Meatstick Wi-Fi-Bluetooth Food Thermometer Review

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Meatstick Wi-Fi-Bluetooth Food Thermometer Review
The Meatstick Wi-Fi-Bluetooth Food Thermometer is a collection of tools that allows a wireless temperature probe to communicate with a smart phone to monitor cooking progress. The maximum distance between the probe and the phone is determined by the configuration used.
 
In the simplest arrangement, the probe can communicate directly with the smart phone via Bluetooth. With no intervening structures, my phone could communicate with the Stick over distances of around 100' (30m) when the probe was placed on a non-conductive tabletop. If I placed the Stick inside my Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) on top of a non-conducting pad about 4" (10cm) above the grill surface, the maximum distance over which reliable communications could be maintained dropped to around 30' (10m). A lag of a couple of minutes between loss of communication or regaining communication made it difficult to establish these distances with greater accuracy. After losing contact with the probes (I tested both of them at the same time), one probe could re-establish communications while the other did not. I would get unusual messages about taking the probe out of the charger when it was not in the charger. If the probe was out of contact with the phone for long enough, the cooking session would terminate, causing loss of data and requiring a new session to be created.
 
The charger can only charge one probe at a time. The very limited instructions suggest that the probe must be in the charger while communications are established, but I was sometimes able to connect to both probes when they were not in the charger.
 
An optional accessory ($30 USD) called the Xtender can be used to increase range. This device receives the signal from the probe and amplifies it. With the Xtender placed close to the cooker, in this case a WSM, it can receive the attenuated signals and re-transmit them to the phone. When using the Xtender, I could receive signals up to 150-200' (45-60m) away from the WSM.
 
The third device in the communication path is the Bridge. It receives the Bluetooth signal from either the probe directly or via the Xtender and relays it to your router. The router communicates with the cloud, allowing the user to access temperature anywhere an internet connection is available. The Bridge must be connected to a USB power supply: it has no provision for internal batteries. This might be a big inconvenience if you don't have an outlet nearby and don't want to dig out an extension cord to run a thermometer.
 
Each probe has two temperature sensors: a food sensor and an ambient sensor. The probe also contains all the electronics, including a rechargeable battery, needed to transmit the temperature data. Electronics can be fussy about operating temperatures, so the probes rely on the thermal inertia of food to prevent the probe shaft from rising above 212°F (100°C). The end of the probe that remains outside the food can operate safely up to 572°F (300°C). But are the temperature sensors accurate?
 
I tested the accuracy of the food end of the probes by placing them in a water bath of known temperature and noting the readings. At 32°F (0°C), both probes read correctly, although I suspect that 32° is as low as they'll go. At 130°F, the two probes read 127° and 125°. At 165°F, the probes read 162° and 160°, and at 200°F, the probes read 198° and 196°. A five degree disparity at 130° could mean the difference between perfection and slightly overcooked meat. Most food thermometers today will be within a degree or two of nominal, so these are a bit off. I tested the ambient temp probe by inserting the food end into a soaked cotton sock that simulated the thermal conductivity of meat. (Meat is mostly water.) I then placed the sock and probe into an oven next to a temperature probe of known accuracy. I set the oven for 325°F (163°C). As expected, the sock rose in temperature until about 155°F when the stall occurred. The ambient temperature read 297°F when the actual temp was 322°F. I would not rely on the probe's ambient temperature readout when trying to determine the cooker's internal temperature.
 
The app provides an overview of each probe. For unexplained reasons, the two probes' readings would swap places every five seconds or so, requiring the user to read the probe name to determine which temp was which. I found this distracting and annoying. By touching the probe's display, you can drill down to a more detailed view of the probe's status, including the food temp, the ambient temp, a temp vs. time graph, the alarm thresholds - both food and ambient - and an estimate of the cook time remaining. The time estimate may work for grilling a steak, but it's useless if you're slow cooking something like a brisket. The reason is that predictive algorithms can't account for temperature plateaus like the stall. Beware of placing much faith in such predictions. To be fair, nobody else has figured out how to make this work, either.
 
The instructions come in two forms: a 5"x5" card with a high-level overview of what to do and a collection of videos viewable on your phone. The app will walk you through setup and making Wi-Fi connections, but troubleshooting tips are sparse if things don't go as expected. Personally, I find videos a PITA; I'd rather have something printed that I can refer to while going through the steps. Call me old school! What do you do if you want to connect to a different router, for example? I couldn't find any guidance on that and other setup questions.
 
This product is remarkably similar to the Meater Block that we have tested and reviewed. There were similar issues and concerns with it, but I encountered fewer problems and therefore gave it a more favorable review. The Meatstick still has some glitches to work out.
 
I have concerns about the susceptibility of the probes to high temperatures and the longevity of the internal batteries. Connections weren't always reliable. The need for AC power (or a USB battery pack) when using the Bridge is a nuisance. Not having a way to keep the batteries charged while not in use means added steps when planning to cook. Probe temperature accuracy was sub-par. Poor printed documentation makes using the product more difficult. Overall, not my favorite food thermometer.
Thermometer Function: 
Leave in Food
Leave in Cooker
Wireless Remote
Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price: 
$179.99
Included: 
2 Probes, Extender (optional for $30 extra), Bridge, Charger, Carrying case, USB cables,
Probes: 
(2) Length: 4.19" (104mm), diameter: 0.255" (6.5mm)
Accessories: 
Range extender (Xtender)
Battery type: 
Rechargeable in probes, AA in Xtender,
Battery life: 
Probe: 24 hrs. per manufacturer
Min / Max: 
Food: 32-212°F (0-100°C); ambient: 572°F (300°C)
Display precision: 
0.1°
At 32ºF it actually reads: 
32/32
At 130°F it actually reads: 
127/125
At 225°F it actually reads: 
n/a
At 325°F it actually reads: 
n/a
Speed from 32°F to 212°F: 
n/a
Size of numbers in display: 
0.562" (14mm)
Water resistance rating: 
Not water resistant
Alarms: 
Audible/Visible
C/F Switch: 
Yes
Backlight: 
Yes
Adjustable: 
No
Auto shutoff: 
No
App: 
iOS, Android
Colors: 
Orange
Wireless: 
Bluetooth
Wifi

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Bill McGrath

Bill McGrath is AmazingRibs.com's Thermometer Maven. He has sophisticated equipment, an electrical engineering degree from Cornell University, and an MBA (almost) from UC Berkeley. Despite being mostly retired, he is still the person responsible for developing and updating all of ExxonMobil's electricians' training modules.

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