The barbecue season becomes high-tech and contactless
In Sydney, Australia, in early May, a man carrying COVID-19 triggered unintentionally a media panic as he crossed this big city in search of… grills. As in, barbecue in the backyard.
Locally referred to as Sydney’s ‘patient zero’, the guy has visited a staggering number of barbecue shops – and at least one top-notch butcher’s shop – paying with contactless QR codes as he goes, clearly oblivious to his condition. Contact tracing is now in progress. We expect him to experience a different kind of “grill” than NSW health officials.
We learn a lot from these cases, but we are not here to talk about them. We’re here to talk about something more urgent: having a great holiday barbecue – the pandemic be damned.
Some people are already taking things to extremes. As proof, we present the floating contactless hot dog cooker. First reported by Gizmodo, the YouTube channel “NightHawkInLight” presented viewers with its levitating hot dog cooker, which must be seen to be believed.
Suffice it to say, it’s smart and safe and produces maybe a frankfurter every 15 minutes. Cousins you never should have invited will destroy patio furniture unless the 2021 Grill Masters can ramp up hands-free burger production at (ahem) Request for “meat”. We just want to help.
Floating hot dogs and grilling apps
First, let’s look at some numbers and take our barbecue benchmarks.
Through research Per NPD Group, more than 14 million grills and smokers were sold between April 2020 and February 2021 – “up 39% in dollar sales during the pandemic, compared to the same period a year ago.” The peak season for grill sales (April to June) accounted for 43% of these sales, but it extended into the second half of 2020 “with dollar growth of over 50%”.
NPD found that October and November “saw year-over-year sales growth greater than the 58% increase in dollars seen in May 2020.”
It was during lockdowns and before vaccines. And this year, starting with the Memorial Day weekend festivities? As an adviser to NPD Home Industry, Joe Derochowski recently mentionned, “Consumers have turned the boredom caused by the pandemic into an opportunity to experiment with cooking, and the wide array of outdoor grilling and cooking options help them do so.”
Say it, Joe. What are these outdoor cooking options? Fair do not say “hovering hot dogs”.
Let’s start by handling the steak to see if it’s done. Rather than poking a thermometer every few minutes, playing with the meat and making guests nervous, try the Weber iGrill Mini – an idea we took from PC Mag. The Weber iGrill Mini is contactless, using a temperature probe that reads on a smartphone app. Now it’s innovation. PC Mag also informed us of the Grillbot automatic grill cleaning robot, which they cleverly refer to as “essentially a Roomba for your barbecue.” Again, contactless. Anything to get that dirt off the grill.
Guests can also be made comfortable if the chef is wearing Artisan Griller Insulated Oven Gloves, something we saw while browsing Eater.com. Not only do they protect spatula wearers from burns, but they also provide an extra layer of “tactile” protection (pairs well with pandemic paranoia).
A ‘meaty’ memorial day, no matter what
So, with the barbecue equipment more or less processed, what do we eat?
The right people at Good Housekeeping Recently touted the 11 best vegetarian and vegan burgers for the barbecue season – if your idea of grilled perfection started as a plant.
As Seth Goldman, Chairman of the Board of Directors Beyond meat, recently told PYMNTS: “My family, being vegan, we were kidding, we are not rabbits. We don’t just want to have salad and pasta for dinner. We want to have protein and something delicious, and I think that will be the expectation… It’s not just 1% of consumers who are looking for it now.
We’re done with the plant-based burger, which will surely one day win the famous Memphis World Championship BBQ Cooking Contest in May held earlier this month. Participants were masked, socially distanced, respected capacity limits (even in the judge’s tent), wore color-coded bracelets with designated times, and had access to disinfection stations, organizers mentionned. Not exactly a crazy time, but be patient.
The group holds its annual conference Great American River Run event “from the banks of the Mississippi to the streets of downtown Memphis”, Saturday May 29th. Will there be any leftovers at the finish line? We have heard that the winners in the “hog division” are amazing.
Since Friday May 28 was National Burger Day, everything falls into place for that worry-free Memorial Day BBQ, Father’s Day hearth or July 4th wing you’ve been dreaming of. Grilling is back in style, because it has never stopped. This is America for you.
Have a safe (and tasty) Memorial Day.