Updated: May 15, 2022
The Great British public is finally waking up to cooking outside, normally with a barbecue (something that uses charcoal or wood) but also with a gas grill (as they believe it to be easier). Most of us start with a cheap and cheerful kettle style barbecue from one of the supermarkets or garden centres and burn burgers, destroy sausages and kill chicken only to put the thing to one side and throw it away at the start of next season as it was neglected and has gone rotten.
The chosen few however that look into barbecuing properly, preparing delicious food, cooking it correctly over indirect heat or low and slow smoking have their culinary delights enhanced by learning to cook outdoors correctly and they have never looked back. The selection of barbecues, smokers and grills can be mind blowing and if you are looking to get into cooking properly outside you need to get the choice right.
The traditional barbecue grill, a rectangular shaped grill with charcoal in the bottom, no lid and an adjustable rack is not suitable for most barbecue styles, this is just a grill to burn your food on. In recent years the kettle style barbecue has become very popular and a great system to start your barbecue journey with as you can cook direct, indirect and smoke depending on how you set your kettle up. You cook with the lid on to control flare ups and you can add smoking woods or pellets and cook for 30 minutes or 12 hours depending on how you set it up and what fuel you use. We chose Napoleon Grills for our kettles as the quality is outstanding and we believe that their range of grills and accessories is aimed at the serious barbecuer and not twice a year destroyer of foods!
The kamado style barbecue grill is also gaining popularity, these traditional ceramic eggs or more recently double skinned metal eggs provide hours of constant heat whilst burning very little fuel and can be used to cook low and slow as well as hot and fast if required. They tend to be more expensive and the better quality ones more expensive again and we chose Monolith for our kamados as in our opinion they are the ultimate in charcoal outdoor cooking and worth every penny if you are serious about cooking outside, especially year round in your own shack!
The barrel style grills are without a doubt the easiest to use, specifically The Pit Barrel Company ones that we sell as they are designed to hold a specific temperature without the need to adjust vents or to mess with it at all, just light it and forget it. These are designed to cook with briquettes or to grill with lumpwood charcoal and of course we sell both at The Barbecue Shack!
As technology moves on so does the barbecue world and back in the 90's Traeger developed the pellet grill, a system that uses a worm drive to deliver pellets to a heat source that works in conjunction with an inbuilt thermostat to keep temperatures constant, whatever the weather. By delivering wood pellets the system uses a sustainable product that delivers outstanding flavours and of course you are able to purchase wood pellets of different flavours to deliver the best results for your chosen meat or vegetables. As with most products others have tried to emulate what Traeger achieved but we stick with the market leader and without doubt the best producers of this style of grill.
Then of course there are the smokers. No not a quick fag behind the bike sheds, a barbecue system that uses hot smoke to flavour and cook food. The Pit Barrel Company can be used as smokers as well as a grill and of course your Traeger can be set up as a smoker and their top models even feature a Super Smoke option to add smoky flavours more quickly. Our most popular smoker is the ProQ Elite system as you can hot smoke and grill on the same system dependent on how you set it up.
The Ozpig systems are unique and heavily used by the Aussies as they are versatile, transportable and made from cast iron meaning that they can take wood splits as well as charcoal. They can be used to cook on a stove top, grill and to smoke depending on how you set yours up and when all is done you use them as a patio heater as the cast iron retains and gives out plenty of heat, something that the kamado style grills cannot do!
The last system to discuss is the offset smoker, this needs to be of cast iron construction and passes indirect heat and hot smoke over your food to provide a long, low and slow cook with oodles of flavour. However these systems are not for the feint hearted and require you to learn how to manage them and they usually demand your attention. I have cooked on an offset but not a cast iron one, the food was delicious and I enjoyed using it but it was hard work to cook on and took a lot of fuel to get it through the cook.
There are of course more grill styles out there, Asado grills, firepit grills and various new styles but if you are asking the question then there is no need to go into these more advanced styles of barbecue. So the simple answer to which barbecue should you buy is......the one you prefer the look of that fits in your budget. I started on a kettle and moved into low and slow on the kettle and I think every Pitmaster needs a kettle in their life. If you love your kettle and want a smoker to smoke ribs, briskets etc. consider the Pit Barrel Company as an additional barbecue, it's a rib machine that doesn't need much attention. If you want a smoker from the get go then buy a ProQ for it's versatility as you can also use it as a grill.
If tech is your thing then hands down it's one of the Traeger systems. Their Wi-Fire technology means you can control your cook from anywhere and cooking over wood pellets is delicious BUT I think it is fair to say that most Pitmasters aspire to owning a kamado style barbecue and we think there are none better then the Monoliths. So if the budget is there buy the last barbecue you will need right from the start (that and a kettle style grill).
Whatever you do buy quality kit, quality food and quality rubs. The quickest way to put yourself of the most delicious food you have ever eaten is to buy cheap, don't do it. Any questions phone us on 01626 834233 or email firstname.lastname@example.org