from The Chicago Tribune via LA Times

Recession leads cooks outdoors to the grill
* Cook outdoors to avoid putting your taste buds on a budget

Cooking outdoors is billed as lots of fun, and it surely is, but grilling, barbecuing and smoking have become serious, if delicious, ways to beat back the recession.

Americans spent $2.4 billion on grills and smokers in 2008, according to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, an Arlington, Va.-based trade group. Weber-Stephen Products Co. of Palatine, maker of the iconic Weber grill, reported in its annual consumer survey that 24 percent of respondents planned to spend more on grilling this year. Only 11 percent predicted they would spend less. Why the willingness to part with hard-earned cash in this economy?

The barbecue association estimates 85 million American households, 8 out of 10, own a grill or smoker. And more than half of all grill owners are now grilling at least a couple of times a week, according to the Weber survey.

“Americans love to cook outside,” said Leslie Wheeler, an association spokesman. “It isn’t just about cooking burgers and hot dogs. People are cooking a huge range of things.”

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