How we put barbecues through their paces
If you're an outdoor entertainer, you'll want a trusty barbecue to show off your skills on the grill. Our home economist has put many barbecues through their paces and knows what makes one easy to use and clean. Here, we'll tell you how we put them to the test.
You can also use our barbecues buying guide to help with what size and type you need as well as what features suit your cooking and entertaining needs.
Fiona Mair, home economist from the CHOICE test kitchen, is our go-to person for all things cooking and kitchen related. With over 30 years of experience, she knows how to put any appliance through its paces to tell you which models are worth the money and which to walk away from.
She's been testing barbecues for years, and with our lab's industrial rangehood, she's able to test them inside the test kitchen. Over the years Fiona has narrowed down the factors that make a barbecue easy to use and clean, and can tell you how to get the most out of one.
How we choose what we test
With so many to choose from, how do we decide to test one barbecue over another? As with most of our product testing, our aim is to test the most popular models on the market and what you are most likely to see in the retailers. We:
- survey manufacturers to find out about their range of models
- check market sales information
- check for any member requests to test specific models.
From this information, we put together a final list that goes to our buyers. They then head out to the retailers and purchase each product, just as a normal consumer would. We do this so we can be sure they're the same as any consumer would find them and not 'tweaked' in any way.
How we test
Fiona gives the BBQs a grilling by carrying out the following performance tests:
- Steak: Fiona covers the entire cooking surface with steaks and cooks them with the hood open (unless the manual instructs otherwise), turning them once only. This is a harsh test, and might not be how you'd cook steak on your own barbie – normally you'd move the steak about to allow for hot spots – but our test assesses how evenly the hotplate reaches and maintains a high temperature, and how well it controls flare-ups.
- Sausages: As with steak, the entire cooking surface is covered. Fiona cooks the sausages with the hood closed. This also assesses the hotplate's ability to reach and maintain high temperature and control flare-ups, which are a particular challenge when cooking sausages, due to their higher fat content.
- Roast whole chicken: She roasts a chicken by placing it on a baking tray in the centre of the plates with the outside burners on medium heat. The hood is down and the chicken is turned only once. This assesses the performance at moderate temperatures over a long period.
- Marinated wings: She cooks marinated wings directly on the hotplate and turn them once. The wings need a low temperature so the marinade doesn't burn. Cooking this way is comparable to cooking in an oven.
Ease of use
Fiona looks at:
- ease of access when moving and turning the food; she notes any discomfort, such as hot smoke blowing into the face
- moving and cleaning the barbecue
- how easy the controls are to use
- how easily the gas bottle can be fitted.
Test criteria explained
The overall score is made up of:
- Cooking performance (60%)
- Ease of use (40%)
For cooking performance, the scores for cooking steak, sausages, marinated wings and roasting a chicken are weighted equally.
Ease of use is made up of:
- Ease of cooking (40%)
- Mobility (20%)
- Using the controls (20%)
- Cleaning (20%)
Our test lab
We maintain a kitchen lab that is up-to-date with the latest reference machines and calibrated measurement tools for our testers to bring you the right results.
Ready to buy?
Check out the results from our latest barbecue reviews and test.