We Tried a Spark Grill: The Grill That Combines the Best of Charcoal and Gas
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Love charcoal but hate the mess? Love the ease of propane but can't stand using gas? A Spark Grill might be the best of both worlds. See how one of our editors liked this new grill.
For me, firing up the grill always meant breaking out the charcoal and waiting on the fire to heat up before tossing a few Wisconsin brats over the flames. It’s the way my dad taught me to grill. Sure, it’s a little messy and it takes some time, but that’s how grilling is, right?
It turns out that’s not always the case—and I’m not talking about switching to propane. Turns out there’s a charcoal-powered grill out there that’s less messy and takes less time to heat up: a Spark Grill.
What Is a Spark Grill?
It means that Spark Grills are powered by flat charcoal slabs called Briqs, but the temperature can be more carefully controlled than with traditional charcoal. The fan inside the grill maintains the temperature you select on the dial (or via your phone with the Spark Grills app). When you’re ready to grill, pop a Briq into the tray, spin the dial to ignite and set the temperature. The whole process takes about 10 minutes.
Spark Grill Features
Courtesy Spark Grills
The Spark is no basic grill. It has lots of special features that set it apart from its common charcoal cousins.
- Large grill kettle: This family-sized grill is porcelain-enameled for easy cleaning and made of stainless steel for durability. Spark Grills are available in black, navy and gray
- Briq tray: Pop your desired charcoal slab (the company makes several options for high-heat, low-and-slow and quick cooking) into the metal tray and you’re done! No messy bags of charcoal. When things cool down, just slide out the tray and dump the ashes.
- Electric ignition: Put away the lighter fluid! Turn the dial to ignite and the flames will start to flicker.
- Temperature control dial: Use the dial to select your desired temperature. The right charcoal slab and the fan inside the grill will keep things at your desired heat.
- Cast-iron grates: These wide cast-iron grates are perfect for getting the right sear on your meals. The surface area is about 16-by-24 inches—large enough for 12 burgers. These grates easily come off the grill for easy cleaning.
- Included grill cart: Spark Grills are fitted into a convenient wheeled cart. There’s plenty of space to rest your cutting board and any other extras next to the kettle.
- Smartphone app: You can keep an eye on the grill’s temperature from the front yard (where the bocce ball game is happening) via the app—available for Apple and Android phones.
- Plenty of extras: Spark has lots of additional accessories available to suit your grilling style. You can invest in a pizza stone, temperature probes and a lot more. These add-ons are all available on Spark’s website, and they’re some of our favorite grilling accessories.
How We Tested the Spark Grill
The Spark Grill is obviously designed for burgers and grilled chicken but it also serves as a smoker, pizza oven and even an oven for baking. As a lover of barbecue, pizza and all things sweet, I had to give each of these techniques a go right on my patio.
Lisa Kaminski for Taste of Home
As soon as I got this Spark Grill assembled, I had to fire it up with my favorite grill master: my dad! He popped over to check out this “newfangled contraption” (his words, not mine) and to see how it competed with his go-to kettle grill.
To start, I added a Quick Briq to the grill—a charcoal block that’s designed to burn for 30 to 45 minutes. We’d barely cracked open our beers by the time the grill hit 400ºF.
As for grilling burgers and smoked Polish sausages (two of my dad’s favorites), the Spark worked like a charm. The cast-iron cooking surface has wider slats which made flipping patties and links easy—and no more losing a sausage between the grate (this has definitely happened to every griller).
In the end, the Spark got my dad’s stamp of approval. He’ll be using his kettle grill for now, but might be adding a Spark to his birthday wish list.
Lisa Kaminski for Taste of Home
After many successful backyard barbecues of burgers, hot dogs and kabobs, I decided it was finally time to enter new territory: smoking. I love a low-and-slow brisket or ribs but have never made them on my own. I always feared that smoking would be too time-consuming and that I might ruin a pricey cut of meat.
But because I wanted to test out all of the functions of this grill, I picked up a pork shoulder at the butcher, gave it a rub with one of my favorite spice blends and popped the Low & Slow Briq into the grill. I set the temperature to 250ºF and let it go.
I know that traditional smoking requires a lot of patience and a lot of babysitting. I’ve got friends that wake up before dawn to fire up their pellet smokers and spritz the protein inside at regular intervals. That is not my cooking style. I just popped the grill’s temperature probe into the pork and kept an eye on it via the app.
After six hours, the pork was tender and easy to shred for sandwiches. For folks that want a shortcut to traditional smoking like myself, you can’t beat this method.
Lisa Kaminski for Taste of Home
Long before I worked at Taste of Home, I worked at a Neapolitan pizza restaurant. That was the start of my love affair with wood-fired pies. While I can get a brick oven pizza at a few joints in town, there’s nothing like a homemade slice topped with all the extras I love.
That’s why I was so jazzed about trying out the Spark pizza stone. Wood-fired pizza just steps from my kitchen table? Sign me up!
For this experiment, I fitted the ceramic pizza stone onto the grill, ignited a High-Heat Briq and got my pizza together. I haven’t made a pie from scratch like this since my pizzeria days, but I’m happy to say it’s like riding a bike.
I transferred the pizza onto the stone with a pizza peel and let it bake at high heat (about 800ºF). Next, I shuffled the pizza around a few times to keep it from getting too charred (a little char, or “leoparding,” is good!). Biting into my first slice, I almost felt like I was at Pizza Brutta again.
I have to say that this was my favorite way to use the Spark grill and this method has helped me make my best-ever homemade pizzas. With this simple pizza dough recipe, it’s easy to have pizza a few nights a week with this grill.
Lisa Kaminski for Taste of Home
But for the sake of baking and grilling, I decided to give these cookies a spin on the grill. Like the other techniques I tried, baking on the grill was surprisingly easy. The cookies were baked at 350ºF for 14 minutes like always. The Spark Grill kept the kettle at the right temperature all the way through.
Now, is it the ideal method for making something like chocolate chip cookies? I’d say not. But how tasty does a fresh loaf of bread sound when crisped up over a wood-fueled oven? Or even one of these campfire desserts?
Baking on the grill may not be my go-to, but it was a fun experiment.
- Appearance: This is a sleek-looking grill worthy of being your patio’s centerpiece
- Easy to use: Just add a brick, turn the knob to ignite and set the temperature to your liking—that’s it!
- Easy to clean: When the grill is cool, you just pull the tray out and dispose of the ashes; the interior components can be removed and washed with soap and water
- Temperature control: No more guessing if the grill is ready or if it’s too hot; just set the temperature (anywhere from 250º to 900ºF) with a dial
- Speed and endurance: This grill gets hot fast and can maintain your desired temperature long enough to smoke even large cuts of meat
- 4-in-1 functionality: Each of the grill’s functions worked incredibly well; it’s a great option for when you can’t decide between a grill, a smoker and a pizza oven
- Pizza: To me, it’s worth calling out this grill for the pizza alone; making a wood-fired pizza was so easy and incredibly delicious
- Price: For casual grillers, a Spark Grill might be too spendy
- Size: This grill is likely too big for smaller patios and balconies
- Fuel: The charcoal slabs can only be purchased on the company’s website; not a big deal if you plan in advance, but know that you can’t run to the store the way you would for a bag of charcoal
What Other Reviewers Had to Say
So what do other Spark grillers have to say about this snazzy grill? Lots of good things!
According to reviewer Brandon, the Spark is “a grilling revolution.” He goes on to explain in his five-star review, “I gotta say, the versatility of this thing is amazing! The fact that it can get to 900 degrees is a game changer, and being ready to start grilling in under 10 minutes has had the unintended effect of me grilling a lot more than I used to. The fit and finish of the whole thing is very nice, and looks great on our patio.”
Griller Jeff says that he bought a Spark Grill so he could save some space and have a pizza oven, grill and smoker all in one. “What I didn’t realize is that it would also be the easiest grill to use,” he says in his five-star write-up. “Loading the brick, way easier than trying to use brick charcoal or messing around with propane tanks. Igniting is way easier than normal charcoal and even easier than propane. Setting the temperature is like an oven and keeping it there is similarly as easy. Cleanup, way easier than normal charcoal.”
But this fancy grill is also a hit for newer outdoor cooks. Virginia writes in her five-star review, “I am so happy with my decision.” As a new griller, Spark made it easy for her to get started making more recipes on the grill.
The Final Verdict
This grill got my dad’s stamp of approval as well as my own. Using a Spark Grill is so easy. Pop in a brick and in about 10 minutes I can be searing some sausages. There’s no beating the speed here.
And there’s also no competition when it comes to temperature control. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my classic kettle grill, but being able to keep the grill hot (but not too hot) is a major advantage, especially when cooking larger meals. Not to mention the versatility that this backyard oven provides. I can make pizza in a flash. That’s worth every penny to me!
I’ll also say that the cleanup with a Spark Grill is pretty unbeatable. Pull out the tray and dump the ashes. That’s it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve covered myself in coal dust filling and cleaning a traditional charcoal grill.
Yes, this grill is on the spendy end for a charcoal model, but it’s not too far off base when you compare it to nice gas grills or even pellet smokers. When you consider the versatility, I’d say a Spark Grill is worth it—especially if you’re in the market for a new grill and love cooking outdoors.
Where to Buy the Spark Grill
The Spark Grill and all its accessories are available exclusively via Spark’s website. Bundles start at $1,099. While you wait for your Spark Grill to arrive, take a peek at our best grilling recipes and start making a “need-to-try” list. (We won’t judge if your mouth is already watering!)
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