The traditional charcoal barbecue is now in competition with electric or gas models. The choice is difficult and depends on many criteria that are not always obvious. Learn how to ask yourself the right questions with our practical sheet.
Savoring grilled meats with family or friends is a moment of conviviality that we often envy to the happy owners of garden and terrace. The practice of barbecue, often associated with the summer season, is indeed a good excuse to share gastronomy and good humor.
The concept of barbecue originated in America, the term originated from a Native American word. It appears in 1697 and corresponds to the fact of to roast or smoke a meat. In France, barbecue made its appearance in the 1950s. Since then, it has been a flagship activity for families.
You still have to choose it well. Small nomadic model, or large sedentary size? Charcoal, gas or electricity? Simple or ultra-sophisticated? Do not hesitate between the different barbecue models, thanks to our buying advice!
Barbecue: define your needs
“The first thing to determine is how we will use the barbecue” explains Xavier Pourchon, vice-president of the French barbecue federation (FFBQ). Concretely, we must think about these different criteria:
- The usual number of guests : the capacity of the barbecue is generally indicated in number of people. The ideal power of the device also depends on it;
- Frequency of use: “If you only plan to use your barbecue twice a year, there is no point in investing in a very sophisticated product” explains Xavier Pourchon. “You will find a suitable model for around fifty euros”. On the other hand, big fans of grilling can invest in a hard barbecue;
- Usage: a barbecue grill, of course, but you might also want to roast large pieces or prepare pizzas, in which case you can opt for more substantial and multifunctional appliances, especially with lids that close to turn into almost oven;
- The location : do you need a portable device, which will sit on the table, or a barbecue which does not move? Also think about the place of storage, in winter, and plan for a possible source of light near the barbecue;
- The place you can devote to it: for the size of the appliance, you can choose from a wide range, between the small removable barbecue and the massive installation worthy of an outdoor kitchen;
- The rules of your condominium: if you live in a building, it is very likely that the condominium regulations prohibit you from barbecue on the balcony or, at least, limit the choice of energy source (gas, charcoal or electricity);
- The budget : there are very simple barbecues from € 15 … and up to € 5,000 for complete models.
A mixed barbecue that runs on gas and electricity © Char-Broil
The form of the appliance matters little on the quality of the cooking, and the fashion is with round appliances. “They give off a more even heat over the entire grid, but they are less easy to load” says Xavier Pourchon.
The charcoal barbecue, for flavor
In the popular mind, barbecue is a matter of men … and of fire. Wood and charcoal therefore unmistakably go hand in hand with grilling and conviviality. “Gustatively, the charcoal barbecue is the most interesting” insists Xavier Pourchon. the grilled taste and smoked food obviously has a lot to do with it.
But the wood barbecue is also very accessible : the simplest models cost a few tens of euros. Bags of charcoal are also very affordable (around € 30 cents per liter), and the use of wood is also possible.
Choosing the right barbecue © Weber
The disadvantage of this cooking method is its maintenance, binding because of burnt fat and dirty grates. The question of security will also arise when choosing the location of the device: avoid places of passage, to limit the risk of accident! “After all, it’s fire, so there is a risk just like a fireplace” emphasizes Xavier Pourchon.
It is also considered tedious to start ! Who does not have in mind the image of a father fanning the embers for them to take? “It is not obvious, but today there are 100% ecological techniques that are very simple to implement” explains Xavier Pourchon.
The pro tip, “infallible” : he twists sheets of newspaper, and wraps them around a bottle. He places the paper sleeve thus formed at the bottom of the barbecue, removes the bottle, and covers this tube with charcoal. A match to ignite the paper, and voila: the embers are ready in less than ten minutes.
The gas barbecue, for speed
It is well known that great chefs cook with gas! So why not give it a go too? Impatient, the gas barbecue is for you! Ready to use in minutes, it is easy to light (often with a simple button) and to use.
Those are lava stones, placed above the burners, which diffuse the heat. The greater the number of burners, the more even the cooking will be. Likewise, enameled cast iron plates (which sometimes replace lava rocks) distribute heat better.
An easy to maintain barbecue © Campingaz
The downside of gas is above all her size, since the location of the cylinder must be taken into account. There are smaller bottles, but the shelf life is limited.
the price of these devices is often a little higher (from 50 €). “THE’maintenance gas barbecue is also more expensive “ explains Xavier Pourchon. Porous, lava stones indeed absorb fat, and must be changed every two years.
Finally, there are small nomadic gas barbecues, with small cylinders, ideal for transporting in the summer, but also mixed gas / electricity devices, for total flexibility.
The electric barbecue, easy to use
Even easier to use, the electric barbecue is essential in homes. It is a good alternative in condominiums where gas is prohibited, or on balconies where coal is banned. But it won’t go around as easily as the other models, because … of its connection !
Xavier Pourchon is categorical: “to be placed in the center of the table”, or on movable feet in the garden, the electric barbecue is reassuring. “It does not require any maintenance” he adds.
A standing and compact electric barbecue © Severin
Be careful, however, to choose a sufficiently powerful (1,600 W at the minimum, rather 2,200 W), so as not to risk waiting for lunch for a long time!
Very accessible, it costs from 30 to more than 300 €. Only downside: you will not find the taste of the flame, so typical of barbecue!
The options not to be overlooked
Finally, here are some things to take into account before making your choice:
- The material : opt for a cast iron bottom, “more solid”, specifies Xavier Pourchon;
- Grates : they can be aluminum coated with nickel or chromium, but “if you plan to use the barbecue regularly, prefer a stainless steel grill, covered with ceramic” he advises. A thick grid allows the heat to be transmitted better;
- The height of the grid: if you opt for a charcoal barbecue, make sure that the height of the grate is adjustable: this will allow you to raise it if the embers have set too much, and thus avoid having to supervise the cooking without interruption. “Without that, the barbecue becomes a constraint, and no longer a convivial pleasure!” says Xavier Pourchon.
Make the barbecue fun last, by maintaining your device regularly with suitable products.
Don’t neglect safety! “Choose a barbecue that is as stable as possible, and put it in the place where there is the least traffic” insists Xavier Pourchon. Watch out for children, animals, and flammable products. “Do not light the charcoal barbecue with petroleum or alcohol!” he warns. The match could indeed ignite the vapors.