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 9pm 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.
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. In fact, when you consider the fact that some cheap grills fall apart after three years or so, Webers might be considered a bargain.
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 would be nice if they would go digital in the digital age and it appears with their acquisition of iGrill digital thermometers, this is begining to change.
*At the very end of 2016 Weber introduced their new line of Genesis II gas grills to replace the popular Genesis series. Genesis II is made in China. Genesis II LX is still made in Palatine, IL.
Weber gas grills are simply the gold standard. Designed intelligently with attention to details and built to last, they look good, work beautifully, and almost never break down. If they do, Weber is known for great customer service and for carrying an inventory of parts on models from years gone by. Meathead owned a Genesis for 15-years and can testify from experience.
All their burners are quality stainless steel, have a long life expectancy, and they come with electronic ignitions. The body is heavy. The casters are sturdy and lock solid. Nothing wobbles on Webers. The grease drip pans are easy to access from the front, not the back as with many other grills. Except for the portable/compact Q line, all models hold the propane tank inside the enclosed cart, and can be adapted for natural gas. They have smaller vents in the hood than most gassers which means they retain more heat than grills with more BTUs.
All have inverted V shaped "flavorizer" bars that cover and protect the burners while vaporizing drips and turning them into flavor that gets back up onto the meat. Except for the Q line, all either come with a rotisserie or you can order one as a factory accessory.
Weber gas grills come in four basic flavors, Q, Spirit, Genesis II, and Summit, each with several configurations. Models starting with an "E" are built with Weber's sturdy porcelainized enamel coated steel, and those starting with an "S" are mostly stainless steel.
Addressing an increased interest in outdoor kitchens, in 2011 Weber introduced add on "Island Cabinetry" and "Social Centers", pictured above, to integrate with the Summit lines. These range from matching side tables with enclosed storage to cart mounted side burners, enclosed trash cans and large "Social Areas" that serve as a bar with double door storage underneath. There is also a faux stone island with matching countertops.
Much has been made of 430 and 304 stainless steel: the two most popular grades used by grill manufacturers. Many other inexpensive brands use very thin, low cost 430 stainless to get that shiny showroom floor look. Premium grill makers tout their use of higher quality, higher priced 304 stainless. At some point, Weber decided to switch from 304 to 430. Although 304 is superior, 430 can work just fine if it is a thick gauge like Weber uses, but it is not as durable and one has to expect the life of the grill will be shortened. Will this decision could come back to haunt the castle in Palatine? Only time will tell. Alas, it does not appear Weber's prices were reduced to reflect the cost savings realized with this change.
Spirit is Weber's entry level and their least expensive line of gas grills. Made in China, they are the subject of criticism from Weber devotees who have always prized their high quality and American made status. In 2012, however, Weber settled a class action lawsuit that objected to Weber's use of the Made in America label on any of their grills. With the exception of Spirit, Weber maintains that all their products are assembled in America and most components are made in America with some being outsourced globally. As part of the settlement, Weber no longer uses the term "Made in America" for their products.
Regardless, their long standing reputation for quality and customer care remains intact and many people are still willing to pay more for the Weber name. Spirit was completely redesigned in 2013 to bring it closer in in appearance and performance to Weber's mid-line Genesis series.
Spirit comes in three basic flavors: E, S and SP. E series has black porcelain enameled housing, cast iron grates, flavorizer bars and a 430 grade stainless steel work surface. Single door painted metal carts with casters. S includes all E features except the hood and door are stainless steel. SP is the same as S but upgrades the grates to 7 mm stainless rods and adds a side-mounted condiment rack. All models have battery powered ignition.
Weber's entry level Spirit line was completely redesigned for 2013. Spirit SP-310 has three stainless steel burners. It is the largest Spirit model with 424 square inches primary cooking surface and a 105 square inch warming rack.
A big change for Spirit in 2013 was reconfiguration of the burner layout. Burners used to connect from side to side with control knobs on the right side shelf. The new Spirit burners connect from front to back with control knobs on the front panel. This not only frees up work space on the side shelf, but provides better performance when cooking indirect or 2-zone. Indeed Weber Genesis, Summit and most other manufacturer's gas grills follow this burner design. Also included is Weber's in cart LP tank fuel gauge that gives an approximate indication of fuel level by tank weight.
The SP-310 has 7mm stainless steel rod grates and porcelain enameled flavorizer bars. The single door cart is painted steel with a stainless door. The lightish hood and work surface are also stainless steel. Cast aluminum end caps feature built-in tool hooks and a small condiment rack is affixed to the side of the cart. It rests on four casters (two locking) and has battery powered ignition. SP-310 is only available for use with LP gas. SP-320 is basically the same model with a 12,000 BTU side burner that is available in both LP and NG models.
Spirit was always a very basic, well made, serviceable grill line. The 2013 redesign offers significant upgrades and considerable value. Owners of previous Spirit grills may rub their eyes in disbelief as they behold these new cookers that barely resemble past models. Although Spirit is Weber's entry level price point, it is still more expensive than many other popular grill brands. However, most Spirit owners feel the quality, durability and performance are worth the price.
Looked Closely At It
We have seen this product up close and we have also gathered info from the manufacturer, owners, and other reliable sources.