Grilling Rises in Popularity for Healthy Eaters

One reason for grilling’s popularity: people trying to eat healthier.

By Diane Toops




Living in an apartment in downtown Chicago, I rarely have the opportunity to chomp into a thick, rare burger hot off the grill. There’s nothing more mouthwatering. Yes, I admit to grill envy.

Grilling behaviors have changed, according to the 19th Annual Weber GrillWatch Survey of 1,000 grill owners, conducted by Greenfield Online for Weber-Stephen Products Co., Palatine, Ill. Thirty-one percent of American grill owners are grilling more than they were a year ago because they're "trying to eat healthier."

Respondents say they are grilling leaner meats (39 percent), more vegetables (38 percent), more poultry (34 percent) and more fish (22 percent) than they did a year ago. Six percent are cooking more meat substitutes, such as veggie burgers and tofu, and 5 percent are grilling more fruit.


Charcoal or gas?

Charcoal grill ownership continues to trend upward -- 53 percent of
grill owners say they have one, up from 50 percent last year and 47 percent in 2005. On the flip side, gas grill ownership is on the decline with 63 percent ownership versus 70 percent ownership in 2005. Ownership of smokers and outdoor electric grills has stayed relatively constant during the past two years -- at 17 and six percent, respectively.

Whereas gas grills are still preferred over charcoal as the grill type used most often (56 versus 38 percent), the number of Americans who declare they use charcoal most often has steadily increased during the last three years (38 percent this year versus last year's 36 percent and 2005's 32 percent). Twenty-three percent of respondents say they equally use both gas and charcoal.

Once again this year, almost one-third (29 percent) of American grillers report they own multiple grills. Among owners of different grill types, those who own smokers are most likely to own multiple grills-75 percent say they own more than one, followed by outdoor electric grill owners at 57 percent.

Women are significantly more likely to grill vegetables (43 percent vs. 33 percent) and more fruit (7 percent vs. 4 percent) than men.

More than half (57 percent) grill throughout the year. Those who use outdoor electric grills (65 percent), gas stand-ups (61 percent) and smokers most often define their "grilling season" as year-round than charcoal grill owners at 53 percent. Seventy-one percent say they fire up their grill "at least once a week" during their grilling season (up from 69 percent last year), and 47 percent fire it up "at least a few times per week" compared to 43 percent last year.

Eighty-one percent assert that they prefer grilling outdoors by a wide margin (81 percent) compared to cooking inside (19 percent). This reflects an increase over last year's 78-22 percent split.

For the first time, survey researchers asked how many hours a week Americans grill during their grilling season. While the overall average is 4.4, one-third say they spend five or more hours grilling each week.

While 95 percent of respondents say they grill dinner "on a regular basis," 37 percent say they now grill lunch and 2 percent grill breakfast or brunch regularly. While respondents say hot dogs (81 percent) and burgers (75 percent) are the easiest foods to grill, they say fish is the most challenging (44 percent) followed by shellfish (38 percent).

When asked which foods they'd like to know how to cook better on the barbie, respondents most often cited beef roasts (24 percent) and beef brisket (20 percent), followed by whole chicken and whole turkey at 19 percent each, ribs and pizza at 18 percent each, pork roast/tenderloin at 16 percent and cakes at 14 percent.

Although most grilling experts say otherwise, cutting into food remains the top method that Americans use to decide when to take their food off of the grill (58 percent). Other popular methods include seeing "if it looks done" (44 percent), "poking it with a fork" (30 percent) and just plain "winging it" (21 percent). Twenty-two percent use the more advisable methods of timing their food (22 percent) and/or using a thermometer (19 percent).

As last year, one-third of grill owners would prefer color on their next grill. Top color choices are blue/dark blue at 10 percent, followed by red/dark red at 9 percent. Interest in bronze/copper and green/dark green each has slightly increased to 5 percent from last year's 3 percent.


Accessorize, accessorize!

American grillers have purchased a wide variety of grilling accessories during the last year. Wire brushes and tongs top the list at 35 percent each, followed by grill lighter tools (28 percent), forks (25 percent), and grilling mitts (22 percent). Younger grill owners under age 35 are the most robust purchasers of grilling accessories.

When it comes specifically to charcoal grills, 41 percent of Weber GrillWatch Survey respondents believe the importance of style in a charcoal grill is more important than it was five to 10 years ago. Those under 35 are significantly more likely to believe that styling in a charcoal grill is more important now than it was five to 10 years ago (48 percent).

Americans fire up their grills on just about every major holiday. The Fourth of July again tops the list at 86 percent, followed by Labor Day (74 percent), birthdays (73 percent), and Memorial Day (69 percent). Fifty-two percent of grill owners cook outside on Father's Day compared to 45 percent on Mother's Day.

American grill owners report they entertain family or friends in their home an average of 10.7 times a year - slightly more than the non-grill owner average at 9.6 times. In addition, grill owners used their grills seven out of the 10.7 times they entertained during the year.

Weber Grills estimates 83 percent of U.S. households own one or more grills. Now, if only a few of them would invite me to dinner.

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