So you have a smoker and you have done some grilling and maybe some BBQ. Maybe you have watched some Aaron Franklin videos or seen some other BBQ youtube videos. Most likely you’ve bought a kamado grill like Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe, Primo, Bastard or something like a Weber Smoky Mountain or a Weber Summit. It really doesn’t matter you will get some great BBQ.
Why do I need a temperature controller?
Personally I bought a Big Green Egg Large and I wanted to smoke meat. I read up on how to control temperatures and watched videos and tried different recipes. It will ramp up quite quickly. Originally I thought that automating temperature control would be too expensive and ruin the fun of BBQ. It was only after my first few really long cooks that I realized that for short cooks (<8h) it’s fine. When you go for long cooks that are up to 20h it gets a bit of chore and you don’t get to sleep and you are constantly tending to the fire and air vents. Things like air temperature, wind, moisture all have a big effect on the temperature in the cooker. So the vent settings you have might be fine but 2h later you might have +- 10-20 degrees difference in the cooker with the same settings. The dripping fat might cause a flare-up or the smoldering smoking wood might ignite and cause more coal to start burning. This is where automatic temperature controllers come in handy.
After cooking my first Brisket which took 18h+ hours and I barely slept during the night and it rained and there were strong winds the whole time I pretty much decided to look into what are the options.
What does a smoker controller do?
All the controllers on the market that I’ve seen do the same thing. They control the airflow from the bottom vent. If the smoker temperature is too low they will blow more air with a fan into the smoker. To limit the top temperature you manually adjust the top vent. Once you’ve done some cooks without a temperature controller you will already know more or less where you want your top vent to be for different cooks.
Bluetooth or Wifi?
I already had a Bluetooth temperature meter for my cooks to see the temperatures on my phone. The issue with Bluetooth is range. The distance will become an issue for most people and that’s why I went with a wifi option. Ideally something that can be hooked to the wifi and controlled even outside my home wifi network. This means you can control the temperature of your pit while shopping or even from work. This applies to all the controllers I’ve mentioned in this article.
There are several dozen controllers on the market. I’ve listed 4 good options and there are many others. Special mention to Smartfire BBQ controller. I found very limited information about it when I first bought my controller and found limited availability to my location at the time.
None of the ones I researched are waterproof but all of them are somewhat water-resistant. I’ve used my Flameboss in light rain and snow without issue. My grilling area is partially covered and no direct rain falls on it but when there is wind and rain there is also water getting on both the main controller and the fan.
Here are some options I looked into
Flamesboss 500 WIFI
The Flameboss 500 is $349 and roughly $50-$100 more than the following entries however the FlameBoss 500 is at the moment considered one of the best controllers on the market.
The FlameBoss 500 is also what I ended up with and the reason is that I wanted the option for multiple meat probes and at the time I didn’t even know about the y-cable option on the EGG Genius. I never actually control my Flameboss from the controller itself. I always use the mobile app. The only time I’ve used the controller directly is when I first hooked it up the wifi. It should have been possible from the mobile app but unfortunately this didn’t work. It was most likely a firmware issue. Once I did the initial setup it auto-updates 10+ firmware versions and since then it has worked without fault and I’m very happy with it. I use it for almost every cook I do.
- Up to 3 meat probes (package comes with 1 meat probe)
- 1 grill probe (included)
- Power supply (included)
- Fan (included)
- Controller with LCD screen (included)
- Mount (included)
- Installing kit (Universal steel smoker kit / Kamado or steel smoker kit)
About the two models that you will find when buying this. The only difference is the installation kit. I personally bought the universal kit because it was so much cheaper and fabricated the plate for my bottom air vent to fit the fan.
ProQ Smartfire BBQ Controller
The ProQ Smartfire BBQ Controller I’ve seen listed as anything between $200-$250. There are many different packs available and the content of the pack wary. The one pictured above has 3 meat probes and 1 grill probe. The package does not contain a power supply but most cell phone chargers should work.
The Fan is inbuilt with a controller. Wifi and Bluetooth enabled. Up to 3 meat probes and 1 grill probe. Different versions are available for different grill models, the difference being in the installation kit. This controller on paper appears to be the best value for money. It was however not easily available to me and it’s not on Amazon. It does however offer currently free international shipping and is a real contender. It is highly likely that if I were to buy one now I would choose this one. Depending on the price you can get it it should beat out both EGG Genius and the Flameboss 400. If the possibility to control the temperature and see the temps next to the grill is important to you the Flameboss 500 does offer that.
The EGG Genius is rebranded version of the Flameboss 400 with minor changes and I’ve seen it listed at $235.
The controller is built into the fan. No display, connect to wifi and control over a mobile app.
This is for Kamado grills and specifically for Big Green Egg but will work for almost any Kamado Grill they all seem to have the same bottom air vent. The main difference between this and a Flameboss 400 is that it supports a Y-cable and you can have more than one meat probe.
Flameboss 400 WIFI
Flameboss 400 is pretty much exactly the same as the EGG Genius. There is however one key difference. Flameboss 400 doesn’t support Y-cable and thus can only be used with 2 probes. One for the grill and one for meat. This is enough for most cooks. I’ve rarely used more. The package contains a power supply, 2 probes, the controller/fan and the installation kit.
In hindsight for my needs I would be perfectly happy with any of these options. I don’t typically need multiple meat probes. Stick it into the one most likely to be ready first and when you check the meat anyway you can check the temperatures of the others with a pen meter.
Check compatibility with your smoker before you buy the controller you choose. All of them list compatibility and all of them are compatible with several models.
In the end, I will recommend the Flameboss 500 because that’s what I chose and I’m very happy with it. But on paper the Smartfire does everything the Flameboss does it just doesn’t have an LCD screen. In the end, I’m sure all of them will improve the quality of life and choose the one that you can get the best bargain for at the time you wish to buy one. I hope Flameboss ships models with upgraded firmware and you get an easier setup than I did. Inputting a long wifi password into the controller manually was not ideal.