Electric barbecues go on the grill

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Alejandra Rangel
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For purists of barbecue cooking, electric models are a heresy: without dedicated fuel (wood, vine shoots or charcoal), this particular flavor, specific to this method of cooking, would be missing. Charcoal barbecues still take the lion's share with 60% of sales, but electrical appliances still represent 30% of total sales, because they have many arguments in their favor and the possibility of using them on a balcony n is not the least.



The sunny days are coming back and with them the cravings for good pieces of meat grilled on the barbecue. According to an OpinionWay survey for Campingaz – Outdoor Leisure Observatory, 75% of Spaniards practice this culinary activity which rhymes with conviviality and good times. It can also rhyme with use in an apartment (for example on a balcony) thanks to electric barbecues when those using fossil fuels are considered persona non grata in most buildings. So how do you choose an electric barbecue? What criteria should be taken into account? What makes the difference between a low-cost device and a high-end model?


The electric barbecue: an alternative with advantages

We understand that electric barbecues leave lovers of charcoal barbecues unmoved. There is no pleasure in preparing the embers — yes, yes! for some it is not a chore! —, there is no smoky taste... But sometimes, for example when you live in collective housing, charcoal or gas barbecues are not allowed. The choice of an electric model is therefore an alternative which certainly has its faults, but also has some advantages. 


The first lies precisely in the fact that they go everywhere. Since there is no combustion, it is possible to use electric barbecues wherever the use of their coal or gas counterparts is prohibited, for example on balconies or terraces. When it is not municipal decrees, co-ownership regulations often prohibit cooking with charcoal because of the odors and fumes that can annoy neighbors. Gas grills don't give off as much smoke, but the risk of explosion makes lawmakers and condominium trustees wary.

But beware, the absence of flame does not necessarily mean absence of risk: an electric barbecue (open or closed) remains a device that gives off a lot of heat and must therefore be handled with care.

Another advantage is their design, which provides quick and very easy results. These devices are equipped with a resistance which heats up as soon as an electric current passes through it. Users simply turn a knob to quickly have a heating surface at the desired temperature. When you know the difficulty that the formation of good embers can represent for a neophyte, the simplicity of use is a real asset.


Of course, gas barbecues are also easy to light and adjust. But they are much bulkier because of the bottle they need to operate. An electrical appliance eliminates the need for gas cylinders, and it is not necessary to store coal, kindling, various and varied firelighters... a real plus when you are short of space.

And that's where another benefit comes in, especially for people who live in apartments: electric models are often small in size – some are bulkier, but most can be moved around and stored easily. And fortunately, since they are much more susceptible to the weather than their coal-fired counterparts because of their electrical circuits. You might as well take advantage of this maneuverability to store them at the end of the meal and not have to buy one every year, even if the higher quality models are better able to stand outside.


Points to check

There are several things to consider when choosing a device. 

Open or closed?

Electric barbecues can take many forms. Open devices with the traditional grid placed above the resistance are the most affordable models. Often provided with removable legs, they can be placed directly on the table since the release of smoke is less (in the absence of combustion). It is also possible to install them outside, but of course near an electrical outlet.

Devices equipped with a cover are more bulky. It is difficult to place them directly on the table gathering the guests and it is better to dedicate a serving table to them when they are not mounted on legs. 


Closed models generally heat up better than open models. Energy loss is necessarily less with a cover. These devices with lids therefore have significant advantages over their open counterparts. The heating is done more quickly; the cooking is also more controlled and more homogeneous, the food remains soft and does not dry out. Finally, the lid prevents messy ... and painful grease splashes.

Power and resistance

To cook well, you must heat well. Manufacturers have fully understood this and are focusing on several areas to optimize cooking. First of all, the electrical power plays an important role in the quality of heating. You can find devices whose power does not exceed 1000 watts. However, unless they are equipped with a lid which limits the heat loss, it is better to bet on a higher power: a minimum of 2000 W seems necessary to us to have a heat suitable for entering a piece of meat properly. The higher the power, the faster the temperature rise. 


It is logical that a long resistance, which makes twists and turns under the grid, cooks the food more evenly than a shorter resistance and which does not offer sufficient density. This element is quite easy to check, but you have to think about it. 

Cast iron rather than steel

The materials they are made of contribute to the general quality of barbecues and their robustness. Entry-level products made of stainless steel and plastic will necessarily withstand the shock less well than cast iron models. Barbecues have to manage high temperatures, which plastic does not necessarily support in the long term. Let's also not forget that it can happen that a barbecue, even an electric one, remains outside. The stronger the product, the better it will withstand this test. Manufacturers still recommend bringing open devices inside when not in use.

The materials that make up the appliance also contribute to the quality of cooking. The least expensive barbecues often have a stainless steel grill that is less able to retain heat: most of the time very thin, it ultimately only serves to prevent food from coming into contact with the heating elements. If the budget allows, it is better to favor a barbecue equipped with a cast iron grill, which is thicker and made of a more efficient material for cooking food since it conducts heat better.

The ease of cleaning

Cleaning a barbecue is often a chore: the juices cling to the grid mesh, the heating elements are often smeared with meat and grease... To make things easier, it is best to check that the device can be disassembled easily so that the chore of cleaning does not prove to be too tedious. The ideal being of course that certain elements go directly to the dishwasher. To facilitate this tedious operation, some manufacturers have thought of equipping their appliances with a cooking grid made up of several parts.

Namely: there are "multifunction" models

Some electric barbecues are versatile by being sold with a plancha. This one, often treated with a non-stick coating, is an accessory that is simple to use and clean, but which is totally different from cooking on the barbecue itself. There are also plates designed for grilling, also treated so as not to stick. These accessories can be disassembled and are mostly dishwasher safe.

Which barbecue for which use? 

Intended for urban use and of a limited size to limit their electricity consumption, electric barbecues try to get out of the game by going where flame models cannot go. There are very basic entry-level devices from around twenty euros when the most elaborate can reach more than €350. From the most affordable to the most expensive, here are some products that can calm the carnivorous cravings of barbecue enthusiasts. 

A basic product for barbecue enthusiasts in small spaces

Moulinex BG132811

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The Moulinex BG132811 does not bother with the superfluous. It will still create a garden party illusion even in a small studio. Its power of 2000 W and its simple stainless steel grill suggest some difficulty in cooking a very thick rib of beef, but may be suitable for grilling a very suitable flank steak or a few slices of pork belly. Completely removable and very compact, it is intended above all for urban and non-intensive use. 

Economical and cute

Gardenall BB Grill 30 Electric

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Available in various colors (green, red or blue), Gardenall's electric BB grill 30 only has a power of 1000 W which could be considered insufficient for an electric barbecue. It is compensated by the presence of a completely removable lid which not only facilitates the rise in temperature and the cooking, but which also prevents the projections of fat. It is certainly a bit cumbersome for a limited heating surface, but its pleasant roundness and its acid colors can seduce.

A grill disguised as a barbecue

Philips HD6360 / 20

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When it comes to electric barbecues, purists reject the idea with a disdainful wave of their hands, arguing that a resistor will never give the same flavor to food as charcoal or lovingly dried vine shoots. Philips is trying to remedy this problem by equipping its HD6360/20 table grill with a smoke diffuser. The principle consists of depositing wood chips or spices in the container provided for this purpose. Aromatic herbs can also be infused to give flavor to grilled meats or vegetables. Equipped with a ribbed grill and a griddle, the HD6360/20 develops a power of 2000 W and has a glass lid to contain the smoke and thus allow it to penetrate better into the food.

A quality electric barbecue

Weber Q 1400

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At Weber, we don't mess with barbecues, even electric ones. The Q 1400 (available in several colors) impresses with its quality of finish despite its high price. Its folding lid and its tank are made of cast aluminum while its grid is made of cast iron. With a power of 2200 W, it is also equipped with a pyrolysis function to facilitate its maintenance. The Q 1400 has an optional wheeled stand to move it easily and a cover to protect it from external aggressions. Indeed, its large size and its substantial weight (11 kg when an open model rarely exceeds 5 kg) rather intend it to stay outside, where it was placed at the beginning of the beautiful days, in particular thanks to the quality materials of which it consists. It will still be necessary to think of covering it or sheltering it. The electric regulator detaches from the appliance and should be kept indoors when the barbecue is not in use.

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