Everything’s smart these days, including cooking appliances. And although we don’t really see the point in a smart microwave, the benefits of a smart grill are quite clear. Those long cook times are suddenly a lot more tolerable when you have a computer monitoring your food and sending alerts to your phone.
But smart grills are niche and expensive. Some people won’t benefit from the functionality of a smart grill, and unfortunately, all internet-connected devices have some unavoidable problems.
Precision Grilling from Anywhere
Smart grills connect to your phone via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to give you real-time updates and remote control over your food. These grills are usually electric and use wood pellets to enable maximum temperature control, though some options from companies like Weber use gas. If you prefer charcoal, you’re out of luck.
Because smart grill features are so straightforward, I’ll present them in a quick bulleted list:
- Real-Time Food Monitoring: A built-in thermometer lets you check your food as it cooks and receive notifications when it’s done. Some smart grills even have an in-app countdown clock!
- Remote Control: Can’t get back home on time? Adjust your grill’s temperature or turn it off from an app.
- Precise Temperature Control: Set your grill to a perfect temperature without any guesswork, perfect for low and slow cooking.
- Refuel Notifications: Get alerts when it’s time to prepare a new propane tank or refill your grill’s wood pellets.
- Built-In Recipes: Most smart grill apps have built-in recipes, which eliminate the need to look up cook times, temperatures, or prep techniques. You can even save some custom settings for your most common foods.
Anyone can benefit from features like precise temperature control and pre-made recipes. That said, most smart grill features revolve around long cook times. The big benefit of using a smart grill is that you can wander off and do something else while cooking. And that brings us to the most important part of this article—will a smart grill help you cook your favorite foods?
Smart Grills Are Best for Low and Slow Cooking
Every grill master has their “thing.” Maybe you like to make fall-off-the-bone ribs or turkey legs—that’s awesome; A smart grill will help you smoke those tender meats and manage their long cooking time. You know, the time that you usually spend staring at the grill and drinking beer.
But if you’re focused on hotdogs and hamburgers, a smart grill won’t help you all that much. These foods take just a few minutes to cook, so you don’t need a smart grill to keep track of the temperature or send you notifications. And while a smart grill can help you reach specific temperatures with very little setup, getting a grill to wiener-roasting or steak-searing temperature isn’t rocket science.
Smart grills are best for low and slow jobs—the foodies who buy these products usually want to improve their brisket or rib game without wasting money or space on a dedicated smoker. And while you could buy a smart grill just in case A brisket comes your way, the quirks of a smart grill may turn you off to that idea.
Extra Setup and Smart Quirks
The average grill is pretty easy to set up and maintain. You don’t need a lot of technical know-how to light up charcoal, connect a gas tank, or plug a cable into an outlet. Plus, there are plenty of YouTube videos that explain how to keep your grill from turning into a stinky rust bucket.
But smart grills need some extra care and attention. Not just because they’re electric (common sense and a good grill cover should take care of that), but because they’re smart devices.
— Hard Pass (@HardPass4) November 25, 2021
Smart grills have a longer setup process than regular grills—they need to connect to an online service, which means spending a bit of time on your phone. Additionally, you need to find a location where your smart grill has a stable internet connection (or a connection with your phone over Bluetooth) to ensure that its smart features actually work.
And then there’s the usual quirks of any smart device. You know, dealing with unexpected updates, awkward bugs, and the occasional server dropout. These problems won’t come up every day, but they are relatively common and tend to pop up when it’s least convenient.
I should mention that smart features aren’t guaranteed to work forever. We see this in the smart home world all the time—a manufacturer drops support for a product or goes out of business, breaking the smart features for thousands of customers.
You Could Always Buy a Smart Thermometer
We haven’t even discussed pricing. I’m sure you’ve already guessed this, but smart grills are a bit expensive. Entry-level models cost around $800, and the fancier models from Weber and Traeger run for about $1,400.
For that reason, I’m going to suggest a cheap alternative. Take the grill you already own, or get one off the side of the road, or whatever, and pair it with a smart thermometer.
Smart barbecue thermometers are relatively inexpensive and let you remotely monitor the temperature of your meats. They’ll also send you notifications when food reaches a certain temperature, just like a smart grill.
If you choose to go with a smart barbecue thermometer, I suggest buying either the Weber Connect Hub or Thermoworks Signals. Both offer Wi-Fi connectivity and can monitor four pieces of meat simultaneously. Bear in mind that these products also work outside of a grill—you can use them in your home’s oven, for example.
Weber Connect Smart Grilling Hub, Black
The Weber Connect Hub alerts you when it’s time to flip or remove your meats. It’s compatible with any grill and can monitor three pieces of meat, plus the temperature of your grill. (Unfortunately, it only comes with two probes).