The BBQ Guru DigiQ II
Temperature Controller, Cont'd


Operating The DigiQ II

So, how does The DigiQ II perform in operation? It works very well. As you can see from the table on the first page of this review, the DigiQ II does as well as, and in some cases, slightly better than its predecessor, the BBQ Guru Competitor.

The real test of any temperature controller is how it performs at low temperatures. The reason for this is that the device can only make the cooker hotter. The cooker has to cool off on its own, and a cooker is much more willing to cool off at 450 degrees than it is at 225 degrees. So, the controller has to be a little more subtle and clever to control the lower cooking temperatures.

The DigiQ II did a very good job of controlling temps at low, medium and high temperatures, hitting the targets within a few degrees and maintaining the targets within plus or minus 1 degree or less. Compare this to your average kitchen oven which is doing good if it keeps your oven within plus or minus 25 degrees.

A few things we'll point out about using The DigiQ II:

  • We noticed something unusual, and we bet you will too if we don't tell you about it. But we'll tell you about it and save you the trouble. When the cooker is rising towards the target temperature, it will probably rise in 1- or 2-degree increments. When the cooker gets close to your target, you may notice that it jumps by 3 degrees. This is a feature called "Snap" which "snaps" the readout to the target temperature if the reading from the cooker is within three degrees of the target. This is to eliminate having the readout going back and forth by 1 or 2 degrees when the cooker is stable. If the cooker is within 3 degrees of the target the unit will display the target temperature. You probably don't need to care about this, but certain anal types like us notice these things and ask why.

  • While the DigiQ II is not 100% waterproof, it IS water resistant. For our money, we always place the system unit in a large zip-top bag when it rains.

  • When you are done cooking, it is best to either remove the blower or close the damper to prevent moisture condensation from getting into the blower.

  • A frequently asked question is whether or not you should leave the blower installed all the time and if so, how do you control air flow when you aren't using the DigiQ II. The blower and door adapter pop in and out and there is really no reason to leave the blower installed. Just pop the adapter in when you want to use the DigiQ II and then remove it when you are done.

  • Placement of the pit probe can be important. You want it located near the meat so that the DigiQ II is controlling the temperature at the location of the meat, not somewhere else. However, the probe must not touch the meat and should be at least an inch or two from the meat. If the meat influences the temperature of the probe (especially when the meat is first placed in the cooker and is cold), obviously the DigiQ II will be sensing a false pit temperature and then will compensate. The BBQ Guru folks have an accessory to help you with this called a Probe Tree:

    BBQ Guru Probe Tree
    The BBQ Guru Probe Tree


    You simply insert the wedge between two of the bars on your grid, and then you can attach the pit probe as appropriate. In fact, as you can see, you could if you wish attach several probes at several heights above the grid.


Open Lid Detect Feature

We have saved our favorite for last. As if all the features on the DigiQ II weren't enough, there's this one. Open Lid Detect! This is killer. People have been proposing solutions for the problem of controllers operating the blower when you open the lid on various forums. Most of the solutions involve either a tilting mercury switch or some sort of actual switch to detect that the lid is open. The DigiQ II has solved the problem algorithmically with no additional hardware.

We have played around with this a little bit and so far this is indeed killer. With the older Competitor or ProCom4, when you opened the lid, the temperature of the cooker dropped and the blower started blowing non-stop. Ash might start blowing around the cooker and of course, the charcoal started burning hotter and hotter. By time you closed the lid, the temperature would be climbing and you would end up with a cooker that was a lot hotter than you intended. You quickly learned to disconnect the fan before you opened the cooker, and after you closed the lid you waited until the cooker had nearly recovered its temperature before you plugged the fan back in.

Those days are gone. For the purpose of testing this new feature, we had a stable cooker at 357-358 degrees when we opened the lid for about 30 seconds to simulate flipping some steaks or rotating a chicken or whatever. While the lid was open, the blower did NOT operate. Hooray! That's half the battle. But then we closed the lid to see what happened.

The temperature dropped to 307 while we had the lid open. When the lid was closed, the blower gave short single bursts at 308, 310 and 311 degrees. As the cooker started heating up, the blower gave more single quick bursts at 329, 333, 342, 344, 347 and 355 degrees. The cooker topped out at 364 (only 6 degrees above our set point) and then settled back to 357. Contrast this with the previous models which would have turned the blower on as soon as we opened the lid, and kept it on solid until the cooker reached the set point again.

Open Lid Detect works essentially by detecting sharp temperature changes and refrains from operating the blower during these changes. The only thing you need to be aware of is that if you leave the lid open for a long period of time, the temperature of the cooker may stabilize at a low low temperature. The DigiQ II will sense that the temperature has stabilized and will then operate the blower again. So you don't want to leave the lid open forever. Open the lid to get your business done and then close it.

And then there is one more little secret that we were able to wheedle out of Shotgun Fred (in other words, he volunteered this information). The DigiQ II units are shipped with Open Lid Detect turned on as the default. This is because it is felt that this is a feature that most people will want to have turned on. One other benefit of using this feature is to prevent overshoot when you initially heat up the cooker. If your fire is large and having the blower on full-time is causing the cooker to heat up rapidly, Open Lid Detect will detect this rapid rise in temperature and start to cut back on the use of the blower. This will allow the temperature to rise in a more controlled manner and thus cut back on overshoot.

UPDATE: We recently did a bit more playing around with the Open Lid Detect feature on the DigiQ II. And while the results weren't as spectacular as our previous testing, we still think Open Lid Detect is a great feature for preventing the fan blowing ash all over the place and helping to reduce overshoot during the initial heatup. Our previous testing had been done using a cooker heated to the 350-degree range. Well, now we wanted to try the feature out on a cooker doing a low and slow cook in the 225-degree range.

What we did was open the lid on a cooker stable at 230 degrees. We kept the lid open for 60 seconds and then closed the lid. With the Open Lid Detect feature turned on, the cooker dropped to about 150 degrees. Upon closing the lid, the cooker slowly rose to 250 degrees before topping out. In about 13 minutes, the cooker was back to its starting point at 230 degrees. As you can see, the temperature overshot by about 20 degrees (versus 6 degrees when we did this at 350 degrees). This is understandable since, as we explained elsewhere in this review, it is harder to keep temperatures down at a low temperature than at a high temperature. However, the cooker promptly returned to the desired temperature after having recovered from a large initial drop in temperature.

We then allowed the cooker to stabilize again and then we repeated the test, this time without Open Lid Detect turned on. This is where we got a big surprise. Again the cooker dropped to 150 degrees, but when the dome was shut, the cooker rose only to 258 degrees, or only 8 degrees higher than with Open Lid Detect turned on. After 15 minutes, the cooker returned to 230 degrees.

So, it looks like the benefit of the Open Lid Detect at low temperatures is marginal. However as we said, it is still a great feature for all the other things it helps with.


Summary

The BBQ Guru Competitor was the first major electronic temperature controller for outdoor cookers. Then came the ProCom4 from BBQ Guru, the first wireless electronic temperature controller for outdoor cookers. Now, we have another first with the DigiQ II: Open Lid Detection. With numerous other improvements in the packaging, controls, and operation, the DigiII Q is going to be another great product from The BBQ Guru. We are sure that the DigiQ II will take its place beside the Competitor and the ProCom4 and deliver long, reliable service controlling outdoor cookers. Add to this the already-proven outstanding service provided by BBQ Guru and we feel this product is a definite winner, and as before, we have no hesitation in recommending this product to you.


Contact Information

The BBQ Guru
353 Ivyland Road
Warminster, PA 18974

215-674-9992
800-288-GURU (4878)

www.thebbqguru.com

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