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It was the early 1950s, the brazier grill was king and George Stephen was not impressed. Braziers lacked lids, leaving food exposed to rain and flooding the coalbed with oxygen, creating uncontrollably hot fires. According to Smithsonian Magazine, Stephen, a salesman for Weber Brothers Metal Works, was filling out orders for buoys from the Coast Guard and Chicago Yacht Club when it hit him — he needed a lid. He cut a buoy into two half-spheres, added legs and punched holes in the top and bottom for airflow. The Weber Kettle was born.
Weber’s original kettle remains its most popular grill today, but in the 60-plus years since its invention, the company has expanded. The Weber name is stamped on propane gas grills, smokers, electric grills and portable grills. There are sub-products under each category, each at different price points, and all with different features. Here’s everything you need to know about the most famous name in grilling.
Sizes Available: 18-inch, 22-inch, 26-inch
The OG Weber’s shape has been more or less the same since 1956, and beyond small component updates, it is effectively the exact grill Stephen set out to make — sturdy and weather-proof with manageable airflow and a reasonable price. It comes with Weber’s standard One-Touch cleaning system, an aluminum ash catch and a pair of solid wheels to move around with.
Original Kettle Premium
Models Available: 22-inch, 26-inch
The middle-tier kettle is exactly the same as the Original, but adds three useful features: a built-in lid thermometer, hinged grates and a removable ash catch. The lid thermometer is useful for longer cooks, when the lid will remain on the kettle for longer stretches (high-heat cooks rarely use the lid or keep it on for more than a minute or two). The hinged grate allows you to lift part of the grate up to add more fuel without having to pull the entire thing out. A removable ash catch is great for those of us who would like to avoid ash-covered finger nails. Plus, it’s the only kettle that comes in different colors.
The most-premium of the kettles adds Gourmet BBQ System grates (the middle is hinged, so you can pull it out to refuel the center of the fire), a warming rack and char-baskets. It has all the features from the Original and Premium kettles. Sadly, it only comes in black.
Smokey Mountain Smoker
Models Available: 14-inch, 18-inch, 22-inch
The pill-shaped Smokey Mountain drops the coalbed down a foot or two, adds a door to throw new coals on and comes with a porcelain-enameled water rack to keep things nice and humid. If you want food closer to the fire, there’s a grate beneath the top grate for charring.
The Performer adds a prep table, cooking timer and gas-fired charcoal starter to the standard kettle grill. It comes in a standard, premium and deluxe setup, the difference being a slightly larger prep table, the addition of a charcoal storage chamber and, at the highest level, an electric charcoal starter.
The Ranch kettle comes in one size and it’s absolutely enormous. Easily the largest of Weber’s kettle-shaped grills, the Ranch is overkill for all but Weber brand loyalists that need to make more than 40 burgers at a time.
The aptly named Summit series is Weber charcoal grilling taken to its peak. It has every premium feature available on a Weber grill in its toolkit, including, but not limited to: gas-fired charcoal ignition, one-touch cleaning, double-walled lid and bowl, hinged grill grates, temperature gauges, timers and more. Weber grilling nirvana, basically.
All Weber gas grills use a version of the brand’s GS4 grilling system, which includes an ignition system with a 10-year warranty, upgrades fuel tubes for improved heat distribution and “flavorizer” bars that catch grease before it causes flare-ups. The Spirit is the most affordable of Weber’s trio of gas grills. It comes with prep tables, side hooks and all-terrain wheels. Plus, you can get it in a few different color and size combinations.
Models Available: Various color, size, storage and fuel source options
The Genesis series takes the basics from the Spirit grills and throws a few more features in. Namely, a side table burner, heating rack and porcelain-enameled steel body. Upgrading from the Spirit to the Genesis can be boiled down to one question: do you plan on grilling individual dishes or full meals? If the answer is the latter, go with the Genesis.
Like the charcoal version of the Summit, the gas model is as feature-rich as it gets. It carries everything from the Genesis and adds burners, BTUs and some very handy automatic lights on the hood for nighttime grilling.
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Miniaturized classics. While still not small enough to fit in a day pack, it makes for the perfect city-living, can-only-grill-in-the-park grill. It’s got Weber’s charcoal-standard ash catch at the base and airflow dampers on the lid (there aren’t any on the base, sadly). The main difference between the standard and more premium models is a home for the lid; the premium model (about $10 more expensive) has a hinge that holds the lid when not in use. Its 14-inch grill space is enough to fit about five burgers.
Models Available: 18-Inch
The Jumbo Joe is just a larger Smokey Joe. It adds another four inches of grill space, which means eight burgers instead of five.
Weber takes a stab at making a portable, charcoal grill outside its spherical comfort zone. The legs cleverly fold onto the lid and make it a bit more towable, it’s still Weber, which means it’s still heavy (14 pounds) and awkward to carry far. It’s big enough for six burgers (or about three steaks). Use it for car camping.
The Q-Series comes in propane, electric and natural gas options at a variety of BTU levels. Its body is rust-proof cast aluminum and its grates are enameled cast iron. There are a few models under the Q line, but prices generally only climb with higher power levels and for options that come with fold-out side tables. It also comes in way more colors than most Weber grills.