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"Best of" isn't "Best Ever"
on November 13, 2007
Why four stars? Because "best of", which Weber is, is not the same as "Best ever" - which Weber used to be.
First of all, this really is the grill to get. For starters, it's charcoal. Propane grills are for girlie grillers who want to play at having a patio kitchen. Yes, I said it. It's true, so just deal with it. Second of all, it's Weber, and Weber does one thing better than the others - air control. It's simply built tighter. Third of all, this grill is the right size. Think you'll save money on the 18.5" grill? Think again. You were asleep during math class. I know, if you drop an 18.5 inch grate on top of a 22.5 inch grate, there's only a couple of inches difference around the edges. But if you'll dust off your geometry books you'll find a significant difference in the cooking area. The 18.5" gives you 268 square inches - the 22.5" gives you 397 square inches of grill space. Much better bang for your buck.
And fourth? The box doesn't say "Made in China". That still matters to some people.
What could Weber do to get five stars out of me? Fix the legs. They are, and always have been cheap and cheesy. From the kettle up, the Weber feels like quality. From the kettle down, it's a whole different story. The method of "attaching" the legs is ridiculous. You have to shove the legs past a "crimp" point in the kettle sockets.
Even assuming that's going to secure the legs, the different expansion rates of aluminum and steel, combined with the thin material of the legs virtually guarantees that joint will loosen up after enough heat/cool cycles even if you never move your grill. And I do move mine. I may get surprised by an un-forcasted shower and want to take the grill from the patio to the carport. Moving a grill full of hot coals and food as it wobbles over every little bump isn't confidence inspiring. And since we're talking about the legs, put the extra wires back. These grills used to have more wires in the bottom of the leg triangle. It helped stiffen the assembly, and acted as a handy shelf. And while they're at it, they could put the other handle back. The kettle base used to have two handles. Weber, like too many other manufacturers cut corners there, too, on the later models. That extra handle is handy if you need to drag the grill up, or down a few stair steps.
Weber could also fix the handle grips. They used to be teak. Then they went to a cheaper wood, stained to look like teak. Then they went to the plastic handles, which just don't have the thermal properties of wood. They also need to either bring back the heavier steel (pick up an old kettle and you'll see what I mean) or fix their spot welds. I've heard several reports of the spot welds breaking - but never on the older models.
So I have to knock a star off. I actually knocked two stars off, but I had to give one back because it's still a better product than their competition. It just makes me sad that when you set a new Weber next to an old one, all the changes aren't improvements - they're just cost-cutting.
Things you'll want:
1) Hardwood chunk charcoal. Most of the "ash" from briquettes isn't ash - it's a clay filler. Why should I pay money for filler that adds nothing but bulk, weight and mess? Hardwood charcoal burns better, hotter and has an easier cleanup. But keep a bag of briquettes handy anyway. Their uniform size and weight makes them ideal for throwing at varmints, four-legged and two-legged, that come sniffing around your grill while you're cooking.
2) Wood chunks. I don't care what kind, as long as it's hardwood. Not chips. Chunks that you can put at the edge of your charcoal and let smoke.
3) The Weber Chimney charcoal starter. Why Weber? Pick up any other charcoal chimney then pick up the Weber. I think you'll figure out why the Weber steel is better than the beer-can-thin steel on some of the others. It'll let you throw out that nasty, smelly bottle of charcoal lighter fluid.
4) Welders Gloves. I've seen some downright stupid so-called BBQ mitts. Ignore them. Just go to your welding supply and grab a pair - get two pair - they're cheap and you'll find yourself using them in the kitchen instead of those pink floral mittens.
5) The flip-side cooking grate. I don't know why Weber even bothers with the solid grate. It can't possibly cost more than an extra buck to manufacture the flip-side grate, and that's another reason I can only give four stars. The flip grate makes coal management a pleasure instead of a disaster waiting to happen. Buy it. It's worth every penny.
6) 16" cook's tongs. Yes, I know there's all kinds of cool grill tongs out there. I have a collection of them. And you won't see any of them in a professional kitchen. Ever. Try the cook's tongs. They're cheaper at any kitchen supply and they just work better. And you definitely want the long ones.
7) Another charcoal grate. Flip it upside down on top of the current charcoal grate so that the bars are spaced halfway between each other. If you just use one grate with hardwood charcoal, you'll find lots of small pieces can slip down through the single grate, wasting charcoal. By doubling up the grates, you still get great air flow, but the charcoal-eating gaps are much smaller.
8) 42-gallon, 3-mil contractor-grade trash bags. No, they're not for your first few grilling efforts. They make dandy Weber kettle covers, and you can't beat the price.
9) Consider some iron. Cast iron, that is. Cast iron and coals go together like, well, cast iron and coals - they were made for each other. My favorites are my Lodge 20" griddle, (which is another reason to get the 22.5" Weber), and a deep 10" skillet. Those two pieces will dramatically increase your grilling repertoire. Suddenly you'll be able to do breakfast hash, scramble eggs, veggie dishes - the sky's the limit.
Would I put my increasingly hard-earned cash down for one today? Absolutely. My Webers crank out consistently great food. They've seen us, and the neighbors through three hurricanes - when the power went out, fridges started warming and freezers started thawing - so it was a case of cook it, or lose it. Many steaks were eaten from my Webers in the days after Hurricane Charley.
Get one. You don't even have to have a natural disaster to enjoy tasty meals from your Weber.