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By: Bill McGrath
The BBQ Guru CyberQ WiFi is a thermostatic controller with 3 extra probes to monitor food temps. It can be operated in a stand-alone mode, as an Ad-Hoc web server, or connect to a wireless router. In the latter configuration, it can send e-mail notifications and be monitored from any browser – if your ISP allows network forwarding.
I tested the unit in the Ad Hoc configuration, connecting to it via my HP laptop. It took only a few seconds to establish connection, and from there I could access any control parameters. Setting the unit up for access to the Internet through a router is a bit more daunting, requiring knowledge of port forwarding at a minimum. A person well-versed in this sort of thing would not have a problem setting it up, but someone without networking experience would probably struggle. You’ll have to evaluate your own comfort levels and choose accordingly. And you can always use the unit by itself without WiFi connectivity.
The controller accepts four temperature probes, one to monitor the cooker temperature and three to monitor the food temperature. Two alarms types are available. One allows you to set a threshold that will sound an alarm when the cooker temperature goes above or below the set temperature by an amount greater than you set. The default is 50ºF, so the alarm will go off if the inside temperature drops below 175º or goes above 275º, assuming the set point is 225º. The other alarms sound when the food temperature reaches the individual values you have set. The sound of the alarms is adjustable. The user can select between F and C temperature scales.
Three programmable features provide some operating flexibility. First, if the ramping feature is turned on, the set temperature of the smoker will automatically lower itself as the food approaches its set temperature, preventing over-cooking. You can select which of the three food probes is used for this determination. It is difficult to predict how this might affect cooking times. The second feature auto-detects when the smoker cover is opened. Normally, opening the cover will lower the temperature inside, causing the blower to over-react and create a spike in the temperature. With this feature active, the blower won’t turn on right away. The owner’s manual warns that having this feature on can cause the cooker to be slow to come up to operating temperature when first lit. Third, you can set a count down timer that, when it times out, will reduce the cooker temperature to a value that you can set.
The adapter that fits into the Weber smoker goes in easily and can be easily removed. The blower is inserted into this adapter. There is a slide damper on the blower to allow you to reduce the output of the fan. This is useful to preventing temperature overshoot when cooking at a low temperature on a smaller cooker. It can be opened to yield the full output of the fan if using a higher cooking temperature or low ambient temperatures where more airflow might be required. The unit usually supplied for a Weber uses a 10 cfm fan, but this test was conducted with a 25 cfm fan, so I shut the damper 3/4 of the way to reduce temperature overshoot.
The control box is made of plastic. The power supply cord is stoutly built. The wire to the blower fan appears much more fragile. The stainless-steel braided cooker probe has an alligator clip allowing you to attach it to the cooker’s grate. The food probe, also a stainless-steel braided cable, has a pointed probe that is L-shaped and a bit on the short side at 4″ (10cm) long. The cables are a generous 80″ (2m) in length.
Test Procedure: This product was tested on an 18.5″ Weber Smokey Mountain. I loaded 2 lbs. of Kingsford Competition Briquets into the cooker, and lit 1 lb. of the same charcoal in a chimney, and poured it on the unlit coals already in the smoker. The water bucket was about 2/3 full, and there was no food in the cooker. The Weber adapter was inserted into one of the lower vents, and the others were closed. The temperature probe was clipped to the center of the top cooking grate. Another temperature probe was mounted close to the sensor and plugged into a ThermoWorks BlueTherm Duo that was monitored on my computer for temperature recording purposes. The set temperature was 225ºF, consistent with smoking practices.
The outside air temperature was around 85-90ºF. Winds were calm. Measurements began shortly after the smoker was closed up. The charcoal burned for a little over four hours before the blower began to run full-time, signaling that the fuel was nearly exhausted. At that point, I terminated the test. The captured data from the ThermoWorks sensor was plotted, and the raw data was exported to Excel so that I could calculate temperature maxima, minima, average and standard deviation. The last value gives a measure of how consistent the temperature remained. If the temperature was dead constant, the standard deviation would be zero. The larger the swings in temperature, the higher the standard deviation would be. The values for this test are:
Minimum temperature: 189ºF
Maximum temperature: 221.5ºF
Average temperature: 210.8ºF
Standard deviation: 3.30ºF
Overall, the controller kept the temperature within a closely regulated band, although the average temperature was a bit below the setting chosen for the test, 225ºF. As the test progressed, the temperature regulation improved, possibly because the learning algorithm employed by the controller had calibrated its response to the Weber. You can click on the temperature vs. time graph below to see a larger version. Note that the temperature spikes just before 3:30 and around 4:30 were caused by opening the door of the smoker and rearranging the coals – it was not caused by the controller. I had configured the controller to ignore open lid indications; perhaps this spike would not have occurred had this setting been on.
Setup and operation are straight-forward in the stand-alone and ad hoc modes. The instruction manual is complete and well-written, but there are a couple of features that will tax the skills of a network professional if using the WiFi capability in the infrastructure mode. The main components – the controller, power supply, blower and the probes come with a 90-day warranty. The manufacturer’s contact information, including address, website, e-mail and telephone numbers are found in the owner’s manual.
We give this unit a Gold medal for its robust feature set and excellent performance. At nearly $400, it’s not cheap, but it will save you a lot of time fiddling with your vents and you can set it up as a fail-safe backstop if you have had a few too may beers while cooking. As Meathead has said, don’t ask me how I know this.
BBQ Guru is the inventor of ground breaking temperature controllers for charcoal and wood-burning cookers. They even make one for regulating electric smokers, but so far none for gas burning devices. Temperature controllers allow you to set and hold an exact cooking temp just like with an indoor kitchen oven. BBQ Guru makes a variety of controllers for use with most manufacturer’s products. Their expanded catalog now includes smokers and various accessories. In 2017 they entered into a relationship with German kamado manufacturer, Monolith. BBQ Guru integrated their temperature controllers into two Monolith Kamados and is selling them in the USA as Monolith BBQ Guru Editions.
Published On: 8/5/2014 Last Modified: 1/28/2021
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