This story is part of an ongoing DIY smart home series. Be sure to check out the latest installments to follow the renovation process from start to finish.
As I’ve been toiling away at my DIY smart home, I’ve wondered more about how to extend my home’s newfound smarts to our deck to turn it into the ultimate outdoor entertainment area. I actually skipped on smart kitchen appliances knowing we prefer to grill, and now that the weather can accommodate, I’ve been researching the best smart grills, meat thermometers and smokers. I’ve also looked into outdoor smart lights, speakers and more.
I’m no pitmaster, so I’m sold on the idea of enjoying my backyard get-togethers while monitoring my burgers and skewers right from my smartphone. I’d complete the summer atmosphere with a voice assistant-enabled smart speaker, which would let me control my other IoT devices designed specifically for the outdoors.
Thanks to my clever touchscreen smart switch, fancy wine fridge and high-tech Alexa smart faucet, the home’s interior IQ is pretty impressive. But now it’s time to modernize my deck, and these are some of the devices that could help.
Here is the best outdoor tech gear for your deck this summer.
1. Best smart grill: Weber Genesis TT SX-335 Smart Grill
Starting off with a true smart grill, the Weber Genesis TT SX-335’s 669 square-inch cooking area is perfect for making plenty of food at once. And with a companion app that shows the real-time food temperature and readiness countdown, you’ll always know when your grub is done. You can even set up push notifications for when it’s time to take everything off the grates.
The $1,349 Weber Genesis TT SX-335 Smart Grill also benefits from Weber’s Connect platform, which acts as your step-by-step grilling assistant. But it doesn’t just tell you when your food is done — it walks you through flip times and other barbecue techniques, including special rub recipes or the right moment to slice and serve. This makes the Genesis TT SX-335 one of the best grills to get if you’re in the market for an all-new outdoor appliance with major smarts.
2. Best smart meat thermometer: Weber Connect Smart Grilling Hub
If you’re looking for an affordable way to smarten up your existing setup, Weber makes a separate tool that takes advantage of the grill you already own. Rather than buy an all-new smart grill, the $125 Weber Connect Smart Grilling Hub lets you manage the temperature and cook times of multiple foods at once. It comes with four ports that hook up to a magnetic display you place on your grill’s prep shelf.
Like the Weber Genesis TT SX-335 Smart Grill, the smart grilling hub works with the Weber Connect Platform. When you pair it to your phone via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, you can follow along with guided cooking programs that help you make grilled food from start to finish, or prep to serve.
3. Best smart smoker: Traeger Pro 575
There’s nothing like a succulent set of ribs, smoky brisket, or pulled pork as the highlight of a backyard barbecue. But, tending to those slow cuts of meat — and making sure your fire stays lit and at the right temperature — over many hours can be a real challenge, especially if you’re entertaining guests.
Like all the company’s smokers, the Traeger Pro 757 is pellet-fed, meaning it can maintain a consistent temperature no matter how long it takes to finish that cut of meat. Plus, it’s Wi-Fi connected, so you can monitor it remotely from your smartphone, and even ask Alexa how things are going. It’s a handy shortcut on the way to becoming a pitmaster.
4. Best smart outdoor speaker: Sonos Move
Not only is the Sonos Move one of the best smart speakers overall, it’s wireless, so you can carry it around with you. Although the newer and smaller Sonos Roam might be better for excursions, when you’re hanging out in your backyard the Sonos Move can’t be beat. It has Sonos-quality sound, and is durable enough to withstand drops or nights forgotten outside.
At $399 the Sonos Move is a bit pricey for a speaker, but it’s bigger and more sophisticated than most of the best Bluetooth speakers you’ll find right now. It’s a versatile alternative to installing a dedicated outdoor speaker system, since you can bring the Move’s sound inside if the weather turns.
5. Best solar string lights: Sunapex Solar String Lights
To keep the party going at night, you’ll need some lights. This 48-foot strand of Edison-style LED bulbs should provide just the right amount of light so you and your guests can see each other, but aren’t too bright that the ambiance of night time isn’t ruined.
What’s more, these bulbs are solar-powered, with a 5200-mAh battery providing up to eight hours of illumination. They can be set to turn on automatically at dusk, and have four lighting modes: Steady, slow flash, quick flash, and pulsating. However, there are only 15 bulbs along a 48-foot strand, so you may need to buy a second string for more light. For other outdoor lighting options, be sure to check out our best solar lights page.
6. Best outdoor smart plug: Kasa EP40
Smart plugs aren’t just for inside your home. As one of the best smart plugs for outdoor use, the Kasa Smart Outdoor Plug EP40 (rated IP64) has two outlets, so you can control two devices outside independently. It’s perfect for non-smart outdoor lights, an electric fire pit or small electric grill. Your guests can use it as a normal plug for charging their phones, too.
And like Kasa’s indoor plugs, the Outdoor plug benefits from TP-Link's Kasa app, so you can use schedules or a countdown timer to make your smart plug turn on and off when you want. You can even use a sunset feature to turn your outdoor lights on as soon as it gets dark.
7. Best outdoor cooler: Coleman Steel-Belted Cooler
It may not have Wi-Fi or any connected features, but it’s a smart idea to have a cooler for your outdoor parties, so guests don’t have to traipse in and out of your house, letting cool air out and getting your floors dirty. The Coleman Steel-belted Cooler is a classic, time-tested model that will keep your drinks on ice at an affordable price — one of the many reasons it’s high up on our list of the best coolers.
It doesn’t have wheels, so you won’t want to tote it around much, but its sturdy lid can support up to 250 pounds, making it an ad-hoc seat in case you run out of chairs. And, it can hold up to 78 cans of your favorite beverages — which should be more than enough for your party.
Enjoy shopping for DIY smart home gadgets with me? Stay tuned for the next installment of this series. In the meantime, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below with anything you’d like to see me cover, whether it’s a how-to or buying decision you’re struggling to make. Be sure to check out my guides to the best smart home devices (and best cheap smart home devices), too.
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Michael A. Prospero is the U.S. Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide. He oversees all evergreen content and oversees the Homes, Smart Home, and Fitness/Wearables categories for the site. In his spare time, he also tests out the latest drones, electric scooters, and smart home gadgets, such as video doorbells. Before his tenure at Tom's Guide, he was the Reviews Editor for Laptop Magazine, a reporter at Fast Company, the Times of Trenton, and, many eons back, an intern at George magazine. He received his undergraduate degree from Boston College, where he worked on the campus newspaper The Heights, and then attended the Columbia University school of Journalism. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, electric scooter, or skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine, smoker, or pizza oven, to the delight — or chagrin — of his family.