Outdoor Barbecue Pits – How to Find the Perfect Outdoor Barbecue Pits

outdoor barbecue pits

The Weber Smokey Mountain is one of the better outdoor barbecue pits you'll find

Many people are confused when they start looking at outdoor barbecue pits, there’s so many different models, styles and types of outdoor barbecue pits that it’s easy to be overwhelmed.  You’ll find outdoor barbecue pits ranging in price from $50 all the way up to thousands of dollars, so really, what it the difference?  Read on to learn about some of the basic things you should look for to help you in your quest to find the perfect barbecue pit.

When it comes to outdoor barbecue pits you’ll find three types of heating options.  charcoal, propane or electric. To be honest each has it’s own distinct advantages and disadvantages and it really depends on how ‘hands on’ you want the barbecue experience to be.  Let’s take a closer look at each type .

  • Gas outdoor barbecue pits light easily, the fuel is cheap and lasts for quite a while.  It’s also quite clean.  Another benefit is the pit will come up to cooking temperature quickly. Now to barbecue purists this isn’t real barbecue, but, if you use the proper wood and barbecue technique you can really make some good barbecue.  The drawbacks, well, if you run out of fuel there’s nothing you can really do except hop in the car and get the tank filled.
  • Charcoal outdoor barbecue pits, to the purist this is the only way to go for real bbq flavor.  These can be difficult to light especially if the humidity is high.  For a long smoke session you’ll need to refuel the pit many times.  Cleanup is a chore with all the ash, I should also point out that it can take up to a half hour or more for the pit to come up to cooking temperature.
  • Finally we have the electric barbecue pits.  Until recently these have been sub par at best, but, with the introduction of the Bradley Smoker and other top quality models electric outdoor barbecue pits have come into their own.  These are obviously very easy to keep clean.  There are no fuel issues for long smoke sessions.  I will point out that although electric barbecue pits are great for barbecueing, they’re horrible for grilling as they can’t get to high temperatures.  These are the ultimate ‘hands off’ bbq smoker.

You really need to decide right of the bat which type you want.  For ease of use go for electric, for true bbq flavor go for charcoal.  Gas lies in the middle, but I should say that for purists gas isn’t a consideration at all since some believe the gas imparts an ‘off’ flavor to the meat.

Now that you have an idea of which outdoor barbecue pits you want it’s time to look at size.  Although you may think that just grabbing the biggest one is the way to go the fact is it isn’t.  The key to bbq is maintaining a constant low temperature (225 degrees) for hours on end.  A larger pit needs more fuel to stay at temp and this WILL be an issue if your using a charcoal smoker.  Smaller pits come up to temperature faster and hold their temperature better.  For electric smokers, which usually have weak heating elements, smaller is absolutely better.

bradley electric smoker

When it comes to outdoor barbecue pits you really can't go wrong with a Bradley

Once you have an idea of what fuel you want to use and what size to get let’s look into some of the most important considerations when it comes to finding the best outdoor barbecue pits.

  • Look for thick steel walls, remember the pit must come up to temperature and stay there for 6 hours to even 20 hours of more.  Thick steel walls will hold temperature well and keep it there without fluctuating wildly.
  • The pit absolutely must be as airtight as possible, this is especially important for charcoal outdoor barbecue pits as any air leaks will cause the coals to flare.  An airtight pit will also, once again, hold temperature well.  For electrics this is also important as they tend to have weaker heating elements.

As a final point I’d like to cover the wood used.  In a charcoal pit you generally use big chunks of wook thrown onto the coals.  For propane you generally will find wood chips in a pan over the flame, and finally in an electric you’ll usually find wood discs or pellets that are fed into an electric ‘hot plate’.  All three types use real wood and, except for the Bradley electric, none have any real flavor advantages.  I will say though that in a gas pit you’ll generally have to add wood every few hours, this kind’ve cuts down on the fuel advantage it has.

So there you have it, when it comes to finding the best outdoor barbecue pits you’ll need to decide on what fuel you want to use, what size to get and finally on the quality level you want to pay for.  Don’t fall for any gimmicks like side heating plates or other nonsense, if the pit is hard to use you just wont use it.  If you’re still undecided I suggest reading barbecue smoker reviews on sites like Consumer Reports, Consumer Search and even on Amazon.  These barbecue smoker reviews will more than likely help you find the best outdoor barbecue pits that fit your needs and budget perfectly.

Filed Under: Recreational Items

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About the Author

Hi there!, My name is Norm. I am a college grad, a veteran, a pet owner and a family man. I started writing articles both to make a little extra money, and to share my knowledge with others. I currently work in the IT department of a major NY hospital.
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