A Member and his Kettle #1: Hank B!

Hank and his stainless steel weber performer.

HankB Grilling on his trusty Stainless Steel Weber Performer and vintage Weber Wok.

This is the first in a series of member and kettle features. We are honored to have HankB and his 18.5″ 1974 Weber Kettle as the first  member and kettle combo. I first met HankB at the Chicago WKC meet and I was taken aback by how much he had to share. His featured ’74 kettle has been with him and his wife Cindy since their wedding day – just 40 years ago. This was their only grill for decades so it’s cool to see how Hank’s Weber stable stands now. His ’74 Weber kettle has a lot of character, just like its proud owner. Hank has been a dedicated member who is always willing to share advice, cooks, and restoration.

Check out his awesome blog here
And here are some of his awesome contributions to WKC:

Congrats, Hank! You deserve this one.

Introduce yourself, Hank!
Hank Barta. Far western Chicago ‘burbs. (a few minutes east of the one of the central locations in the Weber Universe – Jeff’s collection.)
Age, as of this week – 60. 😀
How did you get started grilling & barbecuing?
I’ve been an avid camper since I was little. I suppose to some extent camp cookery is not a lot different from grilling and BBQing. We got our first Weber – the subject of this article – as a wedding present when we got married in ’74. We’re still married and we still use that kettle.
How did you end up on WKC?
I’m not sure how I first got here. I’ve been active on Smoking Meat Forum, The Virtual Weber Bullet and BBQ Brethren. Somewhere along along the way I ran across the WKC and realized that it was populated by folks pretty close to me. I suppose geographical proximity means little in an Internet community, but it sure came in handy when we had a local get together.
How did you acquire your 1974 Weber grill and what makes this kettle special to you?
We got my first Weber kettle – an 18 1/2″ black one – from my sister as a wedding present. That was in 1974 so I know this is a 1974 vintage kettle. I knew about Weber kettles because other family members had them (and raved about them) but it took me a while to get started with this one. It sat unused and in the box for months before I pulled it out and cooked my first meal. I got some back loin ribs and cooked them indirect according to the instructions that came with the kettle and they were fantastic. All I could think was “what have I been waiting for?” I was hooked for life. For years – decades –  it was our only grill. We used it regularly but not particularly frequently. I do recall some memorable meals cooked on it like the leg of lamb I made for Father’s Day at the Indiana Dunes State Park. Leg of Lamb remains one of my favorites.
If there was anything I didn’t like about it, it was the lack of space for a family of four. In 1999 I had an extravagant moment and bought a red 22 1/2 Mastertouch. My recollection is that it was the most high end Weber at the store. In ’09 I decided that while the kettles were great, I wanted to expand more into BBQ (as in smoking.) Based on my satisfaction with previous Weber products and the research I did on the Internet, I bought an 18 1/2″ Smoky Mountain. It produced results far beyond what I had hoped for. And I also became acquainted with forums that dealt with smoking meat and Weber smokers. My interested in Weber cookers took a decided upswing.
What other Webers and BBQ’s do you have in the stable?
I needed work space so my next acquisition was (what I thought was) a Performer that I found on Craigslist. Then someone pointed out it was a Platinum, but it still provided the necessary workspace. More recently I did add a Stainless Steel Performer that I found on Craigslist. Back in 1988 I did purchase a new Smokey Joe Silver, but found it less than useful due to the constrained size. I used it a few times and tucked it away in the garage until I heard of the mini-WSM. I bought a tamale pot, large dog water dish and an extra grate and made one. I found it transformed the almost useless Smokey Joe into what has become my most versatile cooker. In recent years, I have caught the fever and added a few more cookers to my collection. In addition to what is listed above, I have an ’85 26″ Silver kettle, a Smokey Joe Gold, Smokey Joe Platinum (AKA Jumbo Joe), a 22 1/2″ Smokey Mountain, and even a Charcoal Go Anywhere. Then there is the red Weber Sequoia which I am nearly finished refurbishing. Among propane burners I also have a Genesis Silver A and a Q-220.
I don’t consider myself a collector, though that is hard to assert considering the number of cookers I now have. None of them are ‘lookers.’ They are all cookers. There are more 22 1/2″ kettles of one sort or another than I really need, but other than that, each one fills a niche (or so I have convinced myself.)
What is your favorite thing to cook? Care to share a recipe?
That’s the toughest question of all of these.  I like food, all kinds of food. It is surprising how many things can be cooked on a Weber that really come out good. I like all kinds of vegetables including potatoes, asparagus, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, zucchini, summer squash, winter squash and even sweet potatoes cooked on the grill. Then there is eggplant and red peppers that I do right on the coals. These make great side dish to the main event which is usually (but not always) meat or fish. That ranges from burgers and brats to pulled pork, brisket, chicken, turkey, duck, ribs… The list goes on and on. I absolutely love grilled lamb chops and salmon is another favorite. Today I roasted a bottom round for Italian beef and that came out pretty good. I would love to share recipes and techniques for everything I cook.
To that extent I have posted a lot of my cooks (mostly smoking) on a blog with detailed notes on what I did and how it worked. That can be seen at http://smpoke-on.blogspot.com/. The blog serves two purposes. First, it is a place where I record what I did and any recipes I used. The most important part is at the end where I note anything I would do differently the next time I cook. I look back at that and I really believe it helps me to improve faster as I learn. The other function the blog serves is to share what I learn and what works for me with others who aspire to produce really good barbeque. I’ll try to say without bragging that I’m really happy with the results I get from my Webers. I have been told at various times that my pulled pork or turkey or whatever is the best they have ever had. Sadly, that is as much a reflection of the person’s lack of exposure to really good food as a compliment to my cooking ability. I have found it really difficult to find a restaurant that has better BBQ than mine, though they do exist. (And I’ll cut them some slack since they produce BBQ on a commercial basis and have to be ready to serve the public throughout the day.)
Any shout outs or kudos you would like to mention?
I have to steal Sir Isaac Newton’s quote “… it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” One of the benefits of the Internet is the world wide communities that focus on any subject you can imagine. I have perused various forums such as Smoking Meat Forum, The Virtual Weber Bullet, BBQ-Brethren and of course, the Weber Kettle Club to learn more about cooking on a kettle or smoker. There is so much information available that my “experiments” usually have a pretty sound starting point based on what others have done and shared.
Last but not least- share some pics!  
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