When the way you cook something, rather than just the mix or quality of ingredients, is what results in the primary flavor profile of a dish, it's pretty remarkable—and perhaps no form of cooking is better-known for this effect than grilling.
But there is no shortage of grills (or frilly grill accessories, or specialty grills) on the market—Best Buy currently offers over 150 grilling-related devices and accessories; the website for the Big Green Egg alone has 100+ accessories for sale. Still, there's always room for newness.
Here are five new "grilling" technologies—in quotes because, in fact, some of them aren't even technically grills. We've evaluated each for the promises they make, what they cost, and then made a call: Would we spring for them?
High-Temperature, Top-Firing Grill:
Otto’s O.F.B. (Over-Fired Broiler), $809 (or €715) at Otto Wilde
A gas grill that aims to fill the (big? small?) hole in the market for a grill that reaches extremely high temperatures—up to a terrifying 1700º Farenheit—thinks that added fire power will make for perfect steaks and flash-seared anything. The heat, interestingly, comes from up top (that's the "over" in "over-fired") by way of two side-by-side infared burners, so it's more of an open-flame broiler: You can sear off steaks with it at the rate of a minute per side, and even brulée some crème (carefully) by the same means if you're really feeling it. Keep in mind: It has to plug in to a gas source.
To buy or not to buy? Only if you cook a LOT of steaks and have a spare grand you need to offload. Do you?
Smoke-Less Infrared Grill, $299.95 at Williams Sonoma
Dubbed the "best indoor grill you can get" by the Huffington Post this April, this indoor grill from Philips hopes to be a solution for apartment-dwellers and people otherwise not in possession of a patch of land to put a full-sized outdoor grill on. Because the dripping tray stays cool, the fat that drips onto it doesn't sizzle or produce much smoke (fattier foods, like lamb, might emit a tuft or two). We're thinking of it as the George Foreman of the future.
It gets very hot, however, and is considerably bulky at nearly 20 inches wide, 6 tall, and 14 1/2 deep, so not every tiny-apartment dweller could have one—but it could be a pretty good alternative to hiding one from your landlord on the fire escape.
To buy or not to buy? If you never pull out your grill pan because of all the smoke it's guaranteed to create, but you love getting char marks on pretty much everything, the price is definitely right!
Portable Brick Oven Grill Attachment:
Relic Oven, for a donation of $885 or more on Kickstarter
By channeling the technology of hulking brick oven designs that turn out everyone's favorite blistered-crust pizzas, Tennessee Stone & Design has created a modular, mini version to produce the same result at home; it's shaped like the real thing, igloo-style, but sits right atop a standard home grill. They even tout having made a brand-new material to fabricate it, which is extra durable (a.k.a. won't break if you drop it).
While I love the idea of this grill, and the claim that you can turn out a pizza from it in "90-seconds," there's no explanation of their Kickstarter page on how to actually use it. Presumably, the fire goes in the back< and the pizza is slid in beside it—but being just 22 inches wide I'm skeptical that there's enough room inside for all the parts.
To buy or not to buy? As with the O.F.B., the Relic is a specialty tool—not a direct replacement for your charcoal grill—as it's really just for true, wood-fired pizzas! But if you're into those, and can afford it, the design and concept seem like they'd deliver at least personal-sized pizzas.
Go-Sun Grill, $599 to pre-order at Go Sun
Requiring no fuel to operate, Go Sun's solar-powered and portable oven is part of their initiative to lead at the "fuel-free frontier," by making it more efficient to cook food anywhere. The real technology is a battery that charges during the day but can power the grill even at night; at 80% efficiency, they're calling it "probably the best solar energy converter yet."
You'll notice I called it an oven, though the company named it a grill. By using loaf pan-shaped baskets inserted into an interior, insulated cooking tube, the Go Sun Grill looks like a grill when set atop a stand, but is actually best for roasting, steaming and boiling, or baking food—rather than charring or grilling at all. It would definitely expand your back yard cooking, and is an inventively efficient way to cook outdoors, but it doesn't do what a grill does.
To buy or not to buy? If you're concerned about energy consumption, the Go Sun offers a responsible replacement for traditional stovetop and oven cooking methods. I'm personally a little turned off by the idea of baking my soup in a loaf pan on the back patio (see: above), no matter how environmentally responsible I'm feeling. (And of course if you don't have a back patio or a window in your kitchen with direct sunlight where you don't mind this grill sitting prominently, it's not for you.)
Lightweight & Fast-Heating:
Velocity Grill, $159.95 at Velocity Grill
A combo of many grilling technologies, the wood-fired Velocity Grill aims to be the ultimate outdoor grill for people on the go: It's just 17 pounds and designed to be portable, with "the temperature control of a gas grill" (thanks to a heat-diffusing plate) and the "superior heat of charcoal" (thanks to a specially-designed fan that cranks the flames up to as hot as 1,000º F) without using any charcoal at all.
The only catch is that you do need at least two "chunks" of wood to operate it plus an additional energy source for the fan: Opt to use the battery, plug it into the wall, or purchase the $29.95 solar-panel attachment as a supplement. If you're out of wood, or the battery's dead, you're out of luck.
To buy or not to buy? If you road trip a lot and aren't very good at starting a campfire—or if you love tailgating!—this grill is actually a grill and promises to sear a perfect crust on your steak at rip-roaring temperatures.
What other grilling technologies are you seeing on the market this year? Share the ones you love—or don't—in the comments.