There is nothing more primal than cooking food over flame (sorry, raw food movement, but I’ve got history on my side). Sure, we’ve turned cooking into an art, but the fundamentals of placing meat over heat are more or less built into our DNA now. Grilling should come naturally to everyone!
Oh, but it doesn’t. Temperature management is tricky, and timing, crucial – just ask anyone who’s been served a piece of chicken that’s charred on the outside and a pink salmonella playground in the middle. Professional cooks spend many hundreds of hours mastering the techniques required to produce large quantities of a wide array of food, all off of one grill, and do it with consistency. Chances are, you don’t have that kind of expertise. And, even if you have spent a good amount of time behind the line, that’s no guarantee the distractions of home life or your friends at a big BBQ party won’t derail you.
For would-be chefs with ambition beyond their time or talents, I present the Lynx Smart Grill. This is a pro-grade grill with an army of sensors connected to a built-in computer that, through the internet, lets you “man the grill” from the comfort of just about anywhere you want. Hell, if it had a robot arm, it could probably cook without you. But where’s the fun in that?
To be frank, I thought an internet-connected smart grill would suck the challenge (and fun) right out of my outdoor cooking adventures. But I was wrong. I quickly found out the purist side of me, which believes cooking over anything but natural hardwood is of the devil, loses nine times out of 10 to the more practical, I’ve-got-a-hungry-family-to-feed-right-now side of me, which can’t deny the convenience of a great gas grill – let alone one that talks to me.
I’m an outdoor cooking purist, and the smart grill made a believer out of me, but it is not without its quirks and challenges – not the least of which is a $7,000 price tag.
The Lynx Smart Grill is an appliance, so the degree to which you must involve yourself in the setup process will vary based on where you purchase it. The Smart Grill is available through a number of dealers and contractors who will probably offer some sort of installation or enhanced delivery service. If, however, you purchase directly from Lynx, you’ll be doing the heavy lifting. The good news is, once you get the grill to its final location, it practically sets itself up.
Our review unit arrived on a pallet without casters attached. Fortunately, with a bit of help, we were able get the Smart Grill down and attach the casters in just a few minutes. It was then easy enough (it’s heavy!) to roll the grill into its final position on our patio.
At this point, the Smart Grill needs two things: power and fuel. Without electricity, this grill does nothing. Everything is electronic, so if there’s no outlet nearby, be prepared to run a long extension cable out to it. As for fuel, the Smart Grill can handle natural gas or propane – but you must specify which you prefer when you buy the grill.
I’m an outdoor cooking purist, and the Smart Grill made a believer out of me.
Once powered and fueled, the Smart Grill is operational in manual mode. You can twist the burner nobs and it’ll be flame on in a matter of seconds. But you don’t want to do that. Instead, grab your iOS or Android phone or tablet and prepare to be spoken to by your grill.
Once you press the power button, little blue LEDs jump into action – it’s almost like seeing KITT from Knight Rider, only in a shiny stainless steel grill instead of a black Trans Am. You and any friends you have around will be dazzled, if not amused. From here, you’ll need to connect to the grill as a Wi-Fi access point, and access the Lynx Smart Grill app on your device. The app walks you through the simple process of feeding the grill with your home’s Wi-Fi information, and the entire process is done in just a couple of minutes.
Fancy features, refined design
With all the computing power in play, it might be easy to overlook some of the Smart Grill’s thoughtful features, but there are plenty. For one, the entire thing is made of seamless, high-thickness stainless steel – which is part of why it is so heavy. To make that weight a little more manageable, the grill’s hood is counterbalanced by a spring, which makes opening and closing the lid buttery smooth.
Even the grilling grates are stainless steel, which means there’s no cast iron to keep seasoned, and no ceramic to chip off. Also, no rust!
The grill has an interior light, which makes cooking in the dark a snap. The storage area below has magnetically secured doors, with a good amount of storage space in the doors themselves, and just a little bit in the main area. The computer and propane take up quite a bit of this space.
This is, by far, the hottest, most even-cooking gas grill I’ve used outside of a commercial kitchen.
The stand-alone version of the Smart Grill we tested has two collapsible tables, one on each side, allowing for plenty of workspace when you need it and compact storage when you don’t.
As for accessories, the grill comes with a serious rotisserie attachment – also all stainless steel – with a three-speed motor that is powered by the grill itself. You also get a rugged carbon vinyl cover and a little smoker box.
Integral to the grill’s performance are 840 square inches of total cooking surface (more with the larger models). All of the burners are infrared, and even the rotisserie burner can reach up to 14,000 BTU. You will not want for additional heat from this grill, nor will you ever complain about how the evenness of the heat. This is, by far, the hottest, most even-cooking grill I’ve used outside of a commercial kitchen.
I have minor quibbles with the Smart Grill, but this is one I think might come as a surprise to potential users: The voice-recognition feature is a disappointment when it isn’t an annoyance.
The novelty of speaking to your grill is strong and, in some cases, quite useful, but the novelty for us wore thin after a few weeks and, eventually, we stopped using it for anything except turning the light on and off or getting the occasional status update.
We’ve been spoiled by Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google’s “OK Google,” all voice-interaction systems that do a remarkable job of translating what we’re saying into something actionable. You can ask Siri to set an alarm five different ways, and she’s going to get the message no matter how you phrase it. We’ve come to expect this kind of intuitive behavior from all voice-recognition systems, but the Lynx Smart Grill doesn’t have it — yet.
The voice-recognition feature is a disappointment when it isn’t an annoyance.
If you want to use the voice-interaction feature, you need to memorize, almost word for word, the exact phrasing for each type of question or command you want to say. If you deviate much, the Smart Grill does the digital assistant version of shrugging its shoulders and asks you to repeat. And repeat. And repeat.
Also, even though the Smart Grill’s wake words are “Smart Grill,” the grill wakes up errantly sometimes, and usually when you aren’t expecting it. I was surprised a number of times by the scratchy, low-res MP3 voice loop in the dead of night more than a few times. Eventually, I shut the whole voice portion of the grill off.
This may sound like a huge issue – and perhaps it will be for you — but it really wasn’t for me because all the best stuff this grill can do is operational through Lynx’s iOS or Android app, and the app is excellent.
In the video for this review, I show most of the app’s functions, and those pictures really do tell a thousand words, because the capability of this app runs pretty deep.
Creating your own cooking recipe takes a little time at first, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes a powerful tool. While some of the recipes Lynx itself has developed are pretty good, I found that I cook types and sizes of meats not adequately covered by Lynx or anyone in the Lynx Smart Grill community. So, I create my own cook recipes and I make them available to other Smart Grill owners so they can try them out as well. It’s social grilling, and it’s a lot more fun than I thought it would be.
I didn’t want to take any chances with my first rotisserie chicken, for instance, so I went straight to the Smart Grill app to find a recipe that worked with my size of bird. I clicked the go button, set the rotisserie to the suggested speed, and let the app and grill do the rest. The chicken came out perfectly cooked, with a gorgeously crispy brown exterior.
Perhaps the biggest advantage the Smart Grill provided me was reminders to flip food on time. I’m often distracted by other BBQ party duties (I’m always the margarita guy) and the Smart Grill’s notifications helped keep me from over-charring about 30 chicken drumsticks a few weeks ago.
I also enjoyed being able to get the grill warmed up as I headed home from the grocery store with meat and veg on board. To be clear, the grill must be powered on by hand – you can’t do that remotely – but I could call home, have my daughter turn on the grill, and I was able to start the warm-up process on my way back to the house so I could cook immediately upon arrival. Necessary? No. Fun? Absolutely.
The Lynx Smart Grill’s stainless steel body, cooking grates, main burners and rotisserie burner are all covered by a limited lifetime warranty. Other parts, like the gas valves, are covered for five years, while the computer’s CPU is covered for two years. Everything is covered under a comprehensive one-year warranty. It’s also worth noting here as well that any time I had to deal with Lynx customer support, the experience was as premium as the grill itself.
Outside of the Smart Grill’s voice recognition being a bit of a nonstarter for me, the other problem I have with the Smart Grill is its price: $7,000. That is a massive sum of money for a grill, no matter how smart it is. For perspective, Lynx sells the non-smart version of this grill (the built-in model) for about $3,700, and while that is a good chunk of change for a grill, it suggests the computer, sensors, valve controls, speaker, and microphone — and the hours of development it took to make it all work together — are worth about $3,000 more. So you have to ask: If the smarts nearly double the cost of the grill, is it worth it?
The DT Accessory Pack
The Smart Grill is clearly a luxury product. Asking if it is worth $7,000 is like asking if the Lamborghini Aventador is worth $400,000 – it depends on how passionate you are about outdoor cooking and being on the bleeding edge of technology. I imagine the price will go down in time as Lynx recoups some of the cost of developing a grill like this, but for now, the Smart Grill is for enthusiastic early adopters with enough disposable income that $7,000 doesn’t sting too much if the product performs as promised. And on that last condition, I can confirm that it does indeed.
One thing is certain: If you invest in a Lynx Smart Grill, you are going to be throwing a lot more cookouts than you used to, and your guests are going to marvel at what your new appliance can do, because I can assure you they’ve never seen anything like it.