Kettle barbecue purchasing advice: how to choose the right product

  • What You Need to Know
  • A kettle grill consists of a hemispherical bowl and a similarly shaped lid.
  • The barbecue is usually practical to transport and is available as a charcoal, gas or electric version.
  • Various additional gadgets make it easier to light the charcoal or check the temperature, for example.
  • The kettle grill is ideal for indirect grilling, where the meat can be cooked particularly gently.

What makes a kettle grill?

A kettle grill consists of two separable hemispheres – the actual grill at the bottom and a lid. The grill grate is attached about halfway up and is sometimes height-adjustable. The lower part contains the fuel or the gas burner together with the heating rods. Air slits at the bottom of the grill ensure that more oxygen reaches the flames and the temperature can be heated up. The lid is equipped with a handle – usually heat-insulated – so that you can lift it safely at any time. There is also a small closable opening on the top of the grill that serves as an exhaust. The kettle grill is usually a portable garden grill on three or four legs, sometimes with additional wheels. It is available as a classic version, which is fired with charcoal and briquettes, and as an electric or gas barbecue version.

The different types of barbecue

You have the choice between a charcoal, an electric and a gas barbecue. They all have their advantages and disadvantages, but for the enjoyment of grilled food such as meat, vegetables, cheese or bread, no variant has an exposed supremacy. However, how or where you choose to grill may influence your decision.

charcoal kettle barbecue

Charcoal barbecue

The heat comes from charcoal or charcoal briquettes. It usually takes a while for these to glow. Since a lot of smoke develops, the charcoal barbecue may only be used outdoors. The landlord often prohibits the use of charcoal grills on balconies because of the possibility of unpleasant odours. If fat from the grilled meat drips into the embers, harmful substances can be produced that settle in the grilled food via the smoke. In addition, there is a safety risk associated with open fires. Despite all this, this original form of grilling is popular with many because of the atmosphere. In addition, the smoke from the grill gives meat a special aroma.

electric kettle barbecue

Electric grill

The electric grill can only be used with a cable and mains power, which is why you have little flexibility with it. It is therefore not suitable for a barbecue session in the park or similar open spaces. However, you can usually use it indoors. However, since it produces a little smoke – although nowhere near as much as a charcoal barbecue – it is recommended to place it close to an open window or balcony door. The electric grill is easier to clean than its charcoal counterpart, partly because no ash remains. In some cases, the temperature can be adjusted via a regulator.

gas kettle barbecue

Gas barbecue

This grill is fired with a gas cartridge. You regulate the size of the gas flame and thus its heat by turning a knob. Like the electric grill, this grill variant produces little smoke and is easy to clean after grilling. This makes it a flexible option for outdoor grilling. However, a gas barbecue is usually more expensive than the other types. Moreover, a gas bottle is not as easy to obtain as charcoal or briquettes. These are available in almost every supermarket and often cost less.

Components of the kettle grill

One of the most important components of the barbecue is the grill grate on which you place your food. It is usually made of cast iron or stainless steel, both of which are very sturdy materials. Cast iron provides the typical burn pattern on the meat, but it grates more easily. Stainless steel does not have this disadvantage. It is also easier to clean. Make sure that you can adjust the height of the grill grate. This is usually possible in stages by means of mounting rails on the edge of the grill. In this way, you can decide how far apart the embers and food should be and influence the heat supply. In some cases, you can place another small grate on the edge of the grill, which is higher above the embers. This is used as a shelf for the finished grilled food, which is then still close to the heat.

The kettle grill has several ventilation openings. Firstly, there are ventilation slots on the underside. These are ideally opened completely when firing up the barbecue. During grilling, they can be opened in sections to regulate the air supply and provide the fire with oxygen. Secondly, there is a closable opening on the lid that serves as an air vent. If you cut off any air supply, you can smother the fire more quickly when it is no longer needed.

man grill meat

The lid of the kettle grill, if it has a heat-insulated handle, can be lifted at any time without worrying about burning yourself. When the embers are hot enough or the food needs to be turned, you can hang the lid on a hook on the side of the grill. Other models have a hinged lid. This is particularly practical because it can also act as a windbreak.

When to put the lid on

When grilling with charcoal, do not close the lid until you have fired the fuel. Otherwise, you may not get enough oxygen to produce sufficiently hot embers. With electric and gas barbecues, you can leave the lid closed from the start to save energy.

Accessories for the kettle grill

With a few additional utensils, you can make barbecuing more comfortable or more extensive. When buying, pay attention to whether certain accessories are included in the scope of delivery or whether you need to add desired parts.

Drip tray

A drip tray underneath the grill grate prevents fat from the meat from seeping into the embers and thus harmful substances from entering the smoke. You can also ensure higher humidity by filling the tray with water. This prevents the meat from drying out too quickly. There are disposable trays made of aluminium. Stainless steel models are more sustainable. They can be used again and again, but must be cleaned after each use.


A thermometer on the outside of the grill housing shows you the temperature inside. This allows you to gauge how long the food needs to cook without having to open the lid and heat escaping. Steaks should be grilled at temperatures of 230 to 280 degrees Celsius, while 170 to 230 degrees Celsius is sufficient for fish. There are also special barbecue thermometers with measuring probes. The latter is inserted into the food to measure its temperature. You can then read the value on the thermometer.

Ignition chimney

The hollow cylinder is placed in the kettle of the barbecue and filled with the coal or briquettes. If you light them in the fireplace, the preparation time is shortened because the heat cannot escape as quickly. There will be no deflagrations or pilot flames, which makes it safer. Bear in mind that the fireplace heats up very quickly, so wear heat-resistant gloves for safety. As soon as the charcoal is glowing, you can slowly add it to the grill.

top view of kettle barbecue with fuel chimney
For special dishes

Iron skewers can be used, for example, to roast shish kebabs or vegetable skewers over the embers. Burger presses bring minced or vegetable burgers into a patty shape and then grill them. From barbecue food holders to fish roasters, there are plenty of accessories that make work easier for barbecue fans when preparing certain types of food. Even dishes that are rather unusual for a grill can be prepared on it with the right gadgets. For example, some models can be combined with small pizza stones so that they can prepare a pizza in a similar way to a stone oven. Raclette fans can use fireproof grill pans to gratinate meat or vegetables with cheese.

How big should the grill be?

Depending on how many people you are grilling for or where you are using the grill, you should also choose the dimensions. For example, a grill surface with a diameter of about 42 centimetres is enough for three people. If you are a larger group or have frequent barbecues, grills with a size of more than 47 centimetres are recommended. You should also choose a larger model if you prefer indirect grilling. Smaller models are more suitable for transport in the car or for a location on the balcony. Mini ball grills with a diameter of around 30 centimetres are also available, for example. Note that a higher weight usually goes hand in hand with the grill having better stability. A secure stand is especially important if the ground, such as grass, is somewhat uneven.

What is indirect grilling?

The kettle grill is particularly suitable for so-called indirect grilling. In this process, you place your food on the grill as centrally as possible, but the fuel is on the edge of the grill. With the lid closed, the heat circulates inside the kettle grill. The effect of the heat on the meat or grilled food is therefore less and it is cooked gently. This process takes longer than conventional grilling, but no fat drips into the fire. This method is ideal for thick pieces of meat or whole fish. On the other hand, such grilled food can quickly become too dark on the outside when grilled directly, while it is not yet cooked through on the inside. If you prefer a crispy crust, you can grill the cooked food again briefly when it is cooked through.

ball grill indirect grilling patties
With indirect grilling, the food is not exactly above the embers and is only indirectly exposed to the heat.

How do I clean the kettle grill?

Even though it is probably difficult after a sumptuous meal, you should not take too much time cleaning the grill after the barbecue. Otherwise, grill residues will dry and become all the more difficult to remove later. However, you should let the ashes of the charcoal cool down completely before tipping them out of the kettle. With warm water and a sponge or steel brush, you should be able to get rid of any dirt on the grate. Coarse encrustations can also be removed with aluminium foil shaped into a ball. You can clean the surfaces of the grill with water and all-purpose cleaner. If grill residues have already dried on, simply leave the grill grate to soak overnight and clean it the next day with washing-up liquid and a sponge.

Tips for before and after

To prevent the food from burning into the grill grate too easily, brush it with a little vegetable oil before using it. If crusty residue does end up on the grate, there is another trick: soak it in cola overnight, then the soaked residue can be easily rinsed off the next morning.

Safety measures when barbecuing

Especially when you barbecue with charcoal and briquettes, there is a certain safety risk. Therefore, make sure that the barbecue is always placed on a level surface and does not wobble. If it tips over, there is a risk that people in the immediate vicinity will be burnt by the glowing charcoal or that the ground, such as dry grass or leaves, will catch fire. As a general rule, there should be no flammable material in the vicinity of the barbecue. Check which direction the wind is coming from. If you have a barbecue with a hinged lid, you can use this as a windbreak.