Posts like this always fascinate me because the simple ability to control fire seems to be becoming a lost art among certain segments of the population.Ultimately, I think Weber watched to see how the market for pellet went. It’s still a relatively new method. Are they late? Not necessarily.
Let’s be honest: the market for charcoal is limited and maybe even declining. As a diehard charcoal lover, that’s tough to say. But today’s consumer largely doesn’t want the dedication to time and mess dealing with charcoal, they want the convenience that pellet offers. Gas and pellet are the future, I suspect Weber will always (hopefully) offer charcoal but I don’t see that market growing.
They HAD to get into pellet. And I think they did a mighty fine job. Unfortunately things get blown way out of proportion online and an otherwise good/great product (yes, with some quirks) has a black eye. One that I personally don’t agree with.
The original grill/BBQ was with wood, obviously. People bought into charcoal because it really was better. You could still do it at home alone with a handful of briquettes, a tailgate party on the road with a bag, or scale up to a family reunion or bigger because charcoal doesn't rely on a fancy cooker. A cooker with only a handful of parts to create a lid and vents completed the experience. The need for a separate fire to create hot coals was eliminated, as was any need for a wood pile or wood cutting tools at all. Controlling the fire became easier, but you still had to know how to do it.
Pellets are not nearly as reliable, affordable, versatile, or backward compatible as charcoal or wood. The age-old skill of controlling fire is replaced with long lists of parts and technologies integrated together into a machine that controls the fire for you.
So we wait and see what happens. Flint and steel won over fire by friction. Matches over flint and steel. Lighters over matches. More technology and less skill each time. I just think it will be a long time before pellet grills have the edge over charcoal that lighters have over flint and steel.