Ikamand 2.0 review – Kamado Joe Pitcontroller
A pit controller on a kamado… It’s a subject I’ve often broken my head about for a while now. “Does a kamado really need this?” is the main question I’ve been thinking about. There’s no better way to find out if it’s an added value than to test it out myself. Thanks to Kamado Joe I can test the Ikamand 2.0. To challenge the device, I opted for a long overnight pulled pork run in which I also experimented with higher temperatures towards the end. Is it an added value or rather an unnecessary cost? These findings might help you decide. I look forward to hearing your opinion!
Disclaimer: The Ikamand was donated by Kamado Joe as a test product. All opinions expressed are personal and sincere.
WHAT’S A PIT CONTROLLER?
To get started, let’s take a moment to explain what a pit controller is and why it was invented in the first place. Through the years the love for BBQ has grown more and more. You as a BBQ lover may already have experienced that a stable temperature in your BBQ can be essential for the end result. Not every BBQ and/or BBQ lover succeeds in controlling the temperature of this BBQ and keeping it stable. Especially with varying weather conditions this can be a challenge. Sometimes we don’t have time to sit next to the fire for hours to closely monitor and adjust the temperature. Pit controllers have been developed to deal with this problem.
The principle is simple. A thermometer in your BBQ detects the dome temperature (temperature under the lid against the grid) and transmits this signal to a piece of technology that determines whether or not it is necessary to blow some extra air into the BBQ to raise the temperature back when it threatens to drop. Simple as this may sound… To me however, being a total technology noob, the implementation seems to be far from evident. A good tuning with the operation of the fan is essential. If it blows too hard or too long, the temperature in the BBQ will inevitably rise with disastrous consequences.
Kamado Joe decided to respond to the demand of pit controllers and developed the Ikamand for kamado appliances. A first version from this device hit the market but was pulled back after some complaints (even before it hit the European market). The team worked hard to improve the Ikamand and came back with this 2.0 version. For those who might worry , the first version is now no longer on the market. So you don’t risk buying the wrong model. The Ikamand consists of several parts that are neatly collected in a sturdy and nicely executed case:
- An power-adapter
- A wifi-controlled engine block with accompanying app on which you can set and monitor the temperature (more about this later).
- A core temperature probe
- A dome temperature probe
- The Ikamand attachment (fits the classic and big joe)
- A closing piece to close the kamado after use.
The installation of the Ikamand is rather self-explanatory. You remove the screws from the bottom vent, remove the slider and insert the attachment piece. Then you click the Ikamand into the attachment, connect it to the energy network and plug in the probes. As you may suspect, the proximity of an electrical outlet is necessary when using the Ikamand 2.0. An extension cable can be useful, because the adapter cable is not very long (some extra meters might have been useful). Continue by installing the app and connect the Ikamand to the network according to the instructions given in the app. This process takes about five minutes and I did not encounter any problems while going through the steps. Although I do notice that one of the screws of my bottom vent is hanging loose now. With a plug this will probably be fixed soon.
THE IKAMAND APP
The app also offers a nice overview of the temperature of your probes and by means of a graph you can monitor the operation of your Ikamand and adjust to the desired temperature. Through the app you can set the temperature of your BBQ from anywhere in the world (not tested outside my street) and determine the desired core temperature of your meat. Handy if you don’t feel like going outside in bad weather for the small adjustments or if you just don’t want to miss the decisive moment on TV.
You can also use the app to request some recipes from. For instance from chef Eric Gephart (although you can also visit this blog for recipes). You also have a section where you can enter your personal preferences. In a fourth tab American citizens can place orders directly on the website of Kamado Joe (unfortunately this is only accessible for American users).
BUT IS IT NECESSARY?
As mentioned before, I am a bit critical about the added value of this device. And that’s mostly a compliment for Kamado Joe. Unlike the other type of Kamado I have, my Kamado Joe classic 2 is very reliable and stable. I dare to dive into my bed with peace of mind and trust my BBQ. Even in more difficult weather conditions the temperature tends to remain stable. I was lucky to find these challenging weather conditions last weekend when testing this device. Read: “There was a strong wind and temperature dropped below zero throughout the night.”
STABILITY OF A KAMADO
The graph above shows that the Kamado Joe classic II perfectly does what it’s made for. During the freezing cold night the temperature in my BBQ remained nice and stable at the set 95°C. Except for the startup, the Ikamand did not come into play. The higher temperature at the start (120°C still acceptable) can be explained by opening the lid to put the meat on it and the ignition of a chunk of smokewood. As you can see it then steadily dropped back to the desired temperature. A nice advertisement for the Kamado Joe, proving it’s stability and thorough isolation. On the other hand you might consider the thought an Ikamand is totally waste of money? Let me guide you in some other considerations to answer this question.
ADJUSTMENT FROM A DISTANCE
When making pulled pork like I did last weekend, I prefer not to wrap (here I explain why). With a large piece of meat, this method can result in a very long preparation time. I prefer a slow start at low temperature to let the meat absorb as much smoke as possible. In the morning I decided to raise the temperature to 120 degrees Celcius to create a nice bark (delicious crispy crust with pulled pork) on my boston butt. With a simple touch in the app, the Ikamand 2.0 adjusts the temperature to a new stable balance as you can see in the graph. Because I wanted to eat in time and the temperature of the meat evolved way to slow I decided to adjust the last 2 hours to 140 with another easy adjustment. Very handy when you are taking a walk and you can’t physically reach your BBQ (that happens often over here). From the graph you can also see that the Ikamand 2.0 started working more often. The fan was blowing on a regular base with higher intensity.
IS THERE ANY OTHER WAY?
From a distance it will not be possible to adjust the temperature of your kamado without the Ikamand. If you don’t go out so often while cooking and you have some experience with your kamado, then it can certainly be done another way. Out of experience I’ve learned how much more I have to open the top vents to get to the desired temperatures for cooking. Had I done this adjustment physically the Ikamand might have been superfluous. However, not everyone seems to succeed in maintaining control over their heat source. Frequently I get questions from people who don’t seem to be able to reach the desired dome temperature. For those who like to keep things under control while going out and those who find it more difficult to control the kamado, this Ikamand can be a great added value. Plus for people who take part in competition BBQ it’s an efficient way to control several BBQ’s at a time overnight without taking the risk to waste loads of meat.
STABILITY AND PRECISION
One last point I would like to give some explicit attention to, is the stability and precision of the Ikamand! However I think this device might not be a necessary cost for every one, I can only express my admiration for the way it works. When setting the temperature, you notice that the power with which the fan blows is regulated very precisely, which means that the temperature in your BBQ is controlled up to 3-5 degrees Celcius and kept stable over time. Pretty impressive in my personal opinion.
Conclusion? If you ask me it’s a conclusion you have to draw yourself. Are you perfectly able to regulate the temperature of your Kamado and will your type of Kamado remain perfectly stable for a longer period of time. Then I would say, save your pennies (+-250euro) and invest in one of the other accessories (the spit, for example, is high on the wish list here). Do you have a harder time to maintain a consistent heat or are you often on your way and still want to monitor the performance of your Kamado and the temperature of your meat with peace of mind? Or if you’d like to be able to adjust the settings from a distance, then I can definitely recommend this Ikamand 2.0. For those who’d like to make their way in the world of competition BBQ may also benefit from this product. You can run different devices at one time without taking the risk to waste loads of meat because of the heat of the moment or a though night in bad weather circumstances.