The new PartyQ did a pretty good job of controlling the temperature of our large Big Green Egg cooker. The real test of any temperature controller is how it performs at low temperatures. 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 so as not to get the fire so hot that the cooker can't cool off fast enough.
The PartyQ controller temperature display has a 5° snap feature, meaning when the PartyQ detects that the temperature is within 5°F of the target temperature, it then displays the target temperature rather than the actual temperature. As a result, we had to measure the temperature of the cooker ourselves with thermocouples in order to see what was going on. We found that the actual temperature as measured by our test equipment was often up to 10°F lower than what the PartyQ was displaying. If you find your thermometer displaying temperatures lower than what the PartyQ indicates, you can clip the PartyQ probe near the probe of the other thermometer and then use the PartyQ's adjustment feature to get the PartyQ to display values closer to what your thermometer is reading.
That said, the PartyQ controller did a good job of controlling a large Big Green Egg at all temperatures, low, medium and high, hitting the targets within less than 10°F as measured by our test equipment and maintaining the targets within less than 1.5°F at low and high temperatures and 6.5° at a medium temperature:
If you are concerned about the larger swing at the medium temperature, we'll just point out that even expensive kitchen ovens tend to only maintain a temperature of plus and minues 25 degrees. 6.3 degrees is still pretty impressive! When initially taking the cooker to the each temperature, there were varying amounts of initial overshoot, but the unit quickly settled into a cycle that was close to the target and gradually got closer as time went on. (We feel overshoot gets way too much attention, but readers want to know so we do take note of it. The cooker isn't over the target temperature long enough to really heat up the ceramic walls of the cooker, and the temperature drops back down so what's to worry about?)
We won't trot our graph of how well an expensive electric oven does controlling the oven's temperature. Suffice it to say that most electric ovens are doing good if it keeps your oven within plus or minus 25 degrees.
A few things we'll point out about using the PartyQ controller:
The following table shows you a comparison of the specifications and performance for the PartyQ, Auber Instruments controller, IQ110 and the BBQ Guru NanoQ.
The obvious competitors to the PartyQ are the iQue 110 controller, the BBQ Guru NanoQ and the Auber Instruments controller. All four models are low cost, and all four only control the temperature of your cooker. So which one should you choose?
As usual, it all depends on what you want. With the NanoQ, if you can find one second hand now, you get rugged build, quality temperature probe cable, more blower choices, Open Lid Detect and automatic Adaptive Control. Of course, you pay more for all that.
On the other hand with the Auber Insturments controller you get the ability to set a target temperature within 1 degree, a bright and VERY usable display, 2 audible alarms, and the ability to use about any thermocouple probe you wish.
With the IQ110, you get low price, all-in-one unit, simple operation, Platinum RTD probe, and the quick and easy-to-use dial method of selecting your target temperature.
And of course, with the PartyQ you get a truly all-in-one unit that runs off of AA batteries. No power cord and no blower cord. Just a temperature probe and that's it.
All four units are more than accurate enough to give you the kind of control you want for your cooker, so the choice really comes down the price and features of the units.
The PartyQ is a simple, easy-to-use, all-in-one temperature controller that comes at a very modest price. It is accurate and does the job very well. This updated version of the PartyQ includes a more finished package and an adjustable gooseneck to give you more flexibility in how you install the PartyQ in your cooker setup. Like we said at the beginning, when we first beta-tested the original PartyQ, we clapped our hands in joy at the prospect of a self-contained battery-powered temperature controller. Well, we are still clapping our hands and we will probably use this controller a lot for our personal use simply because it is so simple to hook up and use.
The BBQ Guru
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