Charcoal, Electric, or Gas: Which Is The Best Barbecue For You?

When it comes to choosing a barbecue, there’s a whole realm of different ones to choose from, in different styles using different cooking techniques, all claiming to be the best barbecue. From portable barbecues to 6-hob burners, infrared barbecues to slick gas-powered outdoor grills, it can be a daunting task trying to choose the right barbecue as everyone has different priorities when it comes to outdoor cooking. 


Not everyone is in the right frame of mind to read a review about each barbecue and their different features; more often than not it might be which offers the best value for money. You need to consider how often you’ll be cooking, what you’ll be cooking, and who you’ll be cooking for. This will help you to order your priorities when it comes to each feature and which you will use most when entertaining. 

However, it’s becoming a more popular question to ask whether you should invest in a charcoal, gas or electric barbecue. There’s been a recent debate amongst barbecue enthusiasts on which type of barbecue is the best barbecue, taking into consideration the experience of cooking on each and, maybe more importantly, the different flavour. No question divides a country more than the charcoal vs gas vs electric debate. Well, there’s no ‘right’ answer other than which one’s right for you, but LOFA aims to provide you with a breakdown of each barbecue type, so you can make an informed decision and leave with the best barbecue for your needs. 


Charcoal Barbecues 

The original and most popular choice of barbecue has always been the charcoal barbecue, making it a strong contender for best barbecue. Using natural coal to fuel a fire defines the nature of barbecuing as it’s the original method for cooking outdoors. Barbecues are often at the mercy of British weather as us brits indulge in barbecue food throughout the Summer season. However, the unpredictable weather can mean we don’t always get to whip out the skewers at the weekend. Charcoal barbecues are great for producing smoky, authentic chargrilled food, adding flavour to your meals.

Charcoal barbecues are great for family get-togethers and occasions where the barbecue can take centre stage throughout the day. Due to the lengthy burning and lighting ability of coal, charcoal barbecues aren’t the quickest of fires to get going, so you need to make sure you have plenty of time to be able to light the fire and control it throughout the day. 

There are a wide variety of charcoal barbecues on the market, many of them cheap and easy to use. The money that you pay for a charcoal barbecue will affect which features it comes built with, however, a barbecue with a higher price tag doesn’t necessarily make it the best barbecue available. Still, if you pay a smaller amount of money, you should expect a barbecue with basic features and usage. 

The obvious benefit of a charcoal barbecue is the authentic taste the coal adds to the food, with some barbecue enthusiasts rating the charcoal barbecue as superior to all others. Some of the downsides of the charcoal barbecue is the length of time it can take to light, the time it takes for the coal to reach optimum cooking temperature, and how long they take to cool down afterwards. The maintenance and clean-up after use can be messy too, so be prepared for the high maintenance. 


Gas Barbecues 

Gas barbecues have become hugely popular over the years due to their ease of use and minimal maintenance, making it one of the best barbecue types in the market. With the provision of gas cylinders, lighting and using a gas barbecue has never been easier. Within five minutes you can have a preheated barbecue ready to use, so you’ll be more likely to use it knowing it can be fired up for a quick evening barbecue.

A great benefit of using a gas barbecue is the option to control your heat, providing even heat distribution and reducing the chance of burning your food. Gas cylinders provide very little smoke, so your food won’t get the same smoky, charcoal taste that a coal barbecue provides, making food taste blander in comparison to coal barbecues. However, they’re great for summer evenings in your garden with friends if you want to whip up a quick meal. 

Gas barbecues are more expensive than coal barbecues and are normally much bigger, therefore they can be difficult to move around and store. However, you can normally expect more features on a gas barbecue and they normally provide you with additional cooking surfaces and food preparation counters, offering you with more of an outdoor kitchenette. 

You also have the additional purchase of gas cylinders, which can then hike the overall price of your barbecue up. They will also need replacing once you have used the cylinder up, so bare this in mind if you plan to invest in a gas barbecue. These additional extras will help you to decide if this is the best barbecue for you and your budget.


Electric Barbecues 

Electric barbecues are a safe and convenient alternative to charcoal and gas barbecues, making them great for beginners. They’re extremely easy to use, allowing you much greater control of the heat source than other forms of barbecues. In addition to being safe, they’re also much more eco-friendly than other barbecues, as they do not emit toxic and harmful fumes into the air. 

If you’re concerned for you and your family’s safety then electric barbecues are the way forward and are the best barbecue for those who put safety first. They don’t produce carbon monoxide, which is a life threatening and scentless toxic fume that is known to harm hundreds every year during barbecues. They also don’t produce a flame, so you don’t have to worry about getting burnt or any embers flying out of the barbecue. This means they’re ideal for use indoors such as in a garage or conservatory on days when the weather isn’t as nice. 

You can expect to pay more for an electric barbecue than a coal barbecue but pay less than a gas barbecue, so they make the perfect middle barbecue. Plus, they’re quick and easy to use and allow you full manual control over the heat. They don’t require any additional purchases either such as coal or gas making them the best barbecue if you’re looking to save money in the long run; simply plug it in and start cooking.

The main downside of an electric barbecue is that it doesn’t produce a flame, so food can taste bland in comparison to other flame-reliant barbecues. Not only that, but it’s always best to get an electrician to install your barbecue to ensure it works correctly and to avoid tripping any fuses.


If you’re still undecided on which is the best barbecue for you, then head to our dedicated barbecue page and browse through our great selection of barbecues, provided by the LOFA members. If you want to learn more about the history of this age-old debate on what makes a best barbecue, take a read of our article on just what counts as a barbecue anyway and don’t forget to brush up on how to clean your barbecue so that your purchase lasts as long as possible!

kevin carvill