A Harvard Professor Is Disrupting Barbecue

With the forthcoming 96 Smoker, Kevin Parker and his students want to build a better brisket.

While on a trip to Memphis, Harvard professor Kevin “Kit” Parker surveyed the pregame bedlam of a college tailgate. What he saw—amateur pitmasters, dusty clouds of beef vapor, and a litany of shoddy, hand-welded smokers—has quickly become culinary lore. That’s because amid that creosote- tarnished parking lot, Parker had a revelation: No longer would great barbecue—that ancient art of wood-smoked proteins—remain confined to some exclusive cabal. Employing his engineering know-how (not to mention a legion of overachieving Ivy Leaguers), he pledged to build a foolproof pit that would consistently yield sublime meats, whether for a grizzled vet or a weekend warrior. That task, assigned as a four-month class project, soon became its own company, 96 Solutions, as retailers from around the globe clamored for a product. Now, after a year of prototyping, Parker (along with former students Michel Maalouly and Yinka Ogunbiyi) is on the verge of releasing his revolutionary barbecue bot, the 96 Smoker. Here, the science behind the perfect poultry, brisket, and mahogany-crusted ribs, all from the touch of an app.

96 smoker

Courtesy rendering

An app not only displays real-time temperature readouts, but also provides users with fuel calculations based on the weight and cut of meat, letting them know exactly how much wood, coal, and water to add prior to cooking.

The cooking chamber is made with a proprietary material that’s as heat-retentive as ceramic, yet far lighter than its chief competitor, the Big Green Egg.

An hourglass shape—modeled after a nuclear cooling tower—creates cyclonic airflows, which spread heat uniformly. Bonus: The meat is bombarded with flavor-enhancing phenolic compounds for better-tasting barbecue.

Fans that respond to temperature sensors in the meat and to the environment of the smoker control airflow and eliminate the need for constant surveillance.

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