So, as some of you may know, there is a vendor who is a member of this forum that lives in China. He makes PID controllers and sells them on Ebay. Obviously there was some concern with this arrangement and a good discussion in a thread found here
. Another forum member purchased the base model and has a review within the thread above. After being involved with that thread and seeing that the seller had genuine intentions and was eager to help, even with a language barrier, I decided to take a chance and ordered the model called the Tiger that comes with a remote. I am glad I did. Granted, I have only had one cook so far and it was a short rib cook. However, I was truly impressed with what I got for a substantial amount less than some of the other controller products out there.
First, here are some of the main features of the base unit. It has a Manual mode where you can adjust the fan speed with the + and - buttons. The fan blows constantly at whatever speed you want. I found this very nice for bringing the UDS up to temp. Then there is Auto mode. This mode can be kind of complex at first but with a little playing I quickly figured it out. In Auto mode there are 4 program sets for the pit temp and one set for the meat temp. For the pit sets, you set the target pit temp, the duration you want that set to run, the high temp alarm and the low temp alarm. This multi-set feature will really be handy when I want to do a hot and fast brisket. I usually like to start the cook at lower temps and then ramp up the temps. With this module I can set it to cook at 225 for an hour or whatever and then go straight up to higher temps or even makes stops along the way for various amounts of time. Now, if you just want to do a simple cook like I did with the ribs, you just set the target temp on the following set to 0 and only the previous set(s) are run in the program. As for the meat set, I have not really played with it so I am only speaking from what I read on the seller's manual but you can set a target meat temp and the controller will adjust the cooker to hold the meat at a certain temp instead of watching the pit temps. If you do not want this feature then again, like with the pit sets, you just set the target temp to 0.
For the remote, the controls are pretty much the same. The only thing you cannot do with the remote is control the fan speed in Manual mode but you can switch from Auto to Manual. Everything else can be done including programming your pit and meat sets. I will describe more about the remote as we go through the pics.
As for everything else, the fan looks decent and came with the pipe nipple adapter that I requested. Not only can I just attach this directly to the ball valve on the UDS but I can also run a hose as you will see in the pics. The probes were a little confusing and I will discuss them more later but I do not have any major concerns at this point at least.
I know I will be forgetting some stuff so please ask any questions if you have them. I actually took notes on my thoughts as I did stuff both during the unboxing and the cook but I have no idea where I put them
So here we are. This is everything that came in the box. As you can see, there is the fan, two probes, the remote, the power connection, the PID unit and an antenna. I placed a couple of quarters around for a size comparison.
Now, I feel I should point out the following blemishes to be true and fair. On the main unit there were some slight scratches or abrasions. On the end you can see where a drill bit walked a bit as he was building the unit. On the remote, there are some tiny particles between the LED screen and the outer plastic. While these may look pretty bad in the photos, they really aren't a bother at all. Plus, you have to remember that this is a guy who does this as a hobby and the product you get is a reflection of that. In no way would I let these minor defects affect my recommendation for this product in any way.
Here is a better look at the fan and the adapter. One oddity on the adapter is one of the bolts sticks up a bit but that is of little concern. There is also a photo looking in the end of the adapter. There is actually a little metal flap that opens when the fan runs and closes when it turns off. However, this only happens if the fan is pointing up with the pipe at the top. Obviously this would be an issue when connecting it directly to the ball valve of a UDS. However, during my test cook, I left the fan laying flat where the flap would not close and I did not have any major issues with excess air getting in when the fan turned off. I do, however, plan to change my setup to better take advantage of this flap.
Here is the remote powered up. You can see that the particles are still visible but not that much of a distraction. It did not connect because the main unit was not powered up yet. You can adjust the backlight too.
Here is a look at the probes. I was a little confused by them at first. One has threads and a nut which I assumed was the pit probe. The other probe, however, is actually larger in diameter. Both have blunt ends which is also a bit different. The "meat" probe does have silicone filling the end but I might cover that with heat shrink tubing just to be extra careful.
Now, one thing to remember is that this requires a 12v power source. You can use a car battery or even a smaller rechargeable battery but I didn't have one handy. Luckily I did have an adjustable power converter which put out 12v so that is what I used to power it up. One note about this and I will update when I get a chance to try this with a battery. When the fan is blowing at its max speed, the low battery light flashes and the warning beeps. This can get a little annoying.
Here are some pics of it powered up and running. This was in my kitchen so I set the temps low to do some testing.
Here are some images of the remote in the act of setting the programming sets.
And here is an overall photo of the whole setup connected and running.
So, on Saturday I decided to run up to Lowe's to get a few things to make a compartment for all of this stuff. I picked up some little plastic shoe boxes, some pipe elbows and a 6ft hose with rubber adapters. This is designed to connect a dishwasher to a disposal but works perfectly for my application. Sorry for the horrible cell phone photos in this group as my camera battery was dead.
On Sunday, I decided to cook some ribs as a test run. Originally I really wanted to test this with a long cook of a butt or brisket but that will have to wait. So, here is everything packed in the box. this worked alright but I plan to change my setup soon as I did not really like how it all was crammed in there and the flap for the fan was not able to function correctly.
When it came time to put in the probes I was quickly reminded that I did not think it all through. The meat probe fit through the whole I had already drilled in the drum for my Maverick probes but I failed to think about how I would hold it on the grate. I used to have a wood block but I couldn't find it so I just winged it and let the probe rest on the grate with the tip over an open area. Unfortunately, the pit probe did not fit through the hole. Without major work, I decided to remove the brass air line coupling that I normally have in place to hold my Walmart turkey fryer thermometers. The hole was big enough to insert the probe and I used the nut on the inside to hold it in place. Since I was cooking ribs, I didn't care so much about the meat temp so I left both probes to monitor the pit temps. I used the meat probe that was lying on the rack as the pit temp probe for this cook as it was closer to the ribs and I was not using a diffuser. I ran the hose from the blower down to one of the intakes on the UDS that is normally capped.
Here is everything as it sat while the drum came up to temp. As you can see, this is quite bulky in this setup and that is another reason I plan to change the housings for the controller and blower.
As I mentioned before, I put the controller in Manual mode and let it run at full until the UDS reached 200*. Then I switched it to Auto mode with the target pit temp at 250*.
Here is the remote showing the temps, the program mode and the duration left. Since I was only cooking at a single temp the duration was set at 500 minutes.
Now for the fantastic pr0n
Sadly this is all I have
Right after I put the ribs on I got a call from my father inviting me over to his house for a last minute get together for my step-sister's birthday. I did not get a chance to get any in-progress photos and as soon as the ribs were done they came off and were wrapped for a rest and transport to my dad's. I can tell you that there were a hit even with that Foil Hat Rub that I used. I guess I will have to try that stuff again. The worst part is I only at 1 rib from the rack as a single rack goes quite fast in a room full of 7 people. On the bright side, everyone loved them so that is always nice too.
Overall, I am very pleased with this product. Granted, as I showed, there are some blemishes but no more than I will give it during its use. Everything worked as it was supposed to and even with the language barrier and the somewhat difficult to understand manual, I was up and running in no time. Now, there is still the obvious question as to its long term quality and reliability. I guess I will just have to cook more
To those that wonder why I needed a controller for a UDS, and I know someone will ask, the answer is I don't. I don't plan on using it for every cook as most of the time the UDS does just fine on its own. I do plan on using when I have all day or all night cooks. It will be nice to have that piece of mind knowing that it is taking care of the cooker and keeping it at the temp I want. Besides, it is such a cool little toy anyway.