There are many barbecues available and some are better than others depending on what you want to cook, the space you have and your particular preference. Barbecues fall in to three groups;
- Charcoal or Gas Grill
Charcoal is really the essence of barbecue and there is some snobbery amongest charcoal barbecueists (Is that a word?) about those who prefer gas. And I must admit to falling into that school of thought too. Charcoal imparts a wonderful flavour into you food that gas simply can't. Charcoal cooking really doesn't need to be a dirty or messy business but I see the instant heat a gas barbecue has to offer as potentially advantageuos. Certainly charcoal barbecues can appear complex if you don't know what it is all about but if you do get to know your charcoal barbecue you will cook great BBQ with that distinctive smokey flavour. Grilling really refers to the technique of placing meet over hot coals. You will learn more about that on the grilling page.
Kettle barbecues are my personal favourite. These barbecues have the ability grill food over hot charcoal but are also versatile enough to hot roast. Hot roasting a whole chicken or a pork loin produces wonderfully flavoured food which is moist and produced that all important crispy skin. Who can resist? Kettle barbecues will also let you cook low and slow. This is a wonderful cooking technique that produces food packed with flavour, is moist and is so tender it will literally break up under it's own weight. If you have ever had a pulled pork sandwich or had a hog roast and wanted to make it yourself this is the barbecue for you.
Portable barbecues come in different styles from a simple bucket with a grill over the top, mini kettles and skottle braais which are particularly common in Southern Africa. Portable barbecues let you cook small amounts of meat quickly. If you don't have much food to cook or need to cook quickly or on the move portable barbecues are ideal. You'll need to look at what's available as you may have no desire to own a small barbecue that needs a gas bottle to be taken with it. Though in the case of a skottle braai the gas bottle forms part of the barbecue itself. I like the small charcoal grills though the skottle braai is great in the cooler months or for cooking breakfast outside.
In the USA offset smokers are common for cooking low and slow food. In Europe these are much harder to find. Without doubt these cookers can produce great food. As they are quite bulky I don't have one. A number of manufactures, including Weber, produce upright smokers. These could probably be adapted to work like a kettle grill. These cookers are smaller than the offset and are capable of cooking huge amounts of meat at a time. If you are determined to cook low and slow and need to do it in large quantities or if the kettle barbecue technique proves more work than you want, then these are the equipment you need.