However, charcoal barbecuing does have its drawbacks, namely the length of time it takes for the charcoal to reach optimum temperature and the extra work involved in preventing the food from being scorched to a cinder.
On the flip side, gas aficionados will argue that gas grilling produces a flavour just as authentically smoky as charcoal, only without the hassle. After all, given that the flavour of grilled meat is mostly produced by the smoke generated by meat fats dripping onto a heat source below, does it really matter whether that source is a pile of coals or a sheet of hot metal with a flaming gas ring beneath?
One thing everyone agrees on is that gas barbecuing is a much more convenient and practical way to grill. Not only is the heat of a gas barbecue easier to control but it’ll reach optimum cooking temperature in about 10 minutes (a charcoal BBQ can take anything from 25 minutes to 45 minutes).
Another bonus is that every gas barbecue comes equipped with a lid. Aside from deflecting wind that could blow out the flame, a lid also allows the user to grill using the “indirect” convection method of cooking; a much easier and more reliable way to grill meats than the open-top brazier design of some charcoal-based barbecues.
It must be said, however, that there are a few caveats worth mentioning: gas barbecues are more expensive than their charcoal counterparts and they’re usually a bit more difficult to assemble. And, of course, you will also need to fork out on a gas canister. Speaking of which…
All about gas
Propane is the most common fuel for modern barbecues and Patio Gas is arguably the most popular brand. It’s available in 5kg (£22) and 13kg canisters (£34), but 5kg is the most practical size since it will fit underneath or behind the cupboards of most barbecue models.
If using gas for the first time, you’ll need to sign a Cylinder Refill Agreement and hand over an additional £40 fee for the returnable cylinder. Thereafter, whenever the gas nears empty, simply take the empty bottle back to the supplier and pick up a new pre-filled one.
Patio Gas canisters are fitted with a contents gauge so be sure to check the gas level well before your guests arrive because the last thing you need is for it to run out midway through the grilling process.
Choosing a gas barbecue – things to consider
Aside from price and build quality, the most important factor to consider is grill size and the number of burners the BBQ’s equipped with. The most popular size is equipped with two burners (individually controlled gas rings beneath a metal heat reflector). However, if you have a large family or entertain a lot then consider a model with three or four burners – a four-burner barbecue will provide almost twice the meal estate of a two burner.
Some models are also equipped with a side burner, which is basically a small gas hob for cooking side dishes. We would suggest forgoing a side burner because not only are they fiddly to assemble and take up valuable shelf space, but they perform no better than a kitchen hob.
Weber Spirit II E-210 GBS
£422.10, Hayes Garden World
Best for: BBQ aficionados
Key specs – Grill size/area: 51 x 46 cm; Weight: 46.8kg; Burners: 2; Side burner: No; Shelves: 2; Portable: No
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You really can’t go wrong with a Weber. Not only are they built to last – some Webers have been known to survive over 10 years of winter weather without collapsing into a pile of rust – but they’re almost universally praised by both users and professionals.
Designed for small patios and balconies, this sturdy entry-level two-burner model boasts a heavy-duty porcelain-coated lid with integral thermometer, a 51cm x 46cm Gourmet Barbecue System grate with a removable centre section for an optional griddle plate or pizza stone, a small warming rack, a gas bottle holder on the right to keep everything tidy, two side tables (one folding), and a new type of ignition system that almost always lights the gas ring on the first press of the button, even after months of use.
The Spirit II is equipped with three piping hot heat reflector shields (or “flavorizer bars” as Weber likes to call them) that instantly vaporise dripping fats, producing that lovely smoky flavour we all love; a disposable tin foil tray beneath catches any excess fats. If you often serve food that is either undercooked or overdone, consider installing the optional iGrill 3 app-connected system, which monitors the internal temperatures of up to four cuts of meat and, when perfectly cooked, notifies you on your iOS or Android device.
The build quality is exemplary; a fact borne out by the 10-year guarantee Weber offers on all parts. If you’re after a gas barbecue that fits nicely on a patio and doesn’t stretch the budget too much, then put this one high on your list of contenders.
BuyEverdure by Heston Blumenthal Force
£599, John Lewis & Partners
Best for: Style
Key specs – Grill size/area: 2,358cm²; Weight: 33kg; Burners: 2; Side burner: No; Shelves: 2; Portable: No
For size, style and efficiency, this minimalist two-burner model from chef Heston Blumenthal is a tough one to beat. Indeed, it’s one of the most thoughtfully designed BBQs available. Constructed almost entirely out of rust-resistant die-cast aluminium, the Force features two enamel-coated cast iron grates large enough to feed a gaggle of six hungry mouths, a beautifully designed lid that fits perfectly flush with the body ensuring that the heat is retained throughout the cooking process, four rock-solid legs (two with castors), a sturdy fold-out shelf for added convenience, and an integrated temperature dial. It also comes with arguably the most accurate control dials in barbecue-land.
In order to prevent flare-ups caused by too much fat dripping onto the heat source below, this barbecue’s cooking grate is equipped with solid sections positioned directly above the burners, thereby negating the need for a heat reflector. This system, combined with the aluminium lid’s cutaway vents, ensures food is cooked perfectly evenly. Indeed, we found no cool spots anywhere on the grill – a common anomaly with gas barbecues.
Available in five tantalising colours, the Force is anything but cheap, but that’s to be expected given the quality and fit of the materials used. It’s also easy to use and cooks food to succulent perfection without ever breaking into a sweat. A top choice for well-heeled grillers.
BuyChar-Broil All-Star 120B
£341, Garden Lines
Best for: Patios and small gardens
Key specs – Grill size/area: 45cm; Weight: 30kg; Burners: 1; Side burner: No; Shelves: 2; Portable: Yes
This newly-launched model from Char-Broil can be used with or without the supplied leg assembly if, say, you wanted to put the main unit on a table or lug it to the beach. Its cast iron grate provides a moderately sized cooking area of 1,600 cm² (45cm in diameter), plus there’s a small warming rack above. The attractively shaped cast aluminium lid, meanwhile, ensures optimum convection when cooking indirectly, while the handy thermometer keeps tabs on operating temperatures.
Char-Broil is one of the most popular BBQ manufacturers stateside, partly because of its unique “TRU-Infrared” grilling technology. In this instance, the use of the term infrared has nothing to do with infrared bulbs but rather it’s simply a perforated corrugated metal sheet that sits directly below the cooking grate.
Having grilled on a few Char-Broil models to date, we can vouch that it definitely helps distribute heat evenly across the entire grilling grate, producing uniform results in the process. However, it is advisable to clean the infrared sheet after each session by running the barbecue on its highest heat setting for about 10 minutes and then brushing off the carbonised material.
The All-Star comes with two foldable side shelves with integral tool holders, a second mid-cart side shelf with a handy paper towel dispenser, a concealed area for the gas bottle and reliable push-button ignition.
A very well thought out and exceedingly versatile package that’s ideal for smaller patios and balconies.
£143.99 (price correct at time of publishing), Amazon
Best for: Portability
Key specs – Grill size/area: 40 x 24 cm; Weight: 5.3kg; Burners: 1; Side burner: No; Shelves: No; Portable: Yes
If you’re in the market for a portable one- or two-person gas grill that’s ideal for camping, orienteering, boating, picnics or balcony use, consider this fabulous new model from outdoor pursuit specialist Primus.
The Kuchoma weighs just 4.5 kilograms and comes with a hinged aluminium lid for both direct and indirect grilling, an integrated wooden carry handle, a non-stick 40cm x 24cm grate with raised edges to keep sausages from rolling off, and battery-less Piezo ignition.
To use, simply pull out the admittedly wiry legs, attach the hose to a mini screw-on gas canister – available in 100g, 230g and 450g sizes and widely available from all camping stores and most campsites – fire it up, lift the lid and load on some grub.
To test it out, we threw on a dozen chicken legs (its maximum capacity) and, while there wasn’t much space left to move them around, it grilled them remarkably well with plenty of gas left in the 230g tank for another round. We were also impressed by the height of the lid, which is easily tall enough to accommodate a small chicken or leg of lamb.
In the realm of camping cookers, this little griller ticks many boxes – it’s light and small enough to carry a fair distance (it measures just 44cm wide and 30.5cm deep), is quick to set up and a doddle to clean.
BuyCampingaz Master 3 Series Classic LS
£317.46, Keen Gardener
Best for: Large families
Key specs – Grill size/area: 2,800cm²; Weight: 57kg; Burners: 3; Side burner: Yes; Shelves: 2; Portable: No
Campingaz is synonymous with camping cookers and gas-powered lamps but it’s branching out into bigger things – much bigger things – with a recently launched range of large two-, three- and four-burner garden barbecues that are stylish and efficient enough to take on the big guns. This ginormous three-burner model is a case in point. The Master 3 Series arrived in a massive box on a palette and took over two hours to build, but the effort was worth it.
A lift of its double-walled enamelled lid exposes a steel grill on the left and a flat griddle plate on the right, with a combined surface area of 2,800cm². This is a great combination since it allows you to cook standard fare, like burgers, sausages and chicken legs, on one side and fish, halloumi, bacon, eggs and other obstreperous ingredients that normally break up and fall through the gaps on the other. It’s a boon for vegetarians and vegans too, who’ll appreciate having their food kept completely separate from the meats.
The Master 3 Series also comes with a large cupboard to store a 5kg Patio Gas bottle, a foldable shelf strong enough to sit on, and a 2,300 watt Piezo ignition side burner that also converts into an extra shelf. We loaded it with a variety of ingredients – including the classic bacon wrapped banana – and it grilled everything to succulent perfection. A great budget choice for larger families and party animals.
£323.99 (price correct at time of publishing), Amazon
Best for: Balconies and boats
Key specs – Grill size/area: 43 x 32 cm; Weight: 12kg; Burners: 1; Side burner: No; Shelves: 2; Portable: Yes
Like the Primus Kuchoma, this portable from Weber uses the same type of readily available mini disposable 450g gas canisters, making it ideal for camp sites that don’t allow the use of charcoal, plus boating and balcony use. However, unlike the Kuchoma, this one is too big and cumbersome to lug by hand (it weighs 12kg and doesn’t come with a carry handle).
The single-burner Q1200 is equipped with a hinged cast aluminium lid for maximum convection and a heavy duty cast iron grate with a cooking area of 43cm x 32cm – more than enough space for a family of three, or four at a push. It also comes with a lid-mounted thermometer, a pair of flip-out shelves and a disposable slide-out drip tray. To use, simply screw on a canister, place it in the supplied cradle, press the ignition button and throw on some meat.
The ultimate test for any barbecue is how well it cooks a steak. Well this one passed with flying colours. Firstly, its integrated thermometer gave a reading of nearly 600˚C after just 15 minutes of heat-up time and that’s frankly amazing for such a titchy model. At this high temperature, it took just five minutes for it to produce a sirloin steak with a perfectly caramelised outer (replete with obligatory grill markings) and a pink, juicy centre. Thankfully, there wasn’t anyone to share it with.
If you’re in the market for an exceedingly well-built and highly efficient mini gas barbecue that you can take camping and use on the smallest of balconies, then put this at the top of your shopping list.
BuyChar-Broil Big Easy Smoker
£268.99 (price correct at time of publishing), Amazon
Best for: Slow-cooked and smoked foods
Key specs – Grill size/area: 38cm diameter; Weight: 28kg; Burners: 1; Side burner: No; Shelves: No; Portable: No
Most barbecue smokers are of the charcoal variety, so it’s great to see a model that performs the same task using gas. The cylindrical two-in-one Big Easy was essentially designed for the American market as a healthier – and safer – way to “fry” a Thanksgiving turkey without setting oneself and the garden shed on fire (a common occurrence, believe it or not).
The Big Easy is comprised of a large drum with a single 5.3kW wrap-around burner, a spacious internal basket with two removable racks for a pair of chickens or a large leg of lamb (up to 11kgs in total), a smoker box for the wood chips, and a removable 38cm porcelain-coated cast iron cooking grate for normal barbecuing. Despite its tall stature it has a remarkably small footprint, so consider this model if you have a small garden or patio.
For our test, we loaded the smoker box with a handful of hickory chips, fired up the burner to about a third of the way, attached a rack of baby back ribs to the provided hooks and hung them on the edge of the basket. Then we closed the lid and retreated for a couple of hours.
For a gas system, the result was remarkable – the ribs came out nicely tanned and they tasted authentically smoky. If you like smoked or slow-cooked foods but never seem to get it right using charcoal, then this is the one for you.
£109, Outback Direct
Best for: Portable grilling on a budget
Key specs – Grill size/area: 47cm diameter; Weight: 17kg; Burners: 1; Side burner: No; Shelves: No; Portable: Yes
If you’re on a tight budget and just want a simple single-burner BBQ for the patio, campsite or beach, consider this attractive low-priced model from Outback. The Trekker’s 47cm pressed steel grate isn’t the last word in quality but it does the job well enough, even though you may need to move the food around to ensure it cooks evenly. We advise sticking to the adage “if you’re looking, it ain’t cooking” and leave the hinged porcelain enamelled hood on as much as possible to ensure that the convection process isn’t interrupted and the food cooks more evenly.
The Trekker can be easily disassembled for transport in a car or carried to the beach using the optional shoulder bag (£24.99). In the pantheon of cheapo gas BBQs, this one’s a better looker than most. Granted, it isn’t quite as efficient as the other models here but it produces very decent results for a good price. In that respect, it’s a very worthy budget buy.
BuyNapoleon Prestige Pro 825
£5,799.99 (price correct at time of publishing), Amazon
Best for: Wealthy party animals
Key specs – Grill size/area: 8,935 cm²; Weight: 205kg; Burners: 6; Side burner: Yes; Shelves: Yes; Portable: No
This humongous six-burner model measures 2.39m in width and comes equipped with two lidded grilling zones (one with 1,270 cm² of cooking surface, the other with the Canadian company’s unique steak-searing dual-ceramic infrared Sizzle Zone), an extra rear infrared burner for rotisseries, two heavy-duty wave-shaped stainless-steel grates, an integrated wood-chip smoking tray, a separate side burner for wok cooking, and a handy tub for storing ice or beers. It also comes with tool hooks galore, acres of storage space behind the soft-closing doors and backlit control knobs for luna banquets.
The Prestige Pro 825’s two separate grilling zones amount to a whopping combined cooking surface of 8,935 cm² – more than enough meal estate for the entire neighbourhood – and are an especially handy addition if cooking for both meat eaters and vegetarians.
This serious piece of outdoor kit is more like an outdoor kitchen on wheels, so best make sure you have the space to accommodate it – mind, at this price you surely will. If ordered online, expect to receive it in boxes big enough to live in and allow an assembly time in excess of three hours.
This article has been updated. It was originally published in April 2019.
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