History in the USA
Grilling has existed in the Americas since pre-Colonial times. The Arawak people of South America roasted meat on a wooden structure called a barbacoa in Spanish. For centuries, the term barbacoa referred to the wooden structure and not the act of grilling, but it was eventually modified to “barbeque.” It was also applied to the pit-style cooking techniques now frequently used in the Southeastern United States. Barbeque was originally used to slow-cook hogs; however, different ways of preparing food led to regional variations. Over time, other foods were cooked in a similar fashion, with hamburgers and hot dogs being recent additions.
The LazyMan Model AP, the world’s first portable gas grill. Taken during the summer of 1954.
E.G. Kingsford invented the modern charcoal briquette. Kingsford was a relative of Henry Ford who assigned him the task of establishing a Ford auto parts plant and sawmill in northern Michigan, a challenge that Kingsford embraced. The local community grew and was named Kingsford in his honor. Kingsford noticed that Ford’s Model T production lines were generating a large amount of wood scraps that were being discarded. He suggested to Ford that a charcoal manufacturing facility be established next to the assembly line to process and sell charcoal under the Ford name at Ford dealerships. Several years after Kingsford’s death, the chemical company was sold to local businessmen and renamed the Kingsford Chemical Company.
George Stephencreated the iconic hemispherical grill design, jokingly called “Sputnik” by Stephen’s neighbors. Stephen, a welder, worked for Weber Brothers Metal Works, a metal fabrication shop primarily concerned with welding steel spheres together to make buoys. Stephen was tired of the wind blowing ash onto his food when he grilled so he took the lower half of a buoy, welded three steel legs onto it, and fabricated a shallower hemisphere for use as a lid. He took the results home and following some initial success, started the Weber-Stephen Products Co.
The outdoor gas grill was invented in the early 1950s by Don McGlaughlin, owner of the Chicago Combustion Corporation, known today as LazyMan.McGlaughlin invented the first built-in grill from the successful gas broiler called BROILBURGER. These first Lazy-Man grills were marketed as “open-fire charcoal-type gas broilers” which featured “permanent coals”, otherwise known as lava rock. In the 1950s, most residential households did not have a barbecue, so the term broiler was used for marketing purposes to commercial establishments. The gas open-broiler design was adapted into the first portable gas grill in 1954 by Chicago Combustion Corporation as the Model AP. McGlaughlin’s portable design was the first to feature the use of the 20-lb propane cylinders, which previously were exclusively used by plumbers as a fuel source.