Weber Flavorizer Bars
So Simple, So Perfect
A Game Changer
The Weber-Stephens company launched the Genesis gas grill in 1986 and it instantly became the standard against which all other gas grills were measured. There were many inventions that made this grill stand out (frame construction, spider guards, tank holder, etc) but the one that made the biggest impact was the inclusion of Flavorizer bars.
What made Flavorizer bars such an incredible invention is that they solved the two largest problems encountered when using gas grills: uneven heat distribution and constant flare-ups.
In order to distribute the heat from the propane burner tubes other gas grills utilized a bed of lava rocks. Lava rocks could stand up to the heat of the burners and did a decent job of distributing heat. One serious downside of lava rocks is that they are extremely porous which made them excellent at trapping dripping grease and fat. It was inevietable for these grease loaded rocks to catch on fire and when they did all you could do was stand back and wait for the inferno to ceases. All to often the flare-up would happen in the middle of a grilling session. If the flare-up happened while you had gone to the kitchen to grab the hamburger buns then everything you were grilling would be incinerated. Not fun.
Flavorizer bars replaced lava rocks and in doing so revolutionized gas grilling.
A Humble Beginning
They Started Small
Flavorizer bars were originally developed for Weber's small gas grill the Weber GoAnywhere. This small grill was designed for camping trips and the problem of flare-ups was more significant. Having a flare-up at home was one thing, in the middle of the woods was another.
Weber came up with the idea of replacing the lava rock with a single sheet of metal bent at a 120 degree angle and placed a few inches above the burner tube. The metal plate became extremely hot while the burner was lit and any grease that drippied onto it immediately was vaporized. It is important to note that the metal plate shielded the grease from the flame thus the potential for flare-ups was greatly reduced. The plate also did an excellent job of distributing heat from the single gas burner.
When the grease vaporized it generated a fragrant smoke that added great flavor to whatever was being grillied. It was from this added layer of flavor that the term "Flavorizer Bars" was created.
But They Got Bigger!
And Then Came Genesis
When Weber designed the Genesis gas grill they took the simple concept of Flavorizer bars and went overboard. Wheras the small GoAnywhere had a single Flavorizer bar the original Genesis grill had thirteen! There were five long bars running parallel with the three burner tubes and eight short bars on top of and perpendicular to the long bars.
When the grill was given enough time to pre-heat (15-20 minutes on high) the probability of dripping grease finding its way past the maze of Flavorizer bars and meeting up with open flames was just about zero.
Again, this was a game changer...you could now grill and completely forgot about the possibility of flare-ups.
The thirteen metal bars were made of porcelain enamled steel and did an excellent job of distributing th eheat from the three burner tubes. While there is still a slight temperature gradient on Genesis grills the uniformity of heat is still much better than encountered on most other grills.
When To Replace
Flavorizer Bars Wear Out
Weber Flavorizer bars are used in a pretty extreme environment. Although they are constructed of steel they do eventually rust through. The original Flavorizer bars, constucted of porcelain enameled steel, typically lasted for three years before they needed to be replaced. Later model grill had the option of stainless steel Flavorizer bars which lasted between five and seven years.
Finding the correct replacement Flavorizer bars for your Genesis became difficult as Weber made subtle tweaks to the grill design over the years. There are four different sizes of replacement Flavorizer bars for the Weber Genesis and which one is right for your grill will depend upon the year in which it was made. Here is a handy guide to make sure you get the right ones.
There is a company which makes after-market Flavorizer bars that are much better than the Weber products. The after-market Flavorizer bars are made of a heavy gauge stainless steel and should last at least ten years. They are also much cheaper than the thinner stainless steel bars sold by Weber. A full description of these Flavorizer bars is available in the above links.