The art of barbecuing and grilling has been perfected over a long period of time. Today, we see many types of bbq for sale which are either charcoal or gas fuelled or completely electric. Seeing so many choices the question arises what is the authentic historic Barbecue Grill?
The Barbecue Grill traces its roots to the 17th century in South America. The Arawak speaking Taino tribe in Caribbean cooked meat over a fire with a wooden frame and sticks, calling this method ‘Barbacoa’. In the 18th century, Spanish conquerors adopted this term into their language further evolving this method eventually bringing it to Southeastern America, where mainly pigs were roasted over a fire for hours in a pit using different condiments for flavour and aroma.
Invention of the Grill
The first patent for a charcoal briquette was filed by Ellsworth B.A. Zwoyer in 1897. His patent was overshadowed by the giant Kingsford company. Kingsford, a relative of Henry Ford, assisted in the production of Ford automobiles by establishing an auto-parts and woodworks plant. Witnessing the production of waste scrap wood, he suggested selling it as charcoal, inventing the modern charcoal briquette.
Transition to Barbecue Grill
After the war, more and more Americans decided to live in the suburbs. By the late 1940s, American households had large backyards perfect for grilling resulting in a boom in grills being sold. The home chefs were not happy with the design as the grills burnt the meat and char-ash spread all over the backyard.
In 1952, George Weber, frustrated with his food being covered by ash blown by wind, successfully made the first dome shaped grill. Working for the Weber Brothers he mainly welded and produced steel buoys. He made another dome and used it as a lid to trap all the meat infused flavour that the burnt charcoal produced as it slowly grilled the meat. The dilemma of providing air for the coal to keep burning was solved by installing small vents. He completed the frame by welding three steel legs on the bottom half of the grill, making the first Weber Grill.
The 1960s saw another evolution in the grill. To make people accustomed to buying more natural gas. William G. Wepfer and Martin Lancaster redesigned the charcoal grill to run on stored or bottled propane. This brought the customers an easy to use and convenient grill as it was almost always ready to start a fire and was not affected by dampening of charcoal, at a higher price which the customers willingly paid. It soon became the popular option and replaced the older model of grilling.
In the 1980s, Bill Best further evolved the grill. He made use of a ceramic infrared burner in his barbecue grill for his personal use. The fuel inside ignited a ceramic tile which when heated enough emitted infrared radiation cooking the food. He noticed the faster grilling time and evenly cooked meat. He patented the idea and sold it to restaurants and fast-food giants which were impressed by more control over the temperature than the traditional charcoal grills.
Later in the 2000s, when the patent expired, the once unaffordable infrared grill became more readily available to home chefs for their backyards. More competitors started building on this idea and began selling it for domestic use. This not only cooked the meat evenly but also kept it succulent and juicy.
George Foreman Grill (Electric Grill)
The 1990s led to a wave of smart health-conscious choices. This encouraged the people to view fat-rich grilled meat in a negative light. The George Foreman grill was invented.
Along with grilling meat from both sides this had a patented 10-degree slope to allow grease and fat to run off into separate trays. Foreman had just won the heavyweight world title and explained how a healthier lifestyle contributed to his victory. He marketed the ‘healthy’ concept of the grill resulting in a hundred million units being sold.
Famous Grill inventions
In 2004, the Discovery channel featuring a TV show called Big made the largest barbecue grill that the world had seen at just above 15 feet. Another formidable record is held for the largest barbecue pit that stretches a staggering 75 feet and is capable of cooking 4 tons of meat, pork and steak at any given time. It’s so large it needs its own semi-truck to move.
Grilling has come a long way from being a survival cooking method to an essential session during backyard parties in the summer. It has undergone various changes and transitions through the course of time making it a relaxing weekend leisure.