BBQ Buying guide

If you want to spend more time outdoors this summer and get the most out of your patio, you’ll definitely want to take some time to find the perfect BBQ for your home. What kind of burner should you get? What kind of heat should your BBQ put out? Should you choose natural gas or propane? Once you narrow down what you’re looking for in a new BBQ, you can choose the right one for your backyard.

Table of contents

    1. BBQ types
    2. All about BTUs
    3. Types of burners
    4. BBQ materials
    5. Other BBQ features to look for
    6. Essential BBQ accessories

Choose your BBQ type

You may think that heat is heat when it comes to BBQs, but the fuel type you choose will affect your entire BBQing experience. Choosing between a gas or charcoal grill will have an impact on the flavour of your food, but it will also affect your grill maintenance. You’ll also want to keep in mind that many rental or strata agreements prohibit the use of certain types of grills, so make sure to check your contract if this applies to you.

image of a rooftop BBQ party with a BBQ in the foreground

Standard BBQs

Generally, there are three types of standard BBQs, distinguished by different types of fuel: natural gas, propane, and charcoal. There are also electric grills or pellet grills.

1. Natural gas BBQs save time and money

natural gas BBQNatural gas grills are a popular choice among grilling enthusiasts. They can be used by anyone who has an outdoor natural gas line installed, and they offer several advantages over other fuel types. One of the biggest advantages is that natural gas is relatively affordable. Because it comes from a gas line in your home, you’ll never have to worry about running out of fuel in the middle of grilling. Natural gas is cleaner than propane or charcoal because it burns more efficiently, and that’s good for the environment.

When choosing a natural gas grill, you’ll want to keep in mind that you’ll always be tied to the natural gas line in your home. The location of the gas line will make it difficult to move your BBQ around to different areas of your yard.

Another consideration when choosing a natural gas grill is that using natural gas will save you money in the long term, but a natural gas BBQ tends to cost more upfront. If you don’t already have a gas line, it can also be pretty pricey to have one installed.

2. Propane BBQs are easy to use

Propane and natural gas may seem a lot alike, but there are several key differences between the two. The biggest difference between the two is that propane is delivered to your grill through a propane tank and not a gas line. Some grills might not come with a tank included, so you’ll have to purchase one separately.

With a mobile propane fuel source, you can move your BBQ almost anywhere you’d like and as often as you’d like. When you run out of gas, you can easily refill or exchange your tank at most hardware stores or gas stations. Propane grills are easy to set up, fast to heat up, and will not alter the flavour of your meat as it cooks.

The downside to using propane is that it costs more than natural gas. If you plan to do a lot of grilling, propane will likely cost you more in the long run. Since propane relies on tanks instead of a gas line, you could run out of fuel in the middle of your BBQ. If you end up going with propane, you’ll want to be sure you check your fuel level prior to any cooking.

3. Get classic BBQ flavour with a charcoal BBQ

Pit Boss Ceramic Kamado PBK24 Charcoal BBQNow that we’ve covered your gas options, let’s take a look at charcoal. A charcoal BBQ burns charcoal instead of gas, and the heat from the burning coals cooks your food. Unlike gas, charcoal will not instantly ignite, so you’ll need some lighter fluid, a BBQ lighter, or another kind of fire starter to get the flames going.

It may be a little difficult to get started, but many BBQ enthusiasts swear by charcoal. Not only is charcoal a less expensive fuel than natural gas or propane, but it’s widely considered to produce the best possible flavours in meat. Charcoal is known to bring the classic smoky flavour to meats, and gas grills can’t replicate it. Charcoal also burns hotter than gas, making it perfect for searing. As they aren’t tied to a gas line and don’t require a cumbersome tank, charcoal grills are easy to transport. 

Charcoal may be affordable and flavourful, but there is a trade-off when it comes to ease of use. First of all, charcoal is messy. If you’re working with charcoal, you’re nearly guaranteed to get your hands covered in black soot. Second, you’ll have to empty your grill of the burnt up ash when you’re done grilling, so it can be challenging to clean up. Charcoal is also not the most efficient fuel source, and it can take longer to heat up than gas.

Enjoy the simplicity and health benefits of electric BBQs

Electric BBQs use electricity instead of flames to heat and cook food, much like an electric oven. You can use an electric BBQ pretty much anywhere with access to an electrical outlet.

The benefits of electric grills come from their simplicity and ease of use. Both the cost of the grill and fuel tend to be on the cheaper side. All you’ll need is an electrical outlet and you’ll be grilling in no time. Without charcoal or gas to worry about, electric grills are super easy to set up, use, and clean.

Another benefit of electric BBQs is their health and safety benefits. Since they don’t use flames, fewer carcinogens can end up in your food. You’ll also never need to worry about leaking gas fumes or the dangers of handling a pressurized propane tank. Since they’re so safe to use, electric grills are also almost universally allowed by rental and strata contracts.

The main drawback of an electric BBQ comes down to taste. Cooking without a flame may have a ton of health and safety benefits, but the flame is where that classic grill flavour comes from. Electric grills also aren’t as powerful as other types, andt they take longer to heat up and cook through food. Since they can’t cook at higher temperatures, it makes it difficult to get that nice sear on your meat. Many people love cooking with their electric BBQ due to their simplicity, but if you’re already used to that flame-grilled taste, you might find the flavour from an electric grill underwhelming.

Specialty BBQs

We’ve gone over the main types of standard BBQs, but that’s not all the grilling world has to offer. There are two more BBQs we need to talk about – the smoker or hardwood pellet grill and the portable grill.

Let your creative juices flow with a smoker

BBQ Buying GuideA hardwood pellet grill or smoker is a specialized grill that cooks your food very slowly. It burns either charcoal or wood pellets that you put inside the grill, and the smoke is used to slow cook smoked cheeses, meats, or jerkies. This method allows the food to be fully infused with delicious smoky flavour and creates super tender meat for that fall-off-the-bone texture. 

The really cool thing about a hardwood pellet grill is that if you’re using wood pellets, you can try out different types of wood to produce different flavours in your meats and cheeses. You can try hickory, maple, applewood and more to infuse your cooking with unique and delicious flavours. The possibilities are endless. If you’re looking for a different kind of grilling experience and want to get a little creative, a smoker is a great addition to your backyard.

Portable BBQs are easy to transport

Napoleon portable grill

A portable BBQ is exactly what it sounds like – a BBQ designed to be easily transported to campsites, picnics, or wherever your outdoor adventure takes you. They are designed to either be used on a raised surface like a picnic table or they come with a collapsible stand. They are available in almost any fuel type.

Portable BBQs are convenient, but because they are so compact you are limited to what you’re able to cook. You’ll be fine with burgers and hot dogs, but you probably won’t be able to roast a whole chicken. If you’re interested in a portable grill, pay special attention to the size of the grilling area as well as the grill’s weight. You’ll want it to be light enough to carry easily, while also being large enough to cook what you need.

Everything you need to know about BTUs

Now that you’ve chosen what type of BBQ you need, the next thing you’ll want to look at is BTUs.

What are BTUs?

BTUs (British Thermal Units) is a measurement of how hot a BBQ can get. The higher the BTUs, the hotter your grill. Just keep in mind that hotter isn’t always better. When a grill gets super hot, that means it’s burning more fuel, possibly more than the size of your grill requires. You need to strike a good balance between the number of BTUs and the size of your BBQ, which you can easily find with some simple math.

How many BTUs should my BBQ have?

The sweet spot for a BBQ is about 80 to 100 BTUs per square inch of cooking surface. If you want a grill with 400 square inches of cooking area, you should aim for a minimum of 32,000 BTUs (400 x 80 = 32,000) and a maximum of 40,000 BTUs (400 x 100 = 40,000). Don’t forget – higher heat means better searing, so if you’re interested in doing a lot of searing, you’ll want to aim for the higher end of the range.

Choosing the right BBQ burners

Grill buying guide

Some gas and electric grills have multiple burners, but they also have multiple kinds of burners. Having more than one burner allows you to cook different things at the same time and at different temperatures. For example, you could be searing a steak at a high heat on one burner, while simmering some sauces at a lower heat on a different burner at the same time. That can be pretty useful when you’re juggling a few different types of food at once.

How many burners do I need?

How many burners you need depends on your space restrictions and also what you intend to use the grill for. If you plan on throwing a big BBQ bash where you’re cooking different things at once, you’ll want at least a few different burners. However, while having a lot of burners may be great, it usually requires a larger grill to contain them all. If you’re going to be grilling on a balcony or with limited space, you should keep this in mind so you can limit the size of your grill.

image of a side burner from the Dyna-Glo DGB495SDP-D Propane BBQ

Side burners on your BBQ

In addition to regular burners, some BBQ models may have special types of burners. A side burner is an extra burner off to the side of your grill or on a separate side shelf. These burners are great for heating sauces or making a side dish while your entree is on the main burner. They can also be used to brew coffee or tea to go with dessert afterwards.

Do you need back burners?

Back burners, also called rear burners, are a burner towards the back of your grill. Like side burners, a back burner can be used for side dishes or sauces, but may also be equipped with BBQ accessories you can use for roasting. If you want to try new cooking techniques and get creative with your grill, having at least one side or back burner is a must.

BBQs are designed from different materials

A commonly overlooked factor when purchasing a BBQ are the materials it’s made of. The materials of different parts of your BBQ can make a huge difference in its longevity, and even how it performs in cooking.

Grate material on a BBQ

image of an open BBQ showing the grate

The materials your BBQ grates are made of will have an impact on your grilling experience. The most common grate materials are stainless steel and cast iron, and each have their own benefits. Stainless steel is the more affordable of the two, but it’s not as durable and can lose its non-stick qualities over time. 

On the other hand, cast iron is an incredibly durable material that can last virtually forever if well-maintained. Cast iron gets super hot and can hold heat for a long time, and that makes it great for roasting and searing. Of course, that also means it takes much longer to heat up than stainless steel. Cast iron is also more expensive, and requires regular cleaning and oiling to avoid rusting and stay in good condition.

Both stainless steel and cast iron can occasionally come with a porcelain coating. A porcelain coating is added to protect the underlying material and improve its aesthetic appearance.

Outer body material on a BBQ

Most BBQ bodies are commonly made of either stainless steel or aluminum. Both of these metals are resistant to corrosion and will help keep your BBQ in top shape for years to come. 

Some BBQ bodies are also painted to give a pop of colour to your outdoor space and protect it from the elements. Just keep in mind that paint can become chipped over time, leaving the underlying material exposed and vulnerable to rusting. You can protect your BBQ with a cover that can help prevent excess corrosion.

two images of the same grill, one with side shelves open and another with side shelves folded down

BBQ features you’ll love

BBQ technology has evolved, and there are quite a few great features you can choose to make your grilling experience better than ever.

Warming racks on a BBQ

side shelf BBQ

A warming rack on a BBQ is an extra grate to hold the food just above the heat so it stays nice and warm while you continue to cook. This is a great feature if you intend to cook side dishes or sauces with your grill, and you can them warm while you work on the main course. You can also use it to warm your burger buns so they are nice and toasty once your patties are ready.

Easy to clean grease tray

A grease tray is a removable tray below your cooking surface to collect the fat drippings and other waste from your food as it cooks. Since the tray is removable, it’s easy to just slide out and empty, which is much easier than trying to clean out grease from the grill itself.

Infrared burners

Did you know some BBQs use infrared technology? An infrared burner can be used to radiate heat directly into the food instead of just heating up the air around it. It means that your food cooks faster from more direct heat and it improves moisture retention, making for some of the juiciest meats you could hope for.

Side shelves

Some BBQs have side shelves available to hold utensils, plates, or whatever else you need within arm’s reach. They’re super convenient, and some can even fold down for storage or if you need a little extra space. If your grill has a side burner, it might appear on the side shelf.
bbq de weber

Convertible BBQs

Some propane BBQs can be converted to use a natural gas line with the help of a conversion kit. A convertible BBQ allows you to keep your options open, and take advantage of the cheaper fuel from your natural gas line while still having the freedom of a propane tank to move your grill around as needed. If you want the best of both worlds in a gas grill, choose a convertible BBQ.

Smart grills

A smart grill is a BBQ with a built-in or add-on Wi-Fi connection. You can connect your BBQ to your home network and use the brand’s compatible app to follow recipes. Some models of smart BBQ also have a probe you can insert in your food to monitor your cook times, and you can receive notifications on your phone when it’s time to flip your meat or take your food off the grill.

Essential BBQ accessories

So you’ve picked out your BBQ, it has the perfect amount of BTUs and burners, it’s made of quality materials, and you have all the coolest features. Now it’s time to accessorize that BBQ.

BBQ tongs and utensils

When you’re grilling, you shouldn’t use regular cooking utensils that you would use in your kitchen. For BBQing, you’ll need long-handled BBQ tools. These long handles keep your arms and hands farther from the heat and out of harm’s way. As for which utensils you should have, no self-respecting BBQer should be without a BBQ fork, spatula, and tongs.

image of a person using a wooden BBQ scraper to clean a BBQ grateGrill mitts and aprons

Even the most experienced BBQers need to remember their safety gear. Wearing grill mitts and a grilling apron protects both you and your clothing from the intense heat and possible hot splatter from grease or sauces. Always keep your safety in mind when grilling, and never cook on a grill without the proper equipment.

Grill brushes and scrapers

wood BBQ scraperIf you want to keep your BBQ in good condition, you’ll have to take good care of it. Unfortunately, that also includes cleaning it regularly. After every BBQ session, you’ll want to use a brush or scraper to keep your grill’s grates clean. If you’re worried about scratching your grates with a metal brush, you can use a wooden scraper to keep them clean while still keeping them in perfect condition (especially if they have a porcelain coating).

BBQ covers

A BBQ cover protects your grill from the rain and other elements when it’s not in use. Not only does it keep the outside of your grill dry and clean, but it prevents rust and other damage, prolonging the lifespan of your BBQ. Unless you live in a magical land that has perfect weather at all times, a BBQ cover is mandatory. Luckily, many BBQs come with a well-fitting cover included.

Smoker boxes

image of a smoker box filled with wood pelletsIf you’re curious about making your own smoked meats and cheeses but aren’t ready to commit to buying a smoker, consider picking up a smoker box to use with your regular BBQ. A smoker box is a small metal box that you can fill with wood pellets to produce smoke. Just place the box in the grill with your meat, close the lid, and let your BBQ fill with rich smoke to get that delicious smoky flavour without committing to a smoker.

Grill baskets

A grill basket is a wire basket that makes it easier to cook foods that are on the delicate side or just trickier to cook on a grill. Just load your veggies, salmon, or chicken wings into the grill basket and place it on your grill for the freedom to cook whatever you need on your BBQ.

image of a chimney starterBBQ lighters and chimney starters

A BBQ lighter is a must for lighting charcoal. If you’re struggling with the lighter, using a chimney starter is an easy way to get your charcoal burning in a snap. Simply fill the chimney with charcoal, then place newspaper in the grate below and light it up. Your charcoal will be burning in no time, and you can pour it into your grill and get started.

Take the next step

barbecue portabletifThat’s everything you need to know to choose your next BBQ. Check out the assortment of BBQs and accessories online at Best Buy to get started.

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  1. I need a replacement BBQ and this in-depth article helps a lot with the type and size of my next BBQ.

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