The MEATER probe contains two temperature sensors. Per the MEATER FAQ on their web site, the meat sensor is located about ⅓ of the way up the probe from the tip. According to an email from the Apption Labs lead test engineer, the ambient (or pit) sensor is located in the black ceramic portion of the probe. We asked what type of sensors were used (thermistor? thermocouple? platinum RTD?) but the only answer we could get was that "MEATER uses a precision calibrated digital sensor for the probe's internal temperature."
Meat Sensor: As for accuracy, During the pork butt cook we used the Flame Boss meat probe as well as the MEATER probe. Initially, both probes gave identical readings for the cold piece of meat. Once cooking commenced, however, the MEATER probe consistantly read higher than the Flame Boss probe on the order of 7° to 12°F higher. When the meat was done, the MEATER probe read 6°F higher than the Flame Boss probe. Based on the pullability of the pork butt, we tend to believe the Flame Boss probe.
You may ask why we didn't do the old "boiling water" test. We did. But here's what happens when your food probe approaches the boiling point of water:
As we mentioned earlier, the way that MEATER keeps its delicate electronics safe from heat is they locate them in the probe shaft where they will be protected by the meat you are cooking. But the electronics can only take so much heat, and obviously when we put the probe in boiling water, we are exceeding any reasonable temperature for a piece of cooking meat. The result is that you get the "Dive! Dive! Dive!" sound effect and the red screen of death warning you to take immediate action.
Ambient Sensor: The MEATER's ambient sensor is a curious story. First of all, when cooking the spatchcocked chicken, it took the MEATER's ambient sensor 18 minutes to stabilize at a temperature that was about 30°F below the temperature measured by our dome thermometer. To get a better reading on this, we used our Flame Boss 300 temperature controller for the pork loin cook, placing the Flame Boss pit probe as near as possible to the MEATER ambient sensor. It took the MEATER probe 12 minutes to stabilize at a reading 25°F below the actual pit temperature. It slowly crept up from there, producing a much closer reading after 36 minutes. During our pork butt cook, it took the MEATER probe almost 2 hours to reach a reading that was relatively close to matching the temperature of the cooker.
Reading the FAQ on the MEATER web site, one of the longest answers we came across was trying to explain the behavior of the ambient sensor. It mentions things like a bubble of cool air that exists near the surface of the cold meat. It mentions that you mustn't insert your probe too deeply into the meat lest the ambient sensor be too close to the cold meat. It goes on to mention other things that could affect the temperature reading: the roasting pan, using a glass container, the proximity of the ambient sensor to the walls of the cooker, the “cold” spots of the oven, the size of the roast, etc. MEATER claims that this is a better way of measuring the temperature of your cooker since it is measuring the temperature of the air near the meat. Our feeling is that the ambient sensor is of little use for measuring the temperature of your cooker due to the long period of time it takes for the sensor to actually reflect the temperature inside your cooker. You definitely would not want to try to get your cooker stabilized at any particular temperature using the MEATER's ambient sensor.
However, the ambient sensor is not totally useless by any means. If you dig into the Apption Labs patent application and look at paragraph 46:
"As noted above, more accurate predictions on completion time and resting temperature rise can ordinarily be made by utilizing dual-sensor technology. Using an ambient or external thermal sensor in or near the third portion 102 can enhance estimation of heat input at the location of the food 108, which can vary when the food 108 is moved, turned, or when changes in cooking environment occur, such as opening the hood of a BBQ, adjusting heat on a gas grill, or charcoal fuel losing heat. The heat input at the location of the food 108 can be estimated more accurately using an ambient or external thermal sensor adjacent an exterior surface of the food 108 and measuring the ambient temperature over a period of time."In other words, you can better estimate the completion time of your cook, if you know the temperature of the air immediately adjacent to the meat you are cooking. As we saw, the MEATER app was able to give a pretty good estimate when cooking ordinary foods, and even for foods with temperature stalls once the food exited the stall. So we would just ignore the ambient sensor's reading and let the MEATER Probe use it for its own purposes.
There are three ways to access the data being recordd by the MEATER Probe: Bluetooth, MEATER Link and MEATER Cloud.
Bluetooth: We'll assume everyone knows what Bluetooth wireless communication is. The MEATER probe uses Bluetooth LE, also known as Bluetooth Smart. Compared to Classic Bluetooth, Bluetooth Smart is intended to provide considerably reduced power consumption and cost while maintaining a similar communication range. Advantages include:The following screen shots show you how to identify which method you are currently using to connect to the MEATER Probe. The small icon circled in red at upper left shows from top to bottom, Bluetooth, MEATER Link, and MEATER Cloud.
All communications with the MEATER Probe begin with Bluetooth. You must connect a smart device running the MEATER app to the probe via Bluetooth, and this smart device must remain within Bluetooth range of the probe in order to access the data from the probe.
- Low power requirements, operating for "months or years" on a button cell
- Small size and low cost
- Compatibility with a large installed base of mobile phones, tablets and computers
MEATER Link: This method allows one smart device to connect to the MEATER Probe via Bluetooth, but then allows a second smart device to connect to the first via a local wifi network. Both smart devices must be running the MEATER app and must be connected to the same local wifi network. In addition, MEATER Link must be enabled on both smart devices. If both devices are on the same wifi network, the remote device will automatically connect via MEATER Link. (The intent of this method was to allow you to connect the two smart devices without using cellular data.) If you take the remote device out of range of the wifi network, it will automatically switch over to the next method, MEATER Cloud.
MEATER Cloud: This method also allows one smart device to connect to the MEATER Probe via Bluetooth, but instead of using just wifi to connect a second smart device, the internet is used to connect the second smart device. Thus, you can monitor the MEATER Probe remotely on the second smart device as long as it is connected to the internet. This method requires both smart devices to be running the MEATER app and be connected to the internet. Both devices must have both MEATER Link and MEATER Cloud enabled.
Smart phone connected to MEATER Probe via Bluetooth.
Smart phone connected to MEATER Probe via MEATER Link.
Smart phone connected to MEATER Probe via MEATER Cloud.
We should also mention, that someday, if the MEATER Block device ever ships, you will have the option to remotely monitor your MEATER probe with only one smart device. You will be able to leave the MEATER Block near your cooker which will connect to the MEATER Probe via Bluetooth (replacing the smart device that you have to leave next to your cooker) and to the network via wifi. Then you can use a smart device to connect to the MEATER Block via wifi or the internet.
Problems We Encountered
We encountered two problems during our testing of the MEATER Probe:
MEATER Link: Initially, we were unable to get the MEATER Link function working. We tried every combination of settings that we could come up with, but we could never connect a remote smart device to the monitoring smart device via wifi. We have been in contact with MEATER customer support and we were able to determine what was causing the problem, although at this time, we don't fully understand why. We had previously reserved an IP address in our router and had forwarded HTTP traffic (port 80) to that IP address. This was done to enable access from our smart phone to our Stoker wireless temperature controller. (You can read more about why this was necessary in our review of the Stoker product wireless setup instructions.) Again, we don't understand yet why this interfered with the MEATER Link function, but as soon as we reset those functions back to their default states, MEATER Link immediately began working. MEATER customer support is still looking into this, but as long as you haven't gone into your router settings and fiddled with DHCP Reservations and Port Forwarding, you won't experience this problem. And of course, this really isn't an issue since if MEATER Link isn't working, your remote device will connect via MEATER Cloud.
MEATER Probe not turning on: The MEATER Probe is supposed to turn off when you place it in the charging block and turn on when you remove it from the charging block. We found that after a couple of cooks using smoke which coated the top electrode of the probe in soot, the probe would not turn on when you removed it from the charging block. Cleaning the electrode with fine sandpaper solved the problem. So, keep that electrode clean and you will have no problems.
The MEATER Probe is now available to the general public. (We had obtained ours as the result of a special offer made by MEATER to Kickstarter supporters who had ordered the MEATER Block.) You can order MEATER Probes on their website.
One important note: According to a recent email from Apption Labs, the MEATER Probes that are being sold now are different than and incompatible with the probes that will ship with the MEATER Block. So if you are planning on ordering the MEATER Block in the future, don't buy MEATER Probes now thinking that you will use them with MEATER Block. As of this writing, MEATER Block will ship with its own probes, so you don't need to purchase any now in anticipation of buying a MEATER Block without any probes.
Although it took a long time for the MEATER Probe to finally arrive, it appears to be a solid product with good application support as well as customer support. It does everything you would expect of a meat thermometer along with some nice features provided by the application. It should immediately obvious to anyone who has cooked with a rotisserie that the MEATER Probe is uniquely suited for constant monitoring of meat temperature as it spins inside a cooker. The predictive cook time feature and the resting time feature should prove to be useful in helping cooks plan ahead. As far as the probe itself, the bluetooth range is impressive allowing you to monitor the probe within a reasonable distance around your cooker.
On the other hand, it is somewhat inconvenient to have to leave a phone or smart device near your cooker if you want to be able to monitor your MEATER Probe from afar, like when you run to the store. This will be solved by the MEATER Block product, if it ever ships, but at additional cost. Another incovenience is the fact that the probe appears to produce higher meat temperature readings than other traditional probes requiring you to adjust your target temperatures from what you might be accustomed to. And as we pointed out in the review, you really can't use the ambient sensor on the MEATER Probe as a substitute for a traditional thermometer on your cooker. The ambient sensor is really there to help the MEATER Probe application predict cook times.
So, the MEATER Probe has its pluses and minuses, but if you want or need a meat thermometer that is truely wire-free along with remote monitoring capabilities, you should give it a serious look.
Apption Labs, Inc.
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Apption Labs Limited
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