Ultimate Guide to barbecues and grills for summer 2014

THIS IS THE SUMMER 2014 GUIDE TO BARBECUES. AN UPDATED ARTICLE FOR SUMMER 2015 IS HERE:

Grilliant! The Ultimate Guide to Barbecues and Outdoor Lifestyle for Summer 2015

The barbecue market is moving to extremes: outdoor kitchens that can do everything and small portable models for apartment dwelling.

Increased demand for barbecues by apartment dwellers has resulted in Everdure expanding its portable range to five models. These smaller form factor units are ideal for terraces, small backyards and balconies; and they hold great appeal for wealthy barbecue lovers living in urban blocks with no room to house a full size model.

The Everdure portable range now includes the Neo Buddy (RRP $229), the Neo Buddy Open Grill (RRP $229), the E2Go (RRP $299), the E2Go Grill (RRP $299) and the innovative e churrasco (styled in lower case; RRP $349).

A winner at the recent 2013 Australia International Design Awards, the e churrasco takes the phenomenally popular South American style of cooking, a favourite of all-you-can-eat Brazilian restaurants, and places it in a compact and portable appliance.

Everdure claims a world first with the gas start functionality of this charcoal grill, which only takes 15 minutes to heat up to cooking temperature, assuming it’s not raining or snowing.

“Churrasco dining has captured Australians’ imaginations and churrascaria restaurants are springing up in major cities,” said Mike Westrup, CEO of Shriro Australia, distributor of Everdure.

“An array of food can be easily prepared over the coals, including red and white meats, fish and vegetables.

Westrup said the short wait to start cooking is made possible through a rapid injection of heat to the charcoal beads inside the unit.

“We’ve created a product that stands apart in the market, offering a distinctive charcoal barbecue flavour without mess or fuss, and the unit is easy to transport and clean.”

The new Neo Buddy Grill comes with two open grills as standard with the option of a Buddy Flat Plate, along with a hood for roasting.

One of the trends being seen among the home appliance suppliers has been a greater emphasis on the outdoor kitchen. Everdure is looking to capture that zeitgeist, but with both freestanding models and a new range of integrated units.

“Australian homeowners and renters are enriching their outdoor spaces with everything from outdoor lighting to decking and even pergolas and gazebos,  and the barbecue continues to play an important role in these outdoor entertaining hubs,” Westrup said. “We continue to see a strong trend towards barbecues that offer durability, practicality and ease-of-use, while also being fast and easy to clean and maintain.”

Everdure’s new Sunbury and Brighton eSee built-in models are constructed from long-life 304-grade stainless steel, including the chassis and roasting hood. Features include large viewing windows, cast iron burners for evenly distributed heat and electronic ignition for a quick and efficient start-up.

A new ‘built-in beauty’ from Everdure, the Brighton has electronic ignition for quick start-up and six burners.

Ten years ago, Fisher & Paykel acquired the American company DCS, which stands for Dynamic Cooking Systems. DCS makes grills, the type of outdoor cooking appliance often referred to in American TV shows and movies. Although there is a general perception that grilling and barbecuing are the same thing, F&P general manager, marketing, Peter Russell demurs.

(Shortly after conducting this interview, Peter Russell resigned from Fisher & Paykel. His information remains accurate and relevant.)

“A simple barbecue won’t cut it anymore — real outdoor home chefs need a grill to get the best results — hence why we introduced our range of super premium DCS Grills,” he said.

So what exactly is the difference? According to Troy Black, contributing editor of Big Book of BBQ, grilling is much hotter and much faster than barbecuing, which tends to involve longer cooking at lower temperatures.

“We wanted to redress the sad fact Australians have been brought up on a diet of low powered, ordinary performance, poor quality barbecues,” Russell continued. “We’ve been broiling our food and considering it ‘the norm’; with DCS we aim to educate consumers that they can enjoy restaurant quality searing and that there’s more to outdoor cooking than overcooked steaks and sausages.”

Fisher & Paykel’s DCS Grills on show at its Bar-Be School in Sydney.

A simple glance at a DCS Grill reveals that it is a long, long way from being entry level: it has thick-walled 304 grade stainless steel, an upper heat range of 470° Celsius and special ceramic radiant rods to spread heat out over the entire grilling surface, thus eliminating the dreaded hot spots.

“Consumers expecting a cheap and ordinary BBQ will be disappointed,” Russell said. “Our DCS Grills are for outdoor cooking aficionados who appreciate the beauty and value of a perfectly seared steak.”

There are two basic DCS Grills in the range: 36-inch (around 90 centimetres) and 48-inch (around 120 centimetres), and both of these are available in freestanding or integrated configurations. Consumers also can opt to have the 48-inch model with or without sideburns. These models are all sold through a pro forma model.

Fisher & Paykel offers potential customers the opportunity to try-before-they-buy at one of its aligned cooking schools. There are three schools currently showcasing the DCS Grill, in Sydney, North Sydney and Noosa, while the Grills have also been touring the country as part of the Good Food & Wine Show.

While the DCS Grills are being marketed as superior due to their American heritage, Electrolux has taken the opposite approach with its “sophisticated, design oriented” models.

“The big advantage Electrolux has over its competitors is that our barbecues have been designed and developed specifically to Australian tastes,” said cooking product manager Despina Mihailidis. “Electrolux consumer insights have established what Australians want in their barbecues and then the company’s Sydney design studio has worked in conjunction with the Electrolux Cooking Products plant in Adelaide to design and engineer them.”

Electrolux has two models in its integrated range, priced at RRP $2,959 and $3,279, plus a separate side burner for RRP $849. Its freestanding range includes two ‘en:tice’ units and one ‘en:v’ barbecue, priced from RRP $1,059 up to its hero product EQBM100AS (RRP $5,279) , which has a retractable hood and the optional side burner

“In addition to style, design and evenness of heating, Electrolux consumer insight research has identified ease of cleaning to be a major factor in the purchase decision,” Mihailidis said. “This has lead to Electrolux building a superior oil management system into the barbecue range.

“In addition to draining oil and waste into containers that are easily removed, the barbecue plates have an angled surface which drains oil away from the food for healthier cooking.”

An emerging trend identified by Smeg is the continuation of the indoor cooking space into the patio via a process it calls ‘linking’.

As a manufacturer that supplies both kitchen appliances and barbecues, Smeg is able to offer consumers the same design aesthetic for both their traditional internal kitchen and their al fresco cooking space.

“In two designs, the Smeg barbeque is one of the most powerful available, with a total 67.5 megajoules-per-hour over five burners,” said national marketing manager Jim Kalotheos.

“Features include an interlocking grill system plus a hotplate, while an integrated fat and oil collection system drains all oils and fats away from the cooking area into a reservoir at the side of the unit. This makes for easy collection of these unwanted fats plus healthier food and a sharp decline in any ‘flare ups’.”

New from Smeg is its integrated hooded barbecue (BIBQ1205AH, RRP $3,690).

The two models in Smeg’s range are the hooded model (BIBQ1205AH, RRP $3,690) and one with a sleek lid that doubles as a splashback (BIBQ1205AF, RRP $3,490).

An influx of cheap alternatives and a decrease in margins are the two trends influencing Arisit’s barbecue program, according to national business development manager Nick Detsirapis.

To counter these trends, Detsirapis envisages a greater focus on style and design, the promotion accessories sales and more indoor barbecue options to hit the market.

Arisit’s range of Wallmount Smart barbecues were recently featured on the television show The Block Sky High. This eye-catching installation of an electric barbecue was labelled “sleek and sexy” by the judges on that show.

Arisit MD Simon Taylor explained the thinking behind the design:

“The natural progression to our successful range of Smart barbecues was to try to solve the problem for people who could not put a gas trolley barbecue on their balcony,” he said. “The challenge we faced was to provide the sizzle, but ensure that the unit could be installed to existing 10-amp circuits without the requirement of major electrical work.  We have certainly achieved that.”

Arisit’s Wallmounted Smart barbecue, as featured on The Block Sky High (RRP $2,499).

Electric kettle barbecues remain a great option for those without the space for a fully-fledged outdoor kitchen, according to Sunbeam product manager, cooking, Nicole Norton.

“Although the traditional gas barbecue is popular, there will always be a solid market for electric grills and barbecues,” Norton said. “Many apartment buildings don’t allow gas barbecues, and some consumers are cautious of using gas bottles.

“Electric grills and barbecues are incredibly easy to use and space-saving, and our grill plates are Teflon Platinum Pro coated and dishwasher safe, resulting in a safe and convenient grilling option.”

Sunbeam’s ReversaGrill (HG3300, RRP $149) has a ribbed plate on one side and a flat plate on the other for versatility.

Norton has an easy-to-remember tip for retailers fielding questions about electric barbecues:

“Always look for 2,400 wattage and cast-in elements, which are incorporated into all Sunbeam barbecues and grill plates. “This wattage indicates fast heat up, even heat temperature and even heat distribution; and cast-in elements ensure superior heat transfer to the cooking plate and the food for true barbecue searing.”

Winner of the Best in Category Award for Domestic Appliances at the 2013 Australian International Design Awards, the Lotus Grill is a portable barbecue that combines fast heat-up with energy efficiency for a smoke-free charcoaling experience (from RRP $299).

This author is on Twitter: @Patrickavenell

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