Texas BBQ and High Technology...

Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Episode #124


I thought I’d try something completely different this week and write a column about Texas BBQ, which we cook "low and slow" over oak or hickory. I know what you’re thinking: What does BBQ have to do with technology? Allow me to explain. 

For as long as I’ve lived in Texas (nearly 30 years) I’ve been in love with the delicious slow cooked meats that we call Texas BBQ. And I’ve been trying to cook the kind of brisket and ribs you find at our fine Texas BBQ joints for almost as long (with varying degrees of success).

That's one good-lookin' brisket... and after 15+ hours in the smoker, It tasted even better than it looked!

Perhaps the greatest challenge in smoking meat over a wood fire is keeping your BBQ pit at a constant temperature. In the case of brisket, I like to maintain a grill temperature of 250-275° Fahrenheit for as long as it takes to finish the roast. In the old days I spent most of my cooking time — often as long as 15 or 16 hours — sitting within arm’s reach of the BBQ so I could tend the fire and try to keep the temperature within my preferred range.

Needless to say, due to the long hours of close supervision that were necessary, smoking a brisket was something I used to only do on very special occasions.

But that was then and this is now. I recently acquired a gadget that was supposed to change my life as a pitmaster: iGrill 2 from iDevices. It’s a small, remote Bluetooth thermometer that sends temperature data from your grill to an app on your iPhone or other iDevice.

iGrill 2 is a small, battery operated Bluetooth thermometer that transmits to your iDevice.

It includes two temperature probes—one for ambient temperature and the other for internal meat temperature. And the app offers two types of alarms – absolute and range. I use an absolute alarm for the internal temperature (165°), and a range alarm for the ambient temperature. (225° to 325°.)

The good news is that the device mostly works as promised. Being a geek, I really love the real-time graphs it generates for each temperature probe.

I think the graphs in the iGrill2 app are pretty groovy.

Sadly, while its range is touted as 150 feet, it apparently requires “line-of-sight.” That means it couldn’t connect to my iPhone in my office, less than 50 feet away from the BBQ. That being said, it works great in my den and kitchen, which are both closer to the BBQ than the office.

I’d love to use iGrill 2, but I want to monitor BBQ temperatures from my office even more. Is that too much to ask? 

I think not. After some research, I bought a Maverick ET-733 Long Range Wireless Dual Probe BBQ Smoker Meat Thermometer at Amazon.com. It isn’t as pretty, but it cost $30 less and delivers up to 300 feet of range. I don’t know if it actually works all the way up to 300 feet, but I can tell you that it works flawlessly in my office (as well as every other room in my house — at least 125–150 feet).

It’s not pretty or high-tech, but the Maverick ET-733 works great and costs less.

While it has a low-tech receiver rather than an iPhone app and omits frippery like graphs and Bluetooth, it does exactly what I need it to do. Which shows that higher-technology isn’t always better (though it is almost always more expensive).


iGrill 2. iDevices. $99.99. http://idevicesinc.com
Maverick ET-733. Maverick. $69.99. http://www.maverickhousewares.com

And that’s all he wrote…