Planning a barbecue this weekend? All you need to know

Can you use a gas BBQ or is charcoal better? How much cash do you need to spend?

“It is, after all, the Irish way to celebrate the sun - even when it is only delivering the faintest promise of heat - by rushing out into the garden and firing up the barbecue in order to burn some meat.” File photograph: iStockPhoto

“It is, after all, the Irish way to celebrate the sun - even when it is only delivering the faintest promise of heat - by rushing out into the garden and firing up the barbecue in order to burn some meat.” File photograph: iStockPhoto

 

With sun promised for more than 15 consecutive minutes over the course of the long Easter weekend, it is understandable that many people’s thoughts will turn to eating outside - no matter how cold it actually is.

It is, after all, the Irish way to celebrate the sun - even when it is only delivering the faintest promise of heat - by rushing out into the garden and firing up the barbecue in order to burn some meat.

There is a very good chance that by Monday evening, towns and cities around the country will smell like they have fallen foul of some class of charcoal-fuelled apocalypse, so widespread will be the barbecuing.

With the barbecue back out of hibernation, what do you need to make the most of a fine (ish) Easter weekend? Can you use a gas one or is charcoal better? And how much cash do you need to spend?

What’s on offer?

We had a quick look at what is on offer and reckon you could spend less than a fiver or almost 4,000 quid on the means to cook an al fresco feast.

The most expensive machine we found was the Beefeater Signature S3000S Burner & Side Burner “Plus”, which was selling for €3,955.50 at an outdoor shop in Dublin.

Four grand? Will it drive us somewhere warm and sunny every time we fire it up? No, no it will not. Instead, what it will give us is five powerful burners, a stainless steel convection roasting hood, a viewing window, a side burner and shelves, storage baskets, towel rack, and an optional rotisserie kit. In the words of the shop, “you can’t get much bigger or more powerful than this.” 

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Weber might not sell the most expensive barbecues in the country, but they are still the kings of the barbecue world and make all shapes and sizes of gas and charcoal barbecues. The most high-end option we could find, at Woodies, was the Weber Genesis Ii E-310 gas barbecue  which could be yours for €999.99. 

New generation

The blurb goes on to promise that this is “one of a new generation of gas BBQ, created to make life simpler and fit into any lifestyle”. Its features include a built-in thermometer and that might come in handy as “Weber have created their most powerful grill engine so far”.

If you want to be all 21st-century and eco-friendly about your barbecue, you could look at the Go Sun Solar Barbecue. It is, as the name suggests, powered by the sun, so needs neither coals nor gas to cook your dinner.

On a sunny day, it will cook your dinner “to perfection” in 20 minutes, while on a not-so-sunny day, it will take an hour to cook your al-fresco feast. You just open the chrome-like panels to the elements, slide the food into the chrome chute at its core and wait.

It is portable, compact and eco-friendly and you can even drain your food of grease to make it crisp up. But is it barbecuing? Are there burned sausages? Uncooked chicken? Is it a satisfying experience? We’re not convinced.

Slightly more convincing is the Calor Mini BBQ, which sells for about €170. It’s like a mini-cooker pretending to be a barbecue. The cooking area is small, but it will get through a bunch of sausages and burgers handily enough.

The Bar-Be-Quick BBQ is a widely available disposable number and costs €3.99. By any measure, it is at the very opposite end of the scale to the Beefeater. Its key advantage is that you don’t have to invest too much or rely too heavily on our weather.

It is very easy to start once you have a match, but patience and care will be needed unless you want your food to smell of lighter fluid or to be burned to a crisp. On top of all that, of course, you have to dispose of it when you are done.

The claims for this simple foil tray are that it will be: “Ready to cook on in 20 minutes. Burns for up to 1 hour 30 minutes. FSC charcoal from well managed sources. Cooks for up to 4 people.”

If you plan on using one of these, don't use it sitting directly on grass, or you will end up with scorched earth that may take months to recover. 

You can buy charcoal-fuelled kettle barbecues for between €25 and €50 and such things always represent good value. They are easy to assemble and, although not as high-quality as some other barbecues, are still perfectly functional.

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