Hooray! It’s barbecue season and Queen B is here to help you char those burgers, grill those hot dogs and roast that corn on the cob with one of our more frequent finds: a Weber Kettle Grill! Here are three versions we’ve sold in the past couple months and we are sure to have more in the future.
These bubble-shaped sheet metal BBQ grills are the first covered grill made commercially in the United States, and we have the U.S. Coast Guard and one determined barbecuing Dad to thank for it.
In the early 1950s, George Stephen was a salesman at Weber Brothers Metal Works in Michigan, working to support a large family which eventually grew to 14. His father ran the metalworks which constructed, among other things, round metal buoys for the U.S. Coast Guard and the Chicago Yacht Club. The buoys looked something like these old rusty, beached mooring buoys.
With WWII meat-rationing recently repealed, George was enjoying the new hobby of backyard barbecuing but was frustrated by the standard open charcoal braziers which were smokey, easily blown out and vulnerable to rain. One day at work, looking at those big, hollow metal balls, inspiration struck. He Frankensteined his first covered grill together out of 2 metal buoy halves. His beta version didn’t work very well (no ventilation to oxygenate the fire) but George kept tinkering until he arrived at a classic. George was so enamored of his grill that he then struck out on his own to make BBQ grills his sole business. His original grill was called “George’s Barbecue Kettle” but “Sputnik” became a popular nickname for them after 1957, when the spherical Soviet satellite Sputnik became the first man-made object to ever orbit the earth.
George Stephen returned to Weber Brothers Metal Works in 1958 after scraping up enough capital to buy out the business and convert it over to exclusively making grills. He renamed the company Weber-Stephen, adding his last name but keeping “Weber” in case the venture failed and they had to return to general metalworking. Spoiler alert: they did not fail.
Today Weber makes many grills beyond the round charcoal-burning originals, including natural and propane-fueled gas grills, wood pellet and electric grills, and stand-alone griddles. And of course they make many versions of George’s kettle grill, including a 70th anniversary line in cool 1950’s colors. The rounded kettle grill is still a particularly challenging shape to make because it takes exceptionally big presses to draw steel. All Weber products are assembled in the U.S. of local and foreign-made parts.
Sometimes QBO customers have concerns about buying used items because there might be missing parts, or they have unanswered questions on how to operate the thing, but with Weber Grills have no fear! The Weber company maintains one of the absolute best customer-support websites in the history of retail, offering replacement parts for every product line, free pdfs of User Manuals, a full line of BBQ accessories such as grill tools, lighters, starters and charcoal covers, plus Weber t-shirts, aprons, hot mitts and free recipes. And they have live online chat customer service, just in case.
George Stephen passed away in 1993, a happy man, and was immortalized in 2013 when he was inducted into the American Royal Associations Barbecue Hall of Fame.