Originally Posted by Onoku
The majority of posts I see dealing with thermometers are digital this, remote that. What about a good old fashioned analog thermometer? I am a bit of a cheapo (I can't help it, I'm young and married), and I would rather not spend 50 bucks on a thermometer at the moment. Do constant updates on meat temperature really matter? Or when I think I am done, can I just stick an analog in it to make sure?
I know exactly where you're coming from. As mentioned above, a digital probe has major benefits by allowing you to keep the smoke chamber closed and not lose a ton of heat and add excessive cooking time. Constant reading are not needed at all. I generally wait for at least 4-5 hours to probe a 5lb or larger cut, and 8-9 hours or more before stabbing a really large cut of meat.
I don't own a remote unit, but have had several inexpensive digitals. My first 3 Acu-Rite were purchased from the local hardware store for $22.50 each. I've damaged 2 heads, and just today have found that my probe I'm currently using is damaged giving erratic readings. I do have a brand new back-up which I purchased at a nearby Walmart for $15.00 last week. This is a Mainstays brand...a simple temp only, no timer, no time-of-day thermo with an alarm set-point. This unit is also manufactured by/for Acu-Rite, and sold under the Walmart brand. I'll likely grab another one or two for this price...
Originally Posted by Venture
I guess I am half way in the middle on this one. If we know what our smoker is doing, we could even use the factory one, or none at all. Until then, I think new smokers really need to know.
I like knowing the temp on my meat, even though I might already know by look or feel.
I would recommend that new smokers and new cooks rely on a good therm until they get the idea. Even with experienced cooks, thicker cuts of meat might be best done by thermo rather than touch.
I still like the ET 723 so I can monitor my temps from my computer. Having said that, I do need an excuse to get up for a fresh beer now and then?
That is a very good point. I calibrate my door thermometers regularly, using a verified digital probe on the grate close to the door therm. Monitoring grate temps with a probe is a practice I only use when I've made modifications to the rig itself which may alter flow through the smoke chamber, or if I load the smoker with different types/sizes/shapes of multiple pieces of meats on multiple grates, or when panning/tenting ribs, brisket or butt to bring to finish temps. Having a pan in a smoker seriously alters flow in the smoke chamber, so if you're still smoking something else while having a panned meat finishing up, it's better to know for sure than guess what your grate temps are. Sometimes, just loading the smoker differently can impact how everything works inside, causing higher/lower fire and/or high/lower exhaust ventilation adjustment to compensate for those changes. That's a good time to monitor grate temps and compare the readings with the door thermometer.
Once you've become familiar with all these little changes that can effect the way the smoker runs, you may become more comfortable with trusting the analog thermometer on the smoke chamber door. Same thing goes for the meat you're smoking...get familiar with an approximation of how long it takes to bring a certain cut/weight to a certain I/T below your finished temps so you have some cushion, and then probe for assurance. Just remember that not every similar cut will smoke at the same pace...they have a mind of their own, and when they're done, they're done. Temp swings in the smoke chamber, humidity and a barrage of other factors come into play as well.
Good thread, and tons of great responses!