The History of Grilling: A Brief Overview

Technically, the art of grilling began approximately 500,000 years ago when humans learned to control fire. Little is documented about grilling from this time period, but the methodology was presumably as basic as could be. 

Much of the grilling technology we take for granted today didn’t exist until the early 20th century. Back then, simple brazier grills were completely open, making them dangerous: burning embers could easily fly up at the cook. Not to mention, the food itself often wouldn’t turn out great—the inside of the grilled food commonly ended up being raw, and the outside incinerated. In the 1950s, however, a major breakthrough that would change grilling forever happened in suburban Chicago.

The Weber Grill

The first major innovation in the modern history of grilling occurred in the early 1950s. George Stephen, Sr., envisioned cutting a metal buoy in half and using the two halves as a grill and a lid. He also imagined installing vents in the lid and adding a grate to the bottom part of the grill. Using a metal buoy from his company, Weber Bros. Metal Spinning Company, he released the inaugural Weber kettle grill in 1952, transforming grilling as people knew it.

Gas-Powered Grills

Gas-powered grills became popular around the same time that Stephen made his major contribution to the grilling industry. These new grills posed several benefits, namely the ability to cook meat more quickly and at consistent temperatures. Other benefits included easier cleanup, unlimited cooking fuel potential, and the ability to add moisture to meats via steam.

The George Foreman Grill

Enter the grill that ended up generating over $130 million. Offering various new features, this grill was designed as a small indoor grill to capitalize on a shift away from broiling and toward a quick- and easy-to-use appliance. This signified a new chapter in the history of grilling.

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