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The Evolution of the Charcoal Grill

Written by

Ann Garrison

By now, Weber fans know that the image of the red Weber kettle is not only iconic, but this trademark is proudly displayed on our official Weber logo. But, our newer fans may not know the history behind this iconic grill.

Back in 1952, George Stephen had an idea that revolutionized our way of backyard grilling. People grilled on “open braziers”, some as simple as a pit of charcoal with a cooking grate on top. This method contributed to many flare ups and burnt food.   George was working at Weber Brothers Metal Works in Chicago, Illinois, manufacturing marine buoys when he came up with an idea for a better grill. By cutting a buoy in half, it made a dome-shaped grill with a lid that could be used in any weather and also seal in flavor.

He added some air vents for temperature control and legs and created the grill that would spark a backyard revolution.

Most early Weber kettles were black, and came in various sizes, starting with 18 ½”, 22 ½” and 26 ¾”.  We also had 14” Smokey Joes, and the Ranch kettle to round out the family.

Starting in 1961, we had The Easterner (18 ½”), The Statesman (22 ½”) and the Aristocrat (26 ¾”) in colors, one of which was called “Hunter’s Pink”. To anyone’s eye or description, they were red…….the first red kettles sold by Weber. And people loved them!

The first ones were enameled for Weber by Ingersoll Rand in Chicago. The red was slightly orangy-red. Other vendors who produced red lids and bowls for Weber were Benjamin Electric in Des Plaines, Vitreous Steel Products Company in Nappanee, IN and Lawndale Industries in Aurora. In 1969, Weber built our own porcelain enamel shop, and only used outside vendors if we could not keep up with the demand.

Through the ‘60s, we added colors like chestnut-coppertone, key lime, yellow, glen blue, avocado and chocolate, to name a few.

By the late ‘60s, through 1977, these kettles were re-branded into the 300, 700 and 800 series. For a couple years, there was a red Smokey Joe (14”).

During that time, we also put the 22 ½” kettle in other models, such as the Sequoia, the Imperial Sequoia, the Imperial Sequoia Wagon, the Seville, the Wishing Well and the Barrel Bar-B-Q. We also had the Weber Fireplace Barbecue that sported a red lid and black bowl, meant to be used inside your fireplace.

In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, the 3 sizes of kettles became part of the 3000, 7000 and 8000 series. Our Portable Table Top charcoal grill also came in red. In the mid-‘80s, an 18 ½” red kettle was put into the Imperial Compact Wagon.

From 1982-1999, the One-Touch Kettles were sold in red, blue, green and brown featuring the new One-Touch cleaning system, with elongated damper blades that not only controlled the heat, but when moved back and forth, could sweep out the ashes into the dish-like ash catcher below.  This could be found in the 18 ½”, 22 ½”, as well as the 22 ½” One-Touch Plus, Master Touch Kettle, Performer Charcoal and Performer Touch N Go. 

From 2000 to present, more features have been added to our kettles, such as nylon handles, high capacity ash catchers, hinged grates, Gourmet Barbecue systems, a Tuck-Away lid holder and of course, more exciting color choices.

In 2016, the Summit Charcoal® became Weber’s most advanced charcoal grill to date. The propane gas ignition system paired with the Rapidfire® damper can get the charcoal started and ready to cook in as little as 15-20 minutes. The black porcelain-enameled, air-insulated, double-walled, hinged lid and bowl will keep the grill hot even in the coldest of winters. Add the double-walled diffuser plate and this grill just became a smoker large enough to hold eight racks of ribs.

The red kettles were discontinued in 2000, but in November of 2017, we brought them back with our Original Kettle Premium Limited Edition 22” Charcoal Grill.   Complete with a built-in thermometer and Limited Edition badge, hinged cooking grate, Tuck-Away lid holder, black high-capacity ash catcher and One-Touch cleaning system, the popular red kettle made a grand return with plenty of great features to please our Weber fans.

Whether you tailgate or camp, live in a small apartment or a large home, there is a size and color grill with a variety of features for everyone, making Weber charcoal grills the greatest barbecues of all time.