Many pitmasters have embraced the concept of “set it and forget it,” smoking which means setting the smoker to the desired temperature and smoke level and letting it do its work with minimal need of “babysitting.”
This is especially useful during overnight low and slow smoking.
But to be able to go to bed without worrying about how the meat is cooking, you will need a reliable BBQ temperature controller.
Here are the top recommended BBQ temperature controllers for 2021.
The top choice for a temperature controller for “set it and forget it” smoking is this reliable combo by FireBoard.
It supports up to 6 temperature probes and comes with three included. The controller has variable temperature control, pushes the data logs directly to the cloud, and can even send you notifications on your Apple Watch.
Best of all, you program this controller to switch the smoker’s temperature when the internal meat temperature reaches a certain level. For example, you can set the unit to crank up the temperature from 225 degrees Fahrenheit up to 300 degrees F once the internal temperature of your brisket reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit. And all of this is done completely automatically.
- Easy to set up and connect to your wireless network and the web
- The drive updates the temperatures in real-time to the cloud
- The data is accessible via iPhone, Android. Apple Watch and the web from anywhere
- Its app is user-friendly, allows for complex cooking programming, and is among the best in the industry
- It supports up to 6 external temperature probes
- You will receive one ambient temperature and two internal meat thermometer probes with the drive
- You can set the smoker temperature to change when the internal temperature of the meat reaches a certain level
- It is powered by a li-ion rechargeable battery and is sold with a USB-C PD charger
- It has a helpful grill clip
- The powerful 20 CFM fan has adapter plates allowing for easy setup on most smokers
- You can fine-tune the airflow of the fan thanks to its integrated sliding damper
- The fan has variable speeds
- FireBoard’s drive and fan are compatible and will work together seamlessly, allowing you to set and forget the smoker even overnight
- You can pair the driver with another 12V fan if you prefer
- Backed by a 1-year warranty
- There are no preset cooking programs in the app
- The drive doesn’t come with a magnet for easy mounting, and you will have to buy one separately
The runner-up in this list is a Signals thermometer and Billows fan kit combination by the leaders in the industry ThermoWorks.
The newly improved Signal thermometer has both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity and comes with one of the best mobile apps in the business, which will make smoking and barbecuing a breeze.
It has a large and easy to view display and is splash resistant, and supports up to four temperature probes.
The snap-on blower is easy to mount and is sturdily built to endure years of use.
- The Signals thermometer can be used as a standalone alarm thermometer and can also be connected to your Wi-Fi network for remote monitoring from anywhere
- It has 4 channels for ambient and internal meat temperatures
- You can set high and low-temperature alarms and minimal and maximum temperature alerts for each probe
- You will receive 3 Pro Series cooking probes and 1 Pro series ambient temperature probe with the thermometer, so you don’t need to purchase them separately, but it is compatible with another 6 different probe types
- A backlit display for easy viewing of all 4 temperatures at any time of the day or night
- There are 8 color silicone probe rings to keep track of which probe is measuring what
- The thermometer has built-in magnetic backing for easy mounting
- The tool is IP66 splash-proof
- Its rechargeable battery will last up to 16 hours, and there is also a 12V USB power adaptor
- The thermometer and the fan kit are completely compatible and work together seamlessly
- The Billows fan has a powerful airflow of up to 46 CFM
- It is designed to fit into the opening of just about any smoker
- The fan has a fast initial speed to temperature and will maintain a constant temperature of plus-minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the cook
- It has weatherproof, durable composite housing
- The Signals thermometer is only compatible with a Billows fan, so you cannot use it with another fan that you already own
- Its 16-hour battery life is not sufficient for very long cooking sessions, so you may have to plug the thermometer in for low and slow cooking
The budget option
If you want to be able to set and forget your smoker with a suitable temperature controller, but without having to break the bank, we recommend this budget-friendly option by PitmasterIQ.
It is an all-in-one unit that combines a controller box with a built-in fan. It can be installed on big and small-sized cookers thanks to its adjustable daisy wheel.
The device is very easy to set, doesn’t require a Wi-Fi connection, and is a perfect choice for non-tech-savvy users. It is also perfect for cooking in dusty and dirty locations.
- It costs a fraction of what most other temperature controllers on this list do and includes both the thermometer and a 5-15 CFM fan in one inexpensive unit
- It has a simple and one of the easiest to set interfaces via a user-friendly digital encoder knob
- You can set alarms for low and high temperatures and for when the desired target temperatures are reached
- There is a useful cheat sheet on the back of the unit with all 12 parameters, which can be set
- There are 8 temperature alarm settings
- It has a lid-off sensor and a low fuel sensor
- The controller is compatible with Weber Smokey Mountain, Weber Kettles, offset smokers, Vikings, Brinkman vertical, and other flat or spherical smokers with dampers up to 5 inches in diameter
- It can work with AC and 12V DC power and comes with an adaptor
- It comes with one ambient and one internal temperature probes
- The blower has variable speeds from 5 to 15 CFM
- The housing is made of heat, damage, and UV-resistant polycarbonate
- It does not have Wi-Fi connectivity, so you cannot monitor the temperature from your smartphone
- It has only 2 probes – one for the cooker and one for the internal temperature of the meat
The rest of our picks
Branded as “cruise control for your smoker” by Flame Boss, this useful gadget is easy to set and read. Its large display will show the readings of up to four temperature probes at the same time.
The fan has variable speeds and comes in two different versions, which will fit most smoker types, including drum, bullet, cabinet, Kamado, and offset smokers.
This unit will not only keep the temperature in the smoker steady during the entire cooking but will also log and save all of the details for later reference.
- An upgraded version of the previous successful controllers from Flame Boss
Wi-Fi compatible for remote temperature and fan output monitoring from any browser on a phone, tablet, or computer
- It comes in 2 versions – one compatible with steel smokers, and the other for Kamado and ceramic smokers
- It has an easy to understand and navigate control panel and display
- The unit has an open lid sensor that will shut the fan off when it is opened
- You can set it to send notifications to your phone
- The kit includes a variable speed fan
- It comes with one ambient and one meat thermometer probes and can monitor up to 3 meat probes at the same time
- Some of the cooking data can be lost if your internet connection drops during the cook
The SMOBOT temperature controller is an excellent choice for the owners of Kamado smokers like the Big Green Egg and other ceramic smokers with daisy wheel top vents.
This unit is more of an enhancement of this type of smoker but does an excellent job at controlling the airflow through the top vent and thus the temperature inside the pit.
- Everything you need to set up a temperature controller on your smoker is included in the kit
- It is compatible with most Kamado style and ceramic smokers with daisy wheel top vents
- A robotic damper vent mechanism replaces the fan and adjusts how much the vent is opened or closed
- It has built-in Wi-Fi and will push real-time temperature logs to the cloud and send notifications to your Android or iOS phone
- The kit includes 2 meat probes and 1 ambient temperature probe
- The meat probes are shorter than others
- It is compatible only with Kamado style smokers with daisy wheel top vent caps
If you don’t really need a smart BBQ temperature controller but still want one which will do the job of keeping the temperature in your pit stable throughout the cooking, then the DigiQ DX3 could be the most suitable option for you. It comes with an ambient temperature and meat temperature probes included, and multiple features such as Ramp Mode, which will begin lowering the temperature inside the pit automatically when the internal meat temperature begins reaching the desired doneness.
- It is a reasonably priced entire BBQ temperature kit
- One 6-foot meat and one 6-foot pit probes are included
- It is AC powered, so you don’t have to worry about the batteries running out
An automatic ramp mode will lower the temperature when the internal temp of the meat reaches 30 degrees to the desired doneness
- An auto lid open sensor
- A 10 CFM Pit Viper fan
- The controller has an audible food ready alert
- It is compatible with all Weber smokers and grills, Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe, DragonFire, Cypress Grill, Primo grills, ceramic, and Vision Classic grills
- It has no Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, or an app
- It only supports up to 2 probes
What exactly is a BBQ temperature controller?
A BBQ temperature controller will quickly become the best friend and favorite gadget of any avid smoker.
It is a device or combination of devices that monitor the temperature of the pit and the meat and adjusts the airflow from the dampers and vents into it and thus the temperatures automatically.
These automatic devices will help prevent the need to babysit the smoker for hours and to stay up at night.
Many of them will send notifications directly to your phone if the temperature suddenly peaks or drops if the smoker lid is left open, or others.
Is using a temperature controller important?
Temperature control is essential for any type of cooking, and a temperature controller is handy for low and slow cooking and smoking which can take hours and even days.
With a good quality temperature controller, you can rest assured that your meat or other food is being smoked and cooked at the desired temperature and smoke level, even if you go to bed or run other errands.
Without proper temperature control, your meat can end up dry, overcooked, and burnt.
So, yes, a temperature controller is essential for pitmasters who want perfect results without having to sit by the smoker for hours.
How temperature controllers work
Fire in a smoker is controlled by the amount of oxygen and airflow coming into contact with it.
The temperature controllers work by connecting a fan or a vent damper mechanism to the thermometer, which can control the airflow in the pit during the cook.
Most BBQ temperature controllers are designed with a fan covering one of the intakes of the smoker. The fan is attached to a probe for the pit’s temperature. Users can then set the thermometer to the desired ambient temperature level and to the target doneness temperature. Then, let the controller do its magic and keep the temperature as consistent as ever.
Many of these devices can monitor several different internal and ambient temperatures and will alert you when the temperature deviates or reaches the required level.
Some have wireless or web connectivity, so you will be able to keep an eye on the temperatures and cooking process even if you are away from the pit and even away from home.
How to install the smoker temperature controller
The installation of the BBQ temperature controller is usually an easy task. You will need to connect the adapter to a vent and then mount the blower.
You will need to mount the blower to one of the top vents and close off the bottom ones in most cases. This will ensure that the only air source is the fan of the temperature controller.
Of course, the installation may differ from one temperature controller to the other and from one smoker to another, but usually, you will be given straightforward instructions and all of the mounting equipment you will need.
It is essential to check whether the BBQ temperature controller of your choice is compatible with your grill or smoker before purchasing it!
The advantages of using an automated BBQ temperature controller
A reliable and efficient BBQ temperature controller will help prevent the stress and the need to keep monitoring and adjusting the temperatures of the grill or smoker, especially during long and slow cooking sessions.
While a wireless thermometer can keep you informed about the temperatures inside the grill and even the internal temperatures of the meat, the automatic BBQ temperature controller will monitor these temperatures and adjust them accordingly automatically if they start deviating from the desired ones.
These devices are absolutely essential for a true “set it and forget it” grill and smoker and are especially useful during overnight low and slow smoking when you can go to bed without worrying about food burning or overcooking.
How to choose the most suitable barbecue temperature controller
Here is a list of the most important features to look for when choosing the most suitable automatic BBQ temperature controller for your needs.
Its compatibility with your grill
This is the first place to start when choosing the best BBQ temperature controller. Keep in mind that not all controllers are compatible with all grills and smokers.
Some are designed for specific smokers like the Kamados, and others are made for specific smoker brands and types.
So always double-check the compatibility of the controller and drive blower with your specific smoker brand and type before going ahead and buying it.
Thankfully, many of the temperature controllers are available in different versions available for the different smoker types, so make sure that you check these options as well.
The construction materials and build quality
Anything and any tool which sits close to or on the smoker needs to be resistant to heat, weather elements, spills, drops, and debris.
Check out the build quality and the materials used for making the temperature controller in order to make sure that it will endure all of these conditions if you want to be certain that you are making a wise long-term investment.
Chances are that an inexpensive and cheap-looking controller is most likely cheaply made and will not last long.
The included temperature probes
Every BBQ temperature controller comes with at least one temperature probe for the ambient temperature in the pit. But it makes sense to choose an automatic temperature controller which has more probes, including internal meat probes, so it can measure the doneness of the meat as well. Some controllers come with several meat probes included in the package, which is useful if you don’t already own a multi-probe wireless meat thermometer.
The type and quality of the fan
While the BBQ controller acts as the brain, the fan acts as the muscle for the proper functioning of a BBQ temperature controller.
The fan needs to be made of a sturdy material that will last for a long and preferably has variable speeds. The fans with one single speed are either powered on or off, which means that the temperature swings inside the pit can be bigger, and the fuel consumption may grow as well.
For more accurate temperature control with fewer peaks or deviations, we recommend that you opt for a variable speed fan that will switch speeds according to the actual temperature and your smoker’s size.
Open lid sensor
Some of the top-rated BBQ temperature controllers have sensors that can detect when the smoker lid or door has been left open – either on purpose or accidentally. While the controller will not actually close the lid for you, it will alert you to come and resolve the problem.
Leaving the pit’s door open can lead to catastrophic results when left undetected for hours.
Alarms and notifications
Even though BBQ temperature controllers automatically adjust the temperatures for you, you as a pitmaster still want to know what the temperature of the smoker and meat inside the pit are during the smoking, right?
Most controllers have a variety of alarm and notification options. Some are built-in, some can be programmed and customized, and some are automatic.
The most common emergency alarms include alerts for the temperature becoming too high or too low or when an open door or lid is detected.
Thanks to these alerts, you will be informed in real-time about how the cooking is going and will know when you need to go to the pit.
Some controllers have audible alarms on their base units, and others can send notifications directly to your mobile phone.
How it is mounted
Many of the controllers and drive blowers require that you remove your smoker’s vent damper mechanism and replace it with the product in question. This may require some basic tools.
Others come with spring-loaded and easy to secure clamps and require no tools whatsoever.
While there are limited options for some smoker types, make sure that you check how the unit is mounted on the smoker and whether you have the means and skills to perform it yourself.
You should also think about whether there is enough space for a blower attached to the side of the smoker, or whether it would be better to choose a freestanding one with a flexible hose, which can be placed anywhere.
Having Wi-Fi connectivity is not just a joy for the tech geeks when it comes to BBQ temperature controllers. The fact is that for a true “set it and forget it” low and slow smoking experience, being able to monitor the temperature and the cooking process as well as receive notifications and alerts remotely is essential.
Chances are that you will want to set your smoker and then proceed to watch the game, enjoy time with friends, run errands, or even go to sleep when you are cooking low and slow overnight. With a Wi-Fi-enabled temperature controller, you can rest assured that you will have access to the real-time temperature data as well as that you will get notified in case of a temperature deviation or other emergency.
Since automatic BBQ temperature controllers can be pretty complicated devices with many adjustments, settings, and data collected and provided, it is essential to choose a unit with a display on the base that you find intuitive and easy to read and understand. This is important if you are not going to be using a mobile app and your mobile phone to monitor this data.
Some controllers come with large displays and multiple readings shown simultaneously. Others do not have displays at all.
If you don’t feel comfortable using a smartphone app and would like to keep a close eye on your smoker at all times, we suggest that you opt for a BBQ temperature controller, which has a large and easy-to-read and to interpret display.
Standalone or Wi-Fi connected
This feature depends on your own personal preferences.
While some of the BBQ temperature controllers do require Wi-Fi in order to function, and some need to connect to a phone or tablet to work, there are others that can work as standalone units without connecting to anything.
Thankfully, many of the best barbecue temperature controllers offer a combination of the two, so they can work as standalone units, as well as be connected to your Wi-Fi and mobile phone. This is the best choice because you will avoid situations in which your controller doesn’t work if the Wi-Fi breaks down, and you will also be able to monitor the temperatures and cooking remotely when you need to go run an errand during a smoking session.
So, it is better to choose the one which offers the different options.
We are willing to bet that some of you are probably wondering how you have been smoking meat all those years without an automatic temperature controller.
The truth is that a reliable BBQ temperature controller can make your life as a pitmaster much much easier.
You can set up your smoker and then go ahead and do whatever you want to without the need to keep running to adjust the vents and monitor the temperatures.
With a good-quality barbecue temperature controller, you can say goodbye to the sleepless nights during overnight smoking sessions. Instead, you can say hello to sleeping with peace of mind that the meat is cooking as it should be and that if anything goes wrong, it will be taken care of automatically and you will be notified.
So, if you are serious about set it and forget it smoking, or even if you like to babysit your smoker during use, a good BBQ temperature controller is a tool that will make smoking much more pleasurable and less stressful.