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What Do I Look for in a BBQ Controller and Which Recipes Should I Use it With?

This post is brought to you by Smartfire, which provided advertising support.

The fun of grilling and smoking is enhanced by gadgets and tools that save you time and energy during the cook, allowing you to either socialize with your family and friends, step away from the smoker to run an errand or even set up the cooker and let the BBQ controller land true low-and-slow barbecue on a weeknight dinner menu. Some BBQ controllers require pitmasters to adjust settings right on the physical controller, but cloud Wifi-connected options like the just-launched Smartfire 5.0, let you monitor and control your smoker from anywhere via smartphone app.

HOW A BBQ CONTROLLER CAN MAKE YOUR COOK EASIER

Controllers start with meat probes and pit temperature monitoring probes to measure your meat doneness and the smoker’s overall internal temperature. Controllers go beyond just measuring the temperature, however. The probes communicate in real-time with the smoker and with your smartphone, so you can monitor the cook from anywhere, and change temperature with the click of a button.

Smartfire is an example of a BBQ Controller you can use for whichever type of smoker you might own. You’ve likely heard about Smartfire on our blog before, but they have recently released an upgraded version. The new Smartfire 5.0 features a new silicone sleeve to provide all-weather protection so you can cook through rain and snow, a more powerful fan to accommodate larger smokers like cabinet-style cookers preferred by many competition pitmasters, a streamlined Wifi set-up process to get you right to the cooking, and even lets you use the increasingly-popular wireless meat probes for rotisserie or other techniques where probe wires can become cumbersome.

RECIPES THAT WORK WELL WITH A BBQ CONTROLLER

We recommend using a Controller with your grill or smoker any time you want to maintain a consistent temperature, especially throughout longer cooks. Of course, the benefit of a cloud Wifi-connect controller like Smartfire means you can monitor and control the fire from anywhere, ensuring great barbecue when you return. There are some recipes we would be especially careful to use a Controller with! Below we’ve listed three that fall into this category.

LOW AND SLOW BRISKET

Brisket is simultaneously the easiest and most difficult meat there is to barbecue. Easy, because all you do is season it with salt and pepper and smoke it low and slow until it’s tender enough to cut with the side of a fork. Difficult, because you have to monitor it patiently for hours. Using a controller can help you monitor without tying you to your smoker.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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ROTISSERIE BEEF ROAST

Use your rotisserie attachment to make a tender version of the traditional Sunday roast! Using your BBQ Controller will allow you to avoid overcooking the meat, which can become dry and tasteless when overdone. Wow your friends and family with a perfect, juicy roast this weekend!

 

 
 
 
 
 
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BACK STRAP VENISON

Whether this is your first-time smoking venison or your tenth, using a BBQ Controller to monitor the internal and ambient temperature within the smoker can reduce the stress of watching this lean and temperamental meat.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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The options for recipes are endless! Follow @smartfirebbq on Instagram for more ideas.

MORE ABOUT SMARTFIRE

There are several BBQ controller configurations out there, but the Smartfire 5.0 eschews extensive piping and bulky external hardware in favor of a compact and durable unit that slides into the appropriate adaptor for your smoker. When you order your Smartfire adaptor, you select the adaptor for your preferred cooker. The company has purpose-built adaptors for most popular brands like the Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe or Primo Grills kamado-styles, your Weber Smokey Mountain bullet-style cookers and even barrel cookers like the Pit Barrel Cooker and Gateway Drums. The adaptor simply slides into your smoker’s intake vent, and then the controller fits snuggly.

Once you power up the Smartfire 5.0 and open the downloaded app, it runs itself through a setup process to pair with your smart device via Wi-fi and/or Bluetooth. If you are using wireless meat probes (either those available from Smartfire, or in the near future, your pre-owned Meater brand probes) the app will direct you to pair those as well. Now, you’re ready to cook.

Within the Smartfire app, you select the desired pit temperature, name each of the three included wired probes, and set each probes’ target internal temperature.  On most cookers you’ll want to light a small fire (just a few lumps of charcoal, or a single tumble weed starter) and let the Smartfire controller ramp-up the fire to your target cooking zone. Then, just insert the meat probes, add the meat to the smoker, and plug the probes into the controller…obviously, using wireless probes skips this last step. From there, Smartfire does all the work while you watch the meat track towards your desired doneness when Smartfire provides visual and audio alerts that the meat is ready. When you open the smoker to spritz or wrap meats, Smartfire senses the temperature change and will switch into “Open Lid Mode,” to avoid flareups.

The Smartfire app shows a temperature graph that tracks the entire length of the of the cook, showing you your pit temperature along with separate color-coded lines for each meat probe. After each cook, the graph is stored in your “Past Sessions” log so you can refer back to it. If you ever struggle to remember how long that eight-pound brisket took to reach temp last time…the “Past Sessions” feature will be invaluable for you.

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