Summer is here, and in Australia, it’s time to fire up the barbecue and take all the action outside.
Exactly what you’re firing up, however, depends on many factors, including your preferred method of cooking, budget, available space – and how much time you have.
If you’re starting from scratch, and you’re looking to buy a new barbecue, the choices can be overwhelming.
So where do you start? Do you need to break the budget for a good barbecue? What style do you choose? Gas, charcoal or hardwood? And what exactly are you paying for, anyway?
Here, we lift the lid on barbies, and help you find the perfect one for you.
Which barbecue is best for the job?
Electric barbecue: grill-style barbies start at around $5,000, where food is cooked on glowing electric elements.
Kettle barbecue: start around $90 for a no-frills model, with $700 versions including an outdoor kitchen with cart and table.
Charcoal barbecue: disposable grills start at $3, while spit rotisseries can cost anywhere around $250.
Gas barbecue: great for grilling or roasting. 4 burners start at $499, while an outdoor kitchen can cost around $6000.
Gas kettle barbecue: a portable grill can start around $300, while cast-iron grill Webers can cost around $400.
Offset smoker: great for Texas-style slow cooked meat, prices start at around $300.
For many Australians, the standard gas grill barbie is what you’ll find in the backyard, and there is a wide range of models for all spaces and budgets. Small portable barbecues start at around $98, while fully functional outdoor kitchens can go all the way up to $6000.
According to Bunnings outdoor living category manager Michael Heanue, the more expensive barbecues include a range of features that are built to stand the test of time.
“Some features may include high-grade stainless steel and burners, a higher megajoule gas output, thicker gauge of materials, and better cabinetry hardware that may include lights and back heaters for a better rotisserie,” he explains.
“Barbecue kitchens even include taps and sinks, for maximum convenience,” he says.
The more expensive models with a higher megajoule gas mean a hotter, faster barbecue.
Smokers and wood-fired barbecues
The popularity of backyard smokers has risen in recent years, fuelled by our taste for tender meat with aromatic smokey flavours.
If you talk to barbecue aficionados, the low and slow ‘Texas’ method of barbecuing is the only way to go – and Australian chefs are leading the way.
According to Anton Hughes, owner and ‘pit boss’ at Hughes Barbecue, a standard gas barbecue doesn’t do anything to your food that cooking in your kitchen would – except allow you to cook outside.
A 'Texas-Style’ offset smoker, however, gives the greatest flavour, explains Hughes, “but the downfall is the 12-hour time required to cook with one”.
Simple offset smokers start at around $300, but if you have a keen eye for kerbside treasure, you could snap up a charcoal Weber for free.
“Charcoal Webers are having a massive revival,” says Hughes. “If you see an old one in a council throwout, you may wish to grab it and save your dollars. These are great little all-rounders and there’s plenty of advice online about how to get great results from them,” he says.
A heavy duty smoker can cost upwards of $5,000, but according to Hughes, there’s nothing wrong with starting on something cheaper.
“Low and slow cooking takes time and dedication. You may like the idea of it (and of course the delicious results), but the time and commitment may not be available to your lifestyle. Start with something cheaper and upgrade later.”
At home, Hughes uses a Weber ‘Go Anywhere' barbecue on his small apartment balcony, but he loves his three pit barrel cookers (PBC) at work.
“It’s basically an enamelled 45Gallon Drum on a stand. It uses charcoal in the base, with wood chunks added (I love fruit timers such as apple and cherry) and the meat hangs inside the drum on hooks. As the meat cooks, the fat falls onto the charcoal creating more smokey flavour!”
For more information on barbecues, head to Bunnings
Hughes Barbecue, The George Hotel, 760 Elizabeth Street, Waterloo, Sydney