A lifetime of iconic Weber grills

(Photo credit: Huffington Post)

What a wonderful summer it has been, but it always ends too soon. When I was a child growing up in the L.A. area, summer vacation didn’t end until after Labor Day weekend. But times have changed, and now the kiddos are sent back to school in mid-August — heresy I say!

One advantage of summer winding down in the Sierra Foothills and High Sierra is the onset of fall and the spectacular fall colors. But no end of summer celebration is complete without a barbeque — in this case a spit-roasted prime rib, cooked medium rare and seasoned with smoked salt from The Olive Groove in Grass Valley (see video below).

I’ve tried many grills over the years, but the iconic Weber kettle (along with the Big Green Egg — a kamado grill and smoker all in one) remains an all-time favorite.

“In 1952 George Stephen Sr. was working at Weber Brothers Metal Works in Chicago, Illinois, manufacturing marine buoys when he came up with an idea for a better grill. His invention: a dome-shaped grill with a lid to protect food from the elements, while sealing in that only-from-the-grill barbecue flavor,” as Weber explains.

I cherished the time I spent in Chicago in the ’80s at Northwestern University’s downtown campus, and one afternoon I headed out to Weber’s headquarters in the suburbs — almost like a “groupie.”

In the ’80s, I bought my first Weber kettle — a 14-inch model called “Smokey Joe” — when I landed my first job at the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel. I rented a ’50s-style bachelor bungalow by the beach. “Smokey Joe” sat on the ground outside the kitchen door (with its louvered window), and I regularly fired it up for myself and guests, cooking local fish, Gulf shrimp and corn on the cob.

In the ’90s, after I married Shannon and we rented a flat on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco, we bought a Weber “go-anywhere” propane gas grill. It almost was a disaster one evening when the lid blew off our small “Romeo balcony,” and it plunged to the street, narrowly missing an elderly woman who was walking down the sidewalk. The lid was dented, but it still worked.

When we bought our first home in San Anselmo, north of San Francisco, we upgraded to a standard Weber Kettle and added  a cast-iron grate — perfect for searing fish and meat. We brought our green Weber with us to Nevada City.  On our first Thanksgiving, we cooked a fresh, local turkey on the grill for friends and family, a memorable gathering.

Our latest version of a Weber is the best of all worlds: a charcoal grill dubbed “Summit” with a propane-fired ignitor to light the barbecue. It replaced a standard gas-fired Weber grill.

In the end, I guess, we like charcoal grills the best.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for years, was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News, and was Editor of The Union, a 145-year-old newspaper in Grass Valley. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing and trout fishing.

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