BBQ FAQ Section 6.1


6.1 Thermometers


[Do I really need a thermometer in my smoker?]

Tom Kelly--

Unless you're one of the real pro's out there, you need a thermometer. Even if you have one of those Brinkmann "COLD-IDEAL-HOT" indicators, you need to know what temperature it's really indicating. Also, if you have a thermometer that's not at grill level, you need to know how close it reads to an accurate thermometer placed at the grill level so you can use your installed thermometer as a guide.

You have a lot of choices here. Thermometers range from $3 home oven types to $30 or more dial indicator or digital remote reading units. You'll have to decide what's best for you. Here's some information to help you make that choice:

Oven Thermometer - These $3 or so units will work fine. You can get them at K-Mart, WalMart, Roses or stores that carry kitchen accessories. Set it on the grill and smoke away. The two big drawbacks are, 1) you have to raise the lid to check the temperature (and that causes heat loss) and 2) you have to clean the face of it just about every time you use it use because the smoke will totally coat the face. Also, over time, the smoke products can muck up the spring mechanism (through the small holes in the back) so plan on buying a new one after a few years, depending on the amount of use.

Built-in Thermometer - These dial indicator thermometers are available for about $30. Brinkmann and New Braunfels make them to fit the threaded hole in the cooking chamber lid. They have a range of about 50 to 500F. The element (probe) is inside the smoke chamber and the dial is outside so you don't have to open the unit to check the temperature and the face and mechanism don't see the smoke. The only problem may be the placement of the thermometer. On the Brinkmann SnP Pro and the NBBD and Hondo units, the thermometer is 4 to 8 inches above the grill level so the indicated temperature may read as much as 60F higher than the grill temperature. Several other instrument companies also make dial indicator thermometers and some are available on the Internet.

[Editor--if you want to install a dial-indicating thermometer in the door of your NBBD/Hondo or SnP Pro, we suggest that you look into a more accurate unit than the ones sold by New Braunfels or Brinkmann. Several manufacturers (like Ashcroft) sell industrial-grade stainless steel Bi-metal barbecue thermometers that will thread right into the hole in the cooking chamber door. These units can be purchased for about $30. You will also need to order a keeper nut for about $1. You can get these thermometers from several places, including BBQ Pits by Klose, by phone or from their Web site.]

Remote-Reading Thermometer - Polder makes a very nice remote-reading thermometer for about $30. You can buy the Polder unit at many barbecue supply stores and over the Internet from Cunningham Gas products. These electronic units have a 4 or 5 inch probe which can be placed in the smoker. A metal braided shielded wire runs from the probe to an LCD readout placed outside the chamber. The probe can be positioned anywhere within the smoker to obtain a fast and accurate temperature indication. These units are excellent for ‘calibrating' your installed dial indicator thermometer because it shows the difference between the grill level and the dial indicator location. Sunbeam made a similar unit, but reports in early 1998 said that the Sunbeam digital thermometer was out of production.

Other types - Some folks have reported that a candy thermometer, poked through the center of a cork that fits a hole into the cook chamber works fine. There are probably lots of alternate solutions.



I have the Perfect Temp by Charcoal Companion, and as far as I can tell, it's identical to the Polder in every way except for brand name. I bought mine from the Barbecue Store on the Internet. It works just great!



I've got both the Polder and the Charcoal Companion (don't know if that's a Sunbeam or not) and I can't tell a bit of difference other than the Charcoal Companion has different printed instructions, like maybe Polder sells the thermometers to the company and then they print their own instructions (and the Polders are white while the CCs are black). Even came with the same brand of battery (El Cheapo Hong Kong Industrial Grade Alkaline, guaranteed to last nearly 2.3 minutes). Probes are the same length, display is identical down to the size and placement of numbers. They were also priced identically - $29.95.



Be sure and check out the accuracy of you digital thermometers often. Place them in boiling water and they should read 212F or less if you are at some altitude above sea level. My home is at 2100 ft. ASL and my Polder reads 206F in boiling water. If your Polder is acting weirdly, it is sometimes necessary to remove the battery from the unit and then reinstall it to reset them.

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BBQ FAQ Ver 1.0, 2.0 1997, 1998 William W. Wight. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 25, 1999
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