Spring is here and summer isn’t far behind, so you should probably start preparing yourself for BBQ season. Getting the right Weber BBQ is a good start – and that holds water whether you want an actual Weber or any other BBQ brand. The Weber company makes such high-quality models and has become so ubiquitous that we frequently say ‘Weber’ as a generic descriptor for any grill. So as you start your research, be sure to make the distinction.
Weber itself has a wide range of BBQs, from its cylindrical Smokey Mountain series to its charcoal powered Kettle range. They even have electrical BBQs and built-in units. But Weber isn’t the only option. There are lots of other respectable brands, like Lopi, Regency, Beefeater, or Masport. The brand you select will depend on various factors, so let’s look at some pointers that should go on your (window)shopping checklist.
Think about your preferred power option. If you decide you want a wood fired heater, double-check that they have ovens or cooktops built in. Freestanding potbelly designs are attractive, but while some can be used for BBQ, others are purely for heat and aesthetics. You can’t always tell by looking, so if you’re in doubt, ask. Tactile shoppers prefer to walk around and test BBQs in person. This does have advantages because objects online can be smaller than they seem. That said, web-based catalogues have come a long way.
Many shopping sites offer multiple views of their products, and some have interactive features like color-switches and 360-degree-tours. A color-switch lets you tap a button to see what your BBQ would look like in another shade. Virtual tours can let you look ‘inside’ the cooker, ‘opening the door’ and ‘turning it around to view the fixtures and electricals’. It’s an immersive shopping experience, and you can do it on the john.
When you’re shopping in person, salespeople might dance around the price conversation. They’re trained to persuade you with features and add-ons because giving you the price up-front may scare you away. Some online displays apply this principle too, asking you to ‘email for a free quote’. Luckily, not all outlets make you do the work. Look for a site that has prices listed, or include your price range in your Google search.
When you’re ‘measuring your wallet’ don’t restrict yourself to purchase price. Find out how much fuel costs, how easily available it is, whether the BBQ will be delivered to your house, and whether they charge for repair and maintenance. These little-considered factors could drive the cost of your BBQ really high. If you’re buying a used unit, test it first. If at all possible, have the seller fix a quickie burger while you watch, and taste it, just to be sure.
While your BBQ doesn’t necessarily reside in the kitchen, the maintenance it requires could feed into your choice. How much effort are you willing to put into getting your BBQ clean? If you’re a low-effort chef, look for features that suit your habits. Wood-fired ovens and charcoal barbeques take longer to light and require more clean-up, because of the ash and soot. But they have a more distinct flavour than gas or electric BBQs, so if that’s important, check for quick-lighting models.
These come in many styles. Some have electric ignition via gas spark, while others have GreenStart technology, pushing hot air onto the fuel at high pressure to ignite wood in seconds. As for post-BBQ hygiene, look for models that have ash catchers or drip trays. They can easily be pulled out, emptied, and slotted back into place. You should also decide how far you want your BBQ to travel. Portable units are lightweight and built for small spaces, though even big BBQs can be fitted with castors so you can drag them from the kitchen to store.
As you research, think about any special features you might want. Many of us are digitally-driven, so look for something that syncs with your phone. (iGrill apps allow you to monitor cooking temps and cook times.) Look at the BBQs in your friends’ houses to see if they have anything you like. Online searches will pop up lots of unfamiliar terms, and some of these terms provide added convenience. For example, you could look at emission volumes or efficiency rates – they gauge how environmentally friendly your BBQ is.
You can also check customer reviews, though you should take them with a bag of salt. To assess the validity of a review, check its specificity. Paid reviews will be generic (and that includes ‘buyers’ that are paid to be negative). A sincere testimonial may talk about their cooking experience, or tout particular features that appealed to them. Happy shopping!