Made in Chicagoland: Weber revolutionizes grilling

HUNTLEY, Ill. (WLS) -- In 1952, a man who worked for Weber Brother Metal Works in Chicago had an idea.

George Stephen Sr. looked at the Lake Michigan marine buoys that Weber manufactured and wondered if he could cut the buoy in half, cover his searing steak and lock in the barbecue flavor.

It worked and a man's simple desire to grill a perfect steak started the Weber Grill in Chicago.

Today, all Weber Grills are designed and engineered in the Chicago area. At a plant in northwest suburban Huntley, an 800-ton press creates the iconic lid and bowl of the "kettle grills." Computerized robot welders ensure perfect precision.

The steel is fire-sealed at 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit so the grill won't rust and can withstand high heat.

"You talk to people who have had a Weber and they've had it for years," said Kim Lefco, a Weber Grill spokeswoman. "It comes down to the quality of the materials, the quality of construction. We do a lot of welded parts and we work hard on the durability and construction of our grills."

Today, Weber is the no. 1 grill manufacturer in the U.S. About 9 million are sold each year.

"All of us at Weber, we love to say we're born in Chicago," Lefco said. "And our roots are deep here but we're loved all over the world. You could go to Germany, you could go to Denmark and Australia and find the Weber Grill brand is dominant there as well."

Kevin Kolman, Weber's U.S. grill master, works out of the Schaumburg-based Weber Grill Academy where every Weber employee comes to learn grilling basics, which includes how to make the perfect cheeseburger.

So, which grill gives you better taste - gas or charcoal?

Kolman likened the question to asking which daughter he loved most.

He said he can good great food on both and gas or charcoal is simply a personal preference.
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