To help you find the best BBQ temperature controller, we delved into the intricate details of these small yet powerful gadgets.We love barbecue for many reasons: the company’s great, it’s healthy, and it’s mouthwatering good. Still, many people are reluctant to make a BBQ because it’s such a long and tedious task. Countless trips to the smoker to check the fire over the course of 10+ hours is surely not our idea of fun.
These devices are designed to solve the most annoying problem of all pitmasters – the consistency of pit temperature required for the evenly-cooked, delicious barbecue. After all, you want to be able to relax a bit while you cook, right? If you’re aspiring to become the barbecue master of the neighborhood, read about BBQ temperature controllers here!
Advantages and Drawbacks of BBQ Temperature Controllers
If you’ve ever tried smoking meat the right way, letting it smoke for anything between 10 and 15 hours, you know how hard it is to let it go. Loving all things grill, we know that it’s almost impossible not to worry about the conceivably extinguished fire or the possible flame break out. BBQ temperature controllers are there to take care of that for you – simply set it and forget it.
On the other hand, if you’re investing 10+ hours into preparing your food, it’s only reasonable you want it to be extra juicy and perfectly cooked all-round. One of the most common letdowns of home grilling and smoking is dried up or partly raw food. There are common mistakes in cooking and with a temperature controller on hand, you will eliminate one of them as a disappointment of unevenly cooked food again. The way it helps is rather simple, but it makes all the difference – the device makes sure your coal is on a consistent, controlled fire. That also means your food will get steady processing.
Furthermore, these gadgets are programmed to alert you whenever your attention is required, so you don’t have to keep going back to check. These will sound an alarm when there’s a significant temperature change – so not only will it secure your home and garden, but it will also let you know if you need to add more coal.
Wi-Fi supporting models come with an additional perk – remote control. While most basic devices support the alarm system, some higher tier models also let you control the unit from a long distance. With Wi-Fi control, you can tweak all the parameters from your bed, and receive a phone notification when your food’s done or requires attention.
1. Temperature Controller Advantages
So, to sum up, a BBQ temperature controller brings a lot to the table of any aspiring pit master:
- Prevents drying out and partially raw food – your food is evenly cooked every time
- The thermometer probes measure the exact temperature of both the grill pit and the food itself
- Minimizes the fire hazard grilling and smoking inevitably comes with
- Remotely control any Wi-Fi supporting model
- Reduces coal usage by holding the combustion rate under control, saving you money
2. Temperature Controller Drawbacks
Of course, nothing’s perfect, so these controllers come with a few disadvantages as well:
- The controller doesn’t help much if your vents are leaking air, so make sure your grill or smoker vents are in a good condition beforehand
- Not all models come with a food probe, so you might need to get additional gear
- As with any piece of technology, BBQ temperature controllers are not fool-proof and can glitch
- Most models require a steady source of electricity but don’t support batteries, which makes them inconvenient for camping
Best BBQ Temperature Controllers Comparison Chart
IQ110 BBQ TEMPERATURE REGULATOR KIT
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DIGIQ DX3 BBQ TEMPERATURE CONTROLLER
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IQ120 BBQ TEMPERATURE REGULATOR KIT
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FLAME BOSS 100 UNIVERSAL GRILL & SMOKER TEMPERATURE CONTROLLER
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TEMPMASTER PRO BBQ TEMPERATURE CONTROLLER
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PARTYQ BBQ TEMPERATURE CONTROLLER
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Best BBQ Temperature Controller Reviews (Updated List)
While most models of BBQ temperature controllers available on the market essentially do the same job, they differ in various features and accessories. We’ve tried many out and finally decided on our favorite models considering price range, warranty, overall performance, and various features of the devices. Let’s go through our top picks.
1. IQ110 BBQ Temperature Regulator Kit
This affordable model is one of the cheapest controllers on the market, yet it did a top-level job keeping the temperature steady and resulting in mouthwatering juiciness. Used via a dial, the main drawback of this model is its lack of display. That means that it can’t give information about the current temperature, so it’s not a great choice if you’re dealing with an old or unreliable smoker.
It only supports the pit probe, so we recommend getting this model along with a top-rated wireless meat thermometer for the best results. Combined with the wide variety of adapters, this controller is versatile, fitting the best small grills and the top-rated offset smokers including Weber, Char-Broil, Brinkman, Viking, and many more.
While we didn’t have any problems, some users report the plastic hose bending to the smoker heat, so make sure your setup is fire-proof. The company, Pitmaster, covers this device with a 2-year limited warranty, so you can count on it working for a while!
2. DigiQ DX3 BBQ Temperature Controller
This medium-tier device by the industry pioneer BBQ Guru comes with great performance and a relatively high price. The very sturdy aluminum casing ensures the device is durable and up to the task. The defining feature of this model is its ramp function – once the meat temperature starts reaching the target one, it will automatically slow cooking down, so you get enough time to take it out of the smoker before it dries out. This is super convenient if you can’t get the food out in time.
Even though this model doesn’t have a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection, it still lets you know that the food’s ready thanks to a loud alarm with an adjustable volume. It comes with a very wide adapter palette, making it one of the most universal devices on the market. Supporting one pit and one food probe, this unit is great for family-size barbecue dinners. It controls the temperature perfectly and has a reliable open lid detection. BBQ Guru supports this model with a 2-year limited warranty.
3. IQ120 BBQ Temperature Regulator Kit
Coming as the next iteration of Pitmaster’s pilot model IQ110 covered above, this newer model comes with the reliability and several improvements to the older one.
Supporting both the pit and a food probe, both 6 inches long, this device will definitely make sure your food is never over or undercooked. With the largest improvement upon the previous manufacturer’s model being the digital display, it offers so much more. You can track current food and pit temperatures, and fan activity. However, the display is on the small size, making it more difficult to set up.
While this unit is still rather basic compared to fancier models with colorful features, it’s a reliable model which offers sufficient options and good performance for a fraction of the price. This model is perfect for family-size dinners and pitmasters looking for a reliable, yet inexpensive BBQ aide. It comes with a 2-year limited warranty.
4. Flame Boss 100 Universal Grill & Smoker Temperature Controller
This middle tier controller by Flame Boss is one of the best-looking devices we came across. Sleek and compact, it’s simple, sturdy, and ergonomic.
The controls and the LCD display values are very straightforward and easy to understand. Speaking of displays, this model includes the most comprehensive overview, including the set temperature, the live feed of the pit and meat temperatures, and the current fan blowing speed. The variable speed fan works like a charm, keeping the temperatures steady even when we couldn’t resist peeking under the lid. As this is a “universal” model, it fits most smokers except the Big Green Egg and other kamado ceramic grills.
This model doesn’t support Wi-Fi, but it will sound an alarm if the temperature changes suddenly, or when your meal is done. This set comes with a year-long warranty, but its sturdy design promises steady service for years to come!
5. TempMaster Pro BBQ Temperature Controller
Coming from a newer competitor on the market with a witty name, BBQube’s TempMaster is a beautifully designed, powerful machine available for a fair price. This hefty device comes with full control over a powerful, variable-speed fan. It’s operated by a rather simple dial knob and a couple of buttons, and setting up the device is a breeze.
The body of the controller device doubles as a charging dock for a detachable wireless thermometer, which you can use for about 20 hours on a single charge. Supporting 4 thermometer probes at once, you can track the cooking process from a Bluetooth-powered phone application. The app creates live temperature graphs and supports alarms and notifications. The device comes with 3 probes – one pit, one short food, and one long food probe. This unit comes with a 1-year limited warranty.
6. PartyQ BBQ Temperature Controller
This simple yet reliable device is a perfect choice for anybody who wants to save on redundant features and invest in a decent, durable BBQ companion. Fitting any ceramic cooker or the Big Green Egg without any additional mounting, this model comes with a simple display and two buttons.
The selling point of PartyQ is its exceptional portability. In fact, this is the only device on the market powered strictly by batteries. While a load of 4 AA batteries can last for days on end, brief power shutdowns (when you want to replace an empty battery, for example) are not a problem as the gadget will simply restore previously used settings. This model doesn’t have open lid detection, can’t ring alarms, and it only supports a pit probe.
This device provides exactly what it promises – steady temperature control – and keeps it simple. It’s supported by BBQ Guru’s 2-year limited warranty, which should be plenty for such a high-quality device.
What is a BBQ Temperature Controller?
While it might seem like a complicated piece of hi-tech at first glance, a BBQ temperature controller is, in fact, a simple gadget. In essence, it’s a combination of a pit thermometer and a fan that is used to control the amount of air in the coal chamber. Because oxygen feeds the burning process, the amount of air in the chamber equals the intensity of the fire. They’re most commonly made for grills and smokers that use coal as fuel.
These devices are cherished among amateurs and pros alike for the way they simplify and automatize a painstakingly demanding and boring task. You already know that when you’re looking – you’re not cooking, so BBQ temperature controllers are there to help you oversee the progress from afar. Keeping track of the pit temperature is done via a pit and a food probe, both connected to the main controller. This means that you don’t need to open the pit in order to know how the grilling is going.
As devices, BBQ temperature controllers can take any barbecue to the next level. Whether you’re leaving your meat to slowly smoke through the night, or you’re up to a quick searing, these devices will help you achieve a perfect temperature and an evenly cooked meal. Furthermore, they can be used with most closed-body charcoal smokers and grills available on the market. They’re amazing, and a much-recommended addition to any Egg style, ugly drum, and kamado smokers. And don’t worry – while not all available grills are the same, they all use a set of standard adapters used to secure the fan to the coal chamber, so you’ll easily find the right one for your smoker or grill.
How Does a BBQ Temperature Controller Work?
It doesn’t matter if you’re going for a restaurant-grade device, or you’re happy with a basic unit that’ll establish you like the neighborhood pitmaster. In reality, most of these devices work in the same way but differ in some features and accessories. Read on to find out what parts you should expect to get, what they do, and how to use them like a pro from day one.
1. Which parts do I get in the box?
While specific models have different features and accessories that come with them, BBQ temperature controllers generally work in the same or similar way.
Therefore, most units have the same basic parts:
- A pit probe that measures the temperature of the grill grate
- The main control unit which is programmed to maintain the perfect temperature
- An automatically adjustable fan with an adapter that lets you mount it to the coal chamber vent of your smoker or grill
- A food probe you can insert into the cooking food, which makes it easy to know that dinner’s done
- Power cords or batteries
2. How does it all come together?
Looking at the individual parts, a BBQ temperature controller may not seem too complex, but it surely is a powerful little device. Luckily, this simplicity also means that setting the device up is easy! We’ll give you detailed instructions below. These are true for any generic controller, but if your model’s manual states otherwise, follow the official instructions by all means. Let’s go through the most common installation process.
2.1. The Setup
The first thing you’ll have to do once your controller arrives is to install the fan adaptor, a flat plate with a hole, to the bottom vent of your grill or smoker. Usually, this will be as easy as simply inserting the plate and shutting the vent. Once you attach the fan to the adaptor, it should be the only source of air for the coal chamber. Once you turn the device on, the fan will change airflow to the chamber, feeding or starving the fire of oxygen, maintaining the temperature.
Make sure to leave the top vent slightly open. On the other hand, the bottom vent should be sealed, not letting air inside (apart from the controller’s fan).
Once you’re ready to begin grilling, simply attach the pit probe to the grate of your grill. The pit probe is easy to recognize as it’s the one with the alligator clip. Its job is to measure the temperature at which your meat’s grilling. Pro tip – attach it somewhere close to where your meat will go! This way, you’ll have the most relevant and accurate temperature measurement.
If your device has one, insert the food thermometer into whatever food you’re making.
Finally, connect all cords with the main gadget, and you’re ready to go. This should be a piece of cake as the outlets are usually clearly labeled.
Once you do this simple setup, you should be ready to fire up the grill and enjoy the juiciest homemade ribs ever! Simply set the temperature you want, and you’re free to roam about without worry. If an accident does happen and your grill starts overheating, the device will sound an alarm for you. Some models even support Wi-Fi, so you can control the settings, track the food temperature, and even get a phone notification once your food’s ready!
BBQ Temperature Controller Buying Guide
Now that you’re better acquainted with this handy piece of tech, it’s time to figure out the most important variables you should consider when choosing the model that will suit you best. As with most technology, these devices also come in different tiers. Which tier you choose to get does not only depend on how much money you’re willing to invest but the features and accessories you’d like to have played a role as well. Let’s take a look at the features you should look for (and those you should avoid) when picking out the perfect BBQ temperature controller for you!
Being a gadget that is made to last for many years, most BBQ temperature controllers are made of durable and high-quality materials.
When it comes to the probes, there is a little variation in the ones that come with controllers. However, it’s a given that you want the probes to be made of sturdy, durable material which you’ll be able to use over and over.
Most models available on the market have their main unit encased in a heavy plastic casing. Ideally, these should be grease-proof and in a simple, easy to wipe shape. Remember that these devices are made to stand next to a smoker grill, so they will inevitably get dirty. Choosing the model that’s easy to clean and maintain will save you a lot of time and effort in the coming years of juicy barbecuing!
2. Temperature Probes
In most types of food thermometers, there is a standard set of two probes which are used to track temperature – pit and food probes. However, some of the lower-end or more basic models do not come with a food probe at all. In these cases, you should consider getting a digital food thermometer separately, if you don’t have one lying around already.
In general, you should consider getting a model that comes with both. The pit probe, which ends with an alligator clip, is used to measure the temperature of the surface on which your food’s being cooked. Once you attach it to the grill grate, run it to the main unit and plug it in.
The food probe is the one that ends with a long needle. This shape is made to pierce meat easily, no matter the chunk size or type. It would be perfect if you inserted the probe through the food so that it touches the middle. Depending on the model, your barbecue aide may have plugs for additional food probes, which you can use to track several pieces of cooking food at once. However, you may have to get the additional food probes separately.
Once you run the food probe to the main unit, you should feel free to close the lid of the pit over the cords. Make sure to pick a model with cords that are durable and thin enough to support the weight of the lid without breaking.
3. The Fan
The fan is the heart and soul of all BBQ temperature controllers, so you should make sure that the fan you get is made of high-quality materials. They come along with a special adapter which you should use to secure the coal chamber vent and ensure that it’s airtight. The fan should be the only source of air in the chamber in order for the controller to do its job effectively. This is the reason why you should pay close attention when choosing the right model for your grill or smoker.
These blowers either have variable rotation speed, or they control airflow by turning on or off.
While fans which rotate at variable speeds may sound like a necessary feature, that’s actually not true. Simple on/off fans do the job of controlling the air volume well, albeit differently than variable speed fans do. Of course, variable speed fans do add a bit to the equation as they provide somewhat more consistent and reliable temperature control.
If you don’t mind adding in a few bucks for this feature, we say “go for it.” However, if you’re looking to save some cash, feel free to skip on the variable fan speed feature – any good old on/off fan should work well enough!
4. Open Lid Detection
We know that even with the security of a BBQ temperature controller, sometimes you simply can’t resist the temptation to look. We’re guilty of it too! However, it’s important to keep in mind that whenever you open the grill lid, the temperature changes significantly. This happens both because the existing warm air escapes the pit and because the sudden surge of oxygen feeds the coal making it burn more ferociously. As they say – If you’re looking, it’s not cooking!
Luckily, the brilliant engineers of our barbecue BFFs took this into account and built a feature they named Open Lid Detection. It does exactly what it sounds like – once the probes detect the sudden temperature change typical for lid opening, the fans stop or slow down the air flow. This way, it’s easier for the device can maintain the temperature.
The Open Lid Detection feature is one we highly recommend. It would, of course, be better if you didn’t lift the lid at all, but this way it won’t be that big of a deal!
5. Display Options
Browsing through the various options available on the market, you will notice that there are some models with, and some without a display.
Those that do have a display on the main unit usually have a standard digital display of varying intricacy. Of course, more expensive models will come with more comprehensive displays – including features such as food temperature, fan speed, the set, and the actual pit temperature.
On the other hand, some models come completely display-less, and naturally, they’re usually sold for less. These devices still do the same basic task of managing your grill’s temperature, but they don’t display the measurements they get.
Whether you’d like to invest a bit more and get a model which can display intricate detail, or you’re fine with just setting the temperature on a dial is up to you. In general, we’d suggest getting a model with live temperature feedback, but if you don’t find this feature necessary, you’ll be better off saving a couple of bucks.
6. Wi-Fi Remote Control
Smoking might be one of the most established methods of meat processing, as it started in prehistory. The way of preparing the food itself didn’t change all that much. Luckily, the tools and the technology we use in this ancient form of cooking evolved rapidly in the last couple of decades.
Today, we have the capability to control the heat under our grill grates from the comfort of our living rooms. Models that support Wi-Fi connection allow you to make any setting adjustments from your mobile phone or tablet. They also let you track the temperatures and send notifications if and when the smoker requires your attention.
The connection procedure is quite simple for most models. In fact, you’ll be able to do it with ease if you follow the Wi-Fi instructions provided in your model’s user manual. Depending on the manufacturer and the specific model, you can take control of your device through either an app or a URL.
The ability to connect to Wi-Fi is the number one feature that differentiates one model from another. Given that it makes it possible to change grill temperature from miles away, it is also a somewhat expensive feature. We’d strongly recommend getting one anyway if it’s within your means.
7. Mounting Options and Cords
Another thing you’ll need to consider when getting a new BBQ temperature controller is its placement. Given that grills and smokers are inevitably a fire hazard, you definitely want to minimize the risk. To do that, you’ll need to figure out where the device will be placed while it’s on the job.
All models will come with a mounting system, and these can range from simple magnet holders to standing or wall-mounted holders.
Make sure to measure the distance from the nearest electric outlet to where your device will be mounted. Remember to check if the included cord is long enough before making your final decision.
Finally, if you’re a camper, we’d suggest looking into the models which support batteries as a portable source of energy. With this feature, you can make restaurant-grade barbecue anywhere, even out in nature!
FAQ about BBQ Temperature Controllers
1. Can temperature get out of control?
Yes, but this is rarely due to the controller itself. If the device is unable to keep the temperature steady and your grill keeps getting hotter than it should be, this is likely due to air leaking into the coal chamber. Any air that’s not coming from the controller’s fan is going to disturb the temperature because it ultimately depends on the oxygen levels inside the coal chamber. The first step to take if your smoker is heating excessively is to check if the chamber vents are properly positioned. If they are, check if any other seals let air through, and fix the rupture before continuing with the cooking process. If you manage to find the air leakage and make the chamber air-tight, you can freely continue cooking as your BBQ temperature controller will work like a charm!
2. Can I use the controller to make a barbecue in the winter?
Yes, you can use most models available on the market at any time of the year!
Cold weather won’t have any adverse effects on BBQ temperature controllers, even in sub-zero temperatures. While digital displays sometimes run a bit slower in cold weather, the electronics running the device will continue working normally even in the coldest days.
In fact, you can use your controller in almost any weather. In the scorching summer days, it’s recommended to move the device from direct sunlight because it might overheat, but this is not a common problem.
You don’t have to fret, even in every pit master’s nightmare scenario. If you’re making barbecue and it suddenly starts raining, it’s enough to cover the main unit in a ziplock or similar waterproof baggie. Humidity itself cannot damage your device, so if your controller is covered when it’s raining, you’re good to go!
3. What is the best place for the pit probe?
There are two common ways to set up your pit probe, so it reads the most accurate temperature your meal is being cooked at:
- Clip it to the food probe – Once your food probe sits securely in the meat, you can attach the alligator clip to the visible part of the meat probe. Ideally, the pit probe should be about 2” away from the food. Make sure that the pit probe clip does not touch your food, as this can cause faulty temperature measurements.
- Clip it to the grill grate – The alligator clips are also easy to attach to the grate itself. This is the more common way to take temperature measurements. You should follow the 2” recommendation in this case as well, again making sure the pit probe clip is not touching the food.
4. What is the difference between grilling and smoking?
In simple terms – grilling is fast and hot, while smoking is slow and low. Most really good barbeque is, in fact, smoked. You can use any type of coal you prefer – both briquettes and coal lumps will be easily regulated by any of the mentioned controllers.
Smoking is done over the course of several hours, in many cases 10 and more. While it may seem excessive to leave meat cooking for such a long time, once you try it, you’ll know why BBQ is loved throughout the country. When left for a slow and low cook, the collagens, connective tissues in meat will break down. This results in tender meat that melts in your mouth, compared to the tough chunks of meat you get after a high-intensity but short cooking.
In order to get the juiciest smoked barbecue, you’ll want to keep it cooking at a temperature between 200 and 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a BBQ temperature controller will make the process seamless and carefree, even letting you leave the smoker work overnight.
Tender, juicy meat that melts in your mouth should not be reserved for upscale restaurants. Modern technology makes it possible to automate and surpass the tedious tasks that make all the difference in cooking. You don’t need to study the intricate chemistry of meat smoking to be able to make a fabulous barbecue like a professional pit master.
Having the best BBQ temperature controller on hand can help you prepare and enjoy delicious specialties for a fraction of the price they cost in a restaurant. This automatic barbecue aide takes care of all the guesswork and exhausting, repetitive tasks that keep our grills and smokers dusty.
We hope that you found all the answers you needed to earn your title of the neighborhood barbecue master. If you have any questions left unanswered, or you’d simply like to share your experiences, feel free to leave a comment!