02/07/09 - 21:30 Filed in: Gear | Thermometers
When I got my current gas grill and got started down the path of grilling year round in all kinds of weather, one of the best purchases I ever made was a dual probe remote read meat thermometer. I am still surprised to this day that more people don’t use them. At around $50 they are not cheap, but I would consider them an essential piece of equipment I wouldn’t want to be without. They can help keep you warm and dry during cold, wet weather . Another bonus is they can shorten your cooking time because you do not have to keep lifting the lid and loosing your heat to take in flight temperature readings. I find they make keeping those all important cooking logs easier too. Since you don’t have to keep running in and out all the time to check the temps you are more likely to take readings and take them more often.
The units pictured above are what you get when you buy a Maverick Redi Chek ET-72 dual probe remote read thermometer. There are two approximately 6”(15 cm) long stainless steel temperature probes, which you insert into the item you are cooking. There is a 3 foot (1 m) braided metal cable at the end of the probe, with a male jack that plugs into a small black plastic transmitter. You can see the cables from the chicken in the picture above connecting into it. This transmitter has a one line LCD readout that shows the temperature form one probe at a time. Since only one temperature is shown, the unit cycles back and forth between the two readings. This unit can transmit it’s signal to a remote receiver that has alarms you can set to alert you when certain things happen. The range is said by the manufacturer to be 75 feet (23 m) -, and I’ll have more on that later. You turn the two units on in a specific order so they synchronize with one another. Once synched, the receiver can be set to the type of meat and the degree of doneness you would like. An alarm goes off when you reach the temperature you have set. Like the transmitter, the receiver shows the results from only one probe at a time. Maverick calls these probes Sensors. There is a switch that allows you to toggle the display between Sensor 1 and Sensor 2. People often ask: What happens if you are viewing Sensor 1 and Sensor 2 reaches your temperature. Easy answer: The alarm for the other sensor goes off. There are other controls to set cooking timers. You can toggle between the 3 types of timer: One counts up from 0, one counts down to zero and there is a clock. The countdown timer can sound an alarm too. You can use all 3 types of times simultaneously, but at any one time you can only view one timer onscreen.
For this brisket cook I am using both units. In the left picture the ET-73 (white) is hooked up to the grate probe and the ET-72 (black) is reading two temperature probes which are inserted into the meat like any other meat thermometer. The grate probe can be seen to the left of the brisket attached to the grill grate via its inverted V-shaped clip.
When I bought my smoker I immediately bought a Maverick ET-73 Redi Chek smoker thermometer. It is similar but different in two important ways. The first is it has one food probe and one grate probe. The grate probe is a short metal rod which is held about a half inch up of the grate by an inverted V-shaped clamp which clips to the grill grate. The second difference is you can leave the transmitter for this one out in the rain and the snow. It is called weatherproof by the manufacturer. This makes some sense since smokes can last all day making you more likely to run into wet weather. The door to the battery compartment is gasketed and there are little rubber inserts that can be inserted into either jack if there is not a probe plugged into it. When smoking it is very important to measure the temperature down at the grate level, not at the top of the lid where the built in thermometer resides. I wrote about this in a blog 4 years ago, but to briefly rehash it: The temperature of the lid thermometer in my smoker can be up to 75 degrees (42 C) lower than the grate level temperature. To this you might say OK so what, just run the temps so you drive the built in thermometer 75 degrees higher than the temperature you are shooting for. What I didn’t mention yet was the fact if the direct sun hits the black cast iron lid it can heat the lid up by up to 75 degrees (42 C). So in this case the lid thermometer matches the grate level temp. Bottom line: The only way to accurately measure the temperature at the grate lave is to use a thermometer actually at the grate level. So once again the two difference are the ET-73 uses one probe for the grate temp and one for your food, plus it is waterproof. My biggest complaint about the ET-72 thermometer is the fact it isn’t waterproof the way the ET-73 is. You must take precautions to protect it from the elements. I will list some other Do’s and Don’ts later in this blog.
One difference between the two units is the transmitter for the ET-73 is intended for a smoker which can be in use for 24 hours so it is gasketed & waterproof, the ET-72 must be protected from rain or snow. In the picture above the ET-73 unit is in the back exposed to the elements. The ET-72 unit is in the small lidded plastic container. And me I’m in a warm cozy Kitchen for most of this.
So the procedure for the two thermometers is similar. You insert the probes into your food so the tip of the probe is in the vicinity of where you want to take your reading. Nothing different here than a regular thermometer. If you are using the ET-73 smoker thermometer you place the grate probe on the grill where you want to take the grate reading. When you are ready to go you plug the jacks into the transmitter, then synch the transmitter with the receiver. At this point you can bring the receiver inside and set the type of meat and the doneness and end temperature. On the ET-73 you can also set a special alarm for the grate probe where you set a hi and low temperature. What is nice about this whole setup is you can be inside the house where it is warm, dry and toasty and still keep an eye on things. In my single story ranch the alarms can be heard from every room of the house. This is very useful on long indirect grilling or smoking sessions where the meat will be left on the grill or smoker for long periods of time. You can be off doing other things and the alarms should sound it anything is amiss.
The black unit on the left is the transmitter for the ET-72. The probes plug into the side and it has a single LCD readout that switches back and forth.
I will end this entry with a list of Do’s and Don’ts, but two items you will have to contend with is wireless range and weather. The units are rated for up to 75’ (23 m) transmission range. That may be possible under ideal weather conditions, outdoors, with no intervening walls. Now welcome to the real world. I have found that the type of construction and the weather can have a big effect. When I first got my Maverick ET-73 I was able to bring it into my office in the far corner of my wood framed house-a total distance of about 60 feet. Every once in a while it would lose it’s signal but it generally worked. After 6 months of using it this way, I got my house resided. As part of that installation they put up foil faced insulated sheathing. Suddenly I had trouble getting a signal in the near corner of the house perhaps 15 feet (4.5 m) away. It isn’t the Maverick’s fault, blame the metal in the foil-faced insulation. I used to get a WiFi signal out in the backyard from a WiFi base station located in that same Office and now I don’t. I actually hang the units off the mullions in the glass at the top half of my Kitchen door. That WiFi base station is supposed to have a range of at least 300’ and the foil faced sheathing interfered with the signal too. So your distance will vary depending on the type of construction of your building. If you have a window with a line of site to your grill or smoker you may still be OK. The other point to make here is that you may not know right away you have lost your signal. The way these units both work is they only transmit data when the temperature changes. I’m sure this is to help their battery life. There is a time out after which the unit will display a “ - - -” indicating it has lost the link. I have gotten good at keeping my smoker around 225 (110 C), but if the temps don’t change after a while I’ll pop outside to see if the temp on the outside unit is within a degree of the indoor unit. Sometimes there is a lag when the temp first changes, so a degree off is nothing to worry about. Lastly cold weather can sometimes affect your range and it does affect battery life. The really cold weather in the single digits or teens probably cuts down the amount of power the battery has, which in turn can effect the range. So be more vigilant checking that you haven’t lost your synch in the cold weather.
If you needed further prof that the ET-73 smoker thermometer was waterproof this picture is it. I cooked this pulled pork in a monsoon, but other than adding more charcoal I got to monitor things from the warm dry Kitchen.
As promised some Do’s and Don’ts about using remoter read thermometers. Most of these comments apply to both units, but if they are specific to one or the other I will note it.
Maverick Remote Read Thermometer Do’s and Don’ts DO be careful about proper thermometer placement. No different than any meat thermometer you need to be taking the measurement in the proper location.
DO insert the probe at least one inch (2.5 cm) into the food.
DO experiment to find the best receiving location in the house. The type of construction will have a big effect on the wireless range you get.
DO try positioning the unit in front of a window with direct line of sight to the grill if you are having trouble with range.
DO have spare batteries around. You do not want to be running outside in the middle of a cold rainy night to take the temperatures manually cause the battery died. In fact if the grate probe dies you really don’t have an alternative way to get an accurate reading.
DO occasionally check to see that you haven’t lost the synch if the temperatures remain stable for a long period of time.
DO set the final doneness temperature you want. On the ET-72 that is all you have to do, but in the ET-73 you must actually arm the alarm.
DO set the proper doneness temp that YOU want on the ET-72. This unit has settings for each type of meat: Beef, Pork, Lamb, Poultry etc. Choosing the type of meat then gives you preset doneness values for Rare, Medium Rare etc. which can be convenient. However these presets are based on the USDA doneness recommendations and your recipe may have different temps they want you to use. The ET-72 allows you to manually dial in your doneness temp if it doesn’t coincide with the presets.
DO remember to set the high and low temperature alarms for the grate probe of the ET-73. You set the high temp first, then the low temp and finally remember to arm the alarm.
DO use both probes in the same piece of meat. If you aren’t sure if you got the probe just right in the thickest part of the turkey’ thigh put one in the other thigh or in the breast meat. (ET-72)
DO use two probes if you have two different pieces of meat. Grills and smokers can have hot and cold spots and you can use the readings from the multiple probes to help you move the food around to even out the temperature and therefor cooking time. (ET-72) Actually if you have both the ET-72 and ET-73 you’ve got 3 probes available to you.
DO still keep a instant read thermometer around to double check the doneness of the food. Like any other thermometer it is still possible to insert them in the wrong place, say next to a bone.
DO use these units in your indoor oven. This is another great use for these units.
DO use these units for combination direct/indirect cooks where you sear the meat on direct heat and cook it indirectly. If you are worried about the flames damaging the probe wires, you can leave the probes out during the direct sear.
DO wear gloves when removing the probes from the meat. The probe is as hot as your meat is.
DON’T remove the probe by pulling on the probe wire. Grasp the bent metal end portion of the probe.
DO be careful with positioning of the braided wire leads from the probe to the transmitter.
DON’T kink the cable or position it in such a way that the lid acts like a chopper.
DON’T position the lead where it will be subject to exposure to direct flame. The leads can take high temperatures, but are not made to be kept in direct flames. The leads to the temperature probe in the ET-73 smoker unit are thinner and I have had one burn out. Maverick does sell an identical replacement probe, also one with a heavier gauge wire which I would recommend.
DON’T put the remote transmitter too close to the hot grill lid. It is plastic and it will melt.
DON’T put the probe under water when cleaning. Clean it with a moistened cloth.
DON’T get the braided wire or plug wet.
DON’T get the transmitter of the ET-72 wet, it is not water proof. I’ve put mine in a zip lock bag at times. I also used a small lidded plastic container with a hole cut in it to pass the leads.
DON’T forget to unplug the lead from the transmitter before you place it in the grill
DON’T forget to bring the transmitter indoors after you have removed the food from the grill.
If you own a smoker or if you do any indirect grilling on your grill here is one last DO:
DO get yourself a remote read thermometer. It will change your grilling or smoking life in a HUGE way and you will wonder how you ever lived without them. This sounds like an exaggeration but it isn’t. You can use the time save you standing out babysitting the grill or smoker to do other things.
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