Weber Connect Smart Grilling Hub review: It’s better than a Bluetooth tracker, but not better enough for the price

There’s nothing quite like food prepared on the grill, but whether you’re using gas, charcoal, or hardwood pellets, it can be difficult to cook food to perfection if you don’t hover over the ‘cue. Smart grills that help monitor your cooks cost anywhere from $800 to several thousand. Weber says its Weber Connect Smart Grilling Hub can do it for any barbecue for $130.

The system consists of a hub with a base, one wired stainless-steel probe for the food you’re cooking, and a second blunt-ended wired probe, also stainless steel, that tracks the ambient temperature inside the grill. This blunt probe is mounted to a spring clip that secures it to the grate, but the clip designed for relatively thin grates—it didn’t fit at all well on my Vermont Castings gas grill, which has thick cast-iron grates coated with porcelain.

weber connect precook Michael Brown / IDG

When you’re grilling a 16-ounch USDA Choice ribeye steak, you don’t want to leave anything to chance.

The battery-powered hub can accommodate up to four probes, so you can track the temperature of multiple steaks, chops, or what have you. Large LED numerals report the probe’s temperature, and an LED bar beneath the probe input indicates which probe is currently active. Pushing down on the hub beneath the temperature display toggles between the probes and updates the display. But you’ll need to buy these extra probes separately at $15 each. If you already own Weber’s iGrill thermometer, those probes are compatible. We reviewed that less-sophisticated Bluetooth-based product in 2015, when it was still owned by iDevices; Weber acquired it from iDevices in 2016.

The cables attached to the probes are armored, and they’re four feet long, so you can keep the hub far away from the heat of the barbecue. The hub also has a magnetic base, you can stick it on one of the barbecue’s legs to keep it out of the sun. Weber says the hub is “weather resistant,” but that it should be stored indoors in a dry location when not in use. The probes can measure temps ranging from minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit to 572 degrees F. The probes can withstand temperatures as high as 716 degrees F, but the hub won’t report temperatures higher than 572. The probes are not dishwasher safe, however, and Weber warns users not to immerse them in water and to avoid getting water near where the probe meets the wire.

weber connect probe select Michael Brown / IDG

A firm press on the lower half of the Weber Connect Hub switches between the sensors plugged into it.

Using wired probes eliminates a problem I’ve encountered with wireless models, particularly Bluetooth ones, such as Apption Labs’ Meater: My grill has a thick stainless-steel lid with cast-iron endcaps, and it behaves like a Faraday cage when I put wireless probes inside it. The hub itself pairs to your smartphone via Bluetooth and it then establishes a connection to your Wi-Fi network, so range shouldn’t be a problem unless your grill is very far from your home’s router or its closest Wi-Fi access point. The hub can connect only to 2.4GHz networks, however, which could be a problem if that spectrum is exceedingly crowded in your vicinity.

The hub has a rechargeable battery inside and a Micro-USB port and cable for charging it, but you’ll need to provide your own AC adapter (any 5-volt charger delivering at least 1 amp will work). To preserve battery life, the hub will go into a power-saving mode after one hour if any probe is plugged into it and no activity is registered. It will go into a deeper sleep mode if no probe reports activity after eight hours, and it will do the same after five minutes if all the probes are removed.

webber connect grilled steak Michael Brown / IDG

There’s no better combination than a great steak and a fabulous red wine.

Cooking with the Weber Connect

Getting started with the Weber Connect was frustrating, because there’s only a quick-start manual in the box with little more than pictograms showing how to set up and use the device. You’ll need Weber’s mobile app, which is available for Android and iOS, but that’s not very useful in the beginning, either. It was only later that I discovered a complete user manual on Weber’s website, and I would encourage anyone buying this gadget to take a look it before you get started.

weber connect meat selection Michael Brown / IDG

Weber’s recipes, if you can call them that, lean heavily toward beef.

The app has you choose which type of meat you intend to cook: red meat, pork, poultry, fish, or lamb. These pre-programmed recipes are heavily slanted to beef, including ground beef, brisket, roasts, and various cuts of steak. And while the hub will track four temperature probes, the app will actively control only one recipe at a time. Having multiple probes still offers a benefit, though—if you like your steak rare and your spouse prefers it medium, the app will let you know when to take yours off the grill and you can then just monitor the app or the hub itself to know when to pull the other one.