There’s nothing better than stepping outside and smelling the delicious smoky aroma of food sizzling on the BBQ – ahh, the perfect smell of summer!
Then comes the devastating realisation that the smell is coming from your neighbour’s garden, not yours.
Perhaps they’ll invite you over? But then again… is that really what you want?
If you don’t want to rely on a potential invitation from your neighbours, you’ll be pleased to know that a gas BBQ makes it very easy to spontaneously grill food – you can go from thinking about having a BBQ, to eating from it, all in the space of an hour.
There’s none of the same faff of waiting hours for it to heat up as with charcoal BBQs. If the sun suddenly comes out, you’ll be ready to go almost instantly. Gas BBQs are gaining popularity fast and there’s a huge number on the market to choose from.
If you’re considering purchasing a gas BBQ but you’re not sure what to look out for, the following tips should help inform your decision:
Gas Vs. Charcoal BBQs
There are pros and cons to both gas and charcoal BBQs, and the topic of which BBQ to go for can be quite divisive. Here’s a quick overview of the main advantages and disadvantages of each model:
- Easy to use and quick to heat up – some gas BBQs only take around 5-10 minutes to reach an optimum cooking temperature.
- Allow for very precise temperature setting – no mysteries about how hot or not the grill is!
- Direct and constant heat.
- Many gas BBQs come with side burners which mean you can heat a pan or saucepan on the side.
- Perfect for spontaneous barbecues!
- You have to buy and dispose of gas canisters, as well as have them visible on your patio whilst BBQing unless the unit has a way to conceal them.
- May not create as ‘smoky’ a flavour as charcoal BBQs.
- Versatile and extremely hot.
- Often cheaper than gas BBQs
- Indirect grilling is more frequently possible.
- Food has a ‘smoky’ flavour thanks to the burning of the coal.
- Difficult heat control.
- Smaller cooking areas.
- Takes at least 30 – 40 mins to heat up and can be difficult to light in the first place.
As you can see, the type of BBQ that you opt for really depends on your personal preference and what’s most important to you.
If you’re the type of person who wants to be able to have a BBQ at the drop of the hat, a gas BBQ will allow you to quickly have a grill that is ready to cook on.
If you’re more interested in getting that authentic smoky BBQ flavour, and don’t mind putting in a bit more work both during the heating stage and the cooking process, a charcoal BBQ might well be a better option for you.
Selecting the Right Size Gas BBQ
Even if you’re trying to cook for a group – of four to six people, for example – you still don’t necessarily need a very large BBQ.
If you opt for a gas-powered unit, even a small one with just two burners and a cooking area of somewhere around 50 x 50 cm should be suitable for this many people.
Of course, if you’re someone who frequently hosts bigger parties and events in the summer, you’ll benefit from having a larger BBQ to cook more food at the same time. The biggest ranges featured here have have cooking areas of around 70 x 40 cm. Having 4 – 6 burners will give you flexibility to cook different foods at the same time, which can come in handy when hosting a lot of different guests.
Large gas BBQs with more burners will be more expensive to buy than smaller models. However, if you look for individually controlled burners, you won’t need to always have them all ignited when cooking which can at least save gas.
If having a portable BBQ is important to you, there are some gas models which are small enough to fit into the boot of the car. These can then be taking on holiday, camping, or to friend’s houses. Of course, you’ll also need to transport the gas as well, so keep this in mind when measuring if the BBQ will fit in the car.
This brings us onto weight; even some small BBQs can be quite heavy which may make them difficult to manoeuvre. Larger BBQ ranges can sometimes weigh up to 60 kg. Therefore, it’s important to check where you’re going to store the BBQ, and if it has wheels.
Whilst most BBQs can be stored outside, with a cover, through most of summer, when the colder weather arrives it’s good to store them away. Therefore, you’ll need to consider if your BBQ is too heavy for you to move in and out of storage.
Wheels are obviously a huge help across flat ground, and can also come in handy when BBQing. If your BBQ has four wheels (instead of two), you’ll be able to move it around much more easily without disturbing the BBQ itself.
This can be helpful if there’s a sudden rain storm or if the wind changes direction and smoke starts blowing over the guests from the BBQ’s current position.
Castor wheels with brakes are the best for hard, level surfaces. These are super sturdy and move easily as well. If you’ll be taking your BBQ across tougher terrain, like the lawn, it might be easier to move a BBQ with two large wheels.
Gas BBQs can come with a number of extra features which are well worth having if you’re entertaining guests.
Some BBQs come with side shelves which are great for storing bread rolls, condiments or plates and cutlery. You may also get storage space underneath, which can be used for storing equipment and tools, or the gas canister itself.
Most models have either a hinged lid, or a round one that you take off, and ideally you want a BBQ with a built-in thermometer so you can check whether the food is cooked without lifting the lid and losing heat.
You may get a BBQ with an additional side burner for use with saucepans and pans. These can be used to prepare accompaniments such as beans, onions or sauces. This means that all the cooking can be done at the BBQ, instead of requiring you to split your time between the kitchen and the outdoor grill.
Finally, look out for BBQs with warming racks which are another handy feature. These keep food warm whilst other items are cooking, and can also be used for roasting and baking (that’s right – you can even do potatoes in the barbie!).
A lot of people who use gas BBQs like to cook with lava rocks or vaporiser bars. A lot of BBQs may come with these already. Lava rocks sit on the BBQ grate and can help distribute the heat more evenly. Vaporiser bars can help create a bit more of an authentic, smoky BBQ taste.
Working Out What Type of Gas to Use
When it comes to gas BBQs, you basically have two fuel choices – butane or propane. These are the most common gases used for home BBQing.
Butane comes in blue cylinders, and propane comes in red. Smaller bottles of propane may be sold in green bottles, under the term ‘patio gas’ (because they’re often used to fuel gas-powered patio appliances).
Propane is a popular choice for people living in colder climates. This is because it has a very low boiling temperature of -42°C.
As a result, its a great choice for year-round BBQing, including BBQs in the winter. Whilst winter BBQs may not appeal to everyone, if there is a chance that you’ll want to do one, propane is a good gas to use.
There are some people who prefer the taste of food which has been cooked using propane fuel over butane. This is something that you might like to personally experiment with, but it’s worth bearing in mind that you might notice a difference between the two.
Propane has also been shown to produce more heat than butane.
Butane will still be a good choice for almost year-round BBQing. It has a boiling temperature of -2°C which means that it won’t be a very good fuel in very cold weather, but for most of the year in the UK it will work just fine.
Butane flows especially well in warm temperatures, so it’s great for summer BBQing.
It’s marginally cheaper than propane, plus it doesn’t burn as fast. Therefore, you’ll might end up having to buy it less frequently as well. This also makes it a good choice if you have BBQs frequently, as you won’t burn through your fuel supplies unnecessarily quickly.
Using a Regulator
You will need to use a regulator hose to connect the gas to the BBQ. These are very important as they control the flow of gas to the BBQ and stop too much from being used at a time.
Some BBQs come with a regulator provided, but that’s not the case with all models. Plus, different gas canisters will require a different-size regulator. If a regulator comes with your BBQ, you will need to find out what gas canister head it fits on to. If your BBQ does not come with a regulator, you can buy the gas canister that you want, and find a regulator to fit it.
Standard green patio gas bottles will require a 27 mm propane clip-on regulator. In general, there are a lot of different ‘fastenings’ for regulators, though they will most likely be clip on or screw on.
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