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Smart Grilling: How Tech Helps Cook a Better Brisket

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

People have been cooking meat over a fire for millions of years. But until recently, they haven’t had the benefit of using grills infused with smart capabilities. 

And that’s a crying shame.

Jason Baker, Business Development at Green Mountain Grills, explains how the smart pellet grill works and the process that went into creating it.

We discuss:

- How the technology works

- Three ways it makes grilling easier

- Developing tech with a non-technical background

- Lessons learned throughout the process

Follow @Green Mountain Grills on TikTok. 

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They really started to get a feel for hey, this is, this is the real deal, like this actually helps me cook better, it helps me not ruin really expensive cuts of meat. You are listening to over the Air Iot connected devices and the journey, brought to you by vary. In each episode we have sharp, unfiltered conversations with executives about their IOT journeys, the mistakes they made, the lessons they learned and what they wish they'd known when they started. Welcome back to over the air, IOT connected devices and the journey. My name is Ryan Prosser, CEO very, and today we're joined by Jason Baker of Green Mountain grills. Today we're going to be talking about infusing technology into a product that historically has had none, in this case barbecue grills. Jason, thanks for being on the show. Thanks for having me so all right, let's let's start with the big one, the the contentious one. So gross people have been cooking meat over fires for Millennia with zero technology. Here comes Green Mountain grills and they're saying, Hey, we've got a great idea, let's let's infuse some tech, some some connected capabilities into this. Let's start with with that what was what was the thinking? What was what's the science in play here? That that led you guys to believe, Hey, there's a real opportunity to do something big here. Yeah, so I have to go back to two thousand and ten to start that thinking process, because it really started about then when we put an RF controller on a barbecue grill. So we put this controller that was just like a radio controller to talk to the grill and you had maybe fifty, seventy five feet Max, right, so you're you're utilizing this device to raise and lower temperature, see the temperature, internal temperature, meet robe. So it started.

They're just a very simple kind of let's see how this goes right, because our whole thought process was you've got the folks in South Dakota when it's ten out there, they don't want to go outside. Maybe it's going to be cool for them to just have a remote control take a look and see what's going on inside the grill without having to go out there, or in Phoenix, when it's about twenty, being able to just utilize this URF type remote. So that's where it all started and we got a lot of people hating on US early. People say why would you do that? So goofy, you know, blah, blah, blah. So that was the first kind of easy tech that we started to do and then two thousand and eleven we started going, let's how do we do this? How do we create more technology into this? How do we how do we actually get more distant? So then we started to talk about Wi fi and connecting the grill through an APP and a server. Right. So all those discussions started off early, late, late, two thousand and eleven, two thousand and twelve. came out with our first product in two thousand and thirteen and kind of introduce this in phases. And it was so funny early on, because they are all these forums and I would set on those forums and take everything very personally. People are like, look at GMG, they're putting a Wi fi on a public drill. Like, why are you doing that? It's so goofy, it's they would call you all kinds of names and we just kept it up. We just kept going and because we realize that meat changes through temperature and time and if you really understand that, there's a way to replicate this to where you nail your brist gets specifically briskets very easily, right. I mean even tried tips or or pork shoulders, and making certain that you're going through that stall at a higher temperature really helps. It just it just does. It helps that meat evaporate quicker. That's really what taking place. You have this kind of evaporate of cooling, that's this taking place and it's sweating, the meat sweating through that process. So when you can tell somebody, okay, I have a product here where you can take a let's say a fifteen...

...pound brisket and go at one hundred and fifty four couple hours, really hit it with some heart smoke, then crank it up to two hundred and twenty five until you hit the stall at one fifty, let's say, and then crank it up again to two hundred and seventy five. All of that in a technology piece, right, just a profile step that you're just taking from the from the actual APP and send it to the grill and the grills just running through it all day and know, by the way, they tell me when it reaches two hundred and two and then cool it down. Right, all of that is technology that helps you cook a better brisket. So, once I think people started buying these and started playing with them, you know, two thousand and thirteen, two thousand and fourteen, they really started to get a feel for hey, this is this is the real deal. Like this actually helps me cook better. It helps me not ruin really expensive cuts of meat. Yeah, so, you know, I'm raised in Texas and competition briskets smoking is very near and dear to my heart. But let's assume for a moment that some portion of our audience is hearing the terms stall for the first time. UNPACK, unpacked, the stall. So you know, for folks out there at TV land, this is just like any other hurdle to be solved. Product is aimed at hey, let's let's address this key issue. The stall has caused more hair to fall out of more heads of more pit masters. I think they'd probably any other hurdle. What is the stall and how did you guys think about this and work about solving it? Well, so, so, the briskets are basically right here in the four leg of the cow, between the chest and that for leg, and so basically, you know, there's a lot of interconnected muscle. They're right, a lot of interconnected a tissue and what has to happen as you have to break that down in order for it to work its way out of there and really get that meat to really start to separate and and moisten up, if...

...you will. Watching as I did early on in this in this business. I focused on guys like Harry Sue and moqus on and Sterling Smith and all these guys that were big in the early stages of this even Myron and Hank Baden. These guys are big in the barbecue world. Watching those guys take that temperature up through the stall, and that stall is usually hitting. Look, if you're cooking at two hundred and twenty five, you're going to eventually get there. It's going to stop at one hundred and fifty and kick it there for hours sometimes before it gets to cranking up to where you want it to get to that two hundred internal but you can actually do this faster through a couple different ways. You can do what's called the Texas Crutch right your utilizing foil or butcher paper both. Some people, everybody has an idea. I never say there's one way or the other. Everybody has their feelings and I don't ever want to get into that. But you do that at the stall portion and sometimes folks even cranked up the temperature to get that stall move through quicker so you can get into the the real cooking of that meat, so it can it can break down and tender eyes. And that's that's the the that's the stall. That's what it is. You're working through that stall. And so you guys, your thesis was, Hey, if we can build a product that allows people, they're smoking brisket, the cooking barbecue, to produce a superior would you say it was important? was more important to produce a better outcome or to produce the same outcome more easily or, you know, both at the same time? was there a something you guys were particularly optimized for? Yeah, for us it was real simple. Again, being around all these barbecue competitors and watching these guys in the field, we just thought about how do we make this easy for the everyday backyard cooker? Right, how do we make this easy so the person's not intimidated by this big chunk of meat and they're not, like you said, having all sorts of issues around being concerned about how they're going to deliver this, when you...

...can add technology to this process. You're going to have great product. I'm not going to say you have better product. It's going to be equal, right, and you're not going to fail at this because the technology is really going to help you through it, and that's what it does. That's what people learn, is that the technology helps you through it. Yet that that's been my observation is that by demistifying this process, you're making brisket a lot easier to approach for first timers, you know, because you've got even guys like Aaron Franklin, you know, kind of considered like the Jesus of Brisket, and you know he saying, Hey, my first brisket was terrible. You know, everybody's first brisket is terrible. Green Mountains. Thesis is, Hey, your first brisket doesn't have to be terrible, you just need to have a good partner in crime. What specifically, from a technology standpoint, did you guys introduce that has made it easier? What are the things that you're helping to insert into the process that we're one is quite difficult to now. You said, Hey, look, it doesn't have to be so difficult if we infuse this technology into the process. Well, there are three things. So first it's the actual temperature control. So having the ability to really control temperature. A lot of the folks early on would do these feedogram of pellets and that's going to hit a certain temperature and what that does is those are those are our kid calculations to temperature control. If you're programming a control panel to with the firmware to just do this, you're not taking into account outside temperature, right. So you're doing this based on the fact that at seventy degrees we're going to push this amount of pellets in there and it's going to hit this temperature and when it drops this much you're going to do more. Will all of that goes out the window when you're extremely cold or extremely hot, right. So the first thing we did was we thought about that. We said we need to make calculations based on ambient air. So we put an Ambien are sensor on there early on. The Ambient Air Sensor gave us light into to programming the calculus driven algorithms that are in there, which...

...are all pid algorithms. That just basically it's the same thing as a crus control on a car. Right, you put it seventy and you're going up a hill. It knows it needs to accelerate right. So, and those calculations can be off from car to car right you can. You can feel that work different in a Chevy maybe, versus a Honda. It just it acts a little bit different. It's the same thing in the pellet barbecue business. We saw companies that were struggling with this, and so you'd have these massive fluctuations, right, fifty, seventy five degree fluctuations, but you wouldn't know it because your dial just says, you know, one hundred and fifty, one hundred and seventy five, two hundred right. So if you if that's all you see, it's if that's all you see on your dial, you've got a big span of temperature variance and so that was our first thing. How do we solve that and be an are are sensor helped us do that. We also, inside the APP, put a whole climate slider. So we would tell the customer, hey, based on where you are, here's a very icy climate center climate setting, here's a very hot climate setting and there are a few in the middle. Based on temperature, you can dial it in based on where you're at humidity. All of this plays a role in how your grill is going to react. So again it's technology and then, on top of that, it's the meat probe right, getting focused on the internal temperature of your of your food. So being able to see what your meat probes are doing from the APP is a big deal. But if those if those meat probes are off, you need to be able to calculate them. So we went in there and said, okay, we need to be able to give the customer the ability to say, okay, I've had this and we heard it right. The customer says, I've had this meat probe since one thousand nine hundred and sixty two and it's dead on. I know it's dead on, okay, and yours is for degrees off. Okay, perfect. Well, go ahead and that out. Plus that out. So giving that again, utilizing technology, super simple to change in the APP and giving the the customer the ability to to hone in on that meat...

...probe that they trusted. That was too and then the final thing is just the profile steps, having a section where you can go in there and and write, Hey, Ryan's brisket and this is what we do. We do one fifty for two hours and then when it hits an internal temperature of x, and we're going to do this, and then when it gets the stall, we're going to go, you know, up to to twenty five, to fifty, and then we're going to crank this thing up even more and tell me, alert me when it's done. Or you can put notes in there and say, Hey, you need to be split seeing every thirty minutes here in this stage, all of that so that you can write all that down in the APP, hold that profile forever and repeat it every time. Right. That is what it's all about. All of those things give that backyard consumer the ability to not be intimidated by this cook you mentioned. I think you call them maysayers, you know, but the there's always folks that are especially in a space that drives as much passions barbecue, you know, such a personal thing. You mentioned that there was a lot of folks with big opinions, many of them not positive, talk about product development in an environment. You know, maybe some folks out there are are in a space where the consumers are quite opinionated and not always right. You know, this idea of the customers always right, I think, is being very like rethought. In our generation. I maybe customers actually frequently wrong. What did it look like to develop a product where you had to kind of develop in the face of the people that you want to sell to? A lot of times are the biggest needs ayers and you're going to have to win them over. You're going to have to not listen to them, because you guys have an inkling that maybe you know better and that if you you know, if your vision is realized, they're going to be impressed. They just don't realize it now. How do you develop product in that world? We hear so many other companies talk about interviews and getting close to the consumer. It feels like almost there's a countercurrent of that. At Green Mountaine, you guys needed to...

...prove the consumer wrong. Is there something to that? There's something to that, but I would say that it when it started off with that remote control, just as many they sayers as there as there were. There were just as many people going well done, you know, giving you that that applause and saying we like this. How what if you did? How could you do more right, almost almost kind of pushing us to get to that next step of how can you do more? How can you give us more technology? So I think, even though they were the smaller pieces that hustle. You have the people who are dead set on the offsets there, they're dead set on charcoal, their dead set on whatever their way of cooking is. You have to tune that out. Just have to, because you know, there's so many of us right that we're just early on going this is so much fun like this makes it easy. We're spending more time talking to family, talking to friends, then then messing around with all the different steps that you have to do on one of these offset cookers or or some other cooker. So when you start to fall in love with it yourself, you have to believe it. You have to just believe that. You need to force yourself to do it more, and I really believe that's it's the essence of Steve Jobs. mentioned him earlier. Jobs was one of those guys that he knew what you needed in your life right. He knew that you needed something more in your life to make communication different, maybe not easier, but different, and I think that we tried to think about that in the same way that we wanted to make cooking more fun and and and easier process, utilizing technology without the naysayers, just just forging forward. I can't say it any simpler than that. You just you just go ahead, you just move forward. So all right, you mentioned Steve Jobs, one of the great called nontechnical founders and innovators of all time. Let's talk about, you know, one of the other great founders innovators of all time, Jason Baker. All right, so our guest today, you know we were one of the reasons...

I was really excited to have you on the show. Number One, I love barbecue. That is a like near dear to my heart passion. Live in Montana, and God bless Montana, but this is a barbecue desert. There is no the barbecue culture here is not viber but your background stood out to us as we're researching guests, because your educational background is you've got a degree political science. Does Not Scream this guy is, you know, going to be a fantastic technical innovator. And yet in our pre interviews and some of the conversations we've had time and again, you know, you've demonstrated a really deep, granular understanding of what you guys are trying to achieve, how best to achieve it technically. If you were to give guidance to a friend or someone out in the audience that saying Hey, look, I'm interested in tech, I want to take this, my company, in a tech driven direction, but I don't have that background. I'm not an engineer. You know I'm not a tech what guidance would you would you share, like, how have you gotten to this place? You know, cut starting from. You know there's no technical background getting this place. What can you share about your journey? What lessons could you share with that person out there saying, Hey, this is interesting to me, this is what I want for myself. How do I do it? I think it's if you have a dream in your mind and and you have a dream where you say this is what I want, and if you're at all afraid of how to get there, don't be just seek out the right people. That's the key to everything. Seek out the right people to be around and force yourself to learn right, learn the terminology, understand what they're doing, have them dumb it down for you sometimes. Right. I mean that's that's really the key to all of this. When I go back to the time spent with with between hardware and software on this, going back and forth. It was. It was a constant battle of I've got to figure this out, I've got to understand it well enough to where I can immerse myself in here and get at the result that I want. It all comes down to the dream, I think, when you when you really have that dream in your mind of what it is...

...your what you want out of your product, what you want your consumer to be able to play with, you have to just go in hard and learn this stuff. It's that simple, it really is. You don't need to agree on this, you just need to get in the heads of some of these some of these guys who are obviously a lot smarter than you, and that's the key, finding the right people that can help you carry out your vision, and that's that's where it all it all starts. I mean I think back to I was on my way to law school and a buddy of mine called me up and said, Hey, what do you think about taking over this bar and at Arizona State University, and I said that sounds like a phenomenal idea. Right. I don't think everybody else was that thrilled about in my family, but at the time I wasn't ready. I wasn't prepared mentally to go to school for not three years. Well, at that moment I looked at that from the standpoint of how do we make this easier? We started doing things from a technology standpoint with with POS and and utilizing text on screens and and utilizing ways in which we could we could blast out information to students around there. We started doing things early on that really took the bar industry that everybody does. Now everybody does everything, but it was early on in kind of a a podunk bar where we started to learn that technology helped people in a lot of ways. So at that point, then moving on into solar. Solar was a big part of my journey as well. You started a solo a solar company here in Arizona and started integrating solar panels on rooftops. Well, you learned real quick that there's a lot of technology involved in this and when you put them in schools, they are these interfaces where the the informations being gathered and put on these screens for these kids to learn. I love that stuff. So I just again. I would would get on the phone with these engineers. I'd learned everything I could so that when I was in a sales type of situation, I could talk as as an engineer. That was important to me. Never saying that, I was just saying I understand how this works. Owned by the way, I can...

I know how to hook all these things up to there's not a lot to it. So it graduated into Green Mountain grills where there's just a massive comfort level around technology. So anybody that you just dream it's that simple. You just you dream it up. If it's in your mind, go go tackle that vision, just go do it. So said differently, if you feel, if you're kind of reflecting on yourself, if you have a passion for innovation and a passion for the underlying subject matter, those are the prerex that matter most, and that the playbook is identify your gaps and surround yourself with people that are strong in those areas. Is Out of there. You think summary of Jason's approach on these thing very, very fair summary, and I would add to that make sure that you are a mediator and make sure you are focused, typer focused on getting to your goal and knowing, understanding where those stoppages might occur, because hardware and software two different worlds. What looking backwards now, your time a Green Mountain. Are there things you got you wish you had approach differently? You know, a lot of things have worked out well. I think you guys are really well positioned. I think there's a huge market for what you're doing that I don't think there's any argument about that. Are there opportunities you feel like you guys missed or got to too late, and lessons you've learned through that process? Yeah, I think there are a lot of lessons you learned. You you learn that why business is a tough thing and you realize that there are a lot of pieces out there that that you need to focus look if in hindsight, I'd tell people to surround themselves with very good attorneys that can help them navigate through anything you might face in the future and always just put it out there and just really make sure you have all your bases covered. I think that's the key to if I were to do anything different, it would be go back to those times...

...when we first started talking about all this stuff and make sure you're protected and make sure that that you can hold that technology and not let it go so easily, because that's that's something that I don't know. For me. For me, I've always thought about Elon Musk and what he's done in that space. I love the fact that there's an open source for all of this and that we're moving so quickly to the to the electric car world, and it is open source. Anybody can kind of grab whose technology they want and do what they want. And our business is a little different. It's very driven on profits from other companies, and so patents are important and people are there's a lot of copying, there's a lot of, you know, figuring out what what everybody else is doing, and I think that's if I were to go back in time, that's the one thing I would change. It's that we probably should have protected ourselves a little bit better. Are you is this ore has like Chinese knockoffs? Is this the type of threat? It's all over the place. Yeah, just just everything. It's it's just having an attorney to to really it's hyper focused on protecting your Ip enough to where it doesn't it doesn't enter into the into someone else's product. It's that simple. On everything. I mean it goes from your firmware to you know what you're doing. You're APP there are a lot of things that you can you can patent that. We didn't know, we had no idea that. We were just blind to that world and I think that if we, if we were to go back in time, we would do that differently. So let's let's transition awkwardly from you know, the lesson learned being protect your good ideas so they don't become other people's good ideas. What's next for Green Mountain? What are what are folks going to see, or can they expect to see as we roll into twenty two? But are some things you guys are excited about? Then have to be secret sauce, but just a broad strokes were are some things you guys are excited about that folks out there should know about? Yeah, Ryan, we're working on something that nobody ever has ever seen in...

...the barbecue world. We're working on something that I'm obviously not going to talk about clearly here, but I'm going to tell you it's going to be something that people look at and they go those guys did it again, they innovated again and they did something in a way in which disrupted the market, disrupted barbecue. That's what we're always focused on. It there are some things about pelle grills that we don't like and we want to make them better, and so very cool that is, and that, I think that is the greatness of not being too big of a company or not being a publicly traded company. I think it's nice to be able to talk amongst a group of people who all have the idea of we want to make better products for the backyard griller and we want everybody to feel part of our community, and this is a very strong, tight knit community who we will we will bend over backwards to take care of, and I think that doesn't happen in I don't know where those levels are in business, but I see it diminish as you get too big, and I think that's where we're lucky to still have that, that fire, that passion to create things that people maybe not necessarily know that they need yet, but that's our goal. We we think they're going to need this and that's going to be fun to put out there. So if somebody is listening to this, it's October of two thousand and twenty one. When should they be on the lookout for this information? And I think probably cute. Two, I would take q two of two thousand and twenty two. That's going to be about when we're going to start to really stepping up the marketing and showing people something they've never seen a barbecue before. All Right, folks. So if you are looking for a grill for for summer twenty two, don't make your move until you've checked in with Green Mountain grills. Q Two. That's the that's who you want to be checking out. Jason, one of the things we were talking about in the pre interview is you know you're this iot space something you watch closely. Obviously we're neck deep in...

...it as well. Who out there in in Iot land is doing good work, especially if it's in barbecue world that you guys are impressed with, that you think others you know could or should know about? HMM, I don't think of anybody actually in the barbecue community outside of ourselves. So have really done the crazy technology driven things, but you know, outside the barbecue community. So cool to see just a full disruption take place. You see all these IOT devices that are all connected devices for pets, right, automatic pet feeders and video cameras for pets. I look at that space and I'm blown away. By it. I think it's super cool to see a company like will patter. There a couple other names they're escaping me, but they're doing a phenomenal job of you're being able to communicate with your pet even though you're not there right and and I think that's that's a cool space. It's a it's an entity that needed disruption and that's fun to watch. Jason One of the products that I use. So I'm a I'm one of these purest that you know. I'm not sure Green Mountain grill loves so much, but I've got a mill scale smoker at home. You know, these guys out of Lock Art Texas. I've been using the meter meat probe. It's APP connected probe. Do you have any experience? What are thoughts on these guys? They do a good job. I mean it's cool. There are a lot of products out there like it, so they're I'd see a lot of knockoffs of that product, but it's a great idea. I don't know how well they work over time, time and temperature for Bluetooth inside that piece. I'm always curious how that works. But same thing with I grill. I mean when I grill came out. What a genius idea, right to be able to do that. That was really that was a neat thing to watch. For those that don't know, what did they do? Yeah, it's just monitoring, again, monitoring grill temperature from anywhere, being able to stick a meat probe into a hunk of meat, and it didn't matter what your what kind of barbecue had. It could be a prope and grill, it could...

...be a charcoal grill and it's broadcasting through Wi fi and giving that information back to a server, giving it back to your phone and so being able to do that same thing with like a flame boss. All these guys were doing all this with all these independent controllers. Flame boss would go a step further, or a fireboard, those kinds of deals where you have seven probes, you know, multiple meat probes. That's because there are different and temperatures inside the meat. I thought that was neat to see more and more probes figuring out the actual internal temperature. But I grill did a great job innovating in that space and Webber pick them up and they're doing well with that. Interesting and last question. So you know, I said Barbecue, you know, brings the passion, I think, out of a lot of people. For for folks that have enjoyed the episode here today, how can folks keep up with your story? You know where's a good place? Is Linkedin or what do you want to point the people at? Yeah, we love I mean facebook. We give a lot of information through facebook. We're pretty good on instagram as well. Green Mountain rills. Same thing with Tick Tock. We're starting to get more involved in social media side of things, but the website, we really do keep up with that. Green Mountain Girlscom as well and I think we tried to give everybody a clue as to what's coming pretty consistently through the website as well. Green mountain girls on Tick Tock, I love it. You know, almost a hundred percent of guests just say hey, follow me on linkedin. So I know you Audi man, Jason. I joyed it today. Thanks for thanks for being on the show. Absolutely remember on your briskets as they as they if they have more marbling, the key is is that you can go higher temperatures. Right. So if less marbling, choice grilled, choice type of product. That number is in that one and ninety six to one hundred and ninety eight range, but as you have more marble edge, you get a prime and Wago, you can go up to that two thousand and five, two or six range. It really can have all right, folks, you heard it here. More marbling, word...

...temperature. That's it for today. My name is Ryan. Thanks for being on the show, Jason. Thanks everybody for listening. We'll see you guys on the Internet. Thank you, Ryan. You shouldn't have to worry about IOT projects dragging on or unreliable vendors. You've got enough on your plate. The right team of Engineers and project managers can change a pivotal moment for your business into your competitive edge. Varies. Close Knit crew of ambitious problem solvers, continuous improvers and curious builders know how to turn your ideas into a reality on time and up to your standards, with a focus on mitigating risk in maximizing opportunity, will help you build an Iot solution that you can hang your hat on. Let's bring your Iot idea to life. Learn more at very possiblecom you've been listening to over the Air Iot connected devices and the journey. If you enjoyed today's episode, make sure to hit subscribe in your favorite podcast player and give us a rating. Have a question or an idea for a future episode? Send it to podcast at very possiblecom see you next time.

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