Monk: In our years of reviewing barbecue rubs, sauces, grill tools/accessories, and thermometers, we are occasionally offered products in exchange for an honest review. Sometimes we do the reviews because its hard to turn down free products but to be honest in some cases the product simply wasn’t up to par and it was tough to put a nice spin on it in the review. In one case a few years back, a particular meat thermometer (which shall go unnamed) downright didn’t work and after following up with that company on the issue, a firmware update never came and thus a review was never published. That thermometer probably sits in a drawer somewhere in my house.
Spoiler alert: the product not being up to par won’t be the case for this particular product review.
INKBIRD is a company that came onto my radar within the past year because a neighborhood buddy has used a smart thermometer/fan for his Primo Grill and has raved about that product. And they just released a new meat thermometer – the IBT-26S – the world’s first thermometer incorporating 5Ghz Wi-Fi technology along with Bluetooth 5.1 (available today from Amazon for purchasing). I decided to put it through its paces recently smoking a small-ish 2.5 pound chuck roast like a brisket on a Friday afternoon/evening.
“This superior BBQ thermometer features Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities that allow us to create and monitor the cooking process from a smartphone. With the help of its temperature alarms and several smart functions, we can always roast aromatic, juicy, and delicious meat.”Official description of the IBT-26S from Inkbird
Upon receiving a tidy package from Amazon, I opened the box to find a champagne gold and black rectangle display frame with a LCD backlit screen. The build quality was evident but I wonder how the glossy finish will hold up over time in the outdoors and banging up against grill tools. Same for the LCD screen, although that is probably more durable than a video screen like you might find on an iPhone or iPad.
The IBT-26S is capable of connecting up to 5 meat probes and 1 oven probe as stated on the packaging. For other thermometers I’ve tested, I’ve found that 5 total probes (4 meat and 1 oven) was not always enough so that additional probe already makes this product feel downright luxurious by comparison.
However, I must admit my confusion in reading the packaging; I thought the number of probes listed were actually included instead of being the max capability of the unit. In reality, the thermometer comes with 4 meat probes, 0 oven probes, and 2 clips – more than enough to get started of course. Inkbird assured me they are in the process of update their packaging to make it less confusing going forward.
The IBT-26S doesn’t have a secondary remote unit and instead connects to the Inkbird app on your phone, which will need to be downloaded and the thermometer set up from there. I found this to be similar to setting up a new Google Home device but be sure to select the “IBT-26S (5G)” option to connect instead of the regular “IBT-26S” next to it. That threw me for a loop a couple of times before I was able to connect.
The app itself is cleanly designed and fairly easy to use. Connect your probes and select from one of 23 choices of USDA preset meat recipes or “BBQ Smoke,” which is the setting I used. From there, I manually set the range at which I was aiming to smoke (225 to 275).
In addition to monitoring the temperature remotely from anywhere, the app allows you to adjust the backlight remotely and set timers for each probe.
While in use, the app records your temperatures – both grill and meat – and stores the history to the cloud, which is retrievable and exportable for up to 30 days. The more scientifically-inclined or competition barbecue cook will want to download and analyze more thoroughly than I did, but it’s a great feature.
From my iPhone I was able to monitor the temperatures in the app from at least quarter a mile away in the neighborhood and my understanding is that you can monitor from even further away as long as you have cell or Wi-Fi service: the neighborhood pool, the grocery store, work, you name it. Again, think the Google Home app and being able to access your Nest thermostat from anywhere.
I didn’t have any issues with the unit battery once fully charged via a USB-C cord that comes in the box and which plugs directly into the unit. According to INKBIRD “the built-in lithium battery with 2500mAh can continuously work for up to 32 hours after a full charge.” It certainly kept a charge the entire time I used it.
As for how the smoked chuck roast turned out? After dealing with some initial temp issues due to user error on my part, my cook settled in nicely and I served slices to rave reviews from my neighbors.
The INKBIRD IBT-26S thermometer is by far the best barbecue thermometer I’ve tested in large part because it allows you to monitor your smoker from anywhere. Beyond that, the thermometer works as is expected, the probe capacity is above average, and the app itself is intuitive and easy to use. Serious barbecuers in the market for a new thermometer should take a hard look at the world’s first 5Ghz Wi-Fi thermometer, the INKBIRD IBT-26S.
More product images courtesy of Inkbird