Charcoal BBQs are the most popular choice of cooking food outdoors and we have a wide selection that has been specially selected for every need. Whether you are looking to build your own barbecue, put up a quick one for a park picnic or hosting a family bbq on the patio you will find something for every event.
Charcoal grilling over a barbecue is about as cave man as it gets these days. With the limitless variations of grilling over fire it feels by far the most primitive when it comes to cooking. The only thing that’s changed is the type of grill, and boy there are some fancy barbecues out there boasting some of the best modern technology that money can buy.
This guide will help you understand what the different barbecue terminology means and how to get the most from your grill. We’ll start with the common types of charcoal barbecue that are available:
We’ve all been there. And we’ve all eaten under or over cooked food of some description from one, prepared by that friend or family member who is adamant they can cook!
Disposable barbecues are extremely cheap (usually less than £5) and are ready to go in an instant. They’re an ideal and cost effective choice for mini adventures to the beach or the local park, especially if you’re someone who only barbecues a few times a year.
Their major disadvantage is the cooking area and the distance between the grill and the hot charcoal underneath. Thinner foods like burgers and bacon cook reasonably well whereas anything thicker tends to burn before the middle is cooked.
You also have zero control of the heat source so if flare ups occur there isn’t a lot you can do.
Ideal User: Someone who rarely barbecues or someone that is always exploring new places.
These are the most popular sort of portable grilling machine. They originate from America and the first was made by a chap called George Stephen back in the 1950’s. The design came around after he cut a metal buoy in two, added some air vents and legs and hey presto!
These days they’re quite a lot more advanced. They feature extras like ash-catchers and built-in thermometers to make cooking the perfect steak that bit easier.
Unlike the disposable barbecues they feature a lid which reflects heat around the inside and allowing you to cook with direct or indirect heat.
Ideal User: Someone who enjoys barbecues throughout the summer with the ability to store away in the wetter months.
These are similar in function to a kettle barbecue but are generally larger and rectangular in shape with a lid on hinges.
As they’re bigger they do usually come with more features like warming and preparation areas, movable grates, side burners and sometimes even rotisseries.
Ideal User: Someone who is keen on barbecues all year round no matter what the weather outside is doing.
Barbecues with a brick foundation are a much more permanent option. Usually they will be supplied as a DIY kit so you can design something minimalistic or a real garden centrepiece.
There are companies which will design and build them to your specification but these are a lot more expensive.
Ideal User: It depends on how much you spend. A smaller version would cater for an average sized family whereas a larger grill could also cook enough for extended family too. Like the hooded barbecue this is again for someone who likes to cook outside all year round.
You can’t turn the gas up or down so you need another method to assist in controlling the temperature. Air vents are the key. Opening the vents supplies the coals with more oxygen to burn which in turn gives you more heat and vice versa if you close them. It’s advised that you should always have the vents open to light a barbecue for maximum air flow.
Grill flaps are simply flaps in the grill which give you access to the charcoal to add more.
Make sure to wear heat proof gloves when opening and closing the flaps as they can get extremely hot.
Charcoal is made combusting raw wood in a container with low oxygen levels unit it forms char which is a carbon product. Normally supplied as whole logs, branches or chunks.
Briquettes are a type of charcoal made by compressing binders and carbonised sawdust into 2 inch square pillows. Sometimes spelt as “Briquets”.
Burning charcoal can produce a surprising amount of ash which can build up along with grease. The ash collector catches most of this debris and the major advantage is that it can be removed for easy cleaning. Anyone that’s cleaned a barbecue before knows exactly how convenient this can be.
Pre-heat your grill and prepare the meat about 10 – 15 minutes before cooking.
Put the burner onto a high heat and position the meat above it for about 90 seconds before rotating 45 degrees and doing the same to create the crosshatch effect.
Once seared you can reduce the heat back to normal cooking temperatures again.
If your barbecue is at the right temperature then you should only need to flip the meat once.
Don’t overcrowd your grill either, the meat will need space to cook evenly.
Be sure to check the amount of gas you have too. The last thing you want is to run out mid cook.
To really enhance the flavour of your food you can add some wood chips to the fire. They are contained in a metal smoker box inside the barbecue and come in a huge variety.
The first thing to consider when deciding on wood chips is the size of wood. Usually this choice is made by the type of barbecue you have and the space available. Generally you have logs, chunks or chips to choose from.
Logs are large bits of wood, the kind you might use in a stove or fireplace. Ideally they’re used in a smoker or barbecue pit so not great for the barbecue.
Chunks are about grapefruit or cricket ball sized and a definite favourite for barbecue smoked food. They are slower to get going but burn for upwards of an hour so you’ll get plenty of use from them.
Chips ignite fast which is good but they do tend to burn up quickly. You might find you’ve run out before you’re done cooking.
Deciding on the type of wood to burn is the next obstacle. Always avoid softwoods like cedar or pine as they generally emit a sooty type of smoke which can be extremely bad for your health. Stick to hardwoods and you can’t go wrong!
Below is a breakdown of the different types of flavours available:
Alder – Sweet, delicate taste which is ideal for use with poultry or fish.
Apple - Slightly fruity with a hint of sweetness. Use with poultry, fish or pork for the best flavours.
Cherry – Light, fruity and sweet. Use with poultry, fish or pork for the best flavours.
Maple – Light to medium, sweet and smoky. Great for ham, poultry and even vegetables.
Mesquite - Strong, quite sharp earthy flavour. Best with pork, beef, poultry and vegetables
Hickory – Strong, smoky taste. Perfect with pork, poultry, beef and again vegetables.
Once you’ve decided on a flavour and size you can add them to your barbecue. Most people use a steel smoker box or a small aluminium foil tray which sits inside or to the side of the coals or grill.
Very soon you’ll be able to taste the delicious fruits of your labour.
If you have a grease try then empty it before you start a new round of cooking.
Avoid very high temperatures.
Trim away any excess fat or use lean cuts of meat.
Leave a space free of charcoal or a gas burner off so food can be moved to this area if small flare ups occur.
If you get large flare ups then turn off all burners and the gas bottle then shut the grill lid (only do this if it is safe to do do).
Never ever, ever, spray water onto flare ups or any fire with contains grease. Water and oil don’t mix so when it’s added to an oily fire it simply evaporates in a ball of flames. Hot oil is extremely dangerous and can cause serious burns. If ever in this situation use a metal lid (if you have one) to cut off the air supply to the fire or douse it with baking soda or salt.
When the flames die down you can continue with your cook.
Sunny weekend on the horizon? Maybe you had a little too much to drink after the last barbecue and forgot to clean it… Follow the steps below for tips on making your barbecue last longer and keeping it rust free.
It’s advised that the grills are cleaned after every use and that a deep clean is carried out every 1 to 2 months. Be mindful to clean it without damaging the painted or metal surfaces as these are the bits which can rust.
Recommended items for cleaning any barbecue:
Always follow the instructions provided with your barbecue on tools and cleaning products. Take photos with your smartphone as it can make things a bit clearer when reassembling.
With the barbecue hot, close the lid and bake for approximately 15 minutes to turn any liquid grease or leftover food into a more solid substance (it’s easier to get off!).
After the barbecue has cooled you can remove the coals and ash or disconnect the gas supply.
Remove burnt grease from the top of the grills and inside of the lid using a stainless steel brush. After this remove the grills (and any flavouriser bars if you have them) and wash it all with the warm soapy water solution and the non-abrasive sponge.
Use a lint-free cloth, warm soapy water and polish to remove stains from painted barbecue lids and use the stainless steel cleaner on any metal/unpainted parts.
Use the stainless steel brush to clean the gas burners to remove any unwanted deposits. You may need to use a pin to unblock gas outlets. Be mindful not to push any gunk back into the burner.
Once done clean with more warm soapy water and use a lint-free cloth to dry.
Use warm soapy water to remove large food deposits and patches of grease. Once done, rinse and dry with your lint-free cloth again.
Clean and fully empty your drip tray and tray liners if you use them.
And the final top tip is to apply a very thin layer of vegetable oil to the grills and using photos you’ve taken and the instruction guide, reassemble your barbecue.
Try to keep your barbecue stored in a garage or shed to protect it from the elements. A good barbecue cover is always a sound investment.
There are many alternative methods to cleaning a barbecue. Take a look at the video by Char-Broil below for more information.