New technologies are enhancing the outdoor cooking experience
Stephanie Richardson -- Casual Living, 10/25/2011 6:58:05 AM
I DON'T KNOW ABOUT YOU, BUT I'M ONE OF those people that is being dragged, kicking and screaming, into the "i" generation. iPhone, iPod, iPad . . . "i" give up! But as much as I dig my heels in about having to learn new technology for social communication and conducting business, I am completely enamored with how technology is moving us forward in the backyard.
Like the phone and computer business, the grilling business is undergoing monumental changes in a short period of time. From electronic technology to cabinetry, from accessories to phone applications, it seems that outdoor cooking is becoming a very customized experience. And isn't it nice that specialty retailers can provide products that make their customers feel special?
I think that Thermal Engineering Corporation (TEC) set the stage for electronic wizardry when they created infrared grills. Now that its patent has expired, other grill manufacturers are adding infrared burners for sear cooking and/ or rotissing, which give grillers another skill to master. (This, by the way, is a good thing.)
Other companies, such as Hearthland, are making award-winning pellet grills that feature electronic "Intelligent Temperature Control" that allows the user to set a desired temperature; then the two-way logic information system measures grill temperature every two seconds and adds pellets as needed. I don't think my oven works that accurately!
Dual-fuel grills are charging ahead in numbers, too. Kalamazoo may be the master at creating a customized thrill at the grill - but then any grill name that includes "hybrid" better deliver. And this one does.
The Hybrid Fire Grilling Drawer System is fueled by "Dragon Burners" (they get cool points for the name), and those who take their tong-wielding seriously can cook with any combination of gas, charcoal and wood via a drawer system. Some standard features include an infrared rotisserie and a wok-ready side burner, but other extras include an off-set smoker box and a choice of custom laser-cut cooking surfaces that are made specifically for grilling meat, fish and vegetables. There's even a solid surface grill rack for teppanyaki-style griddle grilling.
The grills aren't the only things forging ahead in performance and design. Over the past few years, I have watched grill cabinetry and work surfaces go from utilitarian to unbelievably beautiful and functional. Now, it's not unusual to hear "custom-built cabinetry" in reference to outdoor cooking. Materials now can include anything from weather- resistant marine grade polyethylene and teak to Corian and concrete. Tejas Originals offers an island that is described as "hammered iron cabinets with travertine stone veneer, concrete countertop, hammered iron access doors with copper and cedar panels." Talk about leaving no stone unturned.
And of course there is the merger of electronics, performance and design that has ended up in our hand. It was inevitable. Last year, Weber introduced an application for the iPhone and iPad called "Weber's On The Grill." The app has almost 300 recipes from Weber's extensive cookbook library. According to the company, it is the first app of its kind featuring a recipe database where consumers can tag favorites and create a master grocery list that can be taken to the supermarket. It can be downloaded at the Apple iTunes App Store for a mere $5. The app also features a grilling timer, so when your food is ready, your phone or device will ding and vibrate when the timer goes off.
Now there is the iGrill. It is a wireless cooking thermometer that lets you use your iPhone or iPad to monitor the temperature of your food via Bluetooth from up to 200 feet away. The thermometer features a touch interface and projection display, alarm settings, and you can set it anywhere. It recently was named Bluetooth Innovator of the Year 2011, and even The New York Times has declared it a hot product.
I'm sure there are a number of innovative bells and whistles that I haven't heard about yet, and I'm certain by next grilling season there will be even more. These are just a few that caught my eye.
Now I just have to embrace the idea that technology - and all that it entails - can be beneficial for our industry, especially when it comes to sales, add-on sales and repeat sales. Is there an app for that?
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