Tegam 931B Data Logging Thermometer Review

Tegam 931B Data Logging Thermometer Review
The Tegam 931B Data Thermometer is an industrial-grade tool for measuring and logging temperature data. It can be used by itself or in conjunction with an app that runs on a smart phone, either Android or Apple. The phone app also acts as a bridge to a cloud repository for measurement data that can be retrieved as needed.
 
The thermometer electronics are contained in a hand-held case that provides control buttons and a connector that accepts the thermocouple probe. The unit can operate with virtually all types of thermocouples. The unit we tested, the 931B, has one probe connector; the 932B is a two-channel instrument. Many different probes are available that can address almost any measurement challenge. The main unit updates its temperature reading three times per second and can store one reading every second, or fewer if desired. The cloud can be updated every five seconds or less frequently if desired. Power is supplied by three AA batteries that the manufacturer claims will last 1000 hours.
 
The hand-held unit has an initial setup procedure that allows the user to select the thermocouple type and the temperature scale, either F, C or K. After setup, the large display shows the temperature, date, time, and the status of data collection. There is an internal memory that will hold roughly 1000 data points. When the app is used, the data is uploaded to the cloud, which will hold essentially unlimited data.
 
The app mimics the hardware's display and control buttons. The connection is via a low-powered Bluetooth link that the manufacturer claims is good for about 30 feet (~9m) separation. While connected to the device, the app will relay data to an account created by the user on Tegam's cloud server, where the data is stored and accessible for download and graphing. Multiple devices, identified by their serial numbers, can be associated with a single account. The cloud can also identify a given unit and associate it with a location or locations defined by the user.
 
The supplied probe appeared to be one designed for general usage. Other available probes have small diameter tips that might respond more quickly than the supplied probe, although its performance was very good. The probe's stainess steel cable is the most robust one I've ever seen - true industrial grade!
 
While this unit can certainly be used by a cook to measure food temperatures, it is really designed for data collection on a large scale. That means it could be useful for monitoring temperatures over long periods of time in, say, an abattoir or an extended food processing chain. The package with a probe and carrying case will set the buyer back well over $400, making it a very expensive choice for simple measurement tasks. That said, some folks just like to have fancy toys, so you be the judge.
 
The thermometer comes with a two-year calibration guarantee and a three-year warranty. Contact info for the company is found in the accompanying documentation. The product is made in the USA.
 
Build quality and performance are first rate. I don't usually test data loggers, so I'm not well-versed on all the features desired in these devices. I'll leave it to the reader to explore the manufacturer's website, tegam.com, for futher information. I'm giving this unit a Gold Medal for quality and functionality, despite the high price for features that may not be relevant to the average home cook.
Thermometer Function: 
Hand-held
Leave in Food
Leave in Cooker
Wireless Remote
Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price: 
$400.00
Included: 
Thermometer, probe, batteries, instructions
Probes: 
Length: 4.5" (114mm), diameter: 0.125" (3.2mm), cable: 36" (0.91m)
Accessories: 
Cases, probes
Battery type: 
(3) AA (included)
Battery life: 
1000 hrs. (mfgr.)
Min / Max: 
-418 to 3308 °F (-250 to 1820ºC)
Ambient operating temperatures: 
-4 to 131°F (-20 to 55°C)
Display precision: 
0.1º/1º
At 32ºF it actually reads: 
32.4
At 130°F it actually reads: 
129.7
At 225°F it actually reads: 
224.9
At 325°F it actually reads: 
327.4
Speed from 32°F to 212°F: 
4
Speed from 212°F to 32°F: 
5
Size of numbers in display: 
0.5" (12mm)
Water resistance rating: 
Not specified
Weight: 
12.3 oz. (347g)
Logging: 
Yes
C/F Switch: 
Yes
Backlight: 
Yes
Adjustable: 
Yes
Auto shutoff: 
No
App: 
Apple/Android
Colors: 
Gray
Sensor: 
Thermocouple
Other features: 
Data logging to cloud
Wireless: 
Bluetooth

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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 AmazingRibs.com 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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