Battle of the barbies: Are expensive barbecues really better than those costing £9.99?

It's Bank Holiday weekend, and Tesco has started selling a £1,599 mega-barbecue that comes with its own sink. But is it worth it? We challenged celebrity chef ALDO ZILLI to cook on Tesco's Landmann and a range of eight other gas and charcoal barbecues, with prices starting from £9.99.


£1,599 TESCO

The biggest gas barbecue ever sold on the High Street, spanning 10ft, complete with five-burner cooking surface and sink.

COOKING AND TASTE: There's a decent size grill but the distribution of heat across the cooking surface is just not even. When I tried to cook a whole fish, half burned and half was raw, as the five elements are so far apart.

Dining out: Chef Aldo Zilli road tests the Smokey Joe barbecue and grills its competition

Dining out: Chef Aldo Zilli road tests the Smokey Joe barbecue and grills its competition

The warming rack got so hot that it was actually cooking food - I did a couple of steaks on it - so if you left food up there it would overcook. As for the taste straight off the barbecue, it was extremely bland and lacked smoky flavour.

FEATURES: The sink is a great idea because washing your hands is crucial, especially when barbecuing meat and fish together, but you could achieve the same thing with a bowl of warm water and lemon next to the barbecue and save yourself a fortune.

I like the space - you can fit two chopping boards on the work surface and there are drawers for your knives. Disappointingly, there's no built-in bin or separate gas burner (a side ring you can use to boil water or cook with a pan).


Big bbq: The Landmann is a whopping £1,599 but 'looks cheap, filmsy and ugly'

VALUE FOR MONEY: Despite being the most expensive, it looks cheap, flimsy and ugly. The stainless steel is impractical as it marks easily and would rust if you didn't remember to cover it. And most importantly, it just didn't cook as well as barbecues at a fraction of the price. 



£599 BBQ.CO.UK

Easy to assemble U.S.-designed gas barbecue with a battery-powered rotisserie burner and a side burner.

COOKING AND TASTE: The spitroast is probably the best thing about it - it even has a line of gas burners along the back to ensure your chicken or vegetables cook evenly as they turn.

Scoring high: Broil King Signet 90 is recommended for its rotisserie and side burner

Scoring high: Broil King Signet 90 is recommended for its rotisserie and side burner

Unlike the other gas models, it cooked a steak perfectly and made the food taste authentic. The heat is well distributed across the large grill, too.

FEATURES: The only that has a cast iron grill, which is easy to clean and really sturdy. I love the idea of a gas burner at the side for frying up a marinade or boiling potatoes.

My only concern is that you couldn't do everything on it at once: the plastic end of the rotisserie is placed over the top of the side gas ring, so could melt if you used them both at once. The shelves at the front for sauces is a great touch.

VALUE FOR MONEY: If you're going to invest money in a great barbecue, this should be the one, if only for its size and power. It looks fantastic, is stable and easy to assemble (most is done for you) and has a huge cooking surface. You could have a real party using it. It beat the Landmann by miles.




Stainless steel and rust-proof aluminium charcoal barbecue with teak shelving and granite sideboard.

COOKING AND TASTE: There are two grills - one at the top of the bowl and one 6in inside the bowl, right next to the coals. Without the lid on, the top grill was slow to cook on, taking ten minutes on each side to cook a burger. But once I started using the lower grill, the burgers and sausages cooked faster.

Trolley good: The JLT1 is a large charcoal barbecue with a granite sideboard

Trolley good: The JLT1 is a large charcoal barbecue with a granite sideboard

If you are doing fish, it needs to be wrapped in foil as my sardines disintegrated quickly in the heat. As it's coal, everything has a wonderful barbecue flavour and cooked evenly owing to the internal vents.

FEATURES: There's plenty of room for the price - I love the granite side and the shelf. It looks very professional and has wheels so is easy to move.

VALUE FOR MONEY: This is the biggest coal barbecue I've ever seen in my life. Unlike the smaller coal ones, it's childfriendly as it's high and the heat is contained in the bowl. It is a nice-looking product that performs well, but costs much more than most charcoal barbecues. 




Stainless steel gas barbecue with a side-burner, shelves, warming rack and cupboard.

COOKING AND TASTE: The heat distribution is fairly good and the four burners make it quite powerful. But there was a major problem with cooking on the Phoenix.

The steaks started off well but as the fat started dripping into the barbecue, the flames rose up and were burning the meat directly, which is not what you want and not good for you either.

Pricey: The Phoenix burner scored just 4 out of ten despite its fancy looks

Pricey: The Phoenix burner scored just 4 out of ten despite its fancy looks

Despite this, none of the food took on a smoky flavour, so you might as well use a griddle pan inside.

FEATURES: The gas burner at the side is one of my favourite things, and the temperature gauge on the top of the lid is clever. The cover closes up tightly, which I like. But the stainless steel body showed up greasy hand marks straight away and the whole thing looked a mess after one use.

VALUE FOR MONEY: The first hurdle for me was that this took a professional handyman more than an hour to assemble as it's so complicated. It's a typical man's barbecue - all you have to do is turn on the gas so it lets you be lazy. But it is expensive for the poor cooking.



£79.99 ARGOS

Budget gas barbecue: The Epp3 scored low for its wide grill and wobbly features

Budget gas barbecue: The Epp3 scored low for its wide grill and wobbly features

Stainless steel and black plastic budget gas barbecue.

COOKING AND TASTE: The maximum heat setting doesn't feel hot enough on the cheapest of our gas barbecues. I had to cover the grill with the lid just to cook on it, which means you can't see how the meat is doing. 

Another problem was that the grill bars were a bit wide apart - I lost a couple of scallops when they fell into the flames. It was broiling the meat rather than grilling it properly, and after ten minutes my steak was barely cooked on one side. Again, like with most of the gas barbecues, there was no smoky flavour to be tasted.

FEATURES: The large warming rack is set back into the lid so it's great at keeping food warm but not overcooking it. There's a hob on the side but no thermometer. The shelf is so small it's barely worth having. And it's quite ugly, as there's nowhere to hide the gas bottle.

VALUE FOR MONEY: The least expensive of the gas barbecues and it showed - it was wobbly and looked cheap. You'd get something better for your money choosing charcoal instead.



£60 HEAL'S

Smokey: The Weber barbecue is pretty and a good size but is an awkward table top model

Smokey: The Weber barbecue is pretty and a good size but is an awkward table top model

Lightweight U.S. charcoal barbecue with handle.

COOKING AND TASTE: It's good for cooking. The charcoal means that the heat is even and everything has a lovely smoky flavour.

But it has a small cooking space and is no better at grilling than cheaper charcoal models.

FEATURES: It looks sweet - green is my favourite colour and I like the shape. But I'm not a big fan of table-top barbecues.

I think they're dangerous, especially if you have kids or don't know what you're doing. This one has a carry handle, which is essential for a portable barbecue, but it is too high if you have a standard-height table and too low to use on the floor.

VALUE FOR MONEY: Far too small for the money. It doesn't even have the adjustable grill levels of cheaper barbecues.



£29.98 B&Q

Portable blue steel charcoal barbecue with three grilling levels.

COOKING AND TASTE: I love the idea of being able to move the grill up and down, and it made cooking really easy. I cooked burgers, sausages and steaks close to the charcoal on the lowest level, then did fish on the second setting.

You can use the highest as a warming rack once the food is cooked. It's very easy to distribute the coal evenly in the base, so the cooking was even, quick and everything had a lovely barbecue flavour. It charred my pepper nicely and the burgers only took six minutes on each side - a great all-rounder.

Great value: The Vegas folding barbecue got Aldo Zillli's seal of approval

Great value: The Vegas folding barbecue got Aldo Zillli's seal of approval

FEATURES: I'm useless at assembling anything so this is ideal - you just open it up like an ironing board. I like the bright blue colour. The top did get quite dirty from smoke but it was easy to wipe off.

VALUE FOR MONEY: You could feed a family of six no problem, there is plenty of room. It's easy to store, cooked the burgers perfectly and was one of the cheapest tested. It's such great value that I'd be happy to put my name on it.



£10 ASDA

Cheap and cheerful: The Asda barbecuse can feed a couple easily and is good value

Cheap and cheerful: The Asda barbecue can feed a couple easily and is good value

Small red and black charcoal barbecue with wheels and shelf.

COOKING AND TASTE: Also with an adjustable grill, but just two settings this time. I started the food close to the coals and then moved it up - it's a great idea and amazing that it's only available on the cheapest models.

The cooking was even and perfectly good - the sausages and burgers had that smoky taste that I always look for and was missing on most of the gas barbecues.

FEATURES: This looks a bit more sturdy than the other cheap barbecue, as the legs are more evenly spaced. It is definitely a couple's barbecue - cute, red and small. It would be good on a patio, but it's almost too small to qualify as a barbecue at all.

But in its favour, it's got wheels and a large plastic handle, which makes it quite portable. The little round red tray underneath is handy for putting your cooked food on.

VALUE FOR MONEY: It's a real bargain.



£9.99 ARGOS

Value: Argos produces an almost-disposal barbecue for just £9.99

Value: Argos produces an almost-disposal barbecue for just £9.99

Mini silver and black three-legged charcoal barbecue.

COOKING AND TASTE: This is another one where you can move the grill up and down, and I found that it cooked food evenly without drying it out.

The grill is small but you can fit a couple of burgers, some vegetables and four sausages on at once, which means it would be fine for two people.

As it's charcoal, the flavour of the food was great, despite the cheap price.

FEATURES: You can't put this on a table-top as it has thin legs, but it's only knee height which makes it tricky to use. You have to crouch, which wasn't good for my knees.

It is probably the most wobbly, as the legs are not evenly spaced, and you couldn't use it around young children. There were no wheels or shelf, which the Asda one did have.

VALUE FOR MONEY: This is so cheap that you could almost buy it to throw away. On the other hand, disposable barbecues generally have a larger cooking area.

If you want a small and basic barbecue, I'd probably pay the extra penny for the Asda one.


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