The Weber Original Kettle 18" Charcoal Grill has about 240 square inches of cooking surface and sells for under $100. It is the basic unadorned low price Kettle, and a perfectly fine cooking tool just the same. Ash is swept through the vent holes in the bottom under the grill by a lever beneath the bowl and it drops into an aluminum pan. This compact grill is great for moderate capacity cooking and use where space is limited, like an apartment patio. However, the ability to effectively set up 2-zone cooking is reduced. Weber's 22" Kettles work much better for 2-zone. But you can still get a small size Smokenator for this model for way under $100 and make restaurant quality smooked meats.
In 2015 Weber made a few changes to some of their classic BBQ kettles. The Original Kettle 18", formerly One-Touch Silver 18.5", has a new nylon lid handle that adds a protective heat shield between your fingers and the lid. Previously the legs just popped into brackets. Now they are secured to the body with spring loaded pins, which also enable them to be easily removed. Although the name changed from 18.5' to 18", Weber specs declare the grate is still 18.5" diameter with the same 240 square inch capacity.
Let's debunk a myth: The parabolic shape of the Weber Kettle is not a more efficient heat reflector than other shapes. By far the vast majority of the heat is radiated directly from the surface of the glowing charcoal with some more reflected from the sides. Very little heat is being reflected off the curved bottom of the bowl. There is a solid barrier in the way: The bed of coals. Any heat that hits the bottom of the kettle just bounces back into the charcoal pile. So the parabolic shape of the kettle is no more efficient than a square box.
Cooked On It
We have hands-on experience testing this product. We have also gathered info from the manufacturer, owners and other reliable sources.
Weber-Stephen is one of the oldest and most respected manufacturers of BBQ equipment and related accessories in the world. Weber grills and smokers cook beautifully and have great features that are clever, effective and easy to use. As popularity and demand for BBQ gear grows worldwide, Weber continues to earn their long standing reputation for quality, durability and outstanding customer service and support, (7 days a week from 7am to 8pm CST), in an increasingly competitive environment. Even in this crowded marketplace, many consumers are still willing to pay more for the Weber name and they are rarely disappointed. They make a variety of cookers and smokers. Their iconic black charcoal kettles are known throughout the world. Indeed Weber is expanding globally.
Weber-Stephen was family owned since it was founded in 1952 by George Stephen. At the end of 2010 the Stephen family sold a majority stake to Chicago investment group BDT Capital Partners. In 2012, Weber settled a class action suit out of court regarding their use of the phrase, "Made in USA". Weber previously qualified the "Made in USA" statement by specifying their products are assembled in the USA with some components that are sourced globally. Here is an excerpt from Weber's statement "Weber believes that because all Weber grills and the disputed accessories are designed and engineered in the USA, and all grills save for one line [Spirit]* are manufactured and assembled in the USA using component parts primarily made in the USA, it did nothing wrong and therefore has valid defenses to plaintiff's claims. The court has not held a trial or ruled in favor of either party on any disputed issues. Weber and the plaintiff have agreed to settle the matter to avoid the costs of continued litigation." As a result of this suit, Weber can no longer claim to be made in America.
Since then Weber, like many others, has outsourced manufacturing of more product lines. Things change, but we believe Weber's commitment to quality and innovation has not.
The biggest barrier for many folks is price. Webers are not cheap, but when you consider that they last decades, the price is easy to justify. Many some cheap grills fall apart after three years or so.
Our main complaint: All Webers have the obligatory bi-metal dial thermometer in the hood that gives you a ballpark reading of what the temperature is high above the meat. Since we cook on the grates, though, it's always better to bring your own digital thermometer and place a probe there. It appears this is beginning to change as Weber enters a new era of digital technology and software based products.
In 2015 Weber changed the names of several popular charcoal grills and added a few new features. Don't worry though, they are still the iconic kettles you grew up with. These classic grills have played a big part in BBQ history and helped spread the joy of outdoor cooking across America and beyond. The 22.5" kettle is by far the most popular backyard grill in the world for under a hundred dollars. The body and lid are pressed from solid sheets of steel so there are no welds to rust, and coated with a durable powder coated baked on porcelain enamel that lasts for decades. The lower intake vents double as an ash collection system and the three legs with two wheels make rolling it around a snap. It is lightweight, there are few parts, and simplicity reigns. The lids fit tightly so oxygen control, and therefore heat control, is very good. And, with the exception of the Ranch Kettle, they are inexpensive.
AmazingRibs.com science advisor, Dr. Greg Blonder, observes, "Most people believe the Weber is a parabolic reflector, focusing heat emitted by the coals directly on the grill. A parabolic reflector is only effective when the heat source is tiny, intense and located at the focal point. This is not true in the case of the Weber, where the heat source is a sheet of coals spread over a large area. On the other hand, the Weber gets many things right. While the parabola won't create a beam of infra-red energy, the high almost vertical side walls reflect the infra-red image of the coals from side to side- like images of your head pinging back and forth between two mirrors at the barbershop. So this 'reflection gallery effect' does increase the heat intensity a bit compared to cooking over an open pit, where heat emitted to the sides is lost. The system is efficient, burning a minimum number of briquets during cooking." Probably no other single invention has influenced the American diet more since the invention of the electric refrigerator.
Weber Charcoal Grills are offered in four basic configurations: the small, portable Smokey Joe Series, the larger One-Touch kettles on three legs, the Performer Series mounted on carts and the oversize Ranch Kettle. They also offer three models of the popular Weber Smokey Mountain smokers. In 2016 they introduced Weber Summit Charcoal Grills, multifunction cookers that are effective smokers and grills under one hood.
When George Stephen introduced his simple and elegant Charcoal Kettle Grill design, mankind took a step up in the evolutionary process. Meathead wrote an article for The Huffington Post commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the Weber Kettle. He observed, "the innovation that made grilling and cooking outdoors the great American pastime came in 1951 when George Stephen, Sr., frustrated by his inability to control the heat in his backyard grill, had the welders at the Weber Brothers Metal Works, where he worked, cut up a buoy that was to be used for Lake Michigan boating. The Weber Kettle was born and introduced in 1952. Among its innovations was a tight-fitting lid and adjustable air vents that allowed the cook to control temperature. Today's design is not far from the original kettle pictured below, and it is by far the most popular backyard grill in the world".