoluted charcoal loading method and a huge 57cm grill with integrated steel shield to stop fats from dripping directly on to the coals below.

The downside to this unusual barbecuing method is that food isn’t really infused with a properly smoky flavour – there’s a glass lid available at heavy cost that will contain the small amount of smoke it produces – and there is a question of having to change the batteries for the fans from time to time. 

The upside is rapid heating and almost smokeless cooking, and that makes this BBQ the most considerate option for balconies and urban patios. Available in six sunny colours.

• We also have a full run-down of the best portable barbecues

Char-Broil Performance 220B gas barbecue

10. Char-Broil Performance 220B

Best infrared grill

Specifications
Grill size: 16 x 17 inches
Type: Gas
Size: Large
Reasons to buy
+Infrared grilling technology +Keenly priced
Reasons to avoid
-Demands a lot of cleaning

Turn your patio into a Texan yard with this stainless steel-clad, two-burner gas model from one of America’s top barbie brands. The Performance comes with a chunky 47cm porcelain-coated, cast-iron grate and uses ‘infrared’ technology – basically a couple of perforated corrugated steel sheets above the burners – to ensure an even cooking temperature across the entire surface. 

• Buy this affordable Char-Broil classic from Argos

The Performance is one of the best-built budget-priced gas BBQs in this roundup but figure in a couple of hours to assemble it. The infrared sheets also require regular cleaning or they won’t perform to their best ability. Like most gas barbecues, it fires off a 5kg Patio Gas bottle (refills around £30) which tucks neatly away beneath the grill and provides around 15 touch-of-a-button banquets.

Weber Pulse 1000 with stand

11. Weber Pulse 1000

Best electric barbecue

Specifications
Grill size: 41cm x 31cm
Type: Electric
Size: Large
Reasons to buy
+No fuel required+Internal temperature monitoring+Typically handsome Weber build
Reasons to avoid
-Well, it's not really a barbecue, is it?

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.

• Buy Weber Pulse 1000 with stand from John Lewis 

• Buy Weber Pulse 1000 direct from Weber

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.

Everdure by Heston Blumenthal Hub BBQ

12. Everdure by Heston Blumenthal Hub

Slightly crazy, super-sized charcoal grill with electric ignition… and a spit!

Specifications
Grill size: 31 x 18 inches
Type: Charcoal
Size: Very large
Reasons to buy
+Gorgeous design +Built-in rotisserie +Electric charcoal ignition
Reasons to avoid
-Electricity supply required

Got 1,500 quid burning a hole in your jeans? Go out immediately and spend it all on this minimalist charcoal contribution from Everdure. 

Designed in conjunction with Heston Blumenthal (allegedly), the gargantuan Hub features electric start and a built-in spit system. To fire it up, simply load some charcoal into the circular tray conveniently placed above what looks like an old-fashioned oven grill ring, pull the plug out of its recess, plug it into the mains – you’ll need a power outlet nearby, obviously – and hit the start button. Fifteen minutes later and it’ll be ready for your first slab of Japanese Wagyu Sirloin – well, when you’ve spent this kind of dosh, you’re hardly going to load it with sausages from Sainsbury’s Basics range, are you?

• Buy the Everdure Hub from John Lewis with a 5-year warranty

The rotisserie section is a superb innovation because you can’t see any evidence of it until you release the two hidden skewer columns on either side of the unit. And this isn’t any old bog-standard rotissie either because it’s big enough for an entire piglet – sorry, Christopher Robin.

The Hub’s 800x420mm grill provides enough nosh estate for a large gathering but, because it doesn’t come with a kettle-style lid, you will need to stay in attendance at all times. Also, one can’t vouch for the reliability of the Hub’s electrical components in the long term though the optional £99 cover will doubtless help in terms of peace of mind.

Fuego Element F21C barbecue

13. Fuego Element F21C

Best gas barbecue for balconies

Specifications
Grill size: 20 inch
Type: Gas
Size: Medium
Reasons to buy
+Neat design+Rapid heating+Space for gas bottle
Reasons to avoid
-Smallish grilling space

Just because you have a smaller patio or balcony, doesn't mean you can’t indulge in an alfresco nosh-up from time to time. Enter the gas-fired Fuego Element.

Devised by a former Apple and Beats headphones designer, this slim figure is reminiscent of a prototype Dalek but not as scary. It’s a pretty neat package, replete with hidden gas bottle container and a heavy-weight cast-iron grill big enough to feed a family of four.

The Fuego is equipped with two circular stainless steel burners that can be used independently for slow, indirect cooking or together for searing meats. The whole shebang reaches its optimum 250ºC temperature in a respectable five minutes and goes all the way to an even more respectable 350ºC.

Somewhere between a portable and a full-size barbie, the Fuego Element is a bit of a hybrid. It’s a doddle to use and full of inventive design flourishes – including a space below for a 5kg Patio Gas bottle – that make the barbecuing even more enjoyable.

Char-Broil Big Easy Smoker

14. Char-Broil Big Easy Smoker

Best smoker for your garden

Specifications
Grill size: 15 inch
Type: Gas smoker
Size: Medium
Reasons to buy
+Smokes food brilliantly+Wood chips tray+Perfect for ribs
Reasons to avoid
-Looks only a mother could love

In America where they love their deep-fried Thanksgiving turkeys, this gas-powered BBQ is proving extremely popular as a healthier – and safer – alternative to dropping a whole bird into a vat of boiling oil. We’re not really keen on that kind of thing in Europe but show us an efficient, healthier way to knock up a slab of BBQ ribs or a slow-cooked Morrocan lamb and we’ll jump at the chance. Well here’s the answer.

The three-in-one Big Easy comes with a removable basket cavernous enough for an 11kg bird or a large leg of lamb, a smoker box for the obligatory handful of hickory wood chips, four rib hooks, an easy-clean drip tray and a removable porcelain-coated cooking grate for ordinary barbecuing. 

It runs off Patio Gas and uses Char-Broil’s’s famed TRU-Infrared tech to evenly roast, grill and smoke whatever you throw in it. Despite its weight and height, its footprint is actually small enough for a balcony or a titchy patio. But pretty it ain’t.

Verycook Plancha Simplicity 2

15. Verycook Plancha Simplicity 2

Best flat-top BBQ

Specifications
Grill size: 24 inches
Type: Gas
Size: Large
Reasons to buy
+Cooks tricky stuff like eggs and fish+Well built+A healthy option
Reasons to avoid
-Not a traditional BBQ

Verycook is a French company that specialises in Spanish-style, gas-fired, flat-topped planchas – or griddles as we like to call them. 

In true Continental celebratory style, the Simplicity 2 – which is available in several very attractive colours – arrived with a Hawaiian lei and a bright red apron to wear while you do that al fresco thing. What it didn’t come with is a gas regulator – although that's a cheap buy at most hardware stores.

The griddle is a beautifully engineered slab of 6mm-thick stainless steel that is phenomenally heavy, so get a mate to help with setup. Boy, did I find that out the hard way. 

Once recovered from the hernia, I found the Simplicity 2’s flat cooking surface is perfect for frying breakfast stuff like bacon, eggs, sausages and mushrooms and all types of seafood and veg, and, of course burgers. 

Mind, you might want to keep it out of any breezy areas as there’s a large gap between the two burners and the griddle.

Best thing about it? It has a cutaway rear leading to a fat-collection container so you can make like a spatula-wielding chef at a roadside burger pop up. A cheaper model with enamelled steel griddle plate is also available.

OzPig barbecue

16. OzPig

Best grill cum patio heater

Specifications
Grill size: 15 inches
Type: Charcoal
Size: Medium
Reasons to buy
+Highly versatile+Handy chimney
Reasons to avoid
-Relatively small cooking area-Hefty, though small

This one could almost live in our portable BBQ guide – it comes with a carry case. Compared to something like the MegaMaster, we dare say it is – as long as you're built like an ox.

As you can tell from its wood-burner-cum-cauldron appearance, this is rather more than your standard portable, however. Able to grill, roast, boil, or fry anything you throw at or in it, it also radiates heat in 360 degrees to you and your fellow al fresco diners.

The fire is fully contained and off the ground, so it can be used in most environments. The chimney does what chimneys traditionally do, and can be offset via an optional add-on, so as to bypass awnings.

Accessories include a rotisserie for suckling piglets, a diffuser – ideal for lowering cooking temperatures –and a 'special wok'. Get in.