The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke

High Tech Thermo

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Let’s get the confession out of the way first: I am a gadget freak, I like gadgets. Not just any gadget, it has to have some practical value. This blog entry is about the latest instant read thermometer I just picked up. It is a dual mode thermometer that measures not only the internal temperature but also uses infrared readings and a targeting laser to measure the surface temperature of an object. This opens up some interesting possibilities that may improve my end results.

Since writing this blog I have discovered this unit did not have very good longevity nor did it have a warrantee. I describe the problems in 1 2014 blog entry FAIL & QUALIFIED SUCCESS

The thermometer is the Bonjour Laser Probe Combo Thermometer. It is not cheap at $85, but I was looking for a good quality instant read thermometer that was fast to react and accurate. I was going to be cooking some real expensive meat and wanted to get it just right. When I began my investigations I turned up this model which offered an intriguing new possibility: The ability to measure the surface temperature of the pan or grill you were cooking with. The shape of the body reminds me a bit of the spray gun attachments sold for the end of a garden hose. It has a trigger used for the infrared measurements at the top of the hand grip. Pressing the trigger turns on a red targeting laser beam that shows you where you are aiming. The temperatures are taken using infrared readings. The controls are fairly simple: a button to switch units between Fahrenheit & Centigrade, an up and down arrow used in setting emissivity values and a key to put it into the emissivity adjustment mode. The default value was set for 0.95 which is suitable for many organic objects. If an item is more or less reflective their emission values will vary. Lastly there is a mode key that determines what the thermometer does with your readings. It can show the high reading, the low reading, the difference between the high and low reading or the average reading. You can also set a high or low alarm temperature where you will get an audible warning if that temperature os reached. You can use these capabilities to measure the surface of say a large griddle or pan to see where the high and low spots are.


In this view you can see the business end of the thermometer on the left. The trigger is in the middle just to the right of the bend. The temperature probe is shown folded back into the body. On the right end you can see the round disk which is the hinge the probe pivots out on.

For taking internal temperature readings there is a stainless steel probe which unfolds from the main body of the thermometer. When you unfold the probe and place it in the food the thermometer automatically switches mode and shows you the temperature from the probe. What I like about this probe is it gives you a very quick reading, as opposed to some other models i’ve used that take nearly a minute to show the final reading. This is particularly good when you are measuring the temperature of something you are say direct grilling over high heat. Singed knuckles are not something I am looking for in my cooks. The specs for this unit was you get a reading that is 90% accurate within 1 second and the final reading is accurate to within 1.4 degree Fahrenheit. (0.75 C) I’ve been double checking the readings with some other thermometers and they seem quite accurate. The speed comes in handy if you are worried something might be cooking too fast or if it is cold outside and you don’t want to lose all your heat keeping the lid open too long.


The digital readout of the thermometer. The 72.4 (22 C) was the surface temperature of the Dining Room table which was close to the 72 degrees the house thermometer was reading. The 0.95 value is the emissivity value which can be changed to suit the type of surface you are reading.

I always did very well on my labs in science class and it occurs to me that this thermometer may offer opportunities for some useful real world experiments. Lately I’ve been having troubles with flare ups and one of my theories is it could be related to the grill temps running too high for the amount of fat in the particular cut. I can take readings of the grill grate temperatures and see if there is some magic trigger temperature for these flare ups. Another possibility that comes to mind is measuring the grill grate temperature for quesadillas or grilled pizzas. I typically set the knobs about one mark below medium and have gotten pretty good about gauging the proper temps holding my hand 3” above the grill. With this thermometer I can find the best temperature that allows the toppings to cook before the bread is overcooked. Armed with that knowledge I can handle things one of two ways: First use the Bonjour to check the grill grate temperature each time and fine tune the temperature to the ideal reading I’ve come up with. A more practical approach might be to write down some time temperature readings and then I could have a time temperature chart. If it is 350 degrees (175 C) quesadillas take about 3 minutes, at 375 (190 C) it is 2:30 etc. Their may be some uses for winter grilling too. I can take grill temperature readings in both warm and cool weather. If I know the time for something in the summer at a given grill temp, I can take a grill reading in the winter and adjust my time to suit the temperature difference.


Here is the thermometer with the direct read temperature probe unfolded.

Many of the recipes I’ve been making have you sauté or brown items on the stove. They usually say using Medium heat. Only one problem: both my pans and the new stove mention that they are very efficient at heat transfer and to use heat settings lower than the recipe calls for. I have been winging it a bit, but once again I can now measure the pan temperature and see exactly which knob setting gets me to Medium. Another interesting possibility I could see for this unit is measuring the temperature of the grill grate of my smoker at various points. I place my grate thermometer in the front middle of the smoker and shoot for 225 degrees (110 C). Once I hit 225 (110 C), I can take readings at say nine places. A reading at the front, back and middle at the left end farthest from the side fire box; then front back and middle at the center and lastly front, back & middle at the right end nearest to the side fire box. I’ve gotten good at moving food around within the CG to speed up, slow down or even out cooking times. It might be useful to know what the actual temperature differences are.

While there is a lot of art to preparing food, there is also quite a bit of science. I need to learn the art, but if you don’t have the science part right it makes learning the art even harder. I have had this thermometer for about a month now, and a busy work schedule has kept me from cooking as much as I’d like. At this point I’ve barely scratched the surface of the possibilities for this unit. It may take a while but I plan to start using it to take readings to see if I can’t add some extra science into my grilling. I’m sure there will be one or more blogs reporting on the results.


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