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What is a Weber Grill?

By Cassie L. Damewood
Updated May 16, 2024
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A Weber grill is an outdoor barbecue grill that popularized the kettle design for outdoor cooking. It was originally designed to burn charcoal, although later models also include a gas heat source. The charcoal models typically are available in three freestanding sizes, 18.5 inches (469.9 mm), 22.5 inches (570 mm) and 26.75 inches (679.45 mm). The tabletop Weber has a 14.5 inch (368.3 mm) diameter.

The first Weber grill was invented by George Stephen in 1951. Stephen was irritated by the uneven flames of his barbecue, and the ashes blowing all over his food when wind hit the burning coals. He was sure he could improve upon the design.

At the time, the most popular barbecue model was called a brazier grill. It was comprised of a rectangular shaped metal pan a few inches deep that held charcoal, topped with a wire grid on which to place the food to be cooked. The unit typically had legs attached to the bottom of the charcoal pan. Since the grill had no lid, the only way to control the heat during cooking was to move the grid up and down.

Stephen worked for and was one of the owners of Weber Brothers Metal Works in Chicago, Illinois. Among the items produced at the plant were buoys used in the waters of Lake Michigan. Stephen built the Weber grill prototype by taking a half buoy, which looked like a bowl, and fashioning it into a vessel to hold charcoal. He installed a small vent in its bottom. He turned the other half of the buoy into a lid and installed a retractable vent in it as well.

This design solved both of Stephen’s frustrations with the brazier grill. The vents enabled him to regulate the intensity of the fire. The domed lid allowed him to protect the food from wind and other elements. Not only were flying ashes no longer a problem, he could also successfully use the barbecue even when it was raining or snowing.

Stephen’s barbecue became so popular so quickly that he could no longer build them on his own. In 1952, the barbecue division of the Weber Company was established. In the late 1950s, Stephen became the sole owner of the company. The name was subsequently changed to Weber-Stephen Products Company.

As the Weber grill gained popularity, it became a top retail seller across the United States. Today it enjoys brisk sales in countries worldwide. Its general reputation as the best barbecue grill ever made has given it the honored distinction of often being commonly and simply referred to as “the Weber.”

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