What Is A Smart Grill/Smoker?

Hi, I’m Chris. I started PelHeat.com back in 2007.

A term that is being used more and more is that of a ‘smart grill’, but what does the term actually mean? Well, there is no fixed definition, but it generally refers to any type of BBQ that has WiFi/App support. That includes pellet grills, as you may be aware. However, its also now starting to include gas grills and even charcoal grills. Though when it comes to pellet grills/smokers, the fact is some models are smarter than others. But also, do you even need a smart grill?

What Is A Smart Grill/Smoker?
I’ll explain below why, when it comes to pellet grills/smokers, a true ‘Smart Grill’ is more than just WiFi/App functionality: Image – Traeger.com

Disclaimer: Hey! By the way… any links on this page that lead to products on Amazon or other sites are affiliate links, and I earn a commission if you make a purchase.

PelHeat Pellet Grill/Smoker Database

Research/compare over 240 pellet grills/smokers on sale today

Introduction To Smart Pellet Grills/Smokers

So with this article, I’m focusing on pellet grills/smokers. First, we’ll discuss the topic of WiFi/App support, which has been a contentious topic in the pellet grill world.

There are those that believe WiFi/App support for pellet grills/smoker is a gimmick, and I’ve discussed this previously in my article is WiFi worth it on a pellet grill/smoker?

To quickly summarise the key points of that article, its that whether the WiFi/App support of a ‘smart grill’ is going to be worth it to you really depends on how you spend most of your time with your BBQ.

Are you someone who spends most of their time grilling/searing burgers, or are you do like to focus on ‘low & slow) and like to spend a long weekend smoking a beef brisket?

Grilling vs Smoking
Are you someone who wants to spend most of your time smoking/low & slow, or will you mainly be spending your time grilling/searing your food? Images – BBQGuys.com

If you’re spending most of your time grilling, no, you’ll get very little benefit from smart grill features. Why? Because you’re spending most of your time standing next to the grill monitoring the meat.

However, with low & slow cooks over many hours, unless you have nothing better to do (unlikely), you won’t be stood next to the pellet grill/smoker for the duration of the cook. Hence, the benefit of a smart grill.

But what is a ‘smart grill’ actually able to do with WiFi/App support? Well, it will often do the following:

  • Real-time display on your phone of the grills/smoker’s temperature
  • Real-time meat probe monitoring
  • The ability to adjust the temperature via your phone
  • Notifications of targeted grill/internal meat temperature milestones
  • Adjustments to the smoke setting via your phone (in some cases)
  • Pellet sensor/hopper pellet level data (in some cases)
  • Ability to send preset temps/times for a recipe (in some cases)
  • Ability to power down/turn on the grill (in some cases)

So is that it with regards to ‘smart’ pellet grills/smokers features? Are these features/abilities the only factors that separate one pellet grill/smoker from being ‘smart’ compared to another?

Well, I don’t think so, as when it comes to pellet grill/smoker control panel technology beyond WiFi/App support, some models are just smarter than others.

PID & None PID Pellet Grills/Smokers & ‘Smart Grills’

In my article on how pellet grills/smokers work, I discuss the fact that some pellet grills (typically older and budget models) are still using time-based control panels for temperature control.

In other words, the auger feeds the fire with pellets on a set timed interval. In terms of ‘smart technology’, its pretty basic. However, many more modern/premium models feature PID temperature control.

PID stands for Proportional, Integral, Derivative. Its essentially a mathematical algorithm that is constantly monitoring the actual and set temperatures to make auger/fan speed adjustments.

These Pit Boss control panels may feature WiFi/App support, but they lack PID temperature control. Therefore, how ‘smart’ they are is debatable: Images – PitBoss-Grills.com

Hence, a PID pellet grill is more advanced/smarter than a pellet grill using a previous generation time-based control panel, and the result is tighter temperature control.

Where a time-based pellet grill’s temperature will fluctuate around 25 degrees around the set temperature, a PID pellet grill is capable of maintaining a temperature close to 5 degrees off the set temperature.

However, while all PID pellet grills are smarter than all time-based pellet grills, some PID pellet grills/smokers are actually smarter than others.

Why Some PID Pellet Grills Are Smarter Than Others

While PID technology has the capability of maintaining an actual temperature to within 5 degrees of the set temperature, some brands/models are more successful at doing so than others.

Partly as the control panel’s ability to manage temperature is limited by the ability/accuracy of the pellet feed auger motors and combustion fan.

This is why while all pellet grills/smokers are electric, some run on AC power, and others run on DC power. For instance, with D2 Direct Drive, Traeger went from using AC motors to DC motors.

The reason is its easier/more efficient for the control panel to precisely control DC electric motors than AC electric motors.

Some PID Control Panels Are Smarter Than Others
Both of these Pit Boss control panels use PID technology. However, as I’ve argued in my articles linked below, one is much smarter than the other: Images – Academy.com & Lowes.com

There are also differences in PID software. For instance, on some Z Grills PID pellet grills, you cannot set the temperature in 5-degree increments, its 20-50 degree temperature jumps.

In my Pit Boss Pro Series Gen 2 vs Gen 3 article, I discuss that while both feature a ‘PID control panel’, only the second generation control is capable of 5-degree temperature adjustments.

But there are other examples of differences in PID control panel technology. In my Pit Boss Competition vs Pro Series article, I discuss while both feature PID control panels, one has the ability to produce more smoke than the other.

My Conclusions On What Is A Smart Grill

My overall point with this article with regards to pellet grills/smokers and the term ‘Smart Grill’ is you should be considering/looking for more features than WiFi/App support.

PID temperature control technology is a key indicator of how ‘smart’ a pellet grill/smoker truly is and how well/accurately it can monitor temperature, which is even more important than WiFi/App support.

We even now have brands starting to use the term ‘A.I.’ in their product descriptions. However, as I discuss in my Brisk It Origin 580 article, currently, that is mainly just marketing talk.

However, going forward, I do think we will start to see brands integrating some genuine A.I. technology into their pellet grills/smokers, further expanding the criteria of a ‘Smart’ pellet grill/smoker.

If you are looking for a ‘Smart Grill’ in the broad definition, please check out my article on the best WiFi pellet grills/smokers currently on the market.

If you would like to learn more about pellet BBQs in general, please check out my Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide, or you may find value from my Cooking Guides. 🙂

PelHeat Pellet Grill/Smoker Database

Research/compare over 240 pellet grills/smokers on sale today

Chris - PelHeat.com

Hi, I’m Chris. I started PelHeat.com back in 2007. This website is intended to be an educational resource on BBQ pellets, pellet grills & smokers. I hope you find the information useful.

Recent Posts