For decades, grilling was manly behavior. In many families, it was the only time dad used a kitchen appliance and made the meal rather than mom. A few times a year, he’d fire up the grill, load it up with meats – maybe a few ears of corn – and possibly even quote that old commercial “Meat: It’s what’s for dinner.”
But in recent years, more and more women are manning the grill. A study by Consumer Goods & FMCG in 2017 shows 11 percent of women were now grilling in households where a male also resided. And the number of women grillers in general is rising, with statistics tracking more women buying grills and visiting grilling websites.
And what’s not to like about grilling – am I right, ladies? Fire (danger)! Food (delicious)! Grillside cocktails and cigars (just me?)
Margaret Carini has been grilling for her husband, Cosmo, for 50 years.
“Grilling is just second nature to me,” says Carini. “My husband can build anything but he's not a griller. Never has been. He’s a good eater, though.”
Personally, I’ve lived with as many as three dudes ages 16 and older and still took sole control of the Weber. I grill in all seasons (blizzard grilling is the best!) and after years of using a gas grill, switched to a charcoal grill that once belonged to my stepfather who is now in memory care. Thus, grilling has even deeper meaning to me now. But mostly I just dig cooking outdoors for my family and friends. The smells, the tastes, the bragging rights that come with being in the growing-but-still-elite group of gal grillers.
Jen Turner taught herself to grill as an adult. As a kid, her father and grandfather often grilled, but it never occurred to them to teach her.
“My favorite childhood memory is eggs on those little grills in the park with both of those gentlemen,” says Turner.
Turner has a variety of grilling favorites including beer can chicken, home made pizza, fruits like pineapple and peaches, shrimp, salmon and veggies of all kinds. She uses a charcoal as well as a gas grill.
“Both have their place. Sometimes you want it fast, sometimes you want it gooood. Basically anything can be made better with the addition of an open flame,“ she says. “I really enjoy the process, the flavor, and being the smoking weirdo with the tongs and a wild look in her eyes.”
Milwaukee’s Steph Salvia started grilling for tailgating and concert-going after college, but says her frequency of grilling increased after she had kids because she despises doing dishes.
“No one ever taught me how to grill. It was all trial and error and my $5 meat thermometer that has prevented me from poisoning anyone,” says Salvia.
Salvia started grilling on a small, portable “Smokey Joe,” but used it so many times she burned the bottom out of it after several years. Then her mom and brother bought her a gas grill and she quickly appreciated the ease of it.
“I still love the flavor of a charcoal grill, but with the right marinades and seasonings or a really quality piece of meat from a place like Bavette and fresh local veggies the gas grill is great,” she says.
Her choice grillables include chicken thighs, sausages and steaks.
"I rarely order a steak when I'm out at a restaurant because I know I can make a killer steak at home. I also love to grill sausages but truly those are just a vessel for me to cover in my aunt and uncle's homemade sauerkraut.”
Salvia lives with a man – her husband – but that doesn’t affect who stands in front of the grill in their household.
"He can start the gas grill by pressing the button, but that's about the extent of his grilling expertise,” she says.
Salvia enjoys the practicality of grilling as much as the process.
“The grill has become a really good way for me to make a lot of food all at once – we love leftovers – without dirtying a ton of dishes,” she says.
Monica Freitag started grilling after she got divorced in 1999 for herself and two children.
“The ex had taken the big expensive grill, so I went out and bought my own – initially a Weber charcoal,” says Freitag. “I had very little grilling experience prior to that, so it was a lot of trial and error. I started easy with brats, hot dogs and burgers, and since my kids were small, that was good enough.”
And even though Freitag is now partnered with another male, she continues to do all the grilling which these days includes shish kabobs, chicken wings, steak and vegetables like asparagus, onions and peppers.
"I usually make it an experience: music is on; I've got some sort of alcoholic beverage in my hand; and I'm enjoying my company and my yard,” she says.
Freitag also feels a sense of power when she’s grilling. And it’s an integral part of her self care.
“You’re in charge of all the stuff on the grill and keeping it from burning or getting overdone. My kids would always joke ‘stay away from her grill'! I look at new awesome grills at the hardware store like some women look at clothes and shoes," says Freitag. "I'm now looking for a small smoker. There's some salmon I'd like to try. Last year I ordered myself an entire grilling set.”
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.