Which barbecue is best?

The sun's out and Katy's keen to get barbecuing - but should she go for gas or the authentic charcoal experience?

Barbecued lambWe've had our first spell of really good weather and barbecue season is in full swing. I haven't got a barbecue, but I need one and have been debating for a couple of months now what to buy. I think I've finally decided.

I used to live in a flat that had a gas barbecue. I grew very fond of that barbecue over the summer - not only was it easy to use, as it lit at the push of a button, but it was so convenient because I didn't have to plan my meal ahead of time. I was free to barbecue whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. So all summer I whipped up spicy spatchcocked chickens, simple lamb kebabs and succulent steaks, not to mention all those spur of the moment sausage feasts!

However, no matter how easy, speedy and convenient the gas barbecue may be, it is still lacking that special something that the charcoal barbecue boasts, and that is SMOKE.

BarbecueThe charcoal barbecue seems to be favoured by all those macho men out there who like to become one with the fire and take their barbecuing very seriously. I'm not so serious about it, but I do like a nice smoky flavour. Food cooked on a charcoal barbecue just seems to me to have that extra something; it doesn't just taste like a nicely cooked burger, it is a charcoal-grilled burger redolent of smoke, summer and happy times outdoors. The gas barbecue just can't deliver that.

So I'm getting a nice charcoal barbecue. Yes, I'm going to have to say goodbye to my impromptu barbecued sausages (my waistline thinks this is a good thing though) and I'm going to have to plan my barbecue meals carefully, remembering to get the charcoal on well before we want to eat, but I think it's worth it for that full-on summer experience.

What do you think? Are you a gas gourmand or a charcoal connoisseur, and am I making the right decision?


Comments, questions and tips

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nwithyman's picture
12th May, 2016
I'm not a fan of gas bbq's as unless you spend a small fortune on the additional features which attempt to emulate charcoal cooking, the results are little different from using the kitchen hob! I have a simple brick built affair with side brackets to hold a rotisserie which produces amazing results - all that is needed is a little planning, oh - and a bit of sunshine as well!
7th Jul, 2014
I purchased a metal insulated Kamado recently. Its ability to smoke / slow roast for 18+ hours at 220F and to be cranked up to 700F for steaks, burgers, or finishing off a medium rare standing rib roast makes it a great choice. Works best with lumpwood charcoal, to avoid the nasty chemical fillers and bonders present in many brands of charcoal briquettes. The ceramic Kamados probably work just as well, but they are three times the price.
30th Jun, 2014
I did, of course, mean that we use our BRAAI s more, not brains. The joys of autocorrect.
30th Jun, 2014
Living in South Africa, we do make use of our brains more often and have a large gas one as well as a Weber. We do love the convenience of the gas but do enjoy both ways of cooking. I don't miss the smoke and there are, after all, less carcinogens without it.
Canadanne's picture
27th Jun, 2014
We have just purchased a new natural gas BBQ with infra red heating, rotisserie and side burners. I have to say that it looks like a daunting piece of equipment and I have a lot of learning to do, but I'm so excited by the idea of cooking with it. Being one to jump in before learning to swim, I bought some cedar planks and salmon fillets. We charred the cedar on the racks for a minute (after soaking in water and wine), brushed the salmon with a glaze then placed it on top of the planks and closed the lid. After a few minutes we had beautiful smoked salmon which not only smelled wonderfully woody but looked slightly charred round the edges. It was fantastic! The down side was a small fire on the brand new BBQ as we had it turned up too high but now we know to have the fire brigade standing by, at least until we have learned how to use it properly! The next thing is a rotisserie chicken.....
25th Jun, 2014
Go for charcoal - winner every time!
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