Have you had issues with controlling Smoker Temperature? There are a lot of gadgets you can buy for your grill or smoker to make the process easier. Some are necessary and some are not. No matter what smoker or grill you have, you have to know what the temperature is at the grill grate, and you have to know the internal temperature of the meat before pulling it off, to ensure tender juicy deliciousness. As you practice with different cuts of meat and get to know your smoker, you can abandon measuring the internal temperature at times, but it is always a nice safety net for success. There are a lot of devices out there to help you measure meat and smoker temperatures. Below are the devices I have used myself, and trust to get the job done. Keep in mind some of the best devices can eventually have a faulty temperature probe. To check the accuracy of your device, test the temperature of boiling water and it should be pretty close to 212 F, within a few degrees. Boiling point varies with altitude. Here in Iowa, it is about 210 F. Check out what temperature your boiling water should be at for your altitude here.
With the goal of controlling the final temperature of your meat, you can use a lot of devices to get there. Generally they fall under the three categories: Temperature Probes, Temperature Monitors, and Temperature Controllers. Below is a cute little table that points out some of the similarities and differences
Temperature Probes vs Temperature Monitors vs Temperature Controllers
If you are only interested in grilling and not smoking, I would recommend purchasing a high quality Temperature Probe, and stop there. If you are using an electric smoker or gas smoker with the ability to control temperature, I would buy a temperature probe and temperature monitor. If you are using a charcoal smoker, such as a Big Green Egg or Weber Smokey Mountain, then I would recommend a high quality Temperature Probe and Dual Probe Temperature Controller. I use a Big Green Egg for longer smoke sessions and in the last 6 months, I have only used my Temperature Probe and Temperature Controller. Temperature controllers cost more than temperature monitors, but after you buy one…. you will curse yourself for waiting so long. Your food comes out perfect and it allows you to sleep peacefully… especially after a few beers.
If you are somewhat new to grilling and smoking meat, this is your best investment. Temperature probes allow you to quickly check the internal temperature of your meat during your cook to check progress of the cook and to determine when to pull the meat off the smoker or grill. Whether you are grilling a steak or smoking a large brisket, the internal temperature of the meat is your personal guide to perfectly cooked beef, chicken, and pork. If you need more info on internal temperatures, check out my personal guide. The best temperature probe on the market is the ThermoWorks Thermapen. It is the most expensive, but they work so well. Buy one of these and you will be set for years. Below are a few more less expensive temperature probes, but they are not as accurate and their response time is not as good. Fast response time is important when you are smoking meat – the longer your smoker is open, the more the temperature fluctuates. Go with the ThermoWorks Thermapen if you can afford it. I have had mine for 5 years now and have not replaced the battery, and the accuracy is amazing.
ThermoWorks Super-Fast Thermapen – Hands down the best meat probe you will buy to ensure awesome results when grilling and smoking meat. Super fast response times in the 1-2 second range let you confirm temperatures quickly and accurately. Have you ever pulled off a steak too early, serving it too rare. Or, over cooked a chicken? This is your answer. I have taken the liberty of laminating a few temperatures on the back of my thermapen, for quick reference while grilling.
Maverick Pro-Temp Commercial Thermometer PT-100 – A mid-range budget option for checking internal temperatures. Good accuracy and a folding temperature probe with response times around 4 seconds.
ThermoPro TP-07 300 feet Range Wireless Food Thermometer – This is actually what I would refer to as a temperature monitor. However, it is one of the faster reacting temperature monitors, making it useful as a stand along temperature probe with more capabilities. This is a dual probe setup that allows you to monitor the temperature inside the smoker and monitor the internal temperature of your meat (brisket, pork shoulder, etc) while hanging out inside the house or over at your neighbors house. If you are new to the BBQ game and want a temperature monitor that will serve as a temperature probe, this is a good choice.
Wireless Smoker Temperature Monitors
Do you ever feel like you are strapped to your smoker? A wireless temperature monitor is your answer if you want to keep an eye on it from inside the house. There are a ton of wireless smoker temperature options under $100 to choose from. I do not even entertain non-wireless units because it makes no sense to buy them when you can get a good wireless option for $70. I have used all the options below. If you only need to move a short distance away (under 50 ft) from the smoker, go with the iGrill 2. It is the easiest to use with a great user interface on an iPhone or Android device. If you need to move farther away from the smoker, go with the ThermoPro or Maverick setup. They both allow you to ramble hundreds of feet away from the smoker, unchaining you from your smoker. Before you purchase a wireless smoker temperature monitor, check out Smoker Temperature Controllers too. You might want to skip monitors and get a controller.
ThermoPro TP-07 300 feet Range Wireless Food Thermometer – This is a dual probe setup that allows you to monitor the temperature inside the smoker and monitor the internal temperature of your meat (brisket, pork shoulder, etc) while hanging out inside the house or over at your neighbors house. I did test the range on this setup to 300 ft and it did hold the connection. Impressive for a relatively low cost.
Maverick ET-733 Long Range Wireless Dual Probe BBQ Smoker Meat Thermometer – Maverick has been making wireless temperature monitors for years. This is a dual probe setup to monitor your smoker and your meat. I have owned the earlier model for years and it still works good. The range has been good and the temperature probes have not been replaced. This is another good low cost solution to let you walk away from the smoker and watch the temperature of the smoker and meat.
iDevices iGrill2 Bluetooth Thermometer – I love almost everything about this well designed unit. It looks great. The display is bright. It can measure up to 4 different temperatures at one time! It connects seamlessly to your iPhone or android phone with a well designed app. It comes with two meat probes. I use one meat probe for the smoker temperature and it works fine. The only draw back is the wireless range. It drops out around 50-60 ft for me. However, I love everything else about it. When I am going to be close to the smoker, this is by far my favorite choice for a stand alone temperature monitor.
Smoker Temperature Control Devices
A good temperature controller allows you to set the target temperature controller of your smoker and walk away for hours or go to bed and actually get some sleep knowing your meat is going to turn out great. Smoker Temperature Controllers also allow you to develop precision, making it easy to repeat great results. Next to a quality Temperature Probe and a quality Smoker, this is your best investment to produce great tasting smoked meat every time time you fire up the smoker. Hook up one of these awesome devices to your smoker, and you have all the convenience of a commercial smoker in your backyard. All of these can be hooked up to the most popular charcoal smokers (Weber, Big Green Egg, Kamodo Joe, Primo). I have personally used both of these options, and they make smoking meat easy for anyone. My personal favorite is the Flame Boss 2oo WiFi. It is so easy to setup and you can control your smoker from any computer or mobile device with a web browser…. bad ass! BBQ Guru PartyQ is a great setup powered by AA batteries and is also easy to use. However, it does have its draw backs. Check out my full reviews below to make the right choice for your setup.
Flame Boss 200-WiFi Kamado Grill & Smoker Temperature Controller
If you are short on time, let me start by saying I love the Flame Boss 200 – Wifi unit. From unboxing the product to smoking setup, the process was a breeze. You can literally have the unit connected to your WiFi network and up and running within 5 minutes. It keeps the smoker at the target temperature (just keep the lid closed as much as possible) and the user interface is simple and a joy to use. You can control temperature settings from the device itself, or through any web interface which is also simple and straight forward. Set the temperature and head to the golf course and adjust the set temperature from anywhere. It controls your smoker temperature, and also monitors your meat temperature. You can purchase it on Amazon for $345. Check out my full review here…..
BBQ Guru PartyQ BBQ Temperature Controller
Prior to using the Flame Boss 200-Wifi temperature controller, I used the BBQ Guru PartyQ temperature controller. It does a nice job of controlling any small or mid-sized smoker. I use a large Big Green Egg, and the fan is plenty strong to bring it up to temperature and keep it steady for hours. The unit is powered by 4 AA batteries, which is nice if you do not have easy access to power. The down side is you have to put in new batteries for every 12 hour smoke session to cure your paranoia of running out of batteries during the night. I have found 4 AA batteries usually last around 15 hours, so you can get 2 shorter smoke sessions out of one set of batteries or one long session. It does have a low battery LED signal, but that does not help you if you are away from your smoker.
The BBQ Guru PartyQ does not have a temperature probe for your meat. It only controls the temperature of your smoker. If you want to monitor the temperature progress of your brisket, then you need to purchase a separate temperature monitor. One feature the Party Q does not have, is open lid detection. Higher end units sense the temperature drop when you open the lid, and kill the fan. This prevents your fire from being over stoked, resulting in overheating your smoker. My work around for this issue is to turn the unit off every time you open the lid. It was not a big deal, but something to be aware of. If you open the lid for 30 seconds and the fan is kicking full gear, your fire does get a little out of control.
Although it has its drawbacks, the BBQ Guru PartyQ is a great simple solution if you do not want to spend too much and you already have a temperature monitor. I used this unit for almost 2 years and it holds the temperature where you want without issues, as long as you kill the unit when the lid is open. You can buy it for about $159 on Amazon.