Hey guys, remember me? Yeah, sorry I haven’t been very active lately. I’d love to say that the reason I haven’t been posting is that we, and by we, I mean Mrs. G, is in her third trimester, but that’s not it. I’d love to say that it’s because we moved into a new house, but we stopped posting long before that. I’d love to say that it’s because lately I’ve been super busy at work, which I have, but it’s not that either.
I think what it really boils down to that I got burnt out. Burnt out on posting. Burnt out on cooking. Burnt out on food. I think since August, I’ve really only been eating to survive, not caring what it was. Mrs. G would ask what I wanted for dinner and I’d tell her that honestly I didn’t care. It didn’t make any difference to me. So we’ve just been eating a lot of plain Jane normal stuff. Cheeseburgers, tacos, spaghetti, maybe a steak of two. Honestly, just your quick throw it together dinners. Hell, we’ve been in our new house 3 weeks and I’ve only fired up the Egg 3 times!! The crockpot has gotten more love than the Egg. 😦
But I think I’m finally snapping out of that. Getting a little creative spark back. I’d love to dive back in here, full throttle, but I think I’d burn out again. I’d love to say that I’m gonna try and post at least once a week, but let’s try and just ease back in. Say two posts a month? That doesn’t seem like to hard a goal to meet. Hell, there might not be anybody out there anymore paying any attention to this blog for all I know. Let’s just see how it goes, shall we?
That’s not what this is about, though. What this is about today is the new Flame Boss 100. I received this a few weeks back to try out. The owner said that since I was the first person to really write about the original, he thought he’d send me the new version to try out.
I don’t have all the details on what all changed from the original to the 100, so I’ll just share with you my observations. The most obvious is the pit controller itself. It’s got a fancy new makeover. We’ll get to that in a moment. The fan has also been changed. It no longer has the two metal wires that slide into the adaptor and lock it into place. Instead, it has a lip on the edge that locks it into place. You’ll notice that it also has two adaptors. They claim that it will fit on any size Egg. I believe them, but can only vouch that it will fit on the Large and the Mini. They also say that it will fit all size Kamado Joes, Primo Grills, Grill Dome, Char-Griller Akorn, and others. There is another version that will fit the Weber Smokey Mountain, offset smokers and other smokers. I can only speak for performance on the Large BGE, however. The meat probe and pit probe have also changed in, but whether that is in appearance or if some of the specs have changed, I have no idea. I do like the “plastic-ey” wires on them. No more metal wires that can get bent or crimped. We’ll have to see how they hold up in the long run.
I really should have taken a side by side pic of the new controller and the old one, but it didn’t cross my mind at the time. If you want to see the old one, click HERE. The new version looks more sleek, more modern to me. No clicky, push buttons. The display looks the same. The biggest thing is the mounting bracket that comes with it allowing you to mount the controller on a table or wall or anything near your smoker.
I didn’t mount mine yet as I’m still getting used to the new location and I’m not sure I’ve got my grilling station set up just how I want it. Once I do, I will mount it for sure.
The new mounting bracket will allow you to mount it to any horizontal or vertical surface and then pivot to give you an easy to ready screen.
While everybody else was Trick or Treating, going to costume parties, or haunted houses, we stayed in and played with our new toy. Here it is in action. I’ll let you know what we cooked and how it performed in our next post, but I will say for now that I am impressed so far.
Again, sorry for our absence and I hope y’all are still out there. I promise I’ll work harder to get some more posts up and some new recipes soon. Thanks for still tuning in.
**Disclaimer – I was not paid to promote this item nor compensated in any way. I do not work for Flame Boss, nor have any affiliation with anybody in the company. This controller was sent to me for free as a gift and I was not asked to review it or give my opinions one way or another. And any and all other legal mumbo jumbo that should be noted here.
Back in October out of the blue, I was contacted by Michael Collins of Flame Boss.
Hi, I am the manufacturing a new product, Flame Boss, a temperature controller that works with BGE. Would you be interested in reviewing it? I welcome your honest feedback.”
I had never heard of Flame Boss before, but I was floored that somebody would want my feedback on their and of course who doesn’t like new BBQ toys? Some of you may be scratching your heads. What’s a pit controller? Why would I want one?
Flame BossTM manufactures digital temperature controllers for your charcoal or wood burning smoker or grill. The controller monitors the temperature of your smoker and controls a blower that manages the amount of air flowing to the fire, which controls the size of the fire and thus the amount of heat it generates. Flame BossTM uses this mechanism to make your smoker work like an oven. Just set the temperature you want and Flame BossTM will take over. It also functions as a meat thermometer and timer, two tools commonly used by pit masters.
Flame Boss is a newcomer to the world of pit controllers having just started in 2013. Now, I am no expert when it comes to pit controllers. The only one I have used is the Auber Instruments Pit Controller, but there are quite a lot of players out there ranging from the simple and inexpensive PartyQ, iQue110, Auber Instruments and NanoQ all the way up to fancy and complex ones like the DigiQ II, StokerWiFi or CyberQII that will control more than one pit and allow you to monitor and control your pit remotely over the internet. It just depends on what you want to do and how much are you willing to spend. Do you want just the basics and start out at around $140? or is the techno geek inside you drooling away at the more impressive and complex ones that you can drop upwards of $500 dollars on? Flame Boss has positioned themselves right in the middle of this market, offering a few more bells and whistles than the simpler ones and coming in at $289 at the time of writing this.
When I opened the box that the Flame Boss was shipped in and inspected the package, I noticed that the meat temperature probe was sticking out of the packaging. Not the kind of thing you want to see right away. If I went to a store to purchase one and saw that, I would skip over it and take the one hanging on the rack behind it. It did appear to be fine and damaged in no way that I could see once I did open the package.
The back of the packaging explains some of the features of the Flame Boss. Right away you notice that it has two temperature probes (one for the pit and one for the meat), Open Lid feature and a Ramp Down feature. Those are things that not all of the basic pit controllers offer.
Once you open the package, you will find the Flame Boss Controller, a 110-240 volt AC power adapter, a pit temperature probe, meat temperature probe, a blower and two separate adapters for your smoker.
Since I already own the Auber Instruments Pit Controller, I thought I would do a side by side comparison of the two units. Keep in mind that the Auber is two years old and has seen some use and abuse, not to mention that their controller has undergone some changes. Whether those are just cosmetic or not, I have no idea. But, it’s what I have and what I can compare it to.
Upon inspection, the blowers from both companies appear to be identical. The one on top is the Flame Boss and the bottom one is from Auber. If you want to get nit picky, the nuts holding the blowers together are different, but the Auber is two years old. The one from Auber is rated at 6.5 CFM (cubic feet per minute). Although not listed on their site, Flame Boss told me that their blower is also rated at 6.5 CFM. They also informed me that they have designed their own housing and have ordered tooling to manufacture it, so expect changes to come once they get up and running
Score: Tie (awaiting new design from Flame Boss)
Pit Temperature Probes
Both units came with a K type thermocouple to measure the temperature of the pit. They have an alligator clip to attach them to the grate near your meat. According to Auber instrument’s site, their pit probe has a maximum working temperature of 550F. No information was included with the Flame Boss. Wary of burning out a probe, I sent them an e-mail and got a quick response later that same day. They assured their probe is rated to 550F, which they say is probably a conservative number and that it will be addressed on their website and future versions of their packaging. Flame Boss showed great customer service to me with that e-mail.
Power Adapters. They supply the power to the unit. Not much to say about them. They both have little green LED lights so you know they are working. They were interchangeable to both units. Not really something to judge either one on.
Score: Tie (even if not very important)
Mounting adapters are exactly what they sound like…an adapter that allows you to connect the blower to your smoker. In the picture above, you can see the adapter for Auber Instruments on the left (a bit dirty from years of use) and on the right are the two that come with the Flame Boss. With Auber instruments, you select the smoker you own and they send you the adapter you need. Flame Boss sends you two adapters that allow you to use it on a Medium, Large or XL Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe’ Big Joe 18 and 24 or Primo’s Oval and Kamado Grills. The adapter for the Auber and the one on the bottom for the Flame Boss are identical. If you happen to own multiple ceramic grills from different manufacturers, having two different adapters would be nice.
Score: a slight advantage Flame Boss
So in the side by side comparison on the Meat Temperature Probes…wait just a minute. You don’t see two meat temperature probes? Maybe that’s because the Auber doesn’t include one. In fact, the Auber doesn’t have the ability to monitor the temperature of the meat at all.
The meat probe from Flame Boss appears to be well made, but with no technical details to go on, it’s kind of hard to say much about it. We’ll see how it holds up once we get it up and running.
Score: major advantage Flame Boss
I think it would be unfair to compare my Auber controller to the Flame Boss, at least as far as looks go. I don’t know when they did it, but Auber has since undergone a design change. I don’t know if it is just aesthetic, but it no longer looks the same. You can check out their website to see what it looks like now.
The Flame Boss had a nice, slick black case. It appears to be well made and sturdy. I’m sure it will get dropped plenty of times and we’ll see how it holds up. There are three buttons on the front, a Menu button and a + and -. Should be simple enough even for a techno-phobe to operate. The buttons feel solid and not cheaply made. IMHO, the Flame Boss just feels more sturdy, durable and well made.
Maybe its just the guy in me, but personally I don’t care much how something looks. As long as it works and I know it works. All that being said, for looks and quality, I gotta give it to Flame Boss.
Score: Flame Boss
The connectors for the Auber are on the bottom when it is lying on a flat surface. From the above picture, you can see that the Auber has three connections. They arent labeled, but the pit probe obviously goes on the right (orange to orange). The probe does have a wide and a narrow pin, so make sure you plug them in accordingly. While the blower and power adapter connectors look similar, the plugs on both are different and are not interchangeable. No worries that you might accidentally plug the wrong one in the wrong spot.
The connectors for the Flame Boss are in the back when it is sitting flat on a surface. The Flame Boss obviously has one more connector than the Auber since it has a meat probe and all connectors are labeled. Unlike the Auber, the connectors are labeled for easy connection. As with the Auber, no worries about hooking anything up wrong, however. The two temperature probes are not interchangeable and neither are the power and blower.
Score: Flame Boss
When powered up, you can see that the Auber Instruments Pit Controller has a red LED display. When functioning normally, it only shows one number, the temperature of the pit (Scrolling through the menu, other items will be displayed such as target temperature). Below that, there are two LED indicator lights. The one on the left, OUT(AT) lights up to indicate that the blower is on. The one on the right, AL, lights up when the alarm sounds.
Flame Boss has a backlit LCD screen featuring a green background and black characters. In addition to alerting you to the temperature of your pit, it also tells you the set temperature, the temperature of the meat and how hard your blower is working (%). More info is definitely a bonus.
A majority of my cooks that I use a pit controller for are overnight cooks. It only made sense that I would have to take a compare the displays of both units in the dark. Sometimes, I peek through the windows or poke my head out the door to check on how things are going (even though I know there is no reason too). The Auber is easier to see in the dark and from a distance with its bright red LED light. While you can see the green LCD screen of the Flame Boss, making out any information from far away requires much better eyes than I have
Even though the Auber is easier to see in the dark, I feel the amount of information displayed by Flame Boss makes it a winner in the display category.
Score: Flame Boss
So I’ve unpacked the Flame Boss and I’ve looked it over. I’ve compared it to Auber. While they both have very similar appearing blowers (as of right now), pit probes, mounting adaptor and power adaptors, I have to say that the Flame Boss takes the edge. The amount of information on the display far outweighs the ease of read of the Auber’s display. The inclusion of a meat thermometer, I believe, is almost a necessity and the look and feel of the controller wins hands down.
Don’t get me wrong. The Auber is a great little unit and you can get your hands on it for $134.50 + S&H (as of the time writing this post). A great low-cost, basic entry level controller. No bells. No whistles. Just controls your pit. If that’s all you want, you won’t be disappointed in it.
But look at some of the other features you can get with the Flame Boss. A Learning PID controller, open lid detect, variable speed blower, meat temperature alarm and a ramp down function (all of which we’ll discuss in a later post). Is that worth the extra $154.40 (Flame Boss comes in at $289.00 + S&H)? That’s something only you can decide.
I know what you are probably thinking. Yeah, its great reading all that stuff and learning about it, but how well does it work? To be honest, I’ve only used it once so far, but I was impressed. I don’t feel like I’ve used it enough to really form an educated opinion on it yet, but first impressions were positive. If it performs half as well as I think it will, I wouldn’t be upset to see this sitting under my tree on Christmas morning.
Friday night will be the big night. I’ve got an Angus Choice full packer brisket sitting in the fridge right now, ready to take on the challenge of the Flame Boss. We’ll see how it works and report back to you next week. As of right now, I am totally confident that it can get the job done.
**Disclaimer – I was not paid in any way to write the above review. I have no links or ties to either Auber Instruments or Flame Boss. In fact, Flame Boss offered to include a return shipping label so that I could send back their unit after reviewing it if I felt keeping it would compromise my judgement or make me feel impartial.
Last week, we decided that it had been too long since we have done a pork butt. It just seems like we have been too busy lately to do an overnight cook. Either we’re out of town, or I’m working a weekend or something else comes up. As much as we like to do them, it just hasn’t fit in with our schedules. This past weekend, or I should say Thursday night as I had Friday off, was the perfect time.
Not sure how much this butt weighed. Quite frequently, you will find two butt together in a cryovacced package. You might not notice there are two unless you look closely. Together, these two weighed about 19.5lbs. One went into the freezer, either for sausage down the road or pulled pork at a later date. The other one got slathered with mustard and rubbed down with Dizzy Pig Dizzy Dust (Coarse).
One thing I was really excited about was that this was going to be my first time to try out my Auber Instruments Pit Controller on an overnight cook. If you aren’t familiar with pit controllers, they have a temperature sensor that you place near the meat in your smoker. The pit controller then monitors the temperature inside. If it begins to fall below your programmed temperature, it turns a fan on that blows air over the coals in your smoker, thereby raising the temperature. As it nears the desired temperature, the fan begins to cycle between on and off. Once the temperature has been reached, the fan turns off. It’s a little more complicated than that, but that’s the easy, condensed version that I can understand.
For this butt, I ran the Egg at 250F, placesetter legs up (wrapped in aluminum foil for easy clean up later), no drip pan, and used a few pecan chunks and some hickory chips. One problem I have had since getting my Egg, is that long cooks (like butts and briskets) just don’t seem to get the smoke and the black, meteorite-like bark that I used to get with my old offset. So I tried something a little different this time. For the first 4 hours, on the hour, I would lift up the placesetter and throw a couple more pecan chunks and a handfull of hickory chips on top of the coals.
After about 4 hours in (around 2 am), I decided to call it a night. As this butt didn’t need to be ready until dinner Friday night, I turned down my pit controller to 225 and hit the sack with nary a worry in my head about the fire going out or spiking in the middle of the night.
Friday morning, I woke up a lil before 8 and went to check on the butt and the above picture is what I saw. The temperature of the Egg was at 223 F….2 degree difference from what I set it at after being left alone for 6 hours. Not too shabby!!
Around 2:30 Pm, 16.5 hours after I had started, it was finally done. I know what some of you maybe thinking. “You burnt the hell out of it!”
And some are thinking “16.5 hours!! I can do that in less time in my crokcpott!” Uh-huh…I’m sure you can.
One way to tell when your butt is done is if the bone slides out clean with no resistance. Or you can just shoot for around a temp of 200. Once this butt was done, it was wrapped in aluminum foil and placed in a small cooler filled with towels to await Mrs. G’s return home from work. At this point, your butt can safely rest for around 4 hours without any worries. After 4 hours, the meat will still be piping hot and will hurt your hands to pull it by hand.
And for those who can do their pork butt in a crockpott in less time….does it come out looking as good as this?
After 4 hours resting in a cooler, this butt was still almost too hot to pull with gloves on, but I persevered!!
To go along with the pulled pork, I made a North Carolina-style Vinegar Sauce and some coleslaw from a recipe in Steve Raichlen’s BBQ USA. I’m not claiming this is authentic for that region, so don’t get all up in arms against me if its wrong. I’m just a good ole Texas boy who’s more familiar with brisket than butts. I was just going along with a recipe I found that tastes pretty good to me.
This was some smokey porky goodness!! Maybe one of the best butts I have ever done. Adding chunks and chips throughout the beginning of the cook, while a bit of a pain, really helped me to achieve that bark that I had been shooting for. And having the pit controller really eased my mind and allowed me to get some needed shut eye after having an 11 day straight run at work. Was it needed? Probably not, but boys and their toys. It was nice to just kick back and let it do all the work for me.
9 lbs of pulled pork is a lot of food for just two people. What the hell are we going to do with all those leftovers?
I had the day off yesterday for MLK and I thought what a perfect day to try out my new pit controller that I got for Christmas on a rack of ribs. For those of you who don’t know, a pit controller does exactly what it sounds like….controls the temperature of your pit. There is a temperature probe that goes inside your pit. When it senses the temperature of your pit is falling below your pre-set temperature, it kicks on a small blower similar to one you might find on a computer. The blower directs air over your coals, stoking the fire and increasing the temperature until it reaches a set point and then shuts off. BBQ has entered the 21st Century and become electronic and computerized!
This is the blower that will help to regulate the temperature in your pit by forcing air across your coals and stoking the fire. Notice the spring wire on the left had side. This will slide into the vent on your pit and hold the blower in place.
In the above picture, you can see how the fan connects to the BGE over the bottom vent. There is a small adaptor plate that fits on the vent and then the blower is held against that plate by the spring wire. If you look closely at the adaptor plate, you will see that at one end there is a little bend. I actually installed that wrong and the bend should go in, not out like I have it. The way I have it, there is a gap that allowed air to flow into the vent. I did reverse it as soon as I took that picture and realized it. Oops.
I will say that the instructions that come with the Auber Instruments are somewhat lacking. While it does cover how the controller works and how to set alarms, it does not go give any directions on how to use it with whatever type of pit you might be using. How do I set the top vent? Do I use The DFMT at all? If so, open all the way, or partially closed? If I am using a placesetter, do I put it in the egg and allow it to come up to temperature before turning on the controller? Or do I throw it in cold, plug in the controller and let it bring it up to temperature? I guess I’m going to have to play around with it and figure it out myself, unless somebody out there wants to give me some pointers.
For this cook, I let the egg come up to temp and then stabilize at 250. I then added the placesetter legs down and the grate on top of that. I clipped on the remote temperature probe to the grate. I waited another 15-20 minutes for the Egg to warm up the platesetter before plugging the pit controller in.
For the ribs, I took a rack of spare ribs and trimmed then down St. Louis style. I then slathered them with mustard and applied a rub I received from my Secret Santa Booking It on www.greeneggers.com called Bronzeville Rib Rub from The Spice House in Chicago.
After 3 hours, I removed the ribs from the Egg, wrapped them in aluminum foil along with some beer and some butter, then returned them to the smoker for another 2 hours.
After spending 2 hours in foil, I removed the ribs from the foil and placed them back on the Egg to finish up. While I was waiting for them, I thought a little bloody mary might be nice.
After a little less than 30 minutes, I pulled them from the Egg
Ready to eat!
We plated up the ribs with some creamed spinach with Asiago cheese and loaded mashed potatoes. I will admit, that the sides were pre-made from Tom Thumb and were the kind you just nuke, but I knew Mrs. G was going to be getting home late at an undetermined hour, so I couldn’t plan on when the sides would be ready. I figured she would be ready to eat as soon as she got home and wouldn’t want to wait and make something then. Sometimes, easy and quick is better.
So what are my impressions of the Auber Instrument Pit Controller? It is a reasonably priced entry-level pit controller (I didn’t want one of the fancy ones with all the bells and whistles). Seems like it is nicely built. The numbers are easy to read and it’s not too difficult to set. The fan is quiet when it kicks on (I could barely hear it over all the wind we had yesterday). My temperature never dropped below the 250 I had it set for, so that works. I do wish it had instructions for how to use with it with different types of pits. I guess I’ll just have to play with it some more and figure it out myself. Also, I wish they still included the gasket that seals the blower to the adaptor plate (the review The Naked Whiz did on his website mentions one), but apparently they quit including that from what the tech guy told me. I might try to call back and see if I can get one anyway. It seemed like it wasn’t really an airtight fit without it.
As for how the ribs came out…..not so great. They had a nice texture and weren’t dried out, but we did not care for the rub at all. It was way too salty and this is coming from a guy who adds salt to just about everything. It felt like my tongue had taken a swim in the Salt Lake. I don’t know if this is how people in Chicago like their ribs or just the way The Spice House does it, but I couldn’t get over it. I so wanted to like this rub, but it ruined the ribs for me. I won’t be using this rub ever again. So far, two of the three rubs my Secret Santa gave me were good, but not this one.
I’ve been pretty lucky in that I’ve never had to spend time away from my family on Christmas. But with marriage comes change and compromise and new traditions. This year, we spent Thanksgiving with my parents so it is only fair that we go to her parents for Christmas, which I am really looking forward to (Maybe someday they will have to come to us for holidays). So last night, we celebrated an early Christmas with my parents. I am truly blessed to have such wonderful and caring parents. And man did they outdo themselves this year.
First off we have two new to me rubs from Dizzy Pig, Cow Lick Steak Rub and Raising the Steaks (which would be like a Montreal steak seasoning). Pretty excited to get into these and try them out.
I also got a Coffee and Spice grinder so I can grind up my own spices for making fresh rubs.
If you have even a bit of techno geek in you, you would probably be pretty stoked about getting an Auber Pit Controller. This device monitors the internal temperature of your smoker, in this case my Egg. You program it to maintain a certain temperature. When the device detects a drop in temperature, it turns on a fan that covers your intake, directing air into the pit which stokes the fire and raises the temperature. When smoker returns to the programmed temperature, the fan shuts off. Pretty nifty little device and it will allow me to cook brisket and butts overnight and allow me to get some worry free sleep. Can’t wait to try it out. A full review of it can be found on The Naked Whiz’s Website here http://www.nakedwhiz.com/productreviews/auber/auber1.htm
My last big gift was a meat grinder/sausage stuffer. I’ve been wanting one of these for years. Mrs. G and I love sausage and this will allow us to experiment making our own and give us control over what is in the sausage. It will also allow us to buy our own meat and grind up for hamburger so we know what is in it and control the amount of fat. So it’s not just a cool gadget to have, but allows us to eat healthier. If any of you have any good sausage recipes, I would love it if you could share them with us.
The one other gift that isn’t pictured is a copy of “Mastering the Craft of Making Sausage” by Warren R. Anderson which hadn’t come in yet. That should give us a good start in making some home-made sausage.
So all in all, I’m really excited about some of the upcoming cooks we will be having in the new year, but more importantly, we were glad to get to spend one more Christmas with my family and to celebrate the reason for the season. We are truly blessed to have such loving parents and my brother. Don’t forget while putting up with the masses at the mall, the stress over the perfect gifts and perfect dinner and all the giving and receiving of the presents, what the true meaning behind Christmas is all about.
Wishing all of you out there a Merry Christmas and may you all be blessed in the coming year.