There are multiple varieties of grills,
with most falling into one of two categories: gas-fueled and charcoal. There
is a great debate over the merits of charcoal or gas for use as the cooking
method between grillers.
Gas-fueled grills typically use propane
(LP) or natural gas (NG) as their fuel source, with gas-flame either cooking
food directly or heating grilling elements which in turn radiate the heat
necessary to cook food. Gas grills are available in sizes ranging from
small, single steak grills up to large, industrial sized restaurant grills
which are able to cook enough meat to feed a hundred or more people. Gas
grills are designed for either LP or NG, although it is possible to convert
a grill from one gas source to another.
Charcoal grills typically use charcoal
briquets as their fuel source. The briquets, when burned, will transform
into embers radiating the heat necessary to cook food. One may say with
certainty that E.G. Kingsford was the prime force behind the American
grilling tradition. Kingsford was a relative of Henry Ford who saw that
Ford's Model T production lines were producing a large amount of wood scraps
that were just being discarded. Kingsford pitched a simple idea to Ford: Set
up a charcoal manufacturing facility next to the assembly line and sell the
charcoal, with the Ford name, in Ford dealerships. Ford, knowing a good idea
when he saw one, immediately implemented Kingsford's idea. After Kingsford's
death, the company was renamed Kingsford Charcoal Co. in his honor. Today,
Kingsford charcoal is the dominant brand used by charcoal grillers.
Another personality in the charcoal grilling
camp is George Stephen. The stereotypical American charcoal grill is a
hollow, metal hemisphere with three legs and a small metal disc to catch
ash, with a lower grate to hold the charcoal and an upper grate to hold the
food to be cooked. George Stephen created the hemispherical grill design,
jokingly called "Sputnik" by Stephen's neighbors. Stephen, a
welder, worked for Weber Brothers Metal Works, a metal fabrication shop
primarily concerned with welding steel spheres together to make buoys.
Stephen was tired of wind blowing ash onto his food when he grilled. One day
he had an epiphany: he took the lower half of a buoy, welded three steel
legs onto it, and fabricated a shallower hemisphere for use as a lid. He
took the results home and within weeks was selling the grills first to his
neighbors, then to customers, and finally started the Weber-Stephen Products
Company. Weber grills come in many sizes, again, in small 14 inch diameter
grills up to a full size 24 inch diameter grill.
Grilling is a pervasive tradition in the
United States. There are many cook-offs for steak grilling and barbecue (Midwestern
and southern style) around the United States with serious cash prizes
involved in most. Almost all competition grillers use charcoal, most often
in large, custom designed brick or steel grills. They can range from a few
55 gallon oil drums sawed lengthwise on their sides to make a lid and grill
base, to large, vehicle sized grills made of brick, weighing nearly a ton.