So Who Created the Indoor Barbecue?

A Man Named Michael Boehm

While Gorgeous George Foreman makes a great spokesman for the ubiquitous product known as the George Foreman Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine, Foreman himself is not the man who invented the device. And maybe you already know that much, but do you know who invented the George Foreman Grill?

The indoor grill was created by Michael Boehm, with manufacturing help from Robert Johnson and the team at Salton, Inc. Boehm originally considered several other celebrity pitchmen before settling on the famous former heavyweight champion George Foreman.

Other Options

Ali, Namath, Hogan, and DiMaggio

Before George Foreman got involved, the George Foreman Grill was originally called the Short Order Grill, but Boehm always intended to find a celebrity spokesperson to help sell the device. Other options included former heavyweight champion Muhhammad Ali, who would have been a good alternative to Foreman if the manufacturers were set on getting a boxing champion to promote the grill. But Boehm and his team looked at celebrities in other sports as well, including former American football quarterback Joe Namath and former Yankees center fielder Joe DiMaggio. Maybe they could have called it the Joltin' Grill?

One celebrity who came extremely close to attaching his name to the indoor grill was Terry "Hulk" Hogan, the six-foot seven-inch wrestling superstar and television personality. But as Hogan has told the story on his TV show "Hogan Knows Best," he did not return the phone call asking him to be the grill's spokesman. Hogan did eventually market his own line of grills in the 2000s called the Hulk Hogan Ultimate Grill, but fires caused by using cooking oils with the grill led to a recall of the product. In this situation, it was clear that Hogan did not know best.

George the Heavyweight Promoter

He Loves Burgers

Boehm eventually decided George Foreman would make the perfect celebrity pitchman, and in retrospect it is not difficult to figure out why. Foreman has a winning smile, good energy, and perhaps most importantly, he loves the product. Boehm was convinced that Foreman was a good match for promoting the Short Order Grill when he found out the champ ate two reduced-fat burgers before every match.

Foreman's penchant for grilling burgers that had reduced fat and grease content also had some bearing on the final design of the original George Foreman Grill. Foreman preferred to pour oil and grease out of a skillet when cooking a burger on the stove, the same way the George Foreman grill releases grease into a drain tray at the bottom of the grill. Still, most of the initial design, and all of the technical know-how to engineer the grill, are the handiwork of Boehm and his team at Salton, Inc.

Grilled to Perfection

The Design of the George Foreman Grill

Michael Boehm has always considered himself an inventor, but he knows that a great invention needs some sort of mass appeal before it can be marketed successfully. So, despite the fact that he has engineered countless inventions in his Illinois home, he has only developed a few more than a dozen as successful products with patents to match. 

When he began to put together the prototype for the Short Order Grill, Boehm knew there was mass-market appeal for the device. Boehm often went to stores near his house to see what kinds of grills were offered, and he was baffled by the fact that no company was offering a grill that cooked on both sides of a piece of meat simultaneously. This was the basic idea for Boehm's revolutionary grill design, and what led him to develop a prototype. After he did that, and after finding his perfect pitchman in Foreman, it was some time before Salton decided to mass-produce the product, but once that started to happen in 1995, the George Foreman Grill was an instant smash success.

After half a decade on the market, Salton had sold close to 20 million grills, and 50 million more units in the following five years. So with all those sales, exactly how well did Foreman and Boehm do financially?

You Don't Become an Inventor For the Money

But It Doesn't Hurt, Either

Perhaps not surprisingly, Foreman's turn as a pitchman for his namesake grill was a very profitable enterprise. Foreman remained an official spokesperson for years, but eventually sold the rights to use his name on a whole range of products for the whopping sum of $127.5 million, along with another $10 million in stock options.

Since Foreman made so much money, you might assume that Boehm is just as successful thanks to the grill, but his earnings have not been quite as dramatically high. Boehm continued to earn his semimonthly paycheck as a salaried employee of the grill's manufacturer. Again, not quite the payday that Foreman himself enjoyed, but Boehm has said he has no regrets, and is primarily interested in fulfilling marketplace needs with his inventions, which also include the Salton Santa Fe Quesadilla Maker and the Hamilton Beach Steam Grill.

Boehm has also said that he is made happy by simply seeing hungry people be satisfied by a good meal. And while we are on the subject of a good meal, let us consider some of the best uses for the George Foreman Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine.

What Grills Best?

Hamburgers and Salmon Steaks

Michael Boehm and George Foreman both have similar tastes when it comes to what to cook on their famous grill. Boehm has said he prefers a delicious burger or grilled fish. Foreman has said something very similar, stating that he might prefer about half a dozen cheeseburgers, but for the sake of his health and his wife's peace of mind, he will often cook up salmon steaks instead. And what about you? What do you like to cook with the George Foreman Grill? A burger, fish steak, or maybe even an eggplant parmesan? Leave your answer in the comments below, and happy grilling!