When it comes to outdoor cooking, whether grilling or smoking no name is more synonymous with a BBQ pit than Weber. The company started right here in Chicago in 1950 with George Stephens at Weber Brothers Metal Works. And has grown into a global company with a wide variety of charcoal and gas grills and are the gold standard in backyard cooking.
As a BBQ aficionado , I appreciate the quality & innovation Weber puts into their product, even more so as my father has given me the first BBQ pit our family had, a large (26 ½ inch), red Weber Bar Be Kettle that he bought in either 1965 or 1966 for $ 80.00. The pit is older than I am and has cooked countless great meals and has been the centerpiece of our backyard get togethers for decades.
I learned to cook, love & appreciate BBQ with this pit (yes I’m sentimental about a grill), but so much of our summer days and nights were about the delicious food that was cooked outside when school was out and we could stay up late. It was as much as summer as going down south and watching fireflies.
I have cooked on and owned many BBQ grills and good BBQ is as much about good meat and seasoning as it is the equipment you use. Sure you can cook food on an old garbage can (and I have), but it’s so much easier on a well designed pit.
Weber has revolutionized the BBQ world many times but the first kettle and it’s curved designed is made to keep heat flowing, fires going and the meat cooking evenly. Also for easy clean up, hence the current “One Touch” label. These larger charcoal grills come in the sizes of 18 ½ , 22 ½ & 26 ½ inches.
The 26 ½ inch was made years ago (like the 1960’s era grill I have), and was just put back into production recently as the top of the line for the charcoal “One Touch” line.. It’s a beast of a pit but can handle anything you throw at it, it takes nearly a whole bag of charcoal to fill the bottom for your fire but that heat is even and ready for good picnic.
Now I recently was just given the gold standard of Weber charcoal grills (from a family friend), and that’s the 22 ½ inch “One Touch” grill from about 20 years ago. This was supposed to be a pit for me to strip for parts but it was well maintained and has the very rare “corn and potato roaster” on it that was standard with all charcoal Weber Grills over 20 years ago. So I plan on cooking on this pit. It’s called “One Touch” because of the easy ash catching and cleaning system under the pit that allows you to pull a lever and get the fire remains out without getting messy. And there are so many attachments for thing, including rotisserie, pizza cooking attachment and rib rack. The 22 ½ inch seems to be the most popular size for a round charcoal grill, it allows for both direct and indirect cooking and you can cook full slabs of ribs without having to cut them in halves to fit the grill. Its literally a one pot meal, well one grill meal, there is room for meat and veggies and even potato that can be cooked all at the same time.
But I’d be remiss not to mention how Weber entered the gas cooking grill business in 1971 and has made the convenience of liquid propane (LP), grilling accessible to the masses. Trust me nothing equals the flavor and labor of charcoal and wood grilling but gas makes even the most hectic of evenings grill night. Also the searing heat of LP makes a good steak great. Weber’s line of gas grills is as impressive as their charcoal grills. The small portable is the “Weber Q”, the entry level larger backyard (non portable), is the Spirit and the Genesis is the next in line and more of the standard. Up from that is the top of the line Summit. And Weber also has the higher end (pricier), grills as well, they have acquired the Ducane grill company. these are outdoor kitchens with everything you’d expect from a commercial grill and looks as good as it cooks.
I own a small Weber Q 120 portable gas grill as well and it’s the best hamburger, hot dog and small steak grill available, 10 minutes heat up time and you’re ready to cook. On those nights or afternoons when you don’t have time but have the appetite for tasty grilled food, its there for you. And it’s great for tailgating or going to the park, it’s portable, yet solid enough to make a great meal anywhere.
Now the original portable grill was the small charcoal “Smokey Joe”, my dad gave me one in high school and it’s where I took the skills he gave me and my years of grilling observations and starting making my own meals. I still have that grill in my garage and it was the perfect training wheels as I learned by fire on my own.
I can honestly say I bought an inferior charcoal grill (to save money), after I wanted an upgrade from the Smokey Joe and I was disappointed, the design allowed way too much and air and not enough distance to cook good food. Things grilled too fast and hds the outside of the meat over done and the inside dry or not cooked enough. Not to mention it was of low quality, see I grill a lot, at least several times a week, so I need a strong grill to hold up to frequent use, without pieces like legs breaking or the dampers (air vents), becoming inoperable.
Now I did buy a barrel cooker (and Weber doesn’t make those), and it’s of a rival brand but cooks well though it took a lot of trial and error to figure out the fire (it heats up because it doesn’t have the excellent circulation of the Weber Grills), cooking time and how to place the meat (especially on indirect cooking), it made me appreciate Weber products because it’s simple to cook well on them.
Lastly don’t forget about the Weber Grill restaurants, I’ve been to the locations in downtown Chicago and downtown Indianapolis. The Chicago location is on State & Ohio and has a wonderful breakfast buffet but the best part is most of the food is cooked in large commercial Weber grills in an open kitchen. Watching those chefs is part of the dining experience. The Indianapolis location is adjacent the Embassy Suites hotel on Washington Street. Having stayed in that hotel several times, the grilling smell sneaks into the hotel as you come down the stairs as well as welcomes you in as you come out of the Circle Center Mall into the hotel. Nothing like the smell of BBQ to welcome you back into your home away from home.
But the bread & butter of Weber will always be the iconic circle pits, which can make any of us into iron chefs and turn our backyards into bistros.
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