The US President Who Grilled On The White House Roof

Nothing screams America more than barbecue and grilling. In fact, cooking outdoors is ingrained in American society. Whenever a big holiday like Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, or Labor Day rolls around, seemingly the entire country feels the urge to be out on a lawn, cooking up the recipes that are perfect for the grill. In fact, according to a poll by the Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association, seven out of 10 U.S. adults own a grill or smoker. Clearly, people love cooking on the grates, whether the grill is gas or charcoal. What might surprise you is just how far back our love affair with grilling dates.

This method of cooking is so popular that presidents of the United States have been donning an apron and firing up the barbecue long before 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was an actual address. According to The Washington Post, at least since George Washington was president, barbecue has been a symbol of American tradition. It is something modern-day presidents have embraced whole-heartedly, with the likes of Ronald Reagan, George H. Bush, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama have kept the flame going. But there was one president who loved grilling so much, he would do it on the roof of the White House.

The 34th president of the United States was a fan of the grill

According to Arizona State University, Dwight Eisenhower, who was the 34th president of the United States, "loved to grill" and had a whole set-up in the sunroom on the roof of the White House. Author Adrian Miller wrote in his book about the African American influence on White House cooking, "Back in the 1950s if people were walking down Pennsylvania Avenue they would see smoke coming out of the White House, and it was President Eisenhower grilling."

What did the commander-in-chief like to cook? Per the The New York Times, Eisenhower was a fan of coal-fired strip steak. The Texas native had a penchant for cooking salted, garlic-rubbed steaks directly on hot charcoal for a very crispy, charred crust. To this day, it's known as the Eisenhower method, though Ike himself referred to his signature thick hunks of meat as "outdoor steaks" and served them often to guests, says The Washington Post. Though the 34th president didn't invent grilling, he's definitely earned a distinction in the memory of presidential grilling — and he's not the only one.

Eisenhower wasn't the only presidential grillmaster

Of course, we aren't saying you have to have grilling skills if you want to become president of the United States, but it certainly doesn't hurt if you do. Former President Herbert Hoover actually joined President Eisenhower for a cookout in 1954 in Colorado, as can be seen in a photo of the duo flipping Ike's famous steaks. And per GQ, the 40th President of the United States, AKA Ronald Reagan, had a mighty "chill" time with his sleeves rolled up, flipping hot dogs and holding a beer in 1980. But the legacy of presidents and grilling didn't end there.

When Barack Obama was in office, he showed off his ability to grill steaks, chicken, and corn right alongside the grillmaster himself, Bobby Flay. Some people might get intimidated working next to the host of "Throwdown! with Bobby Flay," but not Obama. In fact, according to Politico, it was the other way around. Flay shared with the outlet that during their Father's Day cookout in 2009, Obama spent 20 minutes with him flipping meat on the grill on the White House Lawn. The celebrity chef revealed that he was the nervous one, feeling "like a 12-year-old kid." Of course, these are presidents we're talking about, so this was not the only time a commander-in-chief played host to distinguished company and got cooking.

Roosevelt served hot dogs to royalty

Evidently, when you have a sprawling green lawn like that of the White House, it's probably easy to love grilling. Still, when it comes to favorite foods, not every leader of the free world would point to grilled delights as their favorite. The Cooking Channel reports that Abraham Lincoln enjoyed creamy "chicken fricassée with herbed biscuits" for his go-to meal, while John F. Kennedy would happily choose a bowl of New England clam chowder over most other dishes. 

And if there was to be any grilling for Franklin D. Roosevelt, it most likely had to be of the grilled cheese variety. That said, FDR was a fan of simple American eating, and when it came time to entertain King George VI and Queen Elizabeth during their 1939 visit to the United States, per Insider, the squire of Hyde Park, New York, had no problem serving hot dogs, a grill classic, to his royal guests. It must have been a good choice, because Smithsonian Magazine wrote that King George had two along with his beer.