If you’re like us, you begin dreaming about meat sizzling on the barbecue long before it’s grill season. Here in the Pacific Northwest, where most of the Digital Trends staff lives, barbecue season falls mostly in the summertime — although we realize many of you are lucky enough to live in places where the season can last all year long.
We’ve had the Monolith BBQ Guru Edition with CyberQ Cloud ($1,600) holed up and ready to test for a while, just begging to be used. We decided we couldn’t wait any longer and pulled it out for a grill and a smoke.
Putting the beast together
First, a warning about the Monolith. The approximately five-foot-tall box this barbecue and smoker comes in is heavy and huge, and the components are many. It’s a Kamado-style grill, which means the components are made of ceramic, and they’re very heavy. Once the delivery person plops it down and leaves your house, you aren’t going to be able to move the box again, so make sure it’s as close to where you plan to set it up as possible.
Speaking of space, you also might want to leave yourself some to set it up, as it has lots of parts that needs to come together. The ceramic parts, the top in particular, are heavy. Putting this thing together is a two-person job that will take at least an hour.
Once you get over the heft of the barbecue itself, you’ll find that the instructions for putting it together are clear, and the pieces fit together well. We found it to be extremely sturdy.
Upon setup, you’ll realize just how much this barbecue and smoker can do. For example, it comes with a pizza stone, a stainless-steel grill grate, and three more extension grates for stacking items on top of one another. There’s even a cast iron fire grate. You can cook almost anything with this bad boy.
Kamado-style cooking is nothing new. In fact, it’s been around for thousands of years in Japan and China. The Monolith brings Kamado-style cooking with a modern twist, as the model we tested came with a CyberQ Cloud for temperature monitoring via Wi-Fi.
While there are lots of Kamado-style grills out there, few combine that ancient style of cooking with technology.
We decided to test the smoker feature out first, with a full chicken and a rack of pork ribs being the guinea pigs. We put a rub on the meat the night before, and woke up early to smoke up the Monolith for the first time.
It turned out that the rub — and the waiting for the meat to season — was the hardest part. We placed some mesquite charcoal in the bottom of the grill and then added cherry wood pellets to the mix for extra flavor. The wood chip feeder system on the Monolith, a narrow compartment on the side of the BBQ, allows you to add more pellets as needed without removing the meat, lifting hot racks, and dropping them in through the top. It was a convenient way to add flavor and smoke.
Once the smoker heated up to the desired temperature (it omitted a nice, fragrant smoke stream from the dual disc ventilation cap on the top), we put the chicken on the bottom rack and the pork ribs on the top rack using an extra shelving system that we had on hand. We noticed right away that the chicken and single rack of ribs that we’d planned to smoke was about the maximum amount of meat the smoker could handle. The Monolith isn’t ideal if you’re looking to smoke large quantities at once, though it’s not unusually small for a Kamado-style grill. It was the perfect size for our barbeque, though, which included seven adults and five kids.
We got the meat in around nine in the morning, and soon our curious neighbors wandered into our yard, wondering what the yummy smell was. We invited them over for dinner, too.
The Monolith comes with the CyberQ Cloud, a single probe thermometer that monitors and controls the temperature inside of the pit. The CyberQ uses Wi-Fi, not Bluetooth, to monitor the temperature. You can attach the rectangular device to the bamboo tray on the Monolith for easy use. Once you get connected via Wi-Fi and enter the temperature you’d like the dome to be set at, the BBQ will self-regulate the temperature by activating the fan inside when it gets too hot.
Soon our curious neighbors wandered into our yard, wondering what the yummy smell was.
We found the CyberQ to be reliable temperature-wise, but we wish that it was battery operated, as having an extension cord running to our barbeque was a trip hazard throughout the course of the day.
The probe meant we could monitor the temperature of the Monolith from our phone while we went inside to tend to other tasks. The interface of the website for the CyberQ was a bit antiquated, but we were still able to see a chart of progress to help us know how much longer we had to go. You can tell the CyberQ Cloud that you’re cooking pork ribs, and it’ll give you the correct temperature to cook it at, estimate how much longer the meat needs to cook, and works to keep the temperature inside even. We used the Weber iGrill 2 to check the consistency of the CyberQ Cloud, and the temperatures matched.
Once the smoker kicked up to the desired temperature, it seemed to be working overtime to keep it from overheating. The fan kicked on and worked well, but we noticed at the temperature did edge above what we’d set it at several moments.
The chicken was finished at around 3 p.m., while the ribs stayed in the smoker for a bit longer. Once everything was finished, we let it all rest for a bit before digging in. The result? Both came out tender, juicy, and delicious. The smoke flavor was noticeably savory, but not too strong.
Steak it to me
After pulling the meat from the smoker, we used the hot charcoal coals and wood pellets to grill up some steaks. It was great to transition from smoking to grilling so quickly – something that could come in handy if we’d decided to quickly grill some vegetables to go with our meal. While we slightly overcooked the steaks (our fault and not the Monolith’s), we were happy with how efficiently and evenly the grill worked.
Overall, we liked the Monolith, and can’t wait to get more creative with it. It’s possible to throw on a pizza for some wood-fired crispness, or even bake a loaf of bread.
The Monolith BBQ Guru Edition carries a 10-year warranty on all ceramic components, and a one year warranty on all wooden components. There is a two-year warranty on the temperature control fan housing. The CyberQ Cloud comes with a two-year limited warranty.Our Take
We were impressed with how sturdy the product is, and how well it worked. The CyberQ Cloud is a great tool that helps to monitor the progress of meat from afar, and helped to regulate the temperature of the Monolith.
Is there a better alternative?
While there are lots of Kamado style grills out there, we aren’t aware of many that combine the ancient style of cooking with a somewhat high-tech method of tracking your food. The Monolith brings together both worlds, combing a sturdy grill and the CyberQ Cloud probe and temperature gauge.
If you don’t need the CyberQ Cloud, consider the Primo Oval XL 400 Ceramic Smoker, though it’s more expensive at around $1,800. If you’re looking to spend less, consider the Kamado Joe Classic II, which will set you back about $1,200.
How long will it last?
With a generous warranty and sturdy, well-made construction, we think that this Monolith could last you for several years, perhaps even a lifetime. You would be wise to take good care of the many parts of this barbecue and smoker to make sure that it lasts as long as possible.
Should you buy it?
If you’re looking for a well-made Kamado-style grill that adds a modern element to your cooking, buy the Monolith. You’ll find it to be easy to use, easy to clean, and long-lasting.