Saturday, September 5, 2015

Product Review: Thermoworks ThermaQ

The ThermaQ is a professional dual probe remote thermometer from Thermoworks, the Thermapen people. I bought mine back in February (paid full price) but haven't gotten around to reviewing it yet. This morning Kathy from Fuggs and Foach asked what I thought about it so I thought I'd better get to it.

ThermaQ review, remote probe thermometer

The ThermaQ is industrial quality and is built for use by food service kitchens and commercial pitmasters.  I say that because of its rugged design, tight accuracy, and features.  Here's what you get for $139 (base unit) or $208 (pitmaster kit).

  • Dual probes let you monitor two meats, two oven/pit temps, or one meat/one pit
  • Splash resistant seams and buttons for a IP67 water resistance rating
  • backlit display makes it easy to view in poor lighting conditions
  • high degree of accuracy +/- 0.7°f, yes, less than one degree
  • long battery life 3,000 hours on 3 AAA batteries
  • high/low alarms for both channels
  • max/min temperature data logging for both channels
  • variable volume alarms, adjustable from 94dB to 100dB
  • split screen shows all information for both channels without toggling 
  • impact resistant rubber boot 
  • carrying case to hold the ThermaQ and accessories.

ThermaQ review, thermaq screen
The split screen shows everything for both channels in one view.  It shows your current temp, max and mins, alarm settings, volume level, and battery life gauge.

ThermaQ controls, ThermaQ product review
The controls are simple, intuitive, and splash resistant.

ThermaQ review, ThermaQ back light
Briefly pressing the on/off button activates the back light for the display which is helpful when you are doing those overnight or early hours smoking sessions.

ThermaQ boot
The rubber boot is like an OtterBox for your phone - it makes the unit more splash and impact resistant.

ThermaQ magnetic cover
The boot also has a powerful magnet for mounting on metal smokers or grills.  Just be sure not to stick it on a hot surface.

thermaq review, thermaq in use,
The protective boot also has a flip out stand so you can angle it for easy viewing.
thermaq carrying case
The carrying case has plenty of room for the unit and all of the accessories.

ThermaQ accuracy
Like the Thermapen, the ThermaQ comes with certification about its accuracy and calibration.

"It's a Probe"
The temperature probes are commercial quality K-type thermocouple probes.  They use a thermocouple for wide temperature ranges, accuracy, and fast response compared to thermistors used on cheaper remote probe thermomters. The probe wires are thicker than inexpensive sets and toughened with boots at critical stress points where other probe wires typically wear out. The wires are also longer at 79 inches than most probes I have used such as the ChefAlarm's, which are almost half as long at 45 inches.  The extra length makes a big difference when cooking on big commercial pits or just navigating around a grill.  Some of the probes that I like are 
  • high temp air probe (-58f to 752f, $44), 
  • smokehouse penetration probe (-103f to 482f, $52), 
  • armored smokehouse penetration probe (-103f to 662f, $65) 
  • sous vide mini needle probe (-103f to 482f, $42 to $51), 
  • and the 12" deep frying penetration probe (-58f to 482f, $55). 

ThermaQ thermocouple
The base of the wires are rubberized to help prevent wear and tear on the stress points.

ThermaQ's (top) Smokehouse Probe compared to a ChefAlarm Pro Series (bottom). Again, notice the rugged spring sleeve that keeps the tension off of the cable where it connects to the probe.

Pro-Series ambient air probe (left) compared to the K-type ambient air probe (right) that the ThermaQ uses.

Put To Use
I have been using the ThermaQ for several months now and the money spent was worth it.  I use it frequently for monitoring the air temp in a smoker/grill and a big meat like briskets or butts.  But I have used it just as often as a reference to double check other thermometers. 

ThermaQ used on my Grill Dome kamado grill.

ThermaQ review
Using the ThermaQ to validate the built in thermometer of a Char-Broil smoker.  It's helpful for determining the temperature differences between the installed thermometer and other areas of the cooker.

Thermoworks TimeStick (yellow), Thermapen (red), and the ThermaQ.

Competitive Products
Pricing the ThermaQ against competitive products is something you have to consider when thinking about buying one.  
  1. Compared to the ThermaQ Kit ($208), you could buy two ChefAlarms ($59 each) and a Pro-Series Air Probe ($17) that would let you monitor two meats or a meat and air temp for less money.  But you have to juggle two units, aren't getting all of the same features, and can't get all of the same probes.
  2. A Maverick ET-732 is a dual probe AND wireless for just $69.  However it uses the less accurate thermistors for probes and only comes with a 90 day warranty compared to the ThermaQ's 2 year warranty.  
  3. BlueTherm Duo is another Thermoworks product.  It costs more ($199 base unit, $239 kit price) but has similar features AND has bluetooth for linking to your smart device.
compare ThermaQ
ThermaQ next to a Thermoworks ChefAlarm.

I think that the ThermaQ is reference grade equipment.  I used to be an audiophile and here's an analogy: the ThermaQ is to consumer grade remote probe thermometers like a pair of studio monitors are to a set of cheap bookshelf home speakers.

For me, I think this purchase was money well spent.  Is it for everyone?  If you're a weekend warrior, something like the less expensive ChefAlarm is more than adequate.  But if you need a heavy duty, flexible, and accurate remote probe thermometer, then it might be the one for you.

Speaking of Thermapens, did you see that they released a new version of the Thermapen last week - the Thermapen Mark IV?  The main difference to my Thermapen (Mark II) seems to be that the new Mark IV is backlit, has a rotating display, and takes AAA batteries instead of a pair of CR2032's.  

[FTC Standard Disclaimer] I have received free samples from Thermoworks in past years; however, I have not received any compensation from them for this post and paid full price for the ThermaQ and accessories.