Just about anything can be a connected device these days, and grills are no exception. If you’ve ever dreamed of grilling in the winter when it’s too cold to stay outside and babysit your food, or you simply want to be able to walk away and do other things while you wait all day for a perfect brisket; connected grills and temperature probes promise to make that easy. Additionally, more advanced probes can detect the internal air temperature of the grill as well as the meat, allowing you to grill your food more perfectly. Smart grilling products can help you make a better and safer meal by ensuring you cook food to a safe temperature while also preventing overcooking.
Smart Grills vs Smart Probes
Most smart grilling products fall into two categories: smart grills and smart probes. As the names imply, smart grills are devices in which the probes and connectivity are embedded in the grill itself, such as the Traeger WiFIRE technology, while smart probes tend to stand alone and can be integrated into any existing grill. Each of these approaches has its advantages and disadvantages. Smart grills can provide features that smart probes cannot, such as a more automated cooking process. In the Traeger WiFIRE app, you can simply select a recipe and hit go. Traeger will ensure the grill reaches the proper temperatures, and if you want to switch up the temperatures later, you can do that remotely as well. Smart probes can’t match that level of control since they aren’t integrated directly into the grill. However, they tend to be significantly more cost-effective than comparable smart grills. The Weber Connect, Weber’s smart probe offering, clocks in at just $129.99. This might seem expensive, but when compared to the overall cost of the cheapest Traeger WiFIRE grill at about $900, it’s likely cheaper to retrofit your existing grill than to start from scratch.
Things to Consider About Both
Smart grills and smart probes can be further described by connectivity, number and type of probes, and types of displays.
The two major categories of connectivity are Bluetooth and WiFi. Bluetooth devices connect directly to your smartphone and are relatively limited in range when compared to WiFi devices, which can connect to your home’s WiFi along with your smartphone to meet in the middle. The advantage of Bluetooth connectivity is that it’s less likely to rely on any cloud-based services to function. More important to range than connectivity technology, however, typically ends up being the location of the wireless antenna. Hub-based models like the ThermoWorks Signals have a WiFi or Bluetooth antenna in the hub, outside of the typical metal frame of the grill lid. The same is true of products in the smart grill category. Truly wireless and hub-less devices like the Meater solution, however, are self-contained. This means that the antenna sits inside the lid of the grill, which can act as a Faraday cage, limiting the device’s wireless range.
Probe Type and Amount
The main questions to answer when talking about the number of probes are “How many things can I measure the temperature of?” and “Does it measure the ambient temperature?”. If you’ve ever put more than one thing in your grill at a time, you may have wanted more than a single probe, like is offered with the Traeger WiFire grills. Many hub-based solutions support two or more probes, but it’s important to check before buying since it varies by product. In addition to more probes, nicer models of temperature probes may also measure the grill’s ambient temperature. This ensures that not only is the grilled food at the right temperature but that the grill is cooking at the right temperature. These two temperatures in tandem allow for more powerful tuning of the cooking process, resulting in better food out the other end.
The final breakdown for these devices is types of displays. To put it simply, does the device itself have a display? If it doesn’t have that display, you’ll have to pull out your phone every time you want to check the temperature, even if you’re standing right next to the grill. Many of these products have on-device displays that allow you to view the temperature without pulling out a phone. However, not all of them do, so make sure to do your research before you buy.
The growth in connected grilling products is exciting, and a wide range of solutions exist to either bootstrap your existing grill or start from scratch with a new one. With this variety comes the luxury of finding a solution that matches your needs, a better grilling experience, and, most importantly, better food.