Gas Barbecues - A Party Starters Guide

Barbecues are a great summer hit and although the summer isn't quite on us, this is the perfect time to prepare. Buying all your equipment just out of season will not only save you money, but make sure you are prepared when we get the sudden spell of sunshine or day without the traditional British summer rain. Barbecues are a traditional way of cooking food in many countries and each has it's own spin on exactly what to cook and how, even the name is argued over. It is seen as barbecues, barbeque, BBQ, bar-b-que and barbie.
Whatever you want to call it there are 3 main types of barbecue, this is based on fuel type and they are charcoal, gas and wood. Each gives a full set of advantages and disadvantages which need to be considered for cooking events.

Gas Barbecues

The main fuel type on the market today is gas barbecues. Gas barbecues have the massive advantage of being fantastically convenient. They are easy to set up (just attach the gas bottle) and cook things at a consistent temperature and rate. This enables following recipes easier and preparing food for a specific time, especially after practice with your grill. Gas grills are also very easy to light and many come with inbuilt ignition spark switches. Other advantages of gas grills include the lack of pollutants that affects both the taste of the meat as well as the air around the barbecue, creating a cleaner and more relaxed atmosphere. A large criticism levelled at gas barbecues is that they lack the 'authentic' smoke flavour of wooden or charcoal barbecues; this however can be remedied by adding a small, perforated metal box (called a smoker box). This can contain some wooden chips that slowly burn to offer the same unique taste as a wood barbecue. Many of the highest range of barbecues have this feature built in and they may even feature a special burner dedicated to the job.

Gas barbecues cook food at a steady rate but produce a "wet" heat, meaning that water is one of the by products of combustion. Some people believe that this affects the flavour of the food and negates the point of the bbq experience. On the plus side this wet heat does make some foods retain water and prevents them drying out. Because gas is easy and predictable it is ideal for larger parties as you can just add food cook it, and serve.

Charcoal Barbecue

Charcoal barbecues are a little more traditional than their gas counterparts. They are harder to light and usually involve a bag of process charcoal briquettes or a large lump of natural charcoal. Lighting techniques can involve aid such as a chimney starter or soaking the briquettes in a denatured alcohol (or other non petroleum based fuel) to prevent unwanted chemical flavouring of the meat. You may also choose to use an electric iron to heat the coals. Once ready you may choose to add some water soaked wood chips for flavour. Cooking on charcoal is much handier than gas for portable cooking but not as easy as it takes longer and lighting problems can occur for beginners. Charcoal barbecues are regarded as the most traditional (especially in England) by many and are the only thing that counts as a "real BBQ". While time consuming they can often give spectacular results although I would not recommend them for large parties.

Wood Barbecues

Wood fuel barbecues are not as readily available to buy as their charcoal and gas counterparts. Although you can easily choose a nice wood for a specific flavour they can leave a tar type residue on your food. They can also offer lighting difficulty but no serious challenge for an experienced barbecue user. Woods recommended to use are mesquite, hickory, maple, pecan, apple, and oak. Woods to avoid include conifers. Wood types have completely different burn constancies and heat levels, it is best to experiment first or combine your chosen wood with charcoal to optimise your effect.


Outback: Outback gas barbecues/grill products have been on sale in the UK since 1997. They have reached world wide fame as a quality product and although not established as long as some companies, they have a firm grasp on the market and a very strong reputation for reliable and attractive gas barbecues. They have a very large product range and some fantastic accessories such as condiments trays, thermometers and smoker boxes. Outback also have a dedicated UK office meaning the products available are deigned specifically with the UK market in mind. Many online retailers stock the Outback range but only stock the UK exclusive range, a specially designed, specially priced stainless steel bbq and trolley set.

BillyOh: BillyOh are a UK based retail brand that stock a wide variety of garden living accessories from benches to barbecues to sheds. There barbecues include both gas and charcoal and have a wide price range. While not as well established as Outback they are extremely high quality and are rapidly raising through the ranks of garden accessory retailers. The great thing about BillyOh is that it offers such a wide range of products you can build you entire garden party, from tables and chairs to patio heaters from its range. They are an excellent choice for the new home owner or first time who needs the full kit to begin their barbecue party adventures.

Lifestyle: Lifestyle are large brand that focuses on outdoor heating and eating products. They are well established and often offer a more elegant choice of product than their counterparts. While sometimes slightly more expensive if their products are the things your looking for you can guarantee they will be good quality and reliable.

Tips and Advice

While fun and simple on the surface, barbecuing can be a tricky business, your often cooking for a group of friends and family and giving them food poisoning because of inexperience is the last thing you want.

One of the most important factors in hosting barbecues is remaining in control of the situation. This means paying attention to the fire at all times and never distract yourself performing too many other tasks or drinking heavily. Alcohol seriously impairs judgment and the effects could be anything from food poisoning, a ruined meal or death. Please remember to stay sober and stay safe when hosting a barbecue; you can always have a drink later once the food is done.

A great way to ensure the cleanliness of your barbecue is too give it a good ten minute 'burn off' before use. After, simply wipe it down with vegetable oil to ensure that your food doesn't stick to the grill. If you notice a yellow tipped creeping flame, usually with a smoke trial you may have a blockage. This more commonly occurs on gas barbecues and is usually caused by dust, cobwebs or grease blocking a jet. Cleaning the barbecue will rectify this just make sure it's cooled down enough first.

A great accessory for cooking side dishes such as beans or dipping sauces are the foil trays you often receive from Chinese takeaways. These can be purchased from most supermarkets and keep the food warm as well as being disposable after wards.

Light Citronella candles around your garden to keep away unwanted insects, not only are they effective they are also relatively cheap these days. Lavender is also a good alternative. If you have fussy neighbours you may want to mask the smell of cooking by tying some rosemary, sage or mint to the outside of your bbq, as they warm up they will give off lovely aroma.

I hope that this article gives you a good idea on what is on the market and what you may want from a barbecue, and I hope your next barbecue party, whether it be your first or fifty first, goes down with a storm.

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About The Author, Peter Farmer
Peter Farmer is a landscaper from the Nottinghamshire area of England. He specialises in party and modern arrangements and helps produce content for gas barbecues site flaming and summer houses and garden buildings stockist garden buildings