The Weber made grilling convenient and popular—but it also banished the flames, the taste, and the mystery of the real thing
At the turn of the century grilling was very straightforward in this country. You summoned your family and friends, built a campfire, put some steaks, dogs, or burgers over it, then gathered around to critique the chef, remark on the day's events, and eat while watching the flames as your forebears had done for millennia.
Until George Stephen came along. He inherited a staid old company that made steel harbor buoys. But he was a griller. And he was tired of relying on the makeshift grill tops used at campsites those days. So he sliced one of his buoys in half, poked some air holes in the bottom, and instructed the perplexed people at Weber metals to start pumping out these adulterated things for cooking. So was born the iconic American grill.
MORE ON GRILLING:
Tom Mylan: A Butcher's Case Against High Heat
Regina Charboneau: Grilling All Over the World
Ben Eisendrath: Where Real Flavor Comes From
Outdoor cooking became portable and affordable, and anyone could produce consistent results. Then with the advent of briquettes (thanks to another thinker named Henry Ford) things became even more convenient. You didn't even have to know how to light a fire to pull off a respectable barbecue. Any fool could douse charcoal cubes with fluid, dodge the fireball, toss on dinner, and close the lid.