Opinion: Grilling season on the menu


Commentary by Ward Degler

Now that the last snowfall has come and gone (hopefully), I am ready to hit the deck with platters of hamburgers and chicken to plop on the grill. At the center of this drama is my beloved Weber Kettle.

My Weber came with me from Minnesota in the fall of 1980. It was already several years old.

Grills were simple things back then. A round metal bowl with a round top. Three legs assured it could adapt to any unlevel ground. I think the design was actually patented.

A fire grate nestles in the bottom of the bowl, and a cooking grate rests on top. There are three adjustable vents on the bottom of the unit, and three others regulate air flow in the top. A simple aluminum pan hooks underneath to collect the ashes.

Prep is easy: Scrape ashes through the vents into the pan; load several layers of charcoal on the fire grate, slosh with starter and light.

A quick thought about charcoal: Briquettes are fine, but I prefer the real stuff made from real hardwood for a richer flavor. With the Weber, you cook with the lid in place.

Cooking is a matter of pretending to care less about anything while paying close attention to what’s cooking. I usually do it while sitting on the deck musing about the rotting leaves in the bottom of the pond. As though it just dawned on me, I periodically jump up and flip the burgers or turn the drumsticks.

A rare insight shared with every man on the planet tells me when the job is done. I remove the food, close the vents to preserve the remaining charcoal and ring the dinner bell.

Through the years I have replaced the fire grate twice and the cooking grate three times. I’ve also replaced the wooden handles on the lid and the sides of the kettle. I’d say it’s good for another decade or two.

The world has gone electronic now, of course, and grills can do everything from regulating heat in a half-dozen parts of the cooking surface to letting you know when to turn the ears of corn.

The new grills are great, of course, and what is served up on the platter is as tasty as what I serve up from mine. There is a difference, however. I bought mine new at Sears. It cost $29.99.