Meanwhile, men and women alike are grilling up a storm, year-round. Those are the main takeaways from two new studies--one from The NPD Group, the other from Weber-Stephen Products Co., maker of the ubiquitous Weber grill.
In regard to who's cooking, women still prepare 78% of in-home dinners. But men prepared 18% of dinners last year, compared to 14% in 2003, according to NPD's annual "Eating Patterns in America" report, based on ongoing tracking of the eating habits in 2,000 U.S. households.
NPD also found that younger men who live in a household with others are cooking most frequently: 67% of men under age 25 will prepare at least one of the next 10 meals.
"There has been a steady rise in the number of men cooking at home over the last four years, and while 18% of men cooking dinner at home may not sound significant, it is a historical high," comments Harry Balzer, NPD vice president and author of the report.
Saving time and money are the main factors underlying this and nearly every other shift in eating habits, says Balzer, noting that men cooking makes life easier for the primary (meaning female) meal preparer.
In addition, NPD found that the growing number of male cooks has led to an increase in year-round grilling. Over a third (38%) of households surveyed reported that they grill at least once within a two-week period, compared to 31% 10 years ago.
And speaking of grilling ...
America's outdoor cooking fever is amply corroborated by Weber's just-released 19th annual GrillWatch Survey.
The survey is conducted by third-party researchers Greenfield Online, who grill ... er, ask ... a demographically representative sample of U.S. households about what, where, when, why and how they cook outdoors. All respondents are over 21 and own a gas, charcoal or electric barbecue grill or smoker.
According to this research, fully 57% of American grill owners grill year-round, and 31% report grilling more than they were a year ago because they're "trying to eat healthier."
That ties in with findings that 39% of grill owners say they're grilling leaner meats, 38% say they are grilling more vegetables, 34% more poultry, and 22% more fish than they did a year ago.
Also, about 6% are grilling more meat substitutes like veggie burgers and tofu, and 5% are grilling more fruit. (These latter two grilling habits are more common among women than men.)
Are men more likely to grill outdoors than women, as popular lore might have it? This question was not explored in this year's survey, according to Weber-Stephen spokesperson Sherry Bale. Bale notes, however, that past surveys have shown a steady uptrend in female grillers, and that the last time this was measured a few years ago, respondents indicated that "in many cases, men and women share the tongs equally."
Other grilling behavior highlights from this year's survey:
* 71% now report grilling at least once per week, up from 69% last year. Also, 47% say they grill "at least a few times per week," compared to 43% last year.
* 95% say they grill dinner on a regular basis, 37% grill lunch on a regular basis, and a hard-core 2% report grilling breakfast or brunch on a regular basis.
* Average per-week grilling time is 4.4 hours. About two-thirds say they spend "up to" four hours per week as grillmeisters, and a third devote five or more hours each week to the activity.
* Charcoal grills are gaining in popularity: 53% report owning one now, compared to 47% in 2005. Gas-grill ownership is declining (63% own these now, versus 70% in '05). Ownership of smokers and outdoor electric grills has been steady for the last two years, at about 17% and 6%, respectively.
* As in recent years, nearly a third (29%) report owning multiple grills.
* 81% say that hot dogs are the easiest food to grill, versus 75% for burgers. Fish (44%) and shellfish (38%) are rated most challenging.
* How to judge when the food's done? Although grilling experts frown upon this method, 58% just cut into the food and take a peek. Other popular methods include "seeing if it looks done" (44%), "poking it with a fork" (30%), and (chicken pun alert) "winging it" (21%). The "more advisable" methods of timing food and/or using a thermometer are used by 22% and 19%, respectively.