Thermometer always needed?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by brooksy, Sep 24, 2014.

  1. brooksy

    brooksy Master of the Pit

    How many of you can tell when the meat is done without the use of a thermometer? I've gotten pretty good at this little trick over the years and its a good thing to know. Sometimes you don't always have one handy and you should be able to tell when it's done without having to rely on this tool. If you have any tips or tricks on how you can tell if your meat is done without the use of a thermometer share them with every one.
  2. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    When cooking meats that can carry pathogens harmful to health...... NOT using a thermometer is asking for a trip to the hospital....

    I can tell when ribs are done by the "PULL BACK" on the bone... For steak, I use the "TOUCH" test to make sure it is blue to rare.... for things I am wanting to pull, I use the "TOOTHPICK" test or "BONE PULL" test....
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2014
  3. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I have overcome this by placing a ThermaPen digital thermometer by the side of my oven in the kitchen for use with general day-to-day cooking - and another one with my standard smoking equipment in the shed/smokery. That way there is always one handy.

    Before we could be as finely precise with internal temperature as we can be now, most untrained people relied on the handed down wisdoms like "20 minutes per pound plus 20 minutes". This usually resulted in the food being safe however it was usually also over cooked.

    For the people that have always cooked just by "experience" and "feel" there is no guarantee that what they have provided has actually always been totally "safe". Whereas their food may not have actually killed or hospitalised anyone, the symptoms of food related illness can take different forms in different people - and can take anything from 1 hour up to 10 days to materialise. They can also be fairly mild with common symptoms including nausea and vomiting, stomach cramps, back aches or fatigue. Because of the delay in onset these can often be mistaken for a hangover resulting from all the beer that was also drunk or, a bout of the flu or maybe simply a bug that is doing the rounds.

    It is all to do with managing risk. I choose to manage mine using technology as it is readily available. If it wasn't I would have to do without but then I would increase my margins of safety accordingly using other non-technology based methods.
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2014
  4. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I don't use a therm on hot & fast things, like Steak, Burgers, Hot Dogs, Sausages I heat up on the grill, etc, etc.

    However most things that go in my smoker get a Maverick probe in at least one of the pieces, and the other pieces get checked with my Thermapen before removing.

    Ribs done at 3-2-1 or 2-2-1 don't need it because they are well over safe temp by then & don't need to go to 200* + to be able to pull, like Butts.

  5. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I am the same for Steaks and ribs and don't bother using the thermometer. However I do tend to use a Thermopen for burgers and sausages - especially when cooking in quantity for a large number of people.
  6. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I never use a thermometer for anything grilled on gas or charcoal.  I use a clock, my eyeballs, and an occasional knuckle.  If I smoke or roast on the grill though, out comes the thermometer. 

    In the smoker I will always use a thermometer, either food probe or chamber temp, preferably both if appropriate.  I wouldn't smoke without one. 
  7. I use a thermometer.  My wife suffers from Erythrophobia (fear of red), when it comes to meats.  A medium, or medium-well is not permitted to land on the plate of SWMBO.  I recently got a good fix for her phobia; her steak/burger gets tossed in the sous vide cooker till done, then gets the final sear applied on the grill. This way her well-done meat does not turn out desiccated.
  8. mdboatbum

    mdboatbum Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I've been using a thermo for a few years now. Have a maverick and a thermapen. Before, I would use the time, touch, guess and pray methods and got the predicted results. Usually overcooked, dried out roasts and chickens, and under done burgers. Now I get the temperature right every time, unless I get distracted and screw up. It may not have made me a good cook, but at least I'm a fairly consistent cook now.
  9. tropics

    tropics Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    30 + yrs using some type of thermo probe, had a piece of bloody chicken one time ( I didn't make it). Have not eaten Chicken til super Bowl this yr.
  10. brooksy

    brooksy Master of the Pit

    I never used to use a thermometer. There are ways to tell when meat is done. For butts wiggle the bone. For ribs the rip test. Chicken the loose joint test. Obviously steaks get the finger poke. Hamburgers get poked as well. I am sure there will be the food safety police saying I've just been lucky but 14 years is one heck of a lucky streak.
  11. Hello Brroksy.  I grew up watching the old men back in Texas smoking and grilling.  I have been doing this for almost 40 years now.  Back in those days Dad, Grandpa and Uncles didn't have the fancy meat therms.  We were young boys and saw the old men poke the meat and put their hand on the smoker to judge temp and "doneness".  Of course we followed along and tried it to learn.  Got a good burn on my hand once or twice till I learned how.  That's a lot of years experience.  When we had our weekend meet here in the U.K. I did a smallish brisket using no therms at all.  Just to show folks it can be done the old school dumb hard way.  The brisket wasn't dry and tasted good but was over cooked.  It should have sliced but just fell apart.  I went too long for fear I might not get it completely done and someone might get sick.  If I had used a therm that brisket would have turned out perfect.  I always say pay attention to such things as how the coals look, put your hand on the smoker to judge temp, the heat coming from the exhaust,  and then the "feel" of the meat when done.  That way if your therm packs up during your smoke you have some reference to finish the cook.  The point is with experience I still messed up that brisket.  It would be irresponsible for us to start posting things saying a therm is not needed.  You never know how "new" some folks are.  They may have never smoked anything before.  The last thing we want is for someone to get sick from following our advice.  I ALWAYS tell folks to get a good therm and use it!  Many folks don't have years of experience to fall back on.  I have done many things with the grill and smoker I would NEVER post on the open forum!  If you want to exchange ideas on this please do it by PM.  Remember you never know who is reading the thread and what experience they have.  I have one friend here who saw me remove a 15lb brisket from the smoker.  He then decided that if I could do it, any idiot should be able too.  Luckily I was invited to his first attempt. Thankfully I showed up early to help out.  The food safety issues were so much so that I almost suggested he throw the brisket and chicken away.  Sorry for the novel.  Just my 2 cents.  Keep Smokin!

  12. brooksy

    brooksy Master of the Pit

    Hey Danny! Your post is what I was shooting for with my post. I have bought a thermometer since I've joined this site and would suggest all the guys and girls new to smoking get one and listen to the fine suggestions from the members here as far as temp to pull their meat off. I was just curious how many old school quers we have that know how to read their meats by touch and looks of everything. These are tricks it takes years to learn and wouldn't suggest any newbie try to judge their cook by. PSA get a good therm kids! !!
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2014
  13. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I use the touch test for thin items like steaks, chops, burgers, same applies for these whether cooked hot or slow.

    For ribs it's the bend test.

    For wings it's the when they look right (keep in mind I cook them hot and know that they would be done regardless).

    For large cuts whether hot or cold it's therm all the time. For me a large cut is anything over say 2" thick. Tri tip, pork tenderloin, eould be the thinnest. Pork butt, bottom round, etc thicker.

    Then there's brisket. Cook to temp, but also rely on the toothpick test. I've had some be done at 185, others at 200+.

    Now how about those guys that cure meats and pull out core samples, to sniff and taste! A whole other ball game there!
  14. This Thermapen has become the most used tool in my house....

    ...... Smoked meats, thick burgers, steaks, thin fish fillets perfect every time. I get a lot more compliments on the doneness of my smoked and grilled meats.
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2014
  15. c farmer

    c farmer Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Bout the only thing I use the meat probe on my mav is for pulled pork or smoking my cured meat.

    I use the instant read alot.

    Case's post is alot how I cook.
  16. forddood

    forddood Newbie

    The only thing I don't use a thermometer on is ribs and small pieces of chicken, like wings.

    A bout with food poisoning at a company catered lunch has made me deathly serious about making sure my food is safe.  And the overall quality of what I turn out has gone way up since I started using a good instant read thermometer and a thermometer for the temp of my cooker.

    I use the ubiquitous Thermapen and the Maverick ET732.
  17. jarjarchef

    jarjarchef Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I was tought the old school way that Danny learned. If it was not for how the company I work is about logging temps, I could honestly say I would probably not use a thermometer much. Cooking for me is all about the touch and feel. I can do teaspoon and tablespoon measurements with the palm of my hand, how I was tought.

    I will say for those that are new or did not grow up with that style of cooking. Buy a good thermometer and learn how to use it, as Dave said you can run a very good chance of getting someone very sick. Proper food safety is no accident!
  18. hickorybutt

    hickorybutt Smoking Fanatic

    Ribs are the only meat I never probe. I could probably get by with basic examination and be okay if I didn't have a therm. But I probe just to be okay.

    As with the methods that Dave described...
    Pork shoulder - bone has to feel like it will pull right out
    Brisket - toothpick goes in like butter (I've yet to master this 'feel')
    Chicken - if the wing pulls off freely. Now I'm not advising on this method since it isn't tried and true and poultry certainly isn't something you want to undercook. But I've found that if the wing pulls right off then the bird is usually close to done.
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2014

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