Let's get right to it - who gives you more bang for your buck?
BBQ Guru's flagship temperature control, the UltraQ, wins hands down when comparing to the Flame Boss' biggest and best device: the 500.
While the main function of both devices are technically the same, for $20 cheaper, you are not only getting the most trusted brand, but you are also getting an automatic temperature control that offers greater compatibility, more features, and is made of higher quality materials. And if $329.00 is still too high for your budget, BBQ Guru also offers the DynaQ and DigiQ DX3 automatic temperature controls. Both devices offer precise temperature control, but at an even lower price point.
Learning how to achieve delicious BBQ is like any other skill. You need to have a solid understanding of the fundamentals and you need to have the right tools to get the job done.
The most important (and often overlooked) step to becoming a BBQ Pitmaster is maintaining low and even temperatures throughout the entire cook. And take it from us, manually controlling temperature using your smoker's air vents is both difficult and time consuming.
One of the best BBQ accessories we've ever come across (and use at every BBQ competition) is an automatic temperature control. These high-tech devices monitor and automatically control your smoker's temperature like an oven. Not only do they make barbecuing easier than ever before, but they also give you amazing results.
Throughout our competitive BBQ careers, we've tested different temperature controls from two companies: The BBQ Guru and Flame Boss.
BBQ Guru invented the first BBQ automatic temperature controller back in 2003. It's now established as the leader in this industry and is well-known for high-tech temperature control products. A few years ago, Flame Boss entered the market offering automatic temperature controls for charcoal grills and smokers as well.
Most BBQ temperature control devices work by using a fan that is placed over one of the smoker's air vents. To create and maintain the ideal temperature for your cook, these devices will tell the fan to blow more or less air over the coals.
Flame Boss claims that their variable-speed fans give their products an extra level of precision by running at different speeds. But in reality, the only thing that matters for achieving precise temperature control is the total volume of oxygen that goes into the smoker.
By testing both products, we've noticed that BBQ Guru's fans are much stronger and also come with an adjustable built-in slide damper for extra precision. You can also hook up multiple fans to one controller to control even larger cookers.
Conclusion: Flame Boss' variable speed fan doesn't make a difference when creating and maintaining your ideal temperature. BBQ Guru's fans are stronger and support more grills than Flame Boss.
One thing we enjoy most about BBQ Guru is their huge inventory of specially-made adaptors that fit nearly every smoker on the market. Although they have a big selection to choose from, they make the process of finding a compatible adaptor for your smoker extremely easy. Their custom-built adaptors also ensure a quality seal for higher precision.'one-size-fits-all' engineering causes lack of precision
On the other hand, we find that Flame Boss' selection is quite small and consists only of an adaptor for ceramic cookers and an adaptor for Weber Smokey Mountains. We've also noticed that Flame Boss' "one-size-fits-all" engineering causes lack of precision. Their adaptors have exposed areas and gaps that can allow drafts and reduce accuracy.
All of BBQ Guru's adaptors also come with a high temperature silicone Kill Plug that fits snugly into the opening of the adaptor when not using the control and fan. The Kill Plug was designed to cut off air flow so your fire will go out quickly.
Conclusion: BBQ Guru's adaptors are higher quality and have a higher range of compatibility.
Both the Flame Boss 500 and UltraQ include one 6 ft. pit and temperature probe. They also allow users to add two additional meat probes to monitor the cooker temperature and up to three food temperatures.
But take note: the Flame Boss 500 requires purchasing two "y" cables ($12.99 each on Amazon) in order to have this capability.
Conclusion: BBQ Guru has more capabilities and doesn't require extra purchases to access every feature.
Both the UltraQ and Flame Boss 500 have Wi-Fi capabilities and companion websites that allow users to remotely control and monitor your cooker's temperature.
The UltraQ's website, ShareMyCook.com, has the ability to add notes on temperature graphs at specific times. Having this detailed information is priceless and especially helpful for those, like us, who like to go back to reference and learn from past experiences. In comparison, Flame Boss 500 users are only able to make notes underneath the graph and lack the ability to make precise notes at given times.
One of the ways ShareMyCook.com really stands out is its user community and social integration. Users can discover and learn new techniques; UltraQ owners can watch and comment on other cooks, rate recipes, add pictures, and easily post cooks to popular social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. The Flame Boss 500 can share to social media, but lacks the real-time interactive features available at ShareMyCook.com
In addition to ShareMyCook.com, the UltraQ has another really unique feature - a Status Light Ring. The outer ring of the control will illuminate in 4 different conditions to indicate the pit’s temperature. It will be a solid blue when it is below temperature and solid red when it’s within its target temperature range. The sides will pulse red when the fan is blowing, and the entire ring will pulse red if the temperature is too high.
When display scanning is turned on, the UltraQ’s Q-Tail will also illuminate in one of 4 colors, one at a time, to show you the temperature of each of the connected probes. At a glance, you can see the temperature on the LED display and the color of the probe to easily keep track of your entire cook.
Conclusion: While both website interfaces offer similar features, such as real-time temperature graphing, text and email alerts, and controlling your cooker's temperatures, the UltraQ certainly outshines the Flame Boss 500 with its more advanced and thorough website. But what really makes this round a no brainer is the UltraQ’s unique patent-pending Status Light Ring and Display Scanning features - something we have never seen before.
Overall, we believe both the Flame Boss 500 and UltraQ have everything a BBQ enthusiast could want from an automatic temperature control device: stable temperatures, multiple probes, and WiFi capability. However, the UltraQ proves to be the clear choice when selecting the best device.
As the industry leader, BBQ Guru was first in the marketplace to develop and sell the most innovative and high-tech cooker accessories. We truly believe that BBQ Guru takes the art of barbecue seriously and we understand why they are the most trusted name in the market.
As valued customers, we've been using BBQ Guru's products for years and never go to a BBQ competition without our controls. We love and admire that the company offers high quality products, great compatibility, and tons of features. While Flame Boss may try to copy that legacy,it's clear that BBQ Guru is still the leader in automatic temperature controls for charcoal cookers.
Tom and Michele Perelka, a husband-and-wife team of Lo'-N-Slo' BBQ, have been competing since 2006. They are 8-time PA State Champions from 2011- 2018, as well as the Mid-Atlantic BBQ Association's Pennsylvania State Cup Champions in 2011. Together they hold 21 Grand Championships, 16 Reserve Grand Championships, and over 400 trophies.
Tom and Michele are from New Providence, Pennsylvania and are owners of Lancaster BBQ Supply. The store carries grills and smokers, spices and rubs, as well as a large selection of BBQ accessories.