Operating The Competitor
So, how does The Competitor perform in operation? Well, probably the most important thing you want to know is how well does it control the temperature of the cooker. We did a test in which we allowed The Competitor to control a large Big Green Egg cooker at 225, 300 and 375 degrees. We watched The Competitor bring the cooker up to temperature to see how far it overshot the target temperature. After the cooker settled down from the initial overshoot, we watched the temperature of the cooker through many cycles to see how big of a "swing" there was between the low and high temperatures that The Competitor permitted. And finally, we observed the "central" temperature that Competitor was able to maintain. Here's the results:
All values in degrees F
|225 ||237 ||236 ||2|
|300 ||299 ||298 ||1|
|375 ||378 ||371 ||1|
So The Competitor controls the temperature very nicely and keeps better control of the temperature than any kitchen oven. However, a note about temperature control at the low end of the scale. Temperature control is harder at lower temperatures and the ability of any temperature controller to hold a steady temperature at lower cooking temperatures will depend on a number of factors. Things such as how airtight your cooker is, how well insulated it is, the outside temperature, etc. will affect the temperature swing you see. The Competitor may start out with a large swing around the target temperature, but depending on these types of factors, it should settle down to very close to the target temperature.
A few things we'll point out about using The Competitor:
- When you open the lid of your cooker, the temperature inside the cooker will drop, eventually causing the Competitor to turn the blower on. If this goes on for too long, the fire may build to a point where you can't get the temperature back down. We find the easiest way to manage this is to simply unplug the blower from the system unit while you have the cooker open. After you close the cooker, allow the cooker to recover for a minute or two and then plug the blower back in. You can also just turn the pit control knob all the way down. This will cause the alarm to beep and remind you to turn it back up to your set point after you close the cooker.
- If you are not going to monitor a piece of meat and simply control the cooker, it is best to turn off Ramp mode so the Competitor just controls the cooker temperature using the pit probe input.
- While the Competitor is not waterproof, when asked about using the Competitor in the rain, Shotgun Fred says it is does remarkably well in the wet. For our money, we always place the system unit in a large zip-top bag when it rains.
- When you are done cooking, it is best to either remove the blower or close the damper to prevent moisture condensation from getting into the blower.
- A frequently asked question is whether or not you should leave the blower installed all the time and if so, how do you control air flow when you aren't using the Competitor. The blower and door adapter pop in and out and there is really no reason to leave the blower installed. Just pop the adapter in when you want to use the Competitor and then remove it when you are done.
- Placement of the pit probe can be important. You want it located near the meat so that the Competitor is controlling the temperature at the location of the meat, not somewhere else. However, the probe must not touch the meat and should be at least an inch or two from the meat. If the meat influences the temperature of the probe (especially when the meat is first placed in the cooker and is cold), obviously the Competitor will be sensing a false pit temperature and then will compensate. The BBQ Guru folks have an accessory to help you with this called a Probe Tree:
The BBQ Guru Probe Tree
You simply insert the wedge between two of the bars on your grid, and then you can attach the pit probe as appropriate. In fact, as you can see, you could if you wish attach several probes at several heights above the grid.
The BBQ Guru Competitor was the first major electronic temperature controller for outdoor cookers. We have owned a Competitor for several years and it has given us good and reliable service all this time. We have used it to cook with and we have used it to control cookers as a part of our charcoal testing for the Lump Charcoal Database. And despite the heavy usage, we have never blown a probe or burned a wire. The Competitor does a very good job of accurately controller cooker temperatures and it is very easy to use. Just dial in a meat and pit temperature, turn the unit on, and you are ready to cook.
In addition to the product being great, the customer service is also great. We have no hesitation in recommending this product to you.
The BBQ Guru
353 Ivyland Road
Warminster, PA 18974