The barbecue thermometer market hasn’t been very interesting for a while now. If you wanted a decent wireless thermometer you went with a Maverick ET-733. If you were a bit more adventurous and wanted to view your smoker temperatures on your phone then you would go for an iGrill 2.
While many people craved an easy to program, more durable thermometer, there simply weren’t any other options.
The $99 Smoke by Thermoworks changes everything. By really focusing on the core features and ease of use, Thermoworks have succeeded in creating the default thermometer for smoking enthusiasts.
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If you’ve owned a wireless thermometer before then the basic setup should be very familiar to you. For your $99 you get a transmitter (that’s the part that sits next to your smoker) that can accept two temperature probes at once.
That sends temperature reading to the receiver which you can place anywhere within 300 feet. As I write this review I’ve got some pork ribs cooking on my Weber Smokey Mountain and the receiver is sitting on my desk keeping me up to date. (Because I’m doing ribs I’m only using the ambient probe so you can see it’s showing nothing for the second probe.)
The first thing you notice after taking the Smoke out of it’s box is the size. This is great for two reasons.
- The LCD screen is much larger than it’s competitors. You can easily read the temperature at a glance. If it’s dark or you have bad glare you can also tap a large button on either the receiver or transmitter and it will illuminate for 20 seconds.
- This is a durable unit. According to Thermoworks “Smoke features a rugged housing with molded-in seals for splashproof protection”.
The more you use the Smoke the more you appreciate the design. It’s clear Thermoworks decided to focus on making the setup and operation as simple as possible, and removing all the crap features you’ll never use.
This is evident from the moment you turn the unit on. The transmitter and receiver come paired so there’s no confusing setup process. This is refreshing as we counted 9 steps to pair a iGrill 2 thermometer! This unit radio frequency technology instead of Bluetooth which helps explain why it’s so simple to connect, and once it’s paired it stays like that for the duration of your cook.
It’s clear Thermoworks decided to focus on making the setup and operation as simple as possible, and removing all the crap features you’ll never use.
Setting low and high alarms is also super simple. Those of you who have owned another thermometer will appreciate you get an up AND a down button for setting your desired temperatures. This sounds like a tiny feature but there’s nothing more annoying than overshooting your temperature by 1° and having start from scratch.
Once you’ve set a high and low alarm you’ll be notified by a loud beeping noise if your temp exceeds or drops below the limits. You can also keep track of the max and min temperature you’ve reached during a cook on the right side of the transmitter.
This is handy to check if you’ve had any flareups during a cook you haven’t been keeping a close eye on.
What’s in the box & manufacturer specifications
Smoke ships in a small box with plastic ports that let you see the receiver and the transmitter. Both of these come with a screen protector that you peal off. This doubles as a demo to show you what the screen looks like when it’s turn on.
Inside the box you’ll find the receiver and transmitter, as well as:
- Pro-Series High Temp Cooking Probe
- Pro-Series High Temp Air Probe
- Grate Clip
- Lanyard for the receiver if you want to hang it around your neck
- Operating instructions
The air probe is thin and slides right into the handy grate clip. This looks different to the cooking probe which is a 6″ probe with a right angle bend.
The unit comes with batteries pre-installed so you don’t need to worry about buying them.
You also get a small operating instructions manual, which comes with quick start guide (which you barely need to skip). There’s also a guide to what every button and item on the display does, and a very simple meat doneness chart (if you need a more comprehensive smoking temperature chart then click here.
- Probe Range: -58 to 572°F (-50 to 300°C)
- Probe Cable Range: Max 700°F (370°C)
- Accuracy changes between different temperature ranges:
– ±1.8°F (±1.0°C) from -4 to 248°F (-20 to 120°C)
±3.6°F (±2.0°C) from -58 to -4°F / 248 to 392°F (-50 to -20°C / 120 to 200°C)
±5.4°F (±3.0°C) from 392 to 572°F (200 to 300°C)
- Resolution: 0.1°F (°C)
- Units: °C/°F switchable
- Water Resistance: IP65 (excluding probe connector)
- Operating Range: 32 to 122°F (0 to 50°C)
- Backlight: 20 seconds (both Smoke & Receiver)
- Max Sounds Volume: Smoke: 90dB / Receiver: 75dB
- Sensor: Thermistor
- Transmission Range: 300-feet line of sight
Using the Smoke thermometer
Everything about using the Smoke is very straight forward. The first time you use it you’ll need to remove the screen protectors, and then there are some pull tags to remove the battery protectors. Removing these will automatically turn the unit on.
Each probe plugs into the unit and the temps should start reading automatically. The large LCD screen is split in two. With the top half used for probe 1 and the bottom for probe 2.
Each button sits in a logical position, and the buttons are are decent size (handy for those of us with clumsy fingers).
On the left side of the transmitter you can select “Set” to setup the limits for that probe. Simply press “Set” then use the large up and down buttons on the center of the unit to get to your desired temperature then press “Set” to lock it in.
Quick start guide:
- Power the unit up by pressing the ON/OFF switch on the back of the receiver.
- Connect the air probe and (if you’re using it) the High Temp cooking probe (that’s the one with the bend in it).
- Press “set” and adjust the arrows to select your high temp then press set again to lock it in and start toggling the low temp. For a typical low and slow cook I’ll set my high to 250° and my low to 200°. If you’re using the meat probe, select the ideal done temperature for what you’re cooking.
- Once your smoker is setup, thread the air temp probe through and attach to the grill clip by pinching it
- Check that the temperatures are displaying on both the receiver and transmitter.
Now you’re ready to cook! I’ll usually leave the transmitter sitting on my grill next to the smoker. It does have a magnet on the back, but my WSM gets too hot to attach it directly. If you have any cool surface you can attach it to that instead.
If you’re going to be outside you can turn the Receiver off to save battery power. Because of the large LCD screen on the transmitter I can easily check the temperature by looking out the window. But if I’m watching a movie or cooking something else it’s handy to have the receiver close by.
If the temperature goes above or below your set limits both the transmitter and receiver will start to let out a loud beeping noise. The receiver also vibrates to make it extra obvious (and super user friendly for any hard of hearing pit masters out there).
Accuracy and speed is where the Smoke sets itself apart
The large screen and buttons and simple interface make the Smoke very enjoyable to use. But at the end of the day a thermometer will be judged on it’s accuracy (and to a lesser extent, speed).
When it comes to low and slow, speed isn’t quite as important. Since you’ll generally leave the thermometer inside a piece of meat for many hours, getting a quick read isn’t as important. Having said that, the Smoke can read temperatures in 4-5 seconds which isn’t quite as quick as the legendary Themapen but is more than enough for our uses.
The two “Pro-Series” probes that come with the Smoke are a definite upgrade over competitors like the ET-733 in terms of accuracy and durability. Everything is calibrated so there shouldn’t be anything for you to do before using it.
The probes are accurate to within plus or minus 1.8°F for temps up to 248°F. The accuracy drops a tiny bit when cooking between 392 to 572°F, but you can always fine tune this with an ice bath test.
Thermoworks claim that Smoke was “designed for competition BBQ teams and professional chefs”. While we can definitely see how the usability, accuracy and speed would come in handy during competition BBQ, we were interested to see what else sets this unit apart from the competition.
- Pair with multiple receivers – Will the base unit comes with one receiver, you can purchase additional receivers for $45 each. So if you’re everyone can have their own receiver. If one member needs to get some shut eye there are now no excuses for sleeping through the alarm and vibrations.
- Flexible probe configuration – While some units force you to have a meat probe and an air probe, the Smoke gives you freedom to configure however you wish. It accepts all Pro-Series probes, so you can use the same probe as a DOT or ChefAlarm, or buy replacement food or air probes
- Durable construction – There are a lot of little details that show the extra care and attention Thermoworks put into this thermometer. The Pro-Series probes come with extra metal casing to protect the weak points. While I would still try and avoid water, the IP65 water resistance on the transmitter is a nice feature. You won’t have to run in a panic if it starts to drizzle.
While it’s being marketed as a tool for professionals, the $99 price point makes this an excellent choice for backyard barbecue and amateur pit masters as well as more serious cooks.
At the $99 price point, you might expect a few more bells and whistles, like being able turn your phone into a receiver. I respect that Thermoworks decided to focus on the key features and user experience, but was excited to hear that they do have something in the works…
The Smoke Gateway
While it still hasn’t been released (Summer 2017 is the only estimate we have), there is an add-on coming soon that will work with your existing Smoke to connect to your home Wi-FI network and allow you to connect to your Smartphone or Tablet.
We don’t have too many details yet. All we know is that it will retail for $89 and work with your existing Smoke.
From the image on the Thermoworks website, it looks the the gateway will be about the same size as the receiver.
We’re excited that the Gateway is going to use WiFi instead of Bluetooth. Lots of the Bluetooth options struggle with pairing and connectivity, which you don’t get with WiFi.
It remains to be seen what the App will be like, but hopefully Thermoworks can improve on some of the clunky interfaces the competition have.
Smoke VS the Maverick ET-733
If you’re in the market for a new thermometer then chances are you’ve heard of the Maverick ET-733. It’s been around a long time and is often recommended. So is it worth spending the extra on a Smoke?
- The ET-733 gives you a little more flexibility out of the box, as it comes with two identical probes (and 2 clips) so you can monitor 2 pieces of meat or two smokers. Compared to the Smoke which comes with a dedicated probe for each use, the Maverick wins a point on flexibility.
- On the Maverick you can select from preset temperature settings for a range of meats including beef, lamb, pork, chicken and turkey. While this sounds handy, we prefer to dial in our own temp settings as the pre-sets can be a little funny.
- Smoke is far easier to setup and control than the ET-733. Get ready for a lot more time hunched over the manual if you go for the ET-733
- With the Smoke everything is programmed on the Transmitter that sits by your smoker. On the ET-733 you can program using the Receiver. It is nice to be able to adjust your setting from the comfort of your own bed, but you give up a little bit of convenience to be able to pair multiple transmitters on the Smoke.
- The probes on the Smoke are longer, more durable and more accurate.
At the end of the day the Smoke is so good at the basics, if you can spare the extra $30 we would definitely recommend going for it.
Smoke VS the Weber iGrill 2
- The probes on the Smoke are superior in every way. They’ll last longer and provide more accurate readings.
- The pairing on the Smoke is also much easier, and because it uses WiFi the range is better and more reliable than the bluetooth unit.
If you want to connect your thermometer to your phone, the iGrill is still your best choice. At least until the the Smoke Gateway is released.
Smoke VS the Chef Alarm
Until the launch of Smoke, the Chef Alarm was solid thermometer choice if you didn’t mind paying extra for quality. But as a single probe unit, you don’t have the same flexibility the Smoke offers.
- The Smoke accepts two probes and displays their temperatures simultaneously while the ChefAlarm only has one.
- The ChefAlarm doesn’t come with a receiver so you have to check the temp at your smoker
- The ChefAlarm does include a timer, but we don’t find this super useful for barbecue
If you think you’ll ever need to monitor two pieces of meat, or your pit temp plus meat temp, there’s no reason to go with the ChefAlarm over the Smoke.
Where to buy
The best place to buy the Smoke is from the Thermoworks website. For some reason you find a lot of sellers buying these up and trying to sell them for a huge increase on some of the third party seller websites like Amazon and Ebay.
But if you buy from Thermoworks you will get the best price, and the two year warranty on defective components and 6 month warranty on probes.