When my husband and I first bought Heatlie Barbecues a colleague told us that a typical customer started barbecuing on a round, three-legged portable gas barbecue like everyone had in the 1970s and 80s. Then, when they wanted something more substantial and impressive, they graduated to an outdoor kitchen-type unit, complete with five-burners, half grill, a giant hood big enough to fit a small pig on a rotisserie, warming rack, wok burner on the side and cupboard underneath. Once they realised that they rarely used the grill section – or that it was prone to flare ups, always burnt the sausages and was impossible to clean – they changed to a unit with a steel hotplate and optional roasting hood, like Heatlie’s Island Gourmet Elite.
With so many different types of barbecues on the market today, how do you know which is the right one for you? As a first step, consider how you will use the barbecue. Do you regularly entertain for large crowds, or will you use your barbecue for everyday family meals? These factors will determine the durability you require, the size of the cooking area and any extra features you may need, such as roasters and cabinet space.
Next, think about where your barbecue will sit. A shiny, freestanding five or six-burner – complete with bottle opener, infra-red burners, side tables and a host of bells and whistles – makes a statement in any backyard, and may be the right option if your barbecue is going to sit on a pergola or deck.
If you’re shopping for a barbecue to fit into an outdoor kitchen, then consider whether you want a unit that is integrated into the bench, or one that slides in from the front. Consider also the type of bench-top you have – if it’s made from a combustible material like laminate or wood, then look for a model like ours which can be installed directly into any type of bench-top.
Of course, the whole point of having a barbecue is to create delicious food, so it’s vital to consider the type of taste and flavour you want to achieve when barbecuing. If you love the smokey taste of a flame grill, then consider one of the charcoal models that are popular overseas. On a recent trip to Cambodia my family dined on fresh seafood cooked over coals in front of us on the beach, the delicious result being succulent seafood juicy with the flavours of the sea.
On the practical front, many barbecues are a nightmare when it comes to cleaning, so this is another important consideration when choosing. Check how easily the barbecue plate can be cleaned with a flat scraper, and consider the amount of flat areas compared to grills and other added features – they make look good on the showroom floor, but they are notorious for collecting fat and grime and are often difficult to remove.
Finally, don’t fall into the trap of buying the cheapest unit on the market. For longevity and quality you can’t beat Australian-made. Not only is it a good investment, your purchase will help the local economy and create jobs – and that’s got to be a good thing.