We don't know if the BBQ Guru Competitor was the first electronic temperature controller for BBQ's to be sold, but it certainly was the first to become a household word amongst the BBQ community. The Competitor comes to us from The BBQ Guru near Philadelphia, PA. It is a device that monitors the temperature of your cooker and then adjusts it and controls it by controlling the airflow through the cooker with a blower attached to your cooker. By turning the blower on and off as required, the Competitor can keep your cooker within a few degrees of a set temperature as long as there is fuel to keep the fire going. In addition, the Competitor monitors the temperature of your food and alerts you when the food is done.
The Competitor system includes the following basic features:
In addition, The Competitor system includes the following more advanced features:
Here's what comes in the basic system:
The system unit is a small box about 5.5 x 3.25 x 1.125 inches in size. Here we show it on its handy stand:
All the controls are on the front panel, while all the plugs for power, blower and probes are on the side. On the back, you can see how the system unit attaches to the stand. As you will see later, the system unit can also attach to a blower.
Let's look at the front panel details. The following two photos show the controls and displays setting the meat and pit temperatures:
The photo on the left shows the control and display for setting and monitoring the meat temperature. As you can see, you can dial in a target temperature for your meat anywhere between 110 and 210 degrees F. You can also turn the meat set point control to "OFF", which is used to turn off Ramp Mode, to be explained later. The display tells you what the meat temperature is in relation to the target temperature. If you have set a target of 180 degrees and the meat is at 150 degrees, the -30 led will be lit. When the meat temperature hits the target temperature, the 0 LED will be lit (and an audible alarm will sound). If the -40 LED or the +5 LED is flashing, then your meat temperature is more than 40 degrees below or 5 degrees above your target temperature. Also note, that if you turn the knob until the 0 LED is lit, the position of the knob will then be indicating the actual meat temperature.
The photo on the right shows the control and display for setting and monitoring the pit (cooker) temperature. You can dial in pit temperatures between 175 and 400 degrees. (Note that the Competitor can keep your pit at temperatures lower than 175 degrees, but more about that later when we discuss Ramp Mode.) If the 175 LED or the 400 LED is blinking, then your cooker temperature is either below 175 degrees or above 400 degrees.
The following photos show the other miscellaneous controls and displays on the front panel of the Competitor system unit:
We hope the power button should be self-explanatory, but in case it isn't, you press this button to turn the Competitor on and off. (If it's on, you press the power button to turn it off; if it's off, you press the power button to turn it on.)
The alarm silence button is used for several alarm-related features. First, if the alarm is sounding, you can press the alarm silence button to silence the alarm. Second, the alarm silence button can be used to activate the "Good Neighbor" feature (more on that later). And finally, the alarm silence button can be used to activate the "Audible Blower" feature (our name, but again, more on that later).
The power draft indicator lights whenever the blower is actually blowing. You can use this visual cue to see how often and how long the blower is having run on each on/off cycle.
The Ramp Mode indicator lights whenever you have Ramp Mode activated (more on that later, also).
In the following photo we have turned the Competitor on its back and show the side where the connectors are:
The connector on the left is for the blower, while the connector on the right is for power. You can either use the supplied "brick" power supply or you can purchase an optional cigarette lighter power cord that you can then plug into one of the many automobile starter batteries available which have a cigarette lighter outlet on them. There is also a second power cord adapter with clips on the end for use when you don't have a cigarette lighter outlet available.
The connector in the middle is for the temperature probes. As you will see in the next section, the pit and meat temperature probes both connect to a single plug which goes into this center connector.