GE’s 12-Foot Brisket Smoker Will Turn Out Real-Time Data During SXSW

Lab brings science and food together

If there's one thing South by Southwest attendees can't get enough of, it's barbecue—and GE plans to put its own twist on it this year.

GE is setting up an R&D lab at 95 Red River Road in downtown Austin, Texas, from March 14 to 16, where it will show off its technology "through the lens of Texas food culture." The idea, per GE, is to use the data that's collected over the three days the lab is running to dissect the science behind cooking.

The main attraction at the lab is a 12-foot-tall barbecue smoker loaded with sensors that measure temperature, smoke velocity and humidity. The sensors are connected to large screens in the R&D lab that viewers can look at. Chemical and robotics scientist Lynn DeRose and others will be the so-called pit masters that will use the data to run experiments in the lab.

The smoker itself is constructed out of steel and lab glassware. A compartment at the bottom powers the fuel and holds the wood that's necessary to keep the meat cooker constantly running. The smoke then makes its way to the top, where another compartment holds six racks of meat.

Of course, attendees will eat GE's smoked meats, in addition to local fare from Louie Mueller Barbecue, Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew, and Black's Barbecue. Neuroscience-powered head gear will help people watch how they react to different BBQ flavors by reading brain waves.

There are also hands-on food experiments. Local ice cream store Spun Ice Cream's owners Ashley and Christina Cheng will demonstrate how to make liquid nitrogen ice cream with BBQ-flavored toppings. And Serious Eats' contributor Josh Bousel will show people how to turn store-bought BBQ sauces into top-notch flavors using a little chemistry.

The lab will also host guest panels with Questlove, Texas Monthly Magazine editor Daniel Vaughn and Aaron Franklin (of Franklin BBQ fame).

This week's activation is part of GE's Global Research Centers—a group of 4,000 scientists who work in GE's research facilities.

This isn't the first time GE has brought interesting connected devices to SXSW. In 2012, the energy brand ran a pop-up workshop with laser cutters and 3-D printers, as well as a social media-enabled fridge.

Recommended articles