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Does your meat thermometer need to be “smart”?
There’s a joke in there somewhere (note that the word “probe” will also get a lot of use below) but let’s get serious about your grilling for a moment. Do you need a $100 Bluetooth stick to tell you when your steak is ready?
Conditionally, I say yes. CHEF iQ is a sleeker take on a digital meat thermometer. It’s tiny, wireless and works in conjunction with a “Smart Hub” — basically, a case that also charges the phone and utilizes a built-in speaker to give directions — and an app, which is mandatory for the probe to work.
A quick look at Amazon shows dozens of meat readers that cost less but certainly lack the interactivity and style of the CHEF iQ. The real question is, are all the bells and whistles worth it? If you’re the type of home cook who hovers over the grill or stove and knows exactly how you want to cook meats or veggies, you’re probably fine with something like a $15 instant-read meat thermometer.
But if you want a little guidance — and some time away from the grill — the CHEF iQ offers some real advantages, as we outline below. Over the last few months, I’ve used CHEF iQ on two different outdoor electric grills and with meats in a regular kitchen oven (both grilling on top and in the oven itself).
- 40-hour continuous probe after full charge
- The probe is heat-resistant up to 572 degrees
- Claims to be accurate within 1 degree Fahrenheit
- Measures internal temperatures between 32-225 degrees, and ambient temps from 32-572 degrees
- Air fryer/deep fryer safe
- Wireless with Bluetooth activity
- Free CHEF iQ app features an interactive cooking guide, recipes, how-to videos, timers, notifications, temperature tracker
- Comes with the Bluetooth wireless Smart Thermometer probe, Smart Hub with lid and a USB-C charging cable
- Can track up to 3 probes simultaneously
- The setup is a snap. Once you’ve downloaded the app and paired your phone with the Hub and probe (I personally had no issues), you just insert the probe into your food, set the temp via the app (there are included guides/recipes or you can just manually just the temperature of your choosing), cook your food and wait for the app and/or Smart Hub case to give you directions on flipping your food or taking it off the grill.
- I can’t prove this is the “world’s thinnest wireless probe” as CHEF iQ claims but it is pretty small — it’s a little longer than my index finger (4”) and about three toothpicks around (0.19” diameter)
- The Smart Hub — which is about the size of a portable electric toothbrush case — offers up loud and clear alerts if you’re not looking at your phone.
- The probe is easy to clean. It’s dishwasher safe, but a simple hand wash is faster.
- Your food is going to keep cooking a bit even after you take it off the heat. So the CHEF iQ has a built-in “rest timer,” meaning the app will tell you to take the meat off the grill a bit before the final target temperature is reached.
- You can very helpfully filter recipes within the app by cooking appliance, skill level, convenience, diet, dish, course, cuisine and occasion.
What kind of works:
- Even with Wifi connectivity, I got a loss of connectivity warning when I moved both the Smart Hub case and my phone to the kitchen while cooking on our outside patio. I’m guessing that has more to do with the Bluetooth-enabled probe being away from the Hub than where my phone was located (since the app and the hub should be working on Wifi). Either way, it was less than the 200 feet suggested by the CHEF iQ site — although I was working with a lidded grill, which certainly narrowed the Bluetooth distance (which is supposed to be “unobstructed”). This only happened once, however.
- I often followed recipe directions and set a manual timer separately from using the CHEF iQ probe. For the most part, the probe matched up with the suggested cook time, which suggests that it’s an incredibly accurate reader. However …
- You’re really only going to want to use this device with thick cuts of meat. Big juicy steaks and voluminous meatballs? The probe worked perfectly. Thinner cuts of chicken and pork? If you don’t insert the CHEF iQ juuuuuust right, the tip of the probe may touch the cooking surface and thank that your food is ready seconds after you put it on the heat (I’ve had this issue before with other cooking thermometers — I’m willing to say this is part human error).
- You can use the Chef iQ without wifi but you’ll receive fewer notifications.
What needs work:
- As a greenie, the slender case for the CHEF iQ — along with instructions and a USB-C cord — unnecessarily arrives in packaging better sized for, say, bulky over-ear headphones.
The CHEF iQ is an ideal gift for a home cook who wants some guidance and recipe options when they oversee the grill or oven. If you’re cooking lean or slender meat cuts, you may just want to eyeball the results, but if you’ve got a few nice steaks on for guests, it may be worth the effort (and $) to utilize this device so your cooking stays on track.
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