Tag Archives: thermapen

Is It Done Yet?

Temp vs Time.  A battle as old as time.  The epic struggle between gut feeling and instruction.  The quest to understand that not all things are created equal and it is these differences that define it.

Now I’m not talking about any epic moral dilemma here, but simply the idea that not all recipes are created equal and not all items we plan to cook (especially proteins) can be “recipized”.  I just invented a word I think (autocorrect’s red underline lets me know!).

Let’s look at some facts.  Almost all recipes in existence will note a time till completion.  These road maps to our current culinary adventure give us something concrete and solid to hang on to and guide us.  For most recipes, you can follow them from stem to stern as written and end up with a wonderful dish.  Here is the exception: Meat.  Have you ever come across a turkey that was cooked for the recommended time per pound as suggested and still need 17 cups of gravy to get through it?  Have you ever cooked 2 pieces of chicken, one over done and one still pink?  Ever cooked a steak for 4 minutes per side and not end up with that perfect medium rare the website you were referencing promised?  Wanna know why?

Time is not king when it pertains to meat.  The key to successful protein perfection?  Temperature.

An investment in a decent temperature gauge for internal meat temperature will instantly improve your success with meat.

Beyond just the gadgets and tools we use to monitor our meat’s progress we also require an understanding that meat has a mind of its own, so to speak.  I present for your consideration a small tale of two beings, locked in unending struggle.  The epic story of meat’s fight to be unpredictable and one man’s journey to understanding. Enter our protagonist; a BBQ enthusiast with over 7 years of competitive BBQ experience.  A BBQer who has cooked more than a thousand pounds of pulled pork in that time period.  Behold the nemesis; pork shoulder.  In that 7 years our hero has been in a constant battle to put these pork shoulders in a cooker and have them cook at a relatively consistent rate.  The result?  Pork taking as little as 12 hours and in one extreme case just under 24.  The morale of the story? Don’t fight the meat.  It is boss.  It decides when it wants to come off the cooker.  It calls the shots.  All we can do is show it the path to completion and give it gentle pokes and prods here and there to speed it on its way.  This applies across the board in the world of meat and is by no means unique to pork.


Introducing the Thermapen by Thermoworks.  The thermometer of choice by almost every serious competitive BBQer I know.  The reason? It is super accurate, has a small needle which creates a super small puncture hole in the meat and it is actually instant.  You have probably come across temperature reading products that boast “Instant Read” on them, especially meat thermometers.  Thermapen actually delivers on that promise.  The ability to lift a lid, open a door, remove a cover (or however you access your pit) for as little time as possible is just awesome.  The less time the lid of your BBQ stays open the more heat you retain and minimizes the amount of time required for the cooker to heat back up to the proper cooking temp.  When working with charcoal especially this is crucial.

Photo courtesy of www.hsn.com

If you prefer to monitor the meat during the entire cooking process get your hands on an internal meat probe. These beauties provide you with the ability to leave the probe in the meat throughout the cooking process.  I would recommend the Maverick Redi Chek brand available at www.bbqs.com.  Other cheaper brands of meat probes are available at almost every big box department store and some of the larger grocery stores.  They usually consist of a base unit with a display and a probe for the meat.

Of course there is always the old school method to meat reading….touch it.  There are countless web posts talking about how meat should “feel” when it is at a certain doneness.  This takes a tremendous amount of trial and error and experience.  Sure, I’ve tried it, however I will say this…I have been wrong just as many times as I have been correct.  I prefer my new fangled gadget thank you.  This is by no means a knock to those of you who prefer this method, but for me, why ride a bike when you can drive a sports car?

The ultimate conclusion would read as follows.  Timelines given to recipes that include large or tough cuts of meat should be viewed as simply a guide.  A suggestion really.  A rough idea on how long you can expect to be committed to your current culinary adversary.

Investment in an accurate temperature measurement tool can save you not only heartbreak at the dinner table but also give you a tool that you can use to ensure you get the results you desire.  Steaks cooked to the exact doneness you prefer.  Chicken that is both fully cooked and full of moisture.  Pork tenderloin wonderfully charred on the outside but still slightly blushing with a hint of pink on the inside.  It is by far my most relied upon BBQ tool beyond the cooker itself.  Get one.

If you have any questions about these products please do not hesitate to leave a comment below and I will do my best to help you out!



Chicken Breasts

Let’s tackle an easy one.  Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts.

Probably one of the most commonly cooked pieces of meat and probably one of the things I get asked about the most.  Truthfully, not my favourite. I’m a thigh man myself.  I guarantee you that one will be coming soon.

As common as chicken is it gets brutalized fairly often.  I know a few people who will not go near white meat because they complain that it’s always too dry.  Here comes the truth…it’s not the chicken’s fault.

White meat can be plenty juicy and very enjoyable with a couple of simple tips.

First, when buying the chicken try to buy pieces that look to be similar sizes.  If you have one huge piece and 2 tiny pieces, you are either going to have 1 undercooked piece or 2 dry pieces if you cook them for the same amount of time.

Second, dry those babies off.  When you pull them out of the package they will probably be wet.  We want our chicken to be dry(ish) when we start to season them.  This will ensure the chicken gets evenly seasoned and you don’t have your seasoning running off.


The seasoning….Now, you can put anything and everything you like on your chicken at this point.  Some things to keep in mind.  If you use any rubs or sauces at this point that have a lot of sugar in them it will probably burn and go black and gross on you before the chicken has a chance to cook.  If you use a rub with a lot of salt, be careful.  It is very easy to make your chicken too salty this way.

Me personally, I use 3 things on my chicken…olive oil, salt and pepper.  That’s it.  Now to be truthful, its not regular table salt I use.  It’s Lawry’s Seasoned Salt.  The salt and pepper are for flavour obviously…but why the oil?  Two reasons.  It will hold the seasoning to that chicken like it’s life depended on it and it will prevent the chicken from sticking to the grill.  I use a very very small amount.  Just a light brushing on both sides before I apply the S&P.

Notice I didn’t go crazy on the seasoning.  Enough that you will know that it’s there but not so much it will overpower the chicken.

Now toss those bad boys on the grill.

 Here’s a little known secret about BBQs…they have more than one setting…That’s right!  Despite common thinking, you do not have to cook everything on High/Max heat.  Shocker, I know.

Notice I have my BBQ at just over Medium heat for the chicken.  Too high and the outside will burn before the middle is cooked.

Here’s another tip.  Shut the lid.  The chicken isn’t going anywhere.  By shutting the lid we create an oven like environment.  This will cook the chicken quicker and more evenly.  The chicken is probably going to take 7-10 minutes a side.  As long as you remembered to put it on medium heat you will be fine.  Now if you want to open the lid and check from time to time no problem.

 Flipping the chicken.  The meat itself will tell you when it is ready to be flipped.  If the chicken is sticking to the grill, shut the lid and check again in a few minutes.  Your chicken only needs to be flipped once.  That’s right, once. Not nine thousand times. Notice on my chicken below nothing stuck and you get nice looking grill marks on the chicken. Also, it’s not too dark.  Thank you Mr. Medium Heat Setting.

 Close the lid again and cook for approximately 7-10 minutes more or until the chicken reaches 165 degrees F internal temperature.  A good meat thermometer will be your best friend and almost mandatory for a lot of things you will cook on a BBQ and definitely in a smoker.  I use a Thermapen.  It was expensive, but worth every penny.

If your chicken is getting too much colour before you reach your desired temperature, move it to the top rack or to a burner that is off and shut the lid.  Let the heat of the burners that are still going turn the BBQ into an oven and finish the cooking that way.

If you wish to use BBQ sauce, now is the time.  Apply the sauce to both sides and let sit on the top rack for 5 minutes to set the sauce.

Now the hard part.  When you take the chicken off let it sit for a good 3-5 minutes before you serve it.  I know this is the hardest thing to do but it is so worth it.  This will allow the juices in the chicken to stay in the chicken.  If you cut it right away you will watch all your hard work literally pour out of the chicken.  We did a lot of work here to keep that chicken juicy, don’t take a shortcut now.

 I don’t know if these pictures capture it properly, but you could literally see how juicy the chicken is at this point.  Also notice it’s cooked all the way through and no pink anywhere in sight.

 Any questions, leave a comment here or get in touch directly and I will help you out.