Outdoor Cooking FAQs

How does my BBQ arrive?
All BBQs, if courier delivered, arrive robustly packed in a box, and require assembly. Full instructions are provided and only basic tools are needed.

Where should I site my BBQ?
Both gas and, particularly, charcoal BBQs should be placed in a sheltered spot, clear of nearby wooden fences and overhanging trees or shrubs. Never use a barbecue inside.

Do I need a cover for my BBQ?
Barbecues can live outside quite happily, without a cover, but covers do help to keep your barbecue cleaner, especially in winter. Do though always store your charcoal in a cool dry place. Gas too can live outside, but be aware that if you do use Butane it can freeze at low temperatures. We have covers for Gas canisters too.

Gas or Charcoal? Contrary to popular belief, gas or charcoal simply provide the heat source and are not responsible for the flavour of the food that you cook; that depends on the food itself, and how you cook it. That BBQ flavour comes from the smoke and vaporisation created by the juices and fat from the food dropping on the hot coals or the 'flavouriser' bars or stones in the case of gas. You can also add wood chips or chunks to create a smokey flavour (this is often a lot easier with a charcoal BBQ). Gas or charcoal - it's a personal choice, see the BBQ page for more detail on how to select the right one for you.

What's the difference between butane, propane & other patio gases?
Butane is used primarily for indoor heaters, as it freezes at low winter temperatures although some older barbecues do use it. Most Patio Gas is propane by another name, however it has a different 'snap on' regulator designed for barbecues and so is not interchangeable with standard propane containers. Many barbecues are set up to use Patio Gas, which burns at a higher temperature than butane. Always use the gas that your BBQ was designed for.

You can also have natural gas as an option. In this case you will need to have your grill hooked up to a gas main. This means that you've got to be near a gas line and be willing to pay for that extension, however, this means you'll never have to worry about running out of gas! In addition to the convenience, natural gas is also a bit greener than propane. While neither fuel will contribute too much to your carbon footprint, natural gas does burn even cleaner than propane and is much cheaper once installed.

My gas consumption has suddenly increased and/or I smell gas when I use my BBQ
Caution, you probably have a leak. Be very careful. The most likely cause is from the hose. Do not use the BBQ again until the leak source is identified and resolved. All gas suppliers have an emergency help line if in doubt. The Calor emergency contact number is 08457 444 999.

Is barbecued food bad for me? The short answer is no, only burnt food is bad for you Not only does grilling enhance the taste of food, this cooking technique is better for your waistline as well because fat drips off of meats when they're grilled and the end result will be healthier and contain fewer calories from fat. Whilst cheap barbecues may burn food easily, cooking on a quality barbecue means there is far less chance that the food will burn. In fact, cooking outdoors has a positive effect on meat, since the air flow makes it more succulent. But barbecuing need not be restricted to meat. There are a number of delicious recipes available for vegetarian meals cooked on a barbecue. Apart from the grill, outdoor cooking equipment such as teppanyaki flat iron plates and wood fired ovens, are also extremely healthy methods of cooking. Cooking on a barbecue is no different to cooking on a stove or in an oven.

What's the use of a thermometer?
Many BBQs have a built-in thermometer that allows you to monitor and then control the temperature inside the grill when cooking, using the indirect cooking method. This will help you cook to your food to perfection every time.

There are also many food thermometers on the market that are actually inserted into food to assess their 'doneness'. The UK FSA recommend all sausages and chicken are cooked to at least 70°C. Such thermometers can offer great comfort and avoids either food being underdone or overdone as a precaution.

What size grill do I need?
This really depends upon how many you cook for, and if you want to serve a veritable feast all at once or in courses. However as a guide and don't forget warming racks will keep food from going cold and provide space for heating garlic bread for instance.

  • For 2 people, you'll need a small cooking area of 1000cm² to 1500cm².
  • For 4 people, you'll need a cooking area generally around 1600 to 2000cm².
  • For 6 people, a larger area of 2000 to 3000cm² is usually considered about right.
  • For 8 people, the larger gas barbecues 3000 to 4000cm² will be enough.
  • Party animals? Griddles over 4000cm² are available.

Of course, if your guests vary in number, cooking on a larger gas grill with multiple burners gives you the flexibility to use only 1 or 2 burners so that you won't waste too much gas.

*Click on 'How Many Burners do I Need?' for more information.

When to start a charcoal BBQ?
Light your barbecue well in advance, at least 45 minutes, and longer in colder weather as the briquettes take longer to heat up. Place the ignited briquettes in the barbecue and remember to open all the vents fully. Whilst they would say this, the Weber Premium Briquettes are the best for BBQs, as they light well, and burn evenly for up to 3 hours. Some charcoal or lump wood, especially if slightly damp will take longer to get up to a good temperature. Use a quality BBQ firestarter block to help get the fire going, and avoid the cheaper products designed for domestic fires as they may taint the flavour of your food. To greatly shorten the start time use a Charcoal Starter, that will get your coals ready to BBQ in around 20 minutes. For Kamados use 'Restaurant Grade' charcoal.

What do I do with the air vents on a charcoal BBQ?
Always open the air vents when starting a BBQ. Make sure that the top and bottom air vents are open at all times during cooking. The only time you need to fully close the air vents is to extinguish the charcoal after you've finished barbecuing.

Fresh air needs to flow constantly through the barbecue to provide oxygen for the fuel. You should therefore not remove the lid to lower the temperature, as it increases the air flow. The most effective way to control the temperature is to change the amount of fuel you use. If you want less heat in the barbecue, do not touch the lid or the air vents – simply use fewer briquettes or move them to one side - part of the charm of using briquettes is learning how to control the temperature and mastering the perfect barbecuing technique.

For Kamados, because of their insulated nature, use the bottom air vent to control temperature and the top air vent to control the amount of smoke.

What are smoking chips and smoking chunks for?

These give food an extra smokey flavour. For charcoal BBQs use either chips soaked in water for 20 minutes, or chunks for when roasting, and add them directly to the hot coals. If you have a gas BBQ, you can put your smoking chips/chunks in a metal smoker unit or tinfoil boat. You should only start smoking just before you put your food on the grill.

How do I clean my BBQ? *Click here for top tips on how to clean your outdoor grill.