Learn More About Turkey Tracker

Our FAQ probably answers most of your questions about the why and how of Turkey Tracker, but I wanted to share a bit about our temperature tracking system. From the FAQ:

Our ambient and smoker temperature sensors are bolt-on thermocouples with glass-insulated wire rated to 480degC (900degF). The probe for the turkey itself is a custom ordered probe that has a advanced ceramic insulation made by 3M that’s rated to 1200degC (2200degF). The thermocouples generate a current proportional to the temperature, which we amplify with an Analog Devices AD595 chip. The AD595 is then connected to an Arduino microcontroller board that is programmed to output the temperature, in Celsius, over USB. We have a ruby script that collects the data on the serial line and converts it to Fahrenheit. For graphing, we use RRDTool. The data is polled every minute. The steps you see in the graph also depict minute intervals.

Here’s a picture of the finished product:

Completed Wirebird 2.0 Rig

Completed Wirebird 2.0 Rig

Last year, we didn’t have the high temperature wires, and we lost our sensors when they touched the shell of the smoker. We track the bird temperature (looking for 160° in the breast), the air in the smoker (we want to keep it between 200° and 225°) and the ambient temperature (we can expect about 50° to 55°). We will probably move the bird to the oven for finishing, so that we can eat at a reasonable hour, when it hits about 140°.

In addition to graphing the temperature, the data collection script also sends updates for major events and warnings if one of the temperatures veers outside the norm so that we can quickly address the situation. Standing in 50° weather with smoke billowing out into your face is tough to keep up, even when it’s sunny out.

Published in: on November 20, 2008 at 7:05 pm  Comments (15)  

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15 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This is a great project! Can you provide more details on the thermocouples sensors you used from Omega? part numbers or the custom specs?

  2. Here are the part numbers:

    2 WTK-8-36 bolt-on thermocouples, and 1 TJ36-CASS-116U-6-CC-XCIB stainless probe thermocouple.

  3. Thanks. I have a Big Green Egg and have been interested in a project like this for awhile. Good luck this Thanksgiving!

  4. this whole thing is awesome, but this crazily overengineered thermometer is UNBELIEVABLY awesome.

    would you put up a post on the smoker you’re using? i’m thinking of getting one myself and i’m curious what you use and what experience you’ve had with smokers in general.

  5. Are you open to open-sourcing your sourcecode, and project details for replication. This project is just too much fun not to replicate, and I’m inherently lazy, why re-engineer what has already been done, “If” I don’t have to?

  6. Thanks for the toast! We appreciate the personal contact. Also liked hearing the traditional “Alice’s Restaurant”–Hope Arlo Guthrie catches your site and hears it. When will the guitars come out? (And–Mom note: try not to stand in the line of the camera.)
    Hi to Wil, Erin, Jen, Chen, Pat, Simon and anyone else I know. Where are the women? I know they are there doing something awesome off camera.
    ps. check your email for my photos–my Flickr is full–remember?

  7. jessebeller: We currently use a Brinkmann Propane Smoke’N Grill, which we got last year to replace a Charcoal Smoke’N Grill that wore out. We’re honestly not entirely happy with this one, as it has a tendency to get to hot and set the wood chunks on fire. The charcoal one had the opposite problem, with the accumulated ash causing trouble keeping a flame over the 8-10 hour smoking time. We’re looking for something new, and probably a bit bigger than the R2-D2 sized Smoke’N Grill. I will say I’ve smoked some great sausage and pork loin on the old charcoal unit, and I’d highly recommend it as a low-cost, back porch smoker.

    Troy: We shouldn’t have any trouble sharing the source code, and we’d actually like to see some other folks broadcasting on Turkey Tracker next year along with us, and what better way than to share what we’ve developed. I’ll let Chris make the final call on the code.

  8. […] Turkey Tracker Blog has plenty of words describing what’s went into the process. What Went Into the Turkey Tracker describes some of the hardware and software, including the ideal, high-temperature thermometers […]

  9. Hello everyone. I was made aware of this by a buddy and would just like to mention that there is a device called “The Stoker” that not only does this tracking but also controls the heat of your smoker by regulating the air intake.


    It has an ethernet port and an on board web server that allows you to control your pit over your home network. With few firewall tweaks you can control your pit from anywhere on the internet.

    One of the guys at the Virtual Weber site has even written windows based software that does the charting like you are doing here but he’s also written a function that will email you the chart at regular intervals. In addition to that other software has been written that allows you to ramp up your temp over a specific interval for meats that sit in the danger zone too long like turkey.

    The software can be found here:


    Your friend in BBQ,


  10. I’m very intrested to build on of these – can you let us know how to contact you to get the plans or source code?

    • Sure! I’ll bundle it up and send post it on the site tonight!

      • Thanks – I’ll be looking forward to it!

      • I looked around, but couldn’t find the code. Can you repost?

        Good luck with Thanksgiving 2009! Looks like a great menu.

  11. […] the turkey prep. They’re answering questions from the audience. They’ve even gone all dorkbot on some gadgets to track the turkey temperature. What, I ask, could be better than […]

  12. […] livestreaming the turkey prep. They’re answering questions from the audience. They’ve even gone all dorkbot on some gadgets to track the turkey temperature. What, I ask, could be better than […]

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