Pros: Narrow temperature regulation, Digital display, Basic user mode plus Advance menus, inexpensive, Hands-free pit temperature management
Cons: Plastic case, Plastic low temperature barbed grill connector shipped with unit
I have used the Pitmaster IQ120 for a couple weeks now. I am a tinkerer by nature, and have explored all the features on this unit. Every feature worked as advertised, and frequently better than expected.
How does it operate:
The unit has a multi-speed blower, which provides air for your coals. The more air provided to your coals, the hotter they burn. By controlling the air to the coals, the temperature of the pit/smoke chamber is regulated tightly. It has two thermometers shipped with the unit. Each probe has a 6 Foot cable which connects it back to the control unit. One probe monitors the temperature at the grill surface; the other probe is for your meat. The digital display can be set to show Pit temperature, Meat temperature, or alternate between the two every couple seconds.
The default mode, called the basic mode, makes the unit perform much like the IQ110 unit. Turn the knob until the desired pit temperature is on the display, then briefly press down on the knob to set the desired temperature. Pit temperature is adjustable from 150 to 400 F. The Advance mode is entered by pressing and holding the knob down for 3 seconds. The advance menu allows you to also set the temperature of the pit, set a food alarm when the meat temperature rises to a specific user-set temperature, set a pit alarm condition range when the pit gets too hot or cold from the desired set temperature minimum variance on warning is 20 F and maximum is 100 F, whether the Smoker Lid Off warning is given, manual fan speed setting for rapid stoking, temperature display in degrees F or C, Beep loudness settings for alarms, Display brightness, a countdown timer, a setting for automatically changing the pit temperature after a specific amount of time, a food temperature warning for when the meat has reached a settable temperature between 100 to 250 F and the unit can adjust up or down the temperature of the grill/smoker when the meat hits a target temperature.
Who this won't work for:
If your grill or smoker keeps burning for hours above smoking temperature, with all the vents closed, it will not work for you. The unit changes temperature by providing air, if you already have air leaking into your grill/smoker, it cannot cause the grill/smoker to go to a lower temperature than the leaking air supports. Many people add a gasket kit to their Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) units to improve their accuracy and control.
Who this works very well for:
Any air-tight Grill/Smoker. If you close your vents, and your fired dies, or drops below 150 degrees F at the grill surface, you are a great candidate. Egg style smokers, WSM with gasket kit, mini-WSM owners, and others will discover temperature control is set and forget. The blower provides up to 15 cubic feet per minute of air-flow at the maximum rate.
The algorithm (how the unit thinks about temperature):
If the unit senses (via pit thermometer) a sudden drop in temperature, it knows the lid has been removed. It then locks in the fan rate to a value it was using before the lid was removed. This behavior prevents the unit from "over-stoking" the fire, and causing a temperature spike when the lid is closed.
When the unit is ramping up to a set temperature, it initially stokes the fire pretty hard, until it gets within 25 degrees of the desired temperature. Then, it slows down the blower to a less-than-maximum rate to obtain the last 25 degrees. This prevents the temperature from having a large spike and overshoot. The clever algorithms does a lot to prevent spikes and overshoots in temperature.
What I didn't like:
The plastic case gets the job done, but certainly not as durable as a metal box. The unit I ordered was with the barbed connector option, it is made of plastic. If you order it with the bowl which goes over the vent option, the connector is still plastic. Several people have melted the plastic barbed connector and replaced it with a metal part out of their own pocket. I was aware of this limitation and started with a separately purchased metal barbed connector.
Very High, the rich feature set and smart function of this device makes it a gem. If you struggle keeping an ideal temperature, this is for you. If you like the thought of making your charcoal/wood smoker as fuss free as an electric smoker, this is for you.