Barbecue Buying Guide

Outdoor grilling is a quick and easy way to put sizzle into healthy, delicious meals. This guide to buying a barbeque serves up tips and insights to help you find the right BBQ for you and your family.

Barbecues 101

Great for entertaining and bringing the family together, a barbecue gets you out of the kitchen and into outdoor cooking. Barbecues are easy to use and easy to clean, which lets you spend more time socializing and less time scrubbing pots and pans. Finding the barbecue that best suits your needs depends on how often you plan to use it, and the number of mouths it has to feed. Another factor to keep in mind is fuel sources, since different types of fuel can give different flavours to your food.

Types of Barbeques


Propane Barbecue

Similar to natural gas barbecues, propane barbecues are easy to light, heat quickly, and offer adjustable heat levels. Propane barbecues also feature a range of convenience options like multiple burners, storage cabinets, rotisserie kits and temperature indicators. If you grill regularly, your propane tank will likely require a refill or two over the course of the summer. Empty tanks are light and easy to handle, but a full tank may be quite heavy. 

Natural Gas Barbecue

This type of barbecue is similar to a propane unit but it runs on natural gas instead. A natural gas barbecue connects to your natural gas line (check if your home has one). You’ll need to purchase a connector to facilitate the hookup. This fuel method saves you from lugging around heavy propane tanks or dirty bags of charcoal. More importantly, it ensures you’ll never run out of fuel with a grill full of half-cooked steaks!

Charcoal Barbecue

Cooking food over charcoal creates an authentic char-grilled flavour. Food can be cooked at high temperatures to seal in flavour, or slowly over lower temperatures to create a distinctive smoky taste. Charcoal barbecues have handles and wheels for easy manoeuvring, and they also tend to be smaller than gas and propane barbecues. This makes them a good fit for smaller spaces. Charcoal does take longer to heat and can be a bit tricky to light. From a cost perspective, you need to add more charcoal for every cookout so it’s a little more expensive than gas or propane.


A smoker cooks food slowly, heating wood chips over charcoal to bring a distinct smoky essence to food. Popular woodchip types include cherry, apple and hickory: each type adds a slightly different flavour, and usually pairs best with a specific meat category (beef, chicken, fish or poultry). The lower temperature and longer cooking time allows the flavour and heat to infuse into the meat for a strongly seasoned taste. Smokers require more cooking time and monitoring, plus frequent replenishing of charcoal and wood during big family cookouts. 

Electric Barbecue

Electric barbecues usually offer low, medium and high settings. They are easy and convenient to use; however, an electric barbecue will not add the same char-grilled flavour to meals as an open-flame barbecue. They come in a range of different sizes, and may be a suitable choice for apartment balconies where the use of gas and propane is not an option. Always check with your property manager before using any type of barbecue in an apartment setting.

Portable Barbecue

Portable barbecues are great for camping and picnics. The smaller size makes for easy storage in the trunk of your car, and side handles allow for quick pick-up-and-carry. Taller models may also have wheels for extra mobility. The heating capacity is generally less than larger models, and the cooking surface is smaller. Consider burgers and veggies vs. full steaks. Portable barbecues are usually fueled by either gas or charcoal.

Barbecue Safety Considerations:

• Never use a grill indoors
• Never leave a grill unattended
• Never use gasoline or lighter fluid to start a grill
• Always keep a fire extinguisher close by when cooking
• Maintain appropriate distances between barbecue and other structures, buildings and vehicles
• Regularly inspect hoses for obstructions
• Keep your grill clean to prevent grease fires
• Properly prepare food and cook to recommended temperatures to avoid bacteria growth and food poisoning
• Always keep children away from barbecues and other hot surfaces when cooking to avoid accidents and injury

Barbeque Features

Burners +

Burners work with the fuel to produce the flame in gas and propane barbecues. There are several different types of burners including tube burners, double burners and pancake-shaped burners. More burners (relative to the size of the surface of the grill) ensure that heat is distributed evenly and provide more control over temperatures. Burners are generally made of either stainless steel or cast iron.

Heat Distribution Plates +

These plates are located above the burners and work to prevent flare ups and promote even heat distribution.

Grids +

Grids and grates deliver heat to the food. Porcelain-coated wire grids are made of heavy-duty steel wire and provide great heat retention. Porcelain-coated cast iron grids also provide superior heat retention and are great for creating dark grill lines on food. Stainless steel cooking grates are rust-resistant and are typically located overtop of line grills to provide consistent and even heat.

Starters +

Gas barbecues can come with a push-button starter or an electronic ignition. A push-button starter creates a spark when engaged that ignites the flame in a gas or propane barbeque, and may require several attempts before lighting. An electronic ignition uses a battery system to produce a series of sparks that ensures fuel ignites immediately.

Fuel Gauge +

A fuel-gauge indicates the amount of propane left in a tank, allowing you to monitor your fuel level so you don’t run out in the middle of cooking.

Barbecue Hoods +

These covers trap air inside the barbecue, increasing the temperature and helping to retain heat.

Temperature Gauge +

Temperature gauges monitor internal heat for precise roasting and accurate pre-heating.

Air Vents +

Air vents in charcoal grills help control the temperature by allowing coals to burn faster and hotter to seal in juices, or slower with reduced heat to add a more smoky flavour.

Ash Collectors +

Ash collectors catch the ash in charcoal barbecues to protect your patio, and they can be removed for easy cleaning.

Fat Drip Trays +

Fat drip trays collect the fat on gas model barbeques to protect your patio, and they can be removed for easy cleaning.

Storage Cabinets +

Integrated storage cabinets provide a great place to hold everything from barbecuing utensils to sauces and condiments to keep them easy to reach when you need them.

Barbecue Covers +

Barbecue covers protect your barbecue from the elements when not in use so that your barbecue lasts longer.

Side Burners +

Side burners add additional cooking space, so you can simultaneously cook side dishes and other meal items.

Top / Warming Rack +

A warming rack is a smaller grill located above the main grill, where food can be placed to keep warm while waiting for slower-cooking food to reach the correct temperature.

See all +

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Barbecue Maintenance Tips:

• Season your cooking grids with vegetable oil before first use to decrease sticking and protect the coating
• Use a soft brass bristle brush to clean porcelain grids
• Use a stainless steel bristle brush to clean stainless steel grids
• Replace damaged or worn parts as necessary
• Purchase a properly fitted cover to protect your barbecue when not in use
This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.



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