When to probe....

Discussion in 'Food Safety' started by inkjunkie, Sep 9, 2015.

  1. inkjunkie

    inkjunkie Master of the Pit

    See some folks who wait to insert a temperature probe til the meat has been in the smoker for 4 hours. Have had this explained to me several times but I am drawing a blank as to why. Smoking a Chuckie for a friends birthday dinner....been in the Egg since 5:45, wondering if it is "safe" to probe it...
  2. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Whole muscle meats are considered "sterile" on the inside.... waiting for the exterior food borne pathogens to die from the high temps, does not allow them to be pushed into the center of the meat where they can multiply....
  3. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Meat probes/thermometers have been around for decades and I have never seen a single instruction to wait before inserting one. I never heard of such a thing in my Culinary Training, Food Safety Training nor from any of a dozen or more Pro Chef's I have worked with. The first time I heard this was after joining SMF.

    During a normal cook there is no issue with probing raw meat. The only possible situation where you " may have a concern " (serving Very Old, Very Young or Immune Compromised individuals) is you probe raw and the smoker dies or goes out for several hours. Even then, after finishing the cook, the portion of meat where the therm probe was, could be removed. On this subject there is just NO need for all the Paranoia and worry...JJ

    Here is what the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service has to say... In it's ENTIRETY!...

    Large-dial oven-safe or oven-probe thermometers may be used for the duration of cooking.

    From Better Homes and Garden...Using a Meat Thermometer...

    Dial oven-going meat thermometer:  For larger meat cuts, such as roast, insert the thermometer before roasting or grilling begins. Insert it at least two inches into the center of the largest muscle or thickest portion of the uncooked meat. The thermometer should not touch any fat or bone or the pan. This type of thermometer can remain in the meat while roasting in the oven or cooking on the grill. When the meat reaches the desired final roasting temperature, push in the thermometer a little farther. If the temperature drops, continue cooking the meat. If it stays the same, remove the meat from the oven or grill. Cover meat with foil and let it stand about 15 minutes before carving. Its temperature will rise 5 degrees F to 10 degrees F during the standing time.

    From The Global Gourmet...When to Insert a Meat Thermometer...

    An oven-proof thermometer may be inserted into the food at the beginning of the cooking time and remain there throughout cooking. The temperature indicator will rise slowly as the food cooks.
    • Instant-read thermometers are not designed to stay in the food during cooking. If you are using an instant-read thermometer, pull the meat or poultry out of the oven far enough to insert the stem about 2 inches into the thickest part of the food but not touching bone; the temperature should register in about 15 seconds.
    From Wikihow...How to use a Meat Thermometer...

    Before putting your meat into the grill, prepare the thermometer.  It should be pushed into the center of whichever part of the meat that is thickest. This part is going to take the longest to cook, and once it is done, you can be assured that your meat is ready. Be sure to push in far enough and take care if any part of the thermometer is sticking out, to avoid catching this extruding part on any element of the oven as you place the meat dish in, or remove it.

    From the University of Illinois Extention on Turkey Safety...Using a Meat Thermometer...

    If using an oven-proof food thermometer, place it in the turkey at the start of the cooking cycle. It will allow you to check the internal temperature of the turkey while it is cooking.

    From Better Homes and Garden Video Series...How to use a meat thermometer...

    Last edited: Sep 10, 2015
    demosthenes9 and rabbithutch like this.
  4. inkjunkie

    inkjunkie Master of the Pit

    Thank You Sir. Went to a friends 70th B-day party last night. One of the folks that was there, Les, is an inspector for the USDA. I asked him...he said probe away whenever I choose.
  5. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    I would have been surprised to hear anything else...In the past, I too jumped on the " Wait to Probe " bandwagon just because it's theory is somewhat sound. But the level of paranoia and the all too frequent barrage of " Toss that Meat OUT! You probed it raw. ", has caused me to research further. I just can't find a single piece of evidence that probing caused a problem, or a single source, outside of SMF and sites that have posts by SMF members, that insist or even suggest, you wait to probe. All my life, I'm 53, Dad, Mom, countless pro Chef's I worked with, stuck the Meat Therm in raw meat and cooked it. I stick meat raw and never worry about it...JJ
  6. inkjunkie

    inkjunkie Master of the Pit

    Les did tell me that some of his co-workers feel that cooking anything with the cooker temperature under 300* is a recipe for disaster, but he also said that these a bit of paranoia in food prep/cooking is not necessarily a bad thing.
  7. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Chef JJ...... Are you saying..... I want to cook a prime rib to an internal temp of 120ish.... it is OK to probe at the start of the cook....
  8. demosthenes9

    demosthenes9 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I'm not JJ, but I would say that it's perfectly fine. 
  9. atomicsmoke

    atomicsmoke Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Those people probably don't eat fish unless deep fried. If the minimum cook temp was >300 this forum would not exist.
  10. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    My reasoning for waiting to probe is, I have only one rule that works for all. The whole muscle and the 4/40 rule (which seems extremely flexible from what I have seen discussed here on the boards). AND in nearly all cases I have achieved 140 degrees in 4 hours even when on a slow smoke anyway but if I can do it one way and forget the need for a working rule, why not? I am always safe without having need to think, which definitely works better for me.

    Its just too easy for me to just always insert the probe when I insert the Amazin or the chip tray which is usually about an hour in. The meat absorbs the smoke better hence less wood needed. Why not just do it all at one time? Then if you have bones or not it just doesn't matter. If you saw my probe you'd be more worried about the rule, LOL.

    I don't want to make anyone sick, but how often have you read that improperly cooked meat made the patrons sick? Much more common is the rabbit food. Lets just avoid salads.
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2015
  11. bmaddox

    bmaddox Master of the Pit

    [​IMG]. This is a great plan. 
  12. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Do what you wish but...Yes, there is no issue. I have seen this done hundreds of times including in restaurants. I Have found ZERO credible reason not to and the USDA Inspector above backs it. I am not here to tell people when to probe, only there is little reason to worry about it. For some folks " The Ski Is Always Falling! " The rest of us enjoy a day in the Sun...[​IMG]...JJ
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2015
  13. I can confidently say this past Tuesday I cooked an all but 10# prime rib to 120° for 8 people. I put the probe in as soon as I rubbed it down while it was still on the counter. We're all still alive and kicking today.
  14. demosthenes9

    demosthenes9 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    How this all came up from what I saw is that it IS theoretically possible to cause a food safety issue by sticking the probe in before the meat goes into the smoker.   What would need to happen is for the "right" type of bacteria to be in the exact spot that you stick the probe in.   The probe would then drive the bacteria down into the meat meaning that it would no longer be considered "intact".   The bacteria would then need to multiply and possibly release spores and/or toxins.

    Numbers are made up on the internet of course, but I'd gather than the chances of all of the above happening are about 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001 to 1.   Given those odds, I don't worry about it one bit.
  15. tropics

    tropics Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    I have been putting the probe in, as soon as I take the meat out of the fridge.Over 10 yrs. glad to see a few others are doing it also.Good post IJ

  16. atomicsmoke

    atomicsmoke Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    This brings to mind the "measure with the micrometer cut with the axe" approach....just reversed.

    We bend over backwards (sometimes unnecessary) to cook meat safely, while the meat might have been poorly handled by the butcher/packer/store.

    Who can guarantee the meat has not been poked prior to buying it?
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2015
  17. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    The right Bacteria. AND In the Exact Spot. AND There is No Rub containing Salt, Sugar or anything else that can steal moisture from the Bacteria, killing it or inhibiting it in a short time. AND the fictitious Bacteria is one that can survive without Oxygen. AND the Smoker or Oven dies for an extended time. AND the Bacteria or Toxin levels rise to a point that they can cause harm. Can't be both since the toxin kills the bacteria. AND The meat is never heated to or above 176°F for 3-10 minutes inactivating the Toxin generated by Botulinum, if it is even there. (See Below) AND All of the effected Meat is eaten by a person at Risk (See Above). AND The person cooking is Impaired, too Drunk, too Tired or too Clueless to be operating a Smoker anyway....Then you should wait to Probe the meat...


    Yes, all these AND's can happen. So if you want to wait to probe or Sterilize the spot you place your probe...Have at it!... But there is still no reason for the average person to worry about it, make a big deal about it or deride others for not waiting to probe...JJ
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2015
  18. inkjunkie

    inkjunkie Master of the Pit

    Lately I am of the belief that everyone is entitled to their opinions...even if it is wrong.
    Les rambled for a while answering my question. He did say that a healthy human can ingest all kinds of stuff that would make an unhealthy human ill.
    Going to Davids last birthday party tomorrow. His lungs are failing and due to him being overweight was not eligible for a transplant. His wife told Ernie that his feet have turned purple. If Les is there and I get a chance I have another question. See folks ranting about the exhaust of a smoker needing to be wide open to avoid "stale smoke". There is a post on here by some sort of engineer that more or less says that the stale smoke thing is a load of bs. I recently purchased a Flameboss 100 for our BGE. Instructions are very clear...low and slow requires the exhaust to be almost shut. Have chatted with several other BGE users...most of them keep the exhaust damn near shut during low and slows. All 3 of our Eggs experience a slow but steady temperature climb if the bottom is barely cracked and the exhaust is wide open. An engineer on a car site I frequent explained why the Eggs temperature climbs when the exhaust is wide open. He made mention of something called the "stack effect" if I remember right.

    I have spent a lot of time on that car site. Have gotten somewhat immune to the antics of folks who don't agree with someone else's opinion. Lot of chest thumping goes on over there.... WAY more so than here...
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2015
  19. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    The dangers or probing meat raw and the phobia of using a galvanized bolt in a firebox both fall into similar areas of people extrapolating remote possibilities to unrealistic extremes.

    If you push a (relatively) few bacteria into the meat on the probe then so what? They are already on the surface and in any of the cuts and crevices that the butcher may have made. What about from the spike with the price on it that the butcher has used on the counter display several days before, or the butchers hook that was used to hang up the meat before it was sold. These are much more likely to result in significant levels of bacteria being in the meat than by inserting a the temperature probe immediately prior to cooking.

    Also most times we smoke we are taking the meat way above the temperatures where the bacteria are killed. Bacteria don't continue to multiply at an increasing rate until they reach a magic temperature and then suddenly all die. As the temperature starts to increase they will begin to feel nice and comfortable and begin to multiply but it will reach a point where it begins to get too warm and the growth rate decreases and then they begin to die off. By the time the centre of the meat has reached the safe cooking temperature, does it matter that we introduced a few million extra bacteria on the probe at the beginning as they are now all dead anyway.

    Probing during cooking is the same. The outside of the meat will be exposed to temperatures way in excess of those required to kill the bacteria - so within a short period of time the outside of the meat will effectively have become sterile - and therefore no live bacteria to actually push into the meat. Any that happened to be already on the probe will soon be killed too as the temperature of the meat increases.

    The other worry that I sometimes see taken to the extreme on forums is that of botulism poisoning when smoking meat in an enclosed space - usually citing that the lack of oxygen in the smoking chamber makes this very dangerous - especially if the smoker vents are left closed. This is also another remote possibility that is being extrapolated to unrealistic extremes. Yes, the botulinum will thrive in low oxygen environments but the length of time for toxin to build up to levels that are even potentially toxic is measured in days and not hours. If you get botulinum poisoning from eating meat that has been smoked for a few hours then it was almost certainly there before the meat actually went into the smoker.

    The risk may increase if you were to smoke the meat for several days - but then you would have added some kind of cure to the meat anyway.
  20. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Your original post was thought provoking, but Please Sir, Stale Smoke is not a Safety Issue. If you want to talk about it further, a thread in the appropriate forum, like Blowing Smoke Around the Smoker would be a better place...Thank you my friend...JJ
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2015

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