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AI Is Infiltrating Grills and Smokers

Barbecue is simultaneously food and a way of cooking, and both are steeped in old-school tradition. However, we’ve seen over the last decade or so that technology has risen to previously unseen heights in the industry. That trend continues today with the growth of artificial intelligence. AI Taking Over (Our …

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By Michael Haas

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AI Is Infiltrating BBQ Grills and Smokers
Yes, this high tech grill image was made with ChatGPT 4 DALL-E 3 AI. Impressive. The article was written by Jeremy Pike, a fellow human.

Barbecue is simultaneously food and a way of cooking, and both are steeped in old-school tradition. However, we’ve seen over the last decade or so that technology has risen to previously unseen heights in the industry. That trend continues today with the growth of artificial intelligence.

AI Taking Over (Our Grills?)

At the 2024 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the influx of AI into the world of grilling and smoking barbecue was on full display. We profiled some of those grills in our roundup of the new grills and smokers for 2024, so we won’t get into all the nitty-gritty details here. However, it’s a sign of the continued focus on technology in a space that used to be focused on either charcoal, propane, or wood logs as a fuel source and you simply had to learn how to utilize time, temperature and smoke.

Now technology itself is not a bad thing. The advent of pellet grills hasn’t replaced offset smokers and true wood-fired smoking, but it has opened the door for people to smoke brisket and pulled pork who may not otherwise have done so. Pellet grills are a convenient way to smoke meat at home. It may not deliver the same results as meat smoked using nothing but wood logs, but it’s a lot easier for non-professional backyard pitmasters.

The next step in that growth of technology is evidently AI That can give some people significant pause while others will embrace it wholeheartedly. There are people who are mastering ChatGPT to help streamline their work processes while others avoid it like the plague. 

Chances are, both sets of people will probably feel the same way when it comes to AI in barbecue and grilling. Do we continue to get further and further away from the roots of live-fire cooking if AI is telling us what to do and controlling every element of the cooking process?

Glitches In The Matrix

Christie Vanover of Girls Can Grill was at CES and she got to take a look at one of those AI-powered grills, the Brisk It Grills NeoSear. On the January 18th episode of her podcast BBQ Tips, she talked about her thoughts and experience. She noted that after the user keyed in a basic idea of what they wanted to make plus some on-hand ingredients, the AI would actually create a recipe and walk the user through the entire cooking process. 

Brisk It's grill
Brisk It Grills – AI On Board

While noting that the prospect sounds inviting, Vanover raised some questions about how well the AI translates to real-world applications and the effect that could have on someone attempting to smoke for the first time.

“The artificial intelligence just, to me, wasn’t quite there yet…” Vanover said. “What concerns me the most about this is that if you were to buy this grill and use this technology and you bought your brisket or you bought your meat and you followed all the instructions and put it on the grill and your meat didn’t turn out great, you’re going to maybe think that you’re not a good griller if you followed all the instructions, that maybe you didn’t do something right when in fact it’s actually the AI technology not really giving you the best guidance.”

That’s not to say that the AI can’t be improved, but we’ve seen this with people prompting AI to create recipes on services like ChatGPT. The technology just doesn’t quite get the food-making process like humans do. We experiment and fail all the time, sure, but we can understand where the problems are. When people trust technology even more than other human beings, it can lead to people giving up on smoking meat because they think they’re the problem when they aren’t.

Grilling and cooking barbecue is full of mistakes. We’ve all done it. However, when there isn’t much technology separating us and the fire, it’s easier to understand where things went wrong. Perhaps that means that AI could be better utilized by people with experience rather than by people looking to get into barbecue for the first time.

Wrapping It Up

Regardless, it looks like AI will be here for the foreseeable future in the world of grilling and barbecue. If you’re a fan of the latest and greatest technologies, there will be plenty of options that will improve over time. If you prefer something more traditional, thankfully there are still plenty of companies producing high-quality equipment that will let you continue to embrace the traditions that all of us love.

As for me? I’m always excited to check out the newest technology in our industry, but there’s still something pure and wonderful about wood logs popping in a firebox. I do think there is a place for new technology as long as it doesn’t do away with the traditions that have endured the test of time.

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