Most Wi-Fi devices aren’t worth the trouble. Automatically closing shutters! Toaster with bread notifications! Get today’s weather on your mirror! But there are some things that are better when connected to a network. A Wi-Fi thermometer effectively uses the power and familiarity of your phone to manage the complexity of temperature control and monitoring, and can help you be a better cook. Unlike that smart hairbrush that’ll report when you’re brushing wrong, a Wi-Fi thermometer is worth your while.
|1. Fireboard 2 – Best for BBQ||Check Price||★★★★★|
|2. Signals – Best for Grilling & Cooking||Check Price||★★★★★|
|3. UltraQ||Check Price||★★★☆|
|4. Tappecue||Check Price||★★★|
|5. Flame Boss 500||Check Price||★★★|
What You Need to Know Before You Buy a Wi-Fi Thermometer
One thing that makes it tough to buy a good thermometer is the number of terms that get thrown around. Also, while we’re well past the bleeding edge of tech here, these thermometers are still a developing technology, and different manufactures have different ideas about how the whole thing should work. Let’s try to break down the words and the concepts a little bit.
Thermistor, Resistance Temperature Detector (RTD), and Thermocouple are all types of electronic thermometer probe. Each has a particular type of material that changes its electrical properties when its temperature changes. A base station measures those electrical properties and converts that data into a temperature. Each of these three technologies has its ups and downs, mostly in effective temperature range, accuracy, and the amount of time it takes to get a reading.
For the purpose of a meat thermometer that’s going to be working continuously in an ordinary oven or grill, all three are perfectly reasonable choices, and it doesn’t make a difference which one you pick. It is important, though, that you keep thermometer probes matched up with their base station. Different manufacturers do different things on the electrical side that can make mix-and-match readings wrong.
A probe thermometer has an electronic thermometer attached by a wire to a base station where you can read the temperature from the probe. The probe and wire are safe for high temperatures, and will usually be stuck into meat while it cooks.
The base station will sit outside the heat so you can continually monitor the temperature as your meat cooks. Probes are usually long and thin with a curve on the wire-end so you can manipulate them. A multi-probe thermometer is a system where multiple probes plug into one base station. Most probe thermometers allow you to set alerts, which trigger an alarm of some sort when the temperature goes over or under the setpoints that you define.Remote monitoring is the ability to read the thermometer(s) from a portable device other than the base station. Remote control is the ability to program alerts, thermometer names, and more from a portable device other than the base station.
Remote monitoring and control will usually be accomplished by one of a few technologies. Direct RF is a radio connection directly to a dedicated remote. You’ll buy the base station and remote as a set, already paired together. This is the simplest way to do things, but is usually a one-way system, so you don’t get remote control. Range depends on the product, but can be quite long (1¼ miles for our favorite). Bluetooth is a radio connection between the thermometer and your cell phone for remote control and monitoring. The thermometer will be paired with one phone at a time and be controlled through an app from the iTunes/Google Play store. Range is about 130 feet. Wi-Fi is a radio connection between your thermometer and a wireless router, with a range of about 400 feet. Other devices connected to the same router (usually your phone) can monitor and control the thermometer with an app.
It’s worth noting that all of the distances in the last paragraph are extremely optimistic, and you’ll likely only be able to get them outside with perfect line-of-sight with nothing around to interfere with the signals. Buildings, fences, walls and other obstructions will reduce the effective range.
If the router is connected to the internet (for Wi-Fi) or your phone is connected to the internet (for Bluetooth), a cloud-connected thermometer will send your temperature readings to an internet server. This lets you monitor the thermometer from any internet connection and save the temperature logs for later use. Why would you want that? To get better at cooking. These logs, plus notes, let you remember what you did so you can repeat it or improve on it later.
Pit Fans (Thermostatic Controllers)A pit fan is a device for the barbecue fans that controls the temperature of a grill/smoker by adding more air to the fire as needed. One of these fans will connect to your thermometer, where it’s controlled like the thermostat in your house, speeding up as the temperature falls and slowing down as the temperature rises to maintain your chosen temperature.
There’s a lot going on with a good Wi-Fi thermometer, so we ask for a lot out of them. They should be accurate and feature at least two probes, though more is better. You should be able to set alerts for low and high temperatures for every probe channel, and you should be able to do that easily from the base unit or the phone. It should be easy to read the temperature readings from both the base unit and remotely.
Setup should be easy, and not require a computer expert or a whole afternoon. It ought to be easy to access the data the thermometer produces, and it’s nice to be able to annotate that temperature data for future reference. You should also be able to use the thermometer effectively without a cloud connection if you want to take it on the road.
A good Wi-Fi thermometer should be tough enough to survive the bumps and bruises common to the kitchen or grill. Accidents like spills or falls shouldn’t put it out of commission. Battery powered devices should hold a charge for a reasonable amount of time.
The pit fan control should effectively hold the temperature in a narrow band. It should react intelligently to unusual situations instead of making the problem worse.
BEST WI-FI THERMOMETERS
The Fireboard 2 is our top choice for Wi-Fi thermometers. It does everything you need at a reasonable price, and features great attention to all the little details that take a thermometer from good to excellent.
ProbesIt supports six probes (the basic set comes with three) with a claimed accuracy of ±0.7°, though our testing showed them even more accurate than that. The base unit has a big, easy-to-read screen that displays your choice of the temperature of all the probes, the graph of temperature over time of one probe, or more.
The Fireboard 2 works with both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, which makes setup easy. Bluetooth pairing is quick and easy, and once you’re paired with Bluetooth it’s easy to set up the Wi-Fi through the phone app. The app is the best in the field.
You see all the temperatures at a glance, plus hot and cold alerts are easy to set up on every channel. All alerts are programmed and received through the app and not at the base station, which is a bit of a minus. The cloud-connected app saves all of your data, including the best annotation features in the field.
The Fireboard 2 runs off an onboard battery advertising about 30 hours of life, which matches our testing. It runs fine all-day under the desert sun and is weatherproof. Our testing (spraying it with a hose for 75 seconds) shows that it’ll stand up to a spilled drink or a little rain.
The pit fan controller (requiring either an add-on cable, or the Drive model) works great, holding our test grill at a nice steady 245° for a great no-effort roast.
It’s got some smarts to it too, with lid detection so it doesn’t kick the fan up to max when you open the lid. You can also go deeper on programming and automatically change the pit temperature in response to time or temperature targets (for example, cook at 245° until the meat reaches 200°, then drop the temperature to 210° to keep it warm). Fan does not come with Fireboard 2 (FBX2) or Fireboard 2 Drive (FBX2D).
What We Like
- Six channels, each of which can accept any of three different electrical style of probe for doing different jobs.
- Easy-to-use app with cloud features worth using.
- Serious battery life with fast charging.
We Don’t Like
- No alerts on the device itself, so you’ve got to use the app all the time.
Thermoworks makes great thermometers, including our favorite instant-read, and the Signals is right up at the top of the Wi-Fi thermometer field. The Signals supports and comes with four probes (with color-coded rings to make sense of all the wires), advertising ±1.8° accuracy. Our tests called it closer to 0.7° in the usual cooking range.
The base station is the Signals’s best feature. It shows you everything — temperatures and high/low setpoints for all four channels. You can set those alerts right on the base unit, plus adjust the volume on those alerts up to a 90 dB level that will get your attention from anywhere in the house. If you want to keep things simple, you can run everything from the base station without connecting to your phone at all.
The phone app is solid, and connects through both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for easy setup. The app shows you everything the base station does, with the option to add labels so things make more sense.
There’s no note-taking on the temperature graphs, so that’s a minus for building your knowledge. The Signals is cloud-connected, and you can save 10 sessions to the cloud or download all the data for your own storage.
The Signals is rock-solid, and sits up for easy reading on a base that grips the counter well. It’s rated IP66 — completely dust-resistant and water-resistant “against powerful jets”. I don’t know if a hose counts as a “powerful jet”, but it shrugged that off with no ill effects. The battery is rated for 16 hours (we got a little more out of ours), but takes a long time to charge.
The pit fan works, but isn’t integrated too well into the rest of the unit.
It runs pretty independently with acceptable temperature control, but it throws up some pretty spurious alerts. Thermoworks added lid detection with a software update, which is good on its own, but also shows a nice willingness to improve the product even when its already in the field.
What We Like
- The base station is everything you could want, with full monitoring and control.
- Durability is tops. You don’t have to worry about this one.
- Easy setup in the app.
We Don’t Like
- Cloud storage is limited to 10 sessions.
- The pit fan is not well-integrated into the larger system.
The BBQ Guru UltraQ tells you in its name what the expected application is for this unit. While there’s no rule saying you can’t take it in the house, the pit fan is the best feature of the UltraQ. The basic set comes with two probes; the system supports four. The company rates the probes at a pretty awful ±5° accuracy in normal cooking ranges, and while we found they were better than that, they weren’t amazingly accurate.
The base station does a great job at displaying information when running the pit fan.
The big LED ring on the outside is red when the pit is at the right cooking temperature, blue when it’s too low, flashing red when it’s too high, and pulsing when the fan is running. Inside the ring is a display for any of the temperature channels, with the color of the tail of the Q indicating what channel you’re looking at. Alerts are only present for when the temperature exceeds the setpoint — no low-temperature alerts available. You can set the alerts from the base station, but it’s like programming an 80s VCR. I wouldn’t recommend it.
The app connects easily with both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and gives you all the information you’d expect plus easy-to-use controls for alerts and pit fan settings. Data syncs automatically to the cloud, but there’s no way to name the probes, reducing the value of your data.
Durability on the UltraQ is solid. The probes are dishwasher-safe, which is a nice feature most units don’t offer. The UltraQ comes with an excellent mount that adjusts for easy reading. It’s water-resistant (but not waterproof) and doesn’t do great in the Arizona sun. There’s no internal battery, so you’ll need either an external battery pack or an electrical outlet.
The pit fan is the best reason to get the UltraQ. BBQ Guru has two different fans for different situations and a wide variety of mounting kits for different grills/smokers so it’s much easier to install than the other fans we’ve reviewed.
Temperature control is great, and they’ve got some nice smarts in the controller, including lid detection and ramp mode. Ramp mode gradually lowers the pit temperature as the food approaches its target temperature for an easy finish with less risk of overcooking.
What We Like
- Mounting kits make the fan easy to mount.
- Ramp mode makes finishing a cook easy and less chancy.
- The LED ring is great for displaying the basic information in a simple way that’s easy to read at a glance.
We Don’t Like
- The controls on the base unit are a real pain to use.
- No low-temperature alerts
- All of the best points are for the pit fan, so you’re left with the average bits when using the UltraQ indoors.
The Tappecue Touch is the latest version of one of the first Wi-Fi thermometers on the market. It’s got four inputs, but can run up to 8 channels using splitters or their intriguing dual probe that measures both ambient temperature and meat temperature on one probe. Probes are rated to ±1°, which matches our test results. The Touch comes with two to six probes, depending on what package you pick.
The base unit has a touch screen display to show all of your temperatures on a well laid-out color-coded grid. The touch screen uses a stylus for control, but there’s a little bit of delay when selecting things, so while I’m glad control is there on the base, it’s better in the app.
The Tappecue is Wi-Fi only, so you’ve got to punch in your password on the touch screen (ick). It has an internal router so you can connect directly to it if you take it on the road in Offline Mode. The app has good displays and controls, including a nice library of meats so you can set automatic alerts by meat type for easy setup. There is a cloud service attached to the Tappecue, but they charge for more than a few trial sessions. Better to take your data, including a nice notes feature, by email for yourself.
The Tappecue has a battery rated for 25 hours of operation, which seems about accurate. The base unit is water-resistant, and held up to some bashing without problems. The overall quality, though, is spotty. The splitters work, but throw up crazy temperature readings if you touch them the wrong way. The manual is badly written. According to that manual, you might need to slice out a little bit of gasket with a razor to make a splitter fit right, which is pretty appalling for a retail product. A unique plus for the Tappecue is the public API. If you’re a programmer, you can expand and refine the Tappecue’s capabilities for your own (delicious) purposes.
The pit fan is a bare-bones add-on, with adequate temperature control. Control is pretty rudimentary, with no lid detection or any other refinements. I can’t think of a situation where you’d want to, but you can run four fan controls at once.
What We Like
- Broad range of capabilities, with the ability to experiment and grow.
- Probes are high quality; the dual probe simplifies setting up a smoker.
What We Don’t Like
- The touch screen isn’t very good.
- The manuals are not written with an inexperienced user in mind.
- Cloud services are surprisingly expensive
Like the UltraQ, the Flame Boss 500 is built around its pit fan control capabilities. This is more true than you might expect: the previous version advertised itself as a pit controller with just enough thermometer capability to run the fan effectively. The Flame Boss 500 supports four probes (and comes with two). Flame Boss does not specify an accuracy on its probes, but they appear to be ±2°, maybe a little better.
The base unit has a small display showing current temperatures on all channels and the setpoint for the fan controller. You can set high alerts for each channel (no low alerts), but we’re back with the 80s-style VCR controls here. The app is clearly the way to go.
That app and the Flame Boss are Wi-Fi only, and with the limited controls on the base unit, it’s a bit of a pain to get it set up right. Once you do, the app is solid, with well laid out controls and displays. The cloud data storage works pretty well for someone who wants to refer to old sessions later down the road. The Flame Boss also has its own router so you can connect to it away from home in Direct Mode. Setup on that is a little rough, but it works well once you get it cooking.
Build quality on the Flame Boss 500 is excellent, and the magnetic mount is a great feature for planting it where it’s useful. There’s no internal battery, so you’ll need an outlet or external pack for this one.
The pit fan is extremely good, as you’d hope for a thermometer that grew out of a pit fan. It holds an amazingly tight range of temperatures. It has lid detection, and sends good notifications for when something unusual happens to your fire so you can fix it.
What We Like
- That fan controller is extremely good, and makes BBQ a breeze.
- Good graphs in the app and cloud service.
What We Don’t Like
- This is a pit controller first and a thermometer second.
- Wi-Fi setup is tough, and you really need to use the app for everything.
Why Get a Wi-Fi Smart Thermometer?
After all that, let’s put it together. The Wi-Fi thermometers we’re reviewing here are multi-probe thermometers with remote monitoring and control via Wi-Fi. They’re all cloud-connected and can (sometimes with an add-on cable) control a pit fan.
A probe thermometer is good for monitoring the temperature of something that needs to cook for a long time, usually a large piece of meat. A Wi-Fi thermometer is good for situations where you need to monitor multiple things at once and will be walking away from the cooking for substantial periods of time, but still want to keep an eye on things.
Indoor Cooking Use
A great candidate for a Wi-Fi thermometer is a large Thanksgiving turkey. Put one probe in the breast, one in the leg, and a third in the stuffing, then sit back and watch some football while the turkey roasts. You can keep an eye on your phone to see the progress on dinner and program alerts to know when to flip the turkey or if it’s cooking too fast.
Outdoor Grilling & BBQ
Smoking meat low and slow is where the Wi-Fi thermometer really shines. Put one probe on the top of a whole pork butt, one in the bottom, and clip one to the grill. Use the two pork probes to monitor the progress of your cook so the butt gets done all the way without overcooking and use the grill probe to monitor the ambient temperature and drive a pit fan to maintain the perfect temperature. Once you get it set up, including alerts for too much or too little heat, and you can keep an eye on everything from inside the house.
Summarizing Our Top Selections
A Wi-Fi thermometer can be a useful addition to your kitchen, and especially to your grill table. Our first choice is the Fireboard 2, featuring easy setup, a great app, and excellent attention to details. For those who don’t see themselves ever running a smoker, you might be happier with the Thermoworks Signals. It’s extremely easy to use and features the best base station in the lineup so you can run it without the app if you like. Both are great products that can help you step up your food.