OK, we are in the heart of the summer and I’ve always wanted to really smoke. Just to define terms, what most people call a BBQ is actually a grill since it applies lots of direct heat, then there is a real barbecue which is low temperate heat for a long time and finally a smoker which adds wood chips to give it real flavor. So, here’s how to convert your ceramic grill into a BBQ/smoker.
Great places to get your food
Well, while you can get your food from the local grocery store, this pandemic has taught us a lot about other sources. We’ve used:
- Heritage Foods started in 2001 in Brooklyn, they focus on ancient breeds from local producers around the country doing unusual varieties like lamb
- Crowd Cow. A Seattle startup, they started with beef but all kinds of things that you can get by subscription
- MilkRun. A Portland startup also doing weekly deliveries and they have some great produce and meats.
- Carmen Ranch. Like Crowd Cow or Heritage Foods, this is a single farm however in Wallows Oregon, so this is true from to table and the delivery direct to Portland now which is nice
Turning a Kamada Joe Grill into a Slow BBQ
We have a Kamada Joe Classic 1 that has since been updated to the Classic III, but the Classic I has just been awesome for grilling, but trying to maintain a low, even temperature for slow roasting and true BBQ is not easy. I normally just use our electric oven for this (since maintaining heat there is pretty easy, but it is definitely not authentic).
So, my buddy John turned me on to these temperature control systems. First pioneered by BBQ Guru, these things are basically thermostats along with a blower motor, so you can maintain nice temperatures easily. Sites like Amazing Ribs IUpilon and Food Fire Friends provide some good reviews, but the basic idea is to put a thermometer in a few places in your “objet de BBQ” and then it goes into a box which uses WiFi to connect to your phone so you can monitor it. And, the really cool part is that it also controls a fan which is at the input, so it will blow more air in and the charcoal will get warmer.
So, instead of being up all night, you can just let this little gizmo turn tough cuts into tender delights!
BBQ Guru Control System
The unit that started it all was BBQ Guru UltraQ which is a four-channel device that connected to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connected wireless remote food thermometer. It is also a thermostatic controller that attaches to a fan module. (As an aside, BBQ Guru was invented in Warminster PA in 2003 by Fred, he died in 2012 of ALS and they still do a BBQ fundraiser for him, so that is actually kind of cool.
The other main contender is Flame Boss from Louisiana and there is a good comparison with the UltraQ and the Flame Boss 500 that basically concludes they are both pretty good but that having more adapters with BBQ Guru is nice and the application from BBQ Guru is nicer.
What to buy
So it’s pretty confusing what all things you need are, but basically, you want a bundle for a complete control kit but there are three versions of the BBQ Guru, but heck, the UltraQ just sounds so cool. But, the differences are , the UltraQ allows up to three probes vs. one for the DynaQ and the low-end DigiQ. And, only the UltraQ has WiFi, Email, Text and ShareMyCook.com as well as Alexa control (no HomeKit sadly :-), so it’s really the choice to be integrated into your smart home.
On that page, you use choose your grill from a huge list, for us, its called the Original “Classic” or Classic 1 and it shows you a few options:
- UltraQ Kit with Pit Viper Fan, one 6 foot Pit Probe and one 6 foot Food Probe, then the Pit Viper 10CFM fan, plus the ceramic adapter that fits the fan to the intake,, and magnetic mount and a power supply (you do need to power the whole thing after all) for $359. Reading Amazon reviews, the main complaint has, of course, to do with the electronics, you need a good WiFi signal and the temperatures reported by the mobile app are not reliable at lest for some. It is nice that you can get an alert on your Apple Watch. I just wish someone did a Homebridge connection 🙂 Strangely one review said the sharemycook.com site works fine but not the local phone connection. Well, it is software
- DynaQ Kit with Pit Viper Fan, two six foot probes. $235, but remember this is not WiFi or Bluetooth connected to your phone and therefore doesn’t connect to Sharemycook.com which is find for just local use. And if you don’t need the hassle of making your smart BBQ thing work.
Then some optional extras:
- Rib and Chicken Roaster, these are a little expensive but very handy, you can just wrap your ribs vertically around a grill and put a chicken in the middle, but the Onlyfire version allows a vertical chicken roaster which is really good and moist, and it’s $36 from Amazon.
- 6 Foot Probe. The base kit comes with one, but with two, you can monitor your chicken *and* your ribs. They are pretty expensive at $25 plus $17 shipping though.
- Hickory wood chips. So you can turn your BBQ into a smoker
Finally for fun there is a coupon page for BBQ Guru where you spin to win and you can get 5% off which isn’t bad plus free shipping.