If you’re in a position to splash out, barbecues don’t come much better than the Big Green Egg. They’re inspired by Japanese mushikamados (traditional, round, clay rice-cookers) with top dampers and bottom draught doors. Big Green Eggs are made from high-fibre ceramics that were developed for the space shuttle programme, so they’re far less likely to crack. Because they cook closed, the heated air circulates, and the insulation and air vents mean the temperature can be controlled much more accurately than other charcoal barbecues (it’s best to use lumpwood charcoal, with no additives). There’s a temperature gauge, so you can get the heat just right for anything from slow-cooking ribs, to grilling, or baking pizza at 400C. The closed lid and air circulation mean it’s great for smoking too – an accessory called a plate-setter can be placed above the firebox so the food isn’t cooked directly, but by convected heat. Because Big Green Eggs can accurately barbecue, grill, smoke and bake, they’ve become popular in restaurant kitchens – Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and The Chiltern Firehouse use them. O tested a MiniMax sized Big Green Egg (£550) to barbecue lamb marinated in pomegranate molasses and monkfish in lemon, thyme and cumin. The results had satisfying grill-char, were cooked-through, still succulent, and retained the flavours of the marinade while also taking on a delicate smokiness – pretty much the barbecue results you might fantasise about but would otherwise never achieve. Prices from £399 for a Mini up to £3,745 for an Extra Extra Large.
Weber Charcoal Kettle Barbecue
These come in different sizes, so choose one to suit the size of your garden and the amount you want to cook. They all have vents for controlling air flow, a lid, and the bigger models have built in thermometers and ash catchers. They’re easy to use and work well for grilling and smoking, you can even barbecue a whole turkey in the larger ones. You can take classes on how to use your Weber via grillacademy.co.uk. Price from £59.99, weberbbq.co.uk
Not worth it – they rarely contain enough charcoal to cook much, and are impregnated with firelighter, which can taint the food. Besides which, they leave nasty burn marks on any grass you put them on. Buy a lightweight bucket barbecue with legs if you need portability.
Outback Spectrum Hooded 3 Burner Gas Barbecue
This is big. Half of it’s grill, the other half griddle. It has lava rocks under the grill, which vapourise any juices that drip through, creating smoke to flavour the food. It heats easily, which is a huge plus, but it’s heavy, so you can’t move it easily. £329.99, outbackdirect.co.uk