The bowl-shaped kettle grill has been the workhorse of barbecue in the United States ever since an Illinois metalworker fashioned one from two halves of a nautical buoy in 1952. (His name was George Stephen and he went on to found the Weber-Stephen grill company.) The virtue of the kettle grill is its simplicity: You put the coals in the bottom and place the food on a grate above them. This makes direct grilling a snap, and the high sides protect the fire from wind. But the real genius of the kettle grill is its vent system and domed lid. These enable you to turn a kettle grill into a smoker by using a technique known as indirect grilling. The kettle-shaped grill is a trademarked Weber product, but kettle-type grills (with domed covers) come in many shapes and sizes. One popular model looks like a square pillow.
What to look for when buying a kettle grill: Sturdy legs and construction; a bottom grate for holding the coals above the bottom of the firebox; a top grate; and vents at the top and bottom of the grill, so you can control the heat. Optional features include an ash catcher; a hinged grate, which allows you to add charcoal and wood to the fire without removing the food; a rotisserie attachment; side tables; and a thermometer built into the lid.