”Comfort is key for a barbecue.” (Ashley Madekwe)
Barbecue lovers know that it’s not only a cooking method: it’s a lifestyle. Barbecues don’t happen exclusively in summer anymore: you just need to have a sufficiently large balcony, grab your carving fork and put on your oven glove and you’re ready to go! How to choose the right one? Available space and budget are two key factors in choosing among wood-fired, charcoal, gas or electric ones.
Barbecue models differ in how they are fired up: “direct” (or internal) firing like for wood or charcoal, or “indirect” (or external) like for gas or electric models. Direct barbecues cook food by simply having it next to the embers that give it the characteristic “smoked” flavor while an indirect model cooks food like a kitchen hob: with gas fired hobs or electric ones. While direct fire barbecues need some time before you can actually start cooking (about 10 – 20 minutes), the indirect ones can start cooking in 3 to 5 minutes but food won’t have the same flavor. An indirect one, though is ready to use and doesn’t make too much smoke.
Wood fired barbecues are the evolution of the classic embers’ barbecue and they are made up of a basin where you put the charcoal, a metal grid over it, where you put the food to cook. Compared to embers’ barbecue, a wood fired one can get to higher temperatures thanks to the material it’s made of. For this reason a wood fired barbecue lasts longer even if at a higher initial cost. More, a barbecue prepared with natural charcoal is healthier and tastier. However, even a wood fired barbecue has its drawbacks such as its own cost, the cost of wood, its environmental footprint, the smoke and the long waiting time to prepare food.
The charcoal barbecue uses natural charcoal. Compared to other models, barbecues that use activated charcoal are made with cheaper materials because charcoal doesn’t burn and has lower cooking temperatures. For this reason, compared to a wood fired model, they have different advantages. Charcoal is less expensive than wood, it has lower initial cost and it’s easy to transport. However, it makes smoke, the fire starters can be toxic, it takes some time to fire up and you constantly need to check the charcoal.
Gas barbecues let you cook on plates that reach the optimal temperature in a few minutes. The gas is supplied from a tank under the cooking tray in a storage with doors or on an open shelf with a cloth to hide it. The cooking tray on a gas barbecue can come with steel or cast iron grids or plates, as well as molten or natural rock. A side hob is really useful. It lets you cook food that produces annoying vapor or smells (fried food, fish, some kinds of vegetables). Undoubtedly, the advantage with gas barbecues is that they don’t make smoke and smells caused by burning fuel. Then, they’re easy to use and gas is really cheap. Its drawbacks are the higher initial cost compared to a wood fired or a charcoal barbecue, its encumbrance, the weight that makes it hard to move around, and the maintenance and safety because gas tanks can be dangerous if not properly maintained.
Then you have electric barbecues. Plug it in and start cooking! Electricity powers up a coil under the cooking grid that becomes hot so you can cook the food. These are undoubtedly the ideal solution if you don’t have enough space because they can also be used indoors. They are easy to use but their yield is function of their power. A low power electric barbecue won’t grill your food, it will boil it. The lid is a useful accessory because it lets you use all the heat coming from the coil thus reducing energy consumption. Certainly the flavor will be different compared to a wood fired barbecue but food will still be tasty.
Enjoy your barbecue!