Summer is here and with it the barbecue season is officially inaugurated. Any excuse is a good one to acquire the best meat –although there are those who barbecue fish or who, increasingly, incorporate vegetables into the equation– and get down to work in a process that has something of a liturgical nature and that in almost all groups usually fall into the hands of the same person. In recent times, the use of electric barbecues has proliferated over gas, wood or charcoal, a practical and comfortable choice that in many cases depends on the tastes and preferences of each diner.
“In the end, there is no better option than another, but the choice of barbecue ultimately depends on the needs of the users,” says Jasmina Lull, manager of SLP Barbacoas, an exclusive national importer and distributor of brands quality. Lull insists that we should not confuse a barbecue with a griddle, a very common mistake.
There is no better option than another, the choice of barbecue depends on the needs of the users
“Electric griddles, which are plugged into the mains and placed on the table, are one thing, and barbecues are another, which must meet requirements such as having several burners, an oven lid and a cooking grill,” he says.
Before buying an electric barbecue, however, it is advisable to assess certain aspects. Here are some of them:
1. For outdoor use only
Although a priori it may seem like a safe option indoors, because after all we also turn on electric irons and many other appliances, Lull reminds that electric barbecues “should only be used outdoors, since although they do not generate fire they also cause smoke”. They are very practical for small balconies or terraces that have a power outlet, because they are quick and easy to use. Requiring no combustion, they are also very safe.
2. Does not require fuel
The fact that it is enough to plug it into the mains and press a button to start using an electric barbecue is an incentive for many and an inconvenience for all those who love to battle with fire until they manage to tame it. As it does not require fuel to be stored at home, it is a very safe option, in addition to the fact that it will never happen to us that we run out of firewood or coal and have to find improvised solutions.
3. Easy to use
For Lull, of all the types of barbecue that exist, the electric and gas ones are the easiest to use, while the rest require a certain skill on the part of the master griller. “Both electric and gas barbecues have the advantage that they are very easy to use and have practically the same features. Once used, they are removed, cleaned, stored, and used again,” he explains.
4. They need a connection point
The manager of SLP Barbacoas points out that an electric barbecue will always need a power outlet, so it is convenient to take this point into account if we are one of those who want to move it here and there, for example, those people who often rent rural houses and apartments, since sometimes there are no electrical outlets outside. In this case, it is advisable to consider the possibility of purchasing a gas barbecue, a solvent option, equally practical and safe, that does not require an electrical connection.
Another advantage is that the current is cheaper than coal or propane.
We must not forget, furthermore, that if for any reason there is a problem with the current, be it particular or general, we could be left with the barbecue half-prepared without being able to solve it. Keep in mind, however, that in terms of costs, the electric barbecue is a winning horse: current is cheaper than coal or propane.
Not all electric barbecues are the same. While we can find some at very affordable prices (Lidl’s, for €34.99, which has become one of its star products, is a good example), there are other models that can reach €1,000. This is due, among other things, to the quality of the materials with which they are made. “Most electric barbecues on the market have chrome or stainless steel grills. There are also cast iron or enameled porcelain, although they are less frequent”, explains Lull.
6. Easy to clean
Electric barbecues have a tray with water in which the excess fat falls, which makes them relatively easy to clean, unlike what happens with wood or charcoal barbecues. In the case of the latter, cleaning is usually more complex, since in general terms the fat is stuck to the grill and sometimes it can be difficult to remove it.
Not only do they allow you to cook healthy foods without the need for added fats (white meat, fish, vegetables…), but they also avoid the inconveniences associated with health that smoke can have. The Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition (AESAN) points out, in this sense, that there is “a group of more than one hundred different chemical substances that are formed mainly during the incomplete combustion of organic matter such as coal, oil, gasoline and garbage as well as like other organic substances (tobacco, meat prepared on the grill, etc.)”. They are called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which various scientific studies have related to the incidence of diseases such as cancer, among others.
However, the European Health Authority (EFSA), a body that studies the risks of the food chain, establishes that consuming these substances from time to time does not imply any risk to health, while in the case of those who ingest them with often “risks cannot be ruled out”.
8. Size matters
Electric barbecues are usually smaller, so if there are many of us at home or we usually organize large gatherings, it is not a good option. They are ideal, however, if we have a small balcony or terrace with a power outlet.
9. And the taste too
The electric barbecue allows not only to control the cooking temperature throughout the process and to modify it depending on the needs of the food, but also to distribute the heat evenly, so that it is practically impossible to fail. The food will always be delicious and to the point, being very difficult to cause great disasters as it can happen with a fire barbecue, which can give rise to authentic aubergines. However, despite the regularity that an electric barbecue can offer, the flavor of food will never have that unmistakable point that embers and wood provide.
With the electric barbecue you lose that charcoal and wood flavor of the food
Once the secrets of the embers have been mastered, charcoal barbecues allow many flourishes that we cannot achieve with an electric barbecue, such as smoked meats. Explains Carlos Bohórquez, chef and co-founder of the cooking school cookstorming.com, in Seville, which recommends experimenting with marinades, especially for pieces of meat. “To smoke, the ideal is that they carry some sugar or honey, since they help to caramelize the surface and roast it, always with spices to taste.” All this range of flavors and aromas provided by the embers are not going to be achieved in any case with the same intensity if we use an electric barbecue, so it is convenient to study the pros and cons well and be clear about what you want to prioritize: usability or the taste.