BBQ Guru DigiQ DX3 Review

BBQ Guru DigiQ DX3 Thermostatic Controller Review
The BBQ Guru DigiQ DX3 is a basic thermostatic controller for charcoal and wood fired cookers. It features an easy to use menu, clear display, separate fan with an internal damper, cooker temperature probe, and a single food temperature probe. It does not interface with the internet or smart devices.
Like all thermostatic controllers, the DX3 employs a temperature probe that attaches to the cooking surface. This sensor measures the temperature inside the smoker or oven and relays that information to the control computer. This internal temperature is compared to a temperature setting made by the user, and adjusts the airflow through the cooker to control the temperature. By increasing the fan speed, more air is forced through the cooker, resulting in higher temperatures. This achieves the same result as manually adjusting the vents, but without constant fiddling, so the internal temperature is held closely to the desired cooking temperature.
The DX3 has three control profiles that adjust the response parameters to the type of cooker being used. The manual, which must be downloaded from the company website, lists the proper setting for various popular cookers. Once set, the setting is retained in memory. The desired cooker temperature is set by the user, and the user can set a temperature tolerance range. If the internal temp exceeds the set tolerance, too high or too low, the display will flash and an audible alarm will sound. The food temperature is monitored by a second probe. When the food temperature reaches the food temperature setting input by the user, the display will flash and an audible alarm will sound. The audible alarms can be adjusted for volume or turned off completely. The user can also enable or disable a ramp function that will lower the cooker temperature when the food temperature approaches the user setting, thereby preventing the overcooking of food. There is also a selectable open-lid detection feature that will prevent temperature overshoot after a sudden temperature drop caused by opening the lid of the cooker. 
Both probes have 6' (1.8m) braided stainless steel cables that appear to be quite rugged. The manufacturer rates them to 500°F and advises the user to keep the cables away from open flames. The food probe is L-shaped, allowing the probe point to be inserted about 4" (10cm) into the food. The cooker probe has an alligator clip at its end.
The computer is about the size of a pack of cigarettes. It can be powered by the supplied AC adapter (110-220VAC) or by 12VDC. The temperature scale can be set to Fahrenheit or Celsius in the setup menu. The fan attaches to the cooker using a collar that fits over the lower vents. It has a damper control to help fine tune the airflow. If power to the computer is interrupted, it will continue where it left off when power is restored without any input from the user.
My tests were conducted on an 18.5" Weber Smokey Mountain. Ambient temperatures were approximately 55°F (13°C) and there was a slight breeze. I filled the fuel tray about three-quarters full of unlit coals, and I lit about one-third of a chimney of Kingsford briquets. When the lit coals were showing ash, I poured them on top of the unlit coals, added some hickory, and assembled the smoker with the food (St. Louis-style pork ribs). I set the cooker profile to #3, closed the fan damper to about one-half, and set the top vents to about one-fourth open, as directed in the instructions. I cooked the ribs for about 5.5 hours. As you can see from the graph below, the DX3 did an excellent job of temperature control. (Click on the graph to view an enlarged version.)
Temperature vs. Time Plot for DigiQ DX3
All the components of this product appear to be well made. The warranty on the fan and computer is two years, and the probes are warrantied for 90 days. The documentation that comes with the product is lacking, but a quick trip to the company's website will allow you to download a well-written user's manual. Contact info for the company can be found in the manual, including physical address, telephone number, e-mail address and website.
If you are content to set it and forget it, the DX3 is an excellent choice. It comes in several kit configurations that mate the fan unit to your style of cooker. The company's website has a kit selection tool that allows you to order the correct hardware, so obtaining the right setup is easy. The unit doesn't require an internet connection, and it won't talk to your smart phone, tablet or computer, but it does control the temperature of your cooker very well at a modest price. I'm giving it a Gold Medal for its quality construction, performance, and ease of use.
Thermometer Function: 
Thermostats/Temperature Controllers
Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price: 
Controller, fan, cooker adapter, 2 probes, AC adapter, mounting bracket, cloth pouch
Food: length: 4" (10cm), cable: 6' (1.8m); cooker: alligator clip, cable: 6' (1.8m)
Min / Max: 
32 to 475°F (0 to 246°C)
Ambient operating temperatures: 
Not Specified
Display precision: 
At 130°F it actually reads: 
At 225°F it actually reads: 
At 325°F it actually reads: 
Speed from 32°F to 212°F: 
Size of numbers in display: 
0.4" (10mm)
Water resistance rating: 
Not Specified
Fan and Controller: 14.35 oz. (405g)
C/F Switch: 
Auto shutoff: 
Black or Green
Other features: 
Ramp, Open lid detect

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About the features, specs, and technical terms

Adjustable. The accuracy of some thermometers can drift, and these thermometers can be adjusted to bring them back to the correct reading.

Alarms. Some devices can be set to alert the cook when a high or low temp is reached either with an audible alarm such as a beep or a visible alarm such as a flashing display.

App. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled devices have a smartphone or tablet app that talk to the device.

Auto shutoff. If you don't use the device for a set period of time, it will shut itself off to save batteries.

Backlight. Digital thermometers are hard to read at night unless they have a backlight.

Bi-metal dial thermometers. Most bi-metal coil dial thermometers mounted in grill hoods should be called heat indicators, not thermometers. We do not recommend them. They have round clock-like readouts and the sensor uses two strips of metal bonded together and rolled into a coil. Each metal expands at a different rate, turns a shaft, and this provides the reading on a dial. Bi-metal meat thermometers can take up to 30 seconds to give a final reading and because the sensor can be 1/2" long or more they cannot read a specific location in meat. Most thermometers built into grills and smokers are bi-metal, but they are often low quality in order to keep the grill price down. They can easily become unreadable if they fill with smoke and or water. Also, these grill thermometers are mounted in the dome, where the temp can be very different from the temp at the cooking surface, which generally makes these bi-metal dial thermometers both unreliable and misleading.

C/F Switch. Most thermometers have a switch to change the display from Celsius to Fahrenheit.

K-Probes. Some thermocouple thermometers have a standardized spade-like connector for scores of interchangeable probes.

IR (infrared) sensors. Infrared-sensing thermometers measure the energy radiated from a warm surface and convert it to a temperature reading. Some surfaces emit more infrared at a given temperature than others, so some units allow the user to adjust the emissivity setting to fine-tune the accuracy of the thermometer. This should rarely be necessary unless very high accuracy is needed. These units are useful for determining the temperature of a cooking surface like a skillet or griddle.

Liquid filled thermometers. Old-fashioned liquid filled thermometers are very small glass tubes filled with a liquid that sits in a bulb at the bottom. As it warms, the liquid expands. These thermometers are slow but they can be very accurate. Because they do not need batteries, they make good refrigerator and freezer thermometers, but they cannot read a small area such as the center of a hunk of meat well.

Logging. Some thermometers can remember the readings taken over time and create a log that can either be printed or exported to a spreadsheet.

Margin of Error. Most thermometers are considered to be accurate if they are within plus or minus 3°F of the target temperature. High end thermometers are more precise than this.

Min/Max. The minimum and maximum temperatures it is capable of reading. On some devices, especially those which use different probes, the Min/Max can vary with the probe.

Oven. We often use the term "oven" to cover a range of cooking devices, including grills and smokers, which are essentially outdoor ovens.

Popup thermometers. Popups have a compound in the tip that melts at a determined temp and releases a spring that pops the stem up. This type of thermometer often comes pre-inserted in your Thanksgiving turkey. Although there is a chance that it will be accurate, the thermometer will read only one small part of the turkey, may stick, and will likely be set to a high temperature that is meant to prevent litigation rather than produce a juicy bird. The popup thermometer is often to blame when your turkey tastes like cardboard. Throw it out.

Price. Usually the manufacturer's suggested retail price. When that is not available, we use the approximate street price.

Sensor. Thermocouple, thermistor, liquid, and bi-metal. They are each described in detail above and below.

Speed. We measure how long it takes the thermometer to go from 32°F to 211°F and from 212°F to 33°F. But you have to be careful about the time manufacturers quote. Often they use an industry standard called "time constant." That is the time it takes to get to 63% of a full reading, and a full reading takes five times that. So if they say the time constant is 0.6 seconds, as does the manufacturer of the Thermapen, the unit will be precise with a full reading in about 3 seconds. Another factor to consider is how fast the display refreshes itself. The Thermapen refreshes every 0.5 seconds. This means you can slowly insert it and remove it and it will give you a new reading every 0.5 seconds. The Thermoworks K-type Fast Response Meat Probe #113-151, which can be plugged into different meters, is slightly faster with a time constant of 0.5 seconds and precise read in 2.5 seconds. But if you plug it into the MTC meter, which refreshes every 1 second, the probe is actually faster than the meter, and combined they are slower than the Thermapen. Another factor is the conductivity of the medium you are measuring. Food, which consists mostly of water, reads faster than bread, which consists mostly of air. That is because water is a better conductor than air.

Thermistors. Thermistors are usually not as quick as thermocouples. They tend to be thicker, and they can be slightly less accurate, usually with a margin of error of 5°F. These sensors are best for leaving in large roasts and ovens for continuous readings. Thermistor units send a current through a wire in the probe with a resistor in the tip. Its resistance to the electrical flow changes with temperature and the meter measures the voltage across the resistor.

Thermocouples. Thermocouples are the best food thermometers because they're fast and precise with a small sensor, making them ideal for rapid read thermometers. Their margin of error can be less than 1°F. Thermocouple probes have two tiny wires of different metals welded at the tip, most often nickel and chromium (called Type K). The heat causes a tiny voltage to appear across the dissimilar metals, which are connected to a meter that measures the voltage and calculates the temperature.

Water resistance rating. Some manufacturers simply specify that a thermometer is "water resistant," but this is not a regulated description and should be taken with a grain of salt. Some manufacturers use a third party service, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). It rates devices using an International Protection rating code (an IP code). An IP code might look like this: IP65. The first digit quantifies protection against solids like dust, and the second digit quantifies protection against liquids. The digits range from IP00 to IP68. If a thermometer is rated IP65, it was tested and found to be completely protected against dust as well as protected against low pressure jets of liquid from all sides. So it is OK in the rain, but NOT protected against a swim in the BBQ sauce.

Where to buy. We provide links to some suppliers, especially to those who pay us a finder's fee if you buy from them. In some cases, our links provide a Compact Meat Temperature Guide along with the product. You will only get the guide by following the link provided.

Best Value Awards

Gold Medal. Among the best of its type in its price category. A strong buy recommendation if this is your budget.

Silver Medal. A fine product among the best in its price category with only minor shortcomings. Recommended for purchase if a Gold Medal is not available.

Bronze Medal. A good product, better than average, but may be lacking in features or quality compared to higher rated products. Worth considering for purchase if you cannot find or afford a Gold or Silver Medal.

Not Recommended. These are products that we think are poor choices compared to competitors based on price, features, and construction quality.

Not Judged Yet. These are products that may be award caliber, perhaps even Gold Medal caliber, but we do not know enough about them yet to give them an award.

How We Test, Review, and Rate Thermometers

We purchase almost all of the thermometers we review. These are truly unbiased reviews. We do not make or sell anything, and our advertising is sold by third party ad networks. We are not involved in the process. Rest assured that when we recommend a product, it is really because we like it, not because someone has paid us to say so or because the company is an advertiser or sponsor. Manufacturers are never charged to have products reviewed or be included in the listings.

Bill McGrath, an electrical engineer, does all our thermometer testing, ratings, and reviews. He uses special equipment calibrated and rated by the National Institute of Standards & Technology to check the accuracy and speed of thermometers. He uses an ice water bath and a boiling water bath to measure the time it takes each thermometer to go from 32° to 211°F and to go from 212° to 33°F. After taking objective measurements, he evaluates based on subjective criteria such as ergonomics, ease of use, flexibility, warranty, access to support, and build quality. Finally, we consider value when giving our awards.

nist calibration machine

"The instant-read thermometer, used frequently, solves most issues." --Mark Bittman, New York Times food columnist and cookbook author

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