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Thread: What's the scoop on temps?

  1. #1
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    What's the scoop on temps?

    I keep seeing recipes from "The Masters of BBQ" saying serve shoulder at 170, ribs at 180...so on and so on at whatever. What's the rule for smoking; protein breakdown or medium rare, or no pink?
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  2. #2
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    Well, Certain things happen at certain temps, and certain meats have different requirements to be 'safe' to eat.

    This looks like a pretty good chart as far as 'grilling' goes.

    http://reluctantgourmet.com/tips-gui...doneness-chart

    Smoking is a completely different animal.

    Most cuts, that you do slow and low, will go way beyond what is considered 'safe'. That's because usually the slow and low cuts are tough cuts and what were once considered 'cheap' cuts of meat, due to their toughness.

    But apply the right spices, low heat, and long periods of time, and that toughness turns into tender juicy goodness.

    So for things like pork shoulders and brisket, you are looking to get the meat to a temp where the tough parts of the meat break down. Typically thats around 190, I believe, but some of the more expert members might be able to explain. That article you posted on the stall is a very good one and takes quite a lot of this into account.
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  3. #3
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    Brent pretty much nailed it. The collagen in the tougher meats is the tissue that makes them so firm and elastic, for most meats the collagen will break down between 170 and 190 degrees. Once the collagen as broken down, the meat will start to fall apart, so hitting that right temp that you prefer takes some practice and will widely vary based on the cut of meat. When we did competitions, we would cook at least two of everything. Every time there would be one piece that was more close to what we were looking for, even if they were the same physical size.

    Cooking temps also will vary based on your tastes. Most temp charts show the "Safe" temps that should be achieved. That one Brent posted is more realistic and what many restaurant chefs would go by as far a cooking to a person's preference. For example, cooking a pork tenderloin I'll only cook until the piece has reached 140* (Medium), I'll pull it and cover it with foil and over the next hour it will continue to cook internally and may hit 145* - 150*. This leaves the piece cooked, but with some of the natural juices still in (not runny, just moist). If I cooked that same piece to 160*, it would need some kind of sauce or glaze, but would be too dry inside for my liking.

    For things like poultry and ground meats, I typically cook to the recommended temps (low end), which is more common sense than anything as bacteria would be able to penetrate deeper into the item being cooked.
    Darren

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  4. #4
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    So what do you guys recommend for a decent quality instant meat thermometer? I have a couple that I've used & was disappointed with these:
    TruTemp Digital (-40/450°F) & the CDN Digital (-40/302°F). These were used for a Christmas Eve party on a rolled Prime Rib roast on a rotisserie. Neither agreed with the other & the roast came out well under-cooked. Had to re-cook to med rare while he guests waited (fortunately there was enough drinks on hand to keep them patient).

    Another attempt was the use of an Oneida Digital Oven thermometer on a standing Rib Roast for another Christmas Eve feed. I thought that using this oven thermometer with the probe continuously inside the meat would work better than the instant thermometers on a rotisserie. It would work inside the house, but once outside in ~30°F weather it simply would not work, erratic, & totally unreliable.

    So, I'd like to get a "Reliable & Accurate" instant thermometer, but I don't want to spend ~$100 either as http://www.amazon.com/Splash-Proof-S.../dp/B003P63MEW
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  5. #5
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    I'm not going to be much help here Al. As far as instant reads go, the Thermapen is the gold standard. I choked on the price, but it's a well made tool and has lasted me many years already, and I don't see it giving up on me any time soon.

    Thermoworks does have a mini pen that they claim takes only 5-6 seconds for only 29 dollars.

    http://www.thermoworks.com/products/low_cost/rt616.html

    The internal temp probe most of the BBQ crowd uses is the maverick dual probe. It helps to keep track of both the temp of the bbq, and the meat at the same time.

    http://www.amazon.com/Maverick-Wirel...s=maverick+bbq
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  6. #6
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    +1 to the thermapen, cry once but enjoy for long time (unless you do like me and melt it and then cry three times - once for the initial buy, once when you melt it but sitting it on a hold pan lid and once when you rebuy a new one).

    The temperature situation is a smidge more complicated than thus far stated. I had to bust out my copy of McGee's "On Food and Cooking" to cross check here, but I'm still paraphrasing and simplifying wildly so while I believe this is accurate I may be oversimplifying excessively, misleading through ommission or mistating in some way (aka if I'm wrong its me, not McGee..) McGee is highly recommended if you are a food nerd, like useful reference books a lot or just really want to know why something works the way it does - or indeed .. didn't work as you'd hoped http://www.amazon.com/dp/0684800012 If McGee is to geeky I'd recommend "cookwise" http://www.amazon.com/CookWise-Succe.../dp/0688102298 If you like books half as much as I do.. I'd recommend getting both.

    The short version:

    If you hold meat at around 120F you get a "slow aging" effect when one protein (myosin) coagulates and pushes out some of the moisture. This is advantageous for some meats (like prime or tri-tip) as it condenses the flavor and enhances the texture.

    You need to get the meat to ~160F and hold it for a while to actually break down the collagen into gelatin, this takes both correct temperature and time (time depends on amount and type of collagen - for something with a lot of it like brisket it can take multiple hours).

    Above 140F the meats cells shrink (simplifying wildly here) and push out a lot of moisture making the meat drier. This happens even when wet cooking which is why braised meat can be fantastic while boiled meat feels dry and chewy even though it was wet cooked.

    So there is a problem here, higher temperatures == more tender but drier meat. We like tender, we like juicy.. what to do!?

    Cooling the meat after cooking allows some of the proteins that got all shrunk up to relax and will allow the cells to re-absorb moisture. In order for this to work properly you have to let the meat get back into the sub 140F range before you cut it (hence the famous "resting a steak" - but its useful to know an actual temperature target). As an aside you can quickly "calibrate" your finger tips to within ~5F at least in the 100-170F range by feeling things and then checking with a thermometer.. I found that out when brewing a bunch of batches of beer in sequence, amazing what the body can do (and that's why practiced chefs don't use thermometers - the rest of us are better of with good tools because we don't do it 10 hours a day).

    So for tender cuts with low fat (like say prime rib or stir fry) you'd never want to take the bulk of the meat much above 140F because you don't need to break down much/any collagen and a short rest afterwards will help them re-absorb the moisture (a rest is impractical with stir fry or similar but the temperature issues remain).

    For tougher cuts manage your temperatures carefully. Get them up to collage breakdown (my new band name I think - as soon as I learn to play an instrument past three songs) temperature and hold them there and then allow them to rest afterwards to below the re-absorption temperature.

    For the more difficult cuts you can also help things along a little with some "helpers". Acids accelerate collagen breakdown so some vinegar or tomato or similar in a marinade will help that; alternatively you can use tenderizers like papaya or mango (or commercial tenderizers which are usually extracts of papaya) but you have to be really careful with them or the meat ends up mushy. Brining the meat reduces moisture loss (I'll skip the cellular hydrostatic pressure details ) and helps keep it juicy even at higher temps.

    As an aside browning or searing meat does not (contrary to popular myth) retain or hold in moisture. It does add delicious flavors and kills surface bacteria so its worth doing but there are a few things to be aware of. Sear hot; you just want to cook the surface, if the temperature gets to low it will take to long to get the surface brown and the inside temperature of the meat will rise making it dry (and probably tough) so a hot pan that holds heat (cast iron, best way to go..) will do a better job. The browning action itself due to the maillard reaction, this is a reaction of amino acids and sugars and requires a lot of heat (say over 230F) which is only achievable in a dry(ish) environment (otherwise the boiling temperature of the surface moisture limits the temperature to that of boiling water ~212 or less). So if you've brined or marinaded meat and want to brown it, pat it dry and then let it sit out (covered in a towel) on a rack for an hour or two to let the surface dry off. This is true of small/tender cuts meats as well. Nothing ruins a stir fry like boiling it because your temp went to low and cooked all the moisture out of the meat or there was residual surface moisture that dropped the interface temperature (which then..), unrecoverable and dinner is gonna be chewy and dry.

    Different meats of course have slightly different temperature sweet spots but the temps here are close enough for most purposes.

  7. #7
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    I tell you what, if you want a perfectly cooked steak, you can try the poor mans 'Sous Vide' and cook you steak in a beer cooler...

    http://lifehacker.com/5868685/sous+v...ve-ever-tasted

    Long story short, you clean up your cooler, put some water in maybe a couple of degrees higher than you want your meat done.

    I like my meat medium rare, so I will get the water in the cooler to 135degrees. Season and vacuum seal your steak, and drop it in the cooler and put the lid on and let it sit for a couple hours.

    Yep, sounds crazy. If you had some way to maintain the heat at the precise temperature you could leave it in for quite a while. It will get perfectly cooked medium rare from edge to edge.

    The time that it's been in there allows a lot of those process Ryan described to happen, so it ends up juicy, tender and perfectly done.

    Ok, There is one problem, and it doesn't have that nice browned seared outside we are used to seeing. So When you are ready, you can take it out and slap it on a screaming hot grill or cast iron pan just long enough to sear up the outside.

    I've done it a bunch of times and can vouch for the results.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brent Dowell View Post
    I'm not going to be much help here Al. As far as instant reads go, the Thermapen is the gold standard. I choked on the price, but it's a well made tool and has lasted me many years already, and I don't see it giving up on me any time soon.

    Thermoworks does have a mini pen that they claim takes only 5-6 seconds for only 29 dollars.

    http://www.thermoworks.com/products/low_cost/rt616.html

    The internal temp probe most of the BBQ crowd uses is the maverick dual probe. It helps to keep track of both the temp of the bbq, and the meat at the same time.

    http://www.amazon.com/Maverick-Wirel...s=maverick+bbq

    Thanks Brent! Great suggestions I like the looks & description of the Super-Fast Mini from the site you referenced & there was also the Super-Fast Pocket model http://www.thermoworks.com/products/...st/rt600c.html. Of the two, I'm leaning towards the Super-Fast Mini, but I suspect they both would be better than what I have used in the past.

    I also like my steaks med-rare. My preference is to have the exterior blackened quickly over a very hot charcoal fire & the interior a juicy red, not quivering, but not just pink either. In fact, what I do to keep the juices from leaking from the edges is that I use my propane torch, with the oxygen enriched flame for a hotter flame (actually a Mapps torch head on a propane tank), to sear/blacken the entire perimeter to seal the edges. The extra carbon along the edges tastes good too. If you haven't tried sealing the edges this way, give it a shot. I think you'll like the results.
    Thoughts entering one's mind need not exit one's mouth!
    As I age my memory fades .... and that's a load off my mind!

    "We Live In The Land Of The Free, Only Because Of The Brave"
    “The problems we face today are there because the people who work for a living are outnumbered by those who vote for a living."
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    Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery." Winston Churchill

  9. #9
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    Heh, I'm actually doing the sous vide thing tonight. 135 degrees. They've been in there since around 4. I'll take pictures. I know it sounds weird, but they could be in there for quite a few hours at that temp and will never get more done than medium rare.

    Making potatoes au gratin and green beans to go with it....
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Al Launier;375348there was also the Super-Fast Pocket model [URL
    http://www.thermoworks.com/products/low_cost/rt600c.html[/URL].
    I've actually got that one too. Seems to work pretty darn nicely. I would guess I've got at least 4-5 different thermometers from Thermoworks (A couple of them Ryan made me buy, LOL)
    Programmer - An organism that turns coffee into software.
    If all your friends are exactly like you, What an un-interesting life it must be.
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