What's a Stoker?
A Stoker is a device that monitors the internal temperature of a grill by controlling the airflow through a blower. When the grill reaches the desired temperature, the blower is automatically turned off. If the temperature goes below the desired temperature, the blower turns on, and fresh air fuels the charcoal to raise the temperature inside the grill.
There are two great benefits to the Stoker. The first is for low and slow cooks. The automated temperature control reduces the amount of fiddling you have to do with the Kamado-type cookers. The second benefit, which I didn't see until I got a Stoker, is that it really helps get the grill up to temperature quickly. I can light a small piece of charcoal, turn the Stoker on, and within minutes, the charcoal is roaring and the grill is hot!
The Stoker also works well to control the temperature of the grill for things that require higher temperatures, like barbecuing a turkey or a large rib roast. It can control the internal temperature with a large basket of charcoal for several hours at 400 degrees without a problem.
Review the Stoker
I've replaced the art of controlling the temperature of my Kamado with the science of a Stoker.
The Core Components of the Stoker
There are three main components to the Stoker.
- The blower
- The food probe
- The pit probe
There are several input jack slots in the Stoker to control the temperature of the grill. The basics are the pit probe, the food probe, and the blower.
The Stoker takes the temperature readings from the pit and food probes. The pit is the internal grill temperature and the food is the internal temperature of the meat on the grill. The sensors in the probes feed data to the Stoker. The Stoker controls the blower by turning it on or off to control the temperature. When the desired temperature is reached, the blower turns off automatically. When the temperature dips, the blower comes back on. The Stoker also has alarm settings that can be set for the food probe. It works just like a normal food thermometer, reading the temperature, and alerting when the meat is at the desired internal temperature.
Stoker offers blowers that are custom fit to the type of grill. On my Kamodo Kamado, the blower fits perfectly in a slot that is filled with a removable plug. There are blowers designed for the BGE and WSM as well.
The pit probe sensor has a small clamp that is easily attached to the grill bars or a roasting pan. As expected, depending on where you place the clamp, the internal temperature will vary. When I have the probe placed on the edge of the grill, it closely matches the built-in thermometer on my grill.
Wifi, Apps, and the Stoker
The Stoker's basic principle is controlling the temperature of the grill. However, there are a few things that make it really handy to have the device connected to your home network. First, it's just cool to see the trends for the heat over time. Second, it makes it easy to set the desired temp of the grill. Lastly, it has a basic alarm functionality that notifies you if the temperature is getting too hot or too cold. If it's too hot, you likely have let too much air in. If it's too cold, you probably need to add more charcoal.
There are three apps available for the iPhone. I tried all of them. My favorite is the simple, but functional BBQ Monitor, but I also liked The Pit Pal. In the app store, they're a couple of bucks. For those that don't want to buy an app, Stoker provides a basic web page for easily setting up the basics.
I enjoy the apps, but they could use a little more polish. The good news is that I suspect more updates to these are coming.
If anyone has configured a home router, it's pretty easy to connect the Stoker to the home network. My issue is that I have my house router in the front of my house and the network doesn't cover all the way to my patio. I added an extender to my home network and it was able to hold the connection with my Stoker. Problem solved.
Purchasing My Stoker
I had the pleasure of meeting John at the Rock's Bar-B-Que office in the Bay Area. I stopped by with my daughter and learned a lot about his business. Stokers are customized to the grill. For my Komodo, the item plugs directly into the side vent, and it has a 10 cfm blower. The most commonly purchased Stoker is for the Big Green Egg. With Big Green Egg estimated sales at 3,000 units a month, there are plenty of potential buyers in the market for this incredibly helpful product. The next most frequent buyer is for the Weber Smokey Mountain.
Why I Love the Stoker
The Stoker and the Komodo Kamado are a magical combination. I reviewed the Komodo Kamado in an earlier article. For the BBQ enthusiast, when these two are brought together, it takes grilling to another level.
One of my challenges as a cook is reducing the variability in my outcomes. The Stoker helps with this significantly because when I use it, my pit remains much more consistent. Therefore, I'm much more likely to be able to reproduce a cooking condition.
The more I use the Stoker, the more I enjoy it!