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Which brings us now to our trusty barbecue pit. Each pit should be equipped with a reliable, sturdy and accurate bimetal thermometer, (also referred to as a chamber thermometer). This device measures the internal temperature within the cooking chamber - preferably at the vertical location where you place the meat.

Example of a Bimetal Thermometer:

Chamber ThermometersWhen cooking, say at 210 to 225 degrees (the preferred temperature range for barbecuing) you are planning for a much longer cooking period than if you are cooking at say 350 degrees (which is roasting). Meat cooking at 210 degrees obviously cooks the meat much slower than the higher temperatures. At these lower temperatures the result are meats that are more tender than if cooked at higher temperatures. If you are using an *inaccurate* thermometer, you may be cooking for long periods of time at temperatures in excess of 260-270 degrees or possibly even less than 200 degrees.


There are several methods in determining when the meat is finished. Charlie & Ruthie Knote in their Barbecuing and Sausage Making Secrets [Knote] has a method of gauging the "doneness" through a Hand/Finger test. Squeeze the soft muscle of your hand located between the thumb and first finger. With the hand relaxed the muscle is soft. As you straighten the thumb and fingers straight and test again. It is more taught. Now try the same thing with the hand made into a fist. It becomes very firm. Now feel your knuckle. Really hard. So, your resulting doneness is as follows:

  • Hand relaxed = raw to rare
  • Thumb/fingers out straight = medium
  • Tight fist = Well done.
  • Knuckle = Definitely over done.
Most cooks, however prefer the use of really knowing the exact temperature of the meat during the cooking process. Some cooks start with a slow heat and build up in the hopes of adding more smoke flavor while others begin with more heat to sear the meat and then cool the heat down for the longer term cooking process. Both methods have merit and you will have to experiment to see which one fits your style.

The key to knowing what is going on is to, know your temperature!

We suggest several types of meat thermometers to aid in developing top quality meats from the barbecue pit. First, let's talk about the Bi-metal instant read thermometer. You know what we are talking about. . . remember going to a fancy restaurant and seeing that "button thermometer" on a long stem in the pocket of the chef? It is not for show, but to USE & KNOW when the meat is done to the proper temperature for both great taste AND making sure the meat is in the safe range to serve.

Instant Read ThermometerThe Instant Read Thermometer is a "temporary use" thermometer. That means you use it periodically by opening the pit door, placing the stem in the meat and reading the temperature. You then remove it and close the door for more cooking. This process is repeated until the meat reaches the proper temperature. This should be a standard tool!

Perfect Temp ThermometerIn the past few years, there have been improvements in the outdoor cooking technology with regard to thermometers. One of the new methods of determining the temperature is through the use of the Infrared Laser Thermometer. These are instant reading thermometers that offer the chef the exact temperature of the meat without contacting the meat. You simply aim and shoot to determine your cooking surface temperatures.

One of the best features is that you know how the meal is coming along. NOTE: If it becomes obvious that you will not be reaching the correct internal temperature of the meat by the time the meal is scheduled, you can begin to slowly "crank up the heat". If the meat is cooking too fast, then "slow the sucker down". Imagine it as a peak inside the pit to see what is happening while keeping the door closed.

Other benefits include:

  • Faster cooking times - Less opening the lid and letting the heat out.
  • Greater control over cooking processes - Lets you experiment with cooking times and temperatures to achieve better results.
  • Select the exact temperature - 160 deg. 175 deg. 190 deg. Set *any* temperature desired.
  • Have more fun - There is an alarm on most models to alert you when the desired temperature has been achieved. Go relax!
  • No more over/under cooking! - BOTTOM LINE!
Wireless ThermometerThen for the lazy cook, high tech has taken off. They now offer a REMOTE thermometer. It has a remote probe for meat BUT you can take the base unit up to 100 feet away for remote viewing of the temperature. This is a wonderful feature for you guys/gals who like to watch the ball game inside and still know what is happening on the pit.

The world of thermometers is a wonderful place to be knowing that you are cooking at the proper temperatures, the meat is cooking just fine and there will not be any more overdone/underdone meals. The savings you will reap will far exceed the price of the thermometers AND it keeps you significant other and guests smiling all the way to the desert - - - if they still have any room!

For more information on cooking temperatures, we suggest visiting:
Proper Temperatures

Enjoy knowing your temps!

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Bad Weather? Too hot or cold? Know what your bbq pit is doing with these Wireless Thermometers
Bad Weather?  Too hot or cold? Know what your bbq pit is doing with these Wireless Thermometers

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Get all of Smoky Hale's wisdom and become the best cook around. Learn to do it right!

Get all of Smoky Hale's wisdom and become the best cook around. Learn to do it right!

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