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

Measuring Up

The combination of some free time on my hands, the desire to grill, together with some cold and windy weather has seen me find some new ways of using two of my thermometers. The thermometer shown above: the Bonjour Laser Probe Combo Thermometer is proving to be very useful indoors as well. This short blog entry will describe the new uses I have found for both the Bonjour and the Maverick Redi-Chek ET-72 dual probe remote read thermometer.

The Bonjour’s fold out probe lets you take a reading that is 90 percent accurate within 1 second. This is very handy to take progress reading when doing a rotisserie cook in real cold weather.

Lets start with the Bonjour. It is turning out to be a great purchase. I keep finding more uses for it. Now I described the way it works in a previous blog: HIGH TECH THERMO and I will leave it to you to visit that entry if you want to learn more. The main reason I bought it: Very quick readings from the instant read probe is invaluable in the winter. This thermometer give you a reading that is 90 percent accurate within 1 second. This is great if you are checking on the progress of an item you can’t use remote read probes such as items cooked on the rotisserie. You can’t use wired probes like the Maverick has, so you need an instant read. A 90 percent reading in 1 second is more than enough accuracy when you are tracking an item to make sure it isn’t cooking faster than you expected. Taking progress readings in that short amount of time is great in the winter since you don’t need to keep the lid open very long at all.

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I’ve long known the Maverick’s indoor unit is great for saying warm and dry in bad weather, but the outdoor base station is also great for quick direct cooks in cold weather.

The Bonjour also takes infra-red readings of the surface temperature of items. You aim it at the surface and a red laser beam shows you where you are measuring. This has proved valuable in the last couple weeks where we have had some stretches of cold and windy weather. I ended up direct grilling some pork chops on a day where the winds were steady in the 15-20MPH (24-32 kph) range and gusting 40 MPH (64 kph). Normally I can judge by the lid thermometer when the grill is ready to use, but not this day. The cold winds were seeping into the grill and affecting the temps at the top area of the lid where the lid thermometer lives. I cracked the lid slightly and shot the temperature of the grill grate to see what the temps were at the cooking surface. I was a bit surprised when they were far higher than I ever would have guessed. In fact I actually ended up dialing down the burners a little bit, because I didn’t want to burn the chops before they were cooked through. It is good to take a grate reading every time you grill in cold weather. The air temperature affects the propane pressure, which affects how hot the flame is on a given day. I will describe later in this blog how I used the Maverick thermometers to help cook the chops. I have used the infra red surface readings now several times in the cold weather to take quick, accurate readings of the grate temps. It is quicker, more accurate and I lose less heat than holding my hand above the grate and counting “One Mississippi, Two Mississippi”.

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Checking my pan temperatures with the Bonjour’s infra-red capabilities showed me I needed to set the knob to the lowest setting to get the desired 275 degrees to cook up a perfect pancake every time. I haven’t burned one since.

The Bonjour’s infra-red measurement capabilities have been proving invaluable indoors too. I was having trouble with some pancakes I was making from scratch. It has been years since I made pancakes, but I did remember 275 (110 C) is the ideal temperature. The first couple batches I made I was having trouble with them starting to burn before they were really ready to flip. Finally I took out the Bonjour and shot some readings of the pan. I was quite surprised to find out that with my Calphalon pans on my glass cooktop, I needed to dial the heat down to the lowest setting to get 275 (110 C) in the pan. Since finding out that information I haven’t burned a single pancake. My father was having trouble using a griddle straddling two burners on his stove. I let him take some readings this weekend with my Bonjour unit. His findings were similar to mine. He needed to set his burners much lower than he had been. He also found there was one corner where the temps ran much lower due to the rear burner being smaller in diameter than the front. He now won’t cook with that corner, but can use it to slow down the cooking process if one item is going too fast. I can also see using this thermometer in the nice weather to measure the temperature of a pan over my grill’s side burner. I find getting the heat just right on the side burner can be a little fussy. Being able to take a quick accurate reading of the pans surface temperature will be great.

Using the Maverick’s temperature probes to direct grill these pork chops allowed me to pull them at the perfect temperature despite the weather conditions.

It was only last winter that I discovered I was actually able to direct grill on my latest gas grill, so I don’t have a whole lot of background direct grilling below about 60 degrees. I have used my Maverick dual probe thermometer for years during the winter to help with indirect grilling large cuts like roasts or even smaller items like pork chops that I have smoked. Often items that you direct grill tend to be smaller and are not always a consistency you can use with a temperature probe with. But last winter I made some Tri-Tips where you start them off with a direct grill sear and finish indirectly. This was a great use for the temperature probes and the meat turned out perfectly cooked every time. Fast forward to this winter. Last week I’d purchased some 1 1/4” thick pork chops which I was going to direct grill using Steven Raichlen’s PORK CHOP CALZONES recipe from Primal Grill. I hadn’t paid a whole lot of attention to the weather, because unless it is extreme conditions, it is not going to affect me. Well this day brought bitter cold temperatures, but even worse the winds were steady at 15-20 MPH (24-32 kph) and gusts up to 40 MPH (64 kph). I decided to move ahead with grilling the chops with a minor change. I had a couple extra chops, so I decided I was going to do a test run for lunch for me. If the test run was successful I would make the rest for supper as originally planned. The recipe gave a time and a final temperature you were shooting for, but I was quite concerned that with these conditions the time might be a crap shoot. Plus if I took the meat temperature with an instant read thermometer (even the Bonjour), I’d lose too much heat and it would take the grill a while to warm back up. I decided the chops were thick enough I could try using my remote read thermometers. This would allow me to track the temperatures continuously and give me a better idea when the actual midpoint was. Most importantly they would tell me when the chops were perfectly cooked without having to open the grill. I just had to make sure I did not dislodge the probes when I flipped the chops. The other point to look out for was that the probe wires should not be subjected to direct flame. Keeping flareups down would be important. Where this was a short cook I would not bother using the remote unit inside the house. Just the base station that the probes plug into out at the grill.

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The dry run on the two pork chops shown in the picture just above these, showed me I’d have no trouble grilling the 4 pork chops for supper where it was colder and just a windy.

When I fired up the gas grill I lit 4 burners, not 2 as I really needed. This gave me 1 extra lit burner on either side of the middle 2 burners of the grill where I intended to cook. I figured this would give me a cushion from the wind. I let the grill heat up for 20 minutes and despite having 4 burners on high, I was surprised to see the lid temperature was only 425 (220 C). I took a quick grate reading with the Bonjour infra-red thermometer and was even more surprised to see that the grate temperature was 780 degrees (416 C) which was hotter than I wanted to use. Despite the low lid temps I actually dialed down the heat. The chops cooked within the time frames indicated in the recipe and I was able to pull them at a perfect 160 (71 C) degrees. The chops were moist and tasty with no drama at all during the cook. I just had to be careful with the probe wires when I flipped them. I got no flareups which might not have been the case if I’d not dialed down the grate temps. It was still windy and even colder at supper, but the cook was uneventful. I used the knob settings from the afternoon after I’d dialed them down. A quick reading with the Bonjour infra-red thermometer confirmed I had similar grate temps to what I used to cook with in the afternoon. Other than it being dark out, this round was identical to the afternoons run.

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Using the Maverick temperature probes to indirect grill these small chicken thighs allowed me to know they weren’t done at the 30 minutes the recipe called for, but were perfect after 145 degrees (63 C).

Two days later I made a recipe called Chicken Thighs Diavolo. It starts off with a 30 minute indirect cook using medium high heat and finishes with a quick sear under medium high heat. Once again I used the Maverick temperature probes to help out. While the thighs weren’t huge they were big enough to let me get good placement. I picked the two biggest thighs to put the probes in since they would take the longest to cook. My plan was to take the chicken to 150 degrees (66 C) indirectly and then pull the probes before finishing the meat under direct heat. My reason for this was that you also brushed the meat with some of the marinade when you direct grilled it. This often results in flareups which, as I mentioned, is not good for the probe wires. I was very glad I used the probes. The recipe talked about 30 minutes of indirect grilling and in my case it took 45 minutes with my pieces of chicken in my weather conditions. In this case I did use the remote unit and monitored things from the warmth of the Kitchen.

I am happy to see I am finding more uses for my thermometers, they are making cooks in extreme weather be almost non-events and I am getting some great grilled food in the middle of the winter. I used to give up certain grilled foods for the winter and would dread the coming of winter. Now it isn’t a matter of thinking: “What CAN I make on the grill today” it is more of a matter of “What do I WANT to make today.


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