The purists will tell you that there is no substitute for a charcoal grill and Weber pretty much invented the category with their kettle grills. This charcoal grill however has quite a twist.
While hybrids are all the rage in cars these days, there is a lesser-known hybrid also growing in popularity. The Weber Performer Grill is a charcoal grill on steroids. It uses a gas assist (a mini disposable propane can) to light the coals fast, giving you the convenience of a gas grill with the taste of charcoal. Instead of using a charcoal chimney, you simply pile the coals in the middle, turn on the gas for about five minutes and then turn the gas off once the coals get going. It's really the best of both worlds and saves you from having to use lighter fluid and also lights the charcoal faster. The Weber Performer comes with three built-in tool holders, a lid catcher to hold the cover when it's hot and a larger plastic work surface with a storage rack underneath and an enclosed charcoal bin, which let's you store about 20 pounds of dry charcoal protecting it from the elements. My favorite feature of The Weber Performer Grill is the One-Touch cleaning system and removable ash catcher, which make clean-up completely hassle free.
The Weber Performer was redesigned a few years ago and addressed some of the design flaws with the original model including the built-in charcoal bin, which can now be accessed without having to lift the work surface. In addition to cooking great food, this grill makes for a great conversation piece. I know it's a lot for a charcoal grill, but you will enjoy it for many years. I love mine and it's a great way to cook with charcoal during the week when you usually don't want the hassle.
New for 2012: You can now choose the option between having the touch-n-go gas ignition, with a significant price difference between the two. If you opt to not get the gas-assisted ignition, you can save about $100 or more, but that was the key feature of this grill. Without the ignition, you might as well get the One Touch Gold Kettle. Also new for 2012, the Performer comes in more colors: blue, green and red.
Weber Performer Models and Variations
The Weber Perfomer charcoal grill comes in three colorway options; Black (1421001), Dark Blue (1428001) and Green (147001). I would also strongly suggest purchasing the Weber Premium Cover designed especially for Weber Performer grills.
Some people prefer the older version of the Weber Performer and think that Weber cheapened the latest model by replacing stainless steel with plastic. I have owned both models and think that Weber made important improvements to the product, while also finding ways to lower the price point to make it more affordable. The reality is that not many people were going to buy a $400 charcoal grill, no matter how much they loved it.