It seems that Australians can’t get enough of cooking and eating outside. After all, who wants to be cooped up in the kitchen, labouring away over a hot stove, when you can cook on a barbecue in the open air with sunshine cascading around you?
The standard for outdoor areas has evolved from simple dining settings and barbecues to more extravagant zones filled with cooktops to suit all kinds of tastes, such as wood-fired ovens, teppanyaki plates, rotisseries and pizza ovens. The sheer amount of choices can make planning these spaces tricky and confusing.
Interior designer Loretta Lovecek of Sequence Studio says these zones can reflect your interior’s aesthetic or have a separate identity. “It really depends on its relationship with the kitchen,” says Loretta. “If they’re spaces you can see together, such as if you’ve got big sliding doors and the benchtops continue out, then I’d continue that language outdoors. But if it is visually separated, having its own identity is also really nice, so you have a feeling of being in your luxury kitchen when you’re indoors, and then transitioning to the outdoor space.”
Read on for our complete guide to outdoor cooking and the best barbecues to buy in Australia.
Which barbecue or outdoor appliance should I buy?
They can get a bad rep for being bulky, but built-in barbecue options offer a sleek, seamless alternative. Plus you get all the flexibility of cooking multiple things at once.
A barbecue with a hood is perfect for someone serious about grilling. The heat from the barbecue reflects off the hood when it’s down, creating a more even grill.
Love entertaining large groups of people? Simply skewer your cut of meat on the spit rod then let it sear the food in its natural juices. Buy one that turns at a constant speed so your resulting meal will always be evenly cooked. It’s a great crowd-pleaser for larger parties.
A wood-fired oven acts as an exciting centrepiece in an outdoor area. For the relaxed entertainer who doesn’t mind the hands-on aspect of a wood fire, it’s a brilliant option.
Do I need to install a rangehood?
Does your outdoor area feature any kind of ceiling? If the answer is yes, you’ll need a rangehood over your cooktop. This not only protects from smoke damage but also eliminates smells and grease in the area. Certain types of barbecues will require a rangehood or other type of ventilation even more so than others. “An electric barbecue requires minimal ventilation, while a charcoal or solid fuel unit will need vented extraction,” explains Russell Crosdale from Winning Appliances.
What should I keep in mind when choosing a barbecue?
1. Flexibility: Depending on your household needs and lifestyle, the barbecue or cooking appliance you might require varies, says Russell. He recommends multi-functional appliances that are flexible, so they can be used whether you’re entertaining large numbers of people or having a quiet night with the family.
2. Size: When it comes to choosing a barbecue, Russell recommends purchasing one that is one size bigger than you think you require. For instance, he advocates a 5- or 6-burner barbecue for a family of four. “You can always ‘multizone cook’ or not use some of the available burners, but when you entertain you have the space to cook for larger groups,” he says.
3. Convenience: If you have the space, then Russell suggests incorporating extra items to avoid all that back and forth between your kitchen and the outdoor cooking zone. An outdoor sink will help with cleaning up and food preparation, while a bar fridge can keep drinks and ingredients cold. However, don’t go overboard with these additions and add items that aren’t practical. For instance, dishwashers can be tricky when exposed to the elements as most aren’t waterproof.
How do I design an outdoor entertaining area?
Flow and functionality
“The first thing is to pick the location and get the size of space that we can work with,” says Loretta. “Normally we include either a barbecue or some type of cooktop centred on the unit, so you have lots of workspace either side. It’s really good to incorporate a sink and a little bar fridge.” She notes that for flow and functionality, it’s a good idea to keep the drinks fridge and the sink at opposite ends of the area, so that the guests can relax with a cool one without getting in the way of the cook while they’re busy prepping the meal.
Plan power sources
“Another big thing is making sure you have access to energy sources,” adds Loretta. “Make sure you have cut-outs in the benchtop for power points if they’re in the unit, and also for gas bottles so that you can plug it in seamlessly.” If you don’t have the luxury of space, don’t worry. There are portable options for most appliances, such as lightweight spit roasters, portable teppanyaki grills and pizza ovens. You’ll also want to plan outdoor lighting so you see what you’re cooking at night.
What are the best materials to use outdoors?
When Loretta designs a cooking zone in a backyard, she makes sure all materials she chooses are suitable for outdoor use, even when the space is kept relatively safe under cover. “I think it’s important to use outdoor materials – not just because of rain but also UV considerations, as materials fading over time can be a crucial issue,” says Loretta. These are her top outdoor material choices:
Most of the outdoor kitchens Loretta designs are custom made, often using timber or even natural stone such as granite. “I usually specify a timber like teak, which is a bit more suited to the outdoors, or an outdoor plywood as a good starting point,” she says.
“Stainless steel is very good for outdoors,” says Loretta. It’s a bit more reflective and doesn’t soften or warm a space like stone or timber can, but stainless steel is also the most practical material as well as the easiest to wipe down.
Other suitable materials for outdoor cooking zones include engineered stone such as Essastone. Essastone is non-porous, making it scratch-, stain- and heat-resistant. Just make sure you use it in an area that provides protection from direct sunlight. If used in an alfresco barbecue area, it’s important to note that the barbecue must be mounted using isolated metal mounting points supported entirely by the cabinet frame, not from the benchtop, and the Essastone benchtop should not come into direct contact with the barbecue or any heating apparatus.
Best BBQs Australia 2023
This stainless steel gas barbeque by Crossray has an electronic ignition, making it super simple to get it started. It has four infrared burners, which heat up hotter and faster than normal grills while avoiding fiery flare-ups. There’s also extra cooking space, with an upper cooking rack included, making it an excellent barbecue for entertaining.
The BeefEater Bigg Bugg barbecue has two powerful burners, which means it heats up quickly and cooks food evenly. It’s super sturdy, with a powder-coated exterior and in-built temperature gauge, with a cast-iron cooking surface inside. Have the roasting hood open or closed for versatility, from grilling meat and veg to slower roasts. Big enough to use with a large group and conveniently portable.
This barbecue cooking surface is top-of-the-line, with six burners that produce a steady, powerful heat. The sleek, modern design is a stylish addition to any outdoor kitchen and would easily cook for a crowd. It’s a high-quality barbecue made from commercial-grade stainless steel that’s a popular choice for cooking enthusiasts.
Small and lightweight, the Weber Baby Q BBQ is suitable for smaller outdoor spaces such as balconies and courtyards. It’s made from durable materials such as cast iron and porcelain-enamelled steel, making it rust-resistant and easy to clean. It also has a removable catch pan, and can be used for grilling, roasting and baking. The single powerful burner cooks food evenly and fast for up to six people. It can be used on any stable, level surface and there’s also a stand accessory available.
Great value for money, this barbecue smoker is designed to infuse food with a delicious smoky flavour that’s sought after by barbecue pros. It can be used for grilling, smoking and roasting, and accommodates large cuts of meat with a lid to keep all the goodness inside. It’s designed to be easy to use, maintain and keep clean with a charcoal rack that sits beneath the smoker. The two wheels mean it can be moved without hassle for outdoor parties, picnics or events.
This gas barbecue is designed to be built into an outdoor kitchen or countertop, for a sleek, contemporary integrated look. It’s made from high-quality stainless steel and uses patented infrared technology that emits heat directly towards the food, rather than heating the air around it. This results in deliciously seared and juicy meat.
With a large cooking surface, this gas grill barbecue is ideal for entertaining. It has a range of cooking options, such as grilling, searing, roasting and smoking, making it very versatile, and comes with a built-in thermometer, removable drip tray and folding shelves.
This three-burner hooded gas barbecue contains a cooking grill and two hot plates. The height and thickness of the hood makes it perfect for convection cooking, allowing the heat to circulate as it cooks the food. It can be used on or off the stand and has a fast ignition so it reaches 200ºC in five minutes. This is an International Design Award winner and Choice Recommended.
This BBQ Pizza Oven allows you to cook pizzas on your outdoor barbecue grill. You simply preheat your grill to high, then place the Masterpro BBQ Pizza Oven on top of the grill grates. Once it’s had 10-15 minutes to heat up, slide your pre-prepared pizza onto the hot pizza stone inside the oven. After 8-12 minutes you’ll have a hot, bubbling pizza with melted cheese and a crispy crust.
The Smart 6 Burner BBQ comes with a rotisserie feature, which can cook a whole chicken or other roast meats. You just turn on the rotisserie burner and set it to the desired temperature then let the rotisserie rotate to cook your food evenly. The main burners are used for direct grilling, with an infrared burner at the back which can give your food that final sear or char.