You know that Weber grills have amazing performance but do you know why?
The answer is Erich Schlosser.
This article provides an overview of twenty two US Patents (with downloads) granted to the Weber-Stephens Company which list Erich Schlosser as either a sole or primary inventor.
These are not the only patents associated with Schlosser but they are the ones that make up the heart of the technology behind the Weber Genesis, Weber Q and the modern Weber kettle grills.
This article is broken down into three sections:
Weber Genesis Patents: The Genesis is the heart of traditional Weber gas grills. Many of the concepts covered in these patents have been applied in the Spirit and Summit grills.
Weber Q Patents: There are only two patents in this section but they highlight what sets the Weber Q series apart from the Genesis series.
Weber Charcoal Grill Patents: The amount of patent activity around these kettles is pretty remarkable. These patents cover everything from the Smokey Joes to the Performer.
Weber Genesis Patents
US Patent 4,627,408 Vaporizing element for portable grill, Dec 9, 1986; Erich J Schlosser
This patent concerns the Weber Go Anywhere portable gas grill but was critical for the success of the Genesis as it introduces the concept of Weber Flavorizer bars.
The Weber Go Anywhere gas grill was initially sold as a grill that needed lava rock as a heat distribution media. The proposed replacement for lava rock is an inverted V-shaped member constructed of a heat conductive material. This member provides more uniform heat distribution than lava rock and allows grease to evaporate and subsequently “flavorize” the food being grilled. In addition to adding flavor, “the device is designed such that most of the grease drippings are evaporated, without any possibility of flare-ups during the cooking process.”
US Patent 4,677,964 Portable gas grill, July 7, 1987; Charles Lohmeyer, Erich Schlosser, James Tucker, James Stephen, Andrzej Leja, John Beecher
This is the base Weber Genesis patent covering the basic design of the initial Genesis grills. This patent discloses the use of two sets of Flavorizer bars. The first set is located directly over the burner tubes and are critical for preventing flare-ups. The second set of Flavorizer bars aid in heat distribution and create a very evenly heated cooking grate.
This unit had a small hole at the bottom of a sloped rectangular housing and was fitted with a grease pan to safely catch any non-vaporized fat far away from the burner tubes. To quote from US 4,677,964, “As can be appreciated from the above description, the gas grill disclosed herein operates on an entirely new principal. The combination of tubular burners covered by inverted V-shaped sear bars and a deep removable grease collector unit with a small removable grease catcher pan at the lower end substantially eliminates the possibility of the grease in the collector unit from igniting.”
This patent also covers the propane tank level gauge, locking side tables and optional side burners found on the Genesis 1-3 grills. The patent was written to cover grills with two or three burners so this is also technically the patent for the Weber Genesis Jr.
US Patent 4,727,853 Sear grid for a portable grill, March 1, 1988; James Stephen, Charles Lohmeyer, Erich Schlosser
This is the companion patent to US 4,677,964 and is specific in its coverage of the Flavorizer bars for the Genesis grills. This patent discusses the preferred physical arrangement of the sear bars for optimum performance. Ideally the sear bars are V shaped with a width of 2.18 inches, a height of 1.38 inches and an angle of 75 degrees. The base of the bars is located two inches over the burner tube resulting in a distance between the burner tube and the apex of the sear bar of 3.5 inches. It is further disclosed that only three Flavorizer bars (those directly over the burner tubes) are required to prevent flare ups. The remaining sear bars are present to improve heat distribution.
US Patent 4,829,978 Gas grill with insect deterrent, May 16, 1989; Erich Schlosser
This patent deals with an unglamorous but important aspect of gas grilling; keeping the burner tubes operational. Apparently insects, and spiders in particular, believe that the inside of a burner tube is a great place to build a nest. The insects enter the burner tube at the air inlet and the resulting nests prevent the proper flow of gas and mixing with air. This blockage results in weak flames or the displacement of fuel outside the burner tube. Fuel displacement is a worst case scenario as this can result in an uncontrolled fire at the burner control knobs.
The solution to this problem was to cover the air inlet of the burner tube with a fine mesh that was large enough to not restrict air flow but fine enough to exclude insects. This innovation was trademarked as a “Spider Stopper” and was first introduced on the Weber Genesis Jr.
US Patent 4,860,724 Gas burner assembly, Aug 29, 1989; Erich Schlosser, Andrzej Leja
This patent is a minor improvement upon the Genesis grill patent, US 4,677,964. The innovation introduced is a burner assembly that can be quickly and easily put together without the use of any tools. This patent was filed in 1988, three years after the Genesis application, and appears to be a slight improvement for the side burner. It is possible that this patent reflects the side burner module that allowed you to convert your Genesis 2 into a Genesis 3.
US Patent 4,941,817 Igniter housing for barbecue grill, July 17, 1990; Erich Schlosser
This patent talks about some of the problems people encountered with the initial Genesis grills and how Weber responded. One of the issues faced by Genesis owners was when they cleaned their grills they would often bump the electrodes on the igniter. This would move the electrodes away from the burner and make lighting the grill difficult. The electrodes were also prone to getting coated with grease from grilled food. The dirty electrodes also resulted in difficulty lighting the grill. This patent essentially places the electrodes in a protective housing so they would stay clean and in the optimum position to light the burner tube.
US Patent 5,070,776 Portable gas grill enhancements, Dec 10, 1991; Erich Schlosser, Ronald Simpkins, Andrzej Leja, Michael Alden
The initial Genesis patent (US 4,677,964) covered the Genesis 1-3 grills. This follow up patent was filed in June of 1990 and covers the upgrades offered on the Genesis 4 and 5. Specifically this patent covers the warming basket and the smoker box accessories.
US Patent 5,167,183 Smoker attachment for a portable gas grill, Dec 1, 1992; Erich Schlosser, James Stephen, Robert Stephen.
This patent was filed before US 5,070,776 but took a year longer to work its way to being granted as a final patent. This patent is the detailed description of a smoker box for a gas grill, the use of which is covered in patent US 5,070,776.
US Patent 5,245,917 Skewer assembly incorporating a counterbalance device, Sept 21, 1993; Erich Schlosser, Michael Alden
This is the patent covering the Weber rotisserie for gas grills. While the rotisserie was not a standard feature for the Genesis grills I included it in this list due to its filing date. This patent was filed on August 10, 1989, the same day Weber filed the patent for the smoker box. The three patents, US 5,070,776, US 5,167,183 and US 5,245,917 are all designed to take a regular Genesis grill and add extra functionality.
Weber Q Patents
The Weber Flavorizer bars are the heart of the Weber Genesis style grills. They improve heat distribution and prevent flare-ups. The Weber Q grills do not have Flavorizer bars. This line of grills tackles the issues of heat distribution and flare-ups via the following two patents.
US Patent 6,699,036 Curvilinear Burner Tube, Mar 2, 2004; Erich Schlosser, Adrian Bruno, Mohammed Shoeb
The Weber Q grills all contain a curvilinear burner as the primary burner (the 300 and 320 have a secondary linear burner). The primary burner circles the inside perimeter of the grill and forms a continuous loop.
Traditional linear burners with a crimped end have the flaw that more gas is burned at the entrance of the burner tube than at the end. This is because the propane pressure is highest when it first enters the tube and decreases along the length as the gas escapes through the burner holes and ignites. There is simply less gas present at the end of the burner tube that at the entrance. This is one reason that gas grill with linear burner tubes have temperature gradients.
In contrast, after propane enters the curvilinear burner on the Weber Q it flows in both directions around the grill. The flow pattern of the gas is directly related to relative pressure within the burner tube. Conceptually this burner configuration leads to very even gas distribution all the way around the burner and that results in very even heating.
An additional benefit of the curvilinear burner is lowered manufacturing costs compared to three linear burners and the associated manifold. The single burner also allows Weber to ship the grill with the burner already in place making home assembly easier.
US Patent 7,810,484 Heat Distribution Cooking Grate With Grease Control Structure For A Barbecue Grill, Mar 2, 2004; Erich Schlosser, Adrian Bruno, Mark Johnson
The grate of the Weber Q grills is specifically designed to work in partnership with the curvilinear burner. The grate is designed to absorb convective AND radiant heat from the burner into an “energy receptor portion”. The energy receptor portion of the grate then provides conductive heat used to grill the food.
The energy receptor portion of the grate is simply increased thickness in the cast iron in the areas directly over the burner. The energy receptor portion accounts for about a third of the total mass of the grate.
The patent stresses repeatedly that this arrangement of burner and grate allows for conductive grilling (the grate provide the energy to the food) as opposed to convective grilling utilized in other grills (heated air provides the energy to the food).
The grate on the Weber Q is further deigned with an intricate arrangement of grooves that direct the flow of grease away from the burner tube thereby minimizing flare-up issues.
Weber Kettle Patents
This will eventually be a comprehensive overview of the patent portfolio of the Weber-Stephens company as it relates to charcoal grills. Older patents are reviewed first with patents of historical importance being highlighted.
Weber One Touch
US Patent 4,416,248 Ash disposal damper for barbecue kettle, Nov 22, 1983; Erich J Schlosser
This patent is the introduction of the Weber One Touch system. Previous Weber designs used three air intakes with each intake having four holes. The amount of air allowed to pass through the holes was controlled by dampers. This patent eliminates the 12 intake holes and replaces them with three elongated slits with a single damper attached to a long handle. The damper assembly consisted of three metal bars shaped like inverted Vs that were located inside the kettle. This driver for this change was cost and performance.
As related to cost, the prior art required three separate riveting operations to attach the dampers. The three operations each added manufacturing cost and were opportunities for the porcelain to become chipped which would require rework of the kettle.
As related to function it was realized that the previous dampers just got too hot to handle while the grill was in use. By having the damper attached to an elongated handle it became much more operator friendly. An added benefit of this assembly was that the dampers could now be used to push ash out of the bottom of the kettle.
US Patent 4,453,530 Outdoor cooking device, June 12, 1984; Erich J Schlosser
This patent introduces alternate means of holding the lid on charcoal grills. The lid holding device utilized at the time, and that still is in use on some grills today, is a C hook on the inside of the lid. The C hook is used to hang the lid on the edge of the kettle. This patent claims the addition of a pair of T brackets on the side of the grill. The lid can be slid into the T brackets and held perpendicular to the grill.
A claimed benefit of this innovation is that the majority of the lid will now be stored above and perpendicular to the grilling surface. As such the lid can serve as a shield during windy conditions, etc.
US Patent 4,498,452 Kettle with ash catcher, Feb 12, 1985; Erich J Schlosser, George Stephen
The patent was of short lived value as it crossed product lines and was quickly replaced with a better design. The patent basically covers the use of an ash catcher that has been stamped with grooves to fit into the tripod support. The key idea that they are really trying to work with is this is a grill that is very portable that could be assembled without tools. The fact that tools were not needed increased the portability of the grill as you could now take it apart, move it to a campsite and reassemble without needing tools. I have this patent grouped with other One Touch patents but an equal argument says that this might belong with Smokey Joes.
US Patent 4,576,140 Ash catcher for charcoal grill, March 18, 1986; Erich J Schlosser
This is a minor patent that redesigned the ash catcher for kettle grills. Previous ash catcher designs utilized an aluminum pan with three L shaped groves stamped out. The grooves in the pan were designed to lock around the tripod grill support. Stamping the L patterns increased manufacturing costs and wasted material. This patent introduces the concept of an ash catcher made of a solid aluminum disk held in place by three spring clips, one attached to each support leg. This is the same design currently used for One Touch Silver grills.
US Patent 4,777,927 Barbeque kettle, Oct. 18, 1988; James Stephen, Erich Schlosser, Andrzej Leja
This patent reflects adding some bling to the One Touch grills. Improvements to the grill include a better lid holder, a detachable thermometer to measure the temperature of the grill or the food being cooked and the addition of charcoal baskets to make indirect cooking easier. Weber received a continuation of this patent on 10/30/90 as US patent 4,966,125.
Weber Smokey Joe Gold
US Patent 4,535,749 Portable barbeque grill, Aug 20, 1985; Erich J Schlosser, James C Stephen
This is a fun patent that introduces the innovations leading to the production of the Smokey Joe Gold. To quote from the patent: “…the need has arisen for a more portable type of unit that can easily be carried about for use on camping trips and other short-term uses where it becomes necessary to assemble and disassemble the unit in a short period of time, and also be capable of transporting the unit small distances while the coals are still burning. In this environment, the surroundings many times make it desirable to accumulate the ashes in the bowl until after the unit has completely cooled to prevent fires when being used in wooded areas.”
The locking lid mechanism along with air intakes on the sides of a hand portable grill are described and claimed in this patent.
US Patent 4,836,179 Portable barbecue grill with cover support, June 6, 1989; Erich Schlosser
This patent is a follow up to US 4,535,749 which introduced two innovations for the Smokey Joe Gold. US 4,836,179 is the realization that the metal bar that serves as the lid locking mechanism can serve double duty as a lid holder if a single piece of spring metal is added to the side of the kettle. Between these two patents you have the three innovations which differentiate the Smokey Joe Gold from the Silver, a locking lid, air intake on the sides and a lid holder.
The concept of the Weber Performer was introduced in three patent applications filed in August, 1990 which resulted in the issuance of four separate patents. Three of the patents cover distinct inventions utilized in the grill while the fourth patent covers the application of all of the inventions into a single grill. Even though the applications were filed within the same month, the patents were issued over the course of several years.
US Patent 5,027,788 Barbecue kettle cart, July 2, 1991; Erich Schlosser, Michael Alden
This patent takes the kettle off of the tripod and into the cart. The cart offered the advantages of a built in work table that could slide away to reveal an integrated storage bin. The cart structure provided a frame for a bottom rack that could store more material.
US Patent 5,036,832 Ash catcher assembly for barbecue grill, August 6, 1991; Erich Schlosser, Michael Alden
This patent introduced the cylindrical ash catcher that is now on both the Performer and the One Touch Gold grills. Ashes were now self-contained and would not get blown around like they did on the circular discs utilized with the One Touch Silver grills.
US Patent 5,213,075 Igniter for charcoal grill, May 25, 1993; James Stephen, Erich Schlosser, Andrzej Leja, Donald Pestka
This patent utilizes propane gas to ignite the charcoal in the kettle. There is nothing remarkable about the burner tube, igniter assembly, etc. as it appears to be a straight forward adaptation of the burners used for the Genesis grills. What is somewhat interesting is that all of the drawings in the patent illustrate the invention with a kettle on a tripod. The text of the patent clearly mentions that this invention can be utilized with the cart described in US 5,027,788. I just wonder why the drawings do not reflect this embodiment.
US Patent 5,076,252 Barbecue grill assembly, Dec 31, 1991; Erich Schlosser, Michael Alden
This patent took the inventions of the cart, ash catcher and gas ignition and assembled them into a single grill.
Weber Smokey Mountain Patents
There is a complete absence of patent activity around the Weber Smokey Mountain. I have not been able to find ANY Weber patents related to the WSM regardless of the inventor. Given how many patents Weber filed on every other cooker the lack of patent activity around their smoker is very strange. If you have any insights into this mystery I would love to hear them.
Okay, so there you have 22 US Patents covering what makes Weber grills awesome! If you happen to run into Erich Schlosser give the man a hearty handshake and buy him a beer. I would suggest giving him a kiss but that would be a little weird.
I hope you enjoyed the article and the downloadable patents. If you did like the article I would appreciate it if you would share it with your friends!
Another article you might enjoy is a discussion of the acquisition of Ducane by Weber and how this led to the development of the Weber Spirit line of grills.