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Is a controller neccesary?

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    Is a controller neccesary?

    I did a search on this subject but came up empty. If there is a thread on this already let me know.

    I'm debating on getting just a thermometer again or a controller/fan. The price difference is significant.

    My cheap old 2 channel remote thermometer isn't working now and I did a smoked leg of lamb on the Weber kettle this weekend using a clip on oven thermometer and overcooked it. I was planning on a 5 hour cook and checked at 3 hours and it was done.

    I will be getting the Weber Kamado next year and passing the kettle on to my son.

    I plan on getting in to cooking more with charcoal and wood and less with the gas grill including longer over nights, possibly in the winter too.

    My question is this. Does temperature fluctuate so much during a cook that a controller is worth it? Or does temperature remain flat enough (until fuel depletes) that its not really necessary?



    #2
    Necessary? No.

    Convenient, especially if you like to sleep during overnighters? Heck yes.

    Look maybe into the Thermoworks stuff....you can buy a thermo now to replace your wonky unit, and if you decide later on you want a controller you can add their billows to it.

    As an aside....the weber Kamado is nice and generally holds itself rather well. However......winter. You get a wet rain or a bone chilling wind and you can wind up having some fluctuation. Generally if it's a day cook I dont worry much about it. but again, those overnighters....I like sleep!

    Edit: Welcome to the Pit!

    Comment


    • Razor
      Razor commented
      Editing a comment
      Everything in this post x2.

    #3
    I agree that it is a matter of convenience. For me time is a factor so anything I can do to help that is good. BTW, welcome from Virginia!

    Comment


      #4
      I think for longer cooks, a controller really helps. Once it settles to its temp, there’s not much checking needed.

      Comment


        #5
        People have cooked without thermometers since they tamed fire, so yes - you can do it, and you should do it at least until you can do it.

        A temp controller just makes it easier, but if ya want to forgo that expense, ya need to do a few things. (I do like xaugievike 's idea of getting a Thermoworks Smoke to spread out the expense.)

        Make sure your cooker is not leaking smoke anywhere but through the upper vent. If you can't control the air, it's difficult to control the temps.

        Pay attention to exactly how much fuel you use and how you place it in the cooker. Keeping a cook log helps with this. If you do everything the same way, it's easier to learn what works for you. Other variables such as the weather may affect your cooks too.

        Pay attention to the meat too. The larger a hunk o' meat is, the longer it will take to get to your desired temp. I know that's obvious, but if you can dial in a 1.5" thick steak, (for instance), you will have an idea of when a thicker or thinner steak will be done.

        And don't chase temps. Some rise and fall is normal, and most things can turn out great over a fairly wide range of temps. If the temp doesn't settle, and keeps rising or falling, then make adjustments.

        And we are here to help whether or not you get a controller.

        And, welcome to The Pit.
        Last edited by RonB; July 20, 2021, 11:27 AM.

        Comment


        • xaugievike
          xaugievike commented
          Editing a comment
          This point about learning to operate your cooker without a controller is a great piece of additional advice!

        • big_mack
          big_mack commented
          Editing a comment
          I am leaning towards Thermoworks over Fireboard or other small boutique brands. And the regular original Smoke is affordable, but can you add a controller to it? I thought the only controller capable units were the Signal and the new Smoke X.

        #6
        As others eluded, necessity is really personal and also related to the smoker to a degree. For me, ATC on a smoker is a requirement as I never just BBQ, I’m doing other things waiting for my food to cook. It’s one of the reasons I don’t have a stick burner, I’m not ready to devote the focus needed. I tried a COS and I’m distracted doing other things and my temps are all over instead of remembering to just put another split on every 30-40 mins. I will say your planned acquisition does do exceptionally well at maintaining temps, so if you don’t mind checking things and tweaking vents a little during cooks, a Maverick or such would probably be fine.

        A Fireboard 2 Drive is a great tool though. Having the logs of your cook can be an indispensable digital bbq diary. I always have high and low alarms set on cooker and finish alarms on food. Overnight, they are set to text me every 5-10 mins in case something were to go wrong like the fire go out. I know some of the Maverick style beep until you stop them, so not a total improvement over at least some of the ‘dumb’ wireless thermometers, but more customizable and easier to set in the app versus all the button presses on the handheld unit.

        Comment


          #7
          When I first started smoking meat I was using a kettle and the air controller and temp management was awesome. I was able to go to bed at night and sleep 5 or 6 hours or more before I had to check it. I'd buy it again.
          I use the thermoworks unit.

          Comment


            #8
            An emphatic YES !!!

            Comment


              #9
              I would not say they are totally needed. But they are sure nice to have. I have run my kamados overnight with out any controller, and had no problems. But I am sure glad I had the controller at other times. Like when the wind kicks up or dies down.

              Comment


              • Argoboy
                Argoboy commented
                Editing a comment
                Spinnaker is right if the wind kicks up it can change the temperature after it is set that is true.

              • big_mack
                big_mack commented
                Editing a comment
                I can get big temp swings from day to night. 25F swings. that could be reason enough to go with the controller.

              • Mosca
                Mosca commented
                Editing a comment
                100% this. I’ve run many cooks on my BGE both with and without a controller. I bought one and use it because I like gadgets.

                A controller is NOT a guarantee. Your fire can still crater, and the fan will spin like crazy trying to get combustion where there is no fuel. It’s less likely, but a fire can also run away if there is an air leak. I’ve had both happen. I’ve also done overnight briskets without a controller, where the BGE held rock steady 250* for 15 hours. Anything can happen.

              #10
              They sure do make things easier and convenient. If that’s important to you then invest in a quality unit. For me, I’m typically doing other things like yard work, kids’ events, honey do’s, etc. This allows me to “be in 2 places at once” so to speak.

              My preference is the Fireboard, had bad luck with BBQ Guru.

              Comment


                #11
                For a Kamado, like the WSGC or whatever the abbreviation for the vac sealed metal kamado is... I don't think you need a controller. A good remote thermometer would be a nice to have, but once you dial that it, it should stay dialed in for a long time.

                Might be nice to have one, but it's far from a necessity.

                Comment


                  #12
                  They sure do make things easier and convenient. If that’s important to you then invest in a quality unit. For me, I’m typically doing other things like yard work, kids’ events, honey do’s, etc. This allows me to “be in 2 places at once” so to speak.

                  My preference is the Fireboard, had bad luck with BBQ Guru.

                  Comment


                    #13
                    I think the right answer here is... it depends.

                    On what kind of smoking you plan on doing

                    When you plan on doing it

                    And whether you're generally around or want the freedom to go out.


                    If you're doing mostly shorter cooks, under 6-8 hours? I doubt the extra control over the temps will matter that much. It will make things more predictable since you'll know that, say, ribs take X hours at 250 on your cooker whereas something without that tight control might take 4 hours or 6. If you're doing long cooks, overnight cooks etc you'll know what the temp is with much greater precision and have more peace of mind in that respect.

                    Likewise, if the weather is decent and not varying much? You don't have to contend with winds or significant temp variations affecting the cooker. It's winter, 34F out and there are blustery winds? Let the controller deal with that so you don't need to go out in the weather and play with the vents, etc.

                    Lastly, convenience. Want to go do something else for awhile away from the house? You won't have to worry about temps or the like.


                    But NEED? Nah. It's really all about predictability and convenience.

                    Comment


                    • big_mack
                      big_mack commented
                      Editing a comment
                      I live in Calgary and we get big temp swings in a day. It can be 30C during the day and 15C at night. 60F to 85F. and we can get strong wind. This might be why I should get a controller.

                    #14
                    Big Mack, welcome! My first question is…how old of a guy are ya? More on that later.

                    I can’t speak to the kamado you’re getting. Every cooker is different so you need to get some insight from folks who use them. With my Primo I can get a solid 6 hrs of exact same temps w a full load of lump once the temp locks in. Then it starts to slide lower.

                    Back to age. When I was younger and felt it important to control and understand the process. I felt manly staying up all night… I mean I’d grab about 5 hrs of shut eye. But now, I have no interest in babysitting a cook all night long. Plus I end up drinking so damn much that I don’t even care about the meat the next day 🙄🙄🙄.

                    Ultimately you should be able to run your cooker w/o technology in case there is a malfunction of some sorts, BUT if you can afford it - GET ONE!!!!

                    Comment


                    • big_mack
                      big_mack commented
                      Editing a comment
                      In the same camp. not interested in babysitting. I don't want to have to adjust vents and flow every hour.

                    #15
                    As others have said, it's more of a luxury than a necessity. I always use my PartyQ on my Weber 26" kettle for long cooks. I like how it wrings every last BTU out of the coals before they completely burn away.

                    Comment

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