People have loved Weber grills for generations, and with proper care a Weber grill may last that long. But there are a lot of other grills out there, many of them with the same features, at a much more reasonable price. What makes Weber grills so expensive? And are they worth it?
Weber grills grew out of Weber Bros. Metal Works, a family business started in 1893. In 1952, co-owner George Stephen Sr. had been cooking with a brazier at home, and used some old sheet metal to build the first Weber grill (then called “George’s Barbecue Kettle”) and bring it to market.
Until then, outdoor cooking was typically done over an open flame or in a brick oven, and this “kettle” was the first grill of its kind, designed for improved performance and consistency when cooking outdoors. The product became so popular that Stephen soon led the newly formed Weber Barbecue division.
In the late 50s, Stephen bought out the Weber Bros. factory, renamed the company Weber-Stephen Products, and devoted the new business to barbecues and grills, developing new materials, new techniques, and new ways to cook outdoors.
Weber remained a family firm until 2010, when BDT Capital Partners acquired a majority stake in the company.
There are a few factors that set Weber grills apart from other, less expensive grills. The most important features are:
Design and Engineering
Weber is not only the inventor of the backyard grill as we know it today, but the company has continued to innovate over the years. The company continues to develop new technologies, file patents, and innovate more and better grill techniques, and pays attention to customer feedback. This means that even classic Weber designs often get thoughtful upgrades like self-cleaning systems, grease channels, and other improvements over their own and competitor grills.
Weber grills are made with porcelain-coated enamel or stainless steel, cast iron, and other high-quality materials. The company uses welds instead of fasteners when building grills, which takes more time and labor, but creates more durable, rustproof seams.
Testing and quality assurance. Weber grills are thoroughly tested to meet company standards. Each model is tested to simulate 10-15 years of use, and make sure that they stand up to touch conditions.
Weber makes grill schematics and replacement parts easily available. This makes them easy to repair at a wide range of service centers, or to order parts and repair them yourself, without having to ship the grill anywhere. This also means that you may be able to find an older model Weber at a garage sale and rehab it with new parts, to bring it back to life.
Weber has world-class customer support that takes the time to make sure you are satisfied. They help you with questions, problems, and repairs, and have excellent response times and follow-up.
Most Weber grills have a 10-year warranty, and the company stands by their product. They will even refund the cost of shipping if a return is necessary. Even when a Weber is out of warranty, as we’ve already mentioned, it’s easy to get replacement parts and keep a Weber grill in great condition for decades.
Weber Grills Decline in Quality?
Even the most devoted Weber fans may have noticed a decline in quality in recent years. There are a few factors at play that may be at the root of these issues.
For decades, Weber grills were made entirely in the US. Over time, they moved production of parts overseas, and only assembled their grills in America. Today, although the company is still headquartered in the States, most of them are manufactured abroad. While all their grills still meet Weber’s rigorous testing, some people feel that there has been a decline in overall quality since production was outsourced.
Lower Grade of Steel
In recent years, Weber has switched from 304 stainless steel to 430 grade steel. While the thick-gauged 430 currently used by Weber is durable and holds up, it is a lower grade of steel than the original Webers.
Behind the Curve
While Weber has a well-deserved reputation for innovation, they aren’t currently adapting well to a new generation of smart grills.
While competitors have technologies that allow you to monitor and adjust your grill from a smart device, which can be incredibly useful if you are smoking a brisket overnight or have to run to the store for missed ingredients, Weber’s foray into intelligent grilling leaves a lot to be desired. While the Weber Connect system and Smart Grilling Hub are great ideas in theory, in practice the technologies are prone to glitches and connection issues, and even when they are working properly, they are inaccurate and not very useful.
Since we are living in increasingly connected homes, and can get smart connections to ovens, coffeemakers, and even light bulbs, this is a pretty serious oversight. It would be better to not have these technologies at all, than to offer them to consumers when they don’t work properly.
Are Weber Grills Worth the Money?
Despite these drawbacks, for most people the answer is a resounding Yes — Weber grills are still worth the money.
When used traditionally, without any smart tech, these grills give you fantastic results, convenient features, and incredible durability. That being said, some of the Weber models launched in the past couple of years aren’t worth the investment and seem to have been rushed to market.
Because of their durable materials, quality builds, and readily available parts, many people choose to continue upgrading an older model Weber or finding a used one and rehabbing it.
In almost every case the smart choice is to buy an older Weber model if you can, or to wait for honest, unbiased reviews of new models before rushing to upgrade. The best Weber grills are worth every penny.