Gas barbecues are quick to heat up, so there’s no delay when you arrive at the caravan park and want to get on with cooking your food. They create almost no mess, no fire risk from falling ash, and they cool down fast, too, so you can even use them on the beach, then carry them home safely at the end of the barbecue. So are they the best possible type of barbecue to buy? The debate continues.

Efficient as gas barbecues undoubtedly are, they seldom deliver quite the same delicious flavour as a traditional charcoal barbecue. Many people are still happy to go to all the trouble of buying and transporting charcoal, firelighters and special wood such as apple, pear or hickory wood to infuse their steaks and burgers with smoke that adds a distinctive flavour to the food. 

It’s cosy to sit around a living fire as the sun goes down, and charcoal will give out warmth long after the cooking is over.

Yes, charcoal units do scatter ash on the ground and allow sparks to fly, though. The potential fire risk is the very good reason why some campsites in dry regions ban them, or insist that you use a metal barbecue stand beneath them, or take them to a dedicated concrete and brick barbecue area. 

Charcoal barbecues also have to be left outside to cool down overnight, before you can pack them away. If any unburnt coals are left, it can take a long time for them to go out completely, so that you can empty the ash into a bin bag to put in the dustbin.

There are pros and cons of cooking on a living fire or using a portable gas grill on holiday. We tested a selection of both gas and charcoal barbecues recently. For instance, we review and rate the Olpro SAfire charcoal barbecue at £94.99, the Weber Go Anywhere gas BBQ, costing £103, the Quest Folding BBQ at £21.99, the Bodum Fyrkat at £50, the cheap SunnCamp Deluxe Bucket BBQ at £14.95, and the Outwell Cazal, at just £19.99.

In this review we will focus on a handy suitcase-style portable gas barbecue that you could take practically anywhere. It’s the Campingaz 1 Series Compact EX CV, which costs £99.95. 

This is another versatile unit that works well as a barbecue, grill or — if you lower the lid — a decent outdoor oven. There’s even a temperature indicator built into that lid so you can cook to perfection. 

Being gas, the unit is extremely easy to operate: auto-ignition takes the hassle out of lighting the flame, and the adjustable heat output gives complete cooking control. We like the central, plain hot-spot, which is perfect for grilling purposes. It runs on Campingaz CV 470 cartridges or Campingaz cylinders, making it possible to carry and use beyond the caravan park. Take it out for picnics in the countryside, on the beach, on a balcony or in the garden. The power is 2.5kW, and gas consumption is 182 g/h. There’s a built-in thermometer.

The downside? The Campingaz 1 Series Compact EX CV’s 10kg weight, and bulky 48 x 45 x 29cm pack-down size, aren’t strong points in a unit that has a grilling area of 1.050cm², scarcely bigger than that of Quest Folding BBQ, which, at £21.99, is so much cheaper (but runs on charcoal).