Need to know
- CHOICE experts rigorously test a range of barbecues in our kitchen labs to see how well they perform, and how easy they are to use and clean
- Our tests find that price isn't always an indicator of good performance
- We recommend doing your research and checking our reviews before you buy to ensure you get the best barbecue for your needs and budget
If you're all set for a summer of grilling steaks and snags in the sunshine, a barbecue that goes the distance to give you the best possible results is a must. But with prices for various models ranging from a few hundred bucks for a portable barbie up to thousands for a four-burner beast, it can be tricky to know how much you should spend.
Our experts have tested more than 35 barbecues, including electric, gas (including those that run on natural gas) and charcoal barbecues to find the best performers.
As well as scoring models based on things like how easy they are to use and clean, our testers throw on steaks and sausages to assess other factors such as how evenly the hotplate reaches and maintains a high temperature, and how well it controls flare-ups. They also check how well each barbecue cooks a whole chicken with the hood down, and how well it maintains a low temperature to cook marinated chicken wings.
Our test covers a whole range of models, from smaller portable barbecues that are suited for a balcony or smaller outdoor space up to large four-burner units that are great for entertaining.
And while our experts found that some of the more expensive brands were indeed amongst the top performers in our tests, there were also some pricier models that failed to get the CHOICE Recommended seal of approval. If you have a smaller budget, the good news is that some cheaper brands scored almost as well as brands costing much more.
There's a range of different features that can account for a hefty price tag, and you may find that a bargain barbecue doesn't last as long as a pricier model. Look for a barbecue with a solid construction that uses quality materials, as it'll be out in the elements and will need protection.
Our experts have identified three cheaper barbecues that performed similarly to more expensive models to show that splashing the cash doesn't always get you a barbie with better performance.
The KitchenAid and Masport four-burner barbecues compared.
These four-burner gas barbecues received the same score in our testing, despite the fact that Masport Classic Four costs less than half the price. The Masport actually pipped the Kitchenaid barbecue by 1% in the overall cooking performance scores (76% vs 75%) but they both scored a respectable 90% on how well they handle delicate, lower temperature cooking.
They both scored a less-than-impressive 67% for ease of use, which takes into account things such as the ease of access when moving and turning the food, moving and cleaning the barbecue, how easy the controls are to use and how easily the gas bottle can be fitted.
But if roasting a whole chook is something you want to do on the barbie, then the Kitchenaid model may be a slightly better choice. CHOICE test expert Fiona Mair says: "Both models scored similarly on how well they cooked a whole roast chook but the Kitchenaid model has a rear infrared burner for rotisserie and the Masport doesn't so it received a slightly higher score in this respect."
The Beefeater and Jumbuck scores are similar, despite the price difference.
Small barbecues are great for balconies or taking camping and they obviously cost less than bigger barbies, usually retailing from just under $200 to around $800. If you're paying a higher price, you should expect extra features like electronic gas ignition, fold-out side tables and a more solid construction. When it comes to performance, we've found that in some cases, the more exy models don't always impress much more than cheaper models – such as with this comparison between a more premium brand Beefeater and the Bunnings-exclusive brand, Jumbuck.
The Jumbuck Double Burner costs about a quarter of the price of the Beefeater model but our experts gave it an overall performance score just 3% lower.
The Beefeater did outscore the Jumbuck marginally on cooking performance in most instances, however our testers noted it is 'only OK' for cooking sausages, which may make paying four times the price a little tougher to stomach. Our experts also scored the pricey Beefeater barbie down on ease of use, saying it is heavy, making it difficult to lift and manoeuvre, and the hood can become dangerously hot during use.
The Masport barbecue costs a lot less and is cheaper to run than the Ziegler and Brown.
In a head to head that will make you wince, the Masport Weekender outscored the flashier and much pricier Ziegler and Brown model by 3% on overall performance. Our experts also calculate that the cheaper Masport will also cost you around $180 less in running costs over five years as compared to the Ziegler and Brown model.
So what does a price tag of over two grand get you? Our expert testers noted that the pricier model is a very large four-burner barbecue with extra large side tables, plus it comes with good instructions and is easy to manouevre. It also received a decent 80% for low temperature cooking.
But its cooking performance score across all our cooking tests of 74% vs 80% for the significantly cheaper Masport Weekender model makes you wonder if it's worth it and just goes to show that spending more won't always get you better results.
To ensure you don't end up with a pricey dud, ensure you check our expert barbecue reviews before you buy.