Well folks, today I'm going to tell you what I think is the most important tool everyone needs to be a good pit master. It's a thermometer. I'm asked a lot for advice on how to make good BBQ, and every time I end up talking about temperature. I'll talk about the temperature of the fire and at what temperature you need to turn the meat or the temperature you need to foil. Every time I grill or smoke I always need to know the temperature of the grill or the meat I have on the pit.
Now there are a lot of different thermometers on the market. The most important thing with any of them is they must be accurate. The easiest test is boiling water or melting ice water test. Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit and ice melts at 32 degrees. To test your thermometer boil a pot of water and see what the thermometer reads. It should read 212 degrees if it doesn't and the thermometer has the ability to be adjusted you should adjust it to read 212. The ice water test is just as easy. Get a glass of water with crushed ice and place the thermometer in the glass being careful not to have the probe touch the side or the bottom of the glass. It should read 32 degrees. Again if it doesn't, adjust until it reads 32 degrees.
Now there are many different types of thermometers on the market, at all price points. The old adage you get what you pay for holds true here. The cheaper the thermometer the chance of it giving a false reading increases. The cheaper thermometers are also slower in response time. I have a Thermapen that I won, and have to say it is wonderful. But at $90.00 retail it better be, fast and accurate. I also have a remote that I purchased at a big box store for $16.00. It is great for keeping track of the temperature of the big meats when doing a long cook. When it works its great but I have went though about 4 of them and I'm starting to think I need to spend the extra dollars and get one that last longer and has a longer distance range. There are also the simple probe thermometers that are on the market ranging price from under $20.00
Whatever you chose is up to you and your budget, just make sure its is accurate and use it. You must know the temperature of your grill /smoker and the temperature of your meat to have a successful cook. Guessing will only lead you to under cooked meat or over cooked dry and tough meat. Because when you know the temperature you can concentrate on seasoning and smoke flavors, and injections and all the other things that can make your BBQ taste great. But first you have to know the temperature.