Welke BBQ/brandstof kies ik best? #Start2BBQ
WHICH BBQ/FUEL SHOULD I CHOOSE? #START2BBQ
More and more often I get questions about the basics of BBQ. Until now I have written very little about it. Simply because I assumed that there are enough things to be found on the web. However, my sons are starting to get an age where they would like to learn how the BBQ works. So I thought it would be a nice idea to share their experiences together with the tips and observations that might be of interest to others. Thanks to Lidl Belgium I got their mini Kamado to kick off this series. Is this a good BBQ for this price? What are the remaining options? What would suit me best? Which fuel do I choose? Etc… lots of questions that can arise when buying a new BBQ. In this post we’ll go over some options.
Disclosure: this post uses the mini-kamado donated by Lidl Belgium. In addition, use is made of affiliate links. All opinions expressed are personal and sincere.
For the first session I will learn my sons how to make a simple burger. But without fire you don’t have a burger. A lot of questions arise around the choice of your BBQ and how to start it. More often than I expected I have to admit. The traditional Belgian hot and fast “Barbecook” approach seems to have a lot to do with this. A lot of charcoal in the starter and as many Tv-Chefs still say: “wait until the coals are white-hot”. This may be a good tip to generate enough heat on a grill, yet for a low and slow BBQ session it doesn’t work. In this way you quickly have a much too high temperature which is more difficult to correct. Especially in a BBQ where the insulating ceramic has the function to retain heat. But how can it be done?
CHOICE OF FUEL
The first choice you have to make is which fuel to use. Charcoal is the best known fuel. However, there are several other sources of heat available. Let’s go over them and think about the pros and cons.
- Charcoal: charcoal is an excellent heat source for open fires and kamado BBQs. Due to pyrolysis during the development of charcoal, all volatiles have evaporated from the wood. Because of this, most charcoal is odourless and burns very pure. The advantage is that this way you can choose which aroma you add. Moreover, this fuel is very much influenced by the amount of oxygen. Because of this, the temperature of the charcoal can be raised and lowered very quickly by playing with the oxygen. Especially with the Kamado these properties are very important. Some types of charcoal are not completely charred and can still give off a smoky taste (no problem unless you don’t want this taste in your dish).
- Briquettes: Briquettes are crushed charcoal that is pressed and bound with a binding agent. Because of this process, the briquettes are more compact and stable in temperature, but ignite less quickly. Due to the added binders it is not recommended to use them in a kamado. Especially with the cheaper briquettes, the binder can give an unpleasant odor that attaches in the ceramics of your Kamado. With other BBQ models this is not a problem and especially for low and slow sessions you can enjoy the advantage of it’s stability. Because of the pressing procedure, these briquettes are less sensitive to the influence of oxygen so fluctuations are less strong and you can obtain a stable temperature in your BBQ for a longer period of time. Coconut briquettes have the best qualities and have the advantage of being odourless. Here too, you can create extra flavour by adding smoke wood.
- Wood: You can certainly BBQ on pure wood. This way you can get an aroma in your meat without adding smoke wood. By limiting the addition of oxygen you will get a combustion that is incomplete so the aromas in the wood can provide a pleasant smoky taste. Pure wood, however, is more difficult to keep stable and ignites quickly, resulting in greater heat. Moreover, when fully ignited, wood will also generate less flavour.
- Pellets: The Pellet BBQ is not yet very well known in our regions. In America, brands such as Traeger have been around for 30 years. Pellets are grains of pressed wood, wood shavings and sawdust that are easy to dose. Pellet grills are usually electronically controlled which makes it easy to control the temperature. It is a CO2 neutral heat source with a high calorific value for optimal operation. This allows you to achieve the desired temperature with a small dosage. More economical than other fuels (although this strongly depends on your type of bbq). ATTENTION: do not cook on pellets from a pellet stove. These are often made from wood species that are not suitable for consumption (think of conifers).
- Gas and Electric: we take these sources together because the properties/limitations are almost the same. Both fuels are very well controllable in temperature and are not made from wood. Both are odourless and therefore create little BBQ feeling. To solve this, heat shields are built in on which the fats can drip, which in turn do spread aroma. But to get a real smoky taste you have to use smoker tubes.
CHOICE OF MODEL
Besides the fuel, the model is also very important. Here too there are many different types. Electricity and gas are not taken into account here. Not because I am against it, but if you want to go for convenience rather than the BBQ feeling, the Pellet Grill seems a more suitable choice. Moreover, in this overview I limit myself to appliances I have a personal experience with. If you’d like to read more about the Gas grills I can recommend this article on the Napoleon Rogue I wrote a couple of years ago before I knew about pellet grills.
- Charcoal Grill: the Grill is probably the most sold BBQ in our area next to the Kettle BBQ. However, it has a number of limitations that would make us not recommend it. Due to the lack of a lid, you can’t create a closed circuit which makes the aromas disappear into the air and makes it harder to control the temperature. You can only control the temperature by placing the grate at a distance. Low and slow BBQ and smoking food therefore requires a lot of creativity and even then the result will often not be optimal.
- Kettle BBQ and Smoker: The Kettle BBQ or bullet smoker are better suited for this (think of Weber models). These BBQ types have a lid and air supply control which makes it possible to control the temperature by playing with the air supply. By using briquettes the temperature can be kept stable for a long time. In addition, by dividing the coals on one side or by using a heat shield you can fend the radiant heat from the coals (this is called indirect BBQ’s) which gives you a more even cooking in your meat and drastically reduces the risk of burning. These models are usually less insulated which makes the temperature more unstable.
- Kamado: the kamado is a ceramic BBQ. In terms of construction, it is very similar to the previous type. Big Green Egg and The Bastard are the best known models in our region but there are also many other quality brands that make this type of BBQ. Think for example of the Kamado Joe that produces very high quality Kamados. On the other hand, as a starter model, the little one of the Lidl can be a nice acquaintance at an affordable price. The properties are similar to the Kettle BBQ but even more user friendly. Because of the ceramics of which it is composed, this BBQ keeps the heat and moisture in the BBQ better. This makes the Kamado much more stable and easier to work with. Moreover, the meat also remains juicier without adding moisture. The temperature can be controlled very specifically with the air vents so from low and slow (+-100 ° C) to red-hot (300 + C) can be worked. This makes everything you would like to do on a BBQ possible.
- Pellet Grill: The Pellet Smoker is perhaps the most user-friendly wood fired BBQ there is. By means of a control panel you can set the temperature and it can be set to a few °C with certain types. You always work indirectly which makes the cooking very even. However, you do need electricity all the time, which is not the case with the other models. Another advantage is that you can reach a minimum temperature of 66-75°C on some models, which is very pleasant for smoking delicate pieces like salmon without loss of taste or moisture. In addition, these models can also reach temperatures up to 260°C-290°C. Moreover, these appliances often have more space than the average BBQ.
- BBQ Bowls/plancha (Ofyr/Tiger Fire/…) Just like the grill, these BBQs are rather limited in possibilities due to the lack of a lid. With this type of BBQ, ambiance is paramount. By lighting a fire in the bowl, a steel ring on which you can cook is heated. This allows you to prepare a tasty dish on wood fire in a cozy way. In terms of showcooking content and cosiness, no model can match this type of BBQ. But that’s all I feel. The taste of BBQ is more difficult to get into and the possibilities are rather limited.
In terms of choice, it depends very much on what you think is most important to you. Personally I prefer the Kamado and Pellet BBQ (next to the campfire) above all other models. Simply because I believe that both in terms of taste and user-friendliness these models are best developed. Recipes for the kamado and Pelletsmoker can be found on this site! The search function will help you! Can’t find something? Don’t hesitate to contact us!
When choosing a model, you will notice that prices can rise sharply. Cheaper models also do their thing, but often have their limitations in their finished product. If you can live with that, then a cheaper model like the Lidl model (which in itself is quite well finished although it is very small) is a good model for you. Do you want quality over the years with more options and warranty? Then a more expensive model is definitely worth considering!
I WANT THE BIGGEST ONE!
Me too, but that’s not the case! Although BBQ may go hand in hand with a game of muscle rolling, just like in other areas of life it’s not always the case that whoever has the biggest performs best. BBQ’s come in all sizes. The smallest ones are often very limited but have the advantage that they are easy to move around. As an extra model they are very nice. If it’s your first BBQ I wouldn’t start with the smallest one. Before you know it you’ll have a taste for it and you’ll soon run out of space, especially if you’re going to work indirectly. For example with a kettle with a grill surface of 47cm. you soon run out of space to feed the family. Moreover, these smaller models are often more difficult to control because the space between the cooking surface and coal is very small.
But even the biggest is not always the best choice. Larger models may have a larger grill surface and more distance to the coal, but that also makes these large models using more fuel and more difficult to control. Between the coals, hot spots often arise where the fire burns hotter. When opening the lid, more oxygen is sucked in. If you don’t work professionally then these models are best left out. It takes almost daily use to get to know your BBQ well and to adapt to these challenges. If you have more people, it is often more practical to work on 2 medium models.
Hopefully this overview could help you choose the right BBQ/fuel. If you have any questions, please let us know! In a next post in the series #start2bbq we will look at how you can light the BBQ without problems. Good luck with your choice!