July 31, 2020
Reinventing the Charcoal Grill
What if you no longer had to choose between flavor and convenience when cooking at home? What if you didn’t have to wrangle bulky propane tanks or messy charcoal every time you wanted to grill? What if you could control the temperature of your charcoal grill much like you do your oven?
What if there was a grill that did it all?
Meet Spark - the charcoal grill I’ve been dreaming up for years.
It’s no secret that the grilling industry is rooted in a decades old status quo. From the way grills are purchased, to how grills are designed, and even who they are marketed to, not much has changed over the years. I saw this status quo as a massive opportunity to redesign the entire grilling experience - from purchase to product design and the relationship people have with their grill and fuel company.
So where did this all start?
The vision for Spark has been years in the making. In 2011, I started a company called EcoZoom - we made wood and charcoal cookstoves for use in developing countries. In just a few years the business grew significantly. About 20-30% of Rwandans used an EcoZoom cookstove and and we reduced the energy consumption of the country by about 10-15%, which is a pretty cool achievement. We sold more than one million units in 45+ countries.
During that time, my wife and I were living in Nairobi - which was amazing, but also intense. We’d escape into the backcountry all the time and that’s really where I fell in love with wood and charcoal cooking. The flames drew people in and created flavors unlike anything I had tasted before.
When I moved back to the states, I was fascinated by the number of new, high-end restaurants using wood and charcoal. It brought me back to some of my favorite experiences in Kenya - being outdoors with family and friends and cooking amazing food over the same wood and charcoal. I wanted to continue cooking that way but it was basically impossible. We all know that charcoal tastes better, but it’s messy, takes forever to light and is hard to control. I also learned that 70% of grillouts today are with propane, so I was curious what it would be like to redesign the whole grill, and to get this flavorful way of cooking back into the mainstream.
What makes cooking over wood and charcoal different than cooking with a gas grill?
With wood and charcoal, you can cook with a much wider range of temperatures and the flavor is so much better. But the majority of people are cooking at home with propane because it’s easier to work with (despite the annoying propane tanks). It also lacks the temperature range that's often needed for different recipes.
This is where I saw the opportunity for Spark. By tuning the fuel (wood and charcoal) to work really well with the hardware (the grill), we could provide an amazing experience that would bring the joy of charcoal grilling to everyone.
At Spark, we’ve completely redesigned the grill as we know it from top to bottom. Spark gives you the flavor of charcoal, the ease of gas, and the control of an oven.
What sets Spark apart from other charcoal grills?
With the help of food and biomass scientists, we’ve developed custom wood and charcoal Briqs that ignite instantly with the turn of a switch (no lighter fluid) and they get hot enough for grilling in just a few minutes. When you’re done cooking, clean-up is seamless and mess-free.
We’re starting with hardwood, hickory and applewood Briqs with plans to expand the flavor profiles quickly. Our blend of natural wood and charcoal creates the perfect smoky flavor that pairs perfectly with any dish.. This is just the beginning for us - the way our Briqs are made allow for endless flavor possibilities. And because we manufacture our Briqs at our headquarters in Boulder, Colo., we can easily test and develop new flavor profiles.
The grill and Briq are tuned to work together as one system. With Spark’s LED dial you can set and hold temperature anywhere from 200 to over 900 degrees. You can turn the dial up. You can turn the dial down, and the grill will run at the right temperature. That kind of range and control allows you to just play. When you don’t have to futz around with the fire, you can be so much more creative with the way you cook.
You’ll also notice that a Spark grill looks nothing like the charcoal grills you’re used to. I wanted the shape to be elegant, sophisticated and approachable - qualities not necessarily associated with grills on the market today. We are keeping things simple. Everything is there for a reason. No extra bells and whistles. We worked to be ultra thoughtful about everything with the end goal of providing the best tool we can for users to create the best possible food outcomes.
To round out the experience, we’ve designed the Spark mobile app to make perfect cooking easier than ever before. With the app, you can get notified when your grill is up to temp, connect to food probes, get alerts when your food is perfectly cooked and re-order Briqs with the tap of a button.
What’s your favorite thing to cook on your Spark?
Honestly, I cook almost everything on my Spark. The temperature control combined with the flavor and ease of our Briqs make it easy to grill out anytime. And with all of the time I’ve been spending at home during quarantine, it’s fun to grill breakfast, lunch and dinner. We’ve been getting creative, but my favorites are grilled pizza and grilled veggies. Grilled broccoli, asparagus and peppers are the best - just add a little oil and salt and throw on the grill for a few minutes. They come out amazing. Pizza is fun to experiment with and an easy weeknight meal for my family.