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Thermometer Training???

edited November -1 in EggHead Forum
To the collective:[p]I own a polder, a polder clone, a bbq battery-operated fork thermometer, a roasting thermometer (leave it in throughout the cook type), and 3 different instant reads. No matter how many I try and how I try them, I cannot seem to get accurate reads on my food. I have calibrated each (except the silly fork), and all seem accurate when put to the boiling water test. I know that I am to keep the probe tips centered in the thickest part of the meat and away from the bones. Still, my readings are not reliable. For example, I recently cooked steaks that were obviously on the well done side of medium, but the instant read indicated 115F. On the other hand, I have roasted chicken until the polder read 175 in the thigh, but the chicken breast was pink, and the juices were not running clear. The thigh was not much diffferent. Grrrrrrrrrrrrr.[p]I love my BGE, and I feel quite confident when cooking by time and dome temp. But I would like to try more sophisticated cooking. Yet, until I become more skilled at temperature checking, I am reluctant. I realize this is an apparently easy task for most of you out there, but the skill has thus far eluded me.[p]Can anyone help? I am looking for suggestions on how I might improve my temperature checking skills. Are there exercises I can try with my degree detecting toys before ruining another fine fowl or marvelous meat on my BGE?[p]TIA,
E1

Comments

  • MikeyMikey Posts: 56
    Eggcitable One,
    Just to let you know you are not alone. I too am trying to learn the relationship between time, dome temp, food type/size, and internal temp.[p]Being a rookie and one who leans towards the cautious side, I always err on the side of being overdone. I'd rather it be dry than make anyone sick. But I am trying to get better at hitting the mark and making the best food I can.[p]It seems to me that cooking is a strange mixture of art and science. With precise measurements and control, you could theoretically cook the perfect meal every time. But that isn't feasible in the real world.[p]I figure it just takes practice. The more you cook food on the egg, the more you know how looks when it is done, the way it smells or feels. That's where the art thing comes in. Until then though, I'll keep using my thermometers, (I have 2 types, a polder clone and an analog instant read) and eventually I think I'll get it.[p]I am sure some of the more knowledable fellas here will jump in with some good advice. Just hang in there and have fun. [p]Mike[p]

  • Nature BoyNature Boy Posts: 8,295
    Eggcitable One,
    I have a few suggestions that might help:
    1) Pick one out of your collection and use it, and only it. Get to know it well.
    2) Make as many observations about the meat, in addition to your thermo reading...for example wiggle the leg of the chicken, or poke to see if the juice runs clear.
    3) Assuming that your thermo reads close to 212 in boiling water, you might try to try different pokes in the meat, and see what you can deduct after a couple of readings. Remember it takes a minute or two after you put the probe in to get a good reading.
    4) Experiment and observe.[p]Hope that helps a tad. A thermo should be your buddy, so get to know him well.
    Good luck in your quest for perfect meat!
    NB

    DizzyPigBBQ.com
    Twitter: @dizzypigbbq
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  • JimWJimW Posts: 450
    Eggcitable One,
    I would try using 2 or more of your toys on the same piece of meat and see if they agree. If not, it is possible that you have some bad probes (for whatever reason). Try it on a pork butt or something you can independently test with a fork twist for example.
    JimW

  • Char-WoodyChar-Woody Posts: 2,642
    Eggcitable One, this is a eggciting subject. Let me assure you as others have that the temperature delimia is everywhere. Try going thru a store and selecting a outdoor thermometer. Every dang one of em reads differently. So to find a accurate one, you would have to take along a boiling keg of water and dunk everyone of em. They frown on that and want you to take yer chances...and so you do. :-)[p]Five yar ago...thermometers were kinda extinct here unless it was a regular stem food thermometer. Polders have been quite accurate in the past, and when checked in boiling water as prescribed you can get pretty dang close. If you have one that reads inaccurately + or - 5 degrees (take it back if too erradic) then mark that one for reference or remember it and add or deduct for the true meat temp.[p]180F is the thigh temperature for a clear fluid doneness in poultry. If all else fails then leave the bird in till you can twist a drumstick out of the socket, I guarantee its done then. :-) Most old timers use the handshake method for poultry. When you can loosely shake the drum, its done.[p]I never use a thermometer on steak,chops or burgers. I may be just a tad off on the degrees when finished, but I can generally do them very close to most stages by timing and heat exposure temps.[p]Not much help but my 2 pence worth...
    C~W

  • Eggcitable One,
    I think it's probably your technique. When you test the temp of say, a steak, how do you insert the probe? From the top, or from the side? It should be inserted from the side so you can get exactly in the middle of the steak or chop, and cover the first inch or so of the probe in the steak. If you're trying to measure from the top of the chop or steak, it is very hard to be sure you are measuring the temp at the exact center of the meat. As for fowl, I always measure in the breast. That way you have a much better chance of hitting very near the center of the breast as opposed to trying to hit in the exact center of the thigh. I've found hitting the exact right spot in the thigh to be tricky. Also - as someone else mentioned, stick a few spots for the next couple cooks. You'll get a feel for where to stick and also how different the temp can read from one spot to another. (Sometimes very close to one another.)[p]grant

  • hounddoghounddog Posts: 126
    I agree with what the Nature Boy suggests. It is a corollary to "know your fire." Learn to use one of those suckers well and THEN branch out and decorate the house with extra thermometers. On that note, I recommend using an old timey dial type over the electric. Not because they are better but because I expect to have to be more patient with them. And patience seems to produce better results.[p]The other thought I have is when in doubt it is always better to quit early. I can cook it more but I can't cook it less once it comes out. And if it isn't done yet, you can always loudly blame the spouse and go fix the problem.
    It will endear you to one and all. The exception to this rule is on slow cooks, but, if you follow the suggestions, slow cooks usually become obvious based on things that aren't temperature related -- feel, time, color, whatever.[p]If the above suggestions don't suit, then I advise you to go out and buy more thermometers. When in doubt, it is always a good idea to throw more money at the problem by buying new equipment! <s> [p]

  • SpinSpin Posts: 1,375
    Eggcitable One,[p]Keep on cooking and keep using the gauges. You already have indicated that you are learning the look and feel of a properly cooked meal. You posted because you are also learning the feel of the use and problems with an internal temperature gauge.[p]Better gauges (read $$$) give truer readings, but erroneous temperature readings are much more influenced by the meals themselves than by the accuracy of the gauge. Each piece of meat cooks sightly differently than another identical cut. The temperature readings in a single cut (taken in different areas) can be dramatically different. Heat doesn't move into meat evenly. Fat tends to read cooler than meat and bones tend to transfer heat faster than meat (IMHO).[p]Learning the use and feel of the gauge is a part of the growing process. It sounds like you are doing quite well. Keep cooking ;-).[p]Spin
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