FANFOOD RULES: #4. Use a Digital Meat Thermometer

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In a nut shell, food is ready to eat when it is safe and the target temperature is reached.

If you fail to plan you plan to fail.

It’s vital that you have a target for each and every food item that you prepare and have a good tool to measure it. For example, a medium rare steak is 130 to 135°F in the center regardless of how thick, how much it weighs, or what temperature it is cooked at.

Go out and get yourself an instant read digital thermometer today!

Cooking without good digital thermometers is like driving at night without headlights. Dial thermometers are technology from the 1800s and they are often way off.

Here are things to look for when you go shopping for a good thermometer:

  • Accuracy. Bad data is worse than no data, so it’s important to know where the reading is coming from. For a food thermometer, you want the sensitive part of the meat thermometer to be small and in the tip of the probe. The temp just below the surface can be a lot different than the temp in the center of a chicken breast. For an oven thermometer, you want the temperature reading from right next to where the food is being cooked. A thermometer in the dome of your grill will not tell you the temp that the meat is experiencing 6″ below the probe on the grate just over the coals. It can be a lot hotter down there. Dial thermometers are just not reliable and they are usually located way above the food
  • Speed to read. How long does it take to get a good reading? This is especially important for instant read meat thermometers. Five seconds or less would be nice. The best work in two seconds or less.
  • Temperature range. If you’re going to spend money on a thermometer, it would be nice if it could read the temperature of the meat, the oven, a hot grill, in your freezer, or in an ice bath, and in boiling oil.
  • Length of the probe. Meat thermometers need to be able to get the temp in the middle of big roasts such as hams and pork shoulders.
  • Adjustable. Some thermometers can be calibrated
  • Water resistant and easy to clean. You don’t need barbecue sauce and soapy water in the inner works. Braided cables can fail if they get wet or if they are crimped or if they are smashed by the grill lid.
  • Ease of use. Is it easy to read? If it has lots of buttons and settings, can you remember how to use them? Is there a backlight for night use?
  • Price. There are some decent units for under $20 and others can cost almost $200 with attachments.
  • Timer. Although not necessary, some digital thermometers also have timers with alarms. Very handy.
  • Warranty and customer service. What is the warranty? Does the manufacturer have replacemet parts and sell them at a reasonable price? Do they have a good reputation?

 

Thermometers are as important as knives and forks.

 

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) publishes recommended meat temperatures. It is an admirable effort, but it is oversimplified and slightly misleading in order to make it easier for the public to remember. Even so, everyone reprints USDA numbers because they are afraid of being sued or because they just don’t understand the issues.

No professional chef would use the USDA guide for everything. For example, USDA recommends a minimum temp of steak to be 145°F, which is classified by chefs as “medium” and by many streak lovers as overcooked. “Medium rare”, 130°F to 135°F, is the temp range at which steaks are at their most tender, juicy, and flavorful. If restaurants cooked steaks to 145°F minimum, every steakhouse in the nation would go out of business.

In fact, USDA has changed the numbers several times. As recently as 2011 they reduced the temp for pork. Clearly the pork lobby has more clout than the beef lobby.

On the other hand, USDA recommendations for ground meats and poultry should be adhered to closely. The sad fact is that the risk of contaminated chicken, turkey, and ground meat is too high to take chances, especially with the young, old, or immune compromised.

 

Here is a handy Meat Temperature Guide from the guys over at amazingribs.com:

click to zoom

click here to order this guide in magnet form for your fridge

 

Here are some good Digital Thermometers

SPLASH-PROOF SUPER-FAST™ THERMAPEN™

here is a video of it in action:

 

 

 RT600C Super-fast Water-resistant Digital Pocket Thermometer

 

iGrill Grilling/Cooking Barbecue Thermometer with Dual Probe

 

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Cowboy Steak

 

This is a fantastic way to add a southwestern flare to a porterhouse steak. With a quick sear on the grill, the chipotle paste is locked in making this dish very flavorful.

 

INGREDIENTS

2 pounds porterhouse steak
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoons chili powder
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

 

PREPARATION

Combine garlic, chili powder, salt, oil and pepper in a small bowl. Mix until it forms a thick paste. Rub paste over the entire surface of the steak. Wrap steak in plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours. Preheat grill. Grill steak over as high a heat as you can for 2 minutes. Flip and continue grilling for 2 more minutes. Move to a cooler part of the grill or reduce heat to medium. Continue grilling until done. About 4 minutes per side.

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