Frustrated over all the weekends he spent “smoking up the neighborhood and burning up half of what [he] cooked” on his old brazier grill, George Stephen decided in 1951 to make himself a better barbecue. Fortunately, he was a metalworker and a part owner at Weber Brothers Metal Works in Chicago, giving him the skills and the tools to do it.
Using parts from the buoys that Weber Brothers made for use on Lake Michigan, George eventually created the first kettle grill. He called it “George’s Barbecue Kettle” and sold it to his friends. By 1958, the kettle had proven so successful that George Stephen bought out the rest of the company, renamed it Weber-Stephens Products, and devoted it to only manufacturing his grill.
Since then, “George’s Barbecue Kettle” has become the symbol of American outdoor grilling while fueling Weber’s growth into a global market leader that offers several lines of grills.
One of those newer lines of grills is a small, portable charcoal barbecue called the Smokey Joe. And simply described, it is a miniature version of Weber’s One-Touch Series, which is the modern version of George’s original kettle design (You can read our review of the One-Touch series here). It has a 14” cooking surface (diameter) and uses the same porcelain-coated steel construction and aluminum vent as the One-Touch series. The Smokey-Joe also comes in a Gold version (shown above), which offers features such a lid holder and an easy-carry lid lock that the basic Silver version doesn’t.
American Alternative Review:
Like the Weber One-Touch Kettles, the Weber Smokey Joes had a reputation for being made in America by a US company. But that was until 2011, when a class action lawsuit was brought against Weber claiming that many of their products (including the Smokey Joe) were only assembled in America, not made in America. The lawsuit argued that the “Made in USA” markings amounted to false advertising.
Weber settled the lawsuit (if you purchased a qualifying item between 2/15/2007 and 2/15/2012 you have until 6/20/2012 to exclude yourself) and reached an agreement that they would mark their products as “Assembled in America using internationally sourced components” instead of “Made in USA”.
But just like with the One-Touch kettles, almost all of the Smokey Joe parts are made in Weber’s Huntley factory. The Smokey Joe is also designed, engineered, and assembled in the US. And after adding everything together, the Smokey Joe still earns a great score and would make a great choice as a super-portable charcoal grill (tailgating anyone?).
You can check out Weber’s Smokey Joe Gold here and Weber’s Smokey Joe Silver here. You can also check out how they stacked up against all of the other grills that we reviewed in our Charcoal Grill Category Recap.
*Even though Weber Smokey Joe Grills don’t receive a perfect score, we round all scores to the nearest half-point.