This spring, I purchased a Kamado Vision II ceramic cooker (basically a Big Green Egg, but black), which I have used almost exclusively as a smoker. Over a summer’s worth of ribs, pork shoulders, chicken thighs, briskets and other odds and ends, I have found that I really enjoy smoking. There’s something primal about the mastery of fire and bathing in the smoke and scent of a cooking animal that just feels really, really manly.
And while I love the process of smoking, what I don’t love is continuously managing the temperature of my smoker through the adjustment of the grill vents — especially over really long smokes. Cooking “low and slow” can be a challenge: close the vents too much and you snuff out the flame, open them too much and your temperature can shoot up quickly. Do it correctly, and you’re rewarded with fantastic BBQ.
In one of my grilling cookbooks, the author recommends purchasing a BBQ Guru, which is a temperature regulator and fan system for your smoker. Unfortunately, it looked like the BBQ Guru setup for my Kamado would run me north of $450. I’m just a backyard smoker at this point, so that was too rich for my blood. Then I stumbled upon the Pitmaster IQ110, which at $140 was definitely within my budget.
The Pitmaster IQ110 was designed by John Kennington, an electrical engineer and self described “tinkerer” who had been taking things apart and rebuilding them since he was 8 years old. The idea for the Pitmaster had been in the back of his mind since around 2000, but had laid dormant until he caught an episode of BBQ Pitmasters on TLC in 2009, which inspired him to design the IQ110. The next year, John introduced his product at the 2010 Jack Daniels Invitational. He took 25 to the event. He sold 3.
Fast forward to 2011 — while displaying the IQ110 at the Memphis in May competition, the PitmasterIQ booth is stumbled upon by Alton Brown, who wound up ordering two of them and then featuring the IQ110 on his show, “Good Eats”.
John shared a lot more of the history of his product with me than I can put in this review, but suffice it to say, I love a story of person who has a dream and a passion and is able to turn it into a product. That is what John Kennington did with the IQ110.
In the box are the thermostat/fan unit with hose, a temperature probe with an alligator clip, a power supply, a hose clamp, the vent adapter for your particular grill/smoker, and the instructions. The instructions were brief and looked very simple, which always makes me nervous. As you can see in the video below, I had nothing to be nervous about — installation is remarkably easy.
While the thermostat/fan unit looks a little plasticky and certainly not as high tech as a BBQ Guru, it is a very solid unit. If digital readouts and lots of buttons are your thing, you might be turned off by the IQ110. But if performance is what you are looking for, the IQ110 delivers it in spades.
I started a fire following the instructions in the manual and let the fan in the IQ110 raise the temperature for me. When the light on the IQ110 is solid green, it means the temperature is within 10 degrees of the temp you set. In the half dozen times I’ve used it, the thermometer on the Kamado has consistently read within 10 degrees of what I set on the IQ110.
Getting to the correct temp is great and all, but how well does the IQ110 hold your desired temp? In a word: marvelously! My first few sessions with the IQ110 had me frequently (and a little nervously) verifying that everything was running properly — and it was. By this past weekend, I had the courage to put the IQ110 in charge of a seven pound pork shoulder (a 10 hour cook at 225 degrees). Every couple of hours, I took a peek at the thermometer on the Kamado, and every time it read 225 (give or take a couple of degrees). By the way, the pork turned out magnificently.
The Pitmaster IQ110 is best cooking investment I’ve made next to the Kamado itself. I find I’m using far less charcoal since I put it in charge of my smoking temperature, and that’s an added bonus. Ultimately, using the IQ110 is like having an auto-pilot or cruise control for your smoker, and once you’ve used one, there’s no going back. When John says on his website that the low, slow, controlled temperatures that the IQ110 enables will allow you to make better BBQ then you can get at most any restaurant, it is not an idle boast. Highly recommended!
To find out more about the Pitmaster IQ110, check out the official website at the link below…