Welcome to Part 2 of my comprehensive guide on how to choose the right BBQ for you!
By now you should have a pretty good idea as to the “meat and potatoes” of the BBQ you want – having decided on the frame size and type, and whether you want to burn with gas, charcoal or electricity.
Now it’s time to think about the fine print and additional extras, or as I like to call them, the “sauces & marinades”.
One of the most important things to consider is how much you want to spend on your new meat machine. It’s all well and good to have decided that you want a marine-grade stainless steel, 6-burner BBQ with a rotisserie and wok. But if all you’ve got to spend is granny’s birthday money, then you’re going to be disappointed.
Set a budget that is realistic for what you can afford, but also flexible. This way, you can splurge a little extra if you fall in love with a slightly higher priced barbie, while ensuring that you don’t get divorced because you’ve spent the mortgage.
Desired Life Span Vs. Cost
With BBQs, the old adage is definitely true: you get what you pay for. They may all look similar when they’re brand spanking, but they certainly won’t in a couple years’ time. In the cheaper models, frames will rust, screws will loosen, welds will crack, surfaces will chip and wheels will fall off.
The question you’ve got to ask yourself is: am I willing to pay more now for a BBQ that will live a longer, happier life?
Keep in mind that buying 2 – 3 cheap BBQs over a period of ten years, is often more expensive than one decent BBQ that will see out the decade on its own.
A surefire way to know how long a BBQ might last is to look at the length of the warranty that comes with it. Generally, if the manufacturers are confident that it will last a certain amount of time, then you can be too. However buying good quality will ensure your BBQ lasts many more years than the length of the warranty.
There are three main types of grills and hot plates on which to cook your food: stainless steel, bare cast iron and porcelain-coated cast iron.
As with BBQ frames, stainless steel plates are top of the line. The high corrosion-resistant ferric stainless steel plates spread the heat evenly over their surface, are easy to clean, look great and will remain rust-free for a very long time. Note that chrome-plated steel is a cheaper knock-off that looks like stainless, but won’t last as long and is more prone to damage.
Cast iron plates are the cheapest and most common cooking surface. They capture and hold heat very well, but their rough surface means that food and sauces are more likely to stick to them, often making them difficult to clean. They are also prone to rust, although this can be minimised by coating them in oil after every cook.
Porcelain-coated cast iron generally acts the same as normal cast iron, except that its smooth, glassy surface makes it easy to clean and protects it from rust. However, the surface is also prone to cracking or chipping, which can invite rust to take hold.
Depending on how much you despise cleaning, it is important to consider how much of your time you want to spend on it. For some people, there is nothing more annoying than cooking up an epic meal on your BBQ, only to have to spend the same amount of time cleaning the thing.
As mentioned above and in Part 1, there are many things that affect maintenance requirements, including the type of fuel used, frame type and cooking surface. In addition, some BBQs have easy-cleaning built into their design, with features like removable parts that can be taken off and washed in the sink.
Have you ever got home from Ikea all excited to set up your new bookcase, only to spend the next five days frustratingly trying to put the thing together? The same goes for many BBQs. Due to their bulky size, most of them are flat-packed and require some assembly. But whether the experience is like building your kid’s model car or the international space station, depends on the BBQ.
If you’re not confident with your construction skills, or don’t want to spend hours pulling your hair out as you try to figure out how to attach Part A to Part B, ask your BBQ supplier if you can see the manual before you make your purchase. Look for instructions that are clear and easy to read, without too many steps.
Also keep in mind that there are a few suppliers who even offer to come to your house and build your BBQ for you!
Bells & Whistles
These days, you can get more bells and whistles on a barbecue than a Swiss army knife. There are meat thermometers for that perfect roast, lighting for night-time cook ups, rotisseries for a succulent chook and wok burners for that East Asian stir fry.
These may seem like gimmicks to some, but they can really enhance the cooking experience by making it possible to cook a wider range of dishes.
While you may be a steak and snags chef at the moment, with the right equipment you could be impressing your friends as a barbie master chef in no time.
Naturally, we all take pride in how our homes look, as well as the things we put in them. For some reason however, people often fail to consider appearances when buying a BBQ. You wouldn’t buy an outdoor setting that you thought was ugly, so why would you do the same with a barbie?
To many people, one of the biggest appeals of stainless steel BBQs is their sparkling, cutting-edge appearance. This clean look often complements a new back deck or flourishing garden a lot better than a typical, black BBQ covered in rust spots. Furthermore, stainless steel will continue looking that good for years to come.
Many BBQs these days are sold complete with built-in storage space. That way, rather than your BBQ being an inconveniently-located extension of your indoor kitchen, it can act as an outdoor kitchen in its own right.
Consider how important it is to have all of your utensils, tools, salt n’ pepper, sauces and marinades, and even plates and pans on hand. The alternative may mean that you’ll be spending half of your cooking time frantically running back and forth to the house for more supplies. This leaves less time to relish the outdoor cooking experience in a calm, relaxed manner – the way barbecuing should be done.
You’re Armed & Ready….
Ok, so having read this comprehensive guide, you’re now armed and ready to find the right BBQ for you.
I know that it can be a little overwhelming with so much information and BBQ types out there, but remember to simplify the process. The key is to consider all of the different points we’ve talked about and decide which ones are most important for you.
Also, remember that when doing your homework, you should take your time. It could mean the difference between spending your hard-earned money on a lemon and a BBQ that you will have a love affair with for the next 10 – 20 years!