FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000

Pits to Patios (page 1)

The brick firepits, huge in-ground pits, and giant community-sized grills used for traditional western and southern barbecues were not compatible with suburban yards. Backyard barbecuers favored smaller, more portable tools like the new covered patio grills and Japanese hibachis. By the 1980s and ’90s, they were buying more elaborate grills and smokers, as well as specialized tools, serving paraphernalia, decorative items, and furniture for the outdoors.

Hibachi, around 1970

Imported from Japan, Hawaii, and Taiwan, the miniature charcoal-fueled hibachi became popular in tropical-themed tiki bars, where customers often grilled their own skewered meats and vegetables at the table. As use by Americans grew, so did the size of the hibachis. This double-grill version was better suited for the enormous steaks favored by backyard cookout fans in the United States.

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Advertisement from Life Magazine, 1962

Advertisement from Life Magazine, 1962

Weber kettle grill, 1969–73

George Stephen developed the first Weber kettle grill out of a nautical buoy in 1951. The charcoal-fueled grill, which enabled users to control smoke and heat, became the iconic tool of suburban grill masters. Although they eventually had their choice of many types of grills—gas, electric, and wood-fired, stable and portable—for some enthusiasts, nothing beats the classic charcoal kettle grill. Such an enthusiast acquired this Weber “redhead” in 2011. Gift of Robert Clark.

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Weber catalog, 1973

Weber catalog, 1973

This catalog cover pictures two different models of the outdoor covered cooker—Smokey Joe and The Gourmet—along with a Corn-N-Tater Rack, side table, and “deluxe” cookbook. Grills and accessories became more elaborate, and were still marketed mainly to men.

Barbecuing the Weber Covered Way, 1972 (back cover)

Barbecuing the Weber Covered Way, 1972 (back cover)

This cartoon from The ‘How’ of Covered Barbecue Cooking shows a benefit of the Weber covered grill—the Weber owner won’t see his steak go up in flames.

News photo, 1979

News photo, 1979

Richard Baker, saucing a pork loin on his Weber grill, was featured in a series on “Men and Cooking” that ran in the Baltimore Sun in 1978–80.

Sunpapers photograph by Ralph L. Robinson