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The Flame Boss 500 is a WiFi-enabled, bbq temperature controller that allows you precise temperature control of your smoker by adjusting the pit temperature via its variable-speed blower.
When you’re cooking a brisket or pork shoulder on long, overnight cooks, having a controller to monitor and control the temperature of your barbecue, as well as monitor your meat temperature, is a must.
This smoker controller can be adapted to fit most kamado smokers as well as most drum, barrel, cabinet, gravity-fed, and offset-style smokers.
The 500 gets its power supply by plugging in its 12-volt DC power adapter to a wall outlet via an extension cord.
You can also purchase a rechargeable battery pack if you need to cook from anywhere.
I’ve used the Flame Boss 500 on multiple cooks the last six months and I’ve found it does a great job regulating the temperature of my Weber Smokey Mountain.
In the time and temperature graph from the Flame Boss mobile app below, I put it to the test during a 5-hour rib cook using just enough lump charcoal as fuel to give it a workout.
Notice the pit temperature (the red line) and the amount of blower fan output (the green line) needed to maintain 250°F for most of the cook.
In this review of the Flame Boss WiFi Smoker Controller, I’ll examine its features, usability, accuracy, durability, and price to see if it’s a tool that you need in your smoking arsenal.
Flame Boss 500 WiFi Smoker Controller
The Flame Boss 500 WiFi Smoker Controller is the latest product in Flame Boss’s lineup of temperature controllers and WiFi thermometers.
Don’t need a fan? Check out the review of the Flame Boss WiFi thermometer.
Flame Boss was founded by Roger Collins, a computer engineer, and his brother, Michael Collins in 2013.
Their goal was to build a smoker temperature controller that allowed you to step away from the smoker during the many hours that cooking perfectly smoked meat requires.
Starting with the Flame Boss 100, the company has subsequently released the 200, 300, 400, and now 500 models.
The 100, 200, and 300 models bear a resemblance to the 500 model, while the Flame Boss 400 (picture below) has the device incorporated into the actual blower unit.
I like when a company is constantly updating and tweaking its product, it means that they care and are striving to give the consumer the best experience possible.
The Flame Boss 500 is the result of the knowledge base provided by its previous iterations.
One of the most glaring needs brought to light from this accumulated knowledge is the requirement of separate blower fans and adapter plates for Kamado smokers like the Big Green Egg versus other smokers.
Differences Between the Flame Boss Kamado and the Universal Smoker Controller Kits
You may have noticed that there are two versions of the Flame Boss 500, a Kamado version and a Universal version.
There are indeed a few major differences between the Flame Boss Kamado Smoker Controller Kit and the Universal Smoker Controller Kit.
While the Kamado Controller kit fits most Kamado smokers, the Universal Controller kit will fit most drum, barrel, cabinet, gravity-fed, and offset-style smokers.
Below is a picture of everything that comes with the Kamado Controller Kit, note the Kamado adapter plates and the size of the fan.
And here is everything that comes with the Universal Smoker Kit, note the round metal manifold adapter next to the larger fan.
The biggest difference is that the Kamado Smoker Controller comes with a 6,5 CFM (cubic feet per minute) blower fan while the Universal Smoker Controller comes with a 21 CFM blower fan.
The reason that the Kamado kit has a fan with a smaller maximum air velocity is that Kamado smokers are more efficient at heat retention and do not need a higher-powered fan to adjust their temperatures.
For any of you that have cooked on a Big Green Egg, you know how well they retain heat.
Another difference is in the type of adapters that come with each kit.
The Kamado kit comes with three types of adapter plates that will fit with most Kamado models, like the Big Green Egg or Kamado Joe models.
The Universal kit comes with a large manifold adapter (seen below) as well as a pipe thread adapter to fit ball valve smoker modifications.
A thing to note is that you can use the Universal Smoker Controller blower fan on a kamado smoker, you just need the adapter plates to affix it to the smoker.
Flame Boss 500 Features and Specifications
Here is everything that comes in the box:
- One WiFi Temperature Controller
The main unit has six ports at the bottom; a power port, a fan port, a dedicated pit temperature probe port, and three temperature probe ports.
The device itself is made of hard plastic and has no waterproof rating.
You can control the settings of the main unit using the Flame Boss mobile app or using the back, next, up arrow, and down arrow buttons on the front of the device.
The main unit attaches to a magnetic base that is pretty stable and has holes that you can also use to screw it down.
- A Variable Speed Blower Fan (The 21 CFM model pictured)
- Manifold Universal Adapter Assembly for non-Kamado smokers
The universal kit also comes with a pipe thread adapter for ball valve assemblies.
- A high-temperature pit probe with grill clip and a high-temperature meat probe
Both the pit probe and the meat probe are industrial duty platinum resistance type thermometers rated to 475°F. The pit probe comes with a grill clip for easy attachment to the grill grate.
Each probe is attached to 6-foot stainless steel cables.
- A 12-Volt DC Power Supply adapter
The unit needs to be plugged into either a wall outlet or you can purchase a rechargeable battery pack for $40 to go mobile.
- Two Probe Cord Organizers
The Patented Precise Temperature Control Algorithm
The Flame Boss utilizes a temperature control algorithm to maintain the temperature at a set point of your choosing.
If you’ve been around barbecue circles you’ve probably heard the term”PID controller” mentioned.
A PID controller, also known as a proportional-integral-derivative controller, continuously calculates the difference between your actual ambient pit temperature and your desired pit temperature. (assuming they’re different)
The PID will respond to this difference in temperature (also known as error signals) and attempt to correct this temperature difference (or errors) where the system over or undershoots your desired pit temperature.
The controller will attempt to minimize this temperature difference (or error) over time by adjusting a manipulated variable (the oxygen provided by the blower fan to your fuel source)
However, the Flame Boss goes a step further than the basic PID controller process by integrating an adaptive feed-forward method that results in a steadier control of your temperature.
How does this adaptive feed-forward method work exactly? Well, the explanation is in the patent and if you have time and an engineering degree feel free to unravel it.
Flame Boss 500 Usability
How easy is the Flame Boss 500 to use?
If the functioning of the device depended entirely on the four-button interface on the front I would probably give the Flame Boss low marks.
I find it tedious and time-consuming, akin to typing in your Netflix password using a t.v. remote.
Luckily, they have a great mobile app that saves you from having to experience that much.
Setting your pit temp and meat temps in the mobile app takes a fraction of the time it would take doing it manually using the buttons on the device itself.
They have also updated the mobile app and completely overhauled the interface in the last few months.
Although I didn’t have a problem with the old layout of the app, I really like the new version.
Here’s the old layout:
And here is the newer version:
In the mobile app, you can adjust your meat temp and meat alarm settings as well as your desired cook temp.
One thing to note, the output of the fan is automatically controlled by the Flame Boss unit and you cannot manually adjust the output yourself.
If you set your desired pit temperature to 250°F and your barbecue is currently at 230°F, the controller will decide how much fan output is needed to achieve that temperature.
For those of you who like complete control over your smoking, just know there is no manual option.
Alarm sounds can be set on your phone or on the unit itself so that you never miss critical cook temp points while grilling or smoking.
Another important thing to note, you cannot set your pit temperature until you have connected the fan to the main unit.
You can also view your cook history on the mobile app or view it online at myflameboss.com
WiFi Connectivity and Other Connection Options
You can connect to the Flame Boss four different ways:
- Cloud Connect: Your phone connects to the FlameBoss server on the internet which is then connected to your FlameBoss via WiFi. This mode is recommended if you have internet access for both your phone and the controller.
- Local Connect: You would use this mode to control a Flame Boss that is connected to a router with no internet access. Your phone will detect your Flame Boss via your local WiFi network.
- Direct Connect: If you have no internet access whatsoever, you can connect your phone directly to the Flame Boss by using the Access Point mode on the device.
- Manual Use: If you’re a glutton for punishment, you can just use the buttons on the device itself to control the Flame Boss manually.
The Flame Boss will connect to your home WiFi setup if you’re within 30 feet or so of a router or WiFi extender unit.
Having used it the last nine months over many smoking sessions I’ve yet to encounter a problem with it disconnecting from WiFi.
Having both your phone and the Flame Boss unit connected to WiFi is the best option and allows you the most functionality.
Attaching the Blower
Attaching the variable speed blower is relatively easy with both the universal kit and kamado kit assemblies.
The Kamado kit comes with three different size adapter plates that will fit most kamado style charcoal grills.
The universal kit comes with a large metal manifold adapter that will attach to most daisy wheel vents on kettle or bullet smokers like a Weber Smokey Mountain.
The universal manifold plate attaches through the vent hole using the included fastener and wingnut.
One thing I should mention is that there is no attachment for the inside of your smoker or grill to direct the airflow of the fan.
The blowing air isn’t directed downward underneath your coals which is more efficient than just blowing air indiscriminately inside your smoker.
There are other WiFi controllers that do utilize a bracket inside your smoker to direct the airflow downward and underneath the coals.
Google and Alexa Features
You can connect the Flame Boss 500 to your Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa devices which will give you voice command control of the unit.
Amazon Alexa Instructions:
Download the Amazon Alexa application for your mobile device and sign into your
Amazon account. Go to “Skills” on the Alexa app to search and enable the Flame Boss
skill or simply speak to your Alexa-enabled device and say “Alexa, enable Flame Boss.”
Now you can use a variation of the following voice commands:
Alexa, open Flame Boss.
Alexa, tell Flame Boss to change the set temperature to 300 degrees.
Alexa, ask Flame Boss for the temperatures.
Alexa, ask Flame Boss for the Meat 1 temperature.
Alexa, ask Flame Boss to tell me the set temperature.
Alexa, tell Flame Boss to forget my info.
Alexa, tell Flame Boss my controller ID is _____.
Alexa, tell Flame Boss my controller PIN is _____.
Alexa, tell Flame Boss to change the set temperature.
Alexa, tell Flame Boss to switch to Celsius/Fahrenheit.
Google Assistant Instructions:
Download the Google Assistant or the Google Home application. Say a voice
command using the Google Assistant app or simply speak to your Google Home using
a variation of the following voice commands:
OK Google, open Flame Boss.
Hey Google, ask Flame Boss to change the set temperature to 225 degrees.
OK Google, ask Flame Boss for the temperatures.
OK Google, ask Flame Boss for the Meat 2 temperature.
Hey Google, ask Flame Boss for the set temperature.
Hey Google, ask Flame Boss to forget my info.
OK Google, ask Flame Boss to set my controller ID to _____.
OK Google, ask Flame Boss to set my controller PIN to _____.
OK Google, ask Flame Boss to change the set temperature.
Hey Google, ask Flame Boss to switch to Celsius/Fahrenheit
Flame Boss 500 Accuracy
How accurate is the Flame Boss 500?
I’ve used the Flame Boss 500 multiple times in conjunction with other WiFi thermometers during cooks and have found that it is usually within the same range of temperatures.
Both the ambient temperature pit probe and the food probe have given accurate readings during these long smoking sessions comparable to other thermometers monitoring the same cooks.
The temperature control is precise as advertised, as long as you have enough wood or charcoal in your smoker you should be able to maintain steady temperatures for a long duration of time.
How durable is the Flame Boss 500? Durability is a trait tested over time.
Considering that there is no waterproof rating on the device, I’m not sure what would happen to it outside during a rainstorm.
While I’ve yet to encounter a problem with the Flame Boss, it has rained a few times while using it.
Luckily, I’ve got a pop-up tent that I put my smoker under when it gets cloudy.
And although I’ve never dropped the device itself, the body itself could be sturdier, especially at its price point.
Picking it up and holding it alongside some of the other WiFi temperature controller thermometers it feels hollow in comparison.
Luckily it has a sturdy magnetic base that attaches to the bottom of the unit, I’ve yet to knock it on the ground with its base attached.
As for the lack of waterproofing, there’s always the pitmaster workaround of putting the main unit in some Tupperware with some holes cut in the bottom for the probes and cables.
There is a one-year warranty and 30-day money-back guarantee, which is nice.
I think that some type of waterproof rating and perhaps a harder polymer or metallic shell would go a long way to improving its durability.
The Flame Boss 500 isn’t cheap, with a price tag of $359. This is within the general price range for WiFi temperature controllers.
I was surprised that there were only two probes included with the kit. There’s one pit probe and just one food probe included.
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There are a lot of things to like about the Flame Boss 500, and there are some things I wish were better.
The main reason you would buy a smoker controller is to give you precise temperature control of your smoker and the Flame Boss does this task incredibly well.
It does a great job at maintaining the temperature inside your smoker using its precise temperature control algorithm technology.
The updated Flame Boss mobile app is also easy to use with great interactive graphing ability. The online portal, myflameboss.com, is also nice if you like to break down your smoking sessions and view them on your desktop.
There are some things that I wish the Flame Boss had that would elevate the user experience.
The controller body has no waterproofing with a very basic digital display. For a $359 investment, I would like some way to keep it safe from the elements.
A waterproof body and upgraded display would make the Flame Boss 500 a homerun.
Although I appreciate the ability to control the device by using the buttons on the front, the process proves time-consuming and I much prefer using the great mobile app.
To put it succinctly, the technology and mobile app are great, the display and the device body are utilitarian, put it all together and I think the Flame Boss 500 still makes a compelling choice if you’re in the market for a WiFi smoker controller.