With the longer nights and summer months drawing near, thoughts tend to look at alfresco dining. Barbecues are a time honoured tradition and one which, as long as the weather holds out, are any eminently enjoyable part of our social calendar. With a myriad of options available in terms of styles of BBQ, it is perhaps unsurprising that we can become confused as a consumer as to which one will best suit our particular needs. Below we provide you with a comprehensive guide as to the key elements and benefits of each available option.
Which one should I choose, gas or charcoal BBQ?
The choice of available barbecue options can have a significant impact on the time taken to wait and cook the food as well as the choice of food staff to be cooked. For instance for those who require a quick and easy set up and want to be cooking within a short period of time, the gas barbecue is the obvious choice as it offers the most relevant option which is suitable for that particular situation. However for many the traditional coal, lumpwood style barbecue offers a unique and undeniable alternative which has become a more fashionable choice for many. This may well be due to the unmistakeable smells associated with a charcoal BBQ, which simply cannot be replicated with a gas fired option.
What are the benefits of each option?
The maintenance and cleaning of a gas BBQ is somewhat curtailed compared to a traditional charcoal or lumpwood style barbecue. Apart from the obvious deposits left from the food cooking which is relevant to both forms of bbq, the main issue many have with charcoal bbq’s maintenance is cleaning the charcoal left overs and ash themselves.
Time to set up
The ability to instantly switch on the heat without having to wait for the heat to be ready to cook is a distinct advantage that sets a gas barbecue apart from others. As most will testify, charcoal bbq’s typically take about 40 mins on average to be ready to cook. Setting up the charcoal, lighting and then waiting for them to burn down to be ready for cooking takes its time.
Control of the heat
Gas BBQ’s obviously have controlled heat via the gas control knobs which enable the temperature to be controlled effectively. With a charcoal bbq, the better versions will have some form of movement of the charcoal tray or grill which enables a modicum of control over the heat.
Style of cooking and the all important taste
This is one area where traditionalists will point to the benefit of charcoal options. The whole purpose of cooking with a bbq, as some will say, is to achieve a unique taste and flavour. According to some people gas style barbecues downside is the lack of taste that is achieved. That smoky flavour that is imbued within the food that is cooked on a traditional BBQ is one of its inherent benefits and something that for traditionalists amongst us, should be the way its always done. The reality is that with the addition of flavour bars and lava rocks, the difference in taste between charcoal and gas is indistinguishable to most people.
Other potential options
Other alternative forms of BBQ include a new revelation called a Smoker. This is a play on the traditional BBQ but, dependent upon the style you choose, will often be a closed unit, with simply a smoke or chimney stack protruding out from the main section. This allows the smoke to escape, to ensure that there is no build up of pressure. Wood chips which are impregnated with flavours such as hickory are used as the combustible material and release the flavour whilst smoking.
Instant barbecues are a relatively new invention, having been around for about 10 years now. in fact they have improved greatly and for those who are looking to BBQ somewhere away from their own garden, such as a local picnic spot, the instant lighting BBQ is the ideal choice for several reasons. Apart from the obvious reason of space requirement, the instant lighting BBQ is ready to go in a short space of time, and its coals are often permeated with lighting fluid or other form of combustible fluid, to start it off. Taking only 20 minutes to be ready for cooking its a great alternative when travelling out for a BBQ.
Grills and Griddles
Grills and Griddles are another new innovation, which has come about in recent years. These types of hot plate style cooking platforms offer a simple means of cooking food quickly and effectively. Teriyaki is an oft quoted form of food preparation which is associated with this type of platform.
Some useful advice for BBQ etiquette
Adjustment of heat
As any budding chef will testify, if your heat source is too hot, it burns the food. Cue, burnt sausage ads…. A gas BBQ will generally have a means of adjusting the temperature, whilst a charcoal BBQ may well have a height adjustment option on the grill, to move the food away from the source if required.
Do i need a hot plate
It is a fact that juggling cooking times can be difficult. If your budget can stretch to a BBQ which has a hot plate included, its often a worthwhile investment.
Ideally it is best to make sure all meat is not frozen, so thaw any meat prior to cooking to ensure optimum cooking. In terms of hygiene, Chicken is often considered the one meat that can harbour nasty bugs such as Salmonella therefore its preparation and cooking should be done carefully.