FireBoard is a cloud-connected thermometer with some seriously smart features for pitmasters, cooks and tech enthusiasts.
All your temperature data is displayed on the companion app and website and you are able to save your cook data for future reference.
The main thermometer can accommodate up to six probes and supports a snap-on blower that gives you automatic temperature control on your charcoal or wood smoker.
The company is still quite new, originally launching on Kickstarter back in 2016 they’ve quickly gained a loyal following thanks to the build quality, accuracy, as well as the app/cloud connectivity features.
Update On June 8th, 2020 Fireboard released the FireBoard 2. We are in the process of reviewing the new model, but in the meantime, you can get more details from the Fireboard website.
FireBoard sent me a free thermometer and snap-on blower in return for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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Fireboard overview and first impressions
I was very much looking forward to testing out the thermometer from Fireboard and when an opportunity came up to smoke beef plate short ribs for Labor Day, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.
In this review I will be covering a number of products from Fireboard used together to regulate the cook:
- Fireboard Thermometer (the actual control unit) & probes – $189
- Fireboard Drive Fan Control Cable – $79
- Fireboard Case – $55
- 20 CFM Fireboard Snap-on Blower – $60
A large part of the appeal of the FireBoard for me was the ability to connect the fan for temperature control.
If you’re only interested in the thermometer functionality we’ll cover that too.
What I liked:
- App functionality – I really like how the main screen displays each graph and temperature of each probe without you having to drill down.
- Cloud-connected – While the thermometer connects over Bluetooth for setup you can then connect to your WiFi network to provide much better range. All data is saved to your account and you can view via your phone or the website.
- Heavy-duty & accurate probes – The probes that come with the Fireboard seem better quality than the ones I’m used to cooking with. You can also run up to six probes at once.
- Support for third party blowers – The drive fan control cable will support any 12V blower like the 10 CFM Pit Viper from BBQ Guru.
- Power fan off the battery – While I wouldn’t recommend doing this for a long cook, you can keep the fan running off the battery in an emergency.
What I didn’t like:
- Blower setup instructions lacking – I would have liked to see more support from the manufacturer for installing the blower on different types of cooker.
- Thermometer case – While the quality seemed high, the fit was tight and I managed to damage the case a little the first time I inserted the thermometer.
- Limited functionality on the main unit – Everything has been designed for you to use the companion app or website, and so the main meter is limited. A small LCD screen displays the battery life and cycles through your probe temperatures.
I don’t think any of those issues are dealbreakers and in general, I found the Fireboard to be a very promising thermometer and regulator for my smoker.
Most components were high quality, the battery backup and dual WiFi/Bluetooth added resilience and the software was quite flexible.
I think most people would be interested in the $189 Fireboard thermometer kit that comes with a thermistor ambient probe and 2 food probes. There’s also an “Extreme BBQ Edition” which includes 2 ambient probes and 6 food probes.
What’s in the box & manufacturer specifications
The FireBoard thermometer and fan shipped in two boxes. In the first (orange box) was the Fireboard Thermometer.
On opening it you first find the instruction manual and then the components.
Inside was the Thermometer, a power plug, two meat probes, and a pit probe with stand.
The power plug connects to the Thermometer with a micro-USB connection and the first thing I did was plug it in and power it up.
|Probe Temperature Range||-94 to 752°F|
|Measurement Accuracy||±0.7°F (±0.4°C), ±0.1% of reading|
|Dimensions||3.9”W x 2.4”H x 1.1”D|
|Battery||Li-Ion 4000mAh / approx 25 hrs runtime|
|LCD Display||128 x 32 black and white, backlit|
Inside the second box was the drive cable for controlling the blower, a power plug for the drive cable, the 20 CFM blower, and the Fireboard case.
I immediately noticed that Fireboard had taken an interesting approach to how they connect a blower to the Thermometer.
This cable isn’t just a “dumb” connection but has a fair amount of functionality itself.
First, there’s no requirement to use the FireBoard branded blower.
Any 12V blower will work (which most of them are). As I’ll describe later, I ended up doing much of my cook with a 10 CFM Pit Viper from BBQ Guru.
Also, you can provide power directly to the Drive cable, to the Thermometer, or run everything off a battery (they do warn you that powering the blower off the Thermometer battery will reduce charge time).
I really liked that flexibility including the ability to just use the battery. I can see this being quite useful if you’re doing a cook at a park, for example, and don’t have power.
Setting up the Fireboard thermometer
The first step was downloading the app from the app store. You can just search “FireBoard” on either Google Play or the Apple app store.
Connecting your device to the thermometer is done over Bluetooth.
I had a few issues getting that to work, but nothing turning the Bluetooth off and on a few times couldn’t fix.
Once connected, the Fireboard app walked me through the steps to connect the Fireboard to my wireless network, which was straightforward.
As I’ll discuss later though, having both Bluetooth and wireless on the Thermometer ends up being a really nice feature.
You also need to create an account to save your cooking data for later.
Installing the blower
The next step, and the step I always dread the most when testing a new temp controller, was attaching the blower to my cooker.
I use a Backwoods Party and while there are plenty of them out there, it’s not the most common cooker around.
There were no instructions included on how to connect the blower to any specific models.
On the Fireboard website, there are some instructions for Kamodo, generic kettle and bullet-style cookers.
I appreciate how hard it is to provide detailed instructions for every smoker type but I really wish thermometer/regulator manufacturers would provide more guidance on as installing the blower correctly is crucial to your overall success!
You can have all the fancy control logic in the thermometer you want, and as glitzy an app as you can design, but it’s all pointless if you don’t have a good seal between blower and cooker and air can just draft in.
It’s a really important place to help your users.
Kudos to BBQ Guru on this as they have detailed instructions and adaptors for quite a few models. That said, this blower came with a thick gasket and spring connectors and after some fiddling, I was able to create what I felt was a pretty good seal.
Here’s where the internet is your best friend. I recommend Googling “Fireboard blower + your cooker type” and checking out a few videos or guides.
Now I was about ready to start my fire. I did, however, have the case for the Thermometer. This case is meant to be weatherproof and provide a stand.
The challenge is the fit was quite tight, and just in trying to simply insert the Thermometer and adjust the gasket for the ports I broke part of the case.
I wasn’t using a lot of force so be careful when you do this yourself!
Besides this one section, though, the case is well made. Gaskets cover all the ports for probes, power, and drive cable in a manner that seems to protect well from the elements.
The stand is quite handy, but by far the best feature was the magnets in the case.
As you can see in the photo at the top of this review these magnets were strong enough to hold the Thermometer solidly to the side of my cooker even with the drag of multiple cables.
Using the FireBoard
Time to cook! I started my fire, put the ambient temp probe on a rack in the cooker, and connected the blower to the Thermometer.
First problem – the blower was trying to go, but could not. Kind of starting and stopping repeatedly.
No blower is a big problem. Good news – I just installed my BBQ Guru Pit Viper and connected that to the Drive cable and voilà, we were going.
I was able to get the Fireboard blower going later, so I’m not sure why it didn’t work initially.
After doing some research online I can’t find anyone else reporting this issue.
After the cooker came up to temp, I put a probe in my ribs and onto the fire.
You can see what the Fireboard app display looks like in the screenshot below. You can see the current temp of each probe, as well as individual graphs for each probe on a single screen.
I really how all the information you need is displayed on one screen.
For this cook, I was using 3 probes:
- One for the pit (lightest),
- One for the ribs (medium),
- One for some sausages I put on near the end of the cook (darkest).
I don’t usually put a probe in sausages but I wanted to play with more than 2 probes!
You can have up to 6 probes in this Thermometer at once. You can purchase additional probes from the FireBoard website for $15 each.
If you press the “drive” button on the screen it switches to a different screen that shows the fan output (green) and the “control” probe (in this case, the pit).
Cooks are saved in “sessions” that you can refer back to any time in the future to see how a cook went.
I like having cloud connectivity because it allows you to monitor your temperature via the web. This means you can keep an eye on your temps from your computer without having to get your phone out.
This is especially handy if you want to quickly check your temps while you’re at work (you are leaving the smoker going while at work aren’t you?) and don’t want to get your phone out.
I do wish there was a way to annotate the cook to note where you added wood, rotated the meat, or spritzed for example.
As luck would have it, just about 5 minutes into my cook, the power to my entire neighborhood goes out.
This is not good when you’re using an electrically powered temperature controller that is running off your wireless network!
That said, the Fireboard did surprisingly well.
First, the rechargeable battery in the Thermometer kept it going while continuing to power my blower.
Second, as long as I was close enough (50 feet or so), the Bluetooth connection kicked in and kept data flowing to the app and control changes from the app back to the Thermometer.
I was quite impressed. Now, I don’t expect to regularly have power outages during a cook, but I can see grabbing my WSM and a few racks of baby-backs and heading over to a park for a picnic!
Unlike most controllers, the Fireboard would be more than up to an “off the grid” cook like that.
A few capabilities I didn’t get to test on the Fireboard. They advertise that the FireBoard works with Alexa and Google Assistant.
I didn’t try to use that, but If you like the idea of using your smart assistant to check your temperatures then this could be a plus.
Second, there is an entire portion of the app where you can customize your “Drive Program” meaning the algorithm used to control the blower.
This capability seems like it could be quite powerful if you want to have stages to your cook (first at one temp, then at another for example).
Alternative thermometers to consider
The FireBoards combination of probe capacity and smart features puts it in pretty limited company.
The two other options I would consider are the Flame Boss 500 and the ThermoWorks Signals.
The Signals thermometer unit is better, but the app doesn’t have as much functionality.
The Billows fan attachment is also not variable speed. It turns on and off to try and hit the right temperature, whereas the unit from FireBoard can speed up or slow down.
We’ve done a more detailed comparison between the Signals and FireBoard here.
FireBoard vs Flame Boss 500
These two options are fairly even so it will come down to a few factors:
- The Flame Boss supports 4 probes vs 6 on the FireBoard.
- At current pricing, the FireBoard + cable + blower is a slightly better deal.
- Both are cloud-connected and provide online dashboards as well as the app.
- Both devices support Amazon Alexa and Google Home.
- FireBoard seems to have the better performing app with an average 4.5/5 rating on both Google Play and Apple App Store compared with 3.9 and 2.9 for the Flame Boss.
Should you buy the Fireboard thermometer?
In summary, I think the Fireboard is a very promising thermometer and regulator for a backyard smoker.
Most components were high quality, the battery backup and dual WiFi/Bluetooth added resilience, the software was quite flexible, and I really liked that you could “bring your own blower”.
Places, where it fell a bit short, was case easily breaking (though otherwise, I loved the case), and the blower not working initially.
With that, you may or may not be successful getting the blower installed with a tight seal on your cooker.
I expect to keep using the Fireboard given all its advantages, but continue to do so with my BBQ Guru Pit Viper blower as it just gives a much better connection to both of my cookers.
Last update on 2020-09-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API