Small barbecues review

We test two-burner barbecues designed for small spaces.
 
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  • Updated:11 Nov 2008
 

04.What to look for

The barbecue

  • Look for a half grill and half hotplate.
  • Make sure it’s easy to access all of the cooking area as some hoods can restrict access with the warming plates.
  • A good hood will open enough so it doesn’t blow smoke in your face, and should also have reasonable resistance against accidental closing from gusts of wind etc. Double skin hoods will reduce the external temperature.
  • Look for clearly labelled controls with positive stops at both the high and low position. Check to see that they are easy to grip and turn. Knobs that slant out from the facia are easier to see, ensuring you don’t have to bend over.
  • Piezo ignition which is activated by turning the controls.
  • The fat tray should be easy to remove and replace. It should also be self-centring so that it catches all the fat.
  • Handles should have enough space so that you don’t burn your hands on the hot panel behind them.

The trolley

  • There are many different trolleys available so look out for the features that will suit your specific needs, such as cupboards or a side burner.
  • If you need to move the trolley, even only occasionally, it will be a lot easier if it has four castors.
  • If the trolley only has two wheels, check that it is not too heavy to lift the other end for moving and that there are no sharp edges where you grip it.
  • Wooden trolleys require constant tightening of the bolts.
  • Stainless steel trolleys require extra attention when cleaning due to smudges and finger prints. Some may also rust in certain environments.
  • The height of trolleys can vary a lot, so choose one that works for you.
  • Large side trays are useful for placing food and utensils on but be careful not to place plastic items too close to the BBQ as they may melt.
  • Some trolleys can be difficult and time-consuming to assemble so a pre-assembled or more basic model may suit you better. If you’re not handy consider paying extra for the retailer to assemble instead.
  • If you have limited space consider a model with side tables that fold down to free up space and will make life easier if you need to move your barbeque often.

How does electric compare?

No gas bottles to refill, no coals and less mess. Is an electric barbeque the way of the future?

Our testers were far from overwhelmed by the Sunbeam Kettle King electric's performance. It was the worst performer in our test overall, and because it performs so differently to the other models we have separated it in the table.

Although the Sunbeam was easy to assemble and produced less smoke when cooking than the other models, the cons really outweigh the pros. Being fully electric it needs access to power, yet the cord is a tad on the short side so you would need an outside power point or a good extension cord. It was the low rating model for ease of use; our testers found the stand top heavy, food can easily slide off the hotplate when it’s moved around and it has a small cooking area and small labelling on the controls.

You’ll need to watch your fingers too, as with no side panels the BBQ plate is completely exposed when the hood is off and the hood can be dangerously hot. And most importantly, the food didn’t cook well either. Our testers gave it a ‘poor’ result for cooking steak and described the other food as more ‘stewed’ than barbequed.

Tester's tips

Cooking on a small barbecue A smaller barbie means you may have to cook in batches when you have guests over. Here’s the best way to do it.

Order Cooking a variety of foods at one time requires a little planning so everything is ready at the same time. If you are cooking a meal of small cuts of meat, cutlets, sausages, onion, corn cobs and potatoes, try this order of cooking: start with the corn and potatoes as they will take the longest – they can be kept warm on the warming rack once they are done. Onions also take some time so they can also be cooked at the start and then be kept warm. Small cuts of meat cook quite quickly and only need a short resting time so they can be done last while the rest of the food can stay warm on the rack.

Resting time When considering how long it will take to cook the meat don’t forget to include its resting time

Position You also need to consider where you put your food if the barbecue has the char-grill plate and the solid hotplate. Which is best cooked on what plate? Try doing three quarters of the cooking on the solid hotplate and the last part on the char-grill to free up solid hotplate space. Sausages are best placed on the hotplate. Cuts of meat can be cooked on the char-grill plate to get that distinctive flavour, and when frying vegetables such as onion and potatoes they can be cooked on the hotplate. Larger vegetables such as corn can be wrapped in foil and placed on the char-grill plate. Roasting vegetables such as capsicum, zucchini, and eggplant can be cooked on the char-grill plate.

 

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