Portable barbecues are a convenient middle ground between hefty grills and disposable trays. Here's our pick of the best travel, bucket and tabletop BBQs, tried and tested.
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Cobb barbecue cooking system
Comments: This is one serious piece of al fresco kit – not only does it barbecue food, it’s also suitable for smoking, roasting and pizza-making. The design is sleek and futuristic, bordering on UFO-like. It requires minimal charcoal and the Teflon cooking plate is really easy to clean. It's worth pointing out that as it doesn’t have traditional griddle grooves, our sausages rolled around and got a bit unruly.
Landmann Piccolino portable charcoal barbecue
Best bits: Attractive colourway and very lightweight
Cooks for: 3-4 people
Accessories: Set of tongs and warming rack
Comments: This barbecue is light as a feather and easily portable, but pretty solid and durable too. It’s really easy to pack away – the coal sits in a small bowl inside the base of the barbecue so all you have to do is remove this, throw away the remains and give it a quick wipe. Once it’s in the box it would easily sit under patio furniture or could be stored in a small cupboard.
Bar-Be-Quick portable picnic barbecue
Cooks for: 4-5 people
Accessories: Grill handle for removing the hot grill plate
Comments: This dainty barbecue is really easy to set up and can be built from start to finish in 10 minutes. The strengthened chrome legs provide good support and prevent the ground from burning. It comes with an attractive sky-blue lid (also available in green) with a heat resistant handle and a vent for controlling smoke and heat levels. Side clips can be used to secure the lid in windy conditions.
Available from Bar-Be-Quick (£19.99).
Waitrose Home retro barbecue
Cooks for: 4-5 people
Accessories: None included
Comments: If it's portable you're after, this quaint retro model is super for popping in the boot of the car for a barbecue on the beach. Its retro design is not only eye-catching but just the right size to cook enough food in one go, and because of its elongated grilling shape, it heats up evenly throughout. Once cooled, the clip-on grill can be taken off and washed easily by hand. The stainless steel legs make sure it won't burn the ground during cooking, and the buckle on the front means it can be clipped shut and taken home to clean – rather than having to deal with that straight away.
Available from Waitrose (£40).
Cooks for: 4-6 people
Accessories: No utensils included but plenty of storage space to pack your own
Comments: This radiant and compact BBQ is shaped like a toolbox, folding out to reveal one large and one small grilling area plus storage space for cutlery or grilling tools. It's super lightweight, has little legs to stop it from burning the ground, and cooked up a fair amount of grub – even a spatchcock poussin (the chicken was pushing it slightly). Perfect as a gift for any handyman or handywoman if they're celebrating a birthday.
Lotus standard grill
Best bits: Super-speedy cooking time and compact shape
Cooks for: 4-5 people
Accessories: Carry bag and batteries (for the fan)
Comments: If the worst part of barbecuing is waiting for your food, then this is the one for you. The LotusGrill has an in-built fan, which gets the charcoal up to temperature in around five minutes. Compared to other charcoal barbecues, we couldn’t believe the ease with which you could cook – no need to coax the coals, simply fire up and expect good heat for over half an hour. The charcoal is in an enclosed container and with a fan going, you don’t get much in the way of charcoal flavour, but the efficiency and generous cooking area far outweigh this.
Available from LotusGrill (£145.00)
Weber Smokey Joe Premium
Comments: Weber don’t just do barbecues – they do epic, Tony-Soprano-friendly contraptions the size of small sheds. For those of us without acres of lawn, they also make a neat, dinky Smokey Joe dome. The porcelain-enameled material is deceptively lightweight and extremely durable, with a handy lid that clips onto the side for protection against the wind, plus it’s a doddle to clean. We left ours outside, uncovered, for an entire winter and it barely diminished, despite considerable pummeling from the British weather.
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What BBQ to buy
Portable barbecues make life easier for the space-constrained and gardenless, and offer an economical alternative to wasteful, environmentally-unfriendly disposable barbecues that scorch grass and are, ironically enough, difficult to dispose of. They can be used in parks (although make sure you check your local council website first), campsites, back yards and on beaches.
What we looked for…
- How easy it is to put together: Convenience is key here. We looked for models that can be assembled in minutes.
- Portability and storage: How easily the barbecue can be carried and how heavy it is, plus how well it can be stored in the long term.
- Design: We're suckers for nifty aesthetic flashes.
- How quickly it cools down: We don’t want to be trapped in the park, sat around burning cinders until dawn.
- Durability and accessories: The quality of the metal and whether it comes with added extras.
Barbecue recipes and tips…
This review was last updated in July 2018. If you have any questions or suggestions for future reviews, or if you spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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