Smoke by Thermoworks

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Smoke by Thermoworks

I’m a big fan or Thermoworks. Years ago (maybe 7 now?), I received the Classic Super-Fast Thermapen as a Christmas present. 2-3 second readings, accurate to 0.7F, water resistant. What’s not to like? In all that time, I think I’ve only changed the battery on it once.

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Classic Super-Fast Thermapen 

 

About a year ago, I purchased the Chef Alarm. Originally, I bought it to check on my mash temperatures and to keep an eye on my wort as it came to a boil when I was brewing beer. It does all that well, but also gets used as a timer when cooking and to monitor temperatures of food being cooked in the oven or on the BGE. The ability to set low and high temp alarms is very helpful as you don’t have to open the oven or Egg to check and let out heat. The Chef Alarm will let you know when its ready.

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Chef Alarm

I’ve been looking at Smoke ever since it was first announced, before they ever released it. Monitor meat temp? Check! Monitor Egg temp? Check!! 300 ft range? Awesome!! Way better than my old Maverick ET-73, which crapped out on me anyway and would no longer send a signal to the monitor, and  which never did reach the 100 ft it claimed.

 

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What comes in the box

When I opened the box, I found:

  • Base unit
  • Pro-Series® High Temp Cooking Probe
  • Pro-Series High-Temp Air Probe
  • Grate Clip
  • Wireless Smoke Receiver w/Lanyard
  • Operating Instructions
  • a small bag of jellybeans which I found was a nice personal touch. Duke will enjoy them I’m sure
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Up close view of the Base Unit

You might have noticed, in the first picture the “Open Box Item” sticker. If you keep an eye on their website, or are on their mailing list, you’ll see that frequently they have sales and special offers. While the Smoke is regularly $99, I was able to pick up this open box item last week for only $76!! I wasn’t overly concerned that it was an open box item, but when I did receive it, I took the time to look it overly carefully. The box appeared to me to have never been open. After opening it, I looked over the base unit and the receiver, and it looked in pristine condition. No scratches anywhere or signs of use. As far as I can tell, it is brand new and I saved $23. Score!!

So far I’ve only used it once…and not really in the way the creators probably envisioned. The other day I brewed my first lager. Lager being a beer using lager yeast versus and ale using ale yeast. I needed to cool my wort down to 50F before pitching my yeast. So I sanitized the probe, stuck it in the carboy and put the carboy in my fermentation fridge. I set the alarm to let me know when it had dropped down from 68F to 50F. Then, I stuck the receiver in my pocket and went out and mowed the yard and did some other chores around the house. Not once did it lose signal!! It was nice to know that it was reliable and I can’t wait to try it out on an overnight brisket. Having the alarm sitting right next to me on my nightstand to let me know if my fire went out or got to hot will definitely let me sleep better…not that I usually worry about the temp on my Egg

Buy once, cry once. Don’t buy those cheap units that you might find at Home Depot or Target or Bed Bath and Beyond. Buy quality and you won’t regret it.

The only thing I do regret is that last night I saw an advertisement on FaceBook from Thermopen that it is now offered in 9 different colors. When I purchased this unit, grey was the only color it came in. Oh well, I think the grey looks pretty slick.

Disclaimer: This unit and the other thermometers from Thermoworks were not given to me by Thermoworks. They were purchased with my hard money or in the case of the Thermapen a Christmas present from my parents. I have no affiliation with Thermoworks, nor was I asked to give a review.

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Brewing our House Pale Ale

Seems like I never remember to take pictures of any of my BGE cooks anymore, but I always manage to get a few of brew day. Been brewing a bunch of small batches this summer, partly to experiment and partly because I can do them inside on the stove and I don’t have to drag out my large batch equipment and sit outside in the Texas heat for a coupla hours and partly because I can knock a small batch out including clean up in under 3.5 hrs.

This weekend I did a small batch (2 gallon) of my house pale ale using Chinook and Cascade hops that should come in around 5% ABV and 35 IBUs. 2 gallons will net me about and 18 pack.

Boiling away on the stove

My ‘lil helper getting the wort down to yeast pitching temperature.

My fermentation chamber (mini dorm fridge) is all filled up now. 2 gallons of Pale Ale, 2.5 gallons of my Bourbon Barrel Porter (I brewed this once over 3.5 years ago. The longer I let it age, the better. The last one I drank at 3.5 years and it was the best. My plan is to now brew it every year in small batches and age each batch a minimum of 3 years. In 3 years the first batch will be ready, and every year I will have a new batch. If I can stick to the plan) and 1.5 gallons of pumpkin ale (cuz who wants more than a 12 pack of that stuff sitting around? It should be ready to go around Halloween or Thanksgiving).

And the obligatory pic of Duke, who has not taken off his swim goggles for 3 days now.

I’ll try and get some more cooking pics up soon. We did legs last night, and I know that we are doing burgers one night this week and chilli dogs another, so we’ll see if I can remember

Settling in to a new Home

Moving.

Nobody likes to do it. Sure, the prospect of a new place is fun. But the actual moving…not so much. Packing, turning off utilities and setting up new ones, getting all the bills updated with new addresses. The actual physical act of moving (while a new roof was getting installed on the same day !!). And then unpacking. Throw in a 17 month old boy, a sick wife and a MIL on moving day and well I’ll let you imagine…

But now we’ve been in the new place for two weeks and things are starting to get back to normal.

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We’ve landed on the tee box on the 18th hole of a golf course somewhere or other
I knew when we first saw the house, that we’d start cooking more outside once again. Mr.s G really did not like the backyard at the last place and I don’t blame her. But she’s enjoying being outside here, and so has Duke.

We had to break in the house with some burgers

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There’s something special about lighting up a grill at your new place for the first time…
Done

 

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Served on our finest China of course
And some simple drumsticks

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Nothing fancy here
And fish is always healthy

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Rainbow trout, I believe
And can’t go wrong with pizza

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My preferred setup on the Egg for the dough we like
And what Texan doesn’t like brisket

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I’ll let you wonder how it turned out. I might have had one too many and then forgot to take pictures. LOL
Last night I tried a new marinade for shrimp. It was pretty darn tasty, but I think I need to tweak it a bit. When I get it down just right, I’ll be sharing it here I think.

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Pretty good shrimp, but they need some work
And after Duke went to bed, I smoked some meatballs that will be for dinner tomorrow night.

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Meatball’s view of the backyard
I tasted one when they came off and I can already tell you that they will also need work. Not enough seasoning in them at all. Another item to work on.

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Meatballs finishing up
So that’s what’s been keeping us busy lately. We’ve got a ton of work to do. Landscaping, expanding the patio possibly. Tons of little projects here and there that went neglected with the last owner. I’m gonna have to do something to get the Egg off the porch since its so small and still keep it covered so I can grill/smoke in the elements. All the joys of home ownership. At least Mrs. G was smart enough to convince me to get the inside of the house painted before we moved in…

And I couldn’t leave without the obligatory pic of the kiddo.

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Monkeying around at the aquarium

How To Build Your Fire For a Low and Slow

Over the years, I’ve seen and heard countless people ask about how to build a fire in a Kamado style grill in order to get smoke through out a low and slow cook. In fact, just this morning I was asked in a PM about this very topic. If you just put wood on top of the coals, it will burn up at the beginning of your cook. You can always take out your plate setter or your heat deflector and add more wood, but you lose heat, its awkward (where do you place that hot plate setter?) and will end up adding time to your total cook. Who wants that?

The answer is pretty simple. When filling up your firebowl, add wood mixed in with the lump charcoal. Place a layer of charcoal on the bottom, then add your wood chunks (or chips. Or a mixture of both), add more charcoal, then more wood chunks and repeat until your firebowl is full. As the fire burns down, it will continue to hit fresh wood which will ensure smoke through out the cook. Voila! Easy peasy. Simple as could be.

Note that on a low and slow, you will have a small fire and it will be contained pretty much too a small cylinder in the middle of you bowl. For that reason, just add the wood to the center. No need to spread it out towards the edges as the fire probably won’t ignite any wood there.

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I’d like to be able to take credit for creating the above illustration, but in truth it’s been floating around the ole interweb for years on various forums. I believe credit should go to a guy named Stike, but sadly he is no longer active on the Egghead forum.

Happy Smoking!

Check Your Thermometers!!

Summer is upon us and people are firing up their grills across the country. Whether they be year round grillers or just fair weather grillers, I bet more grills get fired up this month than any other of the year. Regardless of which camp you fall into, it’s always a good idea to periodically check your thermometers to make sure they are reading accurately. Both your grill thermometers and instant read meat thermometers.

Firing up the Mini BGE for some brats
Firing up the Mini BGE for some brats

I was reminded just how important that was last night when I went to fire up the MINI. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Mini Egg, but it hasn’t seen a lot of action lately. If you told me I had used it less than five times this year, I wouldn’t be surprised. The Large has been seeing all the action lately as we’re usually grilling both proteins and veggies.

Last night, however, I was only doing brats and so it got the nod. I lit it per my normal method (paper towel soaked in oil, shoved through the bottom vent and lit), sat down with an ice cold glass of tea and started to read while occasionally tossing the ball to Oliver, our German Shepherd, when he would actually bring it back. I’d glance over at the Mini every so often to see how it was doing. 200F. Gonna be a bit longer. Read some more. Still at 200, maybe a bit higher.

OK…something is not right here. Peeked down the top vent and there was plenty of red hot coals. Held my hand over it. NOPE. That ain’t 200F!! Thermometer must be completely out of whack. Closed my vents to where the normally are for a 350-400F cook and tossed the brats in anyway.

Happy to be using the Mini Egg
Happy to be using the Mini Egg once again

So basically I cooked the brats blind, I had no idea what temp I was at, but I forged ahead anyway. Wait a few minutes, turn, wait a few minutes, turn again. Listen for any sizzling that would be an indication that they were too hot, the skins had split and juice was leaking down into the coals, which is a bad thing, of course. While this was happening, I thought back to grilling pre-BGE. Years grilling on kettles, offsets and gas grills. Grills that either did not have thermometers or ones that read LOW-MED-HIGH. I reminisced about holding my hand over the heat and counting how long I could hold my hand there to give me an indication of how hot my grill was. A great trick every pitmaster should know and one I’m glad I learned. I figure I was somewhere in the 350-400F range. Thankful that I have those skills and don’t need to rely on a thermometer.When the brats were done, I pulled them and checked the thermometer one last time. Dead on 200F. Yep, definitely out of whack.

Definitely not reading accurately
Definitely not reading accurately

So how do you know if your thermometer isn’t calibrated? There’s two easy ways. You can submerge it in a glass of ice water and it should read 32F. Obviously, with my thermometer, that trick won’t work since it only goes down to 50F and who really cares if its accurate at that end of the scale? The other thing you can do is to submerge your thermometer in boiling water. You remember science class, right guys? What temperature does water boil at? That’s right. 212F. Plus or minus a bit depending on altitude and barometric pressure and all that. You can try and get all precise, but if you are in the 210F ballpark, I’d call that good enough.

What do you do if your thermometer is off? I can’t speak to all thermometers as there are so many out there, but if its one like this or a Tel-Tru, there should be a nut on the back. Use a wrench and turn the nut until the dial reads 212. Clockwise will make it read higher, counter-clockwise will make it read lower. Only slight adjustments should be necessary to dial it in to 212F.

As for me? I’m probably just going to toss mine. It’s the old school thermometer that used to come with the Egg. I’m not sure its even a Tel-Tru, which is what they come with now. To be quite honest, I kinda recall that the stem got bent awhile back and I had to put quite a bit of force into it to bend it back. I don’t exactly recall what I did to bend it, but ever since I’ve been moving my new Tel-Tru thermometer from Egg to Egg depending on which one I am using. I just forgot last night. After bending the stem, I’m not sure it even works anymore. I’ll just replace it with a more accurate thermometer. Heck, maybe I’ll even look into seeing if there is a digital version out there I could use….