Gas barbecue purchasing advice: how to choose the right product

  • What You Need to Know
  • Gas grills shine with a short lead time, the avoidance of ash and the almost non-existent development of smoke.
  • In addition to the classic version as a barbecue trolley, gas barbecues are also available in a modern spherical shape and as a mobile table version.
  • In order for barbecue fans to enjoy their gas barbecue for as long as possible, they should attach importance to robustness and weather resistance when choosing the housing and grate material.
  • Additional equipment such as a side burner, a backburner and a rotating spit expand the range of functions, making the gas barbecue a universal talent.

Gas grills – heated up at full throttle

Whether in the park, in the garden or on the balcony – there is a reason why barbecuing is one of the Germans’ favourite leisure activities. A barbecue evening with family and friends combines relaxation with fun and is not only a cosy ritual for many people, but also an opportunity to develop their creative barbecue skills. But for the barbecue to be a success, you first need the right grill. While some professional grillers swear by classic charcoal grills with their typical smoky aroma, others are convinced by high-tech electric grills. Gas barbecues offer an uncomplicated alternative that also boasts a short lead time. Unlike charcoal grills and electric grills, they score points with an easily adjustable temperature, less smoke or odour development and additional equipment ranging from several burners to a separate hob.

How the gas barbecues work

Although gas barbecues are available in a wide range of variations, from simple table barbecues to luxurious barbecue trolleys, and from countless manufacturers, whether Enders, Landmann, Outdoorchef or Weber, the basic principle is the same for all models. In their basic configuration, gas barbecues have one burner, a heat distribution system, a grill grate and usually a lid. While inexpensive gas barbecues are equipped with a single central burner, high-quality models have side burners that prevent sparks from dripping liquids. Models with several burners achieve particularly even temperatures over the entire surface of the grate and thus also a better grilling result.

Unlike a charcoal or electric barbecue, gas barbecues heat with gas, usually propane or butane, which is contained in a bottle or gas container. To escape from the container, it is connected to the burner with the help of a hose system and ignited. This requires only a single ignition spark; the flame is then maintained by the gas flowing in. The gas burner under the grill grate heats it without burning fat. In addition, the burner ensures that the hot air is well distributed so that the food is optimally cooked.

Depending on the model, heat is distributed via a pipe system, lava or ceramic stones or heated metal plates. Gas grills with a pipe system have numerous small holes from which gas flows to supply the burners. The lava stones are also heated by the flames, but because they store the heat well, they still give off heat even after the flame has gone out. When the fat and juices from the grilled food drip onto the stones, no harmful fumes are produced as with charcoal grills, but they can flare up. To prevent this, some modern gas barbecues catch the dripping liquid in a bowl. This is filled with water before use so that the fat cools down in it without sticking. Large-area grills, on the other hand, use a different method: they heat up a metal plate. Since the food is separated from the actual flame, the dripping fat does not interfere.

Users place the food on the grill or warming rack. The lid above the grill retains the heat generated and enables even cooking from all sides. If you grill with the lid closed, you can check the temperature inside the cooking chamber with a thermometer and adjust the heat level as needed with the gas flow regulator.

gas barbecue construction
Construction and operation of a typical gas barbecue.

Hardly any ash, dirt and lead time – The advantages over charcoal and electric

Since barbecuing is like a world view for many passionate barbecuers, it is not surprising that there is a religious war between them. When it comes to the question of the mode of operation, i.e. electric, charcoal or gas, opinions differ. While traditional grillers swear by the original feeling with charcoal and barbecue lighter, fans of the electric barbecue keep the option open to move the barbecue indoors in case of bad weather. In comparison, you have to dig a little deeper into your pocket for a gas barbecue. Depending on the model, charcoal barbecues cost between 10 and 250 euros, whereas the prices for gas barbecues start at 50 euros and go up to 600 euros. Although gas barbecues are much more expensive to buy, the operating costs are lower. The gas is ultimately cheaper than the running costs for charcoal and lighter.

The easy-to-use gas barbecues offer many advantages over charcoal and electric versions. Unlike charcoal grills, they are ready for use immediately: Gas grillers simply ignite their burner and put sausage, steak and co. on the hot grate within a few minutes, whereas charcoal grills need at least half an hour to reach the desired temperature. Since there is no need for time-consuming lighting, the lead time is much shorter. By the way, the same applies to switching off the grill: as soon as users turn off the gas supply with the rotary control, the grill (with the exception of lava grills) cools down within half an hour. With a charcoal grill, on the other hand, users have to wait for the charcoal to burn out.

Rustic aroma also with gas grills

If you don’t want to do without the typical wood and smoke aroma, simply use different types of wood. When moistened or wrapped in aluminium foil, smaller smoking chips or coarser woodchunks create a similar smoky atmosphere to charcoal grills when the lid is closed.

Operating a gas barbecue is not only easier, but also safer compared to coal barbecues. Electric ignition is at the touch of a button and a safety valve cuts off the gas supply as soon as the flame goes out. Since there is no risk of a flash fire even if used incorrectly, as is the case with charcoal barbecues, the risk of injury is also much lower. Instead of constantly adding charcoal to maintain the temperature, the heat on gas barbecues can be controlled in a relaxed manner via a stepless regulator. Due to the even distribution of heat, the roasting is also more even, resulting in better grilling results. Since the gas flames are adjustable, the temperature can be easily adapted to the food being grilled.

A great advantage for all patio and balcony lovers is the low level of smoke produced by gas barbecues. Unlike charcoal barbecues, there is no need to extinguish the fire with water or to let the embers burn out for a long time. There is also no need for dripping fat to swirl up ash. On the one hand, this makes cooking much healthier, and on the other hand, it also makes cleaning easier, as neither ash nor soot need to be removed.

Pro Points
  • Quickly ready for use
  • Adjustable temperature
  • Even heat distribution
  • Reduced smoke and fumes
  • Low operating costs
  • Healthier barbecue
  • Safe to ignite
  • Easy to clean
  • Higher acquisition costs
  • Typical barbecue aroma only through wood chips

From the compact table grill to the luxurious barbecue trolley – The construction types

Depending on the space and grilling requirements, a distinction is made between three different grilling variants:

For easy transport: barbecue trolley

grill cart

Barbecues with undercarriages, also called barbecue stations and barbecue trolleys, are mainly found in gardens. Thanks to their two or four large, stable castors as well as their attached handles, they can be moved easily on uneven terrain or lawns, making them flexible. The barbecue trolley can be found both with and without cladding and usually offers sufficient space for the gas bottle as well as various barbecue accessories. Users can place the food and tongs on the side shelves. If they are not in use, they can usually be folded away or replaced by a side burner. For even more order, some grilling stations also offer cutting boards, drink compartments and other holding devices. They are significantly wider than kettle or table grills and require a correspondingly larger footprint.

A round affair: kettle grills

kettle grill

Originally designed as charcoal grills, kettle grills are now also available as gas grills. They consist of a frame with a kettle-shaped housing, with the upper half of the sphere serving as a lid that can be opened and closed. Thanks to the lid, the food is protected from the wind. They are equipped with several air vents that allow users to regulate the temperature and aroma. Just like the barbecue trolleys, some kettle barbecues are also equipped with castors in the foot area, which makes them particularly easy to transport. However, because they are much smaller, they take up very little space. Kettle grills are available in attractive designs and a wide range of colours.

Mobile on the move: table grills

table grill

If there is little space available, small table barbecues are a compact alternative to barbecue stations or kettle barbecues, although here too sufficient space is needed for a gas bottle. A portable gas barbecue can easily be placed on the dining table and is suitable for balconies as well as for barbecuing on the go, for example for picnics or camping. In principle, they can be taken anywhere, be it on a short trip or on holiday. Some camping gas barbecues also serve as storage cases, so that the complete barbecue including accessories can be transported after barbecuing. However, their grilling surface is smaller and sometimes does not offer enough space for several steaks, sausages or vegetable skewers at the same time – anyone who wants to feed a lot of guests should bear this in mind.

Lava or infrared? The right technology

Depending on personal preferences, a lava stone gas grill that brings the classic charcoal aroma or a particularly fast and hot infrared grill may be suitable:

When charcoal is no longer enough: lava and ceramic stone barbecues
lava ceramic stone grill

With this particularly gentle type of grilling, the ceramic or vulcanite stones lie directly under the grill grate, store the heat and transfer it evenly to the food. As they retain the heat for a very long time, it is also possible to grill the food several times in succession. When the juice or fat from the food drips onto the hot stones, the classic grill aroma familiar from charcoal grills is created. Thus, the lava stone grill is an alternative that should be tried out, especially for those who are changing over. However, as the dripping fat accumulates over time, the stones must be cleaned and occasionally wiped out.

Faster and hotter: infrared zone grills
infrared zone

Gas grills with infrared zones work with radiant heat in the form of electromagnetic energy that cooks vegetables, fish and meat from above. The grilled food therefore does not come into contact with the actual heat source, which means there is no danger of it sticking. Infrared grills have a similar effect on the meat as charcoal. However, they reach the temperatures required for grilling within a very short time. Since they also produce particularly high temperatures, they are especially popular with steak lovers who want to grill the meat hot.

Size, material and performance – The most important purchase criteria

Since buying a gas barbecue is a major investment, it is important to consider some purchasing criteria beforehand, from external features such as the shape, size and material to the power and number of burners.

Decisive for the pitch: size, shape and weight

Rectangular gas grills are the most common, as their larger grilling surfaces and side shelves offer more space than round models. There are usually at least two gas burners under the grill surface, so that several dishes can be prepared at the same time. The round shape, also called a kettle grill, is the exception rather than the rule.

The choice of size depends above all on the floor space available to the barbecue operators and the usual number of people at the barbecues. The common working height of gas barbecues is between 80 and 90 centimetres. Models with several burners and further equipment are usually somewhat larger. If you want to take your gas barbecue with you on trips, you should opt for a more compact model.

Since pushing the gas barbecue requires more or less effort, depending on the model, castors are indispensable from a certain size or weight. From 35 kilograms, the gas barbecue should have at least two wheels, from 50 kilograms four wheels, so that the barbecue can be moved by one person. Standard gas barbecues weigh between 35 and 50 kilograms in the light version and between 50 and 60 kilograms in the heavy version. Depending on the equipment, gas barbecues can weigh up to 100 kilograms. Smaller table-top models, on the other hand, sometimes only weigh between two and three kilograms. The weight of the gas cylinder should not be forgotten either: When filled, they weigh an average of 22 kilograms.

Decisive for the quantity: The grilling surface

The grilling surface is the surface of the grid. To prevent smaller food from falling through, the individual bars should not be too far apart. Depending on the grilling habits, a different size is suitable: If the grate is too small, users cannot prepare enough food at the same time. If, on the other hand, it is too large, they will consume energy unnecessarily. The ideal size depends, on the one hand, on the number of people, because the more people there are to be served, the more space the grill should offer. On the other hand, it also depends on the preferred grill food. Steaks (150 to 200 square centimetres per person), for example, take up more space than sausages (80 to 120 square centimetres per person).

A grilling area of 90 to 480 square centimetres should be expected per person. The following sizes are recommended for different numbers of people:

  • Small grill surface for 2 to 3 people: 360 to 960 square centimetres for fish and meat or 200 to 800 square centimetres for sausage
  • Medium grilling surface for 4 to 6 people: 720 to 2,900 square centimetres for fish and meat or 400 to 2,400 square centimetres for sausage
  • Large grilling surface for 7 to 10 people: 1,400 to 4,800 square centimetres for fish and meat or 800 to 4,000 square centimetres for sausage

Anyone who regularly grills for large groups of at least 25 people and with side dishes needs a grilling surface of about 12,000 square centimetres. Large grilling areas are usually divided into several grates so that users can also heat smaller areas when they are not catering for large groups of people.

Decisive for appearance and durability: the material

When choosing the right gas barbecue, the material also plays an important role, as it not only influences the appearance, but also the robustness and durability of the gas barbecue.

The housing: cheap sheet metal or durable stainless steel?

Different materials are used for the body of a gas barbecue, which should score points above all with robustness, durability and weather resistance, as the barbecue is usually left outside for several months. Lower-priced gas barbecues often use steel or sheet metal with powder coating to protect against rust, while manufacturers in the higher price segment use stainless steel. The following materials are most commonly used for the grill housing:

  • Aluminium: The UV- and corrosion-resistant material is comparatively light and therefore perfect for transport. Although aluminium looks very high-quality on the outside, it is susceptible to scratches.
  • Stainless steel: Thanks to its robust, durable and equally heat- and weather-resistant properties, stainless steel is particularly popular. Since dirt and bacteria cannot take hold, it is easy to clean and hygienically advantageous to boot. The price-intensive material offers maximum rust protection, but is also significantly heavier than other materials.
  • Ceramic: Ceramic grills retain their shape even at very high temperatures and store heat for a particularly long time. On the other hand, the material takes quite a long time to heat up. Ceramic is also very heavy.
  • Steel: The robust and easy-care steel is not only very heavy, but also strong and thus insensitive to damage and external influences such as impacts. However, the material is sensitive to rust and weathering, which is why it requires a coating.
  • Chrome: As a coating, it protects against damage caused by rust. However, to prevent the coating from flaking off, the barbecue needs careful maintenance. Chrome is cheaper than stainless steel, but can trigger a nickel allergy.
  • Enamel: Metal models are often coated with a layer of enamel, which makes them insensitive to rust. The smooth surface of the ceramic compound simplifies cleaning and has a bacteria-repellent effect, but it is not break-proof.

The grill grate: stainless steel, cast iron or coated?

The quality of the grill grate has an impact on heat distribution and cleaning. The most common materials are stainless steel, cast iron and chrome or enamel. To ensure that the grill grate can withstand the high temperatures, the material must be of particularly high quality. The (stainless) steel grate is particularly easy to clean. Ambitious professional grillers, on the other hand, are better off with a grate made of cast iron.

Cast iron
cast iron

Cast-iron grill grates serve as optimal heat reservoirs. They absorb heat quickly and store it for a long time. The thick grill bars also transfer the heat easily to the food, which means it cooks faster. The inexpensive cast iron is stable, resistant and long-lasting, but sensitive to strong temperature fluctuations. To prevent it from rusting or becoming brittle, it requires extensive care.

Stainless steel
stainless steel

High-quality grates made of stainless steel, on the other hand, are mainly found on premium grills and are almost indestructible. They are rustproof, impact-resistant, easy to clean and therefore particularly durable. In addition, they can withstand even the greatest temperature fluctuations without cracking. Although they need more time to warm up, they maintain the temperature for a very long time.

Chrome or enamel coating

Metal grates with a chrome coating are inexpensive but quickly become brittle with frequent use, making the material susceptible to rust. Enamelled cast iron grates also prevent rust from accumulating on the grill and make cleaning easier. However, the coating is fragile.

Decisive for the grilling result: power and number of burners

The performance of the burners is important for an optimal grilling result. Specified in kilowatts, it provides information about how much gas is burned per hour (in the sum of all burners). If the output is given in kilowatt hours, the value refers to the amount of energy that is converted into heat in one hour. Gas barbecues with a high output therefore get hotter and heat up faster. The more efficient the gas grill, the more optimal the use of fuel. As the size of the model increases, so does its gas consumption. While small gas barbecues have between 3 and 6 kilowatts, larger models with at least four burners have 15 to 24 kilowatts. If you barbecue only rarely, you can opt for a weaker gas barbecue with two to four kilowatts. Professional grillers, on the other hand, should opt for a model with at least 17 kilowatts. The average is around ten kilowatts.

So it is not only the grilling time that depends on the power of the gas barbecue, but also the amount of food that can be prepared at the same time. The most important thing is that the grill surface can be heated evenly to ensure uniform cooking. Ideally, the gas supply should be infinitely adjustable for the desired temperature. It should also be possible to control the burners independently of each other. It is particularly practical if the gas barbecue has several combustion chambers. On the one hand, this allows users to distribute the heat evenly over the entire surface of the grill, but on the other hand, they can also regulate it separately in several zones in order to roast different grilled foods simultaneously at the appropriate heat. While steaks, for example, can tolerate more heat, more sensitive grilled foods such as vegetables require a gentler heat supply. The number of burners alone is no guarantee for high temperatures, as a few powerful burners generate more heat than several less powerful ones. Ultimately, the temperature that can actually be achieved also depends on the construction and insulation of the gas barbecue.

High-quality gas barbecues usually have several burners. The main burner, the heart of the gas barbecue, sits directly under the grill surface. It is equipped with so-called flame deflectors that protect it from dripping fat, which can clog the gas nozzles and cause flare-ups. On average, a total of two to four burners are installed. The larger the gas barbecue, the more burners it should have. Most of the burners are made of stainless steel or cast iron.

It all depends on the technology: Electric versus piezo ignition

In ignition technology, a distinction is made between electric and piezo ignition. For the former, the ignition spark is generated via a power supply, usually a small battery. Gas barbecues with piezo ignition, on the other hand, are started simply and safely at the touch of a button.

For the upmarket – The additional equipment

Some gas barbecues have additional features that expand the range of functions and simplify use. With a little optional extra equipment, the gas barbecue can be used multifunctionally.

Side burner: The additional cooking area is located outside the actual grill, serves to heat food and is worthwhile for anyone who wants to prepare side dishes or sauces on the grill in parallel to the meat. Comparable to a small kitchenette for outdoor use, the side burner allows you to create complete menus.

Rotating spit: Dishes such as shashlik, spit-roast, drumsticks and kebabs are better off on a rotating spit than on the grill surface. This heats the meat evenly on all sides, while the juices from the roast ensure a tasty crust. Usually rotated by an electric motor, the spit requires a power supply via rechargeable batteries or a connection to the mains.

Backburner: A backburner, also called a rotisserie burner or rear burner, is placed on the back wall of the grill and simplifies the grilling of skewers, such as chicken or spit roasts. This additional heat source keeps the skewers crispy and juicy for a long time.

Hotplate: The grill plate works similarly to a raclette plate. It is made of continuous cast iron and is particularly suitable for steaks and smaller grilled food, such as vegetable slices.

Aroma bars: The metal bars on the burners are filled with a liquid such as whisky or beer, which evaporates during grilling and releases the aroma onto the food.

In addition, equipment such as cast iron grill plates, pans, Dutch ovens, pizza stones and vegetable baskets can be used, making the gas grill an all-round talent. However, the following accessories should not be missing from the basic equipment:

  • Barbecue utensils including spatula, tongs and fork
  • Barbecue gloves
  • Barbecue apron
  • Cleaning brush
  • Weather protection cover
  • Thermometer

A cutlery holder, i.e. a hook located on the side of the barbecue, is also practical for hanging up barbecue cutlery, aprons and the like.

Tips for the safe use of gas barbecues

Barbecuing means open fire and intense heat, which is why a barbecue is a potential source of danger that should never be underestimated. Special attention must be paid to a gas barbecue, as it uses a highly flammable, pressurised gas. Proper and responsible handling is essential. The gas cylinder, connections and lines must be tight and function properly. Users can detect leaks by brushing the hoses with soapy water, for example. Small bubbles form in the affected areas as soon as the gas cylinder is opened. In this case, replacement by a specialist is necessary. Users should also always open the lid of the gas barbecue before turning on the gas bottle, as a dangerous concentration of gas may have built up underneath, which can burst into flames. If something on the barbecue catches fire, it is important to close the gas bottle first to cut off the gas supply.

Gas cylinders are subject to the Ordinance on Industrial Safety and Health, which means that they must be approved and regularly inspected. They should be stored in a ventilated, shaded room protected from heat and frost, for example on the balcony, but never in the cellar, so that no dangerous gas concentration forms in the event of leaks: There would be a risk of explosion. Furthermore, gas cylinders should always be protected from damage by falling over or down, i.e. they should stand upright.

Dirt particles can affect the function of the pressure regulator, which reduces the pressure of the gas, and this can also cause a flash fire. If you want to be on the safe side, look for gas barbecues with a double pressure regulator. Another weak point is the gas hoses, which can develop cracks due to frequent bending, from which gas escapes. To avoid this, it is advisable to use a hose rupture safety device that cuts off the gas supply if necessary. Damaged parts should be replaced immediately and, at best, professionally. In addition, always check the date of manufacture of the hoses, which should not be more than ten years old and ideally not more than five years old.

safety instruction
The most important safety instructions when using gas barbecues.

For an always fresh barbecue experience – Cleaning the gas barbecue

Since no charcoal is used, gas barbecues are particularly easy to handle and clean. Not only is there no need to dispose of the charcoal, but also the annoying smoke that builds up on the appliance. After the grilling process, i.e. as soon as the grill has cooled down completely, users clean the grate with a soft sponge and some washing-up liquid to remove food residues and grease. If the grill grate is more stubborn, users can wrap it in damp newspaper overnight, which makes it easy to remove the next day. Another option is to briefly turn the grill on full power again with the deck closed and burn off the dirt on the grate. The dry residue can then be brushed off with a brass brush and rinsed.

Users then clean the cover and the grease drip tray. The housing of the grill can be washed with water. No chemical substances or scratching sponges should be used for cleaning, as they can damage the material. As a general rule, cleaning only becomes time-consuming if the barbecue has not been cared for over a long period of time. As a rule, thorough cleaning of the gas barbecue is sufficient before and after the main season and every two to four weeks if it is used regularly.