The grills at the center of my family barbecues always seemed intimidating. I mostly remember boxy hunks of steel that required a lot of muscle power. If they weren’t the kind that called for heaving a bag of charcoal around, it was one that saw us trudging through the yard with a tank of propane in tow (those things always freak me out). Now that I’m ready to host my own cookouts, I’ve been on the prowl for a grill that is pretty much the opposite of what I knew growing up—something compact and easy to use, and if it’s earning square footage in my tiny outdoor space, it better be cute, too. Then along came Spark

The Spark Grill arrived in a couple of large boxes and needed to be assembled, but because I’ve put together a few apartments’ worth of IKEA furniture in my day, the setup was no match for me. All the hardware and tools were included, and the written instructions were easy to follow; I had it all put together in under 30 minutes. I’m thankful it was slim enough to mostly build inside (in the AC) and then be rolled out the back door for the finishing touch: placing the kettle on top. That thing is heavy, and lifting it onto the frame definitely would’ve been easier with a friend, but once I got it up there, I stood back to admire my work. 

The kettle comes in a smooth matte black finish (a new navy colorway dropped this spring) and it sits on a rounded steel frame with a removable bamboo cutting board on the side. There’s not a 90-degree angle in sight, and the design is a minimalist’s dream. 

All of the Spark’s techy aspects is where it gets complicated. It comes with two temperature probes and connects to an app via Bluetooth, so you know exactly what temp the grill and food are at all times. (I don’t remember my family’s grill ever doing that). And the charcoal experience I was dreading is nothing to worry about. Instead of messy bags of coal, the grill comes with a variety of patented “Briqs” that allow it to function as an everyday barbecue, a low and slow smoker, and an oven, which can make Neapolitan-style pies with the pizza pack. Though my neighbor noted the packs of Briqs are pricey compared to the cost of a regular bag of charcoal, you only need one briquette for each cooking session—just open the bag and drop the singular pressed piece right into a tray underneath. 

After seasoning the cast-iron grates with a high-heat oil (I used grapeseed), it was time to light her up. This is where I started to imagine many fiery worst-case scenarios—running through the neighborhood with flaming hair comes to mind, but I digress. Thankfully, all I had to do was plug in the power cord, drop a briquette into the drawer, and turn the dial. Lo and behold, the flames grew and the temperature reading on my app started climbing. Since my phone was tracking the heat, I went inside to make myself a well-deserved drink, and after a few sips in, my app told me the preheating was complete. My aforementioned neighbor, however, said that the app lost connection when he went inside his half of the double shotgun home. 

For my first meal, I went simple and started with burgers (highly recommend this Cheddar-Stuffed Pepper-Rimmed recipe) and macaroni and cheese (that’s right, pasta on the grill!). I stuck the probes into my patties and cleaned up my prep station while I waited for them to reach optimal heat. Without me having to hover over a hot pit, they turned out perfectly medium-pink and my mac had a deliciously smoky flavor that you won’t get on a stovetop. As for cleanup, it couldn’t have been easier. Since the briquette sits in a tray, I just had to pull it out and dump it—and the ashes are compostable, by the way. At the end of the day, it looks like this little grill might have earned itself a permanent place in my bite-size backyard.

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