BARBECUES are synonymous with the Australian way of life but there are so many types on the market these days that it can be difficult to decide which is the right one for you and your entertaining needs.
First it's important to determine how many people you will be cooking for on an ongoing basis - a couple for instance, wouldn't usually need anything larger than a two or three-burner barbecue while a large family would do better with one that has five or six burners.
Then think about what type of fuel best suits you, ie whether you are best suited to a gas, charcoal or electric barbecue.
While coal barbecues are fun and have a great taste it requires patience and there is no point buying one just because you heard it is the preferred choice of top chefs.
By the same token, that enormous shining multi-tiered hooded stainless steel number may look amazing in the shop but if you don't use it because it's too complicated or takes a lot of time to clean then it is also money wasted.
These are great for enthusiasts who love a smoky flavour in their meat.
Charcoal or heat beads are used for an economical way of cooking.
Coal barbecues can be smaller and more portable and you don't have the problem of rusty burners or clogged electric starters.
They do, however, require patience and some skill in controlling the heat and of course you have to think about how to dispose of the ash.
Bunnings has the Chef Easy Charcoal Kettle Barbecue with thermometer and ventilation control for $198 and the funky Arlec Tabletop 37cm Charcoal Kettle for $49 while Barbeques Galore has the Hibachi Oval Charcoal Barbeque for $99.95 as well as a disposable barbecue for $3.
Charcoal briquettes start about $7 for 4kg bags and heat beads from $16 for acceptable quality.
These are the most popular in Australia, being favoured for ease of use and greater control over temperature.
They can be run on natural or LPG gas and are usually cleaner and faster than a charcoal barbecue and size can be varied depending on your needs and the space available.
Flat top barbecues (Masters $97, Big W $97) are quick, no-fuss and good for cooking staples like steak or sausages or even big brekkie fry-ups.
But if you tend to do most of your cooking outdoors look to the hooded barbecue, which will extend your cooking options to include roasting, grilling, baking and even smoking meats and fish.
These come either on a cart with wheels - like the Sundance Horizon 4-burner from Harvey Norman for $499 and the Hooded 2-burner with side burner from Mitre 10 for $199 - or can be built in to your outdoor kitchen or patio like the Turbo Classic 4-burner ($1399) from Barbecues Galore or the Matador Classic 4-burner from Bunnings at $399.
If you are looking for a smaller gas barbecue option the Weber Q remains all the rage and are stylish, sleek, modern and versatile.
The range includes the Baby Q that will feed up to six, the hybrid Qs that will feed up to 10 and the Family Qs that will feed up to 15.
Prices start at $289 (stockists at weberbbq.com.au).
These are favoured for their portable nature and also for convenience in tight spaces like balconies and small patios.
You need to be close to a power source and under cover. Choices are limited but they still do a good job, especially when you are cooking for a just a few people.
Sunbeam makes a popular barbecue that comes with a stand and has a temperature gauge and 15 heat settings for $299 while Black and Stone have an Electric Convection Barbeque with roasting hood for $499.
Make sure you clean them well after use and invest in a good-quality cover.