Memorial Day often marks the start of grilling season, and, like most Americans, I’m ready to fire up the barbie after being stuck inside for most of the past two months.
I’m currently using a standard gas grill but lately have been thinking about adding charcoal to my backyard cooking arsenal, which is why I was intrigued when I heard about the Spark Grill. The Spark, which just opened up for preorders this week, looks to essentially add the precision heating capability and ease-of-use of gas to a charcoal grill.
Here’s what Chris wrote about the Spark after the Boulder-based company announced its eponymously-named first product:
The stylish grill ditches the lumps of briquets for a single, flat charcoal “Briq,” and uses a series of stoking and cooling fans for precision temperature control.
The Spark is capable of getting temperatures between a low 200 degrees all the way up to a ripping hot 900 degrees. The grill also has an accompanying mobile app that lets you monitor the temperatures of your cooking cavity and the food you’re cooking.
Anyone who’s tasted food grilled over charcoal would agree the flavor is generally better, but I’ve stayed away mostly because charcoal is more work and I’m pretty lazy when it comes to my backyard cooking.
But from the looks of it, the Spark makes charcoal grilling as easy as gas. This ease-of-use is made possible by the grill’s unique charcoal “Briqs”, which are single-use sheets of charcoal made for the Spark. A standard Briq lasts for about an hour, though the company has indicated they will also have “Quick Briqs”, which go for 30 minutes for the mid-week quick grill, and are working on “slow and low” Briqs, which will go for a couple hours at smoking temperatures.
In short, the Spark presents a tradeoff: gas-like ease and precision with charcoal, but you have to use what is a proprietary charcoal system. I’ve become mostly resistant to hardware that is captive to a single-source for its consumables, but I think I’d be ok with the Spark and its Briq system for a couple of reasons.
First, the company’s FAQ says, technically, one can use regular charcoal with the Spark. This gives me some comfort that my grill wouldn’t be (ahem) “bricked” if the Spark stopped making Briqs for some reason.
The second reason is the company seems well-positioned to capitalize on the growing demand for home grills in a market slightly underserved with innovative new products. As we’ve learned recently with PicoBrew, startups tend to go out business, but it appears there’s strong early demand for the Spark, which helps alleviate (at least for the time being) concerns I would have about going all-in with a startup selling a proprietary consumable.
So while some traditional charcoal devotees might bristle at the idea of a proprietary system, I think there will be enough folks like myself interested in what looks to be an easier way to grill with charcoal to take at least take a look at the Spark.
The product isn’t cheap with a $949 sticker price, but if you hurry you can get in on the third drop (the first two sold out) and snap one up for $799.