Outdoor cooking options

From portable gas fired smokers to inbuilt al fresco kitchens – the list of outdoor cooking options is as long as a hot summer's night, and choosing a cooker is about as subjective as picking art.

Renovate cooking up a storm article
ARTICLE Jason Burgess, PHOTOGRAPHY courtesy of Escea, Leisure Designs.

From portable gas fired smokers to inbuilt al fresco kitchens – the list of outdoor cooking options is as long as a hot summer’s night, and choosing a cooker is about as subjective as picking art.
As a nation of backyard chefs we have long since graduated from the days of charring  ‘snarlers’  on the barbie. Smoking, roasting, baking and grilling are now equal terms in a patio gourmand’s vernacular.
Incredulous neighbours dubbed George Stephens’ first kettle barbeque – developed for the Weber Brothers in 1951 – the  ‘Sputnik’. The porcelain enamel finished orb shape is now globally synonymous with portable charcoal barbecues. All Webers are designed to cook with the lid down. Using optional accessories like pizza stones and roasting trivets means that anything you can cook in your oven, you can cook in a Weber.
Their Q range is the biggest selling gas barbecue in Australia. The cast aluminium lid and body allow easy transportability on a wheelie trolley, and are detachable for tabletop cooking. The two enamelled, cast iron cooking grates on the family Q300 provide more cooking area than an average four-burner barbie. Prices start at around $250.
At the top end of the stainless barbeque spectrum are the as-seen-on-Masterchef DCS barbecues by Fisher & Paykel. Outdoor Concepts refers to them as the “Bentleys of barbies”. The 36-inch Professional Grill with rotisserie is the most popular seller in this country. It comes with an optional cart or can be inset into any outdoor environment. Using ceramic radiant technology and stainless burners, it provides a hot and even cooking surface with double-sided cast stainless steel grates and a grease management system. The DCS Liberty collection includes full grills and sink/side burner options, offering a full outdoor cooking experience. At around $12,950 it is not going to suit everyone’s budget, but once experienced you probably won’t want to go back to your indoor kitchen.
Rinnai are a trusted name in gas appliances. Lately they have been busy tricking out their mid range Pimp Daddy four-burner island barbecue. The cast iron matt enamel interchangeable grills, integrated flame diffusers and smooth hotplate are designed to cook equally well at low or high temperatures. The hotplate is located close to the flame to produce more heat for the same amount of gas. The recommended retail price is $1,799.
Saber gas grills use an infrared cooking system that directs airflow away from the cooking surface, locking in natural moisture and reducing cooking times and gas consumption by up to 30 per cent. The Saber system uses commercial grade stainless steel burners and infrared emitters to generate infrared heat for even cooking temperatures. A two-burner set up retails for approximately $1,800 while a four-burner model is closer to $2,850.
Escea is renowned for their EW5000 outdoor cooking fire, which will turn out a sumptuous feast while keeping the party toasty well past summer. The cooking plate can be placed at three different heights to regulate heat and when not in use, the plate can be stored under the ash pan. Escea’s marketing manager Mark Cowden advises:  “The secret is to let the fire burn down to a base of glowing embers before cooking. Build the fire some time before you want to cook or to speed the process use charcoal which burns down faster.“
As with any outdoor wood fire the EW5000 requires a flue and needs to be installed in a completely fire rated surround such as stone cladding, concrete blocks or bricks. You can get one from Outdoor Concepts with prices starting from around $4,350.
The unique Buschbeck range will create a feature in any backyard with or without the fire burning. More than just a wood fire these German designed, quartz stone and concrete outdoor grills are multi-purpose cookers with optional pizza inserts. From the entry-level St Moritz (for around $2,000) to the top-of-the-line Ambiente, all models come as a kit set with extensions for the chimney and the base to raise the height to suit your space and cooking comfort. A gas insert is also available. At a combined weight of 450 kilograms, however, you might want to think twice about placing a Buschbeck on a wooden deck.
Traditionalists may prefer a Delissimo kit set pizza oven (approximately $2,300). Leisure Designs’ Barry McCullugh reckons a Delissimo can be built by anybody in eight hours over two days. The 1.2-metre long solid cast base uses traditional firebricks to form the shape, which is then covered with a 35-millimetre thermal outer lining comprising of fire cement and building paper. They can be tailored with dampers or built up to 1.6-metres wide.
If you’re looking for a smoker, the American Char-Griller Trio features an interchangeable charcoal and gas burning versatility with bigger-than-Texas grilling space and a side firebox for smoking. Its no frills heavy-duty steel grill, dual chrome-plated warming racks and dual external thermometers offer full control. BBQ’s & More sells them for around $899.
At the eclectic end of outdoor cookers are the ever-popular charcoal fuelled multi-purpose Kamados or kegs. These insulated double-wall ceramic egg shapes are derived from ancient Japanese clay cookers. Air is drawn over the charcoal from a lower draft door, circulating the cooker before leaving through a top damper. Like all lid down cooking, the keg cookers maximise moisture retention. Once mastered they can be ready for cooking within ten minutes of lighting and can cook as fast as a gas grill, while the outer surface remains cool to touch.
There are many brands on the market. All offer similar cooking flexibility including fast grilling, smoking and baking. When deciding on a keg, Mitchell Stronge from BBQ’s & More advises to  “look for one with good depth for more control and six-hour slow cooking capabilities”. BBQ’s & More stock the deep bellied, powder-coated steel Char-Griller Kamado Akorn. All Kamados can be heavy to lift and the Akorn comes on its own eight-inch casters or can be set into a table.
Those wanting to make a Kamado statement cannot go past the distinctive Big Green Egg (starting at $649). The Egg has an almost cultish following and claims to be the  ‘world’s best smoker and grill’.

You might be interested in reading: Maximise your outdoor living.

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This article by Jason Burgess featured in Issue 005 of Renovate Magazine. Renovate Magazine is an easy to use resource providing fresh inspiration and motivation at every turn of the page.


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