Saturday, June 2, 2012

Smoking and freezing (and today's fixation on thermometers)

I know it's been a while since I posted anything, but I took some time off from smoking to:

1) Be a baseball dad
2) Do a modest amount of yard work
3) Travel for work
4) Be a baseball dad

Both of my young sons are big Little League players and two games a week plus a practice or two thrown in per week keep me running during the spring. So my grill adventures have been limited lately. Add to that a flooded house from an antiquated toilet supply line two weeks ago (that's a blog for another day) and I haven't touched my smoker in a couple of months except to wash it down a few weeks back.

But today was a different day. Today was a day of smoking destiny!

Well, almost. In our area periodically a butcher shop called Springfield Butcher has a Groupon and they'll sell you $26 of fresh meat for $13. Their meats are top-notch, but usually a little pricey for me unless I have a deal. So the last time the offer came out, I bought three and used two yesterday. So for about $130 I got four racks of babybacks and a large brisket. Having just been in Texas a week ago, and checking out prices on  meat there, I'm ready to move. No one said DC is cheap on anything. Regardless I happily plunked down the $70 or so bucks for my meat, my two Groupons and went on my way, ready to smoke today.

For the first time, I'm smoking without eating today because we're traveling in July to North Carolina with four families and I got the bright idea to pre-smoke enough meat for a bbq dinner at the beach house. I bought a used FoodSaver vacuum food sealer on CraigsList for $45 from a guy who'd only used it a couple of times and I was itching to try it out.

Meanwhile, over the spring, if I can't cook, I can at least buy things that make me think about cooking and I decided this spring that I needed thermometers. I'd bought a $15 smoker thermometer at Wal-Mart to replace the cheap one that came with my CharGriller and I had a variety of cheap-o meat thermometers in the drawer. So I made some investments. I first bought a ThermoWorks Thermapen RT600C from Amazon for about $20. I'd read a lot about ThermoWorks and knew I wanted theirs, even if their top-of-the line cooking thermometer was out of my price range at around $90. I also bought a Polder Digital In-Oven Thermometer/Timer, Graphite for $23, thinking I could use it to keep track of my grill temp. I was wrong as its actually a meat thermometer. But it looked cool, so I kept it. Finally I bought a $8.49 CDN High Heat Oven Thermometer which came highly rated. I also ordered a high-heat oven thermometer used in laboratories, but it's been on backorder for a while now and I'm ready to cancel that order.

Anyway, I put all three of my good temp checkers to the test today and found my $15 WM thermometer that I'd been using for months is actually about 50 degrees off. So all this time I'd been trying to cook at 175 degrees. No wonder everything was taking so long. So now, with the proper temp, I'm cranking along with my ribs and brisket and I try out my Polder as well as my Thermoworks (they were about a degree apart -- close enough).

I left my smoker to run #2 son to a baseball game and watch a little of son #1's game(baseball Dad again) . I got back an hour later, ready to check my temp, and found my new Thermoworks, which I'd shoved in my pocket, had slipped out. I raced back to the field, searched everywhere, but alas, my new toy was already gone on its first day in service.

Meanwhile, the Polder is a good little digital thermometer too and it kept my brisket temp reported and it cooked beautifully to 175 when I pulled it, wrapped it in foil to come up to 185 and rest.

The ribs also looked splendid and I vacuumed sealed the whole lot, and I pull it from the freezer in a couple of weeks and let you know how it works.
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