Remote Thermometers

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Remote Thermometers

After using Polder style thermometers for a year, I was pleased to find that the Sharper Image company is selling a remote thermometer that has the potential to be good for the outdoor cooking I do.

Click on the photo above for a larger image, or go to the Sharper Image online catalog page for the product here.

One of the challenges of cooking low and slow is to monitor the temperature of the meat and the grill during a long cook.  I typically start a Boston butt for pulled pork at about 10 p.m. to be ready to eat at about 6 p.m. the following day (18 - 20 hours of cooking).

When using lump charcoal alone, I stabilize the temperature, put the meat on, and go to bed.  However, it is not that uncommon for the fire to go out during wee hours of the morning.  I typically get up at about 5 a.m. to check the temperatures, and restart the fire if necessary.

If this new toy works out well... I'll be able to check the temperature of the meat and the dome/grill from my bedroom.  This will have two distinct advantages.

  • I don't have to get out of bed
  • I don't have to return to bed at 5:05 a.m. smelling of smoke

I appreciate the first point, my bride probably appreciates the second one. 

The instructions say that the transmitter and receiver will work within 75 feet of one another.  The transmitter uses two AAA batteries, the receiver two AA batteries, included.  There is an on/off switch on each unit, and a standby setting on the receiver (which only powers the clock).

Temperature

The thermometer has a transmitter that accepts two plug in probes. (The advertisement says that only one is detachable, but both are.)

You can also plug one  probe directly into the receiver (so perhaps one probe is measuring an outdoor cooker, and one is with the receiver in the kitchen monitoring a cake in the oven).

The receiver can show either probe temperature, or cycle between the two probes (displaying one, then the other).  

You can set the temperature of each probe in two ways:

1) Using the USDA (Table A) values

  • Select the meat type (Beef, veal, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey)
  • Select the degree of doneness (rare, medium rare, medium, well done)

or

2) Using the USDA (Table B) values

  • Override the temperature, setting it manually to whatever you want

Timers

There are two timers you can set (hours and minutes). The timers can be set to either count down or count up.

Notes

  • The timers and temperatures settings can be used simultaneously.  For example the instruction sheet shows the procedure for setting the system for a cooking session where you want it to alert you when a beef steak is cooked to medium, a chicken breast reaches 185 and remind you to rotate hot dogs in 5 minutes.  
  • When using the USDA (Table A) temperature settings, the thermometer is a little smart... for example, it won't let you select chicken that is not well done (180).  Pork can be either medium (160) or well done (170).  Beef can go the entire range (140 to 170).  Veal can be medium or well, and lamb cannot be set to rare.  Of course, you can always use the Table B settings and override the temperatures.
  • My typical use will be one probe in the meat, and one measuring grill/dome temperatures.  Although it would be a nice idea, there is no "low temperature alarm" in this unit (which would sound if the temp dropped below a set temperature).  I guess there's not much call for that functionality... I suspect that not many folk are worried about their fire dying out overnight (except us low and slow geeks).
  • The instructions are a bit Spartan, and it needs to be read thoroughly.  If the transmitter and receiver are turned on within 60 seconds of each other, they auto-register the frequency.  If not, you can manually synchronize the two.
  • Both units have pop-out stands, and the receiver has a detachable belt clip.
  • The warranty is 90 days from Maverick Customer Service in Edison, NJ.  There is a phone number.  I'll call them and ask the price for additional probes.
  • The instruction sheet says that the probes will read temperatures from 14 degrees F to 410 degrees F, and caution that exposing to temperatures above 410 degrees can deteriorate the wire.  
  • They also point out that the transmitter and receiver are not waterproof, do don't let them get rained on.  Polder thermometers aren't waterproof either, so I put the electronics in a zip lock bag, or a plastic container to keep the unit dry... I'll do the same with this thermometer.
  • The switch on the back of the unit has three positions: Off, Standby, and Operate.  If you turn the unit off, it's really off... the clock settings do not persist.  If you turn it to standby, the clock is displayed, but all other features are disabled.
  • There is another switch that selects between Fahrenheit and Celsius temperature readouts.

Notes from customer service

I spoke with a very helpful gentleman in customer service.

He is going to get back to me with a price on additional probes (pretty much everyone that uses Polder units has burned out their probes by subjecting them to too high a temperature).

He was able to clear up a few questions about the way the temperature is updated on the receiver.  The logic for the procedure seems to work well to reduce the amount of transmissions needed, and to conserve battery power.

  • The transmitter checks the probes every three seconds
  • If a change of at least one degree is detected an update is transmitted to the receiver, otherwise, no transmission.
  • If there has been no change for 3 minutes, an update is transmitted to the receiver.
  • If there has been no update received for 10 minutes, the receiver assumes that the transmitter is no longer working and displays dashes instead of the temperature.

According to the manufacturer, battery life for ET-7 remote check should be about 30 days using remote check 5 hours per day.

The cost for ET-7 remote check detachable stainless steel probe sensor is
$12.50/ea plus $6.25 shipping and handling.  I haven't checked to see if the Polder probes are interchangeable with this unit (they sell fir $10 each including shipping).

Notes from the first night's use

The Remote Check thermometer did very well last night. Being that this was my first time using the unit, I'll make some observations.

Before I used it, I did check the two RC probes, along with a Polder probe and my Kamado (Trend) thermometer in some boiling water. I used a slotted spatula to suspend the probes, so none touched the bottom of the pot.  All read between 212 and 214 degrees... close enough for me. 

thermometertest.jpg (85821 bytes)

Like the Polder, the new probes take a little while to respond... they are not what I'd call instant read, by any means.

It was nice having started my fire around 10:30 p.m. and being able to sit at my computer, chatting with west coast friends, while watching the LCD on the receiver on my desk. Normally my chats wind up with lots of "brb, I have to check the temperature on my cooker"... that's now a thing of the past.

When it was time to go to bed, I took the receiver with me and put it on my night table. I also took a little flashlight... the LCD does not have a backlight. 

Also, a few times during the night, the probe temp displayed only dashes. I don't know if this was a reception problem... but the receiver seemed to resync within a few minutes, sometimes after I picked it up to look at it. It could also be that the batteries that ship with the unit are not all that good... I'll replace them in any event. However, now that I'm back in my office (about 20 ft from the transmitter) the display is updated fine.

At about 7:30 a.m. I noticed that the dome temperature displayed was moving slowly downwards.  The nice thing about this thermometer is that I knew what was happening... and chose the point that it was worth getting out of bed (hey, I'm on vacation this week) to stir the coals.  My fire started to die down a bit because I didn't distribute the coals quite right, and when I checked it in the morning, I just needed to move the coals around (and added some more coals), get some airflow going, and the temperature came back up quickly. 

So far, this device seems promising. What do I want for the next version?  Low temperature alarms, a backlight, and a way to disable the alarms totally (perhaps there is one that I haven't gleaned yet)

Notes from the subsequent overnight uses

In general I've been very pleased with it. I did find one thing that's interesting... it maintains its synchronization better between transmitter and receiver if the transmitter is upright, not laying down on a table.  

If the transmitter is laying down on the table, sometimes the receiver loses touch with the transmitter.  This might have to do with the orientation of the antenna inside the unit, I contacted customer service and they are looking into it for me.  They say that they also have better results with the transmitter standing up.  They also mentioned that if the transmitter batteries are low, the transmitter display will shut down, but it will continue to transmit for a while.  This is a good weak battery indicator, but undocumented.

Some other tests I did, seem to add one more thing... strangely, it seems to be best to lay the receiver down on the table instead of standing it up!  Stranger things happen in this world .... or maybe I'm getting superstitious in my old age.

I've started playing with the possibility of extending the antenna... I'll report back with any information I find.

New probe available

The folk at Maverick are going to be changing the probes they use for their units. The new probes will have an upper limit of 570 degrees F (up from the current 410).

These probes are not yet in the units currently in the channel, but will be in the next production run.

They said the price is $12.50 per probe, plus a $6.25 shipping fee.  I haven't ordered extra probes yet, but it's nice to see this small but welcome change.

 

As I use the new toy, I'll update this page with photos and text.

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Copyright 1999-2000 by Zenreich Systems. All rights reserved.
Revised: December 20, 2016

 

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