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CES: Weber reinvents the braai

What South Africans will admit they need a hand at the braai? New tech launched at CES this week by Weber may change that culture, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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There was a time, like just last week, when few South Africans would admit they needed help getting their braai* up to scratch. Braai culture in this country tends to be vastly more personal than the American barbecue or the Australian “barbie”.

However, a new barbecue system launched this week at the CES tech expo in Las Vegas may just persuade some to change their religion and believe in outside forces to help serve a better braai. It wouldn’t have been so significant, had it not been for the brand behind the tech: Weber, a household name in South Africa with its kettle braai devices.

Weber has teamed up with cooking technology pioneer June plan to revolutionise the traditional braai with the Weber Connect Smart Grilling Hub. It’s a step-by-step grilling assistant that sends notifications directly to a smartphone on almost every technical aspect of a braai, from grill setup, to when food is ready to flip, serve, and eat. Braai-purists may object violently, but it could well rescue the reputations of those who only think they are masters of the art.

Weber is showcasing the system at CES in Las Vegas this week, and has already had the Hub selected by CES as a winner of one of its Innovation Awards.

Weber says it is integrating artificial intelligence and nearly 70 years of grilling knowledge to leverage some of the most advanced smart cooking technology on the market. 

“Having the right information at the right time is powerful – it’s the key to getting perfect results and developing your skills as a griller,” says Chris Scherzinger, CEO of Weber-Stephen Products. “Regardless of the type of grill you own, the Weber Connect Smart Grilling Hub will seamlessly turn it into a smart grill featuring cutting-edge grilling technology.”

Weber provided the following breakdown of how the system works:
How the Weber Connect Smart Grilling Hub works:

  • Real-time food temperature monitoring: After downloading the Weber Connect mobile app, simply insert the meat probes into food and then connect them to the Weber Connect Smart Grilling Hub. If using an ambient probe, then place it inside of the grill using the grate clip provided. The probes monitor real-time food doneness and grill temperature throughout the entire cook. Information is then sent to your smartphone through the Weber Connect app. The app is compatible with iOS and Android.
  • Step-by-step assistance: With the Weber Connect app, the griller receives notifications on everything from grill setup, to when it’s time to flip food, change the temperature, and when it’s the perfect doneness to serve. The app will also prompt the griller with tips and techniques to help achieve perfect doneness. It’s like having your own personal grill master by your side every step of the way.
  • Access to decades of grilling expertise: The Weber Connect app features a variety of grilling programs, developed by Weber Grill Masters, with detailed instructions. New content will continuously evolve and be added.
  • New functionality: Weber Connect will continue to evolve and offer new functionality and features, including a planned Alexa integration in 2020.

Matt Van Horn, CEO and co-founder of June, said the company had started with the simple idea of using modern technology to make cooking perfectly easy for anyone, and applied that to grilling. 

“From smoking a holiday turkey to hosting a backyard barbecue, everyone from the novice griller to an experienced grill master will have the confidence that whatever they make will come out perfectly,” he said. “We’ve accomplished the next evolution of cooking technology with the Weber Connect Smart Grilling Hub powered by JuneOS, by giving everyone the guidance to unlock their true grilling potential.”

That is, of course, also the hype speaking.  On the one hand, no technology can beat the human touch of a great braaier. On the other hand, the perfect braai is a matter of opinion, and cannot be guaranteed by technology. Nevertheless, the Weber Connect Smart Grilling Hub is going to be a boon to many of us that are braai-challenged.

The Weber Connect Smart Grilling Hub will launch in more than 30 countries in early 2020. It will be available at weber.com for $129.99.

* For non-South African readers, that’s the only word we have in this country for a “barbecue”.

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