The Backyard Revolution That Evolutionized the American Barbecue
The History of the Weber® Kettle
Fifty years ago, after he became frustrated with the uneven and uncontrollable flame of open brazier grilling at his Mount Prospect, Illinois home, determined backyard griller George Stephen Sr. set out to build a better grill that would protect his precious steaks from the wind and possible downpours—while sealing in a tasty smoked flavor. At the Weber Brothers Metal Works where he was employed, Stephen ingeniously cut a metal buoy in half and fashioned a dome shaped grill with a rounded lid—and the classic original Weber kettle grill was born. His invention quickly gained a loyal audience and ultimately became a prominent symbol of Americana.
“George’s post-World War II invention was the beginning of the ‘American Backyard Barbecue’ as we know it today,” said Donna Myers, nationally known grilling industry expert. “The Weber kettle grill is as much an American icon as apple pie.”
Today, when more than 85 million American households own an outdoor grill, consumers are used to seeing charcoal and gas grills in hundreds of sizes, shapes, colors, and prices. But back in 1952, when Stephen started selling his kettle, it was a big business gamble.
“It didn’t look like any other grill that had ever been made,” said Mike Kempster Sr., Executive Vice President for Weber-Stephen Products Co. “At first, George’s friends kidded him about his strange looking contraption. But after they tasted how well it cooked, they stopped laughing at it and started buying it.”
And although Stephen’s kettle was significantly more money—the average open brazier in the early 1950s was $7 and his kettle sold for almost $50—the grill earned enough local success to rename Weber Brothers Metal Works to Weber-Stephen Products Co.
In the late 1950s, Stephen bought out the Weber Brothers factory and became the sole owner, devoting all his professional time to manufacturing and selling the Weber kettle.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Weber’s reputation grew beyond the Midwest, as it became a nationally known brand with distribution in retail stores throughout the country—introducing covered grilling to the rest of the country.
In 1985, Weber-Stephen Products Co. introduced a revolutionary line of gas grills—known as the Genesis. This line of gas grills transformed the market, offering consumers precise heat control and virtually flare-up free cooking. With its patented cooking system, it was possible to cook anything you could do in your oven on your grill.