I think grilling on the barbecue is a big GEEZER thing. At least I spend a lot of time doing it, because we have a lot of family and friend dinners where I end up hunched over the grill wondering if this time the chicken will be done or if loved ones will be close to death at the end of the evening.
You would think that if I was the grill master (by default) for so many years, I would have found a way to make sure the meat isn’t raw or burnt—we’ll that has just not happened. Oh, I try. I have used thermometers. I have used timers. I have poked the meat with my finger to check how it feels as compared to various places on my hand. I have looked closely at the exiting fluids. But frankly, it’s still a crapshoot every time I don my chef’s apron, start the fire, and throw the meat on the grill.
That’s why the other night when I cooked my wife the perfect medium-well steak and me the perfect medium-rare steak, I almost cried. The secret was my new temperature probe and timer.
Now I don’t usually promote specific products (this is not a blog trying to cash in by endorsing products), but these two items single-handedly changed me into a grilling guru. Both products came from ThermoWorks. The first was called a Splash-proof Super-fast Thermapen and the second is called the Extra Big and Loud Timer.
Rather than me telling you why the Thermapen is a quality instrument, I would suggest you go to the review of grilling thermometers at Amazingribs (a site with a wealth of fantastic grilling information). They have a great review on thermometers that calls this product the “Lamborghini of instant read thermometers.” The site discusses how this thermometer provides a digital, instant read temperature within 2 seconds that is measured very precisely from a very small area that surrounds the tip of the probe within the meat. They tell you how dial thermometers are seldom anywhere near as accurate, how most digital thermometers are not nearly as accurate. The review also talks about how both of these thermometers take a temperature from a much larger area than the Thermapen which sometimes makes them well off the mark (I would think this could be especially true on rather thin pieces of meat like steaks and burgers).
I also used ThermoWork’s timer to help me decide when to check the temperature. I tried cooking the steak for 4 minutes, flipping them, then checking the temperature every 90 seconds, and finally every 30 seconds (all this meant poking a few holes in the steak, but I couldn’t see that it had any affect on the final juiciness). Bang, at 140 degrees I took the first steak off and it was a perfect medium-rare. Then, at 150 degrees, I took my wife’s steak off and it was spot on the medium-well (“no blood please”) that she likes.
I found that with the timer, I knew exactly when a minute or 30 seconds (towards the end of cooking 30 seconds too long can ruin a steak) was up. With the old timer (mechanical wind up) the time elapsed was always a sort of guess that could easily been off as much as a minute. It was even a bigger disaster when I found that the timer had stuck and stopped moving.
Next I tried grilling chicken—legs to be exact—to test how the Thermapen would do with them. As they cooked, the legs displayed a bigger range of temperatures than the steaks because some of the legs were at least 30% larger than the smaller ones and of course took longer to cook. With the Thermapen, however, I was able to get the small legs close to the desired temperature and then moved them to the top rack while the larger legs continued to cook on the grill. This way all of the legs reached the same temperature I was seeking at about the same time. Chicken should be cooked to at least 165 degrees to be safe to eat, but I cook mine until it is about 175 degrees because I prefer it a little crispier on the outside. All of the legs ended up hot and juicy as I tracked their temperatures with the Thermapen.
Now I realize I have only used this system a couple of times, but to me it’s exciting and I can’t wait to tell people about my fabulous results. To me, if it works perfectly the very first time I try it, then it truly is foolproof and Daveproof. Besides, the experts say this is the way all the best grillers do it so all I was doing was making sure I got the same results they did.
Now, at nearly $100 the Thermapen might seem a bit pricey, but I checked the price of a package of two steaks the other day and if they had been cooked until they were dry or burnt or if I had given my wife a bloody piece of meat, I would have wasted nearly ½ the cost of the thermometer (our steaks were top sirloin so they were not quite that expensive). There are other thermometers out there that look similar for under $20, but they are made in China and probably fit into the “you get what you pay for” category. Thermoworks has a one-year warranty and a good reputation for service. I made my order on Monday and had it on Wednesday without paying for priority shipping. I was notified when it was shipped and when they notified me it had been delivered and sure enough, when I opened the front door, there it was. The timer was $40, but is large and can be easily read and, most importantly to GEEZERS, is easy to hear. The alarm can be set at different volumes and it can easily be heard even from another room. It also works well for timing my water sprinklers.
I can’t wait to try these new miracles with whole chickens, roasts, salmon, and hamburgers. My guests are ruthless and I want to grill knowing I won’t have to suffer their abuse.