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post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

We have had a question or two about judging temp without a therm.  This is an experience thing that takes a long time to learn IMHO.  Many folks seem to start poking fun and start talking about voodoo and the Great Smoking Gods when judging temp by feel is mentioned.  How did the old folks do it?  I am certainly not telling folks not to buy a good therm, PLEASE buy one.  Life is too short not to have a good therm.  What do folks do if their $200 fancy shcmancy dual probe, wireless, do everything but the washing up gadget packs up in the middle of smoking meat for a party of 25-50 people?  Do ya put it in the oven, call off the party?  I know we are giving advice to new folk so I WHOLE HEARTEDLY agree with the get a VERY good therm and use it idea but what do the old timers with experience do?  Just curious.  Keep Smokin!


post #2 of 8
I am not a old timer or experienced, but if using my uds or mini once the temp was set and the mav died I would leave the vents alone and just watch the meat for doneness.

As for IT temp, I have multiple insteat reads, they won't all die. Lol
post #3 of 8

The remote thermometer is a learning tool which can become a crutch.  I have had one for probably 12 or 13 years, never used it till I got that new digital smoker to re-learn on.


Don't you keep your smoke logs? Date, weather, unit, meat weight, cooking temp, time in box. All those other things. To me, the ability to cook safe is a great advancement but its doesn't need to be relied upon for every smoke, just when you do something different.


Before your next smoke sit down and write down how long you expect it to take. There are always exceptions, its why we enjoy smoking so much. But after awhile you'll get where you are pretty close to time in box. Then you can tweak it in with poking and probing and geting that feel down.


Most want there smoke to be like their computer, cell phone, or 100 station TV. Plug and play, set and forget, let the electronics do it for you. Hey thats fine, it makes life easy and safer I guess.


Its really not that hard. Just step out there and do it primative. LOL... on an electric smoker....ROFLMAO

post #4 of 8

Danny, how are you my Brother.


I feel much as Foamheart does. However I feel a person uses more of their senses when cooking than realized . I have all the goodies for temp. and use them when needed ( like for a group or friends ).


I watch my Smoker a lot ( some may call it "Babysitting" ) and use my eyes to watch the smoke for changes in color and density . My Nose is always busy testing the smoke for it's fragrance . I love the smell I get from well seasoned wood with beautiful TBS. 


I will listen to the fire for loud snaps and cracks , and check for proper burning .  I am constantly tasting the air ( for bad smoke and burning , etc.) And  I can tell if the ambient air around the Smoker is a bit too hot or not (from experience you can get to know how warm it should be when you walk by ; that's when it prompts me to glance at a Therm. :biggrin: Just sayin'.


I have lately started doing Spares with nothing but the Pit Therms. When I start to smell a sweet aroma and the smoke is barely visible (usually in 4.5 to 5 hours in a 'closed' Smoker ) I will do my bend test and look for good pullback on the Rib ends and the color of the Meat surface , I pull them :

Notice , too , that there seems to be a glistening on the surface (this I call Rib Sweat ) and it also tells me they are done. And all this is entered into my Smoking Log for future reference .



Have fun and  . . . 

post #5 of 8

With enough experience one could successfully smoke without a pit therm.


When learning a new smoker they are sure nice.


I still use my remote so I can be away from the smoker and have a little advance warning when fire tending is approaching. 


Good luck and good smoking.

post #6 of 8
Good thread. I rely on my therms for chicken the most. I'm not experienced enough to eyeball chicken and tell when it's done. With a therm I can nail the the correct done-ness every time. The brine, marinade and/or rub may be awful, but it'll be perfectly done 😄
For other meats it's not too complicated really. Like old school said, ribs will weep or sweat when they're close. Pork butt will probe easily, as will brisket. Fish will turn opaque and the flesh will start to flake. Steaks and chops I use the poke test. You can look up the way to feel it on the base of your thumb. Basically you poke the fattest part of the hand below your thumb and that feels like a rare steak. Then you put your index finger and your thumb together like an "ok" sign and that's mid rare. Middle finger and thumb for medium, ring finger for mid well and your pinky for well done. It's surprisingly accurate.
As for smoker temp, I just think of low, medium and hot. Depending on your smoker the size of your fire or the amount of lit charcoal will dictate what range you're smoking in. The Minion method with vents about half open on most charcoal smokers (I said most, not all) will put you somewhere in the middle of the dial, which should get you in the ballpark.
post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 

Hello.  I was just curious as to the responses I would receive.  As it happens last Saturday at the U.K. Group meet I cooked an 8-10lb point end of brisket on the Weber kettle using no CC therm and no IT therm.  The old school, hard, dumb way that I learned as a kid watching the old men smoking brisket in Tx..  I was trying to show that brisket doesn’t have to be so intimidating.  Sorry we were busy so I have no pictures of the smoke but several members saw it done from start to finish.  Now I’ve done a brisket or 2 in my life and I ALWAYS tell new folks to buy a good dual probe therm and use it.  One member did put me on the spot a little when he asked how I knew it was time to pull the brisket.  I didn’t lie, told him the truth “ I guessed”.  That “guess” was made with a couple brisket smokes under my belt.  The whole truth may as well come out here and now.  I do not now nor have I ever owned a therm..  I have done the research so as to advise folks but I have never used one.  It is on my very short list to get a Maverick.  Never too late for this old dog to learn a new trick.


While the brisket was resting I did 8 chicken leg quarters hot and fast.  All on the same smoker.  All put on at the exact same time.  Now the 2 thighs I tested for doneness both had a little pink in their juices so I was going to continue smoking for a while.  Luckily Wade had a Thermapen and when checked, the other 6 were done.  Now without that therm I would have had 6 over cooked leg quarters, or 2 under cooked quarters.


With experience and good observation, it is not impossible to do.  Unless you have those years of experience, life is too short and your smokes will turn out closer to perfection if you buy a good therm and use it.  For more technical things like sausage, salami, bacon and such a good therm is a MUST HAVE!  It’s also cheaper than throwing meat out.  Just my opinions on the subject.  Keep Smokin!


post #8 of 8

As an Amateur cook as well I can tell the feel and doneness of meat by feel.  I know the firmness for rare....medium...etc.   As for chicken?  Quick poke test to see if the juices run clear.....if they do it's done!!   Ribs?  Pullback and such......brisket and Butt poke that sucka and see how tender!!!



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