This page was updated in August 2020.
No matter where you are in the world, as soon as the sun comes out, it's hard to beat cooking outdoors on an open flame. Buying a barbecue for the first time can be daunting. Fancy electric or gas grills can cost the earth, while traditional coal barbecues range from rickety but fit-for-purpose budget grills, to enamelled kettle barbecues that wouldn’t look out of place on a Texan range. We love the primal process of creating fire ourselves, so we whittled down our testing group to charcoal barbecues only.
Which barbecue should I buy?
The most important things to consider are how many people you’ll be cooking for, how much storage space you have, especially once you’ve factored in bags of charcoal and other barbecue accessories (some barbecues come with very handy protective storage cases, too), plus where and when you’ll be barbecuing. For a lot of people, small portable barbecues work for trips away, but they're also a perfectly acceptable garden barbecue for couples, families with young children – or just people who don’t mind cooking in batches. It’s also worth being realistic about how often you’ll use a barbecue. If you’re likely to only dust it off once or twice a year, an expensive gas grill with a huge footprint probably isn’t worth it. Read on to discover our top buys. For over 400 buyer's guides, visit our reviews section and find reviews of portable, gas and charcoal barbecues and much more.
The best budget charcoal barbecues under £100
Weber compact 47 charcoal barbecue
Best overall budget barbecue
This porcelain-enamelled, dinky version of their heftier grills is rust-proof, comes with an ash catcher and is perfect for small gardens. If you’re in the market for a serious barbecue arsenal, Weber’s chimney starter kit is well worth looking into. It’ll get your charcoal ready in quick-time and we found it ridiculously helpful when testing 15 barbies on a drizzly day in spring.
Bar-Be-Quick smoker and grill barbecue
Best smoker barbecue hybrid
We were super impressed by the fact this unassuming cylindrical contraption features four cooking functions. Speaking purely on barbecue terms, there are two tiers and the bottom one can be turned into a lidded portable barbecue. It’s not as sturdy as a traditional smoker, but it can retain a constant heat for up to three hours, so you could smoke whole chickens or pork ribs with ease.
Indoba Cibus pedestal barbecue
Best pedestal barbecue
With its eye-catching design and all stainless steel finish, this barbecue is a real talking point. The tall column functions as a vent to control airflow to the main firebox. We found the heat distribution was very good as a result. The grill has two handles to move it into three different positions, allowing you to switch between different heats to achieve the optimum cooking conditions for your food.
How we tested budget barbecues
We tested a representative sample of barbecues and scored them against the following criteria. We tested each barbecue using an identical batch of popular BBQ food like burgers, chicken, sausages and halloumi & vegetable kebabs.
Ease of assembly: barbecues have to be put together from scratch, so we assessed for easy instructions. Clear manuals, minimal nuts and bolts and a logical construction process were judged favourably.
Manoeuvrability: unless you live in a balmy climate, you’ll have to move your barbecue in and out of indoor storage. Wheels and handles help in this respect.
Footprint: we looked for barbecues with neat shapes that can be slotted into a small storage space.
Ease of cooking: we judged the size and height of the grill and temperature control – food that’s charred outside but raw inside is the ultimate culinary no-no.
What didn’t set us alight?
Barbecues with poor air circulation. For coals to burn efficiently you need good ventilation from underneath, so any barbecues with coals laid on a flat surface don’t tend to work as well.
Design over practicality. Some gimmicky table barbecues or mini bucket barbies might look cool, but if you can’t fit more than a couple of sausages on, what’s the point?
Barbecue recipes and tips...
This review was last updated in August 2020. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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