En español | Summer is here, a time to savor the great outdoors relaxing in a backyard, traveling to the beach or getting away for a weekend at a waterfront cabin or cottage.
You don't need to leave your gadgets behind to enjoy time outside. Many high-tech toys can enhance your outdoor excursions, such as waterproof ebook readers, rugged Bluetooth speakers and smart lighting for a backyard deck or garden.
High-tech grills can help you prep a delicious meal, too, even if you're a novice cook. Happy with your existing barbeque? Accessories also can turn a regular grill into a smarter one.
Don't hover over your gas grill
Weber-Stephen Products is turning 70 and is on the cutting edge of outdoor cooking.
Weber's smart grills, such as the Genesis line starting at $1,029 and Spirit models starting at $849, include meat probes that will wirelessly show you real-time information on its Weber Connect mobile app. The grills support both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and the app is available for both Android and Apple smartphones and tablets.
Insert the probes into your food, choose your customizable grilling program, check the desired doneness of your meat, see your grill's temperature and track the progress of the meal. That way, you don't have to lift the lid of the grill more than you need to, and you don't need to be in the backyard.
"If you're lookin', it's not cookin',” a grill master once told me. You'll also receive notifications on the app that give step-by-step instructions from grill setup to when to flip your food or change the temperature. And the app has a collection of tips and techniques for perfecting your meal.
Along with support on the app, an LED display is located in each grill's side table.
If you're happy with your existing grill, the Weber Connect Smart Grilling Hub also is available as an accessory to make any grill more intelligent. The $129.99 gadget is a 4-in-1 thermometer that communicates to the Weber app. It allows you to select doneness, estimates cooking time, tells you when to flip the food and notifies you when dinner is done.
Try wood pellet grills for flavorful food
If you prefer wood-fired flavor, Traeger has a few smart models in its wood pellet grill family.
Both the Traeger Ironwood 650, $1,199.99, with 649 square inches of cooking area or the larger Traeger Ironwood 885, $1,499.99, at 885 square inches allow you to grill a steak and veggies, smoke a brisket or bake an apple pie — all in the same unit. They use all-hardwood pellets as the fuel source.
Traeger's WiFIRE technology lets you monitor and control the temperature even from inside your home through a companion app. The app includes access to more than 1,600 recipes, voice commands through an Amazon or Google smart speaker and Apple Watch support. With your smart speaker you can say something like, “Alexa, set the probe temperature to 200 degrees,” “OK, Google, how hot is the food on the grill?” or “Alexa, set a timer for 20 minutes on <grill name>."
WiFIRE connects sensors in the grill to the companion app. An included meat probe monitors the exact temperature inside your meal.
A D2 controller outside the units shows information. A Super Smoke mode lets you amp up the wood-fired flavor with the press of a button. And a pellet sensor tells you when it's time to replenish.
If you've never tried a wood pellet grill, you can change the taste of your dishes by purchasing different pellet woods, such as apple, cherry, hickory, mesquite or pecan.
Design an outdoor kitchen — online
Technology also is changing how we build the outdoor kitchen of our dreams.
RTA Outdoor Living sells predesigned layouts but also has launched MOKS, its modular outdoor kitchen system. The ready-to-assemble all-weather outdoor kitchen allows you to choose from various design layouts in one of six colors, then order, receive and assemble it for use — all in one week.
Prices range from $6,895 to $14,390, depending on the size, shape and components. The company offers 6- and 7-foot options, in straight or L-shaped configurations. And along with a grill, you can choose a side burner, refrigeration island, pull-out trash bin, storage bar and waste sink.
The company says its patent-pending modular installation can be put together with a screwdriver in 60 minutes or less by as few as two people.
Marc Saltzman has been a freelance technology journalist for more than 25 years. His podcast, Tech It Out, aims to break down geek speak into street speak.