Sunday, December 18, 2022

Product Review: Thermoworks Signals and Billows

[FTC Standard Disclosure] I paid full price for my Thermoworks Signals and Billows. I used Thermoworks products for over a decade before recently agreeing to become an affiliate seller for Thermoworks. All links in this post are affiliate links and I earn a commission if you purchase through these links.

Last week, I was speaking with a relatively new user of kamado grills and he wasn't familiar with electronic controllers. That made me realize I had not yet written up my review of the Thermoworks Signals/Billows combination for controlling smokers/grills.

Thermoworks Signals
Here is the Signals controlling my large BBQ pit while smoking 3 briskets.
I own 6 models and 3 brands of controllers.
I have used this controller for 18 months.
So this is an in-depth, thorough review.

Intro to Electronic Controllers

Electronic Controllers are equipment that uses some type of processor (CPU) and a fan to control the temperature of your smoker/grill at a chosen temperature. It's a feedback loop. The CPU reads from a probe inside the grill and if the grill temperature is less than the chosen temperature, the CPU tells the fan to cut on. The fan will stoke the fire, increasing the temperature. The CPU checks back for the result and readjusts. It's more complicated than that, but that's the gist. 

  • Advantages
    • Consistent monitoring leads to a consistent fire (within variables)
    • SLEEP! It's nice to sleep during overnight cooks without having to worry about the temperature dropping or the smoker getting too hot.
  • Things can still go wrong when using a controller, for example - the grill runs out of fuel, airflow gets restricted, the temperature probe fails, or power failures.
  • Learn fire management first! I strongly recommend people use the manual controls of their grill or smoker for six months before starting to use an electronic controller. There's no substitute for knowing how to manage the fire on your grill.
Credit: Thermoworks

So now that you know WHAT an electronic controller does, HOW WELL does the Signals/Billows combo do that? 

Signals Features

The Signals is the CPU or "brains" of the controller. It is what monitors and analyzes what's going on in your smoker/grill and it's what tells the fan what to do.

Four Channels

The Signals is a 4-channel cooking thermometer that is useful for BBQ, oven roasting, deep frying, sous vide cooking, home brewing, and candy making. You can monitor 4 meats or 3 meats and 1 cooking temperature probe at the same time.

Connectivity and Smart Technology

The Signals device has both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technology. The smartphone app unleashes the full power and flexibility of the Signals unit. More about that later.
TIP for Wi-Fi - Most home routers today offer 2.4GHz (longer range) and 5GHz (faster speed).  Most grilling areas are far from the router so most BBQ and grilling devices are designed for the 2.4GHz. If you experience connectivity issues with grilling equipment, make sure the 2.4GHz setting is enabled on your home router. 

It's Alarming!

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Having Fun With a Wok Stove

[FTC Standard Disclosure] We received no payment for this post. Any links that might earn us a commission are marked [Affiliate Link].

Have you ever cooked on a wok stove? I stumbled across this 13" clay stove on sale for like $20 at my local Asian supermarket and couldn't resist it. It sat in my garage for a while but I recently got the chance to play with it.

Clay stoves are ubiquitous across Asia. China has the wok stove, Thailand has the tao charcoal burner, Vietnam has the lo than, the Philippines has the ulingan or kalan de uling, and Japan has the hibachi and hotpot. I have zero experience with these but live-fire cooking is live-fire cooking, so let's play with this grill of sorts.

How It Works

This clay stove looks and functions a lot like the internal parts of a kamado grill, only smaller in size.

  • Hot coals go into the top part, resting on the ceramic grate with holes.
  • A cooking vessel (wok, pot, grate) rests on the three clay knobs.
  • The airflow is from a wide-open vent on the bottom.
  • So temperature control is basically a matter of the quantity of coal. More coals hotter, fewer coals cooler.
There is a removable section that theoretically lets you add coals. I've also seen cooks use this to insert pieces of wood to add smoke to the equation.