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Choosing the right barbecue

Barbecues have a cult following, both at home and in restaurants, dishing up everything from 24-hour ribs and Southern-style pulled pork to vegan delights. Choosing the right fuel for your barbecue will be the most important aspect of your search but it’s not the only element to consider.

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  • How to choose the ideal barbecue?

    When browsing for a barbecue, you will need to consider your options in regards to fuel source, fixed or mobile installation and how the coating material influences grilling. There are a few other characteristics to contemplate, and we’ve also put together some tips for buying a commercial barbecue or one for the home.

    • Power source
    • Fixed or mobile installation
    • Coating material
    • Other characteristics
    • Intended use: home or commercial
  • How will the power source affect my choice of barbecue?

    Power source will influence mobility, installation, flavor, cook time and price. Those purchasing a wood-, charcoal-, or pellet-burning barbecue will have the opportunity to choose fuels with built-in flavor options. Certain types of wood provide certain flavor characteristics.

  • What should I know about charcoal barbecues?

     

    Charcoal barbecue by PALAZZETTI

    Charcoal barbecue by PALAZZETTI

    Culinary enthusiasts love charcoal barbecues for the distinct strong and smoky flavor this method imparts on char-broiled food. However, this method requires light up, heat up and clean up which all take time, making charcoal better for home environments than commercial ones. At their most basic, they are open-style. They can also be on a tripod, in a barrel, or ceramic and round. A chimney accessory can help heat up charcoal faster.

    The disadvantage is that they require extensive clean-up and some models can be on the expensive side.

  • What should I know about gas barbecues?

    Gas barbecue by STEEL

    Gas barbecue by STEEL

    Consistent and fast, gas barbecues are quick to heat up and clean up and allow precise temperature control, making them a convenient choice for both hospitality and residential environments. Spur of the moment cooking is possible when you just turn the dial and there’s no need to constantly prod coal to reach the ideal temperature. Whether you choose natural gas (permanent hookup) or propane (tanks) will determine portability, but the market offers a large selection of models at all price points. Hospitality project managers can select those with six or more burners, for example.

    • PRO: Evenly cooked meat, time-saving and simple to clean
    • CON: Gas installation and safety regulations to meet. Some chefs believe there’s a loss of smokey flavor and moisture
  • What do I need to know about wood-burning barbecues?

     

    Wood-burning barbecue by INVICTA

    Wood-burning barbecue by INVICTA

    Wood-burning barbecue enthusiasts are passionate about their smoke-infused meat. The type of wood influences both cook time and flavor, whether it’s the slow burn of chestnut wood or the smokey fruit flavor that comes from apple wood. In an indoor setting, ventilation will be a significant consideration.

    • PRO: Smoked wood flavor
    • CON: Inefficient fuel source that influences air quality
  • What do I need to know about electric barbecues?

    Electric barbecue by WEBER

    Electric barbecue by WEBER

    Short on space? Size matters. With hassle-free cleanup, electric barbecues can be built smaller, so they’re the ideal solution for compact areas. They can be used indoors and out, provided there’s an electrical outlet. They preheat faster and consistently and are most often used in small kitchens, by apartment-dwellers, or in spaces where charcoal or wood-burning is not permitted.

    • PRO: Heat settings, quick to assemble, start at low price points
    • CON: No smokey flavor
  • What do I need to know about bioethanol barbecues?

    Bioethanol barbecue by Bio-Blaze

    Bioethanol barbecue by Bio-Blaze

    A relatively new way to cook, bioethanol barbecues are gentle on the earth, easy to clean, and come with no wires or smoke. They require bioethanol fuel—and a lot of it, as the energy content is a lot lower than that of gas—but this fuel is non-toxic, non-polluting, and rapidly renewable, as it can be sourced from common agricultural crops such as hemp, sugarcane, potato, cassava, and corn.

    • PRO: Independent of gas or electricity, environmentally friendly
    • CON: High price point. Require a lot of fuel
  • What do I need to know about multi-fuel barbecues?

    Multi-fuel barbecues, also known as hybrid barbecues are for those who desire the best of all worlds. They integrate gas, wood and charcoal in one high-performance grill so the choice between smokey flavor, speedy cook time and speedy cleanup is no longer required.

    • PRO: Multiple grilling methods
    • CON: Can be prohibitively expensive. Not portable. Require a lot of space.
  • What do I need to know about pellet barbecues?

    Pellet barbecue by LineaVz

    Pellet barbecue by LineaVz

    Just like wood-burning barbecues, pellet barbecues are all about the smokey flavor. Likewise, pellets are an inefficient fuel source influenced by regulations. The major benefit of pellet barbecues is that they are self-feeding – so no need for constant care with more wood. High or low smoke settings are possible, and some allow the change of wood type (and therefore flavor) by the simple switch of a lever. The amount of ash produced by your cooking will determine how often this barbecue needs to be partially disassembled and vacuumed out. Some models consolidate ash into an easily removable compartment accessed at the flip of a switch, extending time between vacuuming. Different brands may require different pellets, causing variation in smoke or flavor. It should also be noted that pellet barbecues are notorious for not getting as hot as other types of barbecues.

    • PRO: Smoked wood flavor
    • CON: Inefficient fuel source that influences air quality
  • How to install a barbecue

    Installation of your barbecue can trim down your options for the power source. If you are short on space, you’re going to need to think carefully on just how many precious square feet are used. A compact barbecue has fewer nooks and crannies to clean and may be easily set up, however some fuel styles are only available for large barbecues. Now for your usage. Taking your barbecue with you requires ease of portability—whether it’s for picnicking or tailgating. A fixed barbecue, while often larger, can provide more cooking options. However, it can also require professional installation.

  • How does the coating material of the barbecue affect grilling?

    Ceramic barbecue by Big Green Egg

    Ceramic barbecue by Big Green Egg

    The most common materials used to make barbecues are metal, concrete, ceramic, stone, and engineered stone; however, you can also consider selecting a barbecue made of clay, composite, and other materials. Cast iron, for example, can be restored with a little elbow grease involving steel wool and flaxseed oil. An advantage to ceramic is that it cooks from all sides, not just from the bottom. On the ArchiExpo website, you can easily generate a list of options made from any of the materials mentioned.

  • What are some other characteristics for barbecues?

    Barbecues have diverse accessory offerings which can be built-in or added on, ranging from wooden shelves, countertops and extra grills such as a sear burner for pellet burners which are notorious for not getting that hot.

    Elements to consider:

    • weight
    • indoor/outdoor use
    • maximum temperature
    • speed of preheat
    • ease of mobility
    • ease of assembly
    • resistance to wear-and-tear
    • finger prints (less likely on stainless steel)
  • What should I know when choosing a barbecue for my home?

    A barbecue for your home will depend on available space, placement (outdoor or indoor), ease of use, and desired cook time. Those who entertain often or have large families will need a larger grill space. Apartment or condo dwellers may only be permitted electric barbecues. Portability may be a deciding factor. Beyond space available, configuration of a barbecue in your home will be influenced by location, regulations and choice of fuel. In warmer climates, consider a connection outside for a gas barbecue.

  • How to choose a commercial barbecue

    Smoked meat can be a major draw to a restaurant, however buyers must be prepared for regulations and costly professional installation. Carbon monoxide extractors and ventilation systems must be carefully designed. Buyers should also consider available space and ease of use for cooking staff. The site, which will determine the applicable safety regulations, is very important to consider for a commercial barbecue.

  • The latest trends

    In both home and hospitality environments, smokers and slow cooking are all the rage, with a jump in wood-burning options for the home. Barbecues are now also coveted for vegetarian or vegan lifestyles. Outdoor kitchens are no longer limited to warm climates. Pellet barbecues, relatively new to the market, are on the rise, in part because they are increasingly cheaper with more market appreciation and competition. Popular attachments include temperature probes that plug your meal into probe ports for constant and precise digital temperature moderation and attached propane sear burners, which can provide the perfect sear for barbecues (such as pellet stoves) which might not reach as high temperatures as a chef would like. Embracing the digital future is well underway, with barbecues now coming with their own apps, controllable via your phone.

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