ThermoWorks, maker of a number of great thermometers for food, oven, grill, and smoker, has released a new tool ideal for outdoor cooks called “Smoke.” I got my hands on a pre-release copy and have begun testing it. This is a very cool $99 device with a transmitter attached to two probes and a remote receiver that you can put in your pocket or hang from a lanyard around your neck and carry up to 300 feet away while you watch the game or cut the lawn. It can be paired with unlimited receivers according to ThermoWorks (at $45 each). A wireless Wi-Fi gateway that sends your temps to the cloud and smartphones is scheduled to be released by Spring of 2017 for $89! Smoke ships with two probes, one for air temp and one for food temp.
In addition to these novel features, what sets it apart from the competition is a user interface designed so that you really don’t need a manual. You can take it out of the box and be up and running in minutes. Competing wireless remote reading devices
(Similar reviewed equipment) such as Maverick’s ET-732 and 733, iGrill2 and others, can be confusing with hidden menus and options. Smoke is $40 more than the Maverick ET-732 and the same price as the iGrill2.
The receiver works on radio frequency (RF), not Bluetooth. Hallelujah! I have tested numerous Bluetooth devices and in general, I hate them. They are often a pain to pair, the connection is easily dropped, and range is short. Only some of the Mavericks use RF, one reason I have recommended the ET-732 so highly. RF rocks. Our tests indicate that the Smoke will communicate at 300 feet (~91m) when in line of sight, and it is quick to indicate a loss of signal from the transmitter, responding in about 15 seconds. For a video showing how we tested the range capability:
Smoke’s proprietary Pro-Series thermistor probes are the same ones used on their popular DOT and ChefAlarm meters. They are very thin and have silicone encased wiring wrapped with braided stainless steel that connects to the body with a tiny headphone-style jack. Both ends of the cable have a spring strain relief to prevent kinking. The plastic grips on the sensor end of the probes are said to be able to withstand 640°F air temp, a much higher temp than we cook at most of the time, but be careful if they come into contact with hot metal or above direct flame. Infrared radiant heat from coals or flame can produce damaging energy even though air temp is 640°F. The probe tips are rated up to 572°F, much higher than we need for measuring fry oil or candy. The air temp probe comes with a clip that holds it above the grates.
As with all probes on cabled devices, Smoke’s probes need to be treated with care. Repeated kinking of the cable, yanking on them, slamming the grill lid on them, exposing them to really hot surfaces or open flame, and submersing them when washing can damage them. Replacement probes cost $16-17. Just to test this sensitivity, I submerged both probes in a sink of hot water and monitored them for a few hours. They did not appear to malfunction despite the claimed sensitivity to immersion. I'm not suggesting you ignore the manufacturer's advice, but it does seem to be a bit conservative.
Thermoworks says you can run the cables under the hood of a grill, but my experience is that repeated opening and closing can damage cables like these over time. It is much better to drill a hole in the side of the grill (not the lid) and run the probe through the hole. Don’t worry, the small amount of hot air and smoke that might escape won’t impact your cook. If you want, you can get silicone grommets from Grainger to fill the gap.
Probes are billed as water resistant and it is recommended they not be submerged. That’s too bad because this device competes head to head with devices from Maverick and iGrill, both of which have the same limitation. We really need submersible probes for people who don’t read the instructions and throw them in the sink for cleaning. There are three additional probe models available for purchase and one claims to be water proof.
The food probe is L shaped and I’ve never understood why they do this. A straight probe is always better in my book. I also wish they used the industry standard thermocouple K probe which would make a huge range of probes available.
The transmitter has magnets on the back so it can be easily mounted to the cool parts of steel grills (do not attach to the hood), and a flip out stand so it can sit upright on a side table. The LCD display is very user friendly, better than the competition. The numbers are large and easy to read and it has a backlight that remains on for about 20 seconds. There are two sets of numbers, one for each probe. Each has a large number for current temp, and smaller numbers for the min and max temp that probe has felt. There are also numbers for high alarm and low alarm so you can tell it to beep if the oven or meat go above or below your targets. Setting the high/low is easy and intuitive, much easier than competitors, and there is a volume control and an on/off button to disable one or both alarms. There are no preprogrammed cooking temps for different meat types, but a cheat sheet with recommendations does come with the unit. I recommend our Meat Temperature Guide to help you select the appropriate doneness temperatures.
Like the transmitter, the receiver is easy to read and has a backlight. It has a beeper for high/low alarms and the backlight button also silences the alarm. The transmitter and the receiver come paired from the factory, but it can be re-synced with a simple procedure if they get confused. The receiver beeps and the backlight illuminates when first turned on. There is no audible sound when the backlight button is pushed after it is on, so you could set the receiver on a night table and check it without disturbing your sleeping partner. With the long battery life, you can leave it on all night without fear of depleting the AAs.
The transmitter also displays when the batteries are low (both transmitter and receiver take two AA batteries, and you can use rechargeables). If communication between the transmitter and receiver is lost, or if a probe fails, the receiver will display an error message and sound an alarm. The back of the transmitter has several recessed buttons to prevent accidental activation. There’s an on/off button, another that allows you to switch between ºF and ºC, and a button to turn off transmission to save battery life. A very cool feature: There can be more than one receiver paired to the transmitter – if you are a barbecue team. Just turn off the pairing button, and then turn it on again. Better still, the temperature can be calibrated if it gets off target. You can adjust it by putting the probes in ice water or boiling water, and with a button, return it to true.
Both the transmitter and the receiver are a bit larger and heavier than possible in the age of miniaturization (8.5 ounces and 5 ounces with batteries, respectively) but they feel more solid than the competition. There is no timer function, a feature found on most competing units.
Smoke ships with batteries included, with transmitter and receiver paired, a food temp probe, an air temp probe with grate clip, a snap on/off lanyard, and a simple instruction booklet. It is my new fave in the category, but if you are shopping on a budget, for $40 less, the Maverick ET-732 is still a great tool. We are giving the Smoke a Gold Medal for ease of use, quality of construction and high performance. It would be hard to beat this unit, even though the price is a bit higher than the competition.
Smoke is available only from ThermoWorks at the moment. Click here for more info and to order: ThermoWorks