Weber Kettle and Summit charcoal-- looking for a temp controller... or how about Tip Top Temp?


 

DaveInLA

New member
Hi guys, I've had my kettle for 7 or so years and will get the Summit charcoal soon. I want to up my game by getting a temp controller like the Billows or BBQ Guru or something like that, and the choices are overwhelming. Here are my main concerns-

I like technology and I have a lot of smart stuff in my home, but those are all from major companies. I read a post from someone in another thread bringing up the possibility of the company going down; maybe I'm being overly anxious about that, but I can't rule it out. Or more frequently, the internet goes down. For the ones that use wifi/bluetooth and a phone app, what does happen if the internet is down? Can the controller/fan still be used manually without the smart connection (just no app monitoring)? Or is the whole unit literally useless? If so, I might splurge and get the Fireboard + Pit Viper or the Smoke + Billows.

Of the more affordable ones ($200ish) without internet/app tracking, I'm looking at the Smoke/Billows vs BBQ Guru DigiQ DX3. One disadvantage of the DigiQ is that I don't believe it comes with a remote so I can't check the status when I'm inside the house.

On a broader point, it seems the Billows fan is just on or off, while the Fireboard and BBQ Guru models can run a fan at variable speed. How important is this? Most home HVAC units are single speed (like the Billows) and I sometimes wish I had a variable speed HVAC unit. Does this cause wider temperature fluctuations?

While I'm at it, are these electronic controllers really THAT much better than a Tip Top Temp that costs $40? I already have a regular thermometer so I just need something to control the temp.
 

Brett-EDH

TVWBB Diamond Member
Recco you try the E6/S6 first. I’ve had mine for 6 months and it keeps temps dead on like a mad person. Haven’t seen a need for a controller. Maybe others gave and can offer up some perspective.
 

DanHoo

TVWBB Honor Circle
I have a billows with a smoke X4.

I use it on my large BGE and it works very well.

The smoke X controller pulses the fan when it is close to target temp, so on or off doesn't seem te be an issue.

One issue I had was limiting intake flow for low temp and I picked up the intake limiter. I forgot what it's called. I found without it I could not limit air in with the billows attached, even with the fan off. This fixed that issue and with it I could hold 220 F in the BGE for an overnight cook.

I recommend getting one if you go with the billows. Here's a pic. It's the yellow thing clipped over the billows fan intake

20211204_153051.jpg

edit: here's the damper. It is only $2.99. I would think the efficiency of a summit kamodo would also do well limiting intake air.

 
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DanHoo

TVWBB Honor Circle
Recco you try the E6/S6 first. I’ve had mine for 6 months and it keeps temps dead on like a mad person. Haven’t seen a need for a controller. Maybe others gave and can offer up some perspective.

I don't need one for my BGE either, however for low temp overnight cooks it takes the guesswork away and I don't need to wonder if temp is too low or too high. I just sleep.

I don't use the billows for anything over 300F.
 

Rick-SC

TVWBB Member
Recco you try the E6/S6 first. I’ve had mine for 6 months and it keeps temps dead on like a mad person. Haven’t seen a need for a controller. Maybe others gave and can offer up some perspective.
I don’t know what I’m doing wrong but I just can’t seem to get my s6 to run stably at 225. If it get it dialed in, It seems that it’ll eventually start creeping up and then head towards 250. The two overnight cooks I’ve had, the FireBoard alarm went off and I wound up having to hook up the pit viper to be able to get back to sleep. I’m sure it’s user error, but I’m not sure what exactly I’m doing
 

Brett-EDH

TVWBB Diamond Member
I don’t know what I’m doing wrong but I just can’t seem to get my s6 to run stably at 225. If it get it dialed in, It seems that it’ll eventually start creeping up and then head towards 250. The two overnight cooks I’ve had, the FireBoard alarm went off and I wound up having to hook up the pit viper to be able to get back to sleep. I’m sure it’s user error, but I’m not sure what exactly I’m doing
What fuel source? For me to keep low temp, 225°, the bottom vent is barely open and the top is also barely open, just enough to create a draft to keep the fuel alive. I have only done daytime cooks, no overnights, and have been able to keep 250° ish consistently. I really prefer JD XL as it keeps temps well. I also keep my fuel in the CBs in the lower coal position so as to keep close contact of fuel both lit and unlit pieces.

If I may ask, what meats are you cooking at the 225° mark? Just curious. The protein size and how it absorbs heat I think also plays a part in temp stability.

When I was learning to do low and slow on my E6, I actually starved my fire once. That was a learning experience for sure. I closed the bottom vent too much and snuffed out the fire.
 

DaveInLA

New member
Does anybody know if the "smart" thermometers are still able to regulate the fan to achieve temps even when internet or the company's server is down? I've read about poor connectivity, etc. In those instances, will it still maintain temp?
 

TimA

TVWBB Pro
Get the Billows and Smoke X4. It’s a champ, love it. It’s probably the company most insulated from going out of business in the future, as they aren’t just temp controllers, they have a whole commercial side as well.
 

Rick-SC

TVWBB Member
What fuel source? For me to keep low temp, 225°, the bottom vent is barely open and the top is also barely open, just enough to create a draft to keep the fuel alive. I have only done daytime cooks, no overnights, and have been able to keep 250° ish consistently. I really prefer JD XL as it keeps temps well. I also keep my fuel in the CBs in the lower coal position so as to keep close contact of fuel both lit and unlit pieces.

If I may ask, what meats are you cooking at the 225° mark? Just curious. The protein size and how it absorbs heat I think also plays a part in temp stability.

When I was learning to do low and slow on my E6, I actually starved my fire once. That was a learning experience for sure. I closed the bottom vent too much and snuffed out the fire.
My overnight cooks were brisket and a butt. I have observed phenomenon where the temp starts to rise after the meat has been on the cooker for a while. It must be that the cold meat is initially serving as a heat sink and then as it gets to a certain temp (maybe when it's done evaporating?), the temps in the cooker rise. I noticed that this Christmas when I was cooking the back ribs separately from the prime rib. At first, it was holding pretty steady, but after a few hours it started to creep. When I put the ribeye roast on, it stabilized again...

My issue is that I can't seem to stablize at 225. If I'm running a little hot (say 235-240) and I close the top vent a little, it usually drops to 215 or lower. I realize it doesn't need to be dead-on precise, but it's weird that I have such a hard time pegging 225.

To OP's question, I have a thermoworks smoke and a Fireboard. I bought the smoke gateway on sale recently because I like having the wifi capabilities of the fireboard to track my cook. You can't use the smoke as a controller, but presumably it's the same as the signals except the signals is better (can track more probes, all-in-one, etc).

If I was starting over again, I'd just get the fireboard to start with. It's worth the $$ in my mind. I have the BBQ Guru pit viper fan with it and the two work perfectly. You'll need the Weber adapter from Guru but it's a cinch to install on the summit.

But to @Brett-EDH 's point, it's worth trying your cooker and seeing if you really need the blower
 

DanHoo

TVWBB Honor Circle
If temp tracking to cloud or PC storage is important, then the Smoke X4 is not the droid you are looking for.
If having the temps displayed on a phone or tablet is important, same answer.

For me, I opted for simplicity and did not want Wifi or bluetooth or any dependency on my phone. I like the remote where I can see all four temps at a glance. It has a mag mount, and my back door is magnetic.

I'll be candid, for most cooks, I like my base Smoke more than the smoke X4 because its even simpler, and I tend to use it if I'm not using the billows.
 

Tim - tongatim

New member
Hi guys, I've had my kettle for 7 or so years and will get the Summit charcoal soon. I want to up my game by getting a temp controller like the Billows or BBQ Guru or something like that, and the choices are overwhelming. Here are my main concerns-.....
I love new gadgets and toys as much as the next guy and have gone the route of the Guru w/ pit viper fan, but my short answer is to simply control temps with the slider vents on the kettle and spend your bucks on prime briskets instead.

For years, I invested in expensive smokers (Rec-Tec, Humphreys Battle Box, etc) and ever increasingly sophisticated temp controllers, obsessively aiming to keep the temperature within a couple of degrees. I have more recently returned to my roots of 40 years ago and am now doing my brisket and pork butt slow cooks utilizing only the top and bottom vents of the Weber kettle. I have come to realize that a 50º pit temp window is more than sufficient for an excellent outcome, and it is very easy to keep my slow cook temps between 225 and 275; and with just a little more attention, between 225 and 250. Guru or no Guru, temps are going to fluctuate when you add a big hunk of cold meat, open the lid to rotate or spritz the meat, wrap, add more charcoal, etc. I find I can get the temp back in the groove as quickly by manually adjusting the vents as my BBQ Guru was able to do on its own.

Dave, you've been using the kettle for 7 years, so you probably know this stuff, but I've found it helpful to use a waterpan, to use a good briquette, and to carefully set up my snake for a consistent burn. I do use a grill level pit probe, and rotate the grill throughout the cook to keep it in a consistent location on the opposite side of the meat from the active burning charcoal, while also keeping the lid vent opposite the burn. But even here, I find the pit probe is always pretty darn close to the cheap lid thermometer that comes with the kettle, so am going to try simplifying even more by eliminating the pit probe. The other key to temp control is to make very small adjustments to the vent (I pretty much leave the top vent alone and adjust with the bottom vent) and wait at least 15 minutes for it to settle in before making further adjustment.

Smoke on.
 

Brett-EDH

TVWBB Diamond Member
I love new gadgets and toys as much as the next guy and have gone the route of the Guru w/ pit viper fan, but my short answer is to simply control temps with the slider vents on the kettle and spend your bucks on prime briskets instead.

For years, I invested in expensive smokers (Rec-Tec, Humphreys Battle Box, etc) and ever increasingly sophisticated temp controllers, obsessively aiming to keep the temperature within a couple of degrees. I have more recently returned to my roots of 40 years ago and am now doing my brisket and pork butt slow cooks utilizing only the top and bottom vents of the Weber kettle. I have come to realize that a 50º pit temp window is more than sufficient for an excellent outcome, and it is very easy to keep my slow cook temps between 225 and 275; and with just a little more attention, between 225 and 250. Guru or no Guru, temps are going to fluctuate when you add a big hunk of cold meat, open the lid to rotate or spritz the meat, wrap, add more charcoal, etc. I find I can get the temp back in the groove as quickly by manually adjusting the vents as my BBQ Guru was able to do on its own.

Dave, you've been using the kettle for 7 years, so you probably know this stuff, but I've found it helpful to use a waterpan, to use a good briquette, and to carefully set up my snake for a consistent burn. I do use a grill level pit probe, and rotate the grill throughout the cook to keep it in a consistent location on the opposite side of the meat from the active burning charcoal, while also keeping the lid vent opposite the burn. But even here, I find the pit probe is always pretty darn close to the cheap lid thermometer that comes with the kettle, so am going to try simplifying even more by eliminating the pit probe. The other key to temp control is to make very small adjustments to the vent (I pretty much leave the top vent alone and adjust with the bottom vent) and wait at least 15 minutes for it to settle in before making further adjustment.

Smoke on.
I'm of the same school. My only technology is my Thermoworks instant read thermometer. I just use the lid dial and from experience, know what's going on with my cook based on cook temp, protein being cooked and vent openings.

I found the E6 to be a very stable cooker, and yes you'll see some temps move up or down a tad but I always target 25 degrees fluctuation when cooking.

@Rick Petillo, I've seen similar temp movements (up 25 degrees) near end of cook when the protein has taken on it's desired temp. This happened to me on my recent smoked pork belly cook. I was dialed in at 250 and holding strong for 2.5 hours and then the temp dial moved up to 275. I probed the PB and was hitting 180ish across all 4 pieces. I went a little further on the cook and pulled at less than 190 and then braised the PBs in a pan for that extra tenderness. After the braise I took the foil off to dry up the fat getting back a little of that bark.

However, I've never experienced the E6 running away on temps, meaning a target cook temp of 225/250 and she's then pegging 300/350. I've always been fine with temps moving some as the fuel density can change and I do think an at-temp protein will make the lid thermometer move upwards.

What I've found on the E6 is that cook times are less than my previous WSM 18 and temp stability is very solid. Three racks of St Louis at 225/250 are done at 3 hours versus 4 in my WSM. You can do a HAF brisket in 5 to 5.5 hours too and still have a very tender cook (18# pre-trimmed weight, with a cook weight of 14/14.5#).

But not being an overnight cooker, I cannot offer up a better perspective for those seeking blowers, probes or digital tools. I'd probably go down a deep rabbit hole if I ever bought some of those. Thankfully going back to charcoal and lump cooking has calmed me. I've come to just enjoy the process and it's done when it's done. I just try to get the meats on the grill early enough to eat at a reasonable hour.
 

Timothy F. Lewis

TVWBB 1-Star Olympian
I have a ”Tip Top” and it’s really pretty cool, it does take some thought since it’s a pretty simple bimetallic unit. I have only used it a couple of times but, it did a pretty amazing job. I think I got two of them for a little over $40.00 gave one as a gift.
I don’t use any “real”ATC units, the simpler the better is my philosophy.
I asked a buddy of mine if he had a digique and he said ”Yeah, you want to try it?“ I just asked what he thought of it he said it worked pretty well but, it became one more thing to collect dust. He has gone back to basics as well. There’s a reason I like that guy!
 

GrantT

TVWBB Super Fan
I cannot use the TTT here...in colder weather, it seizes up, or even freezes. Heat + moisture + cold = condensation. Just does not mix well with our cooler seasons.

As much as I love the stability of my S6 all on its own, charcoal cooking can be a fickle mistress...sometimes get's a little hot, sometimes can run run a bit cold, and often changes with the breeze...(so to speak!)

So, a black Friday deal finally swung me over to a Signals/Billows combo. Still have not had a chance to use it yet...but crossing fingers after a lot of research it's my final solution for those overnight cooks. I went with the Signals over the Smoke as I like using my phone for monitoring (one less device) and being able to monitor remotely...not just for the BBQ, but also for using it with my home oven etc. too.

While absolutely nothing to do with BBQ, I also use it to remotely monitor my home temperature in the freezing month when we are away. Place a probe in a small container of water in the basement when we go away for a weekend or week...if the furnace should go out, I can set an alarm.
 
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Andrew F

TVWBB Super Fan
Honestly I went with a HeaterMeter and have never looked back. I went this way mostly because of my siding on my house that blocks all but the strongest signals and Bluetooth doesn’t make into my kitchen from the grill. Wi-Fi does. And the heatermeter ticks most of my nerd boxes
 

Timothy F. Lewis

TVWBB 1-Star Olympian
I can imagine that the tip top freezes up where you are Grant! You are in some seriously cold real estate! It gets cold here (not so much this year) but, it’s the freaking tropics compared with your neck of the woods.
I have only used the Tip Top in summer and that was prior to the acquisition of my WSM. I just have not needed it. I should break it out again. It’s clever!
 

 

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