Now far be it from me to tell a man (or a woman for that matter) how to use their BBQ grill. Like politics and religion, grilling is a topic where advice is rarely appreciated or even more rarely followed. I’m sure you’re great at cooking a steak over charcoal or gas, and I wouldn’t tell you to your face if I thought otherwise. A. because you’re feeding me and B. because you probably have fire and sharp BBQ tools within arm’s reach.
Maybe you’re one of those people who can judge a steak’s doneness by comparing the surface of the meat to the firmness of the fleshy part of your thumb pad. Good for you then. (Please, oh please, don’t cut into a steak while it’s still on the grill to check whether it’s cooked enough. Meat must rest after cooking or you’ll just let all the good juices out!) But as techy types, gadget enthusiasts should strive to introduce some rigor into their grilling methods and cook to exact internal temperatures whenever possible. For example, I like my steak to come off the grill at precisely 122 degrees and allow it to come up to a beautiful pink medium-rare while it’s resting. You are letting it rest, right?
If we can employ some cool new iPhone technology to help out with these methods, so much the better. Enter the iGrill Bluetooth® cooking thermometer from www.igrillinc.com and the free accompanying “Steak Time” app from Omaha Steaks. So shoo the dog out of the kitchen and put your steak on a high counter to bring it to room temperature while we investigate these fun kitchen tools.
The iGrill is an attractively designed piece of gear, with smooth lines and easy-to-use controls. Similar to stand alone wireless thermometers, the package comes with a sending device and a single temperature probe, which unplugs for easy cleaning. Unlike other digital thermometers, there is no need for a receiving unit, since the iGrill transmits temperature information up to 200 feet to your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch via Bluetooth. The temperature reading of the probe is also displayed in large numbers on the front of the sending unit if you prefer not to use your phone. (Despite what the two product shots display, it was not 143° in my kitchen during testing.)
Another nice feature of the iGrill is the availability of a second port for an additional temperature probe. This allow you to cook and monitor two different dishes at the same time, or even monitor the progress of two different parts of a large cut of meat. Whenever I smoke a whole pork butt, I like to monitor larger and smaller parts of the shoulder to make sure that I can move it around the smoker to ensure even cooking.
More useful is the availability of an optional ambient temperature probe which has a special clip to hold it off the hot surface of your grill grate or oven rack to give a true reading of the cooking space. This is critical if you are trying to regulate the environment inside your smoker or grill to cook your meat to be ready at a specific time, as in competition BBQ with a preset turn-in time for judging or when you want to serve your Beer-Butt Chicken during halftime of the Super Bowl. “But Chris,” you might be asking. “I already have a temperature setting on the front of my oven and maybe even an oven thermometer somewhere in the bottom of my junk drawer under all the Chip Clips.” Bless your heart, that’s sweet that you think that setting your oven at 350° means that it will actually cook at that temperature, but in truth, most oven thermostats are less than precise. If you bake or cook anything that demands rigorous temperature control, it is very important to know what’s going on inside of your oven.
Even after preheating, odds are it won’t be up to temp if you just throw that pie in there. If you use one of those oven thermometers that hangs from the grates, every time you open the door to check it, you’re probably losing 20-30 degrees. The iGrill app tracks your temperature and will even display it on a graph for you so that you can be sure that you have reached the preheat temperature before baking. You can monitor the consistency of your oven’s thermostat, which is important because most people don’t realize that a gas oven really has only two settings: off and on. Just because you want to cook at a higher temperature doesn’t mean that the flame burns hotter. It is fire after all; it’s hot. The only difference between setting your oven at 200° or at 400° is how long the flame burns between the thermostat cutting it on and off.
So if your thermostat isn’t working as well as needed, you might see wide temperature fluctuations thanks to the iGrill and can adjust your cooking processes accordingly. (Conversely, by the way, the thermostat on your car’s heat and a/c works the same way so don’t think that setting it at 60° will cool your car off quicker or that cranking it up to 90° will warm you up better. Put on a sweater.)
The iGrill app allows you to cook to time and/or temp with a built-in timer and alarm notifications to your phone when your preset parameters are reached. So feel free to set the probe(s) and wander around the house confident in the knowledge that your phone will let you know when the cook time is up or your dish has reached the desired doneness. As long as you are within range of the Bluetooth, you have a lot better chance of being notified than if you are just listening to the “ding” of your old kitchen timer.
Nowhere is the iGrill more useful than when you’re trying to cook a big ol’ steak, where temperature control can be the difference between a perfectly pink medium-rare and shoe leather. In combination with the new Steak Time app from the meat masters at Omaha Steaks, it almost impossible to screw up a good piece of meat. Steak Time provides the tools to prepare and serve a great steak every time.
Key Features of the iGrill-enabled “Steak Time” App from Omaha Steaks include:
· Multiple cooking timers and temperature tools allow users to set food preparation timers directly from within recipes and view active times and temperatures from anywhere in the app.
· Conversation cards feature provides a host of interesting facts and questions to help liven up the dinner discussion.
· Social media integration allows users to share recipes and tips with their friends on Facebook and Twitter. It also allows Facebook users to see their friend’s posts on a world map showing locations.
· “Buy Now” buttons appear in grocery lists allowing them to purchase Omaha Steaks products.
· Ability to browse the Omaha Steaks store from within the app.
Priced at $99.99, iGrill is available in black or white through iGrillinc.com, Apple stores & online, Radio Shack, Wal-Mart and Best Buy. In addition, iGrill is now available in Apple stores in Europe. iGrill comes with two iGrill probes and display unit equipped with long-range Bluetooth®, 4 AA batteries, and two free useful iGrill Apps downloadable on iTunes.
The “Steak Time” App is available for free from the App Store on iPod touch, iPhone and iPad, or at Omaha Steaks Steak Time – Omaha Steaks International, Inc. “Steak Time” users can purchase the iGrill temperature probe directly through a link within the “Steak Time” app.
What I like: Easy to use. Clear display and interface. Let’s me hang out in the garage where the beer fridge is while the grill or oven does its thing.
What Needs Improvement: The iGrill app is pretty basic, but the free Steak Time add-on offers just about any feature you could want. Used together, they are tough to beat.