It's the hottest item on our feasting roster, says Sam Wylie-Harris.

Blue skies, blazing sunshine and the thrill of the grill - cooking outdoors has to be one of the best parts of summer.

Whether you choose to light up the BBQ or use a pizza oven, go veggie or full-on carnivore, host a casual cookout or a gourmet get-together, al fresco mealtimes just feel special.

"The addition of a barbecue gives a whole new dimension to your outdoor space, encouraging you to make the most of warmer weather and get cooking outside," says Nadia McCowan Hill, resident style advisor for Wayfair.

"The simplicity of firing up the BBQ and inviting friends and family for impromptu get-togethers goes hand in hand with the summer season."

Indeed, searches for BBQs are up 16% year on year at John Lewis & Partners, and while there are plenty of styles out there to choose from, function and flair are key.

"Homeowners want technologically-advanced BBQs that will not only perform on the cooking front but fit into the home's aesthetics, as well as more options over the kind of food they can cook," says Brendon Haxby, co-founder of interiors specialists Naken.

"Today's BBQ's span from the traditional, where coal remains king, to the contemporary, where gas options reign supreme.

"Some have built in fridges or warming racks, but all are designed with looks in mind," says Haxby.

For those wanting more choices, Haxby says pizza ovens are proving a popular alternative to BBQs, while those with more substantial budgets are opting for bespoke outdoor kitchens.

Of course there are lots of smaller, more basic BBQs to get your al fresco party started without any fuss or too much expense.

But for those looking to move up a level, here are some other sizzling hot outdoor cooking options to check out....

1. VonHaus 64cm Charcoal Barbecue, £124.49, Wayfair

Made of cast iron, this free-standing charcoal BBQ offers two ways of cooking your meat fish or veg - either barbecue them, or switch to a smoker by closing off the ventilation and stacking woodchips beneath the grill. The two spacious side shelves will come in handy too.

McCowan Hill says: "The 2-in-1 function means you can cook over the BBQ flames or in the wood smoker - offering the opportunity to level up your outdoor cooking skills."

2. Weber Classic Kettle Charcoal Barbecue 47cm, Black, £159.99, Weber

"I can't think of many things in life that you buy, then immediately set fire to. This is true, however, with a new BBQ," says Dan Cooper, Weber master griller. "For this reason, it's extremely important your BBQ has an exceptional build quality. Lid, bowl and cooking grates should all be made of the best possible materials for the job."

Cooper advises avoiding a BBQ that's painted, as well as models that feel lightweight and flimsy. This classic kettle charcoal is built to last and comes with a 10-year warranty.

3. Norfolk Grills N Outdoor Gas BBQ, £683, Naken

Haxby says this Norfolk Grills model has all the aesthetic appeal of a traditional charcoal powered BBQ but the benefits of a gas BBQ.

"It's quick and easy to clean and you have more far more control of the grill. Plus, you don't have to light it hours before you want to eat - unlike a coal BBQ, it doesn't take an age to reach cooking temperature," says Haxby.

4. Ooni Karu 16 Multi Fuel Outdoor Pizza Oven, £559.20, John Lewis

Pizzas will doubtless be first on your menu, but this oven's large grilling area can also be used to roast joints of meat, seared fish or vegetables, or bake bread. Just as flexibly, you can cook using wood or charcoal or, with the addition of the compatible gas adapter (sold separately), gas.

It's "one of the most sleek pizza ovens on the market," according to Alice Rice, outdoor buyer at John Lewis & Partners, who promises: "Wow your guests with 16 inch pizzas cooked to perfection in only 60 seconds."

5. John Lewis & Partners Grillstream 6 Burner Hybrid Gas & Charcoal BBQ, Silver, £749, John Lewis

A show stopper with all the bells and whistles, this really is your outdoor kitchen sorted with six gas burners, warming rack and side burner for spicy BBQ sauces and marinades.

Rice says: "This hybrid system allows you to use both charcoal and gas at the same time, allowing for that fantastic charcoal flavour we all love but with the ease of gas."