A low cost instant reading thermometer
Instant reading thermometers are just not instant enough, but here is a tip that can save you a lot of time (well a little) and more money if you really want a fast reading barbecue thermometer. I know with my grill, a Weber charcoal grill, it becomes very difficult to get a temperature reading on my steak! I use hickory chunks every time I prepare a steak, or even a hot dog! But when you are cooking a steak, the best way to check if it is done is with a thermometer. I usually cook a steak to 120 to 125 F, medium rare, some like them more rare and say; "make sure it is still mooing!" Sorry I do like my meat, it is loaded with minerals and vitamins that keep you alive and healthy, nothing else comes close (We'll argue about that later!). I had a health epiphany this year, my asthma and allergies are gone after 18 years of corticosteroid nasal, and oral, inhalers, and simple minerals (elements) were the key!
So why does a thermometer take so long to come to a stable temperature.
You can see the thermometer, I have been using recently, to the right. It is a nice unit but it is still too slow. If you are cooking chicken over a hot grill just sticking the thermometer into the meat and waiting for it to come close to a stable temperature can take many seconds, seconds in which your hand is being roasted! Plus as I have said I use hickory chunks when cooking and it only takes a few seconds with the grill lid off for those chunks to light up into flames, blackening the chicken; do not get me wrong there is a time for some flames to be applied, but when I want the flames, not when I am simply trying to read the internal temperature of a piece of chicken! So you need to get the grill cover off, read the temperature quickly, and cover the grill back up, but taking the temperature takes too long. Why? Three reasons, thermal mass, thermal resistance, and thermal dissipation. Most thermometers have a long stainless shaft, the thermal mass. At least in most cases the temperature sensor is in the very tip of your thermometer, so the thermal resistance of the stainless steel shaft can be a benefit, but the shaft is still sucking the heat away from the tip.
And what is the most important instant read factor?
The entire thermometer is at room temperature when you start to take your measurement. What can you do to resolve this issue? Preheat your thermometer as you see me doing in the pictures. Stick most of the shaft of the thermometer into the exhaust vent of your grill and in a few seconds you are preheated! Preheat it to say ten degrees above the target cooking temperature of the meat you are preparing. Try to preheat the entire shaft of the thermometer, perhaps to achieve this, preheat to 30 or 40 degrees above your target temperature for your meat and then let it cool to 10 degrees above the target and open your grill and plunge your preheated thermometer into that steak. Now with the thermometer near your desired finishing temperature the reading will become stable very rapidly if your steak is almost done. If the meat is still too cool the indicated temperature will plunge rapidly below your target temperature and you will not have to wait for a stable indication to know your steak is just not done yet.
Actually I would say with chicken you want to preheat a good bit higher than with steak, that you are usually cooking on a cooler grill. So by simply preheating your thermometer, you have achieved an almost instant read capability. And how much did it cost?
My little thermometer also has a cute feature, the storage sheath can be clipped to the top, offsetting your hand quite a bit from direct grill heat; it actually works nicely.
Precautions and caveats with this technique.
Please, please, remember all these thermometers have high temperature limitations and they will fail completely if you exceed them. So if you close your grill and the flames are still flaring, wait until the flames dissipate before you attempt to preheat your thermometer. This is very important with the next instant read grilling tip below.
The specs on my unit:
-40°F to 482°F / -40°C to 250°C with an accuracy of +/- 1.8° F
You can be confident if you get the temperature much above 482 F, you will probably have a damaged thermometer. Knowing modern designers, these thermometers might record the maximum temperature for warranty reasons. I have not let my car use my cell phone yet, who knows what it would tell the manufacturer about me?
Perhaps I should have considered the TF5000 unit, purportedly with a faster thermocouple sensor. Its temperature range is larger:
-58 °F to 572 °F with an accuracy of ±1.8°F (±1°C)
Yet another grilling temperature tip
Here is my slow grilling instant read thermometer setup. Can you see what very simple thing I did to make this work very well? I drilled a small hole in the rim of the kettle, a hole where I can feed a thermometer probe through the side of the grill. You do not want to go through the top, since you have to take the top off while grilling! This is the penultimate instant read, you have the temperature all the time and you are not crushing the delicate cable under the lid. But do be careful and place any smoking chips in positions opposite your cable entry point. Also try to make the cable loop high up between your meat and the exit point of the cable, keeping the cable as cool as possible. Of course my cable is well smoked, but not damaged. With one of these alarm thermometers you have fast read and an alarm when your meat is done!
Of course this really does not work for steaks, they really get done too quickly, but for ribs or a roast, perhaps even chicken, it works well. So with your steaks, just remember the trick, preheat your low cost instant read thermometer!
Hope these grill'n, fast read'n, tips helped,
BobsHowTo End Marker