Remember when grilling a steak meant throwing some charcoal into a no-frills barbecue, splashing lighter fluid on top, and not taking your eyes off the food and the flames for fear of incinerating the T-bone? Then gas grills came along and made the job easier but someone still had to figure out cooking times and keep vigil.
Now there are smart grills, freestanding outdoor appliances that rely on the manufacturer's app and Wi-Fi to do much of the work for you, from indicating where exactly to place food on the grill to texting you when it's ready. Think you might like to get smart about grilling too? Here's what you need to know.
1. It syncs to your smart device.
Using a Wi-Fi connection and Bluetooth, the grill communicates with the app on your iOS or Android device, like a smartphone or tablet.
2. The grill listens to you.
So you like your burger rare (or medium or well done)? Great, just let the grill know on the app and it will follow your instructions. (Some high-end models offer voice-activation to let you communicate.) Once the food is ready, you'll get a text or alert.
3. It helps you cook food evenly.
Though a smart grill can't turn the chicken legs on its own -- yet -- it lets you know when to do it yourself. Monitoring cooking temperatures is a big part of its job.
4. The recipes are key.
Based on one of the many recipes you choose from the manufacturer's app (see "Beer Can BBQ Chicken" recipe), the grill figures out the optimal cooking time and instructs you where exactly to place each food item on the grill. You can choose from a menu of appetizers, entrees, side dishes and desserts.
5. Smart grills can be pricey.
Be prepared to shell out big bucks for this technological marvel, from about $599 for Char-Broil's SmartChef to almost $10,000 for Lynx's SmartGrill. Like other appliances, the higher the quality of the components, the higher the price; for example, the Lynx model comes with stainless steel grilling grates while the Char-Broil's grates are made of porcelain-coated cast iron.
6. It won't let you run out of gas.
Some models give you a heads up when your propane tank is running low.
7. You get to stay cool.
Sit in the shade and monitor the food's progress remotely. No need to sweat it out by the hot grill!