You'd never know it by hockey-mad Calgary, where the Flames are in the Stanley Cup finals and there was snow on the ground just a couple of weeks ago -- but in Canada, the height of barbecue season has arrived. On most evenings, the air is full of the smell of grilling as the country enjoys its short barbecue season.
But did you know that 41 per cent of Canadian barbecue owners have grilled at below freezing temperatures? And that 19 per cent say they used the barbecue at temperatures below minus 20 C? In fact, 48 per cent of barbecue owners say they use their grill all year-round.
Those figures come from a survey that's been conducted for Weber-Stephen Products Co. annually for the last 12 years. The most recent survey was conducted in September 2003 by research firm Leger Marketing.
The survey always has a little fun with its questions, asking a few things that you won't see anywhere else. For example, 26 per cent of survey respondents admitted to serving something they had dropped on the ground, leading Weber to wonder how many of the rest of them weren't quite so honest. About 10 per cent of survey respondents confessed that they never clean their grill, but 40 per cent said they had cleaned it within the last month.
The most recent survey says that steak is the most popular item for grilling (63 per cent), surpassing hamburgers, which dropped to 58 per cent from 62 per cent the previous year. There were obviously no concerns about Mad Cow disease when it came to barbecuing last year. Chicken is the third most popular barbecue choice at 44 per cent.
For hamburger toppings, cheese and tomatoes are tied in the number one spot, with hot sauce the least favourite.
Twenty-three per cent of those surveyed consider themselves to have above-average skills when it comes to grilling. Sixty-six per cent say they are average, while only nine per cent admitted to feeling like they are below-average grillers. Two per cent said they own the grill, but when it comes time to cook, they hand the grilling tongs to somebody else, says Weber.
The number of barbecue parties seems to be on the rise, with 47 per cent of respondents hosting five or more barbecues, compared to just 39 per cent the year before. Birthday parties are the most popular barbecue occasions, followed by Canada Day celebrations, Labour Day and Victoria Day. But 26 per cent also barbecue on Thanksgiving Day, and 10 per cent use the barbecue for Christmas celebrations.
The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, which includes a large Canadian contingent in its membership, says more than 14 million gas, charcoal and electric barbecues were sold last year. Eight per cent of them sold for less than $300 US.
But Weber, which makes a range of barbecues including many high-end models, says the percentage of Canadians who are willing to buy a high-end barbecue is growing. Nine per cent said they would pay more than $1,000 for a barbecue, compared to four per cent the year before. The survey says 30 per cent would spend between $500 and $900, compared to 21 per cent the year before, and 57 per cent are willing to spend $100 to $499 for a grill, compared to 60 per cent the year before. The Weber survey also says that 26 per cent of Canadians would like to have a better, bigger and more expensive grill than their neighbours.
Last year's massive power failure that blacked out much of Central Canada also had an impact on the buying habits of Canadians, who appreciate the need to have an outdoor grill in case of an emergency.
The HPBA site offers information about how to choose and maintain your barbecue, while the Weber site offers the latest product innovations, recipes and grilling tips. I'd write a little more about this, but I'm getting kind of hungry….