A few weeks ago, I was invited to a dinner where I volunteered to grill a pork tenderloin. Clever me, I brought my own thermometer to monitor the meat so we could sit down to gorgeous, rosy-centered discs of pork goodness.
Except it didn’t work out that way.
The grill—a beefy Weber—wasn’t the problem. The problem was me. I kept popping in and out of the house to keep an eye on things—inside to shoot the breeze and outside to check the temperature. I’d come back in, have a sip of beer, try to figure out what everybody was talking about then my phone timer would go off.
“That’s the pork calling!” I joked, running back outside again, trying to do two things at once, but doing both badly.
The iGrill2 would have solved this problem.
It works like this: Toss your favorite piece of protein on the grill, stick a temperature probe inside of it and—here’s the fun part—walk away, returning only to flip for good grill marks and to take it off when it’s done.
The iGrill2’s base station has a readout to indicate the temperature at the end of up to four probes (it comes with two). But it also connects to your iPhone, and soon will connect to other smartphones, via Bluetooth Smart. Set your probe in a steak, tap “Medium Rare” under the beef setting and an alarm will sound on the phone and base station when it hits 130 degrees. (Your phone will still beep if it’s set to vibrate.)
An optional $25 ambient temperature probe with a clip to hold it in place over the grill is a nice option for those who like to use smokers. The app also allows you to chart your protein’s progress on a time vs. temperature graph and set as many alarms as you’d like, a nice feature whether you’re grilling or not. There’s also a weird little social media function involving other grillers and a world map that you can fiddle with while your food gets cold.
When my iGrill2 showed up a bit before lunchtime, I popped it out of its box, stuck a probe under my tongue, took my temperature and wondered if a few degrees shy of 98.5 Fahrenheit meant it was time for a trip to the doctor or for a thicker pair of socks.
A bit later, I stuck two probes in a pair of leftover chicken thighs I had on the stove and watched them race toward warm. While it’s not an instant read, that doesn’t feel like a big deal for something you’ll tend to leave in for the duration of the cooking. That stovetop use is also part of a larger secret—you can also use the iGrill2 as an oven thermometer.
The two probes also offer other possibilities. When grilling a whole chicken, hook one up at the breast and the other at the thigh (which have different target temperatures) and you’ll know how best to position the bird and control the heat for a perfect finish.
The question that gnawed at me as I used the iGrill2 was “Does anybody really need this?” In her recent New Yorker essay/book critique, “No Time,” Elizabeth Kolbert actually cites battery-powered meat thermometers—the iGrill needs a pair of AAs—as part of a list of gadgets that people buy when they’re looking for new things to need.
After all, Julia Child told us to just cook a chicken until “the juices run clear” and a good cook should be able to poke a steak with their index finger and know if it’s medium rare or not.
When I cooked my steak with the iGrill2 attached, however, I found I was even more in tune with what was happening inside of it. Whether on the phone’s screen or on the base station, I could track it as the temperature rose steadily. The graph on the phone gave an even better sense of this. I tapped the steak with my finger in the minute approaching medium rare, paying attention to how it felt.
Until that feeling is ingrained, however, we run the risk of doing what my dad calls “cooking our food into a coma.” The iGrill2 will help you avoid the coma.