REVIEWING THE BEST WIF-FI THERMOMETERS FOR GRILLING & SMOKING
Everything comes with Wi-Fi today. You don’t need a Wi-Fi enabled fridge to tell your Wi-Fi enabled toaster what the ideal bread settings are for your breakfast, but you may well need a Wi-Fi thermometer if you enjoy grilling and smoking.
Your classic probe thermometer has the temperature information you want, but a Wi-Fi thermometer puts that information in your hands anywhere, not just when you’re standing by the smoker.
Below, we’ll break down everything you need to know about these smart wireless devices and reveal our Top Five Picks for 2020. If you’re looking for an overview of all the thermometers you might use around your extended kitchen, check out our top-level guide. If you’re looking for simple remote monitoring under $60, take a look at our best Bluetooth thermometers. And if you want an all-around instant-read for all occasions, we’ve got a detailed look at those too.
ABOUT WI-FI SMART THERMOMETERS
SELECTING THE BEST PIT CONTROLLER AND TEMPERATURE MONITOR
If you want to cook low and slow, you need to maintain a temperature around 225° for several hours, maybe all day if you’re cooking a whole brisket. Too low a temperature won’t cook your food and can put you in the danger zone for bacterial growth. Too high a temperature and you overcook the meat into a dry and chewy mess. If your life involves more than sitting by the smoker, you need a way to monitor and maintain your pit temperature while you’re off doing other things.
A Wi-Fi thermometer lets you check the temperature of your meat and your cooking environment from your phone at a glance. These devices feature multiple probes, so you can keep an eye on each piece of meat and your ambient temperature simultaneously. You can configure the phone app to send you alerts if one of the thermometers goes too high or too low. It’s like getting an emergency call, “This is Meat! I’m in trouble here…”
Pit (Thermostatic) Controller
For control that’s even more automated, all of our Top Five thermometer systems can control a pit fan.
These fans turn on as the temperature drops, adding air to the fire which increases the temperature. It’s like a thermostat for your house, except running hotter. The more advanced models let you create more complicated programs so you run the smoker at different temperatures for different segments of the cook.
Wi-Fi is a step up over Bluetooth thermometers at this level of complexity. Bluetooth links up one phone to your thermometer with a direct connection, limited to about 100 feet minus losses to walls. A Wi-Fi thermometer reporting data to the cloud has basically infinite range, so you can keep an eye on your pork butt while running to the store. Some of the best products here do both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth so you can use them to their full potential at home or take them out camping where there’s no Wi-Fi without sacrificing performance.
5 Best Wi-Fi Thermometers
PRODUCT REVIEWS FOR 2020 (UPDATED 7/6/20)
|1. SIGNALS — Best for Grilling||★★★★★||SEE PRICE|
|2. FIREBOARD 2 — Best for BBQ||★★★★☆||SEE PRICE|
|3. FLAME BOSS 500||★★★☆||SEE PRICE|
|4. ULTRAQ||★★★☆||SEE PRICE|
|5. TAPPECUE||★★★||SEE PRICE|
ThermoWorks is a name that makes us jump up and take notice. They make our favorite instant-read thermometer and our favorite Bluetooth model, so we walked in with very high hopes for their Wi-Fi thermometer, the Signals. Recent update: Signals secures its top spot for grilling with a new version of the ThermoWorks App and Cloud software.
The Signals supports four thermistor probes with a temperature range of -58°‒572°. It includes three food probes and one ambient probe with grill clip. In your first signal that the company put ease of use first, they’ve got color-coded rings for each end of each probe, so you can see at a glance which one is which. As you might expect from Thermoworks, the probes are very accurate, advertising ±1.8° in the usual cooking range. Our testing says that’s conservative — we found them within 0.7° on all our comparisons to the calibrated reference thermometer.
The base station is super-easy to use. You get a full view of all four channels at their alarm setpoints. Setting those alarms is as easy as selecting a channel, pressing set, then adjusting the number with the arrow keys. There’s a volume button for the alarms ranging from muted to quite loud (they say 90 dB, but we didn’t haul out the decibel meter). The quality of the base station is what makes us pick the Signals as Best for Grilling. You can run everything you need without needing to break out your phone.
Phone connection is solid, though. It connects through Bluetooth and Wi-Fi so you’re good on the beach or your backyard.
Setup is simple, especially with Bluetooth. The app is solid, giving you a full view of everything you see on the base unit, plus the ability to label your probes. The first four letters of those labels push back to the base unit, making it even more versatile.
With the new version of the app, you can assign colors to each channel to match the ring on the probe itself, making the graphs more readable. Setting alarms is easy, and all alarms go to both your phone and the base station. You can view temperature graphs in the app too, and save an unlimited number in their new cloud system, or download your data as a .csv file for local storage. The app and cloud software now include a notes section so you can better log your cooks. We never had too many complaints about the app, but the latest update wiped two of them away.
Pit (Fan) Controller
The Signals can control the ThermoWorks Billows fan if you want to do an automated cook, but it’s very much an add-on. It runs its own ambient probe, and you set the temperature. It automatically sets alarms 25° in both directions of that point. It works, though the app isn’t that good and sends up a lot of questionable alerts. ThermoWorks did add lid detection to their software, so it doesn’t kick the fan up to maximum when you open the grill anymore. If you care to see more watch our Billows review on YouTube.com.
The Signals’s durability is one of its strongest suits. It feels rock-solid, and sits up conveniently on a flat surface with its nice grippy base. It’s rated as IP66, which is completely dust-resistant and water resistant “against powerful jets”, though not waterproof. Our testing showed that it kept working fine when we ran it under the tap (which we do not recommend).
The battery is rated for 16 hours (we got 18) and recharges via USB-C. On the questionable side, it takes 12 hours to fully charge the battery, which seems excessive.
On the Whole
The Signals is great by itself and good with its app. It’s got the right features for a variety of situations, and the first-rate base unit will hold up for the long haul. The Billows fan control isn’t up to the standard of the Fireboard, but it’ll work for your smoking needs too. The Signals is the best Wi-Fi thermometer to have at the grill.
- Tough, Durable Build. IP66 Rated, Splashproof.
- Works as a Stand-Alone Device
- Accurate Pro-Series Probe
- 4 Probe Channels
- Large LCD Display
- Intuitive App + Custom Refresh Rates
- Can’t mute buttons
- No note-taking in app
- Charging takes too long
- Pit controller fan is below par
The Fireboard 2 (and the original Fireboard) supports six probes, though the basic set comes with three. Two are food probes; the other is an ambient probe with included grill clip. The probes are 100K thermistors for fast response on a temperature range of 0°‒572°. The Fireboard also supports 10K thermistors for low-temperature applications (-58°‒248°) or RTD PT-100 probes for wide temperature ranges (-58°‒716°) at a slower response time. Each channel can have its probe type configured in the app if you’re doing something that requires multiple probe types. Fireboard claims the included probes are accurate to with 0.7°, and our testing against a calibrated thermometer shows they’re even better.
The on-board display covers the whole front face of the Fireboard 2 — a big improvement over the tiny display on the original Fireboard. It has multiple view modes, allowing you to see one channel’s current temperature, a graph of one channel’s temperature over time, all six current temperatures, or a hybrid view with one graph and six readouts.
There aren’t any alerts here: for that you need to go to the phone app. That phone app is the number one reason to get the Fireboard 2. It syncs as easy as pressing “Add Fireboard” in the app.
It connects with both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for use on the road and at home. The app shows you the readings from all the channels, with the easy option to label each channel and set alerts for high or low temperatures. Those alerts can come in as notifications in the app, emails, or SMS messages. You can also view your current cook session as a graph, with the labels helping it make sense. All this data gets saved to the cloud, either directly from the thermometer over Wi-Fi, or via your phone’s data connection on Bluetooth. One nice feature for those looking to improve their craft is the ability to annotate the graphs.
Notes in context are a great way to remember what worked and what didn’t. If you want a local copy, you can download everything as a .csv file.
The Fireboard 2 comes in multiple versions. The basic version comes in at $189, while the Fireboard 2 Drive adds a fan control port and costs $249.
The basic version can run a fan with the Drive Fan Control Cable (for $79), so if you want to run a fan, the Drive version saves $20, and you don’t have an expensive cable to lose.
Coming in August, the Fireboard 2 Pro (no price yet) will have the fan control port, but will swap out the six 2.5 mm probe inputs for three inputs for Type K thermocouple probes. Those Type K probes can operate at extremely high temperatures (2,012°!), suitable for monitoring wood stoves or a pizza oven.
The Fireboard 2 Drive (or basic model with a Drive Fan Control Cable, if you already had one from an original Fireboard) can run any 12-Volt fan with a 2.5 mm barrel plug, including the Fireboard Drive Blower. Assign the fan control to any channel, then set the target temperature. When your ambient probe drops below that level, the Drive activates the fan proportionally to push the fire back up towards the target temperature. The Fireboard 2 also senses the big temperature change of taking the lid off and not instantly max out the fan, which is a nice extra.
Fan Drive Controller
One thing that sets the Fireboard 2 apart from other units is Drive Programs, which can change your temperature automatically over the course of your cook. Let’s say you’re smoking a pork butt, and want to power through the stall. Start with the Drive holding ambient temperature at 225°. When the pork butt thermometer reaches 150°, change the setpoint to 310°; then when the pork butt thermometer reaches 170°, change the setpoint back to 225° for the finish.
One last thing on the Fireboard 2 is that the durability is there. We set it out in the Arizona summer sun for hours and sprayed it with the hose for a while, but neither did a thing to stop it. It’s not waterproof, but it’s good enough to stand up to a spilled drink or a little rain.
The Fireboard 2 is our favorite thermometer for smoking meat. It’s got the versatility, programmability, and durability to make anything possible. If you plan to use a fan control, it’s even better. The only downside is that it’s really tied to the app. You can’t access more than pretty basic features without it, so the Fireboard 2 is always a heavyweight choice, even when you don’t need its full power.
- Large LCD Screen w/ Blacklight Always On
- Multiple screen views
- Built-in Drive controller (FBX2D)
- Top-of-the-line fan drive system
- Insane battery life
- Fast cloud temp reading pushes
- 6 temperature probes
- Works with 10k, 100k thermistors
- Gyro technology
- Can’t set high/low alarms from device
- Button interface could be better
Where the Fireboard and the Signals are thermometers that got upgraded to be thermostatic fan controllers, the Flame Boss did it the other way around. What started as a thermostatic controller with just enough thermometer capability to do its job has expanded into a full-on Wi-Fi thermometer. You can see our full review of the Flame Boss 500 and 400 comparison here.
The Flame Boss 500 comes with one meat probe and one ambient probe, but supports up to four probes. It uses RTD probes with a rated maximum temperature of 475°. The kit also includes the fan unit and mounting kit — word of warning: there’s a different version with a Kamado mounting kit, so grab the right one for your smoker.
The base unit gives you the basic info you need at a glance: current temperature on all thermometer channels, plus the setpoint for the fan controller.
You can set individual alarms on each channel, plus an interesting option to shift the fan controller into Keep Warm mode when you reach the target temperature (e.g. when Meat 1 reaches 200°, drop the pit temperature to 205°).
The bad news: just because you can set all of these things on the base station does not mean you should. Anything more advanced than setting the pit temperature is like programming a 1980s VCR. You should definitely use the app.
The Flame Boss app definitely does things right.
You’ve got full controls for all the alarms (which come in as notifications) plus the fan controller. If you’ve got an internet connection, all of your cook information is stored in the cloud, with well-laid out graphs for future reference.
Getting the Flame Boss connected to the Wi-Fi can be a bit of an adventure. One important note: it only works on 2.4 GHz wireless. Most routers do both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, but if you’re in a crowded area, 2.4 GHz wireless might be dicey. You can punch in your password on the front panel, one character at a time, or start up the Flame Boss’s internal wireless, log into it with your phone, enter your password there, then switch Wi-Fi modes back to regular. If this all sounds complicated, well, it is.
Get it going and it works, but it’s not as easy as the Bluetooth models. The internal Wi-Fi means you can take it on the road and use it in Direct mode (minus the cloud stuff), but setup is still a little rough.
As a fan controller, the Flame Boss 500 is extraordinary. Controlling a fire is hard. It’s driving an indirect control with the fan, there’s an inconsistent delay from the when the fan spins up to when the temperature changes, and the environment changes as your fuel burns out over time. Through some wizardry, the Flame Boss does it amazingly well.
It holds the tightest range of temperature we’ve seen in our testing. It has lid-open detection and sends you a notification when it kicks on and off, just in case there’s a problem with your lid and airflow.
Build quality on the Flame Boss 500 is solid, and the magnetic mount is a useful feature I wish everybody would use. A big downside to the Flame Boss is that there is no internal battery. You’ve got to either plug into an outlet, or buy the external battery pack.
See our complete Flame Boss 500 & 400 Review on YouTube
You buy the Flame Boss 500 because you want a great pit controller and get the bonus of a good thermometer system. If you’re not a computer person, stuff the manual in a six-pack and hand it to someone who is, then let the meat smoke itself.
- Pit Controller/Fan is accurate
- Application is comprehensive
- Mounting case is a nice add-on
- Needs power outlet close by. Does not run off battery.
- No Bluetooth
- Setup of app/Wifi is difficult, clunky
- Device UX/UI is poor
- Not weather resistant tested
Good design for computer systems isn’t about jamming more data in front of your face. Most of the time, it’s about cooking down the data into the information you actually need, then giving you the opportunity to dig deeper. A lot of these Wi-Fi thermometers are systems by enthusiasts, for enthusiasts. The UltraQ is a system that tries its best to make smoking meat sensible for folks who don’t live inside a smoker.
One thing BBQ Guru does well is to avoid one-size-fits-all solutions. They’ve got two sizes of fan and dozens of mounting kits for different grills and smokers. You punch in your grill model, and their system comes up with a custom package to fit your situation.
Installing one of these package is as painless as possible, not to mention the significantly reduced probability of wrecking your grill.
The basic kit comes with one meat probe and one pit probe; the system supports four probes total. The probes are thermocouples, and the company rates them at a pretty awful ±5° in normal cooking ranges. We found them to be better than that, but not brilliant. The probes are advertised as dishwasher-safe, which is a surprising plus.
Device / Display
The base unit is great for displaying information. There’s a big LED ring on the outside. It’s blue when the pit temperature is low, red in cooking range, pulsing on the edges when the fan runs, and flashing red when the pit temperature is too high.
This is the critical piece of information, and you can see it from across the street. Get close, and there’s an LCD display that can show any or all of the temperature channels, with the color-coded crossbar of the Q indicating what channel you’re seeing.
You can set the pit temperature and alarms for each channel on the device, but a clock radio has better controls. How did they get the display so good, and the controls so bad?
Before moving on to the app, I’ll note that the UltraQ comes with a really nice mounting bracket. It makes the display easy to see and offers multiple mounting options for easy positioning.
Application / Connectivity
The UltraQ connects to its app via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. You get the usual array of thermometer data plus easy settings for alarms and pit temperature. If you’ve got Wi-Fi setup, your data syncs automatically to the cloud for easy social sharing using sharemycook.com.
There doesn’t seem to be a way to assign names to the probes, so the graphs don’t make as much sense as they should.
The app is definitely the way to go for control, but it doesn’t have the thought put into it that the on-board display had.
The fan control is the other main reason to grab the UltraQ. Their two fans (the Pit Viper and Pit Bull) do their job well, and have a damper for adjusting the overall airflow or shutting it off altogether at the end of your cook.
One very nice feature BBQ Guru has designed is Ramp Mode, which feathers down the pit temperature as your food temperature moves towards its alarm setpoint. This gets you a fine level of control over the end of your cook and protection against overcooking. UltraQ has lid detection too, so you don’t have to sweat checking on your food.
Build quality on the UltraQ is solid. I especially appreciate the dishwasher-safe probes and the excellent mount. The base unit is water resistant, but not waterproof, and it doesn’t love the sun.
You need external power for this one, so plan to smoke near an outlet or spring for an external battery pack.
In summary, the UltraQ has brilliant parts and OK parts.
I love the base unit’s display, I love the variety of mounting kits available for the fan, and I love the Ramp Mode for smoothly finishing a cook, but I don’t love the controls or the app.
- Display’s user experience is well thought through
- Pit controller features are top-tier
- Dishwasher-safe probes
- Archive previous cooking sessions integrated with sharemycook.com
- Device’s user interface leaves much to be desired
- Application’s UI/UX is raw
Here’s one for the person who puts the Geek in Smoking Meat Geeks. The Touch is the newest version of the original Wi-Fi thermometer and keeps getting better. With the new Cruise Control fan and controller, it now offers thermostatic control.
The Touch comes in a variety of packages with two to six thermistor probes, measuring -40°‒572°. It has four ports, but supports up to 8 inputs with splitters or with an interesting dual probe that senses both at the tip for meat and at the curve of the shaft for ambient temperature. Probes are rated to within 1°, which jibes with our testing.
The base unit now features a touch screen display showing all of your temperatures on a color-coded screen.
You’ve got the stylus-based touch screen for control locally, but the screen is a bit finicky, and is best used to punch in your Wi-Fi network and password so you can hand off control to the app. If you’re away from home, you can use the Tappecue’s internal router to connect directly to your phone in Offline Mode.
The app is bare-bones but effective, with the usual displays and alerts.
There’s a nice library of meat types built-in so you can set up the right set of alerts automatically. The graphs are good, with a nice notes feature. At the end of a session, the Tappecue will email you a file with your temperature information. There is a cloud service for storing your session records, but they charge for more than a trial set of sessions.
The Tappecue Cruise Control is a thermostatic fan add-on. They have two CFM options coming it at either 10 or 20 CFMs. In a nod to the very modular and expandable nature of the Tappecue, you can run four of these at once if you wanted to. Control is adequate, but pretty bare bones. There’s no lid detection, so you need to stop the fan manually before opening the lid.
The Tappecue has an internal battery rated for 25 hours of operation. Overall, build quality is spotty. The main control unit is solidly built and water-resistant, but the details are off. The splitters are fiddly, and make the readouts go wild if you move them the wrong way. The Cruise manual tells you that you might need to razor out some of the gasket to make the splitter fit. That manual and the one for the base unit are, uh, questionable. At best.
One thing that makes the Tappecue unique, and a good choice for someone who wants to really dig into this sort of thing is the public API. If you like programming and barbecue, prepare to go hog-wild. There are users on the forums that have done some pretty amazing things with the Tappecue, so if that’s your thing, dig in. To see our complete review of the Tappecue Touch click here.
On the whole, the Tappecue is an idiosyncratic labor of love. It’s for the folks who want to really dig in and do it their way.
- Customizable / Versatile
- Weatherproof / Durable
- Public API for customizing functions
- Capable of handling 8 probes simultaneously
- Ability to daisy-chain pit fans
- Bulky Design
- Slow, unresponsive touchscreen
WI-FI Thermometer Buyer’s Guide
A good Wi-Fi thermometer should be accurate, and should feature at least two probes, though more is better. There should be alerts for high and low temperatures for each channel, and those alerts should be definable to both the base station and your phone. Temperatures and alerts should be easy to read and set from either the base station or the phone.
Wireless setup should be easy, and not require punching in a lot of data into a few buttons. The data produced from the thermometer should be easily accessible and annotatable. The device should be able to operate without a Wi-Fi network if needed.
A fan control unit should effectively control temperature to a narrow band. The controller should recognize highly unusual problems like the lid being open and throw up an alert instead of just slamming the fan to maximum.
A Wi-Fi thermometer should be able to stand up to the ordinary vicissitudes of barbecue life: rain, heat, cold, falls, and more. There are enough wires around with the probes, so an internal battery is preferred.