To Grill or Not to Grill?

The image of a woman outside grilling might raise some eyebrows. Today grilling is still considered to be a largely male pursuit and is a remaining bastion of stereotyped gender roles for women and men: “women cook, men grill.”

The stereotype is so pervasive that the Land O’ Lakes Company issued a press release a few years ago that probed this mysterious “female grilling phobia.” According to a study commissioned by the company, “more than 84 percent of women would be at least a little nervous or afraid to use the barbecue grill on their own.”

Why do women then fear the grill? After all, our foremothers have been cooking over fires from time immemorial! How did this stereotype gain popularity and why do we seem to be buying into it?

Library of Congress

Advertisers and marketing companies have been selling us the notion of grilling as a backyard “male sport” since the 1940s. Ads often showed women were more suited to kitchen cooking and men more equipped for “rugged, outdoor cooking.

Even in today’s commercials we still see these tried and old stereotyped depictions of men as the designated grill masters.

Elizabeth Karmel is working to change this stereotype. She is on a mission to get “Girls at the Grill.” She created the group to encourage girls and women to get in on the fun of grilling and outdoor entertaining. Karmel listed these five reasons why women should grill:

  • It’s fun!

“Why do you think the guys kept it to themselves all these years?!”

  • It tastes great too

“Grilling is the best way to cook, bar none. There is no other cooking technique that gives you this much flavor for your effort. The natural caramelization and signature smokiness enhances almost every food. My motto is, ‘If you can eat it, you can grill it!’”

  • Easy clean-up

Fletcherjcm/Wikimedia Commons

“Cooking outdoors is relaxing, casual and stress-relieving – just like a vacation! And the bonus is you get a great homemade meal with very little effort and almost no clean-up!”

  • It’s does the body good

“Seriously, grilling is intrinsically healthy. You aren’t sautéing in a lot of butter and oil, and you don’t need heavy sauces to give the food flavor. Grilling naturally intensifies the inherent flavors of the food, making it burst with flavor.

Meats, poultry and fish are a given, but the real transformation is with vegetables and fruit. Grilling turns vegetables from something you know you are supposed to eat to something craveable that you can’t stop eating. If you are accustomed to eating steamed asparagus, try it grilled and you will never eat it any other way!”

  • A cook-out is always a party

“…And girls love parties! Whether you are grilling for just a few friends, or a crowd, cooking outdoors makes everyone happy and once your neighbors smell the grill, chances are they’ll invite themselves to join in the fun!”

So ladies, to grill or not to grill: that is the question?

By Sydnee C. Winston, Project Coordinator
Originally published May 2013

Updated by Jeanette Patrick, Program Manager
June 2017