The Competitor comes with two temperature probes hooked to a single connector:
The probes are made from stainless steel and contain thermocouples that can withstand temperatures up to 400 degrees. The wires are coated with Teflon®, which can withstand temperatures up to 450 degrees. The probes and the wires should be shielded from direct radiation from a hot fire. If you need to shield the wires, you can place a layer of aluminum foil beneath them, but do not wrap the wires in foil. This can actually make the heat worse and damage the wires. Also, having the pit probe exposed to direct radiant heat can cause it to register a temperature which is higher than the air temperature in the cooker, and thus fool the Competitor into cutting back on the fire.
If a probe does fail, you will be able to tell because when plugged into the Competitor and with no heat applied to the probe, the Competitor will show the temperature of the probe as being off the high end of the display.
You can see in the photos how the two wires are connected to a single plug which plugs into the Competitor system unit. You can also see the famous Curl-Eez doo-dads which can be used to keep your wires organized.
The probes come with four foot wires standard, but longer lengths are available. And if for some reason you want two pit probes or two food probes on a single connector, these can be made to order at additional charge.
How accurate are the probes? We happen to have 5 probe sets, which means we have 10 probes to test. We tested all 10 probes in boiling water. According to our calculations, the boiling point of water in our kitchen when we conducted the test was 211.8 degrees. Here were the results:
As you can see, all 10 probes spanned only 2 degrees. Seven of the probes were spot on, one probe was a degree low and 2 probes were a degree high. This is obviously more than accurate enough for the use they are intended.
And a note about probe set 2. We use the pit probe on this set to control a cooker at 400 degrees when we do our burntime tests over at the Lump Charcoal Database. This probe has been exposed to the upper limit of what the manufacturer recommends for about 150 to 200 hours of use over the last 3 years. (Not to mention the normal cooking we do.) So, we think this is a good indication of how much these probes can take.
Now let's take a look at the blower which feeds air to the fire in the cooker:
As you can see, the blower is sheathed in stainless steel. The nozzle is machined from solid aluminum and contains the integrated adjustable damper. Looking down the nozzle you can see how the damper can be used to restrict the airflow from the blower. You can use the damper wide open for quick starting a fire, or shut it part way to restrict airflow for lower-temperature cooking. This restricts not only the airflow produced by the blower, but also the natural draft that occurs when air flows through the blower while the blower is not forcing air into the cooker. (In other words, when the blower is off.)
As the photos above show, the nozzle of the blower is pressed into the tube on the door mount. Also, you can see how the system unit can be attached to the hook on the blower for a neat and compact installation if you don't have table space to set the system unit on.
You can purchase blowers in 4, 10 and 25 CFM (cubic feet per minute) sizes. The blowers come with a four-foot wire as standard. A blower extension cord and a splitter cord that allows a single Competitor to control 2 blowers are avaible options. Door mounts are available for many popular cookers.
Which blower should you get? Well, the 4 CFM blower will certainly handle cookers up to the size of a large Big Green Egg, for example. However, we think the 10 CFM blower is a good choice because a) it doesn't cost much more than the 4 CFM fan, and b) it can be throttled back with the damper for those times when you want less than the blower's full capacity. The 25 CFM blower is intended for use on larger metal cookers.
The Competitor contains an audible alarm which will sound if the pit temperature is more than 30 degrees above or below the pit target temperature (for example if you were running out of fuel and the temperature were dropping). The alarm will also sound when the meat temperature reaches the target temperature you have set. As stated earlier, the audible alarm can be silenced in these circumstances by pressing the Alarm Silence button. The alarm will also sound if....well, see the Audible Blower Feature below.
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