Good news! I have teamed up with the good folks at Thermoworks to do a Thermopop giveaway! Three lucky people will win a Thermopop of their very own! The promo is a quick one and comes just in time for Father’s Day. Contest starts today, Wednesday, June 9th and runs through Monday, June 13th at noon Mountain Standard Time. Winners will be announced shortly thereafter.
Participation in the contest can be done in one of three ways: 1) like the Thermopop giveaway posts on my Instagram account @learningtosmoke; 2) like the Thermopop giveaway posts on the Thermoworks Instagram account @thermoworks; or 3) leaving a comment on this post with your Instagram account name (one per post, one entry).
When I ventured into the world of BBQ, I was using a basic “analog” meat thermometer to gauge temps. I was content with this and there’s still no shame in doing that. As I researched BBQ methods, a lot of people, novices and experts alike, seemed to speak highly of the Thermapen Mk 4 from Thermoworks. This is a digital thermometer that gives accurate reading in 2-3 seconds and is used by America’s Test Kitchen. The price tag on this was a bit steep compared to my old meat thermometer ($5 compared to $99), so I looked into a more cost effective model made by Thermoworks called the Thermopop. This one has some similar features to the Thermapen Mk 4 (which is awesome, by the way) and costs only $29. I’ve spent a few months using this for a more extensive review and I must say I’m quite impressed! You get quick, accurate readings within 5-6 seconds, which is much quicker than other thermometers on the market. This comes in helpful if you are either a BBQ enthusiast like me and don’t want to keep the lid open for too long or a grilling fiend (also like me) who doesn’t want to spend too much time hovering over a hot flame.
One of my favorite things about this is the rotating display. It rotates four ways: up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Start. Sorry, the old Contra code for 30 guys popped in my mind so I went with it. The directions of the display go up, down, left, and right in 90-degree intervals. It comes in helpful for the different angles I check meat temps.
The button to rotate the display is conveniently located on the top back side, near where your index finger goes. Right next to that is the Fahrenheit/Celcius button to switch between the two (if you’re into that sorta thing).
Another convenient thing about this battery-powered device is that it automatically turns off after five minutes of inactivity. I love that because I tend to forget to turn it off and the battery would likely have died a few times on me by now.
The Thermopop can measure extreme cooking temps from -58°F up to 572°F! When measuring food temps, I sure hope your BBQ foods never get up to an internal temp of anywhere near 572°F. With that said, I have noticed this thing is good at measuring ambient heat. Granted, this isn’t what it is meant to do and I wouldn’t take it for precise measurements, but it is good for a general gauge for that sorta thing.
Having a back-lit display sure is nice, especially when BBQ’ing in the dark and/or measuring the food temps in a low light setting, such as the inside of your smoker.
The only thing I don’t like about this is the fact that it isn’t waterproof. I’m being picky here because your non-electronic meat thermometer you buy for less will be just fine if dropped in a puddle or in your favorite beverage. With that said, it is splash proof so using it in the rain will be just fine. And I’m speaking for the top part of the Thermopop, the electronic portion. You can stick the needle in water to measure liquid temps with no problems.
And in case you were wondering…
-accurate readings in only 5-6 seconds
-rotating display to best read in the direction which you insert
-displays both Fahrenheit and Celcius degrees
-back light for easy reading in low-light settings (especially when meat is still in the dark smoker)
-automatically turns off after minutes of inactivity
-digital portion not waterproof (the needle portion is)
-having used this consistently for four months, the Thermopop is simple to use, holds up quite well, and gives consistent, accurate readings. I trust this device and recommend you buy one!
Click here to order your very own in your favorite color right now!
One of my favorite meats to smoke is pork shoulder. I like it because it is a very forgiving meat, meaning that you can screw up (to an extent) and have it still turn out pretty good. While I’m still new to the true form of BBQ, I have smoked over a dozen pork shoulders during this short time. It is the meat I have the most experience with thus far. I have researched and experimented with different approaches to this and have come to make this one my own.
Meat: pork shoulder (aka- pork butt, Boston butt)
Ingredients: spicy brown mustard, rub(s), apple juice or apple cider vinegar
Time: about 8 hours
Finish Temp.: between 195-205°F/90.5°-96°C
Rest: 45-60 minutes
Once you pull the pork shoulder out of the fridge, take it out of the package and pat the meat dry from the juices in the packaging. Once that is done, I spread the spicy brown mustard all around the meat. This not only adds a little flavor, but also helps the rub stick better. I have found I like my pork with a little sweet and spice, so I go with a mix of Plowboys Yardbird Rub and Obie-Cue’s Sweet N’ Heat spicy brown sugar rub. Since I don’t like too much spicy heat, I do two parts Yardbird and one part Sweet N’ Heat. But if you dig the heat, then reverse the rub application.
Something else I’ve learned is that you’ll want to let the meat rest before putting it in the smoker. That way, the rub penetrates a little more and the meat cooks a little better at the start.
Once the smoker is up to 275°F, it is time to put the shoulders in. I keep them in the smoker for about six hours. However, I do on occasion (twice, but swiftly) lift the lid and spray apple juice or apple cider vinegar on it to help keep the meat juicy and from drying out. I also recommend putting a water pan inside the main chamber to help with that, as well. After the meat has been in the smoker for 6 hours, it can’t absorb much more smoky flavor after that point. So what I do to help accelerate the process is I pull the meat off the smoker and I double wrap it in heavy duty foil and put them back in at the same temperature for another 2 hours. I use my Thermopop digital food thermometer from Thermoworks for a quick, accurate reading to make sure it hits the zone for pulling/shredding/chopping, which is between 195°-205°F (or 95.5°-96°C for those who prefer Celcius). Note: pork is well-cooked and ready to eat when it hits an internal temp of 145°F, but if you want to reach that point in which it easily pulls/shreds/chops then it should be at the internal temps previously mentioned.
Now that it has reached the desired temperature and you’ve removed it from the smoker, it will smell and look SO delicious. You will be tempted to start pulling it apart immediately. For the sake of all that is holy in BBQ I urge you NOT to do this. The meat should sit out for at least 30 minutes before you start to pull it. That is because meat is muscle and when the meat is in the smoker, it is contracting on the inside while sweating out juices. Once the meat is done cooking, then the muscle starts to relax and let more of the juices absorb. I give it about 45 minutes of resting before I start to pull it apart.
Pulled pork makes a lot, so either show off to share with others or keep it for yourself and throw the leftovers in the freezer (Note: pulled pork freezes quite well, meaning it still tastes true to the original when you thaw and reheat it).
If you have any tips or tricks of your own, feel free to share in the comments.