BBQ Battles

If the recent heatwave has given you the urge to break out the BBQ this weekend, you’re probably not alone. According to National BBQ Week, last year 131 million of us did just that and more are expected to indulge over the next few weeks as we head into August.

Here are some quick barbecue facts and figures to share at your next gathering:

  • Nearly half of us worry about giving the guests food poisoning when we hold a barbecue.
  • We like to push the boat out at the BBQ – three quarters of us spend over £80 and over two thirds like to try higher quality cuts of meat.
  • The burger is still the first thing on the barbecue, followed by a fat juicy steak.
  • Hygiene can be a problem with half of regular BBQ’ers admitting to using the same utensils for cooked and raw meat.

If you’re planning a party this weekend and need to buy a new BBQ, you’ll have a couple of different choices to ponder. The big battle in the world of barbies is not who does the cooking but whether you go for gas or traditional charcoal. Arguments on both sides can get pretty heated.

Gas vs Charcoal

For those new to the world of barbecues, it helps to realise that there are charcoal purists who wouldn’t touch a gas stove if it was given to them free with a year’s supply of Aberdeen Angus steaks.

  • Charcoal tastes better: The first thing they’ll tell you is that you don’t get the same taste with gas. The radiant heat you get out of charcoal gives that seared appearance with the crunchy surface texture.
  • Gas advocates say this is all in the mind and the fact that top restaurants cook steak over a gas hob is testament to the wooliness of this line of thinking. Charcoal fans add in that the smoky nature of their barbecue improves the taste of meat of all kinds.
  • Charcoal is cheaper: This is less contested. You can buy ready made barbecue sets for just a couple of pounds if you’re doing a small, one off garden soiree. If you’re intending to use gas, you not only have to invest in a decent grill but buy the gas cylinder to power it.
  • Good gas barbecues can cost at least a couple of hundred pounds and you should be expecting to pay closer to £1,000 for a state of the art model.
  • Gas is safer: This is not entirely true. Most of the danger with charcoal comes from chefs who have had a few too many drinks and decide to help the fire along by adding a combustible entity like petrol.
  • As long as you take the appropriate measures, both are reasonably safe in the hands of a responsible person. Charcoal grills do tend to get hotter when it comes to radiant heat, however, which means you need to be much more careful about where you place it.
  • Charcoal is easier to clean: A decent gas BBQ does take a good amount of maintenance though the latest models have features such as drip trays that catch all the fat and oil. Charcoal BBQs are generally easier to keep clean, if slightly messier, especially the more basic varieties. Storage can also be a problem for gas BBQs as they have more parts that need to be protected, particularly over the winter.
At the end of the day, it really all comes down to preference. If you like convenience and control then you might prefer to go for a gas BBQ. If you simply love that smokie smell and the crackle of hot coals, charcoal may well be your favourite. Just make sure you cook all the food properly.
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