In a cooking method as ancient and universal as grilling, it seems unlikely that a single individual could be responsible for the invention of a new technique. Nonetheless, one person did revolutionize the art of outdoor cookery in North America by combining the techniques of grilling and barbecuing in a single device: the kettle grill. His name was George Stephen, and the method he pioneered is now known as indirect grilling.
The year was 1951. The place was Palatine, Illinois. Like many Americans in those halcyon days of the 1950s, Stephen was an avid barbecue buff. But the flat, brazier-style grills popular in those days didn’t work well in rainy or windy weather. He was frustrated.
At the time, Stephen worked at the Weber Brothers Metal Works, a manufacturer of nautical buoys. in a stroke of genius, he had the idea to fit a metal grate into one of the spun metal bowls used for buoy making. He then fashioned a cover with vents out of the same metal. In July 1952, George Stephen began marketing his grill as "George’s Kettle" which was promptly nicknamed the "Sputnik" on account of its rotund shape.
The advantage of the deep, covered kettle grill wasn’t simply that it deflected wind and rain. Rather, it was the way it enabled the user to transform the grill into a sort of oven where foods could be roasted-or for that matter barbecued-by the heat of glowing charcoal.
Today the Weber Kettle remains the world’s best-selling charcoal grill.
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