PID Controlled Charcoal BBQ – Put An Arduino On It!

At Maker Faire Milwaukee this past weekend, [basement tech]  was showing off his latest build, a PID controlled charcoal grill. While it hasn’t QUITE been tested yet with real food, it does work in theory.

PID (a feedback loop with some fancy math used to adjust the input to get a consistent output) controlled cooking is commonly used for sous vide, where one heats up a water bath to a controlled temperature to cook food in plastic bags. Maintaining water temperature is fairly easy. Controlling a charcoal barbecue is much more difficult. [basement tech] accomplishes this with controlled venting and fans. With the charcoal hot and the lid on, there are two ways to control temperature; venting to let hot air out, and blowing air on the coals to make them hotter. A thermocouple sensor stuck through the grill gives the reading of the air inside, and an Arduino nearby reads that and adjusts the vents and fans accordingly.

The video goes into extensive detail on the project, and describes some of the challenges he had along the way, such as preventing the electronics and servos from melting.

There’s not a lot of time left in the grilling season, so we hope [basement tech] gets an opportunity to enjoy the meats of his labor. Maybe he can trade food with [Jason] and his PID controlled meat smoker.

19 thoughts on “PID Controlled Charcoal BBQ – Put An Arduino On It!

    1. Nope, as long as available power is more than required and can be throttled down, pid will work. Here it will stop working only when coal is almost missing, because blowing air on coal will give plenty of temperature.

    2. Will work fine if you have the right hysteresis.
      Also you usually use these controllers to monitor/control long-jobs.
      That means you fill an “almost” airtight BBQ with a good amount of coal, light the coal and then close the whole thing.
      The meat and inner BBQ get a K-type sensor each and thats what the PID then works with to calculate air-inlet.
      We use this all the time – super simple to keep your BBQ at 100°C or at 300°C – or ramp it according to your specs.

        1. Well in North Dakota it is hard to keep the grill at temp when it is -40 with a 15 m/h wind… So January/February isn’t really an option… So yeah only a few more months of grilling season…

      1. My wife has plenty of videos of me on our patio, grilling/BBQing in varying depths of snow when we lived 20 miles from the Canadian border. We were approximately 125 miles further north than Buffalo, NY (We were about 300 miles northeast). This or something very similar would have been absolutely wonderful. Plus, my wife wouldn’t have all that video footage as evidence if she ever wants to have me committed.

  1. Of cause there is readymade units – they are called “pit masters”
    But rolling your own is a good practice and surely not the most useless thing to build.
    These little gadgets make a 18hr slow-low-BBQ real easy if you have a decent firepit to control.

  2. Hi all … Daniel at basement tech here :-)

    Thanks for all of your thoughts and comments.

    Definitely the case here that “it’s all about the journey”.

    Watch for progress and implementation of new ideas
    from the Faire at the basement tech YouTube channel.

    … sometimes also on the basement_tech twitch channel too.

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