BBQ Essentials 2.0!

Another year, another BBQ essentials list! Not to say that the items I shared last time are completely obsolete, but I want to add to the previous list. Consider it an addendum to the previous BBQ Essentials list. Check out more products that I love to use when grilling and BBQing!

Thermapen Mk4

Don’t overcook food again!

For those of you that follow me either here on this website or on Instagram, you’ll know how much I swear by using a digital thermometer. I like to cook by temp, not time. Every animal has lived a different life, meaning the meat off of one animal may be tougher than another, which can lead to the same cut of meat cooking longer than another. With that said, I use my Thermapen Mk4 from Thermoworks on every cook I do. I get fast, accurate temps and backlit, rotating display that changes with the various angles I use to probe. And with how frequent I have used it over the past couple of years, I haven’t even had to change the battery.

You can get your very own Thermapen at the Thermoworks website.

Gloveworks HD Nitrile Gloves

The unique texture on these nitrile gloves helps provide a better grip, even when handling greasy food.

I’m constantly asked what kind of gloves I use in my video posts on social media. In my previous BBQ Essentials post, I mentioned nitrile gloves as a must-have. I still believe this and I have found a brand I have grown to love in Gloveworks HD. They have a great grip and have had some great customer service from these folks, which goes a long way in my book. I love using the black gloves, but they also have other colors such as blue, orange, and neon green.

Check out these Gloveworks HD nitrile gloves on Amazon.

Lodge Cast Iron Skillet

Smoked tri-tip reverse seared in a cast iron skillet is my favorite way to cook this cut of beef.

I love to reverse sear steaks and roasts. While the flame-kissed sear you get directly on the grill grates makes for some beautiful culinary aesthetics, I prefer to sear in a cast iron skillet for two reasons:

  1. I get that seared crust over more of the meat surface in a skillet as compared to only where the grill grates touch
  2. I can add other ingredients such as butter, rosemary, and garlic for the meat to sear in and capture that extra flavor

My Lodge cast iron skillet has been used plenty over the flames and has gotten better with each cook. And for that, I give them my super-duper-important seal of approval! I recommend the 12″ skillet because it can accommodate my tri-tips and other big hunks of meat. I have other sizes of these skillets for cooking other dishes in and love them.

This is the best price I could find a cast iron skillet at online.

Chef Shamy Garlic Butter

That garlic butter from Chef Shamy making these NY Strip steaks more flavorful!

Remember how I talked about using ingredients to throw in the cast iron skillet when searing? I consolidate the butter, herbs, garlic, and parmesan all into one with the Chef Shamy Garlic Butter (wow, that sentence sounded like a paid endorsement. Don’t worry, it’s not). I have made my own compound butter and while it’s fun to do, I also like to how this blend is done and having it readily available at the last minute. The flavors lend themselves great to searing steaks, spreading on poultry, making garlic bread, and other good stuff.

Check out the Chef Shamy butter online at Amazon.

Anova Precision Cooker

Sous vide cooking your steaks before searing on the grill is an excellent way to make your steaks! (pic courtesy of PCmag.com)

One look at this device and you’re probably thinking to yourself: what on Earth does this indoor device have to do with BBQing outside? Well, the sous vide method of cooking is great for getting the food evenly cooked before searing on the grill. There. Tied it in. Seriously though, the Anova Precision Cooker with WiFi (there’s also a Bluetooth version available) will take you from a really good cook to a great one! Wondering what sous vide is? To summarize, its a method of cooking food in a tightly sealed bag submerged in temperature controlled water. The Anova Precision Cooker lets you control the temp of the water it cooks in, so you don’t overcook it.

A few months back I cooked a steak sous vide using the Anova and then seared on the grill afterward. Have you heard of “fork tender” steak before? Try “spoon tender” for this one! That’s right, I straight up cut this one with a spoon!

Check out the Anova Precision Cooker at a great price.

Last-minute Thanksgiving Turkey

    Smoked turkey is life!

As you’ve been browsing on social media, you’ve been seeing articles and posts from other people showing off their turkeys: talking about how excited they are for Thanksgiving, how they already bought their turkey, recipes they are trying, the intricate processes they plan on doing, etc. And then you find yourself thinking, “It’s the week of Thanksgiving and I still need to buy my turkey! It needs to be thawed out for days in advance! I’m not gonna make it in time! And I’ve got Christmas presents to buy! I need to find someone to spend Valentine’s Day with!” Well, stop sweating it because you’ve come to the right place. I’m going to guide you through this in a manner of minutes.

Thaw that turkey!

First things first: buy that turkey! Now! Turkeys come frozen at most grocery stores and they can take up to FIVE DAYS to thaw out in your fridge (depending on size of the bird).

Don’t have that kind of time? That’s right, you procrastinated. You’re not alone. Do what I do when in that situation and submerge the bird in cold water for 30 minutes per pound of turkey. For example, I recently thawed my 14 pound bird for seven hours and it was ready. Doesn’t that sound much better than two-to-three days for a bird of the same weight in the fridge?

For quicker thawing, make sure the turkey is submerged in cold water. Rotate as needed if bird isn’t completely submerged.

Just make sure the water is pretty cold and the turkey, still in its packaging, is completely submerged. The turkey has some buoyancy in the water, so if you can’t completely submerge it then it is okay to rotate it ever so often to ensure the whole bird gets thawed.

 

Turkey Tip: for faster thawing, submerge your packaged turkey in cold water for 30 minutes per pound.

 

Brine time

Once thawed, it is time to brine. Brining is the process in which you help meat become more juicy and flavorful by submerging it in a solution of water, kosher salt, and sugar. Some folks throw in more items to help add flavor to the meat, such as oranges, onions, bay leaves, etc. and there are plenty of brine recipes to be found here on the World Wide Web (that was originally lowercase, but autocorrect corrected me. Guess it must be capitalized).

I’ve heard folks say they brine between 24-48 hours in cold water. I do 12 hours (minimum) and have had no problems. The 12 hours go by much faster when you start the brine the afternoon/night before. That way, you can wake up, rinse off the turkey, and get to prepping.

Brine time!

 

Rubbin’ that bird

This next part is the least time consuming and will help with that flavor. I go simple and put butter and rub on the bird. My not so “secret” is to apply the butter and rub underneath the skin, that way the flavor is seeping into the meat itself, not just the layer of skin that may not get eaten in the first place.

I only apply to the turkey breast portion underneath the skin. The dark meat will keep juicy enough and will be more of a pain to get to. When done underneath the skin, put some butter and rub on top. While you are doing this, get your smoker up to temp and put your preferred flavor of wood in.

With the grill I smoke on, I prefer to smoke mine between 225-250F. I’ve seen others put in at 325F and that will be fine if you are in more of a rush. I like it a little lower and slower to help the meat absorb more of that pecan wood smoke flavor (NOTE: you don’t have to use pecan. It just happens to be my favorite wood right now. Go with whichever wood flavor you prefer).

Smoke times depend on the size of bird you will have on the grill. Rule of thumb is 20-30 minutes per pound of turkey (when smoked between 225-250F). So if you smoke a 14 lb bird, you’re looking at around seven hours. For example, I did a 14 lb bird recently and it took just over six. When smoking at 325F (more like roasting at that temp), it will take that same size bird just over two hours. Since this is a last-minute recipe, do what you gotta do.

Monitoring both meat and smoker temps from inside using my Thermoworks Smoke.

 

Checking temps

The best way to gauge the turkey temp is by placing your meat thermometer into the middle of the thickest part of the turkey breast, which is best to get to by sticking the probe into the top of the bird, about two inches away from the hole where the neck used to be. Look and feel for the thickest part and make sure you don’t hit the bone.

I love using the Smoke from Thermoworks to track temps in both the grill and the turkey. Using the wireless Bluetooth remote, I can watch the temps from inside and set alarms when temps get too high or too low. The USDA recommended finishing temp for a whole bird is 165F internal. The dark meat will cook about 10 degrees higher and that will be just fine. The dark meat doesn’t risk drying out as soon as the white.

This bird is about to be done! Right before I put butter on it and wrapped.

 

Make it extra tasty

Now that the bird is done cooking, I put the turkey in a giant foil pan and like to smear some butter on the skin then wrap with foil over the top. This way, the butter can melt all over the bird and give you both awesome color and flavor. Unwrap after about 15 minutes.

Turkey Tip: let the turkey rest for 30 minutes before carving.

 

Rest, then slice

Here comes the part that you should NOT skip (not that you should skip any of these steps, but this one is simple and can seem unworthy of your time): LET THE TURKEY REST! Let the turkey rest for 30 minutes before slicing. The most important reason is to let the juices build inside the meat to provide that tender, juicy flavor you so desire come to fruition. The meat is muscle and after being exposed to higher heat for so long, the muscles need to relax. This is where the juices start coming. You slice too soon and you have a good tasting turkey when you could’ve had a great one.

From thawing to finish, this bird turned out pretty good!

I hope your turkey is out of this world good for Thanksgiving! And make sure you find time to get a date for Valentine’s.


last-minute smoked turkey

Quick thaw: submerge frozen turkey in cold water, 30 minutes per pound of bird. Swap out water and/or add ice cubes as needed. Also rotate bird if you cannot completely submerge to ensure even thaw.

Brine: at least 12 hours (NOTE: you may need double or triple this brine recipe to completely submerge turkey, depending on how large of a container you brine in)

  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons rub
  • 1 Cup apple juice
  • 4 apples, sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 clove garlic

Turkey prep: right before you put bird in the smoker (NOTE: if you haven’t already, now is a great time to get your smoker going)

  • 6 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Tablespoons rub
  • Apply underneath skin on turkey breast, apply rest of mixture on top

Smoke:

  • 225-250F
  • pecan wood (or wood of your choice)
  • spritz with apple juice and/or apple cider vinegar as needed
  • 20-30 minutes per pound
  • finished when white meat hits 165F

Rest:

  • smear some more butter and rub on turkey, wrap in foil for 15 minutes
  • unwrap, let rest for 30 minutes before serving

 

Product Review: Smoke

The Smoke in action.
The Smoke in action.

I love using my digital thermometers. I love the quick, accurate reading I get from the Thermopop and even quicker response from the Thermapen Mk4. So when Thermoworks released a new device that caters to BBQ’ers like myself, I had to pretend my other awesome digital thermometers wouldn’t suffice and that I needed yet another one. Fortunately, I was able to get my hands on the Smoke the day before making turkey for Thanksgiving dinner.

The total package. See what I did there?
The total package (see what I did there?).

The Smoke is a wireless, dual probe thermometer for BBQ that monitors both the temperature of the food and of the pit. I took pictures of the unboxing so you could see exactly what comes in the package:

Straight out of the box.
Straight outta Compton the box.

 

All of the contents laid out.
All of the contents laid out.

From left to right in the picture above, the contents are as follows:

  • High temp cooking probe
  • Base unit
  • High temp air probe
  • Wireless Smoke receiver
  • Grate clip
  • Lanyard

Assembly is quite easy. Just press the power buttons on both devices and plug in the probes.

Referring to the picture above, I’ll review what each button on the front of the base unit means:

SET: used to set alarms. You can set both high and low alarms for each probe.

VOL: changes the alarm volume setting or sets mute.

UP and DOWN ARROWS: used to adjust the high and low alarms.

LIGHT ICON: turns the backlight on for 20 seconds.

ON/OFF: turns alarm on and off. You can have the alarm off if you just want to monitor temps and not be alerted.

The backsides.
The backsides.

I show this picture of the back of the devices for a few reasons. First, the buttons:

ON/OFF: turns device on. Hold for three seconds to turn off.

°C/°F: changes display between Celcius and Fahrenheit. Device defaults to Fahrenheit.

CAL: this button is used for calibration purposes. The device is pretty accurate, so you may never need to use it. However, it’s nice to have just in case.

TRANSMISSION BUTTON: used to turn the transmission to the receiver on and off. Can be used to connect multiple receivers if buying additional ones.

Next, those silver rectangles are magnets. These come in helpful if you want to stick the base unit to the smoker or its metal appendages (however, I mainly use it to stick to the side of my fridge when not in use). Third, the base unit has a kick stand that folds out to stand on its own. And finally, I post this pic to show the batteries are easy to access and replace if needs be (they take AA batteries).

After you’ve powered on the base unit, turn on the wireless receiver. At first, the receiver will show “con”, which means it is in the process of connecting to the base unit. This may take a few seconds to connect. The connection is strong enough up to 300 feet apart, but is reduced when obstacles such as walls or doors stand between the two devices. With that said, I’ve walked around my house and have had no issues with the connection (with the base unit outside).

It only takes a few seconds to connect to the base unit.
It only takes a few seconds to connect to the base unit.

One thing I’ve noticed with the wireless receiver is that there is some latency between its connection with the base unit. It’s most noticeable when getting your smoker/grill up to temps. The picture I share here shows a small bit of lag between the two devices.

Just a small example of the latency between the base unit and wireless controller.
Just a small example of the latency between the base unit and wireless controller.

The bit of lag should be expected with wireless connections like this and it isn’t even a bother.

PROS & CONS

PROS

  • Accurate, simultaneous temperature readings
  • Wireless receiver works up to 300 feet away from base unit
  • Probes can handle temps up to 572°F (which I don’t recommend cooking your meat to)
  • Can swap out air probe for a different probe (sold separately) spring you can monitor temps of two food items at once
  • Backlight on both base unit and receiver

CONS

  • Wires to the probes can get tangled, especially when storing, and are a little tricky to unwind fully due to their stiff nature
  • If alarm is set, it has to be turned off on both the receiver and the base. You can turn off the one on the receiver, but the base unit outside will continue chirping until you go out there to turn it off.
  • No mobile app to sync up with. However, Thermoworks is planning to release the Smoke Gateway which will be compatible with a smartphone app later this year.

I’ve used the Smoke many times now and I can honestly say I love it. I can’t imagine BBQ’ing without it. Thermoworks makes high quality digital thermometers and they’ve hit another home run with the Smoke!

Thermopop Giveaway!

thermopop_1

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).

Good luck!

 

Product Review: Thermopop

The Thermopop gives accurate readings in only 5-6 seconds.
The Thermopop gives accurate readings in only 5-6 seconds.

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.

Grilling burgers to the right temperature for the family. The 90-degree rotating display is helpful.
Grilling burgers to the level of doneness my family prefers. The 90-degree rotating display is helpful.

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).

The rotating display and Fahrenheit/Celcius button are conveniently located on the back.
The rotating display and Fahrenheit/Celcius button are conveniently located on the back.

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 comes with a pen-like holder for convenient storage and carrying.
The Thermopop comes with a pen-like holder for efficient carrying and storage when not in use. It also comes in nine different colors.

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.

Thanks to the back lit display, the big numbers are easy to read in the dark.
Thanks to the back lit display, the big numbers are easy to read in the dark… even while measuring the temperature inside my fist.

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.

Getting the perfect temperature for your hot chocolate is quick and easy with the Thermopop.
Getting the perfect temperature for your hot chocolate or coffee is quick and easy with the Thermopop.

And in case you were wondering…

The snow temps are accurate.
The snow temps are accurate.

 

Pros: 

-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

Cons:

-digital portion not waterproof (the needle portion is)

Summary: 

-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!