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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.

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