Note: the picture is of the original Stoker but the two are virtually identical in appearance.
This is a review of an updated product, the Stoker II. The original product, the Stoker, did not perform satisfactorily. The new product corrects the deficiencies found in its predecessor and works very well. I do not yet have the updated user’s manual for the new product, so I cannot talk much about its new features. According to the manufacturer, the significant changes are the direct Wi-Fi connection to the unit and an open-cover ignore mode that prevents an overreaction to the temperature drop caused by opening the cooker lid.
The Rock’s BBQ Stoker II is a complex thermostatic controller with advanced features that allow control of multiple cookers and Wi-Fi access to real-time data via a web browser. The unit, as tested with an adapter designed for the Weber smoker, carries a price tag of $322, a reduction in price from the earlier version. There are three sizes of blowers: 5, 10 and 25 cfm units that take the base unit price from $297 to $400. Adapters for your particular cooker add a small additional cost.
The unit can be configured from the front panel or via a web brower interface. In the latter mode, you can connect wirelessly to the Stoker with your computer or you can connect the unit wirelessly to your router. If you plan to use a router, you need to be familiar with networking concepts such as IP addresses and subnet masks if you want to enable the functionality. You can also set up pairs of blowers and sensors, up to three pair at a time, and configure each separately for target temperature and alarms. There is also a food probe that can be monitored via the web browser, and you can set an alarm to flag that the food has come to the desired temperature. Multiple food probes can be used and alarmed simultaneously. There are also applications available on the manufacturer’s website that will plot temperatures and provide access to other data. I did not test any of the apps.
The idea behind a controller like this is to regulate the temperature inside the cooker by adjusting the airflow. The more air, the hotter it gets. A temperature probe clipped to the grill grate and routed out of the cooker to the controller provides the feedback to the controller needed to make airflow decisions. It’s a lot more complicated than that, but that’s all you really need to know to use this device.
Test Procedure: This product was tested on an 18.5″ Weber Smokey Mountain. The water bucket was about 2/3 full, and there was one slab of ribs in the cooker. The 5 cfm blower was attached to one of the lower vents, and the other bottom vents were closed and the top vent was fully open. The temperature probe was clipped to the side of the top cooking grate. Another temperature probe was mounted on the grate and plugged into a ThermoWorks BlueTherm Duo that was monitored on my computer for temperature recording purposes. The set temperature was 225°F, consistent with smoking practices. Note that the monitor temperature probe was not exactly co-located with the controller probe, so you can expect to see some temperature differences.
The outside air temperature was from 75 to 80°F. Winds were light and variable. Measurements began shortly after the smoker was closed up.
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 charcoal burned for about 2.5 hours before I decided to add more fuel. You’ll see a dip, then a rise in the plotted temperature when I removed the upper part of the cooker to add charcoal. When the ribs were done after about 5 hours, I terminated the test.
The data captured 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. Because I disassembled the cooker, causing temperature drops and spikes that were not attributable to the controller, I computed statistics for only the period from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. when the controller was completely in charge of temperature regulation. Here are the numbers:
Maximum temperature: 240.18°F
Minimum temperature: 243.81°F
Average temperature: 241.93°F
Standard deviation: 0.80°F
As you can see from the graph above (click on the image for a larger version), the temperature swings were about 3.6°F, peak to trough, in the 4-5 p.m. period. This is excellent performance. There are a couple of glitches that need to be explained. At about 2:20, there is a dip and spike caused by my opening the door and jostling the charcoal to promote even burning. The large dip around 3:30 was caused by disassembling the cooker to add more fuel. Note that the temperature recovered smoothly from this interruption. There was another dip around 5:30, again caused by jostling the charcoal. None of these transients reflects negatively on the controller; in fact, they demonstrate that the unit recovers smoothly from perturbations. The Stoker II held the cooker temperature more accurately than any other units I have tested.
The easiest way to use the Stoker II is via the direct Wi-Fi connection so you can set up your probes, target temperature and alarms. Almost anyone with basic computer familiarity should have little or no trouble setting up this configuration. Doing the setup via the front panel is also pretty straightforward. Setting it up to work with your wireless router is a little trickier, but not overly difficult. The ability to have multiple probes is an advantage if you’re cooking different foods at the same time. If you plan to use one cooker and one food probe, you should have no problem getting set up quickly.
This is a fairly high-tech approach to doing barbecue and it will appeal to the gadget crowd without baffling lesser geeks. It’s not cheap, but the construction is more substantial than many of its competitors. Keep it dry and you should get excellent results. The manufacturer has a 30 day return policy and a one year limited warranty.
With its rich feature set and flexibility of setup, and very good performance and build, I’m giving the Stoker II a Gold Medal. This product is a significant upgrade from the original Stoker, and should make its owners happy.
Leave in Food, Leave in Cooker, Wireless Remote, Thermostats/Temperature Controllers
Where to buy (buying from this supplier supports this website):
Display, 2 probes, blower, power supply, quick-start instructions
Adapter to your cooker required in most cases.
Published On: 10/8/2015
Last Modified: 2/7/2022
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 training modules.
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