Barbecues review 2007

With summer here, it's the perfect time to get sizzling.
 
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  • Updated:2 Nov 2007
 

01 .Introduction

Barbecue

Test results for 7 barbecues priced from $399 to $999

As summer arrives, covers come off barbecues all around the country. Unfortunately, if you haven’t maintained the barbie properly, this can reveal a rather sorry sight — cobwebs, an empty gas bottle, grease, grime and rusty hotplates.

If this is your experience, perhaps it’s time for a good overhaul, or even a brand-new barbecue. But when you're shopping for one, how can you tell which models will cook your food evenly? Should you choose a stainless steel finish? Is the thermometer on the hood actually accurate?

You'll find the answers in this report. We tell you what to look for in a barbecue, how to maintain them, how to cook the perfect steak — and we tell you which models are the best from our test of seven 4-burner gas barbecues with hoods.

For our test, our expert home economist, Fiona, cooked steaks and sausages on each barbecue, and also roasted chickens (with the hood closed) to see how well the barbecues cook. This test shows whether the barbecue delivers a good heat uniformly across all the cooking surface rather than getting too hot in one spot and too cool in another. She also assessed how easy the barbecues are to use, inclusing the accuracy of their thermometers.

Our test results give you clear, unbiased advice on which models are the best. And our useful tips on maintaining your barbecue will you make sure your barbie will still be sizzling your steaks for several summers to come.

Please note: this information was current as of November 2007 but is still a useful guide to today's market. For more recent information, see our Barbecues review 2011.


Brands tested

  • Beefeater Discovery Package 19845
  • Beefmaster BMH4CS
  • Cordon Bleu CDH4C
  • Jackeroo Professional 4 Titanium #
  • Jumbuck B38 Endevour 4 Mk II #
  • Sunbeam Innovo GB5100 #
  • Let's Live Outdoors Classic M55 #

# Discontinued.

Video: How we test barbecues

We put our barbecues through a series of meaty challenges.

 
 

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What to buy
Brand Price
Beefmaster BMH4CS $599
Sunbeam Innovo GB5100 # $999
Beefeater Discovery Package 19845 $999

 # Discontinued. Replaced by GB5100M.

About the rest

Most of the other barbecues scored similarly to the models in the What to buy list for ease of use, but were all let down by uneven cooking in the sausage or steak tests.

In the other cooking tests:

  • The Jumbuck was very good at cooking steak and roast chicken.
  • The Let’s Live Outdoors was very good at roasting a chicken and good at cooking steak.
  • The Cordon Bleu was excellent at roasting chicken, but only scored 60% for cooking steak.
  • The Jackeroo was the worst at cooking steak — the result was uneven and scored only 40% — and not quite as good at roasting chicken as the others.

Common points for all the barbecues:

  • All have a cupboard in the trolley
  • All have comprehensive instructions
  • They all require effort to lift the gas bottle onto the hook and for the Cordon Bleu, Jumbuck, and the Sunbeam, it also takes effort to lift and place the bottle in the cupboard.
  • All have side burners except the Cordon Bleu.
  • Their hoods all get very hot while cooking.

Results table

Full results for all models are shown in the table below.

  Performance Features Specifications
Brand / model (in rank order) Overall score (%) Cooking score (%) Ease of use score (%) Contact Price ($) Ignition type Warming rack Side burner Reversible cooking plate Glass viewing panel in hood Dimensions (cm, W x D x H)*
Beefmaster BMH4CS 82 88 74 Barbeques Galore
1300 227 237
599 Piezo (A) 168 x 64 x 118 (88)
Sunbeam Innovo GB5100 # 82 93 66 Sunbeam
02 9695 9999
999 Electronic 172 x 62 x 116 (92)
BeefEater Discovery Package 19845 78 83 70 Woodland Home Products
02 97248872
999 Piezo (A) 150 x 59 x 115 (80)
Jumbuck B38 Endevour 4 MK II # 67 67 68 Bunnings
03 88319812
399 Piezo (A) 177 x 68 x 121 (94)
Let's Live Outdoors Classic M55 # 67 68 66 Mitre 10
03 9703 4200;
449 Piezo 175 x 64 x 121 (92)
Cordon Bleu CDH4C 65 63 68 Barbeques Galore
1300 227 237
899 Piezo 178 x 59 x 121 (90)
Jackeroo Professional 4 Titanium # 59 52 70 Kmart
03 9829 3111
599 Piezo 161 x 69 x 118 (90)
 

 Table notes
* Dimensions are with the hood closed and include knobs, wheels and handles. The height from the floor to the hotplate is shown in brackets.
# Discontinued.
(A) With jet/pilot flame.

Overall score:
The overall score is a combination of:

  • Cooking performance 60%
  • Ease of use 40%

Cooking performance:
Our home economist rated the performance of each model cooking:

  • Sausages
  • Steak
  • Roast chicken

Ease of use
Our tester rated the models on the following:

  • Ease of cooking: 20%
  • Mobility: 20%
  • Ease of using controls: 20%
  • Ease of cleaning: 20%
  • Ease of fitting gas bottle: 20%

How we tested

Cooking tests: Our tester cooked steak and sausages with the hood open, and turned them only once while cooking. This fairly severe test is to check how evenly the cooking surface is heated; at home you’d probably compensate for uneven hotter and cooler spots by moving the food around.

She cooked the whole chicken with the hood down, on a rack in the centre of the plates, and again turned it only once. Cooking in this way is comparable to cooking in an oven and is also suitable for fish and larger cuts of meat, such as roasts.

Ease of use: Ease of cooking is the most important factor, mainly including ease of access when moving and turning the food, and any discomfort, such as smoke blowing into your face. Our tester also looked at moving and cleaning the barbecue, how easy the controls are to use, and how easy it is to fit the gas bottle.

The best

Beefmaster BMH4CS

Price: $599 Beefmaster Barbecue

Good points

  • Excellent for roasting a chicken and cooking steak.
  • Good open access to food: the food warmer swings out of the way.
  • Controls are large and clearly labelled.

Bad points

  • No side panels to protect food from draughts.
  • The stainless steel cupboard door requires extra attention when cleaning.

Sunbeam Innovo GB5100 #

Price: $999 Sunbeam Innovo Barbecue

Good points

  • Best cooking score. It’s excellent for roasting a chicken and cooking steak, and very good cooking at sausages.
  • Good open access to food: the food warmer swings out of the way.
  • Very good warranty — 20 years for frame and hood, five years for burners and flame tamers, two years for hotplates, one year for other parts.
  • Electronic ignition lights individual burners separately.

Bad points

  • The protective film on stainless steel areas is very difficult to remove.
  • The exterior stainless steel surface requires extra attention when cleaning.
  • The inside of the stainless steel hood discolours (‘teastaining’), which is difficult to remove.
  • The fat tray is awkward to remove (you take it out of the back of the trolley).
  • The thermometer isn’t accurate. Sunbeam told us their new 2007 range has a newly calibrated thermometer.

# Discontinued.

Beefeater Discovery Package 19845

Price: $999 Beefeater Barbecue

Good points

  • Excellent for roasting a chicken and cooking steak.
  • Controls are large and clearly labelled.
  • Accurate thermometer.
  • Glass viewing panel in the hood.

Bad points

  • Cooked sausages unevenly.
  • The stainless steel hood, side tables and control panel require extra effort to clean.
  • You need to remove the food warmer to have good open access to food.
  • The protective film on stainless steel areas is very difficult to remove.
  • No handles on the side table — it’s uncomfortable to grip when moving the barbecue.

 

The rest 

Jumbuck B38 Endevour 4 MK11 #

Price: $399 Jumbuck Barbecue

Good points:

  • Very good for roasting a chicken and cooking steak.
  • Cheapest barbecue tested.

Bad points

  • Cooked sausages unevenly.
  • You need to remove the food warmer to have good open access to food.
  • The hood tends to direct smoke into your face.
  • The control panel and cupboard door are stainless steel which requires extra attention to clean.
  • Thermometer isn't accurate.

Let's Live Outdoors Entertainment M55 #

Price: $449 Let's Live brand barbecue

Good points

  • Very good for roasting a chicken.
  • Good for cooking steak.

Bad points

  • You need to remove the food warmer to have good open access to food.
  • After cleaning, the instructions on control panel could be easily removed.
  • Control panel is stainless steel which requires extra attention to clean.
  • Thermometer isn't accurate.

Cordon Bleu CDH4C

Price: $899 Cordon Blue brand barbecue

Good points

  • Excellent for roasting a chicken.
  • Has a timer.
  • Two controls have an ignition to light each side separately.
  • Ceramic rocks help absorb fat and can be cleaned.
  • Glass viewing panel in hood.

Bad points

  • Cooked sausages unevenly.
  • You need to remove the food warmer to have good open access to food.
  • Stainless steel control panel requires extra attention to clean.
  • No side burner.

Jackeroo Professional 4 Titanium #

Price: $599 Jackeroo Barbecue

Good points

  • Good for roasting a chicken.
  • Good open access to food.

Bad points

  • Cooked sausages and steak unevenly.
  • No food warmer.
  • The fat tray is awkward to remove (you take it out of the back of the trolley).
  • Thermometer isn't accurate
  • No handles: you have to grip the side tables to move the barbecue, which can be uncomfortable.

# Discontinued.

What to look for when choosing a BBQ

  • A large cooking area, preferably half grill and half hotplate. Cast iron hotplates are more susceptible to rust. If you live in a coastal area, enamel or stainless steel hotplates are recommended.
  • Easy access to all the cooking area; the warming racks on some hoods can get in the way.
  • Hood opening: Make sure it opens up far enough not to direct smoke into your face.
  • Thermometer: Useful when you’re cooking with the hood down, but we’ve often found they’re not accurate. Once you get used to the temperatures it shows, though, you can still use them as a guide.
  • Handles should be far enough away from the hot panel behind that you don’t burn your hand.
  • Fat tray: This should be easy to remove and replace and should be self-centring to catch all the fat.
  • Controls should be clearly labelled and have positive stops on both the low and high positions so you don’t accidentally flick your burner off when adjusting the heat. They should also be easy to grip and turn and clearly visible.
  • Piezo: Most of the tested barbecues have piezo ignition; you just press a button or one of the gas knobs and it generates a spark to ignite the gas. Some piezo systems ignite a jet of flame that’s directed into the burners to light them more reliably. Other models have electronic ignition, using a battery to create the igniting spark. All the tested models were easy to ignite.
  • Double-skin hood: This will reduce the external temperature of the hood and protect your fingers from getting sizzled.
  • Hood resistance: The hood should have good resistance to stop it from accidentally banging shut on a windy day.
  • Exterior finishes: These can include a painted surface, vitreous enamel and stainless steel. Paint is generally the cheapest finish and can scratch or flake off over time. Vitreous enamel is tougher and usually more durable. Stainless steel is also very durable, but can discolour when heated, and can require extra attention to cleaning as it shows smudges and fingerprints more readily than other surfaces. See Maintaining your BBQ for cleaning tips.

What to look for in a trolley

  • Wheels or castors are useful if you want to move your barbecue around. All the tested models have four castors, or two castors and two wheels. Most of these models are very heavy and hard to move without them. If you go for a model with only two wheels, check that it’s not too heavy to lift at one end and if it doesn’t have handles, make sure there aren’t any sharp edges where you grip it.
  • Wooden trolleys need their bolts tightening regularly. Metal trolleys don’t seem to have this problem.
  • Stainless steel trolleys might look fashionable but they need some extra cleaning. And with some metal trolleys watch out for rusting, as some metals will deteriorate in certain environments, such as near the beach.
  • Check the height of the trolley to make sure it’s comfortable for you. Large side trays are handy for putting food and cooking utensils on, but be careful with your plastic items as they might melt if they’re too close to the burner.

Putting it all together

Barbecues can be difficult and time-consuming to assemble. Don’t buy one on Saturday morning and expect to be using it in the afternoon. The components are heavy and often come in two or more large boxes, so lifting them and getting them home from the shop is hard work before you even start. Make sure all the boxes will fit into your car or borrow a vehicle that can take them.

There are usually lots of parts and they don’t fit together easily. To put a barbecue together, you need to be pretty handy, and have a second person to help with the lifting and positioning of parts. If none of the above applies to you, it’s worth paying extra (around $100 to $150) to have the barbecue delivered and assembled for you.

05.The perfect steak

 

Ever wondered how to cook the perfect steak on a barbecue? Here's what our experts have to say.

Choose your cut Person moving food from BBQ to plate

The best cuts for grilling on the barbecue are oyster blade or barbeque steak, rump, t-bone, sirloin or tenderloin.

Prepare your BBQ

Preheat the barbecue on medium heat until it is just starting to smoke, this should take about 10 minutes with the hood closed. Be sure to take any excess fat off the steak beforehand to reduce flare ups. If you want to season your steak, be sure to do it just before you cook it as if it is done too early it will dry the meat out and ruin the flavour. You can also brush the steak with some oil.

Cooking

Start by cooking the steak on one side only until it is brown, and then turn it over. If you continually turn it over it will dry out. The time it takes to cook the steak really depends on the thickness and cut of the steak and how you like it done.

Follow the ‘rule of thumb’ guidelines (below) to check if your steak is cooked to your liking. Don’t pierce it with a fork or knife as this will let the juices escape.

Resting

Once the steak is cooked to your liking put it in a warm spot close to the barbeque to rest for about 5 to 10 minutes before serving. This helps to maximise the flavour and keep the steak juicy.

Rule of thumb - how to test the meat

  • Rare steak:
    Hold one hand up loosely and with the other hand squeeze the ball of your thumb (this is the fleshy part of your hand directly under your thumb). This should give you the feeling of a rare steak.
  • Medium done:
    Bring your index finger to your thumb to make a circle. Using your other hand, squeeze the ball of your thumb to get the feeling of a steak that is medium done.
  • Well done:
    Bring your middle finger to your thumb to make a circle, using your other hand squeeze the ball of your thumb to get the feeling of a well-done steak. You can prod your steak with the back of a knife or fork to judge whether your steak is cooked to perfection.

06.Maintaining your BBQ

 

This advice will apply to most barbecues, but still read the manufacturer’s advice on how to prepare and maintain your particular model.

Seasoning and oiling the hotplates

Before you use the barbecue for the first time, remove any protective plastic coating from the hotplates. Give the hotplate and grill a thorough scrub in warm soapy water, to remove any residues from manufacturing. Then season the hotplate and grill: give them a light coating of cooking oil and turn all the burners on low for about 30 minutes. The oil may smoke, but that’s normal. Afterwards, let the hotplates cool and wipe off the excess cooked oil. Add a little fresh oil and you’re all set to start cooking.

After cooking

 Scrape off food residue and excess leftover oil, but leave a light coating of oil to protect the plates from rust. If you decide to give the hotplates a thorough clean with soapy water, make sure you season them again afterwards. Some hotplates and grills have a non-stick coating and shouldn’t need as much oil for cooking. These usually only need a wash before the first use, but between uses it may still be worth protecting these with a light coating of oil.

Non-stick cooking sheets are available for the barbecue hotplate (but not the grill) from Magic Cooking Products and other suppliers. We haven’t tested them, but they could be a good way to keep the hotplate clean while cooking.

Cleaning up

To clean grease and dirt off the barbecue’s exterior, use any all-purpose cleaner or warm soapy water. For stainless steel, use hot water with vinegar or a commercial stainless steel cleaner. Stainless steel can suffer from ‘teastaining’ — brown discolouring on hot surfaces, such as inside the hood — which can be reduced by regular cleaning with soapy water or a commercial cleaner. Clean out the fat collection tray after each use and line it with fresh foil.

Under cover

Keep your barbecue under a cover to protect it from the elements. Some models come with a cover. If not, it’s worth buying one. Make sure it can be easily secured to the barbecue with cords or Velcro straps, so it won’t blow off on a windy day.

Gas bottle

To check your gas bottle for leaks, connect it to the barbecue and turn on the gas at the bottle. Brush soapy water over the bottle’s joints and connections; leaking gas will create bubbles. Make sure your gas bottle is full enough before you start cooking.

Fitting a gauge on the tap connection is the surest way to know how much gas you’ve got left, but you can also weigh the bottle on your bathroom scales. A '9kg' bottle typically weighs around 10kg when empty and holds around 9kg of gas, so it weighs about 19kg when full. The weight when empty — the ‘tare’ — will be stamped on the bottle.

Annual check-up

It’s worth giving the barbecue an annual maintenance check, and the start of summer is probably a good time for this. Check the hotplates are clean, the trolley and hood are in good condition, the fat tray is lined with fresh foil or sand, volcanic rock (if used) is replaced, and the gas bottle is in good condition.

Check the supplied instructions for specific maintenance advice. If all this is too much hassle, there are companies who’ll come to you and service, clean and repair your barbecue.