Smart Grill vs. Wireless Meat Thermometer: What’s the Difference?
Whether you're a weekend griller or a grillmaster, a smart grill or wireless meat thermometer may be for you. We'll help you decide.
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The pressure of grilling food to perfection, especially in front of a crowd, can be intimidating to beginners. Fortunately, technological advancements have made it easier than ever to properly grill food without years of experience.
Smart grills and wireless meat thermometers eliminate the need to hover over the grill, and reduce the chances of charring an expensive steak or undercooking a pork roast.
Grill purists might frown on these gadgets. But if you’re like me, you just want your food properly cooked and tasting good. I’ll give anything a chance to avoid the humiliation of repeatedly cutting open a steak to check if it’s done, surrounded by hungry guests.
What Is a Smart Grill?
A smart grill connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, providing the information you need to make sure your food is cooking properly. Defining features include:
- Smartphone control: This lets you set, adjust and monitor temperature and timer controls from anywhere. This could come in especially handy if you’re stuck on an ice run, or don’t feel like missing the end of the game on TV.
- Real-time data: Connecting to the grill’s thermometer lets you know if your smart grill is preheating or maintaining the correct temperature. You’ll also receive a notification when your food is done.
- Precision temperature control: Instead of constantly adjusting imprecise knobs or dials, you can set the exact temperature via the app, and be confident it will be maintained. Note this only works with gas grills; charcoal grills require more nuance and manual manipulation.
- Maintenance notifications: Nothing ruins a barbecue like a gas grill propane tank that runs out before the food’s ready. Smart grills let you know how much gas remains in your tank, or when it’s time to refill your pellet grill.
- Recipes and cooking details: Many smart grill apps provide recipes, cooking tips and recommended temperatures for specific foods, so you won’t need to look them up online.
What is a Wireless Meat Thermometer?
A wireless meat thermometer utilizes a probe inserted into a cut of meat to monitor the internal temperature, then transmits the information to a wireless remote or smartphone. Defining features include:
- Real-time temperature: You’ll always know the precise temperature of the meat, and exactly when it’s time to take it off the grill. Most wireless meat thermometers also sound an alarm once you reach the set temperature. This means you’ll never have to worry about overcooked meat, or undercooked items that could make people sick.
- Probe thermometer: A thin probe inserted into the meat and connected via wire to the transmitter. Many, but not all, wireless meat thermometers include several probes, so you can cook multiple items at the same time. This is handy when grilling for a crowd.
- Portable display: Unlike wired thermometers with displays tethered to the grill, wireless thermometers transmit to a small remote display you can carry in your pocket, or your smartphone via an app.
- Versatility: Wireless meat thermometers work any type of grill, including charcoal, as well as your oven. This makes them a cost-effective choice for those who want the technological benefits of a smart grill without buying one.
- No temperature controls: You can only receive information so you can’t adjust the temperature with this device.
Smart Grill vs Wireless Meat Thermometer: Key Differences
If you’re considering purchasing a smart grill or wireless meat thermometer, it’s important to understand the main differences between the two.
Smart grills let adjust the temperature with your phone. But because wireless meat thermometers aren’t actually connected to the grill, you have no control over its operation. A smart grill user can be available for other tasks and activities, while a wireless meat thermometer user must remain close to the grill in case the heat gets too high or low.
Internal meat temperature monitoring
A wireless meat thermometer provides the internal temperature of the meat, while a smart grill only tells you the ambient temperature of the grill itself. If your wireless meat thermometer has multiple probes (most do), use one to monitor the grill temperature, giving you a comprehensive reading.
A smart grill is much more expensive than a wireless meat thermometer. Smart grills start at about $800, with higher end models going for several thousand dollars. A quality wireless meat thermometer costs about $50, and even the expensive options aren’t much more than $100.
While some wireless meat thermometers offer a remote display, smart grills can only be used with a smartphone app. I personally prefer a dedicated remote for items like this, and see the benefit of not constantly check my phone while grilling.
With a remote display, there’s no need to set your phone down around the grill, which can be messy and dangerous.
Which is Right For You?
Smart grills and wireless meat thermometers are great options for anyone interested in taking the guesswork out of grilling. Depending on your personal preferences and current grill setup, one might be better suited to you than the other.
A smart grill is for you if you’re a tech-savvy cook with the budget for a new gas or pellet grill. Charcoal grill purist do not buy smart grills.
A wireless meat thermometer is for you if you primarily grill hefty steaks, roasts and chickens that require lengthy cooking time. It’s also for you if you like your current grill or cook with charcoal.