Meater Block
Wireless Meat Thermometer


The item(s) contained in this review were purchased by The Naked Whiz Publishing Empire through the original MEATER Kickstarter project. No condsiderations, financial or otherwise, were given by Apption Labs.


Introduction
The MEATER wireless smart meat thermometer first came to our attention in September 2015 as a project on Kickstarter. There were two products advertised at that time. The MEATER Probe and the MEATER Block. Some time after the MEATER probe was released, Apption Labs released the MEATER+ Probe which was similar to the MEATER Probe, but with better Bluetooth range. You may wish to read our review of the MEATER Probe and our review of the MEATER+ Probe. The MEATER Block was a different story. It was hindered by problems and only recently has been generally available to anyone other than Kickstarter backers. But, now that it's finally here, we have had a chance to get our hands on one to play around with it and give you our in-depth review.

First let's talk about the MEATER Probe. It's the first truly wireless, meaning wire-free, meat thermometer. And in case you still don't get it, it means there is no wire between the probe that is stuck into your meat inside of your cooker and the device outside your cooker that displays the temperature information. How does it do this? By using Bluetooth LE, also known as Bluetooth Smart, to communicate with a smart phone or tablet running the MEATER app.

And you ask again, how does it do this (without burning up the electronics)? Oh, they are very clever, they are. By enclosing all the temperature-sensitive components inside the portion of the probe which is stuck into the meat, that's how. That portion of the probe will never get much above the temperature of your meat, so neither will the electronics. The rest of the electronics that make up the MEATER Probe which can tolerate the higher temperature of your cooker reside higher up in the shaft of the probe in the portion which is exposed to the high heat of the cooker.

What does this mean for cooking meat? Well, no more wires, obviously. No more kinked wires. No more fried wires. And imagine what this could mean for users with rotisseries: no more opening the cooker, stopping the rotisserie and using a handheld thermometer to check the temperature of the meat. And the use of a smart phone or tablet makes the data available via your wifi network and the internet.

So, what is the MEATER Block and how does it differ from the MEATER and MEATER+ Probes? It provides three very nice functions beyond what the basic probes provide:

  1. It provides a wireless bridge function so that you no longer have to have two smart devices if you wish to monitor the MEATER Block probes outside the range of the Bluetooth communications.
  2. It provides a standalone mode so you can use your MEATER Block Probes without having to rely on the Internet or MEATER's cloud support.
  3. It comes with 4 probes all in one package for charging.
There are a number of interesting aspects to the MEATER probe. Let's look at its features and see how it performs.


Specifications and Features
The MEATER Block consists of seven components, the 4 probes themselves, the charger, the display/keypad and the MEATER app. Here are some features and specifications:

For the probes:

For the base unit: For the MEATER app:


A Photo Tour of the MEATER Probe and Charging Block
So let's take a look at the MEATER Block probes and base unit. They arrive in a very sturdy cardboard box. The Block itself is a beautifully crafted block of bamboo into which has been carved the areas for holding the probes. It is solid, a hefty 2.9 pounds, and just feels good in your hands.


First, a look at the front of the MEATER Probes in the base unit. There are a few things to notice. While probes are in the base unit, they charge from four AA batteries or the USB cable whenever the base unit is powered off. The probes are turned on whenever the base unit is powered on. (This differs from the MEATER probe and MEATER+ probe where the probe turned on when you removed it from the charging block and turned off when you returned it to the charging block.)


To the left you can see the electrode which forms one end of the charging circuit. At right, you can see the four electrodes that form the other end of the charging circuit, one for each probe.


In the photo on the left you can see how the back of the MEATER Block comes off to reveal the battery compartment. It is held on with magnets. To the right you can see the back side of the MEATER Block with the cover removed. The only thing inside of interest are the four AA batteries that power the unit and charge the probes.


The MEATER Block has a built-in stand that allows you stand the Block up on any flat surface. When open the stand, you can see that on the right side of the MEATER Block is a Micro-USB port. Using any generic Micro-USB cable, you can power your MEATER Block from a USB port. There are a couple of things to note about using this port:

  1. When you use the Micro-USB port, it powers the MEATER Block and overrides the batteries.
  2. The probes will charge from the batteries or the Micro-USB port.


Next, let's look at the actual MEATER Block probes. Physically, the probe is about 5.1 inches long. The shaft of the probe is just under ¼ inch in diameter, while the upper end is a square that is 0.28 inches on a side. The probe weighs about 0.35 ounces. Note that the MEATER Block probes are different than the MEATER and MEATER+ probes. If you have any of the earlier probes, they will NOT work with the MEATER Block. You can identify MEATER Block probes by the numbers which are etched into the end of the ambient tip.


Below from left to right, we have photos of the probe's tip, the line that marks the minimum insertion point, and the ceramic housing and metal tip. The minimum insertion line is very important. All the heat sensitive electronics are located between the tip of the probe and this line. By inserting the probe into the meat up to this point, you ensure that the electronics inside will be protected by the meat and won't get any hotter than the temperature of your meat. That's why you can place the probe into a very hot cooker without damaging the electronics. The sensor for the meat temperature is located below this line, about ⅓ of the way up from the tip. The ceramic portion of the probe houses the ambient temperature sensor (what most of us would call the pit sensor) as well as the Bluetooth antenna. The metal tip above the ceramic serves as one of the connections to the charger and is also connected thermally to the ambient temperature sensor. (The other charging connection is the metal shaft of the probe.) Also, the probe number is etched into this metal tip.


Probe Behavior and Charging
The MEATER Block probes differ from the MEATER and MEATER+ probes, as we have already pointed out. However, the MEATER Block probes also behave differently than the MEATER and MEATER+ probes. First of all, they differ in how and when they turn on and off. The earlier probes would turn on when you removed them from the charging block and turned off when you placed them back into the charging block. The MEATER Block probes turn on and off when you turn the MEATER Block base unit on and off.

Second, the MEATER and MEATER+ probes would charge whenever they were placed in the charging block. The MEATER Block probes only charge when they are placed in the MEATER Block base unit AND the MEATER Block base unit is turned off.


Usage Rules and Warnings
The MEATER website is filled with information about using your MEATER Block Probes. We have pulled out some of the more important-sounding rules, limitations and warnings here:


Bluetooth Range
One critical aspect of the MEATER and MEATER+ Probes is the range of the Bluetooth communications because the only commnication between the probe and your smart phone was via the Bluetooth connection. As a result, we spent a lot of time trying to establish the Bluetooth range under a wide variety of circumstances.

Now with the MEATER Block however, Bluetooth range is not terribly important since you are expected to leave your MEATER Block near your cooker and let WiFi handle all the rest. Therefore, we just did some very rudimentary checks on Bluetooth range:

Line of sight Greater than 42 feet
Inside ceramic cooker Greater than 40 feet
Inside Weber Smoky Joe metal cooker, lid on 34 feet
Inside All-Clad stainless steel pasta cooker with lid on Greater than 25 feet
If you experience problems connecting a probe to the Block via bluetooth, remember that you get the best signal from the probe if the probe is vertical. If you can orient your meat/probe so that the probe is vertical you may get better results.


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