James Lileks
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Never tell a guy that you're in the market for a new grill, because he will tell you about his baby.

"I've got the Char-Beast 9000 myself — it has 42 burners, gets you up to about 60,000 BTUs, which is pretty good if you want to, like, flash-sear a whole pig or smelt some steel. It's great for veggies, because it turns them into a burnt mass in about 10 seconds, so you can throw 'em out. The only drawback is you get a fine from the EPA every time you use it, but look at this feature!

(Flicks a switch. Grill turns into a pickup truck.)

It's tempting, but I like to get at least two meals out of a propane tank, so no.

I looked online at various reviews of some grills I liked, but online reviews are useless.

5-star review: "Great value, sturdy, classic design."

1-star review: "Exploded."

You think, well, of course he's going to write a one-star review if it exploded, but how common is that? Let's look at the two-star reviews:

"Eventually exploded."

"Made great burgers until it exploded."

"We put a plastic liner in the crater and used it as a swimming pool."

So nix to that one. Nix to them all. I'll get the exact same thing I had before. After all, it had served me for a quarter of a century before giving in to the ravages of time, and the brand was well established. Because we had relatives coming to stay for a while, I chose the one that had a saute-burner option. I will never use it, but it suggests we do civilized things like par-braising shallots, or whatever gourmets do.

Did I want the grill to be Bluetooth-enabled, so I could get text messages when the meat was done?

Of course I did. What a stupid question. I want my dog to be Bluetooth-enabled, so I get a text message when he's dropped some business in the lawn. I want my teeth to be Bluetooth-enabled, so I get a text message when I haven't flossed enough. My lawn already is Bluetooth-enabled, inasmuch as the sprinkler sends a message when it's done watering. The downside, of course, is when the company that makes the sprinkler goes kaput, their server vanishes, the system no longer talks to my phone, the lawn dies and my wife asks why there's a field of crunchy brown outside the house.

"They couldn't interest investors in the third round of capital-raising," I'd say. I'm sure she would nod, satisfied.

Anyway. As much as I love the idea of my grill sending me a text message to say that the optimal interior temperature of the steak has been achieved, I know how this works in real life. You set it and forget it, then realize, "You know, it's been a while since I heard from my grill," and you call up the app.

ERROR: Could not establish secure connection to the host.

Wait a minute, I'm the host. Oh, right, the computer host. When did this happen? Augh, it's been 20 minutes. Your steaks look like something they dug out of the ruins of Pompeii.

At least I could use the grill's app, which had tips and techniques. It did not talk to the grill, but it did help me register the grill. This is good, and will help you in the future if you have problems. You can call the help line, and a recorded voice will ask you to enter your unit's serial number, after which someone will pick up the phone, and ask you for the serial number.

The app had a rather saucy splash page: "Up your grilling game," it said.

Well, up your grilling game, too, buster.

The app called itself "Your most valuable grilling tool," and while I think a fork and a canister of propane might have something to say about that, it made me wonder if I was expected to take pictures of the meat, send it to the company and get a text back about whether I should turn it over.

Setting up the app involved creating an account, as well as a user name and password. Cast your mind back to the early days of man, when we mastered fire, and imagine the simple creature who first decided to put a mastodon fillet over a fire. Worked great the first time. Second time, no fire. The tribal elder asked why.

"Ogg forget password."

"Ogg remember user name?" said the elder.

"Yes. Is Ogg2. 'Ogg' was already taken. Had to invent concept of numbers to make account."

"Is password name of friend-wolf?"

"No, password name of friend-wolf Ogg had many years ago. Ogg tried three times. Ogg locked out of fire now."

Anyway. It's a nice grill. Stainless-steel rack. One of these days I'll use it, after which it'll never be as clean as it is now. That's why people buy the cheap ones, so they can get two. One to use, and one to look nice.

james.lileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks • facebook.com/james.lileks