Barbecues review 2007

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

04.What to look for

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.

 

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