The BBQ Guru PartyQ
Temperature Controller


Connections

There is only one connection on the PartyQ, that being the plug where the temperature probe plugs in. You can see it above the blower in the following photo of the back of the PartyQ:


Temperature Probe

The PartyQ comes with a temperature probe for monitoring the cooker temperature:


The probe itself is made from stainless steel and contains a high accuracy thermocouple.

The wire has an armor braid and can withstand temperatures up to 500°. Be careful not to kink the wire. The junction where the wire enters the probe appears not to be sealed, and the manufacturer recommends that you avoid getting this junction wet.

The probe and the wire should be shielded from direct radiation from a hot fire. Do not let it come into direct contact with flames. If you need to shield the wire, you can place a layer of aluminum foil beneath it. Also, having the pit probe itself 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 controller into cutting back on the fire. (If a probe does fail, you will be able to tell because when plugged into the controller with no heat applied to the probe, the controller display will show three dashes instead of a numeric value.)

An alligator clip is provided which you can use to clip the probe to your dome thermometer or the food grid, as you see fit.


Temperature Probe Accuracy

How accurate is the probe? We measured the temperature of boiling water using the PartyQ while tropical depression Beryl was strolling past our house. Our boiling point calculator said the boiling point of water was 211.1. Sure enough the PartyQ showed 211 and every once and while briefly showed 210 before returning to 211.


Calibration

The PartyQ comes with a user's guide which include calibration instructions. Basically, you measure the temperature of boiling water and then use the ADJ menu paramter to adjust the display value to agree with the actual boiling point of water at your location at that time. Again, you may wish to use our boiling point calculator to determine the boiling point of water.


The Blower

Now let's take a look at the blower which feeds air to the fire in the cooker. First off we have photos of the blower and the adapter:


As you can see, the blower is mounted on the back of the metal plate which we have been calling the backbone of the unit. The blower shown in the photo is a 5 CFM blower which should be adequate for most home-sized cookers. However, the PartyQ now comes with a 6.5 CFM blower which is definitely adequate for most home-sized cookers.

The nozzle has two silicone rings that fit snugly over the nozzle. You can purchase an adapter separately for many different brands of cookers. Shown is the stainless steel adapter that fits onto large and medium Big Green Egg cookers. You simply insert the nozzle into the adapter's inducer tube and press the silicone rings into the tube until everything is snug.

Note that the PartyQ no longer comes with the screw-on plate that is shown in the photos. If you have one, you can simply discard it.


The Batteries

The big story with the PartyQ, of course, is that it is battery powered! No more worrying about extension cords or car batteries and adapters. Pop in 4 AA batteries and you are good to go. Of course, there are two concerns one might have when it comes to batteries:

  1. Battery Life: Of course, one would not want the batteries to run down in the middle of an overnight cook. The unit has a low-battery indicator on the main display, and it also has a "battery meter" on the system menu which indicates the percentage of battery life remaining. So, obviously, you can check before the cook to make sure the batteries have adequate power for the cook. (By the way, if the batteries do run down, you can replace them mid-cook and the unit will remember your target pit temperature.) How long do the batteries last? Well our testing showed that a fresh set of Energizer alkaline batteries lasted 48 hours on a large Big Green Egg cooking at 250° F. The ambient temperature was between 65 and 85 degrees during those 2 days.

    One note about the battery meter. Once the batteries get close to empty, the meter will show various seemingly crazy values in the display. This is another good sign that it's time to change the batteries.

    One way to conserve battery power, of course, is to start your cooker up and get it close to your target temperature before turning on the PartyQ. It can take several minutes of continuous blower operation to bring a cooker up to temperature.

    You might also be tempted to use lithium batteries to get additional battery life. However, at room temperature in a low current application like the PartyQ, you would only expect to see a 20-30% gain in battery life by switching to lithium, hardly worth it when you can find alkaline batteries for about 1/4 to 1/2 the price of lithium batteries.

  2. Cold Weather Operation: However, when it comes to cold weather operation, lithium batteries are definitely worth a look. Data from the Energizer website indicates that at 32°F, alkaline batteries will have about 2/3 the capacity that they have at room temperature. By the time you get to 0°F, an alkaline battery only has about 1/6 of the capacity of room temperature. You can avoid this by using lithium batteries when you are going to be using the PartyQ in cold weather. We found lithium batteries at Sams Club in a 12-pack for $18.00. There are also rechargeable lithium batteries available if you plan to so much cold weather cooking with the PartyQ.

Here is a view of the open battery compartment on the PartyQ:

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