The Thermometer – A Pit Master’s Best Friend

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A good thermometer is a quintessential tool in the pit master’s or griller’s tool box. Let’s face it, you can have the best rub or sauce in the world, but if you chicken turns to charcoal or your brisket is transformed into a brick, you might as well have saved your rub or sauce for another day.

If you only limit your grill time to doing chicken breasts, steaks, pork chops or other “quick cook” items, you can get away without a thermometer. For those types of items, I simply I use my knowledge of my grill and grill times and I also use the “touch method”, that is, I poke the meat to feel it’s firmness. I’ll follow-up on that method soon.

For thermometers, I want something that’s quick in reading temperature, accurate in it’s readings, and durable. Do not get lured into picking up the $2 digital stick thermometer in your grocery store. More than likely, it will flat let you down. For the last few years I’ve stuck with three thermometers: 1) a digital fork thermometer,2) a stainless steel dial thermometer, 3) and a remote thermometer with two temperature probes. So, why three different kinds? Well, my wife would say that I’m anal re-tentative, which is true, but it’s this trifecta, that insurers that you have what you need for every scenario and that meets my requirements above.

Let’s start with the “standard” stainless steel thermometer“. I’ve used this as a back-up and I use it for checking the accuracy of my digital thermometer. It gets the gob done and is a less expensive choice. There are tons of choices out there, so you want to do a little research to make sure you buy something that is accurate and well built. To check the accuracy, I set my oven to the lowest, or a lower,  temperature reading of the thermometer. Once the oven hits that temp, I put the thermometer in and let it get to temp. That will give you an idea of it’s accuracy. These basic thermometers tend to be slower, taking a minute or two to get to temp, but I consider them to be a staple at least to backup your digital thermometer should it, or its batteries, fail.

Next you have the digital thermometer. My specific example is from Brookstone and has a readout of the temperature along with the ability to select the type of meat your testing. It displays a bar graph for each type of meat with rare, medium rare, medium and well markings. That’s all just fluff as you really just need an accurate temperature readout. It’s convenient if your not familiar with different temps for different levels of doneness for the meat you’re cooking. Good digital thermometers are usually faster and provide easier to read results. The fork type also allows you to move you meat as well.

On to the remote thermometer. This baby shines when you’re slow cooking something. they generally have two units; one that is the main unit that you keep in your house where its accessible while you have something on the BBQ, and the other attached to the probes beside your grill. The remote unit send the temp readings the the main unit that you have in your house, preventing you from having to stand over the grill the whole time. The unit I have, the Maverick, has two probes,
which is important. Two probes allows you to monitor and cook two pieces of meat, or allows you to monitor a piece of meat and the grill temperature at the same time from the comfort of your house, back porch or where ever you want to be within range. It really makes multi-hour BBQ’ing easier and helps insure everything’s running right on the Que.

Any one of these types of thermometer will get the job done. You just need to know what level of convenience your going after with the type of food you prepare


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