There's a new BBQ temperature controller in town and it's called The Stoker. It comes to us from Rock's BarBQue at www.rocksbarbque.com in Newark, California. If you aren't familiar with barbecue cooker temperature control, The Stoker is a device that monitors the pit temperature and controls airflow through the pit so as to keep the pit temperature where you want it. It does this through the use of a blower which attaches to the pit. By turning the blower on and off as required, The Stoker can keep your pit within a few degrees of a set temperature as long as there is fuel to keep the fire going.
The Stoker system includes the basic features that you would expect of a temperature controller for a barbecue cooker:
- Handy stand to sit The Stoker on a table top. Optional horizontal and vertical stands for mounting the Stoker on table or wall are also available.
- A 2x12 LCD display with backlight for display of data, settings, information.
- A five-key keypad for entry of data and settings.
- A 5 CFM blower that controls airflow.
- Stainless steel food and pit temperature sensors
- Temperature control from 100 F to 450 F.
- Temperature displays in degrees F or C.
- Audible alarm to signal pit over and under temperature conditions, as well as to signal when the food reaches the target temperature.
- Optional power adapter for powering The Stoker from a 12V portable battery.
- Adapter plates to allow you to attach The Stoker to different brands and models of cookers.
In addition, The Stoker system includes the following more advanced features, some of which are new to the world of barbecue temperature control:
- The unit is easily expanded by simply plugging in more temperature sensors and blowers to allow it to control multiple cookers at the same time and monitor several pieces of food at the same time.
- Optional expansion devices to allow you to plug in additional temperature probes and blowers.
- Built-in ethernet connection and web server that lets you upgrade the software from your PC as well as set up and control the Stoker anywhere you have Internet access.
- Each temperature probe and blower can be assigned unique and meaningful names for easy identification when monitoring food and cookers.
- Automatic scrolling display of all the temperature probes for easy monitoring.
- Built-in clock with the ability to set the time zone and set the time from a network time server if you are connected to the Internet. Time and date can also be set manually.
- An "up-time" clock which allows to tell how long The Stoker has been powered on, allowing you to determine if the unit has lost power while you are away from the cooker.
- Settings can be stored in NVRAM allowing you restore all settings by powering unit off and on.
- Blowers have built-in dampers to control the natural flow of air through the cooker.
- Temperature sensors are calibrated at the factory and should not need calibration by the user as the calibration data is stored permanently in each sensor.
The Basic System
Here's what comes in the basic system:
The only other thing you need to order with your unit is a blower adapter for your particular cooker. If you are going to want to monitor the temperature of a food item in the cooker, you can order the "Basic System Plus" which includes all the items in the Basic System plus a food temperature probe.
- The Stoker system unit
- 5 CFM blower
- Pit temperature sensor
- Power supply
- Operator's manual
The System Unit
The system unit is a small box about 2 x 5-3/8 x 4-1/8 inches in size. Click on the thumbnail at right for a full-sized view of the front of the unit. First, let's look at the front panel details:
The system display is a 2 by 12 backlit LCD display.
This button turns the display backlight on and off.
This button is used when navigating the system menus to return to the previous menu.
These two buttons are used to scroll up and down through menus and to select values for things like names and temperatures.
This button is the "Select" button which is sort of like the "Enter" key.
There are three of these sockets on the front panel (there are two more on the back). You plug blowers and temperature probes into these sockets. Note that you can plug any probe and any blower into any socket. The sockets are essentially connected in parallel (actually they are on a bus, but you knew that....) so that each socket is the same as another. This also means, as we shall see later, that you can plug any number of devices into the system simply by plugging the equivalent of Y-cables into a socket.
Next let's look at the back panel of the system unit. Here you will find the power switch, power plug, ethernet connection and two more device plugs. Click on the image to the right to see a full-sized image.
Note that the input power to the unit is 5 volts. Do not try attaching this unit to a 12 volt battery! A 5 to 12 volt converter is available if you wish to run your Stoker off a 12 volt portable battery.