Many grilling enthusiasts are familiar with the Weber name. Some others know that the company’s founder invented the iconic dome-shaped charcoal grill. But where are Weber grills made today? Is the company still based in the United States? The answers may not be what you expect.
A man named George Stephen founded the eventual Weber company in 1952. At the time, he worked for Weber Brothers Metal Works in Chicago, Illinois.
One day George looked at a round metal buoy and decided to modify it to create a cooking vessel. By cutting the buoy through the middle and adding three legs to the bottom, he formed the first charcoal grill of its kind.
Stephen’s new invention quickly became a hit among his friends and neighbors, who dubbed it “the Sputnik.” However, Stephen decided on a different name: “George’s Barbecue Kettle.” The name stuck, and these units are still known as “kettle-style” grills to this day.
For a long time, the Weber name was synonymous with charcoal grills. The company stuck to this approach for a long time. In fact, they only began manufacturing gas-powered units when that grilling style became more fashionable in the 1980s. Today, they offer a wide range of products, including pellet grills.
The folks at Weber value durable construction and long-term endurance above all else. This may be because the business began life as a metal working company. While some manufacturers cut corners to offer lower prices, Weber is steadfast in its commitment to quality.
Weber headquarters is still located in Palatine, Illinois, just outside the city where it all began. The company also has a major manufacturing plant in nearby Huntley. This makes it seem as though Weber grills are made in the US, but this isn’t the whole story.
Although the grills are designed by the workers at the Palatine headquarters, not all the parts are locally sourced. In truth, they import some components from other countries. As a result, the company can’t claim that their products are 100 percent USA-made, even if the foreign parts are only minor components in the design.
What’s more, some of Weber’s grills are actually manufactured outside the country. We’ll go over this in more detail in The Rundown, below.
A Brief History
When did this change occur, and why? The history is easy to trace.
In 2010, Weber sold the majority stake in its holdings to BDT Capital Partners. Shortly thereafter, the company faced a class action lawsuit. The complaint involved the “Made in the USA” stamp that was present on Weber products. This label was misleading to consumers, because not all the parts are made in the USA.
Why does this matter? To some buyers, the “Made in the USA” label is of paramount importance. They want to contribute to American businesses and keep the money flowing throughout their local economies wherever possible. Many consumers also feel that American-made components will last longer than their globally sourced counterparts.
Like most manufacturers, Weber is keenly aware of this mindset. That’s likely why they continued to market their products with the same label, even when it was no longer strictly true.
Weber initially fought back. In a statement, the company claimed that their products and accessories were all designed and engineered from the Illinois facility. As a result, their claim that the grills were made in the USA was, in fact, accurate.
Weber settled the case out of court, but they made no effort to change their practices. In fact, most of the company manufactures most of their products in China these days. Up until 2016, Weber could still claim that their grills were “Made in The USA with globally sourced components,” but that’s no longer the case.
So, where are Weber grills made exactly? And are any of them still manufactured in the US?
In short, the Weber SmokeFire is the only grill in the company’s lineup that’s made entirely in the US. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the name, the SmokeFire is a pellet grill made by Weber.
That said, some Weber products are still manufactured at the facility in Huntley using imported parts. If you’re wondering which ones are made in what location, here’s a brief rundown.
Weber Grills Made in the US
The following grills are made in the USA with globally sourced components: The Original Kettle Charcoal Grill, the high-tech grills in the Summit Series, and the futuristic Q Series units.
If you own a Smokey Joe, a Jumbo Joe, or a Go-Anywhere grill, you may rest assured that these have been manufactured in the US as well.
If it’s a traditional kettle-style charcoal grill you’re after, the Original Kettle is a good bet. Not only is it more affordable than most of the units in Weber’s lineup, it’s also user-friendly. The grill is available in several sizes, from 18 to 26 inches. There’s also a Premium version, which offers a sophisticated ash management feature.
The Summit line is made up of both charcoal and gas-powered units. There are a few kamado-style grills in the series as well. As the name suggests, these grills are among the very best that Weber has to offer. The gas grills in this series are particularly appealing, but be forewarned that they’re also fairly expensive.
If you’ve ever seen a grill in the Q series, there’s a good chance that you remember it. The cooking chamber on a Weber Q Series grill has a saucer-shaped design, making it a great conversation starter. These grills are instantly recognizable, even if you don’t know what they’re called. Most of them are portable, but the Q3200 is a full-sized model.
The Smokey Joe, the Jumbo Joe, and the Go-Anywhere grill are all portable units, designed to be taken on the road for camping or tailgating expeditions. Here’s how to tell them apart.
The Smokey Joe measures 14 inches in diameter and is available in a variety of colors. The Jumbo Joe offers a bit more grilling space at 18 inches, but it has the same squat design as the Smokey.
The Go-Anywhere is a tabletop grill with a rectangular shape. Weber offers both gas and charcoal options for this series. Meanwhile, the “Joe” grills are traditional charcoal-burning units.
Weber Grills Made Overseas
On the other hand, the Spirit and Genesis II lines are manufactured in either China or Taiwan.
If buying American-made products is important to you, steer clear of the units in these lineups. If you decide to buy one anyway, be aware that the Genesis line comes with a few extra features—and a price tag to match.
If you aren’t sure whether the grill you’ve purchased was made in the US, check the labeling. The ones that are manufactured at the Huntley facility still carry the “Made in the USA” stamp. However, most of them include the caveat that some of the components are made in other countries. If there’s no stamp, then the grill was made in China.
If you’re wondering why Weber began outsourcing its parts in the first place, you’re not alone. This is a hot-button issue among consumers and business moguls alike. As is so often the case, the answer comes down to just one thing: money.
Outsourcing is cheaper for several reasons.
First of all, conglomerates are often subjected to higher taxes when they choose to keep their business within the US borders. By making their products abroad, they’ll be taxed less, which will contribute to their bottom line.
That’s only the beginning. In third-world countries—also known as the global south—labor and wage laws are far less stringent than they are in the US. To put it bluntly, the workers in these countries are paid less than their stateside counterparts. If a company can save money on labor costs, they’re bound to jump at the opportunity.
There are benefits to outsourcing that don’t involve finances—at least, not directly. The practice also allows the company to focus more on the company’s long-term goals. When a business no longer has to oversee the manufacturing process, it gives them more time to plan and develop the next line of products.
Of course, even if outsourcing does save the company money, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. When labor and manufacturing costs go down, the prices often fall with them, which translates into better deals for the consumer.
It’s worth noting that 98 percent of Weber’s workforce is still based in the US—at least, this was true as recently as 2011. That means that if you buy a Weber grill, you’re still helping to keep American workers employed.
The Downside to Outsourcing
While we understand the reasons for outsourcing, the practice has some issues that bear mentioning.
For one thing, the manufacturing standards are often lower due to poor quality control. That means that Weber’s products might suffer as a result. The company denies that this is a problem for them, particularly since the design process still takes place at corporate headquarters. Still, it’s an important point for buyers to keep in mind.
On the subject of low standards: We mentioned the fact that the labor laws in the global south are not as stringent as the ones in the US. As a result, the workers may be treated unfairly or even cruelly, depending on the circumstances. This is a human rights issue that’s enough to turn many buyers off completely.
Finally, consider the environmental implications. When a company like Weber manufactures its products on foreign shores, it relies on freighters and other forms of mass transportation. This uses up a great deal of energy, which could be harmful to the planet.
Let’s say you’re looking for a quality grill, but want to buy one that’s constructed entirely in the US, with American-made parts. That’s fair enough, and you’ll have plenty of companies to choose from. Here’s a look at some of the most popular ones.
Hilton Meigs of Texas founded PK Grills right around the same time that George Stephen was perfecting the kettle-style grill. Meigs dubbed his box-shaped creation a “Portable Kitchen.” The name stuck, but it was eventually shortened to the abbreviation that gives the company its name.
In the 1960s, PK Grills moved its headquarters to Little Rock, where the products are still manufactured today. Most of the modern versions resemble the original design. They’re available in several different sizes, including a hibachi-style unit.
Broil King’s grills are manufactured in Indiana, sharing a Midwestern background with the Weber brand. The company also manages to keep their prices low, despite the lack of outsourcing. In fact, their Signet 320 is one of the highest-rated portable gas grills on the market.
With a name like this, it’s natural to assume that the product is made in the USA. That assumption would be correct. The company makes their home in California, where grilling is a year-round pastime. They don’t come cheap, but they’re durable and reliable, with appealing designs.
One other tip: If you see a grill with the Fire Magic logo, it’s made by the same parent company, the RH Peterson Co.
To Weber’s credit, they do put a great deal of thought into the design of their products. The testing process is rigorous, so you can expect the grills to last for decades to come. Also, the company offers a generous warranty package. This makes it obvious that they’re willing to stand by their brand.
Outsourcing is standard practice these days. This means that Weber probably won’t move the bulk of their manufacturing back to the US. Are you willing to invest in a product that uses globally sourced components in its makeup? If the answer is no, you’d be better off choosing one of the alternative brands listed above.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!