As far back as the early 1950s, grilling has played a big part in the American Dream. This pastime often brings back memories of any backyard barbecue or family gathering. Yet for many of us who aren’t old enough to remember, there was a time when the biggest BBQ brand named Weber didn’t exist. And for most of us who grew up with Weber grills, the charm of making barbecue is as unique as it gets.
So, why did Weber become such a major influence in our lives and how much different are their grills now than they were when they first appeared in 1952?
Let’s take a trip down memory lane to get you familiarized with one of the few products that still celebrates American living. You’ll find out a few things about Weber’s humble beginnings, an enthusiastic spotlight of grilling, and barbecue culture.
The Weber Grill Company
To be fair, barbecue grills have been around for a long time and were sold to the public for more than just convenient grilling. As early as the 1920s, even Henry Ford teamed up with EB Kingsford and Thomas Edison to market a portable grill that would help promote Ford’s vehicles to take their grill on picnics. But for one small company called Weber Brothers Metal Works that began in 1887 in Chicago, an idea began to grow in the early 1950s.
It seems that one of the company’s employees: George Stephen Sr. who just so happened to work in the sales department for this company, was responsible for selling many of their metal products. These products ranged from metal hinges to wagon parts, and even naval buoys. George was also a family man and loved having a good barbecue at home for his growing family. But back then, the only grill that was decent was an open-top charcoal brazier.
Among other things, it was tricky to work with and cooked food unevenly. It would also kick up ash and smoke and didn’t work outside in the rain. Being a natural tinkerer, his frustrations led to the initial development of the Weber Kettle Grill. As the story goes, George took two halves of marine buoys and put three metal prongs for their legs to stand them up. Inside was a wire grate for the food to sit on above the charcoal.
There was a handle for the top lid but there was a bigger problem once George fired up the charcoal. Perplexed that the charcoal was not burning anymore, George’s neighbor suggested that the lid needs some air to get in. So that’s exactly what they did and punched some holes in the lid using the pointy end of a pick- and amazingly, the charcoal continued to burn from the newly introduced airflow.
After a bit of tweaking and smaller adjustments, George found that his new kettle grill cooked meats and food more efficiently. The round buoy design helped circulate the heat so that the top and bottom of grilled meat would cook through and through. He later added air vent covers to adjust for more or less airflow on the top and bottom of the buoys likewise. After neighbors commented that it looked like Sputnik, a patriotic George changed this small detail too.
George was so impressed with the new innovation that he took it back to the Weber Brothers Metal Works and proposed a new product that the company could sell. It was a decision that ultimately would cement him as the best candidate to run the company only 8 years later. But luckily for George, 1952 was an era that saw the largest expansion of BBQ grilling shot him right to the top of fame.
Ultimately, this is how the Weber Brothers Metal Works company changed into Weber-Stephen and the branding for Weber completely shifted to capitalize on selling kettle grills to young G.I.s that were still returning from Europe after WW2. The rest is history as they say, but that’s not the entire story.
Weber grills further evolved as barbecue culture has changed, which is why Weber is still a market leader.
What Makes Weber Grills Unique
Times may have changed along with public opinions that helped shape a barbecue culture that we all love so much. When it comes to the name Weber, it doesn’t take more than a second to realize that barbecue is synonymous with the Weber name for all the right reasons. And even with copycat products that mirrored the shape of the original dome grill, everyone knows that Weber is a brand that stands behind the art of barbecue.
They haven’t forgotten their past, nor are they resisting a very obvious technology-based future. Weber keeps up with the times by introducing energy-efficient grills for a generation that is making grilling fun again. They have further introduced Weber Connect Technology using WiFi, Bluetooth, and interactive AI program software for a new generation of aspiring backyard BBQ cooks to simplify the barbecue process.
Even with Weber grills having such a prominent face within the BBQ industry- it’s not a sure thing to stay on top so easily. Constant attention to the latest barbecue fads and trends now become more than just happy-go-lucky mistakes in today’s highly competitive world. And though the public’s attitude toward Weber has changed by demographics they are one of the most widely-known brands because of its clever marketing.
Weber grills come in a variety of shapes and setups with a commitment to quality among all the other competitive brands out there. Luckily, they still make it just as easy to become a great barbecue cook with little to no experience. But the most important aspect of all is Weber’s commitment to customer satisfaction which keeps new customers coming back for something different or improved. Here’s what they’re doing so far:
Best Weber Grills
What used to be metal products that were marketed for a bygone age of industry are what Weber used to call top sellers. Now it’s obvious that Weber-Stephen has branded and cornered the BBQ grill market. They feature grills that are gas-powered or charcoal fueled. They even include high-tech grills with all of the bells and whistles a home griller can imagine. Essentially, the Weber product line is helpful for beginners all the way up to professional pitmasters.
As it turns out, they have improved and updated many of their classic grills to work more efficiently for those who like retro grilling just as much. If that wasn’t enough, the convenience of smart grills that use Weber Connect Technology is reaching a whole new generation that shares an interest in outdoor barbecues likewise. Here is the latest product line that makes Weber stand out among the crowd.
The one and only original kettle grill that started it all -is what makes Weber such an iconic brand. These days you’ll find that its beautiful porcelain enamel gives each kettle a brilliant sheen which allows it to stand up in any weather rain or shine. The rounded dome shape also allows heat to circulate better to ensure that food is cooked uniformly every time. With air vents placed on the top and bottom of this kettle, you get great airflow for whatever you cook.
They have also improved the design by adding a hinged grate and a built-in thermometer on the dome. On many new models, they also have an upgraded ash-catcher system to make cleanup simplified.
Spirit Gas Grill
For those who like using gas for cooking convenience, the Spirit Gas Grill series is one of Weber’s signature models that bring multi-purpose cooking to the BBQ table. Among the great features includes quick startup ignition with bold temperature dials that allow you to set up and control your preferred cooking zones on the grate. Another ideal extra is a separate grill bar that gives you a reserved place just for smoking meats or veggies without being exposed to too much heat and your meals cook.
Because it works on natural gas, it’s cleaner and easier to use than charcoal or wood burners, but still allows you the comfort to add a smoker tube to get a real smoky flavor as you like. This series is the perfect companion for camping or backyard grilling where family meals are fun to cook. See how the Weber grill stacked up against other grills in our review here.
There are going to be times when you might like to double-up your choice of grilling and smoking. This quirky capsule-shaped Weber grill accommodates two separate grills atop each other to maximize the smokiness that you’re looking to achieve. It’s great for those who like to cook ‘low and slow’ and even has a built-in water pan so your meats never dry out by accident. It has all the perks like built-in thermometers and airflow dampers just like the original kettle grill.
When you’re serious about getting smoky flavor and have a big family to feed, the Smoky Mountain grill is a great choice and companion for any standard Weber grill.
Just like the Weber Spirit Grills, this newer grill series is bigger and better and includes smart technology called Weber Connect. It allows both beginners and seasoned BBQ enthusiasts to keep track of their meals using a smartphone app. There are portable thermometers that additionally give you up-to-date internal readings on select cuts of meat as well. The infinity ignition system is handier with built-in lighting to illuminate the temperature controls too.
This twin gas burner grill is ideal for having separate grilling stations and features interchangeable grills for cooking favorites like steak and eggs and even hash browns. The bonus is a Flavorizer bar that unfolds to carry even more barbecued treats to be smoked if you add a smoke tube. The best part is this grill is easier to clean with a handy grease pan right under the grill.
If you’re short on space but still want an authentic grilling experience, the Weber Q series is just for you. These grills are both sold as plug-in electrical and gas-powered versions and have different stand configurations that are often sold separately. It’s small enough to bring to any backyard party, beach grilling, or vacation camping with a grill large enough to feed entire families and has over 189 square inches of cooking space.
It’s convenient to clean and comes with a special coating to withstand years of grilling no matter where you keep it. Out of all the Weber grills, this one is a favorite because it’s the most portable of them all.
Weber might have come full circle for a variety of grilling options, and continue to innovate with great BBQ grills as a result of their commitment to quality. And though they initially started as a metal works factory, had it not been for the frustration of one guy who wasn’t happy with his open-top brazier, the Weber kettle grill may never have been invented. Since then, grilling has never been so much fun.
And for the heyday that backyard barbecues originated with families in the 1950s to Tiki Parties of the 60s and 70s, barbecue culture has expanded across the globe. Weber has embraced the cultural revolution which brings friends and families together while providing convenience and technology for a whole new generation to enjoy. It seems that Weber is one brand that has a serious passion for barbecue with a great variety of grills for everyone’s taste.