The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke

Apple Watch-General & BBQ Specific Uses-Part 2

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PART I of this blog discussed the Apple Watch in general and my specific impressions after having used one for 6 months. It is a different animal in terms of use the cases for it. Most people want or need a smartphone. Many people want or need a tablet device. The watch isn’t so clear cut. As you can read in PART I of this blog entry I have mixed emotions about my purchase. This entry will describe how the Apple Watch has fit into my grilling and smoking activities. Once again, it is a different animal in terms of what you can do with it. Is it essential? At this point in time I would have to say absolutely not. Is it useless? Once again, absolutely not. The answer lies somewhere in between.

Cooking Apps: There are hundreds of iOS based apps for use on the iPhone and iPad, specifically made for cooking or grilling. Not so much on the watch. The problem is the watch is totally different in terms of what works well on the small sized watch face. Apps for the watch need to be very concise and present only the most important information with an interface capable of being used with your finger tip on a small screen. So this rules out recipe apps where you’d be scrolling down through many screens of small text. Why struggle to do this on a small watch face when the iPhone of iPad is much better suited for this type use? I don’t want to be watching videos of recipes on a tiny screen. Once again the iPhone or iPad are better suited for that. The type of use best suited for the watch screen is something that is a one trick pony where the information can be presented in a manner that is easy to see and easy to manipulate. I mentioned how recipe apps or recipe video apps are of limited use out at the grill. You really should have your act together by the time you get out to the grill. Review the recipe or watch the video in the Kitchen on a screen size that makes it quick and easy. If I have a recipe, such as a stir fry, with lots of steps happening in a short period of time I take 2 approaches. I either bring a printed copy of the recipe out to the grill with me or bring my iPad if the recipe directions fit easily on one or two iPad sized pages. Trust me: You don’t want to be trying to do a lot of navigation on the screen of the watch in a short time period.

General Apps: I find some of the general apps that are not cooking specific to be the ones that actually help me get through my cooking tasks. I will cover those in the next section where I talk about how I use the Apple Watch for cooking.

Never Miss a Call, eMail or Text - I mentioned in PART I this blog that I am not one of those people that constantly has my face buried in my phone. Having the Apple Watch on my wrist allows me to keep the iPhone in my pocket and I don’t miss any calls. If I don’t hear the ringing, I always feel the tapping of the taptic engine on my wrist. In fact I often feel the haptic feedback first and I’m starting to glance at the watch face before it rings. When I was dealing with my parent’s health issues, it was comforting to know I would most always be aware of when I get a call. Now that things have settled down on the health front, I still have times where it is very convenient not to miss a call. These days I have been chopping food with my food processor and although I couldn’t hear the ring, I still felt the tapping on my wrists. I often get calls from guests or potential guests while I am in the Kitchen or out at the grill. They are telling me whether they are coming or not, asking about the schedule or to tell me they are running late. I can also screen other calls and chose whether or not to take them or defer them to voice mail. Bottom line: I can see everything coming in and respond as needed. The same is true for emails or texts. I may have a day where I am light for work and I am instead doing some cooking related task. One notification can change this, but I can relax knowing if it comes in I will know about it.

Ease of Use - If a phone call comes in on your cell phone while you are in the Kitchen, it is usually seems to come at the worst possible moment. Your hands may be covered with a rub or you are mixing ground meat by hand in a bowl. Then you have to go digging in your pocket to try to get your phone out in time to take the call. Sometimes once you can see the phone it turns out to be something that could wait. If you leave the phone out where you can see it, you may spill something on it. Then once you take the call, you are stuck holding the phone to your ear or fumbling around to find some headphones to use. Either way your prep is interrupted, particularly if you are stuck holding the phone up to your ear. Similar situation but even worse out at the grill. With the watch you simply tilt your wrist towards you to see who the call or other notification is from. If you elect to take the phone call all you need to do is have one clean fingertip to tap on the answer button. Then you can continue with the task at hand because the phone is on your wrist. When a text or an email comes in you can tilt your wrist and immediately see who it is from without having to touch the screen. If you don’t catch it the second it comes in a single downward swipe brings up the notifications list. The watch allows you to stay in touch better and also stay out of touch for things that can wait. I find I am able to be much more responsive wearing the watch out at the grill than I can with a cell phone. Sometimes that response is just to take the call and ask the person if you can call them back in xx minutes. Your caller at least knows you are around.


Easy Response - There are 3 different ways to respond to a message or email you receive on the watch. There are a series of canned responses you can choose that appear on a scrolling list. They are tailored to suit the context of the body text of your message. Messages like: “OK”, “Can I call you back?” So you can simply look at the message, tap reply and pick from the list. You can also send a recorded reply where the watch records what you say and sends it as an attachment to the reply. You can also use Siri to dictate a reply to send as a written reply. Yes you can do some of this same type thing on the phone, but it is ofter quicker and easier on the phone. This little bit of extra ease of use sometimes makes the difference between me responding immediately or waiting till later.

Timers & Alarms - The Apple Watch has 3 different types of Timers. An Alarm Clock, a Stop Watch/Count Up Timer and a Count Down Timer. You receive an aural notification and taptic feedback on your wrist for each of these clock apps. I use these very often. Now you have a similar choice of alarms on the iPhone too, but I find setting the alarms on a watch on my wrist is often quicker and easier than trying to dig the phone out of my pocket. When I pull a roast off the grill I can immediately start the countdown timer for the 15 minute rest rather than waiting till I am back in the kitchen and then forgetting. By the way if I do forget to set a timer for resting the meat the date/time stamp on the photos I just took can tell me when I was pulling the meat. One of the beauties of these alarms on your wrist is the watch is always with you, whereas the phone may or may not be. As to the specifics of the three types of alarms.


The Alarm Clock is exactly what you would think: You pick a specific time you want an alarm and you get it. You can have multiple instances of the Alarm Clock type notifications. So for example you can set an alarm to remind you to light your grill at 2:00PM, a second one to take the meat out of the fridge 1 hour before it is to go on the grill and another one to light a second grill. I often do this as a back up for me on a really busy cook where I have a lot going on at once. The alarms help make sure I don’t forget to do some major step.


The Stop Watch/Count Up time I use for things like tracking the total time of a multi-step grilling session. For example a wok cook where you add garlic and stir fry for 30 seconds, then add the meat and stir fry for 3 minutes and then add the veggies… Another example of this is making a stew in the Dutch oven.


The last timer is the Countdown timer. I use this type timer so much I made it one of the 4 complications on my watch face. This means I can bring it up with one tap of my finger. For the count down timer you set a time in hours (if needed) and minutes and receive an alarm when the time elapses. So you can set this to remind you to mop your pork shoulder every hour, or set a 15 minute rest time for your meat.

Once again, with one exception, there is nothing different about the features of these timers than the ones on your iPhone. But, and this is a BIG but…, the watch is ALWAYS with you. You can set the timer when you are thinking of it, as opposed to waiting until you are back in the Kitchen. So in theory you don’t miss any alarms. The one added feature of the alarms on the watch is you get the taptic feedback. Also the alarm is persistent, ringing and tapping until you respond. So if you don’t hear the alarm because you are wearing a winter jacket and the watch is under the sleeve, you still feel the watch tapping you on the wrist. This is also handy if you fall asleep. Enough said. In most cases the alarms are quicker and easier to set immediately on the watch, meaning you are less likely to forget to set them which can happen if you wait.

Weather - It is handy to have a synopsis of the weather right on your wrist. I have added the air temperature as one of the 4 complications on my watch face. To see the outside air temp I simply glance at my watch face as opposed to having to pull out my phone. Tapping on the temperature complication brings me into the Weather app for my current location where I can access more information. I also added a third party weather alert app which gives me notifications for approaching severe weather conditions. The constant presence of a watch on my wrist, together with the taptic feedback of the watch makes it less likely I will miss an important alert.


Dark Sky - This third party iPhone/iPad weather app can be quite handy on the Apple Watch. It uses the local weather radar stations to give you highly accurate weather information about what is coming in the next hour or so. It also now does longer range forecasting, but it’s best use is for the near term predictions where it tells you that rain will be starting in 12 minutes in your location. Once again the notifications are a combination of less disruptive vs. more likely to be seen of felt than on the iPhone in your pocket.

Apple Pay - I mentioned before I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Apple Pay. While this doesn’t directly apply to my activities at the grill, shopping for your food does play a part in the whole equation. As of the first of this year, both my local butcher and supermarket take Apple Pay. After all my purchases are rung up: Tap, Tap, and Point the watch at the receiver on the terminal. Bam!! Job done. For me right now I would have to say Apple Pay is the killer feature of the Apple Watch.


CyberQ WiFi Text or eMail Alerts - Once again this is NOT an Apple Watch specific app, but takes advantage of the Apple Watch’s notifications to allow you to stay informed no matter where you are. The setup software that comes with the CyberQ WiFi allows you to send an email or text message to yourself at an interval of your choosing. These alerts can be routine items like a status report every xx minutes or a pit temperature of food probe alarm type alert. Now granted, I am also able to use the CyberCook software to stay informed via my iPad or on the iPhone on the road. But once again this is where receiving a notification on my wrist often trumps the phone. The wrist alert is less likely to be missed and I can view it without needing to pull out my phone. I tend to use text message alerts because I get far less text messages than emails. So when I am out and about an alert for a text message usually is a CyberQ WiFi alert. An email alert is often just a regular email or spam.

Should I Buy an Apple Watch for BBQ?:
Absolutely NOT! Unlike the iPhone of iPad, there really aren’t a bunch of related apps to help you. Things like shopping apps or recipe apps that make cooking or grilling a better experience, where you MUST have a smartphone or tablet to use them. Frankly I haven’t found any killer app for this hobby…yet.

Should I Buy an Apple Watch?:
If you are asking this question and have not yet read PART I of this blog I suggest you do so. I do like my Apple Watch, but it is not essential for everybody. If you use an iPhone and are a heavy user of messages, emails and other items that give you notifications, you are a possible candidate. If you want to keep your phone in your pocket more and only be disturbed by the most important notifications the Apple Watch will help with that. if you want a smart watch anyway and are in the Apple ecosystem, that is a yes too. If you are into health and fitness tracking the Apple Watch can help with that, although where I don’t use this feature I can’t help you decide. I would have to say the two killer apps for me are wrist-based notifications and Apple Pay. Right now I would have to say the Apple Watch is a platform looking for more killer apps. It also could use less apps of questionable utility (for a watch) that are there because the Apple Watch was the new shiny. Any folks who don’t have an immediate need, may want to wait a generation or two and see what improvements are made on the hardware and software front.


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