Just as your BBQ can come in various shapes, sizes and benefits, so too can the way you choose to heat your grill.
The key to a good BBQ is choosing the right fuel to give you the results you’re after. Trying out the all the different fuel types will help to give you an understanding of how each different fuel performs and helps to work out which you prefer. It also gives you the perfect excuse to get the BBQ out again!
1. Charcoal Briquettes
Made from ground charcoal or charcoal dust, charcoal briquettes are one of the most recognised and widely used fuel sources, engineered to be convenient and consistent. They create an optimal amount of smoke whether burned at low or high temperature which produces that familiar great smoky flavour we are all aiming for.
Briquettes are commonly started with charcoal lighter fluid, but this has been known to leave a slight chemical taste on your food. The best way to avoid this is to use a chimney starter to ignite the briquettes, and try to choose briquettes that are not pre-coated in additives to help start them.
2. Hardwood Lump Charcoal
A relative newer comer to the BBQ scene, hardwood lump charcoal is gaining popularity due to its lack of added chemicals. A man-made charcoal, it is typically much lighter than the original wood material and burns longer and more steadily, leaning itself well to low and slow grilling as well as high heat grilling.
It comes in varying sizes and is arguably one of the most flavourful fuel sources as it produces great and consistent smoke. Most come as a mixture of several types of wood, but some do come from one particular type which will add differing complementary flavours to your food.
3. Wood Pellets
A more economical and cleaner fuel source, wood pellets are made from compressed wood shavings or sawdust. They are about the size of a baked bean and are made from a variety of different woods, making them very flexible as they can give you many different flavour profiles.
Wood pellets are susceptible to moisture and humidity so do need to be stored inside a sealed container. They are easy to measure and use, and with a long burn time and less ash build up they are less messy than charcoal. Wood pellets burn slow and hot with an even flame, so you can still achieve that great smoky flavour.
The favourite of some of the top pit masters, wood is the classic, traditional and simple fuel choice. Wood comes in varying sizes and types, and using different varieties can completely change the flavours of your food, giving you a lot of versatility and room to experiment.
It does need more monitoring to keep it at an even temperature and you need to think about the storage of it to ensure it stays dry, but wood is consistent, abundant and provides some of the best flavours.
5. Natural Gas
A very convenient option for those of us that are frequent grillers, natural gas gives you the enjoyment of an endless supply of fuel as it’s plumbed directly into your home supply. Ideal for any built-in BBQs or outdoor kitchens, natural gas means you’re always ready to get the grill fired up, and depending on how often you use it, you may not even notice much of a change in your utility bill.
The benefit of using gas is that it’s easy to maintain a consistent temperature, and there’s no ash deposits to clean out. In exchange for the convenience you do however lose some of the smoky flavours. You may want to introduce some wood chips as a secondary fuel here in order to achieve this.
One of the most common fuel sources, propane gas comes in portable tanks that are easy and affordable. Grilling with propane is quick to ignite and gives you control over the heat. It burns hot and clean which makes it a good option for smoking and grilling. However, like natural gas, you are sacrificing some of the flavour achieved with a wood-based fuel.
Propane gas is a low-maintenance, easy to use option and gets results fast. It’s also a great option for if you have a larger grill with different stations where you want to cook multiple foods at different temperatures. It’s always a good idea to have a full spare tank on hand.
A less common option, electric grills use a heating element that turns electricity into heat through current resistance. They are a great option for small spaces as they tend to be lighter and smaller. However, because there’s no fire, you won’t get very much of a smoky flavour unless you use a secondary wood fuel source.
There is no wrong answer here, you grill how you like it. Experiment and enjoy the process of learning which fuel you like to use, and when you get it right, with the right flavour, you’ll be crowned the King of Fire!