No matter how many barbecue tutorials you watch on YouTube or instructional articles you read online, experience is always the best teacher. Meat is expensive, however, and putting eight hours into a sub-par finished product can be frustrating. Weber’s Connect Smart Grilling Hub aims to eschew those early foibles by providing a guided grilling experience based around its excellent wireless thermometers and an instructive app.
The Connect comes with a rechargeable base and two meat probes, which is familiar territory for this kind of device. One probe measures the internal temperature of your grill, while the other stays inside the meat to keep track of its cooking temp. There are tons of options out there that can handle this much of the work, including the very excellent $99 Thermoworks Smoke and the many Thermopro options on Amazon that will set you back less than $60.
Weber’s Connect doesn’t simply measure temperature—it actually hopes to guide cooks through the process of making perfectly charred meat. When you set up the Connect, you’ll have to download the dedicated app. Our test unit needed several hours of charging right out of the box (can’t have it dying during a cook) and then required several firmware updates before it would get up and running. The process wasn’t difficult at all, but it was somewhat time consuming, so do it the night before you plan to smoke anything unless you don’t mind applying software updates at 4 AM while the smoker is heating up.
Inside the app, you can choose the kind of meal you plan to prepare and the app will start guiding you through the process in real time. I prefer pork shoulder for smoking—yes, mainly because I’m not great at brisket—and the Weber app provides a basic, but solid, recipe. Because it’s an app, Weber can add recipes down the road, but the selection is somewhat basic at the moment.
Rather than simply displaying the steps, the Connect guides you through them as they happen. When the grill reaches the correct temperature, it pings you with an alert. The Weber pork shoulder recipe suggests wrapping it once it gets to a certain temperature (not part of my usual process), and it alerts you when the meat has reached the right temperature to hit the tin foil.
The app doesn’t actually connect to your grill like some smart grill systems, so you’ll have to manage the temperature on your own as opposed to something like a Traeger, which allows you to control the heat from afar.
While you’re cooking, the app estimates how much time will elapse before you need to interact with your food again. If you’ve smoked meat in the past, you know that it can be unpredictable. The shoulder I cooked, for instance, sat at 165 degrees (known as “the stall”) for longer than usual and the app had to reconfigure its time estimates to accommodate the slow going. Still, it’s nice to have an approximation of how much time you have.
Once you get some experience honing recipes, I think many aspiring chefs will outgrow the built-in recipes. As you start to get a feel for the process, you won’t rely so much on the guides. But, even if you know what you’re doing, the time estimates and the real-time tracking come in handy.
The price represents one of the device’s main downsides. At $129, it’s high when you consider its competition. The probes are very accurate and you can add a pair of additional optional probes if you want to use four at once. The rechargeable battery still had plenty of juice left after a nine-hour cook, but you should remember that it’s rechargeable. If you’re the type of person who forgets to charge devices the night before, you can’t just swap in a new set of AAs and get cooking.
The whole device feels well-made and every cook turned out solid. But, once the novelty has worn off and your skills have sharpened, you may not find yourself using some of the high-end features that you’ve paid for.