Comparing Signals to the Smoke and Smoke Gateway combo, which I own, love, and reviewed several years ago, this newer model neatens things up with one base instead of Smoke’s clunkier three-piece system. Signals has the capability to run four probes instead of Smoke’s two. Four is a lot unless you’re really, really into barbecue. With something some long-cook barbecue fans will appreciate, Signals ties in with their Billows fan controller, meaning if the temperature dips, the fan spins to get the fuel burning faster. I was testing in Seattle’s wet, cold midwinter and I have a gas grill, so I moved testing inside, where having four probes running into my oven was twice as many as I could ever imagine needing.
One of my first dinners with it demonstrated the basic pleasure of cooking with always-on probes. My sister came over with a nice salad, and I made the sweet potato and peanut salad from Vishwesh Bhatt’s cookbook, I Am From Here. I also made his pork tenderloin with tandoori spices, and since the loins were slightly different sized, I put a probe in each, with the temperature alarms set, and tucked them in the oven, freeing me up to set the table and shoot the breeze. Not needing to interrupt the conversation every few minutes to poke the spuds with an instant-read thermometer gave us the fleeting feeling in our busy lives that we were real adults.
I discovered finer points as I continued cooking using both Signals and my Smoke. The Smoke comes with a pocketable remote display called the Smoke Receiver which connects to the base via an extremely reliable radio signal. You can also buy a $54 Wi-Fi bridge called the Smoke Gateway that allows you to monitor the temperature on the ThermoWorks app. Signals ditches the radio in favor of Bluetooth—a dicey proposition stability-wise—but builds in the Wi-Fi, which streamlines things nicely. This all creates a bit of a jumble options-wise. If I was choosing which one to buy, I’d consider Bluetooth too unreliable, and remove it from the equation. If I had extremely solid Wi-Fi all around my house and near my grill, I’d probably opt for the Signals. If I really wanted four probes, or the ability to connect to the Billows, I’d get the Signals. Otherwise, I’d go for the Smoke, which, even with the add-on Wi-Fi bridge uses the same app and is often going to be the cheaper option.
Still, the Signals works great. Take, for example, this past Thanksgiving when I got excited about the idea that you don’t really have to baste a turkey during cooking, which meant I could put the probe in the breast, put the bird in the oven and not even crack the door until the alarm beeped at 165 degrees. Instead of fussing with it, I got to hang with our guests, enjoy some deviled eggs, and keep things running smoothly. I could also look at the app’s time-temperature chart and get a good idea of when the bird would be coming out of the oven. A few weeks later, still in a fowl mood, I made Nik Sharma’s spiced roast chicken with turmeric, paprika, and Kashmiri chili, and it continued to hammer home that always-on thermometer advantage for longer cooks, whether in the oven or the ‘cue.