Here are some key considerations to take into account before investing.
- Available space (allow plenty of worktop space to prep and serve).
- Frequency (how often you cook outside should guide you to your level of investment).
- Preferred style of food (love pizza, go for an integrated wood-fired oven).
- Usual party size (opt for equipment that will cater for a regular maximum party size).
- Services available (you will need a water supply and drainage for a sink for example).
- Proximity to internal kitchen (the further away, the more you'll need to duplicate).
- The build style (traditional, rustic, to match the house, contemporary).
- Location (over hanging trees and wooden fences can create a fire hazard).
- Budget (type and brand of outdoor kitchen and fuel will be key factors).
- Access restrictions (island Units come pre-fabricated, are 1m+ wide and heavy).
Once you have decided that you want to have an outdoor kitchen,you have a number of choices with respect to type of kitchen as well as a large selection of accessories.
- Built-in bespoke, modular or island kitchen?
- Wood, gas or charcoal as fuel?
- Is the size of cooking area needed in line with the garden/patio space available?
- What are your desired appliances and accessories? Do they match?
- What is the level of investment you are prepared to make?
- Select your components: Grills and side burners, storage, sinks and taps, chilling and refrigeration, as well as speciality cooking equipment (eg. Wood-Fired and Pizza Ovens, Kamado)
CHARCOAL OR GAS?
Contrary to popular belief, gas or charcoal simply provide the heat source and are not responsible for the flavour of the food that you cook; that depends on the food itself, and how you cook it. That BBQ flavour comes from the smoke and vaporisation created by the juices and fat from the food dropping on the hot coals or the 'flavouriser' bars or stones in the case of gas. You can also add wood chips or chunks to create a smokey flavour (this is often a lot easier with a charcoal BBQ). Gas or charcoal - it's a personal choice, see the BBQ page for more detail on how to select the right one for you.
PROPANE OR NATURAL GAS?
If you decide to go for gas then you often have the option of either Propane (LPG) or Natural Gas (NG). Keep in mind that you have to purchase and keep a supply of propane tanks to fuel your grill or risk running out halfway through the cook. In the case of Natural Gas, you will need to have your grill hooked up to a gas main. This means that you've got to be near a gas line and be willing to pay for that extension, however, this means you'll never have to worry about running out of gas! In addition to the convenience, natural gas is also a bit greener than propane. While neither fuel will contribute too much to your carbon footprint, natural gas does burn even cleaner than propane and is much cheaper once installed.
What size grill do I need?
This really depends upon how many you cook for and if you want to serve a veritable feast all at once or in courses. However, as a guide;
- For 2 people, you'll need a small cooking area of 1000cm² to 1500cm².
- For 4 people, you'll need a cooking area generally around 1600 to 2000cm².
- For 6 people, a larger area of 2000 to 3000cm² is usually considered about right.
- For 8 people, the larger gas barbecues 3000 to 4000cm² will be enough.
- Party animals? Griddles over 4000cm² are available.
- Of course, if your guests vary in number, cooking on a larger gas grill with multiple burners gives you the flexibility to use only 1 or 2 burners so that you won't waste too much gas.
How many burners do I need?
Budget, brand, grill size, design, actual and perceived requirements: the list goes on. The question should probably read: How many burners do I need "for me"? So, let us detail out a few factors to consider and then the choice will be up to you, personal to your cooking style, needs and requirements.
Firstly, when we talk about burners, we mean the 'primary' or 'main burners', the ones under the cooking grate that you actually use for grilling, and not the 'secondary burners' (i.e. the side burner, rotisserie burner, smoker burner, or sear burner, etc). The main burners provide the heat source and power to your grill and are key to successful cooking as they control the temperature. Secondary burners can be very useful features, but only if you will use them. For example, if you enjoy steak, particularly if you like it rare or medium-rare, then consider adding an infrared or searing burner for intense heat and better results. Check what different models offer and consider if you think that they will form part of your cooking regime.
There are two types of cooking when it comes to grilling on your barbecue, irrespective of whether its gas or charcoal. They are 'direct' (grilling) and 'indirect' (roasting) cooking. The former involves getting one area of the grill hot with the heat source directly beneath the food. The latter is done by having no direct heat below the food and cooking is done by a convection flow from the surrounding burners.
Whilst you can do indirect cooking on a 2 burner grill, 3 or more is easier and better. Having more burners means that you will have a more "diversified" grill - in other words, you can cook different items at different heat levels at the same time (you can have hot, medium, and low zones). For example, you could be searing a steak over high heat while roasting some delicate peppers at a lower heat in another grill zone.
Cooking outdoors is a great way of getting the most out of your outdoor space and reconnecting with nature while you whip up something flavourful and healthy for yourself, family or friends. However, in order to keep this essential appliance working at maximum efficiency, you'll need to clean it fairly regularly as you would an internal kitchen stove. Not only will investing a little time and elbow grease make your grill look better, it will last longer and your food will continue to taste as it should be... delicious!
Many people wonder just how often they should scrub down their grills, and the answer will vary depending on how regularly you use your it. A thorough scrub-down should be performed at least once a year with some quick maintenance every time you use it. If you do not clean your grill regularly then a build-up of grease and grime can lead to food absorbing unpleasant flavours, parts clogging and corroding, and poor performance.
Cleaning Grates: This prevents food from sticking on your grill making it much easier to cook on. There are a lot of products on the market for cleaning your grate, but really any good stiff wire brush will do. Before you start cooking you need to ensure you have a hygienic surface to cook on, and this can be achieved with some simple, regular cleaning.
Charcoal Grills: One of the great things about charcoal grills is that it's much easier to clean after every use. So try to clean the grate every time you use your charcoal grill and brush out the ashes and cooked on foods. This will cut down on excess smoke and bad flavours. Periodically, get in there and really scrape out all that stuff that just seems to develop on the bottom of your grill. At least once a year, get out a bucket of soapy water and give it a really good clean.
Gas Grills: As a rule, before you start cooking, you should heat up your grill to a medium heat for 5 - 10 minutes and then brush off any burnt-on food particles. You then know your grill is hygienic and ready to cook on. After a really big cook or if using lots of marinade, you may wish to give the grates a quick scrape whilst they are still warm as it's much easier to clean than when the grill has cooled and food has been allowed to harden onto the grate. Fairly regularly you should lift out the cooking grate and clean off the burner protectors (aka flavouriser bars).
Deep Cleaning your Gas Grill
We always advise that once a year you give your gas grill a thorough cleaning, so here is a step-by-step guide to help you:
1. Turn Off Gas and Propane
Whenever you do any cleanup or maintenance work on a gas grill, it's important to turn the gas off at the cannister.
2. Remove Burner Covers and Cooking Grates
Open your gas grill's lid and take out the burner covers, flavouriser bars, warming rack and cooking grates. These components can get pretty filthy, so you'll want to:
- Soak them in warm, sudsy water
- Scrub them with a scouring pad and dishwashing liquid
- Check for rust and pits in the metal
- Consider replacing rusty and/or worn-out covers and grates with: Porcelain enameled cast iron or Stainless steel
3. Thoroughly Clean and Inspect Burners
Now that you've removed your burner covers, you can thoroughly inspect the burners. If they've been well protected by the cover bars, they may just need a bit of tidying up. Scour them with a wire brush or steel wool. Next, spray them liberally with a degreaser and scrub away the grit with a wire brush. Take a close look at the burner holes to make sure they're clear, too. If the holes appear clogged, use a nail or straight pin to unclog them as “clogged burners" will give you uneven heat and make for poor grilling.
If your grill uses ceramic briquettes you need to make sure that these are not too heavily encrusted with cooked on foods. If they are then you should replace them to avoid bad tasting smoke that dirty rocks can produce.
4. Scrape Your Grill
A putty knife can be used to gently scrape the inside of the hood and grill to get rid of as much build-up as possible - never jab at the grill as you may damage the porcelain coating. Take an all-purpose cleaner/degreaser and spray it over both hood and grill. After it's had time to eat away the gunk, take out the garden hose and spray everything down. (What can look like paint peeling is likely to be just a film of grease so just rub down with a scourer).
After your grill is scrubbed, scoured and washed down, you'll want to thoroughly rinse it to make sure you remove all traces of degreaser, dishwashing detergent, and residue. If you have a pressure washer, you can really make your backyard grill sparkle. If you do not have a pressure washer, you can still achieve good results by using your garden hose along with a soft bristle brush.
How does my BBQ arrive?
All BBQs, if courier delivered, arrive robustly packed in a box, and require assembly. Full instructions are provided and only basic tools are needed.
Where should I site my BBQ?
Both gas and, particularly, charcoal BBQs should be placed in a sheltered spot, clear of nearby wooden fences and overhanging trees or shrubs. Never use a barbecue inside.
Do I need a cover for my BBQ?
Barbecues can live outside quite happily, without a cover, but covers do help to keep your barbecue cleaner, especially in winter. Do though always store your charcoal in a cool dry place. Gas too can live outside, but be aware that if you do use Butane it can freeze at low temperatures. We have covers for Gas canisters too.
Gas or Charcoal?
Contrary to popular belief, gas or charcoal simply provide the heat source and are not responsible for the flavour of the food that you cook; that depends on the food itself, and how you cook it. That BBQ flavour comes from the smoke and vaporisation created by the juices and fat from the food dropping on the hot coals or the 'flavouriser' bars or stones in the case of gas. You can also add wood chips or chunks to create a smokey flavour (this is often a lot easier with a charcoal BBQ). Gas or charcoal - it's a personal choice.
What's the difference between butane, propane & other patio gases?
Butane is used primarily for indoor heaters, as it freezes at low winter temperatures although some older barbecues do use it. Most Patio Gas is propane by another name, however it has a different 'snap on' regulator designed for barbecues and so is not interchangeable with standard propane containers. Many barbecues are set up to use Patio Gas, which burns at a higher temperature than butane. Always use the gas that your BBQ was designed for.
You can also have natural gas as an option. In this case you will need to have your grill hooked up to a gas main. This means that you've got to be near a gas line and be willing to pay for that extension, however, this means you'll never have to worry about running out of gas! In addition to the convenience, natural gas is also a bit greener than propane. While neither fuel will contribute too much to your carbon footprint, natural gas does burn even cleaner than propane and is much cheaper once installed.
My gas consumption has suddenly increased and/or I smell gas when I use my BBQ
Caution, you probably have a leak. Be very careful. The most likely cause is from the hose. Do not use the BBQ again until the leak source is identified and resolved. All gas suppliers have an emergency help line if in doubt. The Calor emergency contact number is 08457 444 999.
Is barbecued food bad for me?
The short answer is no, only burnt food is bad for you Not only does grilling enhance the taste of food, this cooking technique is better for your waistline as well because fat drips off of meats when they're grilled and the end result will be healthier and contain fewer calories from fat. Whilst cheap barbecues may burn food easily, cooking on a quality barbecue means there is far less chance that the food will burn. In fact, cooking outdoors has a positive effect on meat, since the air flow makes it more succulent. But barbecuing need not be restricted to meat. There are a number of delicious recipes available for vegetarian meals cooked on a barbecue. Apart from the grill, outdoor cooking equipment such as teppanyaki flat iron plates and wood fired ovens, are also extremely healthy methods of cooking. Cooking on a barbecue is no different to cooking on a stove or in an oven.
What's the use of a thermometer?
Many BBQs have a built-in thermometer that allows you to monitor and then control the temperature inside the grill when cooking, using the indirect cooking method. This will help you cook to your food to perfection every time.
There are also many food thermometers on the market that are actually inserted into food to assess their 'doneness'. The UK FSA recommend all sausages and chicken are cooked to at least 70°C. Such thermometers can offer great comfort and avoids either food being underdone or overdone as a precaution.