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