Green Thai Curry Turkey
November 6, 2022
How to use a meat thermometer
November 11, 2022

What to look for in a BBQ Thermometer

One of the greatest lessons when you are learning how to smoke low and slow barbecue is how to cook to temperature, not to time.

There is an old saying when it comes to barbecue which is: Its ready when its ready, and this is so true! So much of how to cook incredible low and slow is taking it to the right doneness.

Take steak for example. The different in texture and preference between a rare steak and a well-done steak are huge! While it is easy to have a timing expectation for how to cook steak to your preferred doneness, what happens when the steak is thicker or thinner than you are expecting? How does timing account for the fat content or the cut of steak that you are cooking?

The simple answer-You can’t. And that’s where BBQ thermometers come into play. Spend the money on a good thermometer now or spend your money on overcooked and waster food later.
Photo Nov 09 2022, 5 58 23 PM
Photo Nov 09 2022, 5 56 09 PM

What kind of thermometer is best?

There are two types of thermometers that you will want for cooking great barbecue. Ambient and internal.

Ambient thermometers are like the kind that you might have in the hood or the lid of your smoker. It measures the temperature inside your cook chamber and helps you to know what temperature you are cooking your food at.

Internal thermometers are the probe that you insert into the meat itself. This kind of thermometer is used to measure the actual temperature inside of the meat itself and is critical in determining when your meat is done.

Why do I need an ambient probe?

Even if your smoker has an included ambient thermometer, you may want to use your own. Many smokers that are towards the more affordable range skimp on the thermometer that they include in their smokers. These cheap thermometers are notoriously inaccurate and can lead to unexpectedly long cook times or overcooking your food.

One of the other key factors when considering the use of an ambient probe is the position of the thermometer. Most of the time when cooking low and slow barbecue, you divide your smoker into direct and indirect zones while cooking. Typically, this means that part of your smoker, which is closest to the heat source is going to be significantly hotter than the indirect side which is further from the heat. Consider what this means for placement. An ambient probe which is close to the heat source is going to show the temperature inside your smoker as significantly higher than it is, closer to the food. By using your own ambient probe and not relying on that which is mounted in the smoker, you can get a better read.

What is the difference between thermometers?

When it comes to the typical barbecue thermometer, there are four main styles:

  • Instant Read Thermometers
  • Infrared Thermometers
  • Leave in Thermometers
  • Mounted Thermometers
  • Dual purpose Thermometers

  • Instant Read Thermometers
    As the name suggests, instant read thermometers are a style that you use when you want to immediately check the temperature of the meat but isn’t something you leave in while it cooks.

    Instant read thermometers are great for checking the temperature on multiple parts of the meat or for when you are cooking something that you will be in front of for most or all the cook time.

    Infrared Thermometers
    Infrared thermometers are a point and shoot kind of thermometer. They utilize an infrared laser to identify the surface heat of your food or a cooking surface. Most often an infrared thermometer is used to confirm how hot your pan or grill grates are, before placing your food onto it. By doing this, you can be sure that your cooking surface is going to interact with your food exactly how you are intending.

    Leave in thermometers.
    Leave in thermometers include both ambient and internal thermometers and are a style that is used by leaving it either in the cooker or in the meat, throughout the full duration of the cook.

    Leave in thermometers can come in either a wired or wireless version and will typically have a handset that comes with it for portable visibility on temperatures, or else connect with your phone via Bluetooth to share the readings remotely.

    Leave in thermometers are probably the most prominent style of thermometer to choose in barbecue and most of the time, where you will find the most value.

    Mounted Thermometers
    Mounted thermometers typically come standard with your purchase of your smoker or barbecue. They are typically mounted directly into the hood or lid of the smoker and almost always are only readable by reviewing the dial on the actual smoker itself.

    Dual purpose Thermometers
    Dual purpose thermometers are becoming more and more popular these days and it is easy to understand why. A dual-purpose thermometer measures both internal and ambient temperatures, is wireless and typically has a great battery life. Dual purpose thermometers can be a little pricier than other thermometer styles but as the old saying goes-Buy once, cry once.

    Getting the right dual-purpose thermometer can absolutely save you money in the long term.

What to look for in a good thermometer?

When it comes to buying the right thermometer for you, there are several key areas that you must consider.

  • How do you plan on using the thermometer?
  • Where will you be using the thermometer?
  • How much are you willing to spend?

  • How will you use the thermometer?

    The first thing to do is identify what you want to use the thermometer for. This will typically go a long way towards determining what kind of thermometer to purchase. If you are intending to cook low and slow meats over long periods of time, then you are probably looking for a leave in style thermometer. Ideally this will have both an internal probe and ambient probe so that you can measure both temperatures at the same time.

    If you are wanting to do more grilling, so want to understand that internal temperature of your steak and potentially the surface temperature of your cooking surface, then an instant read thermometer is what you are looking for.

    To measure the cooking surface temperature, you can purchase either an additional infrared thermometer or even better-an instant read thermometer which comes with an infrared thermometer included.

A word on rotisseries.

When cooking on a rotisserie, there is an obvious need to consider how this will impact your thermometer. Anything wired will tangle up in the spinning rod, not to mention its very difficult to place the ambient probe close to most rotisserie rods.

If you are planning on doing any rotisserie cooking, you should seriously consider a dual-purpose thermometer which will measure both your internal meat temperature and ambient temperature of the cooker-close to the meat.
Where will you use the thermometer?
When cooking low and slow barbecue, it can be a long process (Sometimes upwards of 15 or 16 hours) so you probably don’t want to be standing next to your cooker the whole time.

Most leave in style thermometers (including Dual Purpose Thermometers) will have either a handset that you can carry with you to keep an eye on your temperatures or will connect directly with your smart phone. Make sure you consider the range and battery life. The last thing you want is to cu out halfway through a cook because you walked too far away in your yard, or your battery died after only a couple of hours.

How much are you willing to spend?
The price of a thermometer will vary greatly, depending on what you want it to do. As you can imagine, the more expensive thermometers absolutely have more bells and whistles than those which are more affordable, but if you don’t need all those bells and whistles-Don’t worry about buying something more affordable.

These days there are plenty of thermometers on the market that will do great stuff for you and give you exactly what you need without breaking the bank. One of these brands that I really like is Thermopro, who have a massive range of great thermometers, for all different kinds of cooking styles. I have been using Thermopro for years because they are a great balance of quality thermometers at an affordable price.

To select which one of their thermometers is right for you, check out my review HERE. You will find the right thermometer for you.

January 9, 2023

Classic Reuben Sandwich

Invented in the early 1900s during a high stakes poker game, the Reuben has become an American staple and finds itself on menu's all over the country. Once you have taken a bite, it's not hard to understand why.
December 26, 2022

Smoked Turkey & Ham Cupcakes

These cupcakes aren't just a delicious way to use your left overs during the holidays, but are totally incredible in their own right. Think of them almost like a little mini quiche, but so much better.
December 26, 2022

Smoked Turkey and Leek Pie

If you aren't overly familiar with leeks, they are kind of like a combination between onions and cabbage. It's sweet like fried cabbage, but has a very subtle oniony flavor. This dish pairs the leek with poultry for a subtle umami flavor and bacon for that hit of salty, fattiness that makes it pop. Wrap that all up in crispy pastry-You are in business!

Ready to take your BBQ to the next level? Grab your copy of Ten ways to IMMEDIATELY improve your low and slow BBQ below.