Title:
Method and system for calculating and integrating cooking times into meal planning and preparation
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A method and system for calculating grilling timelines and parameters for specific items to be cooked on a grill includes presenting to a user an input screen and means for inputting grilling planning assumptions. Information about items to be grilled includes default grilling time, doneness factor, thickness factor, cut of meat factor and refrigerator factor as normalized values. A grilling timeline is calculated running the information through a summing function to result in a calculated grilling time per side value which is then output and displayed to the user.



Inventors:
Schedeler, Terry Lynn (Raleigh, NC, US)
Pfutzenreuter, Dean (Sunnydale, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/435059
Publication Date:
11/23/2006
Filing Date:
05/16/2006
Assignee:
Schedeler & Company, LLC (Raleigh, NC, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
F24B3/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
SPURLOCK, BRETT SHANE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DANIELS DANIELS & VERDONIK, P.A. (SUITE 200 GENERATION PLAZA, 1822 N.C. HIGHWAY 54 EAST, DURHAM, NC, 27713, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A method of calculating grilling times and parameters for specific items to be cooked on a grill, comprising: presenting a user an input screen and means for inputting grilling planning assumptions; inputting information about items to be grilled, including at least default grilling times, doneness factor, thickness factor, cut of meat factor and refrigerator factor as normalized values; calculating a grilling timeline by inputting said information as normalized values into a summing function to result in a calculated grilling time per side value; and outputting said calculated grilling time per side value to the user.

2. The method of claim 1, wherein said information further comprises a grill type factor, +grill covered factor, grill calibration factor, fire factor and outside temperature factor.

3. The method of claim 1, wherein said running function further adds a grill preparation time to said resulting calculated grilling time per side value.

4. The method of claim 1, wherein said input screen is located at a user device, and said information is transmitted to a central processor wherein said grilling time is determined, with the calculated grilling times per side value being transmitted back to the user input screen.

5. The method of claim 4, wherein said grilling time per side transmitted to the user further comprises transmitting a grilling timeline in a countdown mode wherein event times are indicated at specific intervals for the user to take specific action when conducting grilling.

6. The method of claim 1, wherein said cut of meat factor is indicative of different types of meat including at least pork, beef, fish and fowl.

7. The method of claim 1, wherein said input of grilling planning assumptions is conducted at a personal device connected to a server, and wherein said server calculates the grilling timeline from information received from the personal device.

8. The method of claim 7, wherein the personal device in a personal computer and the connection to the server is at least one of through a wired network and window.

9. The method of claim 7, wherein the personal device is a PDA.

10. The method of claim 7, wherein the personal device is a cellular telephone programmed to input said assumptions and to receive the grilling timeline.

11. A system for calculating grilling times and parameters for specific items to be cooked on a grill comprising: a user input screen for allowing a user to input grilling planning assumptions through said screen; input means for inputting through said screen information about items to be grilled, including at least default grilling time, doneness factor, thickness factor, cut of meat factor and refrigerator factor as normalized values; processing means programmed for having said information input thereto and for calculating a grilling timeline from said information as normalized values through a summing function to result in a calculated grilling time per side value; and means for providing an output to a user indicative of a calculated grilling time per side value.

12. The system of claim 11, wherein said input means is configured for inputting and said processing means is programmed for calculating said grilling timeline based on said information, and said information further comprising a grill type factor, grill covered factor, grill calibration factor, fire factor and outside temperature factor.

13. The system of claim 11, wherein said input screen is located at a user device, and said user device is connected for having said information transmitted to a central processor wherein said grilling timeline is determined, and for having the calculated grilling time per side value transmitted back to the user input screen.

14. The system of claim 11, wherein said summing function further adds a grill preparation time to said resulting calculated grilling time per side value.

15. The system of claim 13, wherein said processing means is further programmed for transmitting back to the user a grilling timeline in a countdown mode wherein event times are indicated at specific intervals for the user to take specific action when conducting grilling.

16. The system of claim 11, further programmed for processing said cut of meat factor as indicative of different types of meat including at least one of pork, beef, fish and fowl.

17. The system of claim 11, wherein said user input screen and input means are part of a personal device connected to a server, for having said server calculate the grilling times from information received from the personal device.

18. The system of claim 17, wherein the personal device is a personal computer and the connection to the server is at least one of through a wired connection and wireless.

19. The system of claim 17, wherein the personal device is a PDA.

20. The system of claim 17, wherein the personal device is a cellular telephone programmed to input said assumptions and to receive the grilling timeline.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is related to and claims priority to provisional application Ser. No. 60/652,208 filed May 19, 2005 to which priority is claimed, and the disclosure of which is specifically incorporated by reference herein.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This invention relates to a method and system for calculating grilling times for specific items to be grilled. More specifically, the invention relates to a method and system for determining and providing complete instructions and timelines allowing integration of grilling events into meal planning and preparation related to a cookout as a whole.

2. Discussions of Background Art

According to the latest statistics compiled by the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (2001), 3 out of 4, or 76%, of US households own a barbecue grill. 66,200,000 individuals have barbecued in the past year (*). The typical grill owner owns 1.4 grills. Although men are more likely (66%) than women to be the household member who barbecues, women are more apt to decide when and what foods to be barbecued. 58% of grills are used all year round. The Fourth of July is by far the most popular holiday for barbecuing, with 3 out of 4 (76%) grill owners barbecuing, followed by Memorial Day (58%) and Labor Day (51%). Hamburgers, steak, hot dogs, and chicken breast are the most frequently barbecued food items. (*) American Demographics, May 2000. All other information from Barbecue Industry Association 2001 Barbecue Lifestyle Usage & Attitude Study or HPBA Barbecue Industry Statistics.

Recognized cooking expert, Shirley O. Corriher in her book CookWise (p. 396) writes, “There are many variables in grilling—the temperature of the coals, whether the meat is directly over the coals or to the side, and so on—and there can be considerable differences in oven broilers. Only trial and error and experience will give you the expertise to get the steak on your grill or under your broiler exactly as you want it.”

A magazine ad headline for the Weber Performer Grill proclaims, “This summer, men will spend over two billion hours grilling. And approximately one billion hours making excuses for the results.”

Many experts (government entities, trade associations, publishers of recipes and cookbooks, etc.) offer general grilling guidelines for particular cuts of meat, thickness and doneness such as “4-5 minutes per side for medium rare.” However they leave it to the backyard chef to make any necessary adjustments required because of factors such as the type of grill (charcoal or gas), whether it is covered or uncovered, the type and temperature of the fire, weather conditions, the density of the cuts of meat being grilled, doneness preferences other than medium rare, and the like.

As a consequence, the average backyard chef is pretty much left on their own, typically resorting to inexact techniques such as moving items to different temperature zones on the grill, taking some items off of the grill prematurely in order to allow other items to cook longer, etc., often with undesirable, unpredictable and inconsistent results.

Devices such as quick-read thermometers and timers can prove effective when there is only one item to grill, or when all items are virtually identical in their cooking characteristics.

But a remarkably few variables, such as differences in the thickness of individual steaks, differences in the desired doneness, weather conditions or cooking temperature, can invoke the conventional trial and error tactics, and traditional excuses for the results described above.

The present invention allows backyard chefs to achieve the desired cooking result for a multitude of grilled items, independent of the griller's type of grill or grills, their grilling location, previous grilling skill, experience or expertise. Further, the invention enhances meal planning and preparation by allowing the user to store relevant details about their grill, as well as frequently grilled items for future use.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Even though cooking out is a favorite past time for many, it offers a number of inherent risks. Many a cookout has been dampened by steaks, hamburgers and other foods that were undercooked, overcooked, not served at the desired doneness or arrived at the dinner table cold or out of sequence with the other items on the menu. There can also be significant financial risk, as it is not uncommon for the cost of meat for a reasonably sized cookout to cost $50-$100.

Cookouts, by their very nature, tend to be social events. A gathering of friends, family, business associates and the like, whether like it or not, the backyard chef is held accountable for much of the success of this social experience. While some cookouts are highly structured events (for example, dinner at 6 PM), others are triggered by the instruction to start the grill (and frequently followed by the question “How soon until we can eat?”).

Over time some backyard chefs may learn the cooking characteristics of their grill, mostly by trial and error, and by potentially costly experiments with various types of foods. But for others, items are placed on the grill with little more than the best of intentions and hope for a successful outcome.

The current invention provides backyard chefs, regardless of their type of grill, outdoor grilling experience and proficiency, with a method and system for calculating grilling times for the specific items to be grilled, along with complete instructions and timelines for integrating these grilling events into the meal planning and preparation for the cookout event as a whole.

Thus, in one aspect the invention relates to a method of calculating grilling times and parameters for specific items to be cooked on a grill. The method involves presenting to a user an input screen and means for inputting grilling planning assumptions such as a screen pen, etc., as will be readily apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art. Information is input about items to be grilled including at least a default grilling time, doneness factor, thickness factor, cut of meat factor and refrigerator factor as normalized values.

For specifics about the different factors reference is made to the detailed disclosure herein and in particular when made with reference to the specific function described making reference to the various factors.

The grilling time is calculated by inputting the information as normalized values into a summing function to result in a calculated grilling time per side value. The calculated grilling time per side value is then output to the user.

In another aspect, the invention relates to a system for calculating grilling times and parameters for specific items to be cooked on a grill. A user input screen serves to allow a user to input grilling planning assumptions through the screen. Input means such as a pen, mouse, etc., serves to input through the screen or similar or equivalent hardware/software information about items to be grilled, including at least the default grilling time, doneness factor, thickness factor, cut of meat factor and refrigerator factor as normalized values. Processing means such as a computer with a CPU, e.g., a server, is programmed for having the information input thereto and for calculating a grilling timeline from the information as normalized values through a summing function to result in a calculated grilling time per side value. Means such as a printer or display or the like is provided for providing an output to a user indicative of a calculated grilling time per side.

In another aspect, both as to system and method, the information further comprises a grill type factor, grill cover factor, grill calibration factor, fire factor, and outside temperature factor. A summing function further adds a base grill preparation time to the resulting calculated grilling time per side value.

In a specific aspect the input screen is located at a user device and the information is transmitted to a central processor where the grilling timeline is determined with the calculated grilling time per side value being transmitted back to the user screen. A grilling time per side, in a preferred aspect, includes a grilling timeline in a countdown mode wherein event times are indicated at specific intervals for a user to take specific actions when conducting grilling. In a yet more specific aspect, the cut of meat factor is indicative of different types of meat including at least one of pork, beef, fish and fowl.

Yet still further, the input of grilling planning assumptions is conducted at a personal device connected to a server, where the server calculates the grilling timeline from information received from the personal device. The personal device may be a personal computer and the connection to the server may be a least one of through a wired network and wireless. Alternatively, the personal device is a PDA. In a yet still further alternative aspect, the personal device is a cellular telephone programmed to input the assumptions and to receive the grilling timeline and display it.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE VARIOUS VIEWS OF DRAWING

FIGS. 1-3 provide an overview of the web browser user interface and the primary functionality of the system.

FIGS. 4-5 show some of the adaptive features of the user experience and how individual items are added to the grilling list.

FIGS. 6-10 show additional features of the adaptive user experience and how multiple items are added to the grilling list.

FIGS. 11-13 show additional features of the adaptive user experience and entering grilling items based on the type of food to be grilled.

FIG. 14 shows how the system has the capability to conditionally deliver warnings and relevant context-sensitive functionality.

FIGS. 15-16 show how a group of identical items are added to the grilling list, and how the group is treated on the resulting grilling timeline.

FIGS. 17-23 show how grilling lists can be quickly created from list of favorite stored cookouts and individually stored grilling items.

FIGS. 24-25 show individual screen elements for the What's Grilling tab and Grilling Timeline tab, respectively.

FIG. 26 shows the dynamic addition of the Fridge Factor.

FIG. 27 provides a table of the Grilling Timeline Factors, including a description, default value and abbreviation for each factor.

FIG. 28 illustrates the database table settings that determine the various grilling factor values that are used by the cookout calculator.

FIG. 29 illustrates an exemplary process flow of the system.

FIG. 30 provides an exemplary system diagram.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The current invention can deliver the services it provides through a variety of devices, including by not limited to, an Internet web browser, a PDA (personal digital assistant) a text message or graphically enabled cell phone and a conventional printer. The current embodiment will describe the system in the context of the backyard chef accessing the system via an Internet connection and web browser, then outputting the resulting timeline and cooking instructions to a printer.

System Description

In the preferred embodiment, the system utilizes input from the user, data from external sources and a proprietary cookout calculation algorithm to create a cookout. This cookout is comprised of 1) the cookout time, 2) information about the user's grill, 3) weather conditions at grilling time, 4) a detailed list of items to be grilled and 5) a timeline calculated by the system that includes specific grilling instructions for the cookout which the user can then print. In addition, in a preferred embodiment, the system stores information such as the user's location, grill dimensions and grill preparation time, and the user may name and store grilled items or entire cookouts to recall for future use, significantly increasing the convenience of creating new cookouts.

System Diagram

A general diagram of an exemplary system of the invention is provided as FIG. 30. Users can connect to the system via the Internet 506 or other network, wired or wireless, using, for example, a personal computer 508 and a standard web browser. The system resides on a standard server 502, and is connected to a standard database 504. This server 502 serves up the web pages requested by the user, stores and retrieves information from the database and performs the calculations requested by the system. Outputs from the system include, but are not limited to, cookout printouts that can be directed to any printer accessible to the user, and also the potential to download and run the cookout timelines in real time on other devices 510 such as personal digital assistants (PDAs), cell phones, programmable timers, wireless devices and the like.

Process Flow

The system is designed to guide the user through a five-step process flow 402 as illustrated in FIG. 29. At the start 404, the user is presented with the input screen 406. The user inputs the planning assumptions for the cookout 408, such as the date, cookout time, weather, the grill to be used, fire settings, grill preparation time and the like.

Next, the user inputs information about the items to be grilled 410, including the type of meat, quantity, cut of meat, thickness, desired doneness, and optionally, a name/description and preferences/notes for each grilling item entry.

From the planning assumptions and grilling items input by the user, the system then calculates the grilling timeline for the cookout 412, taking into consideration all of the inputs, factors and preferences specified by the user.

The system then generates a 414 printout or displays through various available means an output that contains all of the planning assumptions and grilling instructions for the cookout, which the user can then print or otherwise use.

User Experience

User Interface Overview

FIG. 1 provides an overview of the web browser user interface, which is designed to create a user experience where the system adapts to the user in real time, retaining the context of the user's activities while providing visual feedback, relevant instructions, reminders and appropriate warnings. In the process, the user creates a list of the items to be grilled, which is displayed as the Grilling List. The user is then prompted to have the system calculate and display the grilling timeline for the items in the grilling list.

The user interface is comprised of five primary components, each of which will be described briefly here.

Heads-up display 104—This area of the user interface allows the user to enter and view basic information about the cookout such as a name for the cookout, the date and time of the cookout, information about the user's grill and weather conditions. The user's grill is displayed graphically, to scale, and items added to the grilling list below also appear on the grill, visually representing the relative size, shape and color of the item to be grilled.

The user will have the capability to drag and drop items to a desired location on the grill. Similarly, if an item on the grill is selected, it will display in the Grilling item workspace 116 where it can be modified or removed from the grilling list.

Relevant information, such as the grill type, dimensions, fire preparation time and location of the user (ZIP Code) can be stored by the system for future use.

Context-sensitive status line 108—The context-sensitive status line monitors the entries made by the user, and provides 1) initial and continuing instructions for building the grilling list and creating the grilling timeline, 2) prompts to complete the needed information for incomplete items on the grilling list and 3) instructions for recalculating the grilling timeline.

Tab controls 112—The tab controls are activated once the user has created a grilling list and grilling timeline, allowing the user to toggle between the grilling list and grilling timeline to easily make any necessary adjustments to the cookout.

Grilling item workspace 116—When the user selects the type of meat to be grilled from the Let's Grill drop down menu (i.e. beef, pork, chicken, etc.), the system adapts automatically, and the appropriate input fields and controls are displayed in the grilling item workspace. In the example shown, selecting beef from the Let's Grill menu dynamically displays data entry fields and controls for quantity, cut of meat, thickness, and desired doneness. In addition, the user is given the option to enter a name or description as well as preferences or notes for the grilling item.

When the Add to List button is clicked, the item is 1) placed on the grill in the Heads-up display 104, and 2) added to the Grilling list 120.

The user has the flexibility to add items in the Grilling item workspace 116 in any manner desired, for example multiple steaks of the same type but with varied thickness or desired doneness. The system will add the items to the Heads-up display 104 and the Grilling list 120, designating the needed information that will be required before the grilling timeline can be created. Examples of various Grilling item workspace 116 entry techniques will be presented subsequently.

Individual Grilling item workspace 116 entries can be stored in a Favorites list for future use.

Grilling list 120—The grilling list displays the details for all items to be grilled during this cookout. If an individual item on the Grilling list 120 is selected, it will display in the Grilling item workspace 116 where it can be modified or removed from the grilling list.

The grilling list can be saved in progress, and stored in a Favorites list for future use.

When the grilling list is complete, the user creates the grilling timeline by clicking the Create Timeline button.

FIG. 2 illustrates the result of the user clicking the Create Timeline button, which causes the system to 1) utilize the data collected by Heads-up display 104 and Grilling list 120 to 2) calculate the timing of cooking events and display the results via a series of user selectable timers on the Grilling timeline 204, along with specific grilling instructions. Tab controls 112 indicate that the focus of the lower portion of the screen has changed to the Grilling Timeline tab.

Grilling timeline 204—The primary purpose of the Grilling timeline 204 is to display explicit instructions (Events) and the specific times at which all items on the Grilling list 120 will be put on the grill and turned so that all items can be taken off the grill at the same time, with each item cooked to the desired specification (rare, medium, medium rare as shown in this example).

The user has the option to choose from a series of synchronized timers, each of which provides unique information in the context of the cookout. For example, if the user has selected in the Heads-up display 104 that the cookout will commence with starting the grill at 12:30 PM, allowing for 20 minutes to prepare the fire for grilling, the Approximate Time will reflect that dinner will be served at about 1:01 PM. The Elapsed Grilling Time (Stop Watch) provides instructions for the specific times during this 11 minute cooking timeline that various items will be placed on the grill and turned to achieve the desired results. The Countdown to Next Event timer tells the backyard chef how much time they have between respective events to perform other tasks, such as offering guests a beverage of their choice. Similarly, the Grilling Time Remaining provides a convenient way for the backyard chef to fulfill the spousal request to “let me know when we're ten minutes away from eating,” perform other tasks and manage the entire cookout with a standard countdown timer, if desired or preferred.

If the user needs to make any adjustments to the Heads-up display 104 elements, these can be performed and the user then simply clicks the Recalculate button to update the grilling timeline. In an alternative embodiment, the system can detect any change that will require the timeline to be recalculated, and perform the recalculation automatically. Similarly, if the user needs to modify the grilling list in any way, the What's Grilling tab can be selected, changes can be made, and the user simply selects the Create Timeline button to repeat the process of creating the revised grilling timeline.

When the backyard chef is satisfied with the grilling list and grilling timeline, the user clicks the Print Cookout button to obtain a printout of the entire cookout (see FIG. 3).

Clicking the Print Cookout button generates the printable page shown in FIG. 3, which includes 1) the name of the cookout, 2) the graphical representation of the items to be cooked on the grill which can be moved to the desired location on the grill, 3) a summary of the grilling event information, 4) the Grilling Timeline and 5) the Cookout Notes. In an alternative embodiment, the system will assign the cookout a unique reference number which appears on the cookout printout. This cookout reference number can be used to recreate the cookout for user support, training and similar purposes.

Adaptive User Interface Features

As mentioned previously, the system adapts to the user in real time, retaining the context of the user's activities while providing visual feedback, relevant instructions, reminders and appropriate warnings. These methods will be described in the figures and examples that follow.

Initial System Configuration

As the user begins to use the system, the system provides a number of visual prompts and cues for the necessary information, as well as context-sensitive instructions, as can be seen in FIG. 4.

The Context-sensitive status 108 line directs the user to “Select a meal time and provide your grill and weather information above. Then begin entering what's grilling below.”

The Heads-up display 104 indicates that the user 1) has the option to name the cookout in the field provided, 2) can select a cookout date, time and whether the designated date and time are the desired time to start the grill or eat, 3) must provide the grill type and whether it is covered or uncovered, the type of fire and optionally include grill preparation time, 4) must provide grill time weather information, either by entering the temperature manually or allowing the system to determine the temperature based on the user's grilling location (ZIP Code).

If the user does not provide all required information for the Heads-up display 104 (such as the type of fire), or attempts to perform a function that requires additional information (such as naming a cookout that is to be stored as a favorite or saved while in progress), the user will be prompted to provide such required information as part of series of error handing routines should the user attempt to create the grilling timeline. In an alternative embodiment, the system can default to the most likely settings and configuration parameters, while still allowing the user to change these settings and configuration parameters.

The Grilling item workspace 116 allows the user great flexibility for entering and modifying information for individual or multiple grilling items, as will be discussed. Use of the Name/Description and Preferences/Notes fields is optional.

Adding Individual Grilling List Items

This example shows the results of adding to the grilling list a single NY strip steak, 1 inch thick, to be grilled rare with light salt and pepper for Lindsay (along with the appropriate cookout information in the Heads-up display 104).

When the Add to List button in FIG. 4 is clicked, the steak for Lindsay is 1) placed on the grill in the Heads-up display 104, and 2) added to the Grilling list 120, as shown in FIG. 5.

The Context-sensitive status line 108 now directs the user to “Continue adding items to your Grilling List. When your list is complete, click the Create Timeline button below.”

Adding Multiple Grilling List Items with Varied Characteristics

FIGS. 6-10 demonstrate the adaptive features of the user experience as multiple steaks of the same cut and doneness, but with varied thickness are added for Joe and Terry.

FIG. 6 illustrates the user inputting a quantity of 2 rib-eye steaks of a varied thickness, but to be grilled to a doneness of medium rare.

When the user clicks the Add to List button (FIG. 7), the two rib-eye steaks are 1) placed on the grill in the Heads-up display 104, and 2) added to the Grilling list 120. Since the user chose not to assign a name/description to either of these steaks, the system automatically assigns the designations Rib-eye [1] and Rib-eye [2], respectively.

Since the two rib-eye steaks are of varied thickness, the system highlights that additional information will be required for each steak by 1) displaying “Thick?” in red on the Heads-up display 104, 2) displaying “Need” in the thickness column of the Grilling list 120 and 3) prompting the user to “PLEASE PROVIDE THE NEEDED INFO FOR THE ITEM INDICATED” on the Context-sensitive status line 108.

In this example the user will provide the required information for Rib-eye [1], by clicking on it, either from the Heads-up display 104 or from the Grilling list 120 (FIG. 8). The selected Rib-eye steak is brought back into the Grilling item workspace 116, with “Need” indicated in the thickness column. The Update List button replaces the Add to List button to reflect the user context. Similarly the Remove button is activated to allow the user to remove the item from the item from the grilling list, if desired.

As this scenario continues, the user selects the thickness of one inch, enters the name “Joe” and the preference “Garlic salt, pepper.” The user then clicks the Update List button, the results of which are shown in FIG. 9.

Rib-eye [α]is renamed “Joe,” and the added information is reflected in both the Heads-up display 104 and the Grilling list 120.

Similarly, the user will then provide the required information for Rib-eye [2], by clicking on it, either from the Heads-up display 104 or from the Grilling list 120 to bring the selected Rib-Eye steak back into the Grilling item workspace 116, where the thickness of 1.5″ will be selected, the name “Terry” assigned and the preference “Salt, heavy pepper” will be entered. Then the user will again click the button to update the Grilling list (FIG. 10).

Since all required information has been provided, the Context-sensitive status line 108 reverts to instructing the user to “Continue adding items to your Grilling List. When your list is complete, click the Create Timeline button below.”

In an alternative embodiment, the system dynamically changes the default settings for the cut of meat, based on the type of meat, and also dynamically changes the respective default thickness and doneness based on the cut of meat, eliminating the need to prompt the user for needed information.

FIGS. 11-16 demonstrate the adaptive features of the user experience in the context of a July 4th cookout where the user adds items to the grilling list based on the characteristics of the types of food to be grilled, rather than by the individual preferences of the dinner guests as depicted previously.

In this scenario, dinner will be served at 5 PM. The grilling list will be comprised of 1) two sirloin steaks of identical thickness, but of varied desired doneness, 2) two flank steaks for fajitas with identical grilling specifications, but one seasoned mild and the other seasoned spicy, and 3) hamburgers for the kids.

The two sirloin steaks, 1.5″ thick but with a varied doneness are added to the Grilling list using methods similar to the methods described in FIGS. 6-10. These steps are summarized in FIGS. 11-12.

FIG. 11 depicts how the system assigns a name to each steak (Sirloin [1] and Sirloin

and prompts the user to provide the needed information, in this case the doneness, for each.

FIG. 12 illustrates that the user has selected each steak, assigned the desired doneness for each and updated the Grilling list 120 accordingly, opting not to provide any additional information.

The next sequence, as culminated in FIG. 13, demonstrates the use of the Name/Description entry field using the method for adding individual items to the grilling list discussed in FIGS. 4-5. As each of the flank steaks is added to the grilling list, the user designates which of the steaks has been mildly seasoned, and which is spicy, in order to provide a description that will be used for both grilling and serving purposes.

Warnings and Conditionally Delivered Information and Functionality

The system has the capability to provide context-sensitive warnings, recommendations and similar types of pre-emptive information, as illustrated in FIG. 14. The user will be adding six hamburgers of a half-inch thickness to the cookout. When the user selects Hamburgers from the Cut of Meat menu, the system 1) prominently displays warning “THE USDA RECOMMENDS A MINIMUM DONENESS OF MEDIUM (160° F.) FOR THIS CUT OF MEAT,” 2) automatically adjusts the options available in the Doneness menu to medium or greater and 3) requires the user to invoke a special manual override method and confirm the selection of a range of doneness outside of the USDA recommendations which will also appear on printouts and downloads of the cookout.

Adding Multiple Grilling List Items with Identical Characteristics (Groups)

Since the user is adding six items (hamburgers), all of which are identical in every other way (thickness, doneness, etc.), the system automatically treats these items as a group, as illustrated in FIG. 15.

When added to the grilling list, the Heads-up display 104 distinguishes the Hamburgers as a group by 1) creating a highlight around the group elements and 2) using a unique color (in this example blue) to differentiate the group from the other items on the grill. The user can control the group to rearrange the group items to a desired location on the grilling surface. In an alternative embodiment, the group is graphically represented as individual grilling items, each of which can be rearranged on the grilling surface, but with individual reference lines that all point to the single descriptive callout.

This hamburgers group is also treated as such in the grilling instructions provided on the grilling timeline, as illustrated in FIG. 16 at the approximate time of 4:53 PM when the hamburgers are to be put on the grill.

It is also worth noting that since this scenario depicts a July 4th Cookout where dinner is to be served at 5:00 PM, the backyard chef can easily see from the grilling timeline that 1) the fire should be started at approximately 4:13 PM, 2) the best opportunity to refresh the drinks of guests is immediately after putting on Sirloin [1], and 3) the spouse will need to alerted that “we're about ten minutes away . . . ” shortly before turning Sirloin [2].

Creating a Grilling List with Stored Favorites

As discussed previously, the system allows the user to store individual grilling items or entire grilling lists as Favorites. These favorites can then be recalled to quickly build grilling lists, as will be demonstrated in FIGS. 17-23.

This scenario depicts having the Boss over for a cookout. The Favorite Family Steaks cookout was previously stored by the system, as were the preferences/notes for the Boss, which were stored under the name Boss the last time the boss came for a cookout.

The scenario begins with the user clicking the Select from Favorites link in the Grilling item workspace 116 (FIG. 17).

The My Favorites window opens, as illustrated in FIG. 18. This window is comprised of a list of Cookouts that have been previously stored by the user, as well as individual grilling items that have been stored by their Names & Preferences. Tabular controls allow the user to navigate between these lists easily. A line of instruction is also provided.

The list of cookouts can be sorted alphabetically, or by date as shown. The user can also expand an item in the list to view the detail of the desired cookout by clicking the detail arrow, as shown in FIG. 19.

The user can add the grilling items from the selected stored cookout to the new grilling list simply by placing a check in the appropriate checkbox and then clicking the Add to Grilling List button. The updated grilling list with the items from the Favorite Family Steaks cookout added is shown in FIG. 20.

The user can make any desired modifications to an item on the grilling list simply by selecting it, making the modifications and then updating the grilling list as described earlier.

As this scenario continues, the user will again click the Select from Favorites link in the Grilling item workspace 116 and then click the Names & Preferences tab, as illustrated in FIG. 21.

The list of stored items is presented, in alphabetical order. The user can expand an item in the list to view the detail of the desired item by clicking the detail arrow, as shown in FIG. 22.

The user can add the selected stored grilling item to the new grilling list simply by placing a check in the appropriate checkbox and then clicking the Add to Grilling List button. The updated grilling list with the steak for the Boss added is shown in FIG. 23.

It should be noted that if the user opts to store incomplete information for a grilling item (for example the cut of meat and doneness are stored, but the thickness is omitted), the system will automatically prompt for the needed information when the items is added to the Grilling list, as discussed previously.

The Stored Favorites functionality allows the user to rapidly create grilling lists and grilling timelines, with minimal effort. And as discussed previously, the user can add optional cookout information, store the new cookout in progress and add the new cookout to their list of favorites. If the cookout lacks any required information, the user will be prompted to provide the necessary information using the methods previously described.

In an alternative embodiment, the user also has the capability to store all of the settings from a cookout, including settings for fire, grill prep time, etc. so that the cookout can be easily replicated in its entirety.

Unique User Experience Features

Unlike more directed or wizard-like user experiences, this system is designed to adapt to the needs of the user in real time, and in their own context. While an overall workflow is inferred by the visual ordering of elements and the context-sensitive instructions, the user has the freedom to streamline the process of creating their grilling list using the variety of data entry techniques and features described herein. The system automatically prompts the user for any remaining required information.

The grilling timeline and cookout printout provide a series of timers and explicit instructions that help to ensure that the backyard chef will consistently achieve the desired cookout results.

Screen Elements and Functionality

Individual screen elements and their functionality will now be discussed in greater detail, as illustrated in FIG. 24.

The Cookout name field 2404 is an optional text field that allows the user to provide a name for the cookout, which will appear on the cookout printout and grill clock. If a cookout name is not provided, the system will substitute the term “Enjoy Your Cookout” in its place on the cookout printout. If the user attempts to store the cookout and no name has been provided for the cookout, the user will be prompted to provide a name for the cookout as part of the store cookout process. Similarly, if a cookout of that name already exists, the user will be prompted to either replace the stored cookout or store this cookout with a unique name.

The Cookout Time controls 2408 are comprised of 1) a calendar control, 2) a time control and 3) indicators for whether the selected time and date are the desired time to start the grill or eat. Use of these controls is optional, however if they are not used, the Approx. Time column of the Grilling Timeline will be blank (indicated by “——”). In an alternative embodiment, the time control can default to Noon and the Grilling Timeline respond accordingly. The calendar control defaults to Today. If the user clicks the calendar icon, a popup calendar displays to allow the select the desired date. The Time field allows the user to either pick the desired time from a list or to enter the desired time manually. The user then clicks the option that this is the desired time to start the grill or to eat. If the user indicates that this is the time to start the grill, the system will calculate the approximate dinner time, as reflected in the Approx. Time column of the Grilling Timeline. If the user indicates that this is the time to eat, the system will calculate the approximate time to start the grill, as reflected in the Approx. Time column of the Grilling Timeline.

The Weather controls 2412 are comprised of 1) a temperature field, 2) a ZIP Code entry field and a Submit button. The Weather controls can integrate with a third-party weather data source. The user enters their location (ZIP Code) and clicks the submit button. The system captures the cookout date and time collected by the Cookout Time controls 2408 and requests the correct temperature (Grill Time Temp) from the third-party weather data provider. Similarly, if the user's location has been previously stored by the system, the system will retrieve the Grill Time Temp automatically when the Cookout Time information is provided. If data from a third-party weather provider is unavailable, the user also can input or override the Grill Time Temp manually.

The Grill Info controls 2416 are comprised of 1) a grill type list and whether the cooking will be done covered or uncovered, 2) a fire list that provides options for both cooking method and fire temperature and 3) an optional list of the approximate time to allow for grill preparation. For occasional users of the system the Grill Type list is limited to either generic charcoal or gas grill, which will also be reflected in the Grill Display control 2420 (to be discussed shortly). For frequent users, the system will store the type (charcoal or gas), make and model, as well as shape and dimensions for multiple grills which can be selected from this list. These will also be reflected in the Grill Display control 2420 as they are selected from the list. Occasional users are required to indicate whether the cookout will be cooked with the grill covered or uncovered, while frequent users will have the option to store either of these as their default settings. The fire list provides a selection of the most common cooking methods and fire temperatures, such as direct-medium, direct-high and direct-low.

Occasional users have the option to include grill preparation time (Grill Prep) in the Grilling Timeline calculation, including that they are ready to grill. Frequent users also have this capability, along with the option to store the desired preparation time for multiple grills.

The Grill display/control 2420 is comprised of 1) a to-scale graphic depiction of the user's grill, 2) to-scale graphic depictions of the items to be grilled and 3) callouts which provide details of each item to be grilled. As items are added to the grilling list, the user may drag and drop them to the desired grilling location.

As discussed previously, the Grill display/control 2420 also reflects the details for each grilling item, including a name/description if one has been provided, thickness, cut of meat, desired doneness including center-of-meat temperature and any needed information. The user can also click an item in the Grill display/control 2420 to edit the item or remove the item from the Grilling List.

As has been discussed previously, the system continually monitors the status of the user and provides the appropriate instructions, warnings and recommendation on the Context-sensitive status line 108.

The components of the Grilling item workspace 116 will be discussed here. This workspace is comprised of the 1) Let's Grill menu 2424, 2) Select from Favorites link 2428, 3) Grill list entry controls 2432 and 4) Grill list entry buttons 2436.

The Let's Grill menu 2424 includes categories of commonly grilled foods such as beef, pork, chicken, etc. and drives the dynamic generation of the Grill list entry controls 2432. As shown in this example, selecting “beef” from this menu causes the system to dynamically build the appropriate selection parameters such as cuts of meat, thickness and desired doneness.

The Select from Favorites link 2428 allows users to quickly add individual items as well as complete cookouts to the grilling list as was discussed previously.

The fields in the Grill list entry controls 2432 are described as follows. Qty is an entry field for the number of the items to be entered. Cut of Meat is a menu of, in this example, most commonly grilled types of beef. This menu includes the option “Other,” which if selected provides a more extensive list of cuts of beef. The Thickness menu provides options from 0.5″ to 2.0″ in reasonable increments, as well as the option for multiple quantities of the same cut of meat to indicate that the thickness is varied. If an item has been added to the grilling list previously, but the thickness was either not selected or was varied, the system indicates that the thickness for this grilling item is needed. The Doneness menu provides reasonable options, such as from “Very Rare” to “Very Well Done,” including incremental options for “Rare,” “Med Rare,” “Medium,” “Med Well,” “Well Done,” etc. as well as the option for multiple quantities of the same cut of meat to indicate that the desired doneness is varied. If an item has been added to the grilling list previously, but the doneness was either not selected or was varied, the system indicates that the doneness for this grilling item is needed. Also, as discussed previously, if there are special considerations for doneness, such as the USDA of a minimum cooking temperature of 160° F. (Medium) for ground meat such as hamburger, the system will automatically 1) alter the Doneness menu list of options to Medium or greater, 2) display a warning in the Grilling item workspace 116 and 3) require the user to override the warning, acknowledging that they desire a doneness other than that recommended by the USDA. The Name/Description field is an optional field that allows the user to add a name or description to the selected grilling item. This name/description appears 1) in the Grill display/control 2420, 2) Grill list detail 2440, 3) as the descriptor for the item if stored in Favorites, 4) on the Grilling timeline instructions 204 and 5) on the cookout printout (FIG. 3). The Preferences/Notes field is an optional field that allows the user to add additional information for the selected grilling item. These preferences/notes appear 1) in the Grill list detail 2440, 2) with the item if stored in Favorites, 3) and on the cookout printout (FIG. 3). The Store checkbox allows the user to store the selected grilling item in Favorites. If the Store checkbox is checked, the user is prompted for the specific information that is to be stored when the Add to List/Update List button is clicked.

The Grill list entry buttons 2436 operate dynamically, based on the context of the activities of the user. If the function indicated by the button is unavailable in the context of the user's activity, the button is displayed in gray. Similarly the name of certain buttons will change, based on context. The Reset button is gray when all fields in the Grill list entry controls 2432 are blank. If any of these fields have been used (i.e. data entered or menu options selected), clicking the Reset button will clear all information in the Grill list entry controls 2432, and the button reverts to its gray state. The Add to List has two states. If the item in the Grill list entry controls 2432 is new, the button is titled Add to List. If the item in the Grill list entry controls 2432 has been selected from either the Grilling list 120 or the Grill display/control 2420, the button changes to Update List, and the Remove button changes from its gray state (unavailable) to active to allow the user to remove the selected item from the grilling list.

The Grill list detail 2440 provides 1) a scrollable listing of all items to be grilled and 2) a method for selecting a specific grilling item to be retrieved into the Grilling item workspace 116 where it can be completed, modified or removed from the grilling list. If an item is selected, it is highlighted in the grilling list. Similarly, visual feedback (mouseover highlighting) is provided to the user as the cursor rolls over items in the list. The Grill list detail 2440 reflects the details for each grilling item, including the quantity, cut of meat, thickness, desired doneness, name/description and preferences/notes if they have been provided and also indicates any needed information.

The Grill list buttons 2444 operate dynamically, based on the context of the activities of the user. Again, buttons for unavailable functions display in gray. The Clear List button is available only when there are items in the grilling list, and when selected, clears the entire list. The Save List in Progress button allows the user to build an incomplete grilling list and save it to be completed at a later time. The Store this Cookout in Favorites checkbox allows the user to store the entire cookout in Favorites. If the cookout has not been assigned a name in the Cookout name field 2404, the user will be prompted to do so. The Create Timeline button is activated when the grilling list contains at least one item to be grilled. Otherwise the Create Timeline button (as well as the Grilling Timeline Tab controls 112) are displayed in gray to indicate that these functions are unavailable.

As noted previously, when the user clicks the Create Timeline button the system calculates the grilling timeline and automatically activates the Tab controls 112, switching the user to the Grilling timeline 204, the details of which will now be discussed as illustrated in FIG. 25.

The Context-sensitive status line 108 adapts to the fact the user is now in the grilling timeline mode, displaying instructions on how to make modifications to the cookout information and to continue with the grilling timeline features (printing the cookout, etc.). The Select Timers link 2504 directs the user to a function which allows the user to select the desired timers and control their presentation in the grilling timeline. The Recalculate button 2508 allows the user to make any desired modifications to the cookout time, weather, or grill information and then recalculate the grilling timeline.

The Grilling timeline columns 2512 are comprised of a series of timers and events (instructions) generated by the system that include but are not limited to the 1) Approximate Time timer, 2) Elapsed Grilling Time timer, Event (grilling instructions), 3) Countdown to Next Event timer and 3) Grilling Time Remaining timer.

The Approximate Time timer displays time-of-day data only if the user has selected a cookout time using the Cookout Time controls 2408. If the cookout time is based on the time that the user will start the grill, this timer will provide the user with the approximate time that all items will be taken off of the grill. If the cookout time is based on the time to eat, this timer will provide the user with the approximate time to start the grill (if grill preparation time has been indicated) and to start grilling in order to serve the grilled items at the desired time.

The Elapsed Grilling Time timer displays the specific times at which events should occur along a timeline that commences when the user starts grilling. When used with the cookout printout, this timer allows the user to utilize any conventional timer (stop watch) to achieve the desired grilling results. The system calculates this timeline using the cookout calculator algorithm to be discussed shortly.

The system dynamically generates explicit instructions for the cookout events, and displays them in the Event column of the Grilling Timeline. If grill preparation time has been provided by the user, the first instruction will be to “Start the grill.” If the user has provided a Name/Description for an item to be grilled, that name will be included in each line of instruction, followed by details of the grilling item. If the user has not provided a Name/Description for an item to be grilled, the systems will assign a name to the item based on the cut of meat and its system assigned number, if the grilling list contains multiple items of the same cut of meat, along with details of the grilling item.

With the Countdown to Next Event timer, the system calculates and displays the time between events on the grilling list, allowing the user to efficiently perform other tasks, if desired or needed.

The Grilling Time Remaining timer is the inverse of the Elapsed Grilling Time timer. The Grilling Time Remaining timer displays the specific times at which events should occur along a timeline that counts down from the time the user starts grilling to the time that all items are to be removed from the grill. When used with the cookout printout, this timer allows the user to utilize any countdown timer to achieve the desired grilling results. It also provides a handy way for the user to easily know when, during the grilling timeline, meal time is a specific number of minutes away.

The system segments the Grilling Timeline into specific grilling events (see Grilling Event 2516). Each event contains the instructions for the grilling items to be put on the grill, turned, etc. during that event.

The Grilling Timeline buttons 2520 allow the user to 1) store the entire grilling list for the cookout in their Favorites and 2) to create a document from which the user can then print the cookout, respectively.

Inline Updates to Features and Functionality

As the system evolves, it must provide the flexibility to accommodate seamless updates to features and functionality. For example, during early testing of the cookout calculator it was realized that while some recipes recommend allowing grilling items such as steaks and pork chops to stand at room temperature for 20-30 minutes prior to grilling, there are also circumstances in which these items will go directly from the refrigerator to the grill.

Conversely, it is widely recommended that ground meats, such as hamburger, as well as chicken be refrigerated up until grilling time.

To address these needs, the Fridge Factor menu 2604, as illustrated in FIG. 26, is dynamically invoked when the user selects any cut for which allowing it to come to room temperature is recommended. If the user selects to allow the grilling item(s) to stand at room temperature for any of the optional times (i.e. 20 or 30 minutes), an event reminding the user to remove the items from the refrigerator at the appropriate time is added to the Grilling Timeline (similar to the reminder to start the grill, if the Prep time option has been selected).

If the user indicates that the grilling item(s) will go directly from the refrigerator to the grill, an appropriate Fridge Factor adjustment to the grilling time calculation will be made (to be discussed in detail below).

Cookout Calculation Algorithm

A cornerstone of the invention is the cookout calculation algorithm. This process uses a baseline approach from which a multitude of factors are then applied to calculate both the grilling time per side, as well as the total grilling time for each item on the grilling list.

This process is initiated when the user 1) clicks the Create Timeline button on the What's Grilling tab, 2) clicks the Grilling Timeline tab or 3) clicks the Recalculate button on the Grilling Timeline tab, or in the alternative embodiment discussed previously, automatically when the user makes a change that triggers the recalculation feature.

The grilling time calculation for each item on the grilling list is affected by 1) the characteristics of the item to be grilled, 2) aspects of the grill and 3) grilling conditions, such as the outside temperature at grill time.

The Nine Step Process

Step 1. Calculate Per Side Grilling Times—The grilling time per side for each item on the grilling list is calculated, taking into account the various grilling time factors which will be discussed in detail below.

Step 2. Calculate Total Grilling Times—The grilling time per side for each grill item is multiplied by 2 to calculate the total grilling time for each item.

Step 3 Round the Per Side and Total Grilling Times—The per side and total grilling times are rounded to the nearest logical timing increment, for example 30 seconds, to streamline the grilling process and reduce the number of times the lid will be removed.

Step 4. Convert Grilling Times to hh:mm:ss—The per side and total grilling times are converted from the decimal form to their respective hours:minutes:seconds format.

Step 5. Convert Grilling Times into Events—The total grilling times and per side times are designated as the “Put on” and “Turn” times, respectively.

Step 6. Convert Planning Assumptions into Events—Planning assumptions, such as the number of minutes to allow for grill preparation, time to allow meats to stand at room temperature before grilling and whether to use the designated cookout time as the time to either start the grill or eat are calculated and converted into their respective events.

Step 7. Consolidate and Display Timeline Events—Events that occur simultaneously are consolidated into single events and the results are displayed in the respective grilling timeline columns, as previously discussed.

Step 8. Recalculate (optional or automatic)—If necessary, any last minute adjustments to any facet of the cookout can be made by the user, and the cookout can then be adjusted accordingly by clicking the Recalculate button. Or automatically by the system in the alternative embodiment of this feature.

Step 9. Output Cookout to Printer—The user can then create a version of the cookout on which the user can finalize the arrangement of items on the grill and then print the cookout, allowing the user to then follow the grilling instructions to achieve the desired grilling results.

Baseline Factor Approach

Through the review of numerous grilling books, documentation from leading grill manufacturers and meat processors (as well as our own grilling experience and testing) it has been determined that for various types of meats of varying thicknesses that can be grilled to desired or recommended levels of doneness over a direct fire—such as steaks, hamburgers, pork chops, boneless chicken breasts, etc.—there are recommended ranges of grilling times. For example a typical steak (NY strip), 1″ thick, that has been allowed to stand at room temperature for 20-30 minutes prior to grilling on a covered, charcoal grill over a direct-medium fire (350° F.-375° F. or four second hand count) when the outside temperature is greater than 65° F. will consistently achieve a doneness of “Medium” (160° F.) with a total grilling time of 10 minutes, 5 minutes per side.

FIG. 27 illustrates how these factors equate to the following baseline calculations:

Grilling Time Per Side Calculation (GTPS) - Baseline
GTPS =DGT×CT×TK×DD×FF×GT×CV×GC×FT×OT
5111111111

Grilling Time Per Side (GTPS)=5 minutes (to display as 00:05:00)
Calculation: 5×1×1×1×1×1×1×1×1×1=5
Total Grilling Time (TGT)—Baseline
The total grilling time (TGT) is the grilling time per side (GTPS), times two.
TGT=GTPS×2
Total Grilling Time (TGT)=10 minutes (to display as 00:10:00)
Calculation: 5×2=10

Adjusting each factor increases or decreases the grilling time per side (GTPS) as well as the total grilling time (TGT). Each of these factors can be adjusted, based on a number of criteria, so that the system can accurately approximate grilling times for various types of meat and cuts, grilled to a variety of desired doneness with different types of grills and under varying grilling conditions.

Doneness Factor Example

For example, if the desired doneness for the above steak is modified to “Medium Rare” (145° F.), setting the Desired Doneness factor (DD) to 0.9 will result in the grilling time per side (GTPS) being reduced by approximately 30 seconds per side as follows:

Grilling Time Per Side Calculation (GTPS) - Desired Doneness Medium Rare
GTPS =DGT×CT×TK×DD×FF×GT×CV×GC×FT×OT
5110.9111111

Grilling Time Per Side (GTPS)=4.5 minutes (to display as 00:04:30)
Calculation: 5×1×1×0.9×1×1×1×1×1×1=4.5
Total Grilling Time (TGT)—Desired Doneness Medium Rare
TGT=GTPS×2
Total Grilling Time (TGT)=9 minutes (to display as 00:09:00)
Calculation: 4.5×2=9
Additional Thickness Adjustment Example

If, in addition to the adjustments to this grilling item made above, the thickness is increased to 1¼″, setting the Thickness factor (TK) to 1.3 will result in the grilling time per side (GTPS) being increased by approximately 1 minute 30 seconds per side as follows:

Grilling Time Per Side Calculation (GTPS) - Medium Rare, Thickness 1¼″
GTPS =DGT×CT×TK×DD×FF×GT×CV×GC×FT×OT
511.30.9111111

Grilling Time Per Side (GTPS)=5.85 minutes (to display as 00:06:00 with rounding)
Calculation: 5×1×1.3×0.9×1×1×1×1×1×1=5.85
Total Grilling Time (TGT)—Medium Rare, Thickness 1¼″
TGT=GTPS×2
Total Grilling Time (TGT)=11.7 minutes (to display as 00:12:00 with rounding)
Calculation: 4.5×2=11.7
General Discussion of Grilling Timeline Factors

In general, the grilling timeline factors fall into four categories: 1) the characteristics of the item to be grilled, 2) aspects of the grill, 3) grilling conditions and 4) the capability for the griller to make adjustments. Each factor is calibrated to incrementally adjust the grilling timeline in the context of what the specific factor is taking into account. For example, the range of variation for different cuts of meats may range from 0.9 for Boneless Chicken Breast to 1.2 for Flank Steak, whereas the range of variation for different thicknesses of meats may range from 0.6 for ½″ thick to 1.8 for 2″ thick.

Similarly, factors such as the outside temperature, whether the grill is charcoal or gas, calibrating the grill for the desired grilling temperature and whether the grill will be covered or uncovered may affect the cookout as a whole. In addition, certain factors may have more than one dimension of affect. For example, a grilling item that goes directly from the refrigerator to the grill (rather than being allowed to stand at 20-30 minutes prior to grilling) may be affected by both the cut and the thickness in order to be effectively brought to grilling temperature.

These incremental ranges of adjustment are based on and influenced by the grilling guidelines provided by leading cookbooks and published recipes, physics (such as differences between cooking with charcoal or gas), safety issues such as the USDA recommendations for certain types and cuts of meat, testing and best practices (such as allowing chops and steaks to stand at room temperature prior to grilling).

FIG. 28 illustrates how the database table settings affect various grilling factor values.

Discussion of Each Grilling Timeline Factor

Default Grilling Time Per Side Factor (DGT)

The default grilling time per side provides the baseline for grilling timeline calculations. The current default for the system is 5 minutes, although this factor may be modified programmatically, as required.

Cut of Meat Factor (CT)

The cut of meat factor allows the system to take into account such things as the relative density of the item being grilled and variations among similar cuts. It also acts as a trigger for the presentation of the Fridge Factor if the selected item is a steak or pork chop (to be discussed in detail under Fridge Factor).

As discussed previously, the default cut factor for a NY strip steak is 1. This factor may be adjusted downward (for example 0.9) to meet the recommended grilling times for cuts of meat such as boneless chicken breasts and boneless pork chops, and for cuts of beef such as rib-eye steaks and filet mignon which are more tender. Conversely, the cut factor may be increased (for example 1.1 to 1.2) to accommodate the increased grilling time required for more muscular (and generally tougher) cuts of meat such as sirloin and flank steak.

The cut factor may also be used to take into account slight differences, such as between bone-in and boneless pork chops. Another example would be the probable preferences related to NY strip, filet mignon, Porterhouse and T-bone steaks. Both the Porterhouse and the T-bone steaks are comprised of a NY strip on one side of the bone, and filet mignon on the other. Since the filet mignon is a tenderer cut, it may have a cut factor of 0.9, where the NY strip has a cut factor of 1. The primary difference between the Porterhouse and NY strip steak is that on the Porterhouse, the filet mignon side is considerably larger than on a T-bone, and could in fact be the entree if the steak is being shared by two people. By comparison, on the T-bone steak the filet mignon portion usually amounts to little more than a few tender and flavorful bites worth, not a meal-size portion. Therefore, the cut factor for the Porterhouse may be set by the system to favor the filet mignon side of the steak, while the cut factor for the T-bone may be set by the system (kept at the default setting) to favor the NY Strip side of the bone.

Thickness Factor (TK)

The thickness factor allows the system to take into account a range of thicknesses of meat, for example from ½″ to 2″ by employing a range of factors from 0.6 to 1.8, respectively. Special factors for specific cuts of meat, for example ¼″ chicken breasts, may be employed as well.

In instances where the inherent characteristics of the cut of meat may limit the thickness, such as is the case with flank, skirt steak and boneless chicken breast where the maximum thickness is 1″ or less, the system will restrict the menu options to the logical thicknesses.

Desired Doneness Factor (DD)

The desired doneness factors, which range from 0.6 to 1.4, are based on the recommendations of industry leaders and bodies such as the USDA as follow:

Very Rare (130° F.)

Rare (140° F.)

Medium Rare (145° F.)

Medium (160° F.)

Medium Well (165° F.)

Well Done (170° F.)

Very Well Done (180° F.)

As discussed previously, in instances where the inherent characteristics of the cut of meat may limit the desired or recommended doneness, such as is the case with chicken, pork and ground meats such as hamburger, the system will recommend best practices and restrict the menu options for doneness, where appropriate.

Fridge Factor (FF)

The Fridge Factor calculates the amount of time to be added to the grilling time per side to bring the specified cut of meat up to grilling temperature, in cases where the meat has been placed on the grill directly from the refrigerator (and not allowed to stand at room temperature). In cases where the thickness of the cut will also need to be taken into consideration, an additional adjustment will also be made.

Grill Type Factor (GT)

There are inherently different characteristics between the fire on a charcoal grill and a gas grill. For example, charcoal provides dry radiant heat whereas a by-product when propane or natural gas is burned is water. Therefore it is necessary to make a relative adjustment to the grilling time to account for these differences.

Grill Covered Factor (CV)

While it is generally recommended that the grill be covered during grilling to consistently attain the desired results (hence a default value of 1), the system will also provide the ability to calculate the grilling timeline for an uncovered grill, within a reasonable range of grilling conditions, such an outside grill time temperature >70° F., assurance of a minimum direct-medium fire, etc. In cases where these conditions are true, a reasonable grill uncovered factor (i.e. 1.2-1.3) will be applied that is consistent with industry recommendations for grilling times. In instances, such as a low grill time temperature or where items on the grilling list may require special care, the system will warn that the grilling timeline may not be suitable for this cookout.

Grill Calibration Factor (GC)

The grill calibration factor allows the user to calibrate the system to their specific grill or grills. If, for example a gas grill user's grill setting for a direct-medium fire is consistently higher or lower than the user expects, the user can adjust this setting to “fine tune” the system to their grill.

Fire Factor (FT)

While the recommended fire temperature for the grilling of most supported grilling items is direct-medium (350° F.-375° F. or four second hand count), some recipes call for grilling over a direct-high fire (400° F. to 450° F.-2 second hand count). Similarly, it's not uncommon for the user of a charcoal grill to experience an occasional underperforming fire (300° F. to 325° F.-5 second hand count). The fire factor allows the system to take this variance of fire temperature into account and adjust grilling times accordingly.

Outside Temperature Factor (OT)

The outside temperature factor conditionally increases the grilling time for the cookout based on the grill time temperature, if the grill time temperature drops below 60° F. In instances when the outside temperature is simply too low or where items on the grilling list may require special care, the system will warn that the grilling timeline may not be suitable for this cookout.

Timeline and Timer Calculations

Timeline and timer calculations are derived as follows:

Grill Prep Time

A list of objects is sorted using the Time to completion (back time) to do a reverse sort. For example, Put on event of 7 minutes (total grilling time) and a turn event of 3.5 minutes (grilling time per side) will be:

“Put on X” 7

“Turn X” 3.5

The Grill prep time is added to the time for the first item in the sorted list.

For the timeline above, a Grill Prep Time of 20 minutes will calculate and display the following:

“Start Grill” (Grill Time Remaining) 00:27:00

“Put on X” (Grill Time Remaining) 00:07:00

“Turn X” (Grill Time Remaining) 00:03:30

Start the Grill/Eat Time

Start the Grill Option—If the user selects Grill time (for example 5:00 PM) then the initial time is set to 5:00 PM and at each event the time is added on and displays as:

“Start Grill” (Grill Time Remaining) 00:27:00 (Approx. Time) 5:00 PM

“Put on X” (Grill Time Remaining) 00:07:00 (Approx. Time) 5:20 PM

“Turn X” (Grill Time Remaining) 00:03:30 (Approx. Time) 5:23 PM

“Take Off” (Grill Time Remaining) 00:00:00 (Approx. Time) 5:27 PM

Eat Time Option—The calculation is exactly the same except the longest duration is subtracted from the time first. For example, 5:00-:27=4:33. The result displays as:

“Start Grill” (Grill Time Remaining) 00:27:00 (Approx. Time) 4:33 PM

“Put on X” (Grill Time Remaining) 00:07:00 (Approx. Time) 5:53 PM

“Turn X” (Grill Time Remaining) 00:03:30 (Approx. Time) 5:56 PM

“Take Off” (Grill Time Remaining) 00:00:00 (Approx. Time) 5:00 PM

Timers

Approx. Time—The Approx. Time displays only if the Grill Prep feature is selected, and it displays the approximate time in the context of the option selected (i.e. based on the time to start the grill or eat). Otherwise the Approx. Time column displays as “——.” If the alternative embodiment of defaulting to Noon is employed, the calculations will be based on Noon, unless the user modifies the cookout time settings.

Elapsed Time—This is defined as: (timeElapsed +=fLastIntervalToNext) This translates to: timeElapsed is set to 0 when the first item goes on the grill. Then with each iteration through the sorted array of events, the interval between items is stored. In the example from above, there are 3.5 minutes between put on time and turn time) which calculates as follows:

“Start Grill” 27 timeElapsed=0 fLastIntervalToNext=20

“Put on X” 7 timeElapsed=0 fLastIntervalToNext=3.5

“Turn X” 3.5 timeElapsed=3.5 fLastIntervalToNext=3.5

“Take Off” 0 timeElapsed=7 fLastIntervalToNext=0

Countdown to Next Event—The Countdown to Next Event is simply the difference between the current back time, minus the next events back time. From the example above, Start Grill=20 and Put on X=7, so the countdown to next event=27-20=20 and displays as follows:

“Start Grill” (Grill Time Remaining) 00:27:00 (Next Event) 00:20:00

“Put on X” (Grill Time Remaining) 00:07:00 (Next Event) 03:30:00

“Turn X” (Grill Time Remaining) 00:03:30 (Next Event) 03:30:00

“Take Off” (Grill Time Remaining) 00:00:00 (Next Event) 00:00:00

Grill Time Remaining—The Grill Time Remaining is simply the current items back time for each event, displayed in hh:mm:ss format as follows:

“Start Grill”(Grill Time Remaining) 00:27:00

“Put on X” (Grill Time Remaining) 00:07:00

“Turn X” (Grill Time Remaining) 00:03:30

“Take Off” (Grill Time Remaining) 00:00:00

System Design/Development

The system, as will be apparent to those skilled in the art, is designed to be developed using standard technologies and development tools. For example, the user experience can be created using widely known and supported technologies such as dynamic html, scripting such as javascript and Flash. The calculations used for the cookout calculator, along with supporting computer logic can be developed using a programming language such as C# and dynamically generated and presented to the user via .NET Framework. The grilling timeline factors and member preferences, etc. can leverage standard database methodologies.

In addition, the system is designed so that additional factors can be incorporated into the system as needed, and the system can also be fine-tuned for specific applications. For example, an industrial version of the invention can be created that is adjusted specifically for the higher temperatures used in commercial kitchens. Similar adjustments can be made to allow for more precise turning times, total cooking times and to optimize various factors to maximize the system to the specific needs of the commercial cooking environment.

Having thus described the invention, the same will become better understood from the Appended Claims in it is set forth in a non-limiting manner.





 
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