Charcoal, electric, or gas: which is the best barbecue for you?

  Photograph courtesy of  Kettler

Photograph courtesy of Kettler

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. From portable barbecues to six-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.

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.

So should invest in a charcoal, gas or electric barbecue? There’s no ‘right’ answer other than which one’s right for you so LOFA aims to provide you with a breakdown of each barbecue type so you can make an informed decision.

Charcoal barbecues

The original and most popular choice of barbecue has always been the charcoal barbecue. Using natural coal to fuel a fire defines the nature of barbecuing as it’s the original method for cooking outdoors. 

Charcoal barbecues are great for family get-togethers and occasions yet, due to the lengthy burning and lighting ability of coal, they are not 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.

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 include 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 a spot of maintenance.

Gas barbecues

Gas barbecues have become hugely popular due to their ease of use and minimal maintenance. With the provision of gas cylinders, using a gas barbecue has never been easier. Within five minutes, you can have a preheated barbecue ready to use.

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 charcoal taste that a coal barbecue provides but 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 you need space. 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.

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. In addition to being safe, they’re also 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 – if little ones are around - then electric barbecues are the way forward and are the best barbecue for those who put safety first.  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. They are quick and easy to use and allow you full manual control over the heat. They do not 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. 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 from LOFA members.

kevin carvill