Wood Fired & Charcoal BBQ Buying Guide
If you’re looking to achieve the very best outdoor cooking experience, then you really can’t beat cooking on a wood or charcoal BBQ. These fuels impart a smokey, tender taste upon meats and vegetables in a way that can’t be achieved with gas BBQs. If you’re thinking of buying a wood or charcoal fired BBQ, then read this buying guide from the Direct Stoves team now…
The first thing you’ll want to do is decide upon your budget. Like other types of cooking appliances, wood fired and charcoal BBQs are available across a broad range of price points; from wallet friendly compact units all the way up to hand-crafted, cast-iron BBQs that incorporate a stove too.
Here at Direct Stoves you’ll find wood fired and charcoal BBQs ranging from £49.99 all the way up to top of the range wood burning BBQs and outdoor stoves that cost more than £3,000 - we have BBQs to suit all tastes and budgets.
Note - the prices quoted throughout this article are correct at the time of writing (July 2022) and are subject to change without notice.
How many people will you be cooking for?
Once you’ve determined your budget, the next thing to think about is how many people you’re likely to be cooking for.
If you’re only going to be cooking for the family or small groups of friends and relatives, then you may want to choose a smaller model such as a table BBQ or a more compact BBQ model which will provide enough cooking space for five to six people
Likewise, if you’re going to be regularly cooking for large groups of people, then you’ll want to invest in a larger BBQ that features a large cooking area. It can also be helpful to invest in a BBQ which has additional side shelves or a large flat surface where you can place food, utensils and plates whilst you’re cooking.
BBQ cooking areas
To help you select the right size BBQ for your cooking requirements, we’ve set out the cooking area size you’ll need per number of people below:
- 1800cm² - a BBQ with a cooking area of this size will allow you to cook food for up to four people at once.
- 2000cm²-2500cm² - at this size, a BBQ’s cooking area will be able to cook enough food for up to six people.
- 2500cm² or bigger - with a cooking area of 2500cm² or bigger, your BBQ will be able to cook enough food for around eight people.
An important point to remember here is that bigger doesn’t necessarily need to mean more expensive.
Here at Direct Stoves you’ll find large BBQs such as our Lifestyle Half Barrel Charcoal BBQ - which is only £89.99. On the other hand, you can spend more on compact BBQs such as our Morso Grill 71 Table Outdoor BBQ, which is £199.00.
How much you spend shouldn’t necessarily have to be influenced by the size of the BBQ. Which brings us onto our next point…
How often will you be using your BBQ?
The type of wood fired or charcoal BBQ you buy (and how much you spend on it) is also determined by how often you’ll be cooking outdoors.
If you’re going to be cooking on an infrequent basis (e.g. a few times throughout the summer), then we’d recommend going for a cheaper, portable BBQ such as our Lifestyle 22 inch Kettle Charcoal Barbecue.
BBQs such as the Lifestyle 22 inch Kettle are brilliant for occasional BBQers as they feature a vitreous enamel bowl and lid, with a twin air system. This makes cooking using charcoal a breeze.
As these types of BBQ feature built-in wheels, they are also easy to move and store away in a garage or shed when not in use.
Should you be a regular BBQer then we’d suggest investing in something more substantial.
When you’re BBQing nearly all year round, you’ll want a BBQ that can become a focal point of your outdoor space, a BBQ which is well built and weatherproof, a BBQ which is packed full of useful features.
A perfect example of an all-year-round BBQ is the Terrace Gourmet Wood Burning Barbecue and Outdoor Stove from Chesneys.
As its name suggests, this impressive appliance not only acts as a wood fired or charcoal BBQ, but also doubles up as an outdoor stove - being able to provide outdoor heat to keep you warm on chilly summer evenings or cool autumn mornings.
This BBQ is also packed with features which will be incredibly handy for the regular outdoor cook. These include a pair of wooden side shelves for placing foods, utensils and plates, an analog thermometer, ash scoop and more.
To top it all off, this particular BBQ and outdoor stove is able to cook food in six different ways including grilling, roasting, baking, smoking, work cooking and baking wood-fired pizza.
Summary - frequency of use makes a big impact on the type of wood fired or charcoal BBQ you buy. If you’re going to be cooking outdoors regularly, it’s more than worth investing in a higher-end BBQ.
Location of your wood fired or charcoal BBQ
When selecting a wood fired or charcoal BBQ, you should also think about where you’ll be putting it in your garden.
The main thing to consider is whether or not your BBQ is going to be a permanent fixture or not.
Should you choose to make your BBQ a permanent fixture, then you’ll want to select a model which has a firm, solid base. BBQs which have dedicated flue pipes are a particularly good choice for BBQs which aren’t going to be moved, as the stove pipe will help funnel smoke away from the immediate vicinity of the BBQ.
If your BBQ is only going to make occasional appearances in your garden, then be sure to buy a model which is light enough to move and which features built-in wheels.
Note - whether your BBQ is a permanent fixture or not, always locate it on flat, stable ground away from combustibles such as plants and fences. Try and locate it in a sheltered area too.
Wood fired and charcoal BBQ features to look for
Aside from thinking about your budget, the number of people you’ll be cooking for and frequency of use, there are several important features you should look for in a wood and charcoal fired BBQ.
We’ve detailed these essential BBQ features below.
A hood is effectively a lid that can close over the top of a BBQ. Buying a BBQ with a hood will allow you to retain heat for longer and will make roasting, grilling or baking foodstuffs much easier.
Like many of the features on this list, hoods are available on BBQs budget and expensive alike - but, you’ll find that hoods on higher-end charcoal BBQs are much more robust and will have better heat retention.
Buying a wood or charcoal BBQ with air vents will provide you with a way of fine tuning and controlling the burn of your BBQ’s fire and subsequent embers.
Air vents tend to be a feature found on both budget and high-end BBQs. Like many BBQ features though, you’ll find that the air vents on higher-end models tend to be more sophisticated and able to provide better modulation over the burn of the BBQ’s embers.
If you’re not overly familiar with cooking over charcoal or wood, it can be immensely helpful to have access to a temperature gauge.
A in-built temperature gauge will help you in situations where foodstuffs require precision cooking temperatures.
Have you ever been barbecuing and found yourself urgently looking round for somewhere to put that plate of freshly cooked meat? Or needed a place to put your cooking tongs? Then a pair of side shelves is a BBQ feature that’ll make your cooking experience far more enjoyable.
Are you going to be keeping your wood or charcoal BBQ outside all-year-round? Then look for BBQs which come with weatherproof covers.
A weatherproof cover is certainly important if you’re buying a larger BBQ which cannot be moved.
A griddle is a flat cooking surface usually made from cast iron, which can be placed on a BBQ to fry, sauté, stir fry or braise food.
Unlike a grill, a griddle does not have any slots or holes and is therefore suitable for cooking foodstuffs like eggs.
Multi-purpose wood fired and charcoal BBQs
Not many people realise that there are in fact multi-purpose wood fired and charcoal BBQs.
These are barbecues that double up as outdoor heating appliances in addition to their primary role of cooking food.
As you can imagine, these multi-purpose barbecues are more suited to permanent placement within your garden; they make fantastic focal points for paved areas and patios, providing the perfect spot to socialise around.
Here at Direct Stoves, we stock a number of these multi-purpose BBQs cum stoves, including:
- Chesneys Heat and Grill Outdoor Wood Burning Barbecue and Outdoor Stove.
- Chesneys Garden Gourmet Wood Burning Barbecue and Outdoor Stove.
- Chesneys Terrace Gourmet Wood Burning Barbecue and Outdoor Stove.
- Chesneys Garden Party Wood Burning Barbecue and Outdoor Stove.
Buying charcoal for your barbecue
Once you’ve selected your BBQ you’re going to want to stock up on some fuel.
For some people, charcoal offers the ultimate outdoor cooking experience. If that’s you, then you’ve got two main choices; lumpwood charcoal, or charcoal briquettes.
Both have their pros and cons, which we’ve outlined below:
Lumpwood charcoal is a form of charcoal which is created by burning wood exceptionally slowly, gently burning away the moisture that’s naturally found trapped in freshly-cut wood.
This type of charcoal is mainly created using oak or beech. As these are hardwoods, lumpwood charcoal tends to burn at high temperatures, with an organic scent.
One drawback of lumpwood charcoal however, is its tendency to burn quickly compared to other types of charcoal. So, if you’re going to be cooking on your BBQ for long periods of time, then you may find you use a considerable amount.
Charcoal briquettes are essentially a compacted version of lumpwood charcoal. The manufacturing process involves crushing lumpwood charcoal into a fine powder. A natural starch binding agent is then added to the powder, which is then compressed into a briquette.
Because of their compressed nature, charcoal briquettes tend to burn for longer, albeit at slightly lower temperatures, than lumpwood charcoal.
Which option is right for you comes down to what you’re cooking and what you’re trying to achieve.
If you are cooking a large piece of meat over a long period, then go for briquettes. If you’re more concerned with cooking quickly, then go for lumpwood charcoal.
Buying firewood for your BBQ
Not everyone is a charcoal-cooking aficionado. Perhaps you prefer to cook over wood? If that’s the case, then there are four main types of wood that tend to be used to fuel barbecues.
Thanks to its medium to hard density, sweet chestnut burns slowly, making it ideal for cooking meats, fish and vegetables that require long periods on the grill.
Thanks to its characteristics, sweet chestnut firewood will impart a mild, subtly nutty flavour to meats.
Apple wood burns hot and slowly, making it ideal for all types of BBQ cooking occasions.
Opinions vary, but apple is said to impart a sweet, fruity flavour on foodstuffs. Apple wood lends itself well to cooking ribs, chicken and pork.
One of the most popular woods used to fuel BBQs is oak. It tends to sit between chestnut and apple on the flavour scale, imparting a medium-to-strong flavour upon meats.
Thanks to oak’s versatility, it’s great at cooking a wide array of meats including lamb, beef, brisket and sausages.
As an extremely hard wood, beech makes for an incredibly long lasting and efficient firewood for BBQs, giving off a steady, consistent heat. In fact, beech tends to smoulder rather than ‘burn’, with the wood giving off a herbal aroma.
Because of the very hard nature of beech, it tends to be cut into thin strips to help it impart flavour to the foodstuffs on the grill.
The best wood and charcoal BBQs UK
Are you ready to buy a new barbecue, or upgrade your current one? Then check out our range here at Direct Stoves. We’ve got wood and charcoal fired BBQs to suit all tastes and budgets, so check out some of our most popular models below.
The best wood and charcoal BBQs under £500
If you’re looking for the perfect BBQ for use throughout the summer, then check out our great barbecues currently available for less than £500.
Lifestyle 22 Inch Kettle Charcoal Barbecue
Ideal for cooking for large groups of people, the Lifestyle 22 inch Kettle features a vitreous enamel bowl and lid and a twin air vent system, making cooking on it a breeze.
Thanks to its storage tray and built in wheels, the Kettle is highly practical too, being easy to move and store away when required.
Lifestyle Half Barrel Charcoal Barbecue
Featuring a classic half oil barrel design, the Lifestyle Half Barrel Charcoal Barbecue features two large grilling areas, making it perfect for those summer afternoons when you’re catering to large groups of friends and family.
The Lifestyle Half Barrel also includes a storage shelf, a windshield to protect food whilst it’s grilling, easy-to-clean chrome grills, and built-in wheels for ease of movement.
If you’re looking for a large wood or charcoal barbecue that’ll be happy grilling all day long, then you’ve just found it in the Lifestyle Half Barrel.
Morso Grill 71 Outdoor Barbecue
Are you looking for a high-quality barbecue that’ll add a touch of Nordic style to your garden? Then you can’t go wrong with the Morso Grill 71 Outdoor Barbecue.
Designed and produced in the heart of Denmark, the Morso Grill 71 is an exceptionally high-quality BBQ that’ll provide decades of reliable barbecuing. That’s thanks to its enamelled cast iron construction which has excellent heat retention properties.
Because of the heat properties of cast iron, the Morso Grill 71 will quickly heat up and will stay warmer for longer, providing you with plenty of quality cooking time.
The Morso Grill 71 Outdoor Barbecue is also available with a series of optional Morso cooking tools including a Morso BBQ Fork, Morso BBQ Turner, Morso BBQ Tongs and the Morso BBQ Tool Set.
The best wood and charcoal BBQs under £1,000
Do you enjoy cooking outdoors on a more regular basis? Then it’s a good idea to invest a little more in your wood and charcoal barbecue. Below, you’ll find some of our most popular barbecues for under £1,000.
Morso Grill Forno II Outdoor Barbecue
If there’s one name that’s closely associated with quality wood and charcoal barbecuing, it’s got to be Morso.
Morso, the Danish cast iron appliance specialists, present the Grill Forno II; an elegant multi-functional grill that sits atop a trio of beautifully crafted oak legs.
Where the Grill Forno II differs from other wood and charcoal BBQs is in its versatility. For example, it’s possible to buy an optional tool such as the Morso Smokeeper and Grill Forno II door to allow you to use it as a smoker.
Thanks to the way the tripod legs have been positioned beneath the Grill Forno II, it’s possible to sit quite close to the front of the BBQ, meaning it can also be used for outdoor heating purposes too.
Finally, as the Grill Forno II is made from cast iron, it has brilliant heat retention and radiation properties, making it a highly efficient barbecue. What’s more, cast iron is a very durable material, meaning the Grill Forno II will provide decades of service.
Lifestyle Dragon Egg Charcoal Barbecue
We’re not going to blame you if you think that many BBQs look alike. However, every so often a BBQ comes along that really does stand out. The Dragon Egg from Lifestyle is exactly one of those barbecues.
Thanks to its unusual shape, the Dragon Egg barbecue offers excellent cooking performance.
Featuring a double-skinned hood and base, with the inner skin being made of porcelain enamel, and a built-in temperature gauge, the Dragon Egg can quickly and precisely cook meats and vegetables alike.
The Dragon Egg also features cast iron cooking grills, which are perfect for searing and grilling meat - providing those iconic grill lines too.
Finally, the addition of a storage shelf and built-in wheels makes the Dragon Egg eminently practical. Plus, if you want to store your Dragon Egg BBQ outside all year round, an optional outdoor cover is available.
The best wood and charcoal BBQs over £1,000
Should you be an ardent barbecuer, then you’re going to want the very best BBQ. You’re going to want features galore, and the very finest build quality. That’s exactly what you’ll find below in our selection of wood and charcoal BBQs over £1,000.
Chesneys Heat and Grill Outdoor Wood Burning Barbecue and Outdoor Stove
Combining both an outdoor stove and a barbecue in one, the Heat and Grill from Chesneys is perhaps the ultimate in al-fresco catering.
Chesneys is an award-winning, family-run UK company which is committed to designing and manufacturing outdoor stoves and barbecues to the very highest standards - and this ethos certainly shines though in the Heat and Grill.
Making use of advanced combustion technology, the Heat and Grill produces little to no smoke whilst also putting out large amounts of heat.
Thanks to its generous grill size, the Heat and Grill can easily cook enough food for six to eight people in a single sitting. Perfectly able to grill meats and vegetables of all sorts, the Heat and Grill has the added benefit of being able to cook pizza by simply adding a pizza stone to the grill and shutting the lid.
It’s also packed with features and comes with a flue pipe, a pair of metal side shelves, an analogue thermometer, a pair of stove gloves, a scoop for removing ash and a weatherproof cover.
BBQs, outdoor stoves and more…
Whether you’re looking for a budget friendly BBQ for the summer or you’re looking to invest in something more substantial, Direct Stoves has got you covered.
Our outdoor living range includes BBQs, grills, ovens, stoves and fires from all of the most sought after brands. Not only that, but we make it super easy to buy your dream BBQ thanks to our FREE mainland UK delivery service, our 14-day no hassle returns policy and our range of finance options to help you spread the cost of your new purchase.
Shop wood fired and charcoal BBQs at Direct Stoves now
For more BBQ and outdoor living buying guides, advice and information, read the Direct Stoves blog…